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Jimmy Wales Says Students 'Should Use' Wikipedia 345

Posted by Zonk
from the taking-himself-too-seriously dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC has up an article chatting with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Wales views the Wikipedia site as an educational resource, and apparently thinks teachers who downplay the site are 'bad educators'. '[A] perceived lack of authority ... has drawn criticism from other information sources. Ian Allgar of Encyclopedia Britannica maintains that, with 239 years of history and rigorous fact-checking procedures, Britannica should remain a leader in authoritative, politically-neutral information. Mr Allgar pointed out the trustworthy nature of paid-for, thoroughly-reviewed content, and noted that Wikipedia is still prone to vandalism.'"
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Jimmy Wales Says Students 'Should Use' Wikipedia

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  • by djcapelis (587616) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @01:48AM (#21621963) Homepage
    So they ask Jimmy Wales if he thinks his encyclopedia is a good resource and then pose the same question to Wikipedia's main competitor?

    Well color me surprised at the answers.
    • They ask Bill Joy and Richard Stallman which text editor is better, emacs or vi.
    • by Wellspring (111524) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @08:09AM (#21623323)
      My school doesn't permit wikipedia as a source, and for very good reason. [[WP:RS]] -- Not a Reliable Source even by its own standards

      I've been caught up in the anti-wikipedia controversy lately. I'm still a very happy and frequent contributor/user and so I'm all the more concerned when I hear about overt manipulations that occur at the very top by a core group who (except for Jimbo himself) hide behind their usernames and are completely anonymous. That adds to the grain of salt I have from the subtle sources of bias that can creep in.

      So, no, I don't consider Wikipedia to be sourceable, certainly not at the university level, perhaps not even at the high school level. Instead, you should use wikipedia as a starting point in your research, maybe going to the references in the articles you find. But as the recent controversy shows, you can't just stop there. You need to really hunt around for opposing viewpoints that might be intentionally suppressed.

      At the graduate level, using wikipedia does more harm than good-- it biases your thinking without providing you with depth. At that level, you should already have the overview of the topic anyway. Instead you really should use traditional research techniques and bypass Wikipedia altogether.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by metallic (469828)
        The real question is what kind of school actually lets you cite an article from an encyclopedia? I've never been able to do so at either the high school or the college level.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Rob Simpson (533360)
          Exactly. Heck, for most university courses, citing books was frowned upon - too general and likely to be years out of date. Wikipedia might be a good starting point, but using encyclopedias as a reference past elementary school is a joke.
  • by pHatidic (163975)
    Every fact on Wikipedia has a link back to the primary source. All you have to do is tell kids to look up the fact from the primary source and cite that, and obviously not to cite it if there is no link back or they can't find the material. Any teacher who is too intellectually lazy to take the time to understand this is by definition a bad teacher. You aren't allowed to cite Britannica in any real class either, you have to follow the exact same procedure, so there is no difference. I don't even see how som
    • by evanbd (210358) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @02:02AM (#21622025)

      Exactly. That's a policy worth following even at the level of internet debates. If someone asks me for a summary of a topic, I'll point them at the article. However, if what's called for is a discussion of one aspect, or an authoritative reference, WP is not the right answer. However, more and more I find that WP is the fastest way to find a good reference on a subject -- find the relevant article, look at the references section, and the odds are good there will be an appropriate link.

      Knowing how to use, and more importantly, how not to use, and encyclopedia should be basic knowledge. Teachers should be teaching it, and shouldn't matter in the slightest what encyclopedia you use for a paper, because the reader will never know.

      • Golly, it's only 2:20 in the morning and I have already learned something today. All the way through high school, I was taught that encyclopedias were appropriate reference sources for papers. In fact, I don't think that any of my teachers even pointed out that the encyclopedia cites primary sources. By the time I was writing papers where it was necessary to consult primary sources, encyclopedias were hardly even worth looking at in the first place. That's a good piece of knowledge to have. When I have
    • by cprael (215426)
      No, every fact on Wiki has a link back to a source. That source might be a primary source, or it might be hearsay, or a first-person witness statement... with the inherent biases therein.

      Found it interesting having a factual debate on a particular Wiki page about a particular fact.

      Source A (me) was a first-person participant, but was barred from directly describing something since no original research is allowed to be posted on Wiki.

