Looking Out from the Inside

Friday, December 16

Wikipedia on the Rocks

I know it doesn't have to do with Apple specifically but this place is supposed to be a "A look at the world of technology from the view of a Mac user," and this story certainly fits the rubric. Wikipedia has been taking it's knocks of late. The had a piece all about it's troubles on Talk of the Nation but the gist of it basically comes down to the idea that if anyone for any reason can edit any entry how can we use such a source with any confidence in it's validity?

Interestingly enough the most insightful commentary I've seen to this has come from the ever eloquent Tycho of
Penny Arcade

Any persistent idiot can obliterate your contributions. The fact of the matter is that all sources of information are not of equal value, and I don't know how or when it became impolitic to suggest it. In opposition to the spirit of Wikipedia, I believe there is such a thing as expertise.

Don't get me wrong here, Wikipedia is a great resource, but like anything else on the Internet with a capital I it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. If you read something there and it jives with your personal knowledge and is corroborated by other independent sources of information then chances are you can trust it. Just don't expect to use information gleaned solely form a Wiki to be the foundation of your doctoral thesis.

It is then, with no surprise, that we read an Ars article that quotes Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, discouraging people to cite from them.

No, I don't think people should cite it, and I don't think people should cite Britannica, either; the error rate there isn't very good. People shouldn't be citing encyclopedias in the first place. Wikipedia and other encyclopedias should be solid enough to give good, solid background information to inform your studies for a deeper level.

Personally, I'll continue to use the Wikipedia just as much as I always have. The community nature of it makes it a generally useful source of information and, if nothing else, an interesting experiment. Just as with anything else on the webs, caveat emptor.

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Heading image Courtesy of Wikipedia

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