I used to be mostly amused by Wikipedia, but now I’m getting more and more disgusted. We all know that Wikipedia has its pros (freely accessible, wide ranging, democratic) and cons (questionable accuracy, poor writing, democratic) but the recent New Yorker article told me more than I wanted to know about the sausage making process. From the article one gets the impression that the average contributor is a male computer programmer with some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder, and that edit wars, vandalism, and abuse are all too common. Here’s some quotes that stuck out:
“Pettiness, idiocy, and vulgarity are regular features of the site.”
“Nothing about high-minded collaboration guarantees accuracy, and open editing invites abuse.”
“For all its protocol, Wikipedia’s bureaucracy doesn’t necessarily favor truth.”
The author poses the question,
“What can be said for an encyclopedia that is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes illiterate?”
I know that all sources have errors, but the arbitrariness of the accuracy in Wikipedia combined with the poor writing has me leaning toward the answer that such an encyclopedia has no place in an academic information landscape. Unless there are changes, academic librarians should be discouraging its use and working toward building and promoting higher quality collections.
Will students listen to us if we discourage Wikipedia? Probably not, but they may listen to