      Source B was also a first-person participant, and agreed in private email
    • Source criticism (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sd.fhasldff (833645)
      One of the most important lessons students can learn pre-college is, in my opinion, source criticism (a term which is unfortunately used mainly in a biblical context, which is NOT my usage here).

      "A critical mind is a questioning mind" is a good lesson and should be taught at every level of education.

      Virtually all sources are biased, in one way or another, and students need to be aware of this and treat the information in a manner befitting the source.

      Wikipedia is just another source (not a primary one, of c
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @03:22AM (#21622319)
      "Every fact on Wikipedia has a link back to the primary source."

      Have you ever actually read Wikipedia? Is there a different one I'm not aware of? That statement is wrong in two major ways:

      1) Many things do NOT have links. You can find whole articles full of nothing but [citation needed] or ones without even that. Many things have links to sources, however many don't. As such while it can potentially be useful for background research, it isn't like a scholarly paper where you are guaranteed a list of works cited. Maybe you get that, maybe you don't.

      2) Equally important many of the sources are not primary and often no good. I can link to a page saying anything I wanted. If I wanted I could just make some shit up, post it on my own website, and link to it. Bam, there's a source. However that doesn't mean the source is any good or that the information is true. A reference to a source is only good if the source is accurate, and really to be useful it needs to be to a primary source (meaning for statistics from research you don't link to an article discussing someone's research, you link to the research itself).

      Wikipedia really isn't a good starting point for a scholarly paper unless you know nothing about the topic and are looking for general background. A search through a good library collection is going to get you far more useful starting points, and the works cited from those will continue it. With Wikipedia it's a crap shoot. Maybe you get a good article, edited by experts, with proper citations that will lead you to material you can use. Maybe you get a page written by an idiot, that links to misinformation.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ThePromenader (878501)
        I concur. Wikipedia does have a set of rules and guidelines, but whether an article actually adheres to the same is indeed a crapshoot whose winning odds decline with the article's contributor popularity. Technology and science-oriented articles seem to be the best of the lot, but the quality declines towards more "human" topics such as history and cities; these tend to be biased through selective fact, or read like a fan/tourist brochure. Worse still, those with a strong but minority point of view can "sq
    • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Saturday December 08, 2007 @03:23AM (#21622323) Homepage Journal
      I fixed your edit to this discussion.

      Revision as of Fri Dec 07, '07 11:52 PM:

      Every fact on Wikipedia has a link back to the primary source. All you have to do is tell kids to look up the fact from the primary source and cite that, and obviously not to cite it if there is no link back or they can't find the material. Any teacher who is too intellectually lazy to take the time to understand this is by definition a bad teacher. You aren't allowed to cite Britannica in any real class either, you have to follow the exact same procedure, so there is no difference. I don't even see how someone could defend a teacher who would lie to kids about the purpose of an encyclopedia.

      Revision as of Sat Dec 08, '07 01:23 AM:

      Every fact on Wikipedia has a link back to the primary source {citation needed}. All you have to do is tell kids to look up the fact from the primary source and cite that {citation needed}, and obviously not to cite it if there is no link back or they can't find the material {citation needed}. Any teacher who is too intellectually lazy to take the time to understand this is by definition a bad teacher {citation needed}. You aren't allowed to cite Britannica in any real class either {citation needed}, you have to follow the exact same procedure {citation needed}, so there is no difference {citation needed}. I don't even see how someone could defend a teacher who would lie to kids about the purpose of an encyclopedia {citation needed}.
    • by tmk (712144)

      Every fact on Wikipedia has a link back to the primary source.
      No. There should be a link to every source but this goal is far from being achieved. And most sources used in Wikipedia are those that can be found with Google, not the actual primary sources.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ultranova (717540)

      Every fact on Wikipedia has a link back to the primary source. All you have to do is tell kids to look up the fact from the primary source and cite that, and obviously not to cite it if there is no link back or they can't find the material. Any teacher who is too intellectually lazy to take the time to understand this is by definition a bad teacher.

      As has been recently brought up [slashdot.org], Wikipedia is not above corruption. It can be used to push an agenda, simply by leaving out sources which contradict your age

  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Saturday December 08, 2007 @01:54AM (#21621999) Homepage Journal

    Students should definitely use Wikipedia as a good place to find real sources. Of course, if they actually cite it, they're freakin' insane and should go back and re-learn how to research.

