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Some of the articles are incredibly inaccurate, but because it calls itself an "encyclopedia" ... people are willing to believe anything written on their pages!
I don't want to become a wikipedia editor, I don't have the time or the inclination to rewrite their stuff for them. But c'mon ... doesn't anyone check for quality or at the very least, verify historical facts on this site?
Man it irks me! I was talking to a friend's 9 year old son yesterday and he stated an incorrect fact about our country. When I corrected him, he said, "nuh ahh ... I checked and Wikipedia said this ..."
I took a look and sure enough, there it was. This kid was using Wikipedia to do his homework for heaven's sake and they had 3 "facts" wrong within a 4 paragraph page.
Why is so much credence given to this site by the search engines? I just don't get it. It is really annoying! Arrrgh. :(
I was born in a country that was very brainwashing <snip> and most of the school literature was biased and skewed. Is that any better? Hm... for some reason I don't think so.
Wikipedia is an alternative resource. Like everything, it should be taken with a grain of salt. I wouldn't beleive 100% to "real" print encyclopedias either. It's written by people, it's imperfect, just like people themselves. Question everything.
[edited by: trillianjedi at 2:42 pm (utc) on June 29, 2006]
[edit reason] Politics, politics ;-) [/edit]
However, I always advise my children and others to use books from the library, and never to trust "the Internet" as they like to call it.
Reliability of data is a serious issue for serious reserchers, I always advise people to cross-check and verify, but naturally a resource written by any Tom Dick or Harry is going to be very unreliable. That's why as a small independent we have contact details so that "corrections" can be suggested.
The key is not to rely on any one source, particularly if the info you found is astonishing or suspicious (or expensive if wrong).
This caution applies just as well for dodging phishing and other con scams.
W has some excellent material in some places that I care about (deeply boring/narrow technical stuff which is not politically contentious or otherwise going to attract attack), but I do double-check. If nothing else, suggest to your friendly 9 year old that W is a source of hints and leads to follow up, and he needs to start working out how to judge who to trust, which is much harder than typing in a URL of course!
For all W's faults, including hubris, it does remarkably well for my purposes, even though I reject most of the Web 2.0 hype associated with it.
One problem is that those not familiar with what Wikipedia is all about assume it's accurate - it's not.
Another problem is the weight that search engines like Goggle give to Wiki. It's an instant authority on any topic published.
it's up to the users to check and edit in corrections.
Its not always accurate but then again I dont expect it to be and edit when I find someting that is incorrect.
That's the nub of the problem. Users knowledgeable about a subject are able to spot errors.
Users ignorant about a particular subject go looking for facts and information and don't have the knowledge to spot errors.
This goes circular very quickly.
I predict that in about a year, Wikipedia will become the playground of trolls and spammers. "Facts" will be only what the few people who still update it feel they should be.
Why is so much credence given to this site by the search engines? I just don't get it. It is really annoying! Arrrgh. :(
They are volunteer based, and they can't hire 1000's of fact-checkers just so you and I can access the information for free
I'd like to go back to Liane's last question. SHOULD the SE's be putting so much weight on it? Obviously it's being treated as an authoritative site, but should it be?
The flip-side is 9-year olds just reading the content and assuming it is accurate. But then isn't that like the daily newspapers?
And in other news...
Heather Mills Ate My Hamster!
People just need to be reminded that what they read on the web can be inaccurate and biased.
Yes, just like radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, and books.
In my opinion, Wikipedia's great strength is that it has articles on topics that receive very little coverage elsewhere. Look up Irn-Bru, for example, and you'll find a detailed article on that Scottish soft drink with links to other resources. The article may not be the end-all and the be-all of Irn-Bru information (and who knows--maybe it even contains some inaccuracies), but it's a handy overview and starting point for the person who saw a bottle of Irn-Bru in Glasgow and is wondering "What the heck is that orange-colored sody pop with the funny name?"
Wikipedia is no more or less biased than any other media we get. It doesn't cost much to print a book, why assume it's perfectly objective and accurate?
It's free to edit Wikipedia. Self-publishing a book will normally run at least $1000 (and even that is incredibly low quantities). That's no guarantee of accuracy or objectivity, but the financial dedication and committment is a good indication that the book is more carefully researched and prepared than a wiki.
and yes, should look at each article individually, see if look good; rather as if each from a different publication you had to judge on its merits, not from a volume with single editor/team of editors
But really, Wikipedia's very impressive - given free content, by volunteers.
The reason that (reference and other) works in "older" media, such as printed media, are often more accurate and/or of a generally higher standard than those on the Web is that:
1) There are higher costs associated with producing old-media efforts, so they are less likely to be produced by the feckless on a whim, or be the caual work of a (eg: angry, spotty, teenage) vandal...
2) Partly because of (1) there is often an explict editorial process to improve the result, check facts, etc.
Please note that just because it is a book doesn't make it good either, but it raises the chances significantly.
Media on the Web with some sort of sound editorial process, from newspapers with a brand to protect, through to such organs as our very own WW (with good moderation), are likely to be comparable with their old-media counterparts in terms of accuracy and balance.
So, so long as you understand that Wiki == unchecked in essense then you can use the information with the right degree of scepticism. And, as for the Irn-Bru eample, it may be information difficult to find elsewhere, especially in media with a longer cycle time.
