Monday, January 26, 2009

The Wiki Reference Dilemma

I am a fan of Wikipedia and I will reference entries in both my postings and in papers that I write. It is not, however, a favorite of many professors who do not recognize its authority given that anyone can provide an entry. Peer review is an important component of legitimizing published information, and more than once I have heard that it does not occur with rigor on the Wikipedia site.

Recently I felt somewhat vindicated in my support of the site as an acceptable reference tool when I visited the Lucy's Legacy exhibit at Seattle's Pacific Seattle Science Center. It focused on Ethiopia's rich cultural heritage and showcased tools art and writing from the five million-year history of the country, sometimes known as the Cradle of Mankind.

More than 100 items in the exhibit illuminate this rich heritage, including fossils, historical manuscripts, paintings, coins, musical instruments, implements of daily use, religious artifacts and more.

Among the exhibits was a wall sized explanation of the language and subject matter of a particular period, looking like something out of a VERY early Starbucks interior. At the bottom of the very scholarly information was listed the sited source, which was Wikipedia. Nice.

Of course now we have to take another step backwards because of anonymous editors who decided that they would list Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd as having passed on. Which they have not.

This is causing a bit of a stir from the founder and users of the site as they discuss new rules by which first time or anonymous users can edit material. Thank you Julie for pointing out this Yahoo article that talks about it. The BBC has their take as well here.

Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, proposed the change, which is being called "Flagged Revisions,. This is causing some heated debate on the users forum, but is showing approval by a 60 to 40 percent margin at this juncture.

I hope it is approved. In the meantime, I guess I will have to keep using the site for quick references but be prepared to back them up with secondary sources until it becomes more acceptable.

2 comments:

WritersHairClip said...

Well it's like using the urban dictionary online as opposed to dictionary.com. I don't remember or ever even having the inclination to look at an actual encyclopedia. So for day to day use, it's helpful.

Aaron T. said...

i believe wikipedia is a good source, if you are curious about what a well known person/celebrity is doing now. I think back to the whole Sinbad situation. I was curious about what he was doing now, and it posted accurate information on there.