Why Wikipedia

I was asked why I almost exclusively use Wikipedia  as my go-to source when I link to something.

1 – The information is usually well researched and footnoted and so is a good starting point for any further research.

2 – I don’t want to give the impression that just because I link to an article on a particular site, that I also support that site. (Note to self; I think in the future I might just have to put a disclaimer on my posts – if and when I do use sources that are a bit ‘iffy’ from my personal ethical POV)

3 – It is an open source  tool.

Recently a couple of guys on a chat were taking cheap shots at Wikipedia for what they perceived as its gross inaccuracies. Unfortunately the conversation went by so fast that I missed my opportunity to ask them this … “If it bothered you so much why did you not do something about it, like contributing your vast and obviously more accurate information, rather than snortling and guffawing with others who seem to agree with you?” (dontcha hate it when the perfect comeback is about an hour late!)

 … Kind of like those folk who grumble about the governance they live under but choose not to vote or do anything constructive to change the system or how they live within it. (This excludes those who would like to vote but are unable to do so, like not being citizens yet, for example) I don’t have a lot of time for that kind of vacuous complaining. (Which is not the same thing as venting)

So using Wikipedia as my first line resource is a way of shifting information out of the hands of the few and into the creativity of the many. It’s not an infallible system, but neither is it a petrified system. In part it represents what is good about the ‘social’ aspect of the internet.

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“I was brought up to believe that the only thing worth doing was to add to the sum of accurate information in the world”Margaret Mead

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10 comments on “Why Wikipedia

  1. jannatwrites says:

    I can relate to the delayed comeback thing…it used to happen all the time when I was younger, but I have gotten better with age. (That aspect at least…everything else has gone downhill, though ;))

    I like Wikipedia, too. I’ve found it useful on several occasions.

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  2. cat says:

    Agreed – this is why I write letters to the paper – I may not always agree with myself but I do try to make people think.

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  3. Yep. If a person who can vote, doesn’t vote, then the person can’t complain about government. That’s my feeling….I use Wikipedia as a starting point too. I’ve also gone back to using the World Book, my favorite as a kid. It’s quality isn’t as great as I remember, unless, could it be, my criteria of what I consider quality has gone up a couple of rings.

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  4. Wikipedia does have its share of critics, and like anything that’s crowd-sourced, it’s only as good as the least credible contributor. But it is a good source for ‘starting points’ and as you point out, it references a wide range of sources (and will ask for more in the places where they think it’s lacking substance or corroboration).

    It’s a similar argument to reading blogs vs. reading the newspaper. In this day of viewer-submitted footage of news as it happens, the role of trained professional commentators is under threat. But both are important: the observer on the street sees things the journalist can’t, and the journalist is expected to follow professional ethics and present a balance story. Wikipedia contributors are not bound by professional ethics (not formally, anyways) but the millions of contributors see and post things that professionals would not or could not do.

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    • Widdershins says:

      Even though we’re so comfortable with the Internet these days, it’s still such a new frontier. Kind of like a gawky adolescent teenager, passionate about everything, one second at a time.

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  5. londonmabel says:

    Wiki is great, I finally donated to them this year when I realized–my days I use them constantly while researching. What better place for a general summary, and then a jumping off point? And as you say, if you see something you disagree with, you just contribute or dispute it etc. I’ve made contributions. Women should especially, as one of the problems with wiki is how male-skewed it is. (Not wiki’s fault per se, just the nature of the beast methinks.) They deserve mad props. And they’re still ad free.

    I like to link to them, and I often link to goodreads.com when giving book titles. They’re a business of sorts, as they have ads; but they aren’t selling the books directly. That’s my way of getting around “Do I link to a Canadian or American store? Or Aussie? Or UK?”

    So my blogger’s been giving you trubbles. I may switch to wordpress one day, but I’m not there yet.

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