Throughout my academic years, I can honestly say that I have not had much of a relationship with Wikipedia. It was always a source that I was taught not to use back in grade school, so it was very surprising to me to discover that, according to a report from Nature, “Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries” (2005).
Over the past few weeks, I have explored Wikipedia and came across a few observations. First, Wikipedia is biased. Rather, it only contains information from those who choose to contribute to it (Royal and Kapita, 2009). Some entries are large and extensive, but others are very small and bare. I feel that this is a drawback to ‘crowdsourced’ knowledge, the kind that Wikipedia provides. Wikipedia is an open, peer-to-peer system of information and it reflects the interests and opinions of those who choose to contribute to it. I thought that this fact would discourage the use of Wikipedia, but after asking many of my friends and colleagues of their opinion, it seems that they use Wikipedia as a base source, a starting point for research rather than as an accurate source of information.
According to Royal and Kapita, Wikipedia is now a very popular source for news and information, ranking third in the Web and surpassing sites like Yahoo News and CNN (2009). This statistic surprised me because I was always taught to not use Wikipedia or take anything from Wikipedia at face value. But I guess that the drawback to ‘crowdsourced’ knowledge that I mentioned earlier is not relevant here and may be opposite. I think that people are more willing to use Wikipedia as a source of news information than as an encyclopedia source – the third overall ranking in the web would support this.
After reading these articles, my opinion of Wikipedia has slightly changed. I guess I am not so against it as I originally was. The fact that a report from Nature states that the information within Wikipedia comes close to Britannica (at least in some entries) encourages me to use Wikipedia more often. I think that I will begin using Wikipedia from time to time, as a starting point for information. I don’t think that I will ever be able to take information from Wikipedia at face value; without checking/verifying it through a more credible site.
Giles. J. (2005). Special Report: Internet encyclopaedias go head to head. Nature. 438, pp 900-901.
Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.