    • by Z00L00K (682162) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @02:22AM (#21622105) Homepage
      It's possible to cite Wikipedia, but one thing as a student is that you must learn how to be critical of your sources. If Wikipedia is one source among others it's one thing but as any sole source of information it may be utterly wrong. No dictionary is free of errors.

      It also depends on your point of view if you think that some information is correct or not.

      And don't forget - Wikipedia may actually contain original information from time to time and that's worth to consider. Just because some abuses the tool doesn't mean that the tool is useless. On the contrary - it means that the tool is actually useful enough to draw the interest of abusers. The only catch is to identify the abusers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by VGPowerlord (621254)

        And don't forget - Wikipedia may actually contain original information from time to time and that's worth to consider. Just because some abuses the tool doesn't mean that the tool is useless. On the contrary - it means that the tool is actually useful enough to draw the interest of abusers. The only catch is to identify the abusers.

        Wikipedia policy is to not contain original information [wikipedia.org], so you shouldn't be looking for it there.

      • by Zibblsnrt (125875) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @04:02AM (#21622433)
        One other thing that a student must learn is that encyclopedias typically aren't useful material for citation in the first place. If you're doing research at anything beyond a fifth-grade library project, you need to get your information from grownup books. If a student of mine used Wikipedia, Britannica, or any other encyclopedia or encyclopedoid thing in a paper, I wouldn't recognize it as a valid source for citation, and neither would (or should) most other educators at the high school or university levels.
        • by Mr_eX9 (800448)

          I must have missed the boat on this one in high school--I cited Britannica in most of my History papers, and Wikipedia a couple of times as well. I was never told "Don't cite an encyclopedia" or why encyclopedias aren't good sources. I did, of course, provide other sources as well.

          My Computer Science undergrad curriculum doesn't have me writing any research papers, so perhaps I just haven't been exposed to college-level expectations of research papers, APs nonwithstanding. So, what exactly is wrong with ci

          • by jacquesm (154384)
            that the source is 'second hand'. if they're halfway decent about it they will cite *their* sources, then you might as well go there and check up on it. If you've done that you are now in a position to cite the original article.
      • Oh, please. Abusers are drawn to subway walls too. But you do nail the crux of WP's problem. Catching and identifying the abusers.
    • ...if the student can understand the stuff on Wikipedia but the primary source is too difficult for him. It's not good to cite an encyclopedia, but it is at least better than citing something you don't properly understand.
      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        If you cite wikipedia:

        1. You haven't done your research and have no idea whether the article is correct or written by a 12 year old with an editing fetish.
        2. If it's OK today it could be complete bullshit tomorrow, and your quote will be seen to be *not* in the original article.
    • It's no secret that many teachers and profs dislike WP. This is what I do when I need research:

      1. Go to WP and look up the subject
      2. Visit the references of the article
      3. Use those references in my work, quoting directly from them
      4. Cite those references in my work
      5. Never cite Wikipedia

      This way, I achieve:

      1. Making it seem like I did an assload of research on my own, with lots of good sources cited. WP does most of the work for me in not only providing reasonably realiable sources (well, most of the time),
  • rubish... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Slurpee (4012) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @01:54AM (#21622001) Homepage Journal
    I'm a student doing my second degree in a fairly rigorous academic institution. This time it is a humanity degree (As opposed to my first degree - Computer Science).

    There is no way referencing Wikipedia is OK. It's not peer reviewed. Not only is the information often wrong, but the information it does has is very biased (which is OK - all information is biased, but you need to see the whole range). Referencing Wikipedia is like saying "Some random guy on the internet once said...". Not exactly a lot of weight.

    But using Wikipedia for a starting point - that's a good thing to do. When researching a new subject, I will often read Wikipedia for initial information, and use the sources it cites as a starting point.
    • Re:rubish... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alaria Phrozen (975601) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @02:58AM (#21622231)

      It's not peer reviewed.
      I'm sorry.. what? Wikipedia isn't peer reviewed?
      • by Zibblsnrt (125875)
        I'm sorry.. what? Wikipedia isn't peer reviewed?

        If someone's got advanced degrees in a subject they've been studying for five or ten or thirty years, I somehow doubt they're going to consider J. Random Wikipedian to qualify as a "peer" as far as expertise or experience go.
      • Peer review (Score:4, Interesting)

        by McDutchie (151611) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @05:07AM (#21622641) Homepage

        It's not peer reviewed.
        I'm sorry.. what? Wikipedia isn't peer reviewed?

