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The veracity of Wikipedia

I just haven’t had time to blog lately. I’ve been in the Republic of Georgia and very busy trying to keep up in my position as Director of IT as well as keeping up my grades at Bellevue University working on a master’s in Management of Information Technology.

But I am writing. I’ve decided to share this response to a weekly discussion question in one of my two current classes: CIS520-T302 Survey of System Development.

Many Internet sources – including the extremely popular Wikipedia – are considered unacceptable for academic work. Discuss your opinions on this matter:

  1. Why is Wikipedia considered an inferior source of information?
  2. If Wikipedia provided information, are you obligated to give credit to it as a source of information?
  3. What other sites fall into the category of “inferior Internet source”?

Wikipedia is considered an inferior source of information because it is non-authoritative. The people submitting the articles may well be professionals but the vetting process at Wikipedia does very little (compared to contemporary encyclopedia publishers) to ensure that information sources are factual. There are numerous well publicized incidents of false information being published to Wikipedia. An interesting article about Wikipedia’s internal politics can be found at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/mar/27/wikipedia.scandal. The converse is that some people would likely call the Guardian a non-authoritative source. In my opinion the quality of fact-checking has decreased across the board in our information society. We live in a sea of junk information. A useful life skill these days is a well developed internal spam/scam filter and a healthy distrust of all information.

If Wikipedia provides information then yes, it is important to give it credit unless Wikipedia itself cites a more authoritative source (and that is generally the case).

Many types of sites fall into the category of inferior Internet source. Most blogs probably fall into this category, in my opinion. Many purported news sites fall into this category as they are run on a shoestring budget. Poor copy editing is most likely a testament to equally poor fact checking. In addition, there are any number of corporate mouthpiece sites, government propaganda sites and shell company special interest sites that I believe fall into the “inferior Internet source” category. All of these are debatable and humanity spends a lot of time arguing about some pretty silly “issues.” Just Google chemtrails if you doubt.

As information sources go, Wikipedia in in the top 25 percent when it comes to reliability. While I accept that there is an institutional bias against it within higher education I still use it on a personal level and often use it to cite more authoritative sources when researching for my college work. There are millions of links from Wikipedia to quality sources of factual information.

If I had time to expand further on this idea I would focus on the premise that one of the most important skills an individual can develop in the early 21st century is a set of good information filters that must be constantly updated with an extreme investment of time and reading.

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