Pros and Cons of Wikipedia
Posted: 12 June 2008 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I have posted ersamusinfinity’s comments here to start off this thread at his suggestion.

Maybe we could have a thread on the pros and cons and such of Wikipedia.  I find it to be an interesting concept, and something of an experiment in the decency of consensus.

When I first joined this forum last September, I can remember having a disagreement with someone about the meaning of the word label “antitheist.” I was pointed to Wikipedia as an authority on the term and disagreed strongly with the definition that it gave.  It said something quite slanderous that I felt was unfair to the many great minds, and kind persons, that have embraced the term… equating them with fascism and such.  So I went ahead and changed the definition to suit my own liking and created an entry for my own coined term “antitheistic nonsense.” After a couple of weeks I had noticed that someone had edited my edits out, much to my chagrin, and flagged my entry for “antitheistic nonsense.” A couple of weeks later my invented term “antitheistic nonsense” was subsequently deleted.

I have had similar frustrations over various other religious entires that I have attempted to edit.  For example, I went through a short stint of pasting in factual information about Martin Luther’s anti-semtism, which was challenged and removed, then re-added by me, then removed… back and forth a dozen or so times.  The same interchange occurred a few times over factual errors that I attempted to correct regarding christian history.  At any rate, it all started to feel juvenile to me to keep up the interplay, as the most persistent voice tends to win out as the authority on Wikipedia.

Interestingly, however, the “antitheism” definition that so bothered me is quite different now than it was nine months ago.  And I find it much more satisfactory, discussing some of the perspectives of persons who embrace the term positively.  Check it out… antitheism.  Wikipedia is a fascinating phenomenon.  Some of the information that it provides is horribly written and flat out wrong.  But some of its entries are incredibly informative.  Indeed, vastly superior to those of any other encyclopedia on the market.

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Posted: 12 June 2008 02:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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FWIW, I find Wikipedia a convenient starting point, and I appreciate the attempt to provide some references for the information they provide. I too have tried to edit sections having to do with veterinary medicine that were clearly inaccurate or biased, with mixed success. I think one does have to be very skeptical of what one finds, but I do think in general it’s pretty reliable for what it is, a quick and dirty reference and starting point for research.

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Posted: 12 June 2008 07:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Agreed, Brennen. Another thing that one should keep in mind with Wikipedia is that it aims to have references available for all substantive claims in each article. Insofar as Wikpedians are doing their jobs, there should be footnotes and links taking one to the relevant source material, with which one can then agree or disagree. (Or at least understand where they are coming from). Also, most articles include further source material at the bottom which can be perused at leisure.

No one single source of material is ever going to be beyond question. But having read any number of Wiki articles, I must say I am usually very impressed with the thoroughness of the research that has gone into them. I would generally be less sanguine about very obscure topics, where an article might well be authored by a handful of the misinformed. (Then an article by a professional publication might well be more thorough and credible). But for most topics of everyday interest, Wiki is an excellent starting point for research.

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Posted: 12 June 2008 07:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Well said both. Thing is there have been quite a few accuracy studies of wikipedia and it has fared very well against the other big encycolpedias. PLus it has been demonstrated to have far more detail and up-to-date information.

I fond it an excellent place to begin and always check links and supporting just because its open source allows for tomfoolery. But on balance I have been very well informed by it for years now.

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Posted: 13 June 2008 12:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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As far as I am concerned Wikipedia is an excellent resource but must be read with caution and cannot be authoritative.

I remember an article (either on Wired or The Register) that highlighted a particular aspect of Wikipedia policy ... as I recall it said that staff (who have final authority on any edits) with specific interests on the site cannot edit articles in line with their interests (presumably in an attempt to maintain some degree of objectivity) but that did not stop one member of staff from continuing to edit our criticisms of his own particular belief system and criticisms of himself for doing so.

There’s some interesting stuff in these links (from Wired):

See Who’s Editing Wikipedia - Diebold, the CIA, a Campaign

Wikipedia Founder Edits Own Bio

As one author says, “Wikipedia exists in a state of quantum significance flux. It’s simultaneously a shining, flawless collection of incontrovertible information, and a debased pile of meaningless words thrown together by uneducated lemurs with political agendas. It simply cannot exist in any state between these two extremes. You can test this yourself by expressing a reasonable opinion about the site in any public space. Whatever words you type, they will be interpreted by readers as supporting one of these two opposing views.