        You're kidding... right?

        Just in case you're not, you might want to read about peer review [wikipedia.org] (at Wikipedia, of all places) as you don't seem to have a clue what it is...

        Wikipedia can misappropriate the term "peer review" for itself all it wants, but that doesn't make it peer reviewed.

        • by jacquesm (154384)
          the word 'peer' means someone more or less at the same level of knowledge as you. Since wikipedia is not reviewed (or written) by people that have to have any qualifications you can not be sure that the reviewer knew as much of the subject matter as they would have to if they were to review a paper on the subject for some fancy dead-tree magazine.

          I could review an article about anything on wikipedia and if I would be verbally skillful enough or had a 'clique' around me of supporting wikipedians (who may kno
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Slurpee (4012)

        I'm sorry.. what? Wikipedia isn't peer reviewed?

        Before having a go at me - learn what peer review is. Perhaps check Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

        And to others who have had a go at what I said - perhaps I was hasty in saying Wikipedia was "often" wrong, but it often struggles with nuances. Though it does give you a good general overview - and suggestions on where to go.

        Don't get me wrong, I like Wikipedia. But you shouldn't cite it. A teacher who tells students (at whatever level) to not reference it is not a "bad teacher". They're a good teacher!

        • by steffenz (19)
          Lol, people citing wikipedia to argue that one should not cite wikipedia. Can it get any better?
      • Re:rubish... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by owlnation (858981) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @09:35AM (#21623743)

        I'm sorry.. what? Wikipedia isn't peer reviewed?
        Peer review is pointless where cabals control information. Expert peers may disagree with the accuracy of info, but so what, if a cabal is making sure it stays inaccurate to further its own ends. This happens on Wikipedia. Which is why it must never be trusted.
    • by rm999 (775449)
      I think you miss the point of your own argument. Yes, it is common knowledge that you can't reference Wikipedia, but I don't think you correctly argue why.

      To make it clear, Wikipedia is a peer reviewed reference. It is *often* either correct, or so obviously wrong (i.e. vandalized) that it does not matter. Most people who argue it is biased don't realize anyone can hit the "edit" or "discussion" button on the top. This is all irrelvant in the academic world, hoever. You do not reference a secondary source -
      • by Slurpee (4012)
        Sorry, but Wikipedia is not peer reviewed. Check Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] for info on what peer reviewed means.

        The other things you say is right, except you do reference secondary sources all the time "Academic A argued that Primary Source X Suggests Y in 1979, but this runs against the popular view Z first held by Academic B in 1988" or something like that at least (you get the idea).

        But yeah - I agree. Wikipedia is a great source of information. Students should be using it. But they should *not* be citing it, nor sh
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by astrotek (132325)
      I too use Wikipedia combined with Google Scholar. Scholar is basically cheating when you can write an entire paper with no research and then use edit out any potential problems and find research that matches. Anyway, plagiarism is called research when you quote your sources.
    • It's not peer reviewed.
      Well yes, but the contributions are reviewed by the contributor's peers. It's more like saying "Some random guy on the internet once said ... and pretty much everyone backed him up". Well, most articles tend to attract those who know a little about it, so it's not exactly random either.
    • Jimmy Wales explicitly talks about "young students" (as opposed to "academics").

      University students should obviously quote research papers and other primary sources, and not Encyclopedia of any kinds.

      But using Wikipedia as a "stepping stone to other sources" as Wales also suggest is applicable to everyone, which means Wikipedia is far more useful than traditional encyclopedia at academic institutions.
  • by L4m3rthanyou (1015323) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @01:55AM (#21622011)
    I can't stand it when teachers or professors prohibit Wikipedia as a source of accurate information. Of course it's subject to vandalism and other issues, but so is any other source. That is why all research should make use of multiple sources. If something is incorrect in an article, a good researcher will find discrepancies with other info.

    Even when it's not allowed as a direct source, Wikipedia is always a great first stop to find more information about something.
  • by phalse phace (454635) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @01:57AM (#21622013)
    its entries can too easily be cleaned [slashdot.org], editted [slashdot.org] and whitewashed [slashdot.org] that it can't be trusted as a reliable source of information.
  • Quoted: "students should be able to reference the online encyclopaedia in their work"

    The problem there lies in referencing something which is changeable.

