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Poll

How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia? (0 = zero, 5 = completely)

0
3 (8.8%)
1
0 (0%)
2
0 (0%)
3
6 (17.6%)
4
7 (20.6%)
5
0 (0%)
It all depends...
12 (35.3%)
Dunno.
1 (2.9%)
I like bacon.
5 (14.7%)

Total Members Voted: 34

Last post Author Topic: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?  (Read 9655 times)

Renegade

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How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« on: November 18, 2012, 02:27:21 AM »
While reading an article in Wikipedia, I saw a "Good" article rating, and then following that link, found that they also have "Featured" articles.

Good: https://en.wikipedia...ipedia:Good_articles
Featured: https://en.wikipedia...ia:Featured_articles

I ran down the list of featured ones, and looking in on one (not at random), saw what appeared to be complete bunk. I couldn't help but think that Wikipedia has become nothing more than a shill. The Talk page was terrible. The editors simply ignored any contributions and basically just told people to buzz off. Typical sanctimonious blathering about "WP:RS" and whatnot, all the while never presenting a single reliable source themselves. And this is a "Featured" article? Huh?  :huh:

I suppose that for things like mathematics and most areas of physics, I've got a high amount of confidence in Wikipedia, but for anything historical or political or even in a lot of areas of science (mostly the softer ones like medicine), I pretty much have zero faith anymore. Pretty much anywhere that there's a possible vested interest, I really don't have much faith.

FWIW - I like the idea of "Good" and "Featured" articles. Too bad that some really poor ones make it in there as it really diminishes the value of them by throwing others, that very well could be excellent, under suspicion.
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ewemoa

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2012, 02:43:49 AM »
I suppose that for things like mathematics and most areas of physics, I've got a high amount of confidence in Wikipedia

Similar.

For many other things I tend to take a look to get a sense of what some interested parties might be wanting to push -- often still find it worth checking out.  Sometimes there's interesting stuff in Talk / View History.

I've found some of the lists that have been compiled to be useful on occasion.

Renegade

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2012, 02:48:04 AM »
I've found some of the lists that have been compiled to be useful on occasion.

+1

I love the lists. They really simplify finding things, especially when you don't know what you're looking for. They don't even need to be objective, because you can just go off and find whatever you're looking for elsewhere. Well, if they're included in the list.
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

Paul Keith

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2012, 06:48:26 AM »
I voted 0 but not because I distrust Wikipedia but rather wikis are a mirror to the internet.

In the ideal setting of the internet, wikis are great at bypassing the tl;dr creep that plagues many internet discussions. If every forum thread started out as a wiki first before that wiki then becomes a neutral group blog/google doc article that is then discussed by the internet, discussions would actually bear more information to the average internet reader. A true paradigm shift to the classic method of how footnotes should be used if you may and presented in a manner more addicting to click and research and less academically imposing and more casual friendly to comment.

...but it's not. Wiki became more of a reference/falling point and because Wiki's roots and boom came from Wikipedia, it kept many of the bad stuff of encyclopedia. The authoritarian end-text for introductionary subjects. The right pseudo-authoritative subject for Google to boost it's links up in searches (which ultimately was it's demise). For that it becomes a non-sequitur except to be 0% trusted for that is the simplest way to call for critical thinking.

The actual ratings don't matter above that. Even if you voted 1, what if a physics info is wrong? The ignorant can never tell, only those who regularly monitor Wikipedia can spot it so it becomes another forum even in the best of times and once that mistake is corrected, it's a praise for the Wiki while ignoring that it goes both ways for an Encyclopedia. If an Encyclopedia is consistantly mistaken, then it's bad as an end reference link, but it's great as the beginning point of a forum level type of discussion.

...and that's just one floor below the sad but already established belief in wikis. Going deeper could fill up an entire forum because it goes to the heart of everything. Questions such as:

Why do encyclopedias have to be authoritative in the modern era anyway?

Why and how casual should simple wiki-encyclopedias be presented as?

How should wikis reduce their rules to reduce their bureaucratic hive mind as well as to make it easier for someone to just jump in without being bombarded by acronyms?

What can be done with a problematic wiki site once it has become an established website to debunk it's flaws?

