Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wikimedia: Fact or Edit?

Tyler Prich

Time and time again, we are told by teachers and peers that Wikipedia is not a reliable source. Yet time and time again, we are all guilty of using it knowing that the validity of it's content is questionable.In it's 14 year existence, Wikipedia has amassed over 5 million articles in English alone, with countless more in 290 other languages - according to an article in The Telegraph. So why is it so hard to trust Wikipedia?

The main drawback in Wikipedia's content is the idea that it can be edited by virtually anyone with access to the internet. This makes it difficult to control the flow of information and to distinguish what is accurate. Although, it may hinder the public perception of Wikipedia, freedom and open source is one of the core values of the Wikimedia foundation. 

The methods Wikipedia uses in order to achieve the highest level of accuracy are more thorough the public might believe. The process of community editing, talk pages and governing watchdogs of the sight has made the site about as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica. 

As for me, I have always found myself skeptical of using Wikipedia for scholarly research or really any type of school work outside of basic facts. However, it's safe to say I still use Wikipedia in some way almost every day, usually to settle an argument of some sort. The layout of the page has become ingrained into my memory and, like most of us, I can navigate a Wikipedia page to find what I need in just a few seconds.

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The majority of us that use it every day don't even think about all the other projects that Wikimedia runs. Wikimedia creates a large enough internet footprint to be considered among the giants of the web, like Google. Which is crazy to think about when you consider that Wikimedia, at it's core, it a non-profit.

I wasn't really aware of the vast amount of projects that Wikimedia has been running for your years. I had heard of Wikibooks and had used Wikiquote for some short, school papers. But the idea of something like Wikispecies never seemed plausible, given Wikimedia's model.

Overall, I would not recommend using Wikipedia for scholarly projects or for every fact check. Although, if the information is sourced, you are able to click on that source and read it for yourself. Wikimedia is doing great things by making a vast amount of information available to the public.

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