    You reference it,
    Someone edits the article,
    Your reference is potentially no longer valid.

    Referencing the 2006 edition of Britannica is fairly straightforward.

    Referencing the 7:13 AM EST July 24th, 2007 version of a Wiki article on the other hand....

    Now, his comment about how Wikipedia should be seen as a 'stepping stone' to other sources is 100% on the mark
    • by interiot (50685) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @02:03AM (#21622029) Homepage

      See that "Cite this article" link on the left column of Wikipedia?

      Click on it. [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Just Some Guy (3352)

        See that "Cite this article" link on the left column of Wikipedia?

        How well does that work when the articles get deleted [slashdot.org]? If Wikipedia was append-only, sure, but entire articles go missing all too often to ever reliably cite.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Not well at all. However, if the article is deleted, then it's probably going to have happened because it wasn't notable enough (yes, very controversial), it probably didn't cite any sources so you'd be an idiot to cite it in the first place, or it was defamatory - in which case, again, you'd be an idiot to cite it in a paper.
          • by Zibblsnrt (125875)
            Or it's about a subject that some "I know nothing about this therefore shouldn't be here" guy stumbled over and stirred up a deletion campaign (or two or three or twenty) out of some misguided spite.

            Anyone who claims the only articles on Wikipedia that get deleted are those which 'need' to be needs to lay off the paint chips.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      That is not accurate. Citing from Wikipedia is actually extraordinarily easy to do. You read some information that is good that you want to reference. You go to the toolbox, then click on "Cite this article".

      Example: I read about Krill [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia. I think the information is well sourced and written. I decide to cite it. I click on "Cite this page", which takes me to this link [wikipedia.org], which provides me with 7 different citation styles, including APA, MLA, Bluebook and Chicago style citations. If that isn't enough
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by potpie (706881)
      Try looking at the "history" tab of the article. Not only can you view the page as it was at that certain time, but you can compare the page with later or newer versions with a special tool that hilights alterations in red.
    • by whoever57 (658626)

      You reference it,
      Someone edits the article,
      Your reference is potentially no longer valid.
      Go to the article's history page and select the appropriate historical version (can be the latest). That way, you get a link to a page that should not change, since it is a link to snapshot in time.
  • by ta bu shi da yu (687699) * on Saturday December 08, 2007 @02:00AM (#21622021) Homepage
    This says that Jimbo believes that those teachers who "downplay" Wikipedia are "bad educators". That's not actually what he said!

    "You can ban kids from listening to rock 'n' roll music, but they're going to anyway," he added. "It's the same with information, and it's a bad educator that bans their students from reading Wikipedia."


    Note that he says this about those who fully ban students from reading Wikipedia. He doesn't say that those who "downplay" the project are bad educators, he says that those who fully ban students from even reading the website are bad. And you know what? He's right, as that's censorship. Those teachers who undertake bans are bad - they do a great disservice to their students. Sure, criticise Wikipedia, but don't ban it! in life students need to be able to read a source critically and at least assess what is being written. Banning it doesn't help build critical faculties. I should also point out that as a first source for information, in general Wikipedia can be really good.
    • by dangitman (862676)

      Note that he says this about those who fully ban students from reading Wikipedia. He doesn't say that those who "downplay" the project are bad educators, he says that those who fully ban students from even reading the website are bad.

      But this is a problematic statement, because he's attacking a stawman. Is there any evidence of teachers banning students from simply reading Wikipedia? I know many teachers ban their students from citing Wikipedia, but that's nothing like banning students from reading it. So, who is he referring to?

  • OMG Vandalism! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 4D6963 (933028) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @02:05AM (#21622033)

    and noted that Wikipedia is still prone to vandalism

    Yeah, that would suck if because of vandalism on Wikipedia kids wrote in papers that the Earth is the largest planet in the world [wikipedia.org], or that Mark Taddonio built the pyriamids (sic) [wikipedia.org].

    • by dangitman (862676)
      Earth isn't the largest planet in the world? If you define "the world" as Earth (as most people do), then it definitely is.
      • by 4D6963 (933028)

        Earth isn't the largest planet in the world? If you define "the world" as Earth (as most people do), then it definitely is.