As I say, I've found Wikipedia to be very useful at moments, but I don't automatically assume that it contains the delivered undivided word of truth.
I don't think the "other media are biased and inaccurate" argument holds up. While it's true that anybody with a few hundred or thousand dollars can self-publish a book, why would anyone believe anything in it? Ditto for low-circulation magazines or newspapers.
Trustworthy publishers take great pains to maintain their reputation for being trustworthy. I've been interviewed by various national magazines, and some of them perform incredible due diligence; fact checkers (not the author) call after the article is written to verify quotes as well as get an opinion on the accuracy of the writer's other statements and conclusions. In addition, one or more senior editors also review the copy. While this doesn't guarantee perfect accuracy, it's a good defense against bogus information and author bias.
If Wikipedia ever wants to be a legitimate source of information, they'll have to implement a more rigorous checking and review process, probably employing a sizable number of paid professionals. They'll also have to put additions and changes from unproven members in a moderation queue to reduce the chance of misinformation being posted. Bulking up paid staff, of course, may kill the altruistic instincts of volunteer editors and contributors, but it seems inescapable in the long run.
Wikipedia will never have to change as long as it represents the worldview, since only a minority of people will recognize the flaws. That is one of the reasons the big news stations are getting great ratings. THey are reporting worldview and not the facts.
Second of all, one of the brilliant things about wikipedia is it isn't subject to the same restraints as encyclopedias published by major corporations. Encyclopedias undergo editorial process which can often taint certain things or word things in a manner that may be misleading in order to insure the publisher isn't stepping on the feet of partners, parent companies, subsidaries, etc.,
And while there are loads of terrible articles, there are plenty which are very exhaustive. And, at the bottom of good articles, you'll see the author has cited sources where the information has been acquired from. So when in doubt, you could check out primary sources (or work your way up to it via authority sites).
I wish they hadn't called it "Wikipedia" with all the implications that name has. Something like "Wikiviews" or "Wikiknowledge" or something like that might have helped get across that it's just one source among many rather than a properly edited and verified reference work.
We could spend our lives fixing things for other people. I came to a conclusion at a very young age that I am not responsible for other people's problems. I have a living to earn, and making someone else's site more accurate at no profit to myself can only decrease the time I'm able to spend on feeding my family.
If they're presenting the information as if it's fact, then it's up to them, not others, to see that the information is factual. Claiming the readers are at fault when they publish falsity is just ducking responsibility.
But my main objection to Wikipedia is plagiarism. If anybody can write an article for it, free of quality control, then there are going to be a lot of ignorant little twits who think they've done something worthwhile when they paste someone else's copyrighted material into "their" article.
Not only does the owner have to catch them -- he then has to catch all the equally responsibility-free creeps who copy the article with Wikipedia's illicit "permission" (the point of which I've never understood, but there it is). Often, there are dozens.
I've had several articles from my popular content site stolen word-for-word. I've found becoming one of their editors to be a tedious and useless process, which is probably a good thing for them -- any edits I made there would simply link to the original and not say another word, other than to call the original poster the plagiarist that he is.
Getting hold of a human being in their organization is a little easier, but still more tedious than it should be. Fortunately, I've found that complaints are quickly acted upon. As far as I know they don't immediately delete everything else that came from the plagiarist, and ban him from posting in the future. But you can't have everything.
BUT -- then there's the problem of tracking down the Wikipedia copyists. Being plagiarized by Wikipedia can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Or is this another thread?
-- Don Markstein
Wikipedia shows the ups and downs of user-generated content. On the plus side, they've spend relatively little money to create the world's biggest encyclopedia. On the minus side, anybody can add or change content, and people who are biased or simply uninformed sometimes do so.
With you there.
If it is "worth" a person's time putting a point of view, then they will either
a) for financial gain (links usually in this case)
b) for political spin/bias
I have come across both in Wikipedia, but at the moment it is usually the political spin that is more usual.
When you browse a Wikipedia article and have no knowledge of the subject you may miss the spin. As an example the Wikipedia article on "Cornwall", to which I have not contributed, gets a big input from a Cornish Nationalist writer, and puts forth a view of local politics in Cornwall that may well not represent the view of the majority of peolple living in Cornwall. But if you were living in Chicago how would you know.
Without full time editors, Wiki will get more bogged down in this sort of thing. But they cannot afford the editors without the money. Make contributors aspire to that sort of uber-editor, and you degenerate into ODP politics. It is difficult to find a solution :(
Actually a recent study by Nature magazine found errors averaged out to 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is very close in accuracy to a much respected and credible encyclopedia such as Britannica.
On top of that, to all you people citing books, you have to remember that information becomes outdated. Take anything math or science for instance. If you look up a math or science topic in a library encylopedia that is even a couple years old, chances are that some of the information is already outdated. Since Wikipedia is constantly updated by users, the information I would think would be much more up to date. Not to mention that the amount of information in wikipedia far exceeds any encyclopedia i've ever read. For users who do not want to search through an endless number of scientific articles, which can be very hard to read, even for an engineer like myself, I think Wikipedia does a good job as bringing information to the average persons level.
Of course i also agree with everyone else, you should always find more then one resource no matter what you are researching, even credible books and encylopedias can have mistakes or outdated information. Remember, the ones who write and check those books are just people too.
Those are just my opinions, but the articles on Wikipedias credibility is pretty interesting.