Is Wikipedia Valid?

By tonyhughes Hughes, in , posted: 7-Feb-2007 07:00

Baa Camp (a Kiwi Foo Camp.... uhhh... just Google it FFS!) attendees have been concerned about the seemingly arbitrary deletion of an article about the event on Wikipedia, and the fact that the reasoning for doing so does not seem sound, along with the fact that the deleter seems uninformed and biased.

So my question is, do you care what goes on at Wikipedia? And is Wikipedia valid?

Two questions then... do you care?, is Wikipedia valid?, and what are the alternatives?


Amongst my chief questions are...

</bad Monty Python reference>

So who decides what goes and what doesnt, at Wikipedia. Well... from what I gather, its the community as a whole really, with administrators that are capable of making some snap decisions.

Who can create a Wikipedia article? Well, uhhhh.... anyone....

Why would I believe Wikipedia about anything then? Well... here is quite a hotly debated question. Is the site valid as an information source? Cant anyone just post anything? It could be wrong, and be left up. It could be correct, but offend an administrator, and be deleted.

Well to be honest, I would place more faith in Wikipedia combined with intelligent research, than I would in my local newspaper (the Hawkes Bay Today... fire your editor and I will subscribe again. Oh... and stop printing shock headlines that are completely contradicted by the article itself... really.... what are you? some cheesy UK tabloid, or would you like to stand up and be a real newspaper again?).

Where was I? Oh yeah, and Wikipedia is certainly more attractive to me than some outdated print encyclopaedia, an underfunded community library that couldnt keep up with a double amputee snail, or pack-the-entire-planets-news-into-60-minutes-of-ratings-grabbing tv news show.

They key is, you dont place blind faith in ONE information source. Scientists and researchers check their results.... so why shouldnt you?

Look something up on Wikipedia... go to the official website, google the topic, and visit some fan sites, and some detractors sites. Form an opinion, use your brain. Its not that hard.

I think the idea of researching and idea, and backing up your findings must not be taught in schools anymore. I do not have a spyware problem, ever.


A: I protect my machine.
B: I research software I want to install.

A simple Google search like "Hotbar spyware" reveals web pages that talk about Hotbar being spyware. Whether it is or isnt spyware is not the point... the signs point to it being so, from several sources, and so, no - I will never install Hotbar. Easier than reinstalling XP because Hotbar trashed your PC!

And so it goes with researching facts. Go to Wikipedia, and get a fact, and you may look stupid when you turn out to be wrong, but if,,, and the official website of the thing you are checking all agree, then you might have something reliable.

Is Wikipedia trustworthy on its own? No.
Is any website trustworthy on its own? No.

I am a long time net user (not really really old skool, but over a decade anyway!), and only visited Wikipedia for the first time ever last year. I think its great Its awesome for some quick facts about topics I already know something about, or for learning about new things, in conjunction with research on other sites.

Its that simple.

Doesnt avoid the fact that it is fallible, and in ANY large ecosystem of users (countries, forums, community driven websites, workers unions etc etc etc) there will ALWAYS be some disagreement, some bull-headed-ness, and some unreasonable character to make your life tougher than when you woke.

Good luck.

(If you made it this far through this article, you honestly scare me...)

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Comment by JAMMAN2110, on 7-Feb-2007 09:04

I scare myself sometimes too..

Comment by Grant17, on 7-Feb-2007 09:49

The series of events which took place around Russell Brown & Juha's attempted posting of a Wiki concerning Baa Camp was certainly an eye opener.  I guess I had assumed like many others until now that Wikipedia was infallible and had unbiased/unerring administrators.

However, we shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater -- Wiki is still a great resource for the reasons Tony has mentioned, as well as many more.

It's a timely point you have made Tony, to check any research from multiple sources.  Heck, we all know by now that the Herald is certainly not infallible, even though in our formative years, those of us who grew up in Auckland probably assumed that to be the case as well.

It's just another step along the way toward possessing more wisdom and maintaining a healthy cynicism too...

Comment by juha, on 7-Feb-2007 12:48

Yeah, I'm leaning towards this being a one-off madness/weirdness. It's fine for Wikipedians to be critical and remove cruft, but in this case, the text got deleted almost straightaway. That was peculiar.

Author's note by tonyhughes, on 7-Feb-2007 14:27

and it was being touted as spam... yet i used wikipedia today getting some info on VMWare and MS Virtual Server, both of which have sizable articles dedicated to their products....

Comment by Ta bu shi da yu, on 7-Feb-2007 20:16

Tony raises some interesting points, and yes, I was crazy enough to get to the end of the article. However I would like to correct the record on a number of statements made. Firstly, Tony says that "It could be correct, but offend an administrator, and be deleted." That's not true, any admin who deletes an article because it offends them might find them desysopped (if it is a habit), or at least severly chastised. Adminship on Wikipedia shouldn't be a big deal. As for the comment "and it was being touted as spam... yet i used wikipedia today getting some info on VMWare and MS Virtual Server, both of which have sizable articles dedicated to their products....", well, these are both incredibly notable products. And I would like to point out that ONE editor called it spam! One editor != the entire Wikipedia community. The most interesting point made by Tony, which has been repeated by many on Wikipedia (including the founder, Jimbo Wales), is the fact that Wikipedia should not the sole source of information for anything serious, and should be checked against its references. We don't dispute this, and in fact we actively encourage such a stance!

Author's note by tonyhughes, on 7-Feb-2007 20:22

Great comment! Thanks for the clarifications.

Comment by Alf, on 1-Mar-2007 22:25

I can't work out Wikipedia either. I have tried to submit my website into the freeview section twice and both times it was rejected and I have no idea why.

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