This week’s blog post is intended to dig a little deeper into the topic of Wikipedia. Last week, I focused on the identifying the differences between user-generated encyclopedias (such as Wikipedia) versus traditional encyclopedias (such as Britannica and Encarta), and analyzing them based on content, frequency of updates, usability, and most importantly public trust and perception. The question of discussion this week is: should Wikipedia be trusted as a reliable source for breaking information?
Although research shows that the public is very skeptic of Wikipedia and credibility of the media in general, I still believe that a.) Wikipedia should be, and is, a trusted source of information; 2.) is useful beyond belief based on the number of links and sourced information within each entry; and 3.)a reliable source of information based on viewership and frequency of updates among users. However, when it comes to debating whether Wikipedia should be trusted as a reliable source for all breaking news and information, I am a little wary and tend to think the public should lean towards the news media (at least initially) and other sources of social media (such as Twitter and Facebook) as trusted outlets for information. Although, after writing that sentence, I would possibly argue that Wikipedia could also be trusted, and yes that sounds hypocritical, I’m just trying to say that Wikipedia, during breaking news, should not be the first source of factual, news and information, but maybe a second or third source.
In any instance, Wikipedia should be trusted, but only to a certain extent, just like everything in life. One cannot put all their eggs in one basket and expect great results every time. Human nature is based upon asking questions, debating the facts, and always asking for second opinions. The way I see it, if you use a question-the-facts-based process in the rest of your day-to-day life, why not apply the same concept to Wikipedia?
Based on the nature of Wikipedia it will never be 100% factual, it’s as simple as that. For example: The Huffington Post published a pictorial article today titled: The Funniest Acts of Wikipedia Vandalism Ever. The article shows 15 acts of vandalism ranging from drawn Horns on Bill Gates’ photo to random sentences inserted within various entries. Basically, it does happen, guys. If you haven’t seen it yet, you are bound to at some point.
Photo via Flickr from Sunni J