        O RLY? How insightful! Thanks, Captain Obvious! Obviously it is, but it's an absurd claim, aduh! I didn't claim it was a false claim, only that it was vandalism.

    • by owlnation (858981)
      "vandalism" (and still waiting for an acceptable definition of that) like that in the parent is not a problem. The real issue is with the subtle changes in historical and political pages. Change one or two words and you can change the whole perception of facts. It's not easy to see those changes, and yet those changes go on all the time on Wikipedia.

      And there are admins who are involved in that process. We all know about the Ayn Rand issues here. That's just one example among many.

      There is a fundamen
      • by 4D6963 (933028)

        I wholeheartedly agree. The real problem with Wikipedia is not the aforementioned type of vandalism, but people pushing their agenda, and as you said actual admins, who do a tremendous job, but who on a few topics push their agenda, sometimes without meeting any resistance, as few people besides the ones trying to push that very agenda care about.

        That's what I find profoundly irritating about trying to edit Wikipedia, you can meet topics that are entirely controlled by sorts of special interest groups, in m

  • by PolarBearFire (1176791) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @02:06AM (#21622041)
    I use Wikipedia all the time but always with a grain of salt. When you're in college, they should stress more at looking through primary sources of information. People think they're so smart on the internet when they read about scams, corruption and controversy and react with unimformed ideas. Even on Slashdot this is very prevalent where people just react at topic titles, not bothering to take 2 minutes to read through the information. People always complain about the media or politicians influencing the masses. But what about the masses? They only read the shit the media and politicians put out. This is the age of information and almost everything is available online we should better make use of it. There's a growing trend of people spamming Youtube and everywhere else with scientific hoaxes and conspiracy theories. The first few times, I've found them funny, because I can see through them almost immediately and some of them are pretty cleverly done. But then, I found that alot of people were taken by erroneous info. Then I felt very sad indeed.
  • by nweaver (113078) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @02:07AM (#21622047) Homepage
    IS it just me, or is Wikipedia best suited for pulp culture trivia...

    Eg, it is a great resource if you want to learn about say, Cop-Tur [wikipedia.org] of the Go-Bots [wikipedia.org] (eg, if you are wondering about a random Robot Chicken [wikipedia.org] episode).

    As an academic resource, it is nonciteable and nontrustable, due to the volatile nature and anonymous content.

    (Admittedly, I have edited Wikipedia to add corrections. But I would never cite it, but instead use it as a smarter google for some topics)
    • by NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @03:49AM (#21622395)

      As an academic resource, it is nonciteable and nontrustable, due to the volatile nature and anonymous content.
      I can't speak for all "academic" topics, but I find Wikipedia to be extremely reliable on the math topics I've looked up there. Sometimes the Wikipedia article does a better job of explaining a topic than the textbook for which I shelled out $125. Maybe that's a bizarre anomaly caused by a small number of math geeks taking the time to make the articles useful and correct, though. Is it really so unreliable for other topics?
    • Nonciteable and nontrustable it may be (not that those are words), but it's still often a decent place to start, if just to scroll down to the references and external links at the bottom of an entry.

      I consider it basically the same as asking a question on Slashdot. You may get lies, stupidity, and egregious stories about pooping in response to your query, but there are generally a few informed people who can at least point you in the right direction.
  • It used to be Free and open.

    Now it has secret overlords and secret mailing lists.

    Anyone notice lately less and less pages can be edited?

    How long until the same people who puppet the US mainstream media have total control?
    Without TOTAL transparency wikipedia is nothing but a half-rotten corpse.

    • I agree. I was labeled a vandalist for adding some info on a new entry. That made less interested in the future of wikipedia.

      I think wikipedia is becoming a tool of propagandists and commercial interests. Alot of stupid entries like one for some Taco restuarant. Dumb.
      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        if your company has financial dealings with wikimedia suddenly whole sections of WP: don't apply to you. conflicts of interest are OK, non-notable articles are great, and editwarring anyone who points this out will get them banned not you.
    • Anyone notice lately less and less pages can be edited?

      Now that you mention it I am kind of curious as to what percentage of the pages are locked or under some other kind of protection policy. Anyone have those numbers?
    • My friend who used to contribute a lot in terms of articles and even money decided to stop because the deletionist assholes made it such a pain for him that he now despises the site. And although almost none of his contributions were deleted, he hated the way half his time was spent arguing with deletors about his work.

