wikipedia forever?

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AuthorTopic: wikipedia forever?
Infiltrator
Member # 5410
Profile #0
I've noticed Wiki being cited as a defence to arguments here quite often and I wonder how reliable that is. I know that I will often turn to it for baseline info but it rarely is my ending point and I disagree with others who defend their arguments (quite stridently at times) on the sole basis because it was quoted in Wikipedia.

This became relevant to me as I notice it is now being banned as a source for paper research in many educational institutions - lazy research, innacurate etc. Here I quite heartily agree.

I also notice that one of the co-founders is starting a new pedia that will have material reviewed by experts before it is allowed to be posted.

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"Dikiyoba ... is demon ... drives people mad and ... do all sorts of strange things."

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Posts: 687 | Registered: Wednesday, January 19 2005 08:00
Shaper
Member # 7472
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There's a special irony about this: most of the first paragraph of what you said can be applied to the internet as a whole.

It basically boils down to what several people perceive something to be. It's usually accurate, but you can't just depend on it solely. You have to think before blindly accepting it as fact.

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I tried to think of something witty to put here.

Needless to say, I failed.
Posts: 2686 | Registered: Friday, September 8 2006 07:00
Shaper
Member # 7420
Profile Homepage #2
Until Wikipedia is considered a legitimate source (no college professor I know would ever allow it) I will not use it as a defense. However, that doesn't stop me from using it to look up random things when I am in random need of random knowledge.

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You lose.
Posts: 2156 | Registered: Thursday, August 24 2006 07:00
Agent
Member # 2210
Profile #3
Ha ha ha. Wikipedia is about on par with Brittanica for science. It actually may be more accurate in some cases than academia...

http://news.com.com/2100-1038_3-5997332.html

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Wasting your time and mine looking for a good laugh.

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Posts: 1084 | Registered: Thursday, November 7 2002 08:00
Guardian
Member # 6670
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Actually, a lot of classes ban internet resources altogether. Nothing on the internet should be considered the last word.

However, Wikipedia is a great way to get easy-to-digest information quickly, and I'd rather use a tactile encyclopaedia than Citizendium.

EDIT: (See below.) Eleven months.

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[ Saturday, January 20, 2007 10:42: Message edited by: Dintiradan ]
Posts: 1509 | Registered: Tuesday, January 10 2006 08:00
Councilor
Member # 6600
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Really, thinking critically about your source is more important than where you get it. There is good information on Wikipedia/the Internet and bad information on offline sources.

Dintiradan: How old is said nephew?

Dikiyoba.
Posts: 4346 | Registered: Friday, December 23 2005 08:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
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What Dikiyoba said. Wikipedia is not god's truth, but neither are academic papers.

Fatman (Bismark, you *are* Fatman, right? I get confused), I remember having an argument with you about this as part of an ugly fight about the Crusades. Anyway, that was a case in point, as some extremely sketchy pieces of academia were cited.

The amazing thing about Wikipedia is not its content, it's its organization. Wikipedia organizes useful information on a scale and with a breadth that has never been achieved elsewhere. That makes it an ideal jumping-off point for any research project. I certainly had college professors who referred to Wikipedia for their preliminary research.

Citing Wikipedia would be kind of stupid -- but for other reasons. The biggest and simplest is that Wikipedia does not (ever, to my knowledge) present original research, so there's no REASON to cite it. In a serious paper, you'd never cite somebody who's just passing on another finding; you'd cite the original finding (with an "as quoted by" in some cases). This is the same reason nobody cites Encyclopedia Brittanica.

EDIT:
The ironic thing is that Wikipedia (or the pedia thing eventually became wikipedia) originated as an encyclopedia that was only supposed to include expert articles.

[ Saturday, January 20, 2007 10:53: Message edited by: Rhymes with Slarty ]

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
Infiltrator
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Colleges require that material quoted be that which has been peer reviewed. Correct?

