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How much do you trust Wikipedia?

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#41 Way Walker   Members   -  Reputation: 744

Posted 24 November 2010 - 09:50 AM

Original post by Antheus
Original post by Way Walker
One thing I find helpful is to look through the talk page and revision history to get an idea of the maturity, stability, and biases in each section.

While that's fine, it suffers from one flaw - the most mature, stable and unbiased article might be flat out wrong.

That's not a flaw, that's half the point. A mature, stable, unbiased article may be wrong, but the way it goes wrong is probably different from the way a young, chaotic, biased article.

The other half is that a mature, stable, unbiased article is less likely to be wrong (or "is likely to be less wrong" if you prefer) than a young, chaotic, biased article. If the two disagree, my money's on the former. Will I lose sometimes? Sure, but I'll make money on the whole.


One of the first pieces of advice one of my graduate advisors gives to students is to always check the information given in a paper.

Sadly, academia cares little about credibility these days, especially graduate and under. Whole high schools have replaced their materials with wikipedia for teaching material.

Before computers were common, we learned how to look things up in Britannica. Using encyclopedias in the classroom is hardly new.

It's also about going with the times. You know students are going to use it, so design the curriculum with that in mind. Instead of looking integrals up in the CRC, we used Mathematica in my Calc courses. Even when doing things by hand, I'm more likely to get an integral from Wolfram Alpha or Wikipedia than to track down a copy of the CRC.

So, I disagree that the trivial knowledge has no real value. For example, Wikipedia will generally give you enough information on a numeric algorithm to understand it enough to use it (say, to understand what might be going wrong when you're running a minimization in LAMMPS). It's not enough to work in the field itself, but it's usually enough to see how another field relates to yours.


#42 jack_1313   Members   -  Reputation: 536

Posted 25 November 2010 - 02:50 AM

Original post by zyrolasting
This is obvious now, but just to reiterate, some academic facilities suspect that Wikipedia is unreliable due to the fact that articles can be edited publically.

In terms of academics, whether the information on Wikipedia is accurate or not is a secondary issue. You've already noted the more important issue:


I suppose the real issue (again, probably just stating the obvious) is that people believe that the information on Wikipedia can change at any moment

This isn't just something that "people believe," it is a true fact. If you are writing a research paper or any high level of academic work you are expected to cite your sources of information so that readers can trace that information to its sources. Regardless of its perceived quality, you can't do this with Wikipedia because the information you cite might not even exist the next day. Thus, it doesn't matter if 50%, 90% or even 100% of editors are considered "competent." For academic purposes, Wikipedia can't be used other than on an informal basis. The sources that Wikipedia cites, however, are often static texts - thus your school's encouragement for students to use Wikipedia as a "shortcut", or gateway to relevant texts on whatever subject.


Isn't treating work like a "Links" page to more "trusted" (read: relevant) material kind of an eff-yew to competent contributors?

Not really, for the reasons explained above. You'd be more interested in the "References" section, though. It's normally not difficult to tell which texts are things that you can include in your papers.

#43 davepermen   Members   -  Reputation: 1045

Posted 25 November 2010 - 03:16 AM

Original post by Kaze
I trust Wikipedia as much as any other media. Wikipedia is certainly unreliable in many topics but for most of them I feel you would be just as foolish to pick up a single book or newspaper and view it as a absolute truth.

it's the same as "you trust ebay and buy stuff there?!!?". my reply: i don't trust them any more than any other store: not really at all. ordinary stores and webstores and ebay have the same ratio of selling me crap since years.

wikipedia is just fine. but if it's in some book, people think it got much more research and validation. which i don't believe in. all the same crap. :)
If that's not the help you're after then you're going to have to explain the problem better than what you have. - joanusdmentia

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