      Even Jimbo Whales has experienced this. He started an article on Mzoli's Meats [wikipedia.org], a butcher shop and restaurant in South Africa. When it was almost speedily deleted, he told the deletors
  • Encyclopedias in general are not allowed to be cited in essays and research papers. They're starting points, providing cursory information on a subject and, at best, giving terms and vocabulary to begin a search into the real meat of the subject.
  • I don't think so. Even something as free-formed as wikipedia has caveats as well. Both have their strengths and weaknesses:

    - one's free, the other isn't.
    - one's updated in the blink of an eye many times to be filtered, altered, retouched, changed and quite possibly modified; the other has to wait a year to be filtered, altered, retouched, changed and quite possibly modified.
    - one requires a computer, the other requires a lamp or the sun.
    - one weighs many pounds and takes up space, the other can fit in one
  • by ta bu shi da yu (687699) * on Saturday December 08, 2007 @02:15AM (#21622077) Homepage
    The BBC says that "Mr Allgar pointed out the trustworthy nature of paid-for, thoroughly-reviewed content, and noted that Wikipedia is still prone to vandalism ... but Britannica and Wikipedia should not be seen as direct competitors. Wikipedia, he said, had made the use of encyclopaedias "trendy and popular" with young people, which could only benefit Britannica's subscription-led service."

    That's a new tack! This has basically been the same thing that the WMF has been saying for years now [wikimedia.org] ("Wikipedia, and all Wikimedia Foundation projects, are not in competition to EBI or other companies in the business of reference works. Our goals differ significantly from other reference publishers, and only overlap in that we are all striving to create accurate and useful knowledge tools.")

    Is this a turning point in relations between the two projects? Are we going to see an end to the stupidity of Robert McHenry style "toilet" comparisons?
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @02:16AM (#21622083)
    those people show themselves to be irrelevant to the younger audience (in perception). Also, they are not engaging the students in a meaningful way and don't overcome the myth that the "old school" methods are all outdated and worthless.

    I often think wikipedia is an excellent source in itself and for deeper knowledge, a reasonable starting point. Too often, the oft-heard admonishment "dig deeper!" does not always apply to students using wikipedia as their single source for a report, but also by the teachers criticizing wikipedia - usually they scan the surface of one edit of one article to look for those errors - while wholly ignoring the revealing and complete log of wikipedias discussions and history behind that single article. Behind that one surface, you get most of the interesting parts of a subject -- the common misunderstandings, misperceptions, and myths. The genuine points of contention and controversy and the gray areas where the truth is not wholly understood or available.

    Instead, teachers indulge of what they criticize in their students - intellectual lethargy. Personally, I like what this professor is doing with wikipedia:
    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20071030-prof-replaces-term-papers-with-wikipedia-contributions.html [arstechnica.com]

    It's about the smartest embrace of wikipedia I have seen so far.
  • Oh, the irony... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Z80xxc! (1111479)
    There have been two articles this week about Wikipedia's politics and internal ring of over-powered admins. And then Jimbo Wales tells us that students should use Wikipedia. Are they running out of people to block, is that the problem? Add some student users, then we can block them, too!
  • by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @03:01AM (#21622243)
    I find this sketch [orangecow.org] particularly apropos somehow. (Or this [youtube.com] while it lasts.)
  • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @03:31AM (#21622347)
    In other news, Steve Ballmer thinks Students 'Should Use' Windows [slashdot.org].
  • Stuff and nonsense. Tests have shown that Wikipedia is about as reliable as the Brittanica. I myself found multiple errors in the edition of EB I owned, including a spectacularly misidentified orchid genus in a photograph. Wikipedia gets it accuracy by a completely different method than a conventional enecyclopedia, but it works and apparently works about as well. This is something that the Brittanica and others simply can't get their heads around and it leads them to some very silly statements. Now plea
  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @05:42AM (#21622767) Journal
    Someone started an article on me. It was wrong but stayed for over a year I think.

    I found it and added some references to information that others might see past the usenet troll and flamer bias that was indirectly referenced in the article.
    I then started up another article to further clarify the subject matter for which the bias in the article on myself was centered around.

