Monday, 12 January 2009

Wikipedia: The Free Encycopedia that can't always be trusted



Yes, I know that quite a lot of people use Wikipedia by now. But, sometimes I wonder - should I really trust an encyclopedia that is free. Here are a couple of reasons why using Wikipedia might actually a bad thing, especially when you are using it to do some research or learn more about a topic.

Wikipedia is free. But that also means that it has to rely heavily on volunteers to write articles to the website. Over the course of the past few years, the requirements for a proper wikipedia article have been updated, and now a days, most articles need proper and thorough citations for every point stated. This is a good thing of course, because it ensures better quality information.

However, this doesn't mean that someone who just wants to screw around with the system can't get away with doing something malicious. For example, when I was doing some research for a project through the ever handy Dictionary app, I came across this little "problem".
Clearly, it's possible to say that not everything on Wikipedia can be trusted when people misuse the website for fun. Also, there might be a possiblity of a person using another person's blog/private website (where certain information may be eschewed) and accidently presenting the wrong information.

Furthermore, another problem that wikipedia has is the biased information on controversial topic. Of course, in my opinion it is impossible to get rid of biases in even the best of encyclopedias and news paper articles (hey, we're humans, our prejudices sometimes just come through unintentionally).

Nevertheless, when you see articles like articles on the Gaza/Israel conflict, they always have a 'The neutrality of this article, and factual errors are being disputed' sign, meaning that the information might potentially be way off. Not good when you want to find out something for a project.

But, I guess there are some things that Wikipedia really excels in. For one, it gives you all the necessary information really fast in a well categorized wikipage. Plus, there are always ways to find out if the information in Wikipedia is correct or not. More about that in my future posts...




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