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Posted: 13 June 2008 03:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’ve found Wikipedia to be an outstanding initial source of information, like an encylopedia should be.  Where some of the discussion has to be a matter of opinion (as opposed to factual information) I agree with comments that one should take it as a starting point and look at the references—just like a real encyclopedia.  Encyclopedias and even history books have shown biases in the past (and in the present)—you all know that.

Wikipedia has so many topics - from popular entertainment to science to philosophy, and access is fast.  And it’s free. 

I agree that every so often you hit an article whos biases are intrusive, and certainly this forum is going to find some of them.

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Posted: 15 June 2008 08:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Yes.  I think that the consensus here is quite right.  Wikipedia is an excellent source, although fallible as any.  My grievances regarding the use of Wikipedia to substantiate arguments on internet forums is not justly applicable to Wikipedia’s overall content.  It would be more aptly directed toward appeals to authority in general.

I find Wikipedia’s entry and editing system to be fascinating.  If you would have asked me what I thought about the idea behind it ten years ago I would have laughed in mockery.  I would have assumed that it would only degenerate to the lowest common denominator.  But the overall quality of content is remarkably high and, as I said before, rivals other encyclopedias.  What an amazing testament to good will in human nature in general, and to the capacity of the masses to behave rationally.

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Posted: 23 June 2008 07:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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cgallaga - 12 June 2008 07:30 PM

Well said both. Thing is there have been quite a few accuracy studies of wikipedia and it has fared very well against the other big encycolpedias. PLus it has been demonstrated to have far more detail and up-to-date information.

I fond it an excellent place to begin and always check links and supporting just because its open source allows for tomfoolery. But on balance I have been very well informed by it for years now.

Usually you come across wikipedia by searching on a topic, and taking pot-luck.
If you are looking to BROWSE wikipedia, there are categories called “good” articles and “featured” articles which have been all-but-peer-reviewed and have a higher likelihood of being satisfactory.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Good_Articles

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:FA = Featured Articles

An example of a featured article (category of math) is the [ Infinite Monkey Theorem]

[ Edited: 23 June 2008 07:34 PM by Jackson ]
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Posted: 01 July 2008 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Wikipedia is a great resource for music information. I think bands, fans, and management companies go up there quite diligently and post information. I find gossip and facts about even the most obscure albums, sometimes moreso than I would find on the rest of the web combined.

However, I tend to avoid political subjects on wiki. I’ve found blatant misinformation on key pages like Ronald Reagan, September 11, Israeli-Palestinian conflict and so on. I think with books, you know where they’re coming from by looking at the author. With wikipedia, you really don’t know who that is sometimes.

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Posted: 14 July 2008 02:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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As a regular contributor to Wikipedia, For an edit to be left alone, intact, the information must be notable, and verifiable.  Thats it really.  If you’re including anti-Semitic text about MLK, if it does not follow either of those points, it will likely be removed.  Now if you reference that material from an authoritative source (such as text from a well known university for instance), and its continually edited out, you should raise your objections to a higher level.  Some people can get quite personal about ‘their’ articles, edit wars are common and usually dealt with in the ‘discussion’ page for the article.

The guidelines in Wikipedia are well written and pretty sound IMO.  I’ve spent a lot of time on this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester,_Bolton_and_Bury_Canal

and although little of the research is original (research mustn’t be original on Wikipedia, that’s one of the central tenants) its all verifiable, and completely neutral.

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Posted: 14 July 2008 02:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Dear Shapiro - 01 July 2008 10:51 AM

I’ve found blatant misinformation on key pages like Ronald Reagan, September 11, Israeli-Palestinian conflict and so on. I think with books, you know where they’re coming from by looking at the author. With wikipedia, you really don’t know who that is sometimes.

All content must be verifiable.  For an article to reach ‘good article’ status or higher, this is a strict requirement.

If you’re unsure of the quality of the content, click the discussion page and see if it has been rated.

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Posted: 14 July 2008 11:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I go to Wikipedia for superficial information, like the episode guides for tv shows, or music discographies, birthdates, that sort of stuff. If I want hardcore information about the humanities, for example, then I visit academic websites, or sites that are more reputable.

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