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?