Wikipedia versus its competitors

I’m very interested in the phenomenon of Wikipedia. Many times when Wikipedia comes up as a topic, I find that people are mystified by its democratic approach to editorial control. And of course competitors such as Scholarpedia view this characteristic as the antithesis of true peer review.

However, for many topics where I am able to spot check Wikipedia (in my own areas of expertise) more often than not, Wikipedia is close to spot on. That is articles are detailed, well referenced and cogent. And of course Wikipedia is huge. It’s got a head start (understatement) on its competition.

The question of course is: can I trust Wikipedia to give me close to accurate information in areas outside my expertise?

Jim

3 thoughts on “Wikipedia versus its competitors

  1. I use Wikipedia for non-scholarly topics all the time, and what I’ve observed is that for most topics, people with an interest in the topic watch the pages and make an effort to keep them accurate and informative.I find WP is a good source for instant information when I’m introduced to a new idea. For non-scholarly topics, there are often good links to other online magazines, websites, and interviews.For scholarly information, I find WP is more useful for simplified information if you don’t know about the topic, after which you can branch off into database searches for peer-reviewed articles.If you’re concerned about the accuracy of a topic, check the discussion. Editors will often leave comments about questionable content, and sometimes there are long discussions about whether something is accurate or not.I’ve seen a few WP articles on scholarly topics that were not so much incorrect as poorly phrased. When that happens, I correct the information, and include references to support the changes.Obviously you can’t take everything on WP as gospel truth, but it’s a lot more reliable than a random GeoCities page.

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  2. Wikipedia is often useful. The collaborative effort is admirable. I use it regularly.That being said, I do not trust articles dealing with recent advances in science and philosophy. In cases where I have some personal knowledge, I find some of these articles to be highly opinionated and outrageously biased.Other online sources, such as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, are superior in my opinion, even if it may be less timely. CheersJerry LR Chandler

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  3. I’ve also been impressed with the quality and coherence of Wikipedia articles on statistics and mathematical functions. It’s also a good place to find introductory references to peer-reviewed material in a field I’m not well versed in.Wikipedia makes me feel better about humanity.I think most of the problems concern articles about non-scholarly topics: political biographies, etc.I haven’t used Scholarpedia as yet.

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