It's not just a deep and shallow subject. It is seeing a zit in the mirror. Should you trust yourself into thinking it's harmless? Should you trust yourself into thinking it's harmless enough because it's common? Should you trust the 1st doctor? Should you distrust every zit as harmless because you were once unlucky to get a life threatening zit? ...and how much knowledge/information with your own zit should you pass along as authoritative statements for the zits of others especially on web level general info? Like how true is it that your grandparents are stressing you out to the point of suicide because of the existence of a single zit or a link showing evidence that one guy who committed suicide had a zit in the same spot and documented it's notability which then existed in a wiki article which then gets put on a pedestal when used as a link?


IainB

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2012, 07:08:38 AM »
How much do I trust Wikipedia? I don't.
Wikipedia does not - cannot - provide an authoritative source of reference.

Whilst there is little doubt in my mind that there is potentially much that could be or indeed is useful and relevant in probably most of the Wikipedia entries, there is also little doubt (from personal experience) that there is much that is seriously flawed - e.g., suffering from graffiti, vandalism, being opinion-based and irrational (as opposed to factual and rational), being biased, based on hearsay, apocryphal, or just plain wrong.
All this rubbish comes from anonymous authors, from registered Wikipedia authors, and from Wikipedia's so-called "professional" editors [Yeah, right.] alike. The latter in particular are very suspect IMHO, because some have been known to even lie about their "credentials" just so as to get into a position where they can influence the wording of specific areas of "history" or knowledge - all in the name of religio-political ideology, apparently. Or maybe they were paid to do it. Who knows?

Somewhat depressingly, I think, there seem to be a lot of people out there who don't like to see any version of the truth being promulgated except their own preferred bias or their own reality bubble or paradigm. In these cases, rational argument/debate is neither wanted/accepted nor tolerated, and often actively discouraged with prejudice. Critical thinking is a victim here.

From my experience, this seems to be especially so in areas relating to religio-political ideology, business management, science, and IT practice and theory - which all covers a potentially huge  area of human information/knowledge.
This gives me some concern. For example, in IT in particular, where I have seen so much rubbish in IT-related areas that it makes me wonder sometimes whether the IT sector hasn't been cursed with attracting some of the most irrational, ignorant and narrowest minds on the planet - as well as some of the brightest.

In any event, my recommendation is to by all means use Wikipedia as a first point of reference - if you wish to do that (and it is very handy) - but not to leave it at that, and to always take what Wikipedia says with a pinch of salt until you can confirm what it says after having accessed authoritative sources.
I therefore avoid mentioning Wikipedia when I need to provide an authoritative reference to clients.
One of my personal favourites since childhood has been Encyclopaedia Britannica.

wraith808

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2012, 08:11:14 AM »
It depends?  I don't trust it as a single source.  I check the references and if the references are verifiable and dependable, then I lean towards trusting it.  I only truly trust it when (a) I know what it is, or (b) I am very sure of a source that checks it out.  I use wikipedia as a starting point and a convenient place where possible facts are accumulated- and a convenient place to send people if I know that the facts check out, and with the caveat that things can change.

f0dder

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2012, 08:28:08 AM »
I'm with wraith808.

And I find that, in a way, wikipedia is more reliable than standards sources, because you can look at the history and talk pages - gives a pretty good indication of topics where something is afoul. Obviously you need to fact-check, but you'd have to do that with "traditional" sources as well.

I'm giving it a '4'. Not as in directly "4-trusting" the articles, but the whole platform (references, talk, edit-history).
- carpe noctem

40hz

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2012, 09:17:24 AM »
I approach any reference source the same way I handle a new hire: Take what you see at face value - but always check background and references.

Unfortunately, now that self-censorship, calculated disinformation campaigns and propaganda have come to be seen as the norm, you really can't trust anything completely and unconditionally. Even the noblest attempts at providing accurate and unbiased information can easily be corrupted by carelessness, deliberate deception, or somebody in a positon of authority who is pursuing a personal agenda or "higher truth."

In the end, in the absence of verifiable and repeatable test results (which leaves out at least half of all human thought and activity) the best you can do is crosscheck statements, examine bona fides, "follow the money" (where appropriate), continue to examine and question, and keep an open mind.

So no, I neither trust nor distrust Wikipedia. I use and take it for what it's worth. It's only one place I sometimes stop when I'm looking for something.

