I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it, but some of my written stylings come from a man I know only as 'Tycho.' He's half of a webcomic duo that creates some pretty hilarious comics about gaming and such. The thing is that many of their comics require a pretty deep explanation if you aren't in the gaming 'cool kids' circle - and I left that circle a long long time ago. So, anyway, I like the way the guy writes even if there are (gasp!) spelling errors (I'm done grading. I'm done grading. I'm done grading).
explanations done, the Penny Arcade folks have taken a look at Wikipedia. And it's not that pretty.
A selected chunk from the newspost that accompanies the comic: (persistent link may be here)
Reponses to criticism of Wikipedia go something like this: the first is usually a paean to that pure democracy which is the project's noble fundament. If I don't like it, why don't I go edit it myself? To which I reply: because I don't have time to babysit the Internet. Hardly anyone does. If they do, it isn't exactly a compliment.I note this because I've been fighting a losing battle to keep Wikipedia sources out of students' papers. I really like Wikipedia, but I know that it's not particularly reliable. That's not to say that you can't find good informaiton there, because obviously, you can, especially on techy stuff. There was a recent study comparing Wikipedia with Britannica, and Wiki held its own, with 4 errors per entry vs. Britannica's 3. I think the problem is that many people see Wiki as the answer instead of a tool that you can use to help find the answer.
Any persistent idiot can obliterate your contributions. The fact of the matter is that all sources of information are not of equal value, and I don't know how or when it became impolitic to suggest it. In opposition to the spirit of Wikipedia, I believe there is such a thing as expertise.
The second response is: the collaborative nature of the apparatus means that the right data tends to emerge, ultimately, even if there is turmoil temporarily as dichotomous viewpoints violently intersect. To which I reply: that does not inspire confidence. In fact, it makes the whole effort even more ridiculous. What you've proposed is a kind of quantum encyclopedia, where genuine data both exists and doesn't exist depending on the precise moment I rely upon your discordant fucking mob for my information.
Now that I write that up, I guess it's not that different from any other source. Hmm... Is Wikipedia legitimate as a source? Do you folks let students cite Wikipedia?