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My ego is bigger than yours.
Posts: 480 | Registered: Thursday, October 11 2001 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #8
But as a nice discussion a while back about peer review brought out, even peer review is only worth so much. I know truly bogus papers that have been published in prestigious journals (even, gasp, Nature). Usually peer review consists in one or two unlucky souls having to read your paper and write a brief review of it, with thumbs up or down, for the journal editor. If you are lucky enough to hit a couple of referees who are both dim and mellow, you can get bad stuff published in a good journal.

Of course there are lots of journals that no serious scholars or scientists read, because they are low-ranked journals that rarely publish good stuff. And good academics usually don't have time to review bad articles for bad journals, or to write articles for journals that no good academics will read. So there are plenty of bad peer-reviewed journals, which have only bad submissions to choose from and whose peer reviewers are particularly likely to be dim.

You have to know which journals, and what book publishers, are good, and which are not. And to catch the exceptional bad works that do get put out by good sources, you have to know how an article or book was received by the community of researchers in its field -- whether it was applauded, derided, or shrugged off. That isn't always easy to know if you're not part of the community.

The same thing goes for personal authority. Some professors are idiots. A professor with a long publication list in good journals, with a chair at a prestigious university, and with prizes from major academic organizations ... is very probably right. But still not necessarily.

And so I use Wikipedia a lot, even for looking up topics in my field. It certainly isn't flawlessly reliable; but nothing else is, either. It's a good first place to check.

But for internet arguments, I'm not sympathetic to appeals to authority of any kind, anyway. Citing authorities, however august, usually just by-passes the most interesting issues.

[ Saturday, January 20, 2007 12:23: Message edited by: Student of Trinity ]

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Off With Their Heads
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Wikipedia is pretty good for basic facts, like the date of the Norman Conquest of England or the structure of the dactylic hexameter. It's also pretty good for a base-level explanation of things, like what bacteria are and what they do. Citing it in a casual argument seems fine, and if disputes over those facts come up, one can always appeal to a more authoritative source of facts afterwards.

More importantly, most of the time it is cited here, it is cited for things that are clearly true in correction of ignorance, rather than cited for things that are opinion-based in support of an opinion. That is, Wikipedia is cited as a source of bricks with which to build an argument, rather than as the whole brick wall of the argument itself.

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Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Law Bringer
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The uses of Wikipedia have already been stated here. If you want good information on the facts of science or, with a little more risk, history, it's fine. If you want anything original, go elsewhere.

Citing Wikipedia or other "unofficial" internet sources isn't a problem solely because they're unreliable. It's a problem because you won't get anything worth citing. If you can support your work with Wikipedia and nothing else, you haven't actually really done research or written a paper.

Peer reviewed articles aren't always high quality, but they're always of an entirely different type from Wikipedia. You can cite them to support your point or cite them to dismantle their arguments, but Wikipedia is by its nature not supposed to have arguments that you can defend or dispute.

—Alorael, who also thinks that some schools that apparently ban all internet sources are missing the point. There's really no inherent benefit to having a hard copy of a book or journal when so much information is available online that's exactly as good. This isn't much of a problem now, but as a few journals are experimenting with online-only content it could very easily become an issue for the more Luddite educational establishments.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Post Navel Trauma ^_^
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The great thing about citing wikipedia to support your arguments is that you can edit it first to make sure it shows the truth you want on your side that day.

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Posts: 1798 | Registered: Thursday, October 4 2001 07:00
Lifecrafter
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I've been using Wikipedia as my primary source of information for several of my college papers already. I noted the possibility of inaccuracy, but my professor didn't have any objections. Then again, that could be because he just didn't give a damn.

Since Wikipedia is something that just about anyone can edit, I'm guessing a lot of it is inaccurate. In fact, one of my brother's friends sometimes enjoys going to celebrity articles and changing the pictures. :P

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Posts: 743 | Registered: Friday, September 29 2006 07:00
Law Bringer
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Anything on the Internet is only as good as the person who posted it. Wikipedia has the advantage that you can quickly find information and then figure out whether it is reliable.