And yes, like IainB, I much prefer the Britannica when I need to use an encyclopedia. :Thmbsup:
« Last Edit: November 18, 2012, 09:47:05 AM by 40hz »

tomos

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2012, 10:02:15 AM »
And I find that, in a way, wikipedia is more reliable than standards sources, because you can look at the history and talk pages - gives a pretty good indication of topics where something is afoul. Obviously you need to fact-check, but you'd have to do that with "traditional" sources as well.

I agree.

I've been involved in a talk page discussion re a political topic, and it was a very frustrating experience. But it was interesting all the same. My point is that looking at the talk page in question (I dont want to link) would give a very good idea of the problems, tensions, and different viewpoints re the topic, yet these were barely reflected in the page itself (which upset many people, me included).
Tom

TaoPhoenix

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2012, 01:39:37 PM »
I guess I trust Wikipedia somewhere around a 2. My use cases for Wikipedia tend to be looking up movie actors, chemical classes of medicines, and light general knowledge. Usually the rawest facts are "near the right ballpark", long enough to satisfy an hour's curiosity of some topic like the financial panic of 1908 ( If I remember - I'm typing this on my phone!)

So maybe the speculations are up for interpretation but no one really disputes that J.P. Morgan was in the middle of it all.

Stoic Joker

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2012, 03:39:01 PM »
I like Bacon!

app103

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2012, 05:23:13 PM »
With the understanding that the quality is directly related to the sources of information and those that edit the page, my trust is on a page by page basis. I treat Wikipedia as a starting point and nothing more, a summary of the links provided in the sources. Those links and the information they contain must be examined in order to know the true story about any page on Wikipedia. To me, the value of Wikipedia is about equal to a search engine and can enhance your search for information by at least helping you to ask the right questions, find the right keywords, for the info you want.

rgdot

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2012, 05:37:16 PM »
The thing Wikipedia is sometimes ridiculed for is almost, I said almost ;) , a strength.

Take this scenario:
If I have site that I only edit and it happened to rank high on search engines, I fill it with wrong info. That's bad right? At least Wikipedia can be corrected, checked and edited.

In this sense one should trust it compared to other online sources. Not really a substitute for physical encyclopedias though. I am tempted between a 4 and 'It all depends...'

Renegade

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2012, 05:49:17 PM »
I suppose that I shouldn't be very surprised at people's reactions. I'm in the same camp for using Wikipedia as a springboard to start looking into something, or for a quick reference on a factoid that I know exists, but am not sure exactly what it is.

My answer was "it depends".
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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

Paul Keith

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2012, 07:50:05 PM »
Quote from: 40hz
Even the noblest attempts at providing accurate and unbiased information can easily be corrupted by carelessness, deliberate deception, or somebody in a positon of authority who is pursuing a personal agenda or "higher truth."

I think two things need to be distinguish here:

Wikipedia as an entity has never been a noble attempt much less the noblest attempt.

Accurate and unbiased information is in my opinion a red herring to a "higher truth". It would be like saying only left brain info is important. Wikipedia will never be as fast as Wikileaks and Wikileaks is also touted as a "higher truth" but even combined, the finishes product does not provide an attempt of accuracy and unbiased information that isn't tailored to information presented eventually to it's prime culture then it's sub-mass culture (the internet). It can and will not compromise on that limitation and the influential culture doesn't want it to either. (hence the ask model has also eluded Wikipedia and been transferred to things like Yahoo answers or Metafilter or Quora.)

Quote from: rgdot
If I have site that I only edit and it happened to rank high on search engines, I fill it with wrong info. That's bad right? At least Wikipedia can be corrected, checked and edited.

That's pre-social media though. It's very possible to have a collaborative Google Docs page. Forums tend to correct each other which is why it's flameworthy but also why the top mass forums can have more link worthy collections of context than Wikipedia.

More importantly the first need for any place where anything can be corrected, checked and edited is that it should be able to admit it is wrong.

That's where Wikipedia beat authoritative encyclopedias. By being able to wrong, it was able to be faster at accepting and promoting change and it had less agenda because wiki pages still had to compete with other authoritative pages. Google didn't just simply raised it as an immediate link and at the same time, it also competed with spiders. It was the first social curation site.

