Wandering Thoughts

September 21, 2008

Wikipedia Rulz Sux 4 Eva!

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 6:36 pm
Tags: ,

Nowadays, the Wikipedia reminds me of those indie bands I used to listen to as a younger man. First everybody loves them, then everybody realises that everyone else loves them, and then no one is allowed to love them anymore.

And so it is that Kathryn Ryan* can grouch about the Wikipedia on National Radio, while ‘serious’ Internet commentators can profess to being shocked (just shocked!) that anyone would ever even dare link to it.

But not me people. I still love the Wikipedia. (And, while we’re at it, although this bit is slightly off topic, I might also even buy the new Dinosaur Jr album, too).

It’s true that I wouldn’t use it in my own field of expertise. But that’s because (I hope, at least!) that I might – after all that study – now know more about these things than an encyclopedia could tell me.

And I would, I confess, be very wary about relying on it on any topic that is in any way politically contentious.

And, I agree that it’s not a permissible academic reference (although, plenty of equally dodgy references, I suspect, make it past referees and markers every day, simply because they don’t have the brand recognition of the Wikipedia).

But I still love the Wikipedia, because when I get home from a movie and want to know more I can look it up. And when I just want some rough and ready information on a historical event or person I can find it there in one click – no Google wading. True it may not be correct, but I’m aware of this risk, and read with open eyes, which is what I should be doing anyway. There are plenty of errors on-line, and in newspaper articles and magazines, and academic journals too.

Finally, for all its flaws, it remains a useful starting point for reading further. Good Wikipedia articles are sourced, which not only means you can assess their veracity yourself, but also that you can follow the link-sources onwards to information that you can use.

So I still love the Wikipedia – warts and all. It’s annoying that you have to read through the unimportant simply because it was placed in an article by a zealot of another cause and it’s a pity that some articles are now chopped to bits thanks to edit wars.

But it’s still fun and it’s still useful. And I hope it stays that way.

*Update: This isn’t a criticism of Kathryn Ryan by the way – I love Nine to Noon!


  1. Couldn’t agree more. Certainly helps in debates about the muppets at work. Mmmm yeahhhh… don’t ask.

    Comment by Nikki — September 21, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

  2. ah, but, of course, with Muppets being my area of academic expertise, I don’t really need to rely on the Wikipedia in this area… :)

    Comment by terence — September 21, 2008 @ 9:33 pm

  3. Hi there, have to say I don’t agree with you, but that’s because I have personally tangled with the unreliability of the wiki machine on my specialist subject. Doesn’t remind me of indie bands, it reminds me of karaoke. Amateur night might be lots of fun at the time, in an excruciating way, but it’s not the real thing. If anybody shines in that context, odds are they’re just slumming it, and you’re best to go seek them out where their best performances are to be found, with their backing bands and a good sound system, and bouncers on the door too, to keep the bullies out.
    Great to see you back on deck by the way!

    Comment by Paradoxical Cat — September 27, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

  4. Hey there ST,

    Thanks for your comments and good to hear from you again. I can understand how Wikipedia’s unreliability in your own field would certainly shake your faith in it. I haven’t really looked at what it has to say on development but it wouldn’t surprise me to find inaccuracies similar to those you found. The thing is, I guess, in my field at least, much of what I read in the papers and around the nets is pretty inaccurate too. So I guess I’m not so much defending Wikipedia’s accuracy as pointing out that it’s no worse than many of the other options out there. At least in some areas and if read with open eyes.



    Comment by terence — September 27, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

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