Having read the comments associated with my previous blog post ‘Wikipedia: Information Roulette?” some very interesting points arose which I would like to take the time to address. Firstly, I would like to thank those who commented on my blog, I am very appreciative of them.
An interesting point brought up in my comments was the comparison to Encyclopedia Britannica and whether this was a positive or negative. Considering Britannica is the most recognizable Encyclopedia in the world today, and involves some of the greatest minds in the world collecting and assessing the data, I truly believe this is a positive comparison for Wikipedia. For the information included on Wikipedia, to be so closely associated with such a powerful source of information, demonstrates the effectiveness of peer-production. Although Encyclopedia Britannica simply employs around a hundred well educated individuals to portray the information, Wikipedia takes a drastically different approach in allowing anyone to enter information onto their website, but employs thousands of individuals to regularly monitor and edit the information. Two drastically different approaches, with a very similar outcome demonstrate to me the effectiveness of Wikipedia.
Another point raised within the comments of my previous blog post, involves that which was earlier noted, the editing process, which they deploy, and whether or not this is effective. It is true that anyone can provide information on Wikipedia and state it as fact. Although this is true, I still do not believe this is a deterrent as to the validity of Wikipedia. The reason I believe this is because the immense amount of editors the website employs and the constant monitoring it undertakes. Among the most important events in history, the chances of an individual providing information on the website, long enough for anyone to notice before one of the thousands of editors due, seem very rare. This is why Wikipedia stacks up so well with Britannica. The only instance I see where this would arise a concern is with subjects/events hardly known to the world yet. For instance, a brand new device that may have just been invented might have information provided which is not 100% accurate. This is because the editors have not been able to verify the information yet, and therefore false information may be included on the website. The counter argument to this is that Wikipedia is just so instant, it provides brand new current information, where other encyclopedia sources would not even have that information yet. The fact that Wikipedia allows anyone to upload information, allows individuals a chance to create a brand new page regarding an object/person/event other sources do not even discuss.
Finally the last point I would like to comment on is regarding the use of Wikipedia as a scholarly source. I do not think Wikipedia is, nor ever will be, a reliable source to use regarding academic work. This does not necessarily discredit the validity of Wikipedia, but more demonstrates the strength needed for sources to be deemed fit for academic purposes. In order for academic sources to be considered, they must be written by individuals who are well respected in their field. Since anyone can provide information to Wikipedia, it simply cannot be qualified as an academic source. That being said, I do believe Wikipedia is a great starting point when researching for academics. For instance, if you are doing a project on the War of 1812, you can go to Wikipedia, read a quick review of the information regarding the War of 1812, acquiring a general idea of the events which took place, and you now have a starting point in regards to your topic. In addition, the sources used for the Wikipedia page are all located at the bottom, and therefore can be opened to find proper academic sources regarding your topic.
When discussing Wikipedia, there is a lot, which is up for debate. I do believe Wikipedia is an excellent source for information regarding anything from music to Canadian history. Although it is very prominent, it is still user created and therefore it will never be considered fit as use for academic sources.