Wikipedia: Information Roulette?

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The internet encyclopedia known as Wikipedia, has grown to become a worldwide leader in information, thanks in large part to the ease individuals have accessing its database simply by going to their website, http://www.wikipedia.org . Although Wikipedia is a massive worldwide website “About 13 percent of all internet users worldwide look at Wikipedia” (Jensen, 2012) also “ranking number 7 in Canada” (Jensen, 2012)  in usage among all websites, the validity of information on Wikipedia has been highly scrutinized. Initially, I had the same beliefs regarding Wikipedia as most people; it is not a reliable source for information. I felt this simply because of all the negative aspects associated with Wikipedia heard so often, peers provide the information, anyone can edit their pages, and the database is too large to monitor to assure all information provided on the website is correct. I must admit after reading the articles for this week’s module, my opinion on Wikipedia as a reliable source of information has greatly changed. Although Wikipedia is not foolproof regarding the distribution of information, it is very reliable.

To begin I will discuss my initial thought regarding Wikipedia; the information displayed on their website can be completed by anyone and therefore it cannot be reliable as the people providing it is unknown. This is a thought many individuals share regarding Wikipedia, but upon reading the Journal Article by Nieborg and Van Dijck my opinion changed considerably. Within the article they discuss how Wikipedia is a model of “mass creativity or peer production” (Nieborg & Van Dijck, 2009), which is roughly defined as “created by crowds of (mostly) anonymous users who define their own informational, expressive and communicational needs.” (Nieborg & Van Dijck, 2009) Rather than determining this as a negative aspect of the information provided by Wikipedia, it seems as though this is positive and the wave of the future in business, specifically Internet business. As stated in the same Nieborg and Van Dijck article “Mass collaborations define the way in which people will work and live in the future.” (Nieborg & Van Dijck, 2009) The implementation of peer-produced information by Wikipedia is now seen as ahead of its time. This mass collaboration which Wikipedia abides by clearly has become the wave of the future as it has surpassed (in unique visitors) “Yahoo News, MSNBC, AOL and CNN” (Kapila & Royal, 2009) Clearly Wikipedia’s mass collaboration process is becoming increasingly affective as it continues to pass major news feeds.

When comparing Wikipedia against The Britannica Encyclopedia, which uses individuals with immense education to provide and edit the information, the mass collaboration process still stacks up quite well. The English version of Wikipedia contains more than one million articles. Kapila and Royal state in their Journal Article from 2009 “By this measure, it is almost 12 times larger than the print version of the Encyclopedia Britannica.” (Kapila & Royal, 2009) This is quite staggering, considering the size of Encyclopedia Britannica. In addition, the accuracy is fairly close to that of Encyclopedia Britannica, deriving information from the same Journal Article, Kapila and Royal state “Within 24 randomly selected general science articles, there were 162 mistakes in Wikipedia versus 123 for Britannica” (Kapila & Royal, 2009). Although it appears as though Britannica is still more accurate, this shows how reliable the information on Wikipedia is considering it can stand toe to toe with the worlds Encyclopedia leader.

It is amazing how you can be entirely convinced of one thing, than read some well written articles, and be completely persuaded to the reverse side of the argument. I use to consistently dismiss Wikipedia as a reliable source for information, simply as a way to find information regarding current music and movies. Having read this week’s articles, I thoroughly believe Wikipedia is reliable, seeing how Wikipedia operates behind the scene, their use of peer production is ahead of its time and all Internet companies are following suit. In addition, having seen the facts comparing Wikipedia to Encyclopedia Britannica, I was shocked to see the results, which displayed how strong the information on Wikipedia is. To seek information of any kind, look no further than Wikipedia. It contains an almost endless amount of topics, provides accurate information, and is regularly edited and updated, I am confident you will be satisfied.

References:

Jensen, R. (2012). Military history on the electronic frontier: Wikipedia fights the war of 1812. The Journal of Military History, 76, 1165-1182.

Royal, C., & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on wikipedia and what’s not..? assesing completeness of information. Social Science Computer Review, 27(1), 138-148.

Van Dijck, J., & Nieborg, D. (2009). Wikinomics and its discontents:a critical analysis of web 2.0 business manifestos. New Media and Society, 11(5), 855-874.

*Image Courtesy of Purchased Microsoft Office for Mac.

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3 thoughts on “Wikipedia: Information Roulette?

  1. I do agree that Wikipedia has become more reliable than in the past. However, I still feel that is not a scholarly reliable. Due to the fact that anyone can edit the articles and purposefully change the article from correct information to false. The site can be a point of reference, a starting point, but I believe no one should take Wikipedia’s articles word written in stone. The articles for this week’s readings made some excellent points, and now I do not totally disregard the site as I have before.

  2. The massive collaboration also encourages everyone to know the information, as it gets passed on and re-posted, people have to understand what they are learning in order to pass it on. There’s even a game on iPads called WikiHunt, in which you have to read through different Wikipedia articles and find the connections between them. Collecting information has become fun, easy and accesible, and I personally find that very exciting.

  3. I agree that Wikipedia is more accurate of information than I previous thought, but I am beginning to think since it is a massive collaboration from people around the world, maybe the accuracy of that information will be skewed. I know the articles tend to suggest that the mistakes in it are very comparable to Encyclopedia Britannica but the encyclopedia does not have thousands of editors, and who have a great turn over of them. Does this make it more accurate? I do think that it is a useful site for information as it does have a lot of information in the articles but I am beginning to wonder who the people are editing it and who are all the people reading the most popular ones making it seem like its very useful.

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