On 7/11/05, Paul Jakma <paul at clubi.ie> wrote:
> On Mon, 11 Jul 2005, Ian Spillane wrote:
> > A great web source but maybe not as quotable or reliable for
> > research purposes.
>> Course it's quotable, with proper attribution. Even better, a good
> Wiki article should itself provide references to its sources, which
> you can follow and quote yourself.
If you're doing a secondary school essay, it's certainly quotable. If
you're doing a college paper, or anything else, then I doubt it. You
have no guarantee that the information will still be there when your
reference is checked, or of who wrote it in the first place. And it's
references are terrible: if you're lucky, the title of the book the
info came from, or a link to the page. More usually nothing.
Wikipedia is made by wiki-fiddlers, a large group of people, mostly
without any research experience, who sit refreshing the 'new updates'
page, waiting to make their presence felt. This leads to a distinct
lack of consistency, my most hated of all evils.
To prove this, find the topic you know most about. Then go to the
wikipedia entry: is it rubbish? Can you find at least 3 mistakes? Is
the style consistent from paragraph to paragraph? Check the history:
can you find small facts of dubious merit added? What are the
references like? I did this for my pet topic (sorting, see
Sorting_algorithm) and this article is certainly not quotable. It's
not awful, certainly, but its a long way from good.
A 'wikipedia vs traditional encyclopedia' debate can seem a lot like
an 'open vs closed source' debate, and open source people tend to like
it because they can see the parallels. I disagree.
FOSS projects tend to have project leads who keep an eye on the
progress of their baby. Giant projects such as linux have a hierarchy
of such people. But with the sheer quantity of data going through
wikipedia, it just isn't possible.
So I would say that wikipedia has its use, but if you own
encyclopedia, you probably want to use them, and wikipedia is a poor
substitute. And it's not quotable for any real use.
paul.biggar at gmail.com
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