Peer review material is supposed to be reliable if the reviewers know what they are reading. I've seen arguements both ways with material that was published that shouldn't have been and some that was rejected and later published when new information came out showing the research was correct.
Posts: 4643 | Registered: Friday, February 10 2006 08:00
Law Bringer
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The fallacy of a lot of criticism of Wikipedia is that since it is unfit as a source in a research paper, it must be inaccurate and untrustworthy.

The reason why it is not references is not that this is what a bunch of anonymous people typed up, but that it is derived from other sources. Most scientific articles on Wikipedia are now footnoted with references - or are tagged with the note that the article needs further references for some claims. It is a second-hand source.

That, in turn, means that all reliable information it contains can be traced back to other, harder-to-find sources, which Wikipedia digests and summarizes. The proper way to use Wikipedia in research is to look up the article, get a basic grasp of the concept, then look up the references and use those as actual sources.

So no, the academic content of Wikipedia isn't unreliable. It is just that it is condensed information which can be found in more detail at the original source.

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Posts: 8752 | Registered: Wednesday, May 14 2003 07:00
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Except that Wikipedia articles fail to cite their sources fairly often.

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The Empire Always Loses: This Time For Sure!
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Law Bringer
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Yes, in spite of policy guidelines. And they're tagged for it and fixed. Eventually.

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My BlogPolarisI eat novels for breakfast.
Polaris is dead, long live Polaris.
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Posts: 8752 | Registered: Wednesday, May 14 2003 07:00
...b10010b...
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And murder still happens in spite of laws, and murderers are tracked down and sometimes punished, eventually. That doesn't mean I want to live in inner-city Detroit.

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Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
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People really have been adding lots of "citation needed" tags in the past few seasons. Anyway, if you see a statement made on Wikipedia without a citation, you can always look into the literature yourself using other research methods.

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
Infiltrator
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quote:
Fatman (Bismark, you *are* Fatman, right? I get confused), I remember having an argument with you about this as part of an ugly fight about the Crusades. Anyway, that was a case in point, as some extremely sketchy pieces of academia were cited.

Yes, I am. And my recollection could be fuzzy (things seem to get more charitable with the passage of time) but our discussion was more intellectually spirited than ugly if I recall. I rather enjoyed it at the time which might not have been the case if we had gotten ugly (for me ugly is when the discussion becomes personal).

With respect to Wiki, I have taught at University and have referred students to Wiki to get baseline ideas from (I would check the post first) as a possible, easy source to get their feet wet. Case in point, psychrometrics (check it out). There are other sources for the info but the data there is correct and easy to understand. I wouldn't have accepted references to it in a paper though.

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"Dikiyoba ... is demon ... drives people mad and ... do all sorts of strange things."

"You Spiderwebbians are mad, mad, mad as March hares."
Posts: 687 | Registered: Wednesday, January 19 2005 08:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
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What did you teach at University? Look, everybody, it's a closet academic ;)

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
Agent
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I use Wikipedia all the time to look up standard, straightforward, factual information. It was designed to accrue vast myriads of information on literally anything worth writing about into one place on the web. It has succeeded in that, and its information is very consistently accurate. The problem of course is that I cannot say "almost always accurate" instead.

Some people like to vandalize Wikipedia, and I do not deem them lowly miscreants for it. But most editors type in correct, verifiable information. It is just indispensable as a quick reference. As others have said, it works best as an introduction to a research topic that can help point you in the right direction.

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Posts: 1415 | Registered: Thursday, March 27 2003 08:00
? Man, ? Amazing
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If nothing else, wikipedia pwned the intarnet.

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quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:

Well, I'm at least pretty sure that Salmon is losing.


Posts: 4114 | Registered: Monday, April 25 2005 07:00
Law Bringer
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Wikipedia just requires the same skepticism as anything else. If you detect a heavy bias, or even a slight slant, in a source, you take it with a grain of salt. In Wikipedia, you can pretty much expect everything to have someone's slant from sometime.

—Alorael, who finds the citation tags amusing. It's quite clear that some people don't actually know what citation is for.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
...b10010b...
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quote:
Originally written by Sic canis:

some people
Avoid weasel words. :P

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