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Don't Rely on the Wikipedia

As the world has gone digital, the hard-bound set of encyclopedias -- once a staple of many American homes -- has largely gone the way of the dinosaur, replaced by many of you with Wikipedia, a Web-based, free-content information site that started more than five years ago.

This interesting piece from American Chronicle criticizes the huge flaws in the Wikipedia model: One in which articles about people and subjects are written collaboratively by volunteers that can be changed by anyone with Internet access.

Before taking the information you look up on Wikipedia for the straight scoop, consider some of these problems:

  • Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia, but a collection of eclectic information generated regularly by a community of users.
  • Often, experts are scorned and abused on Wikipedia listings, because everyone is treated equally when it comes to editing and contributing.
  • The Wikipedia model is an opaque one because contributors and editors remain anonymous and, as such, pages (including ones dealing with history) are often edited, rewritten and erased.

To see how easy it is to "rewrite history" on Wikipedia, take a look at the page devoted to my career, and hit the tab at the top that allows you to edit this page easily, without registering.

American Chronicle July 2, 2006

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