Social Media by Leah

Response 9: Wikipedia
November 18, 2009, 12:26 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Wikipedia has been the go-to reference Web site of my young adult life.

In college, if I needed to know something for a class or a paper, I turned to the site. However, this is not to say that I used it exclusively for my assignments. As discussed in class, Wikipedia is an excellent tool for general knowledge and for topics that need to be known quickly. And contributors do need to cite their information. But it has been seen that the online encyclopedia contains mistakes, sometimes deliberate. (As seen in this article that states that pranksters said David Beckham was a Chinese goalkeeper in the 18th century, or that Tony Blair’s middle name is “Whoop-de Do.”) And who is to say that these people out in the online world, masking themselves behind computer screens, are actually experts?

Granted, users do need to go through a discussion page and follow the tutorial before submitting changes or new topics, but I feel that there must be a better way to guarantee that what is on Wikipedia is truthful. Could Wikipedia work so that after a certain number of entries and changes, a person received points, or some type of grade that allowed them to become an “expert?” Could there be some sort of ranking system that moved from “newbie” to “expert,” so users that look up information on Wikipedia could know that some people are more legitimate, or more of an expert? Although, this raises the question of just because someone has not posted as much does not mean that they are not an expert in different fields.

Also, as pointed out in class, there have been errors in more traditional encyclopedias as well. Wikipedia even has a list of topics and facts that it has corrected. The Encyclopedia Britannica was written by 100 full-time editors and over 4,000 contributors (interestingly enough, I found this out on Wikipedia because when I googled “Who wrote the encyclopedia britannica I did not come up with an obvious answer). After a little more digging, I found this. The staff is made up of surgeons, Nobel Laureates, economists, computer scientists, authors, etc.

While you could argue that Wikipedia probably has contributors that are doctors, economists, computer scientists, novelists, etc., the Encyclopedia Britannica has an Editorial Board of Advisors which monitors the Encyclopedia. AGAIN, you could probably argue that the discussion board acts as a board of advisors, but I feel like the Encyclopedia Britannica is more formal. However, maybe the Encyclopedia Britannica is a thing of the past…a lot of the advisors have since died… and maybe the publication is fading.

The Internet is bringing people together more easily than ever before, and perhaps Wikipedia will someday not be criticized or watched (What is that site, anyway? It is weird). However, I still feel more comfortable using Wikipedia as a source for quick and general knowledge, and tend to use the library and more scholarly works for details on various topics, especially for school.


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