In the Defense of Wikipedia

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To your dismay, Sliced Bread, the time has come to cede your lofty status as the Greatest Thing Ever to Wikipedia.

Seriously, I am hopelessly addicted to the self-styled “free encyclopedia.” There is literally nothing that I won’t look up on Wikipedia – people, places, ideas, obscure Sega Genesis titles. If I’m feeling particularly Meta, I might even Wikipedia Wikipedia itself.

Because Wikipedia relies solely on user contributions for its articles, there is seemingly nothing under the sun that the Website can’t provide you with a pretty solid education on. Somewhere in the world, there is a person whose favorite movie is “Soul Plane,” and is willing to write a detailed synopsis of the film for the 10 or 15 people who will inexplicably stumble upon that article during their lifetimes.

As great a resource as Wikipedia is, however, it is not without its drawbacks and detractors. The site’s best feature – allowing its users to edit content entirely at their discretion – also happens to be its biggest flaw. Quite frankly, there are some people who should NOT be editing pages. Wikipedia opens the door to anyone who is looking for an outlet to mali- ciously post false information. If I had the urge to go edit a page and say that Barack Obama is the illegitimate son of Jimmy Stewart and Aretha Frank- lin, I could do that. Some poor soul might even believe it.

Of course, Wikipedia is aware of this problem and has taken steps to curtail it. The site’s – how do I put this diplomatically? – recreationally challenged moderators are constantly watching heavily trafficked pages to ensure that misinformation is quickly stamped out. However, despite the seemingly omnipresent nature of the moderators, they cannot catch ev- erything. It is on the less-frequented articles where factual errors and atrocious writing run rampant.

Still, you have to be able to accept the bad that comes with the good, and, overall, I believe that the positives of Wikipedia far outweigh the negatives. I have learned to accept the fact that the vandalized articles are simply a necessary evil that results from the site giving its users free reign.

Understandably, given its inherent unreliability, Wikipedia has become something of a scarlet letter in academia. I still maintain, however, that when the articles are carefully researched with responsible use of ci- tations, they can be extremely useful and informative.

In other words, to fully enjoy and appreciate Wikipedia requires a discerning eye. If you read something that strikes you as funny, check and see if there is a citation for it. If not, then there is a good possibility that you have happened upon an Inter- net troll marking his or her territory. Carefully synthesizing the information that you come across on Wikipedia is the only way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Say, who came up with that idiom anyway?

Guess I’ll go Wikipedia it.

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One Response

  1. Gregory Kohs

    After you graduate from Augusta State, one hopes that you’ll have matured enough to see the problem with even the “closely watched” Wikipedia articles that have many citations. I’m not going to go into detail here what I’m talking about, as you still seem to be in that 2006 glow of “Wikipediot Awe”. Go ahead, bask in that glow for another year or two, but just remember your friendly National Wiki Edits Examiner warned that you’d grow out of this phase.

    Reply

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