    It went up for deletion and realizing the negativity bias of Wikipedia I called upon the usenet trolls and flamers against me to contribute to the discussion with the bias of removing both articles.
    Both articles were deleted. I'd decided I'd rather not be mentioned, nor do I need such unfairly biased publicity by being listed in Wikipedia.

    I recently discovered even more unfair bias towards someone who is no longer alive to defend themselves. The article contains half truths and outright lies.
    This persons certainly has more public status than I, but I will not mention who they are but rather collect up references not found on the internet that expose the unfair bias of wikipedia and share it with real people in real time, so that they can see how cleverly corrupt wikipedia really is.

    Wikipedia is built upon hearsay, upon what they call as "references". That's its rules and done so in order to remove RESPONSIBILITY. Put the blame on the reference,
    and we all know how much crap is on the internet. This is where the references must be found and be kinda be accessible, as wikipedia does not verify all references regularly and many become broken.
    They pick and chose which things they reference off the internet and tend to bias on the negative by the weakness of facts the nature of the machine the internet is and likewise wikipedia is.

    So they find the opinions of others written somewhere on the internet and they have their references. Hearsay is not allowed in court, facts are.

    Wikipedia is not based on facts, its based on hearsay and THEY DO NOT HAVE THE PROPER RESOURCES TO DO UNBIASED RESEARCH and they never will.

    I expect Wikipedia to be very capable of writing the next bible.

    Wikipedia needs a "in your face" disclaimer on every article and every page.

       
  • ... the whole internet, including blogs and wikipedia, should not be used as scientific reference, as long as the authors are anonymous, and there sources are not shown. As with ANY OTHER source you might use in your paper/thesis. Why?

    When using anything for citation, you need to make absolutely sure, that your sources are valid and not just some made-up story of creationists or school boys from Wisconsin (nothing against Wisconsin ;))

    Recently, a big scientific magazin (Nature?) officially withdrawed an art
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Since when does paying for stuff guarantee it's trustworthy? Every media channel - and indeed every product - lies somewhere along a gradient of trustworthiness. Even with a reputable institution like the BBC, you have to take some account of its lefty bias. And I'm satisfied that they try quite hard to be impartial. Other publishers, drug companies, software companies, manufacturers, snake oil merchants, and so forth need to be accorded varying degrees of trust, and Wikipedia is just another point on the s
  • In our school, 'Research something' means 'go on wikipedia and search for it' now-a-days. That's what everyone does. I generally don't do it just to get information everyone else has not got. Wikipedia makes finding information extremely easy. I think that if Encyclopedia Britannica put an online version up with a good search (might exist, I don't know) and advertised it a little, they'd get just as many people using it. It's ease of use over the ideals behind Wikipedia - I don't think 99% of my school has
  • by mdarksbane (587589) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @07:12AM (#21623115)
    The problem isn't children citing wikipedia. The problem is lazy teachers and lazy students accepting Britannica as a reference to begin with.

    An encyclopedia of any source should be the start of your research, not the end of it. It gives you the keywords and background necessary to find the real information from a primary source.
  • I gave up my paid Britannica online access, and I have found the wiki model to work better for encyclopedias or any other kind of work. I do cite wikis regularly, including Wikipedia, albeit I do have my own criticisms for it.

  • by Anonymous Freak (16973) <prius.driver@mac. c o m> on Saturday December 08, 2007 @04:07PM (#21626757) Journal
    My problem with using Wikipedia in a grade-to-middle school setting is that there are plenty of article for which there is gratuitously inappropriate content for the article. I was trying to help my 6th grader learn about a topic, and went to an article about Stereoscopy, and one of the example images was a turn-of-the-last-century stereoscopic picture of a nude woman. Now while I'm not a prude, and have no problem with him seeing it (it was very tame,) it means that he would be in deep trouble if he opened that article at school. There were plenty of other examples that didn't require nudity.

    I can fully understand the use of "questionable" content in articles ABOUT the "questionable" thing. (For example, the use of the f-word in articles about rappers as direct quotations from the rapper, or the use of a photo of a topless woman in the article on "breasts"; although there do seem to be so many in that article as to be gratuitous.) But in an article on stereoscopy? The picture belonged in an article on "turn of the 19-20-th century erotica", and if it was a prevalent use of stereoscopy, then maybe a MENTION in the stereoscopy article, but not an example. For example, the article on the VHS/Beta video format war mentions porn, but it doesn't have any screenshots of said porn.

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