In Defense of Wikipedia: I Kinda Like It
Columbia Journalism Review--At the end of the day, Wikipedia looks less like the reputation-munching monster it’s being portrayed as, and more like the future of information in the Internet age.
Professor Mark Goodacre, Duke University--It is becoming fashionable among academics these days to have a go at Wikipedia. This is inevitable for a variety of reasons. Academics are often behind their students in the use of new technology, and this brings about a reaction of fear. We witnessed the same thing with the advent of the World Wide Web in the 1990s and now that fears about the academic value of Internet resources has diminished, a new, narrower target has been found. It is an easy target because its open source basis makes it often apparently "unreliable." Negative reactions to the use of Wikipedia in the classroom, however, are unnecessary and should be discouraged.
Professor Tyler Cowen--Critiques of Wikipedia miss its comparative advantage. Entries tend to be link-rich, and the ongoing debate and revisions refresh and improve the links. Think of Wikipedia as hiring someone to do search engine work for you, not just Google but the other brands as well. They then report back with the best links. Wikipedia brings you this service for free.
Washington Post Blog--Even the most celebrated sources of fact are frequently flawed. A study by the scientific journal Nature investigated the legitimacy of both Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica, a widely respected information outlet. Through a random sampling of articles, the study discovered 162 errors from Wikipedia and 123 from the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Ultimately, Wikipedia is more than merely a source of information; it is a global system that promotes a constant exchange of information. Its purpose is to encourage a dynamic flow of knowledge, an element that is critical to this era of globalization.
Duke Professor Cathy Davidson--Wikipedia is not just an encyclopedia. It is a knowledge community, uniting anonymous readers all over the world who edit and correct grammar, style, interpretations, and facts. It is a community devoted to a common good — the life of the intellect. Isn't that what we educators want to model for our students?
As a cultural historian and historian of technology, I find that I often go to Wikipedia for a quick and easy reference before heading into more-scholarly depths. I'm often surprised at how sound and good a first source it is.
Comment: There are a lot of Wikipedia-skeptics out there, especially in academia, where it seems to be almost universally condemned, banned and ridiculed by professors.
Well, at the risk of being an academic heretic, I have a confession to make: I like Wikipedia, and often go there first when trying to find information on the Internet. For example, check out the Wikipedia listing for Gross Domestic Product. In addition to links for original sources of GDP data in many countries, there are many useful ranked lists at the end of the Wikipedia GDP entry, based on GDP using data from the IMF, World Bank and the CIA World Factbook with adjustments for inflation, PPP and per capita, etc. (I refer to these lists often):
List of countries by GDP (nominal), (per capita)
List of countries by GDP (PPP), (per capita), (per hour)
List of countries by GDP (real) growth rate, (per capita)
List of countries by GDP sector composition
List of countries by future GDP estimates (PPP), (per capita), (nominal)
List of countries by past GDP (PPP), (nominal)
Wikipedia is in its infancy, and will likely continue to improve significantly over time. Wikipedia-skeptics, give it some time. It'll likely be the "future of information in the Internet age."