Today I want to talk just a little bit about Wikipedia, probably the most famous wiki of them all, a user-created and edited online encyclopedia that provides information on virtually any imaginable subject. And then some. In case you don’t know, it’s ginormous! Imagine how many paper-based volumes the content would fill.
While many question Wikipedia’s reliability due to the nature of the user-generated content (and, in fact, many educators ban the use of Wikipedia altogether), it’s worth knowing that a fairly new editorial system has been implemented that allows only trusted users to edit pages (Giles, 2007) and which also identifies content that needs to be substantiated. A 2007 study by Giles compared 42 social science topics on both Wikipedia and the online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and found a similar pattern of low-level errors in each resource. Most recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in a May 28, 2011 article that a new movement is underway in which academics are now embracing Wikipedia (Fischman, 2011).
So why does the hubbub remain about Wikipedia? Why does the site continue to be vilified by so many? How many of you use Wikipedia? How many of you would admit this in public? I’ll admit it: I love Wikipedia! I do! It is a terrific resource to consult, especially in the early stages of research when you might need some historical context, general background information, or, perhaps best of all, the bibliography of sources used in the article.
I recently presented at an academic conference and defined “Web 2.0” by quoting Wikipedia. Do you think the definition of “Web 2.0” is any better in the Oxford English Dictionary? I doubt it, but I am not going to shell out the $295 for an individual subscription (for one year) to find out.
Bye for now,
Fischman, J. (2011, May 28). Academics, in new move, begin to work with Wikipedia. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/academics-in-new-move-begin-to-work-with-wikipedia/31523?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en
Giles, J. (2007). Wikipedia 2.0, with added trust. New Scientist, 195(2622). doi: 10.1016/S0262-4079(07)62409-9