We're way pass that now. Nowadays even on just mainstream meta topics, we have redditors who would create subreddit of value instead of sticking around something that has reached the mass high point of bad such as the main reddit politics, we have pay club style forums such as Metafilter and SomethingAwful, we have twitter that amasses every G+ circle, friendfeed, vacuum events. That's not including past models such as forums administrated by mouser where polarizing opinions are more allowed or geographic news site that don't rely on a US-first bias like Wikipedia or Amazon/IMDB style reviews. The one page thing is such a micro-argument nowadays. Even those one page sites rely on publishing books to create traction for their blog and blogs that require linkback for their blog articles.

Even the statement for information overload is pass the point of notability now. Information came and for a while it was nice but media didn't leave and we are plenty brainwashed not just by media but by our own self-biases that it doesn't matter whether it's one biased site or one fully unbiased wiki. The net forgot to factor in "the read what we want to get out of this" nature of humanity and when it remembered the community site makers were ok with dumbing down our attitude into votes, discussion pages, Google top links, heated visitors...because that's what generates return visits and Wikipedia is not just the same victim to that, it was one of the prime proponents of that degeneration.




tomos

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #15 on: November 19, 2012, 08:12:45 AM »
I like Bacon!

Stoic Joker and 4 others Like Bacon
Tom

wraith808

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2012, 09:31:01 AM »
Bacon overrides all other considerations.  So, though I offered opinions...

I like bacon.

Renegade

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2012, 04:57:01 PM »
Hmmm...

Bacon appears to be a significant consideration in the reliability of Wikipedia...

Should have broadened it... Regular bacon, or Halal bacon? :P
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

wraith808

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2012, 05:47:21 PM »
Regular bacon, of course!  Just good old fashioned pork!  ;D

TaoPhoenix

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2012, 06:40:26 PM »

Obligatory:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacon

And has a anyone contacted Kevin Bacon for his opinion?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Bacon



Deozaan

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #20 on: November 19, 2012, 06:42:44 PM »
I don't like bacon. I love it!


Edvard

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #21 on: November 19, 2012, 10:56:35 PM »
I gave it a '5' because I edit all the articles I look up.
Seriously...






kidding... kidding... I like bacon ;D

J-Mac

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #22 on: November 20, 2012, 12:32:46 AM »
Depends on what I am seeking. I don’t use Wikipedia for rock solid reference material when I am doing research or fact-checking. But I often use it for mundane lookups: TV show summaries or cast members/episodes, etc. Quick info on a particular location. Works well for me on those things.

For math I almost always use Wolfram Alpha now, though they can be a PITA about spamming me to upgrade. (I have the lowest cost premium account there, but they want blood it seems!)

Wikipedia serves me well for all my "who-really-cares" inquiries - which I do pretty often! I can waste my time with the best of 'em!   :Thmbsup:

Thanks!

Jim

40hz

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #23 on: November 20, 2012, 08:57:16 PM »
Quote from: 40hz
Even the noblest attempts at providing accurate and unbiased information can easily be corrupted by carelessness, deliberate deception, or somebody in a positon of authority who is pursuing a personal agenda or "higher truth."

I think two things need to be distinguish here:

Wikipedia as an entity has never been a noble attempt much less the noblest attempt.


Just for the record, I don't think anybody here ever said (or even imagined) it was. :)

Quote
Accurate and unbiased information is in my opinion a red herring to a "higher truth".

Many, in their opinion, would disagree with that.

But I suppose that is what characterizes an opinion as being "an opinion." There's neither "a higher truth" nor even so much as a biased (or unbiased) basis to the statements that constitute such opinions. It's all about how something "feels' or "seems" or "looks" or "sounds like." And it's presented as a given.

Consider, however, that too much reliance on that side of the brain runs the risk of embracing "magical thinking" as its own "higher truth." Something that's running rampant in US political circles these days. And, unfortunately with predictable results.

At least in my opinion. ;) ;D

Joe Hone

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Re: How Much Do You Trust Wikipedia?
« Reply #24 on: January 05, 2013, 06:57:10 PM »
Seven years ago at dinner, I mentioned something I had read on wikipedia and my 12-year-old piped up and said, "I edit postings there all the time!" And after dinner he proved to me that he did. He is 19 now and I just asked him if he remembered that incident and he just snickered and walked away. Just sayin'.