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  • The Worth of Wikipedia

    Wikipedia has been alternately hailed as the main source of online information and a cesspool of incorrect, invalid and impossible to verify error ridden junk.

    The truth falls somewhere in the middle, and that middle may slide one way or the other depending on what you are actually using Wikipedia for. If you are using it as the sole source of information for a research project, you may be digging yourself a hole.

    Wikipedia is user generated. The online community has banded together to chime in on different subjects. If the subject is one they truly know and are well informed about, this is a good thing – but that is not always the case.

    On the other hand, for a quick overview of a basic subject and the ability and intention to use other sources to verify and substantiate information, Wikipedia does have a place. In many cases the sources cited at the bottom of a Wikipedia article can provide some of that credibility, subject to the interpretation of teh contributing author, of course.

    Recently many sites are seeking links from Wikipedia to boost their site’s PageRank. This is all good and well, but only if the links are relevant. Some slick operators even hire others to make Wiki pages to link back to their own content as sources, adding another layer of suspicious authenticity to the online encyclopedia.

    Bottom line – use Wikipedia as a mere bare-bones resource (if at all), and plan to supplement with more reliable sources to ensure the correctness of information. Never use the phrase ‘According to Wikipedia’ in serious writing unless you want to get laughed off the net, and double check all sources.

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