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Thammuz's avatar

Wikipedia is good form most thngs, if you don’t want to get too much in detail and if you don’t need informations to be 100% reliable. Good thing the english version (nlike the italian one) has to refer to sources which, in case of necessitly, are very useful.

Lovey_Howell's avatar

Personally, I use it only to get a basic knowledge mostly only because it’s the first thing that comes up in a google search. I prefer to use the type of sites wiki users cite as their sources. Wikipedia is good for up-to-date matters and opinions, but if I want a true “source” I go to .org sites or .edu sites.

ragingloli's avatar

I’ve read that according to a test they made, wiki is as accurate as encyclopedia britannica

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Wikipedia is not an appropriate source for a term paper or for research purposes.

Icky's avatar

it’s good to get a general idea of the subject matter you’re reading, but try to avoid using it as a valid source of information for college or high school papers. if you must use the internet, use the section where the article has stated the cited works it references.

Jeruba's avatar

Here’s one recent question on this subject. Try putting ‘Wikipedia’ in the Fluther search box and you’ll see quite a few mentions.

marinelife's avatar

I like what Geoffrey Nunberg says about Wikipedia.

“I almost never bother to verify the answers. Usually I don’t much care—like most people, I suspect, I use Wikipedia for idle ruminating, usually when I ought to be doing something else. Anyway, Wikipedia has as good a chance of being right on most of these items as anybody else does. It isn’t likely to lead you astray about probability distributions or when Roberto Clemente was national league MVP or when Phil Collins joined Genesis. There are too many people out there who make it a point of pride to know that stuff. And where else would you go to find out about Pia Zadora, the Undead, or Harry Potter? I haven’t actually read any of the Harry Potter books, but I figure that any group of people who take the collective time and trouble to compile a 7000-word article just on Lord Voldemort have got to know what they’re talking about.

But it’s imprudent to trust the wisdom of crowds when it comes to fixing the date of Daniel Defoe’s birth or the titles of Max Beerbohm’s works or what Joyce had to say about Ibsen. And Wikipedia is even more helpless at explaining any of those writers. The collective process isn’t going to be able to produce the consistent viewpoint or the engaged tone of voice that criticism requires. In fact the prose of Wikipedia is inexorably drawn to a corporate impersonality—it’s the way the English language would talk if it had no place to go home to at night.”

laureth's avatar

Wikipedia is an ingenious invention, really. It’s an online encyclopedia that people can use, free of charge, that has generally good information about a wide range of subjects. Since it’s edited by the general public, though, it has some unique characteristics.

The theory behind its reliability is that since it’s open to editing by people like you and me, any misinformation that shows up on the site will quickly be edited out or corrected by a more informed individual. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, Wikipedia articles are written by sources that are quite biased. Writers can be anyone – so perhaps that article is written or heavily edited by someone with an agenda.

Here is an article about how Diebold (the manufacturer of voting machines) totally edited a section of their Wikipedia page to get rid of information that was critical of their voting machines. That’s just one of the companies that “cleans up” Wikipedia; the article mentions others.

Here is an article about how a congressional staffer ’beefed up’ his boss’ page. You can compare the “before and after” articles here. Most people who are looking up “factual” articles, such as Wikipedia purports to be, would prefer information that is somewhat less biased.

Here, an anti-gay group and a lesbian group want to have a kind of “editing war” over what Wikipedia will report about whether or not homosexuality is a psychological disorder. Personally, I’m not sure that either of these organizations is what I would consider wholly unbiased.

You get the idea.

There is even a site, Wikipedia Watch, for people who want to report (or be made aware of) the biased editing on the site.

In other words, while Wikipedia is a good site, its editable nature prevents it from being a great site. It’s very often one of the first places I’ll look when I am doing some light research, but it’s only a place to start. If you want information that has a higher degree of probable accuracy, it is best to look for a more reputable source: perhaps a site written by experts in a field, that can’t be changed by people like you and me. The articles in Wikipedia are only as good as the person that writes them: that’s why many here would view it with less regard, and take it with a large chunk of salt.

This is an answer I wrote previously for another venue but which applies here.

MrItty's avatar

Wikipedia isn’t “a source”. It’s a collection of information from a multitude of sources, some of which are valid some some of which aren’t, and of pure conjecture and opinion by its user base.

Wikipedia is fine for learning – provided you acknolwedge that what you read is only as good as the source of the article. You should be reading the original sources that are linked at the bottom of the article for the “real” information, and using those as the sources for your paper.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

as valid as the folks who write in it. so it depends on how much you value the opinion of that random kid down the street, that snobby jock in your highschool, the older man with quite a bit of knowledge, the douchebag who just wants to screw around with the interwebs, your mom, your mom’s dog, etc.

iwamoto's avatar

well, the whole “people will screw around with it” view is just wrong, things get reviewed when they are edited, so mods can check it out themselves, and edit it, delete is or for instance mark it as unreliable

and then again, i highly doubt some nerd would change to explanation about the difference between PATA and SATA

laureth's avatar

Iwamoto, are you saying that people don’t screw around with Wikipedia?

Darwin's avatar

The best thing for me about Wikipedia is the list of sources down at the bottom. However, you still have to realize that if someone has an agenda that the sources will be selected sources, that is only those sources that express information that supports the agenda.

Most Wikipedia articles are fairly accurate, especially for a quick run through of the subject. However, I do know of examples where folks have seriously slanted the information given. I would use it to get a beginning understanding of a subject, in order to give me ideas of where to search for accurate information.

quasi's avatar

A wise friend of mine once said ‘wikipedia is a source of information, not knowledge’.

iwamoto's avatar

@laureth sure they screw around with it, but it gets corrected…

robmandu's avatar

Slashdot listed an article a while back about the perils of using Wikipedia as a source:

So the circle was closed: Wikipedia states a false fact, a reputable media outlet copies the false fact, and this outlet is then used as the source to prove the false fact to Wikipedia.

I cite Wikipedia all the time here on Fluther when no other easy reference is handy/publishable. But I trust the reader to verify for himself the veracity of the references used for a particular article.

laureth's avatar

@iwamoto – I guess all we have to worry about is citing the fact before it gets corrected, eh?

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

If it serves your argument its flawless.

laureth's avatar

Unless you’re using untrue “facts” to support your argument simply because they’re quoted in Wikipedia. On the other hand, some people don’t mind having arguments with clay feet.

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