The trouble with Wikipedia

A prankster has confessed “he put false information into a Wikipedia entry about John Seigenthaler Sr. … suggesting Seigenthaler had been involved in the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy.” The prank led Wikipedia to limit article creation to registered users, a step that will still allow anonymous users to edit articles.

An article in SFGate captures the difficulty in relying on Wikipedia:

“If you look at the Encyclopedia Britannica, you can be fairly sure that somebody writing an article is an acknowledged expert in that field, and you can take his or her words as being at least a scholarly point of view,” said Michael Gorman, president of the American Library Association and dean of library services at Cal State Fresno. “The problem with an online encyclopedia created by anybody is that you have no idea whether you are reading an established person in the field or somebody with an ax to grind. For all I know, Wikipedia may contain articles of great scholarly value. The question is, how do you choose between those and the other kind?”

But Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales replies:

“It’s a mistake to think about Britannica’s content as being vetted while ours isn’t,” he said. “In the future, people will look at an article from Britannica and say, ‘This was written by two people and reviewed by two more; I want an article reviewed by hundreds of people, fact-checked scrupulously by dozens and dozens of people.’ In the future, we can say Britannica can’t touch these (Wikipedia’s) articles; it doesn’t have the manpower to do it.”

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