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All Hail Wikipedia

  1. Oct 19, 2013 #1

    anorlunda

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    A few times, I embarrassed myself asking what I thought were truly original questions on Physics Forums, only to find that the answer is a link to a Wikipedia article. While the physicists may love answering questions that only they can answer, they might be annoyed by questions that people could answer best themselves given a little effort with Wikipedia in advance.

    The search engine on Wikipedia is primitive. It searches only titles and key words, not the full text of the articles. The techniques many of us have learned to use to refine Google searches don't work on Wikipedia.

    Sometimes, you can find what you seek by searching Google and finding the Wikipedia link in the Google results.

    I've learned a second, and more productive way. to search on Wikipedia. Start with any article related the the subject you want. As you read the article, follow promising sounding links embedded in the article, or listed at the bottom under "Related Topics" or "See also." When you find the article, if you have trouble understanding it, try following the embedded links in the article to learn about concepts or vocabulary you don't understand. When I do all that, I'm amazed at how often I learn the answer to my question within 30 minutes or less. As a bonus, I usually learn some things I wasn't searching for as a byproduct.

    I find, that a little active effort on my part using Wikipedia, can intercept 3/4 of the unnecessary questions posed to the Physicists. Perhaps newcomers to the forums would be well served with a little advice on the why and how of using Wikipedia before posting questions.

    Thanks everyone for Physics Forums. Physics Forums and Wikipedia IMO are both great public services.
     
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  3. Oct 19, 2013 #2

    phinds

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    Yes, we get a LOT of people who are staggeringly lazy and seem to have no concept of doing any research on their own. I'm constantly amazed at how patient the mods here are with such folk (well, not ALWAYS, but most of the time).
     
  4. Oct 19, 2013 #3

    Borek

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    You have already learned more than most of the people coming to PF with their questions learn in their lifetime.
     
  5. Oct 19, 2013 #4

    ZapperZ

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    But the again....

    https://www.physicsforums.com/blog.php?b=4257 [Broken]

    Zz.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. Oct 19, 2013 #5

    arildno

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    In addition to ZapperZ's example, here's a type of crackpot reference someone believed in because it stood on Wikipedia's article on Buoyancy, a completely nonsensical "analogy" between Atwood's machine and the buoyancy force for moving objects. I removed it Oct 8th, alerted the members of the fluid dynamics team at Wikipedia to good effect; it is still removed (but can be seen at an old revision of the page)
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=715235&highlight=atwood+archimedes+principle
     
  7. Oct 20, 2013 #6
    That was 1 year ago.. It's not there anymore (I think). I'd like to know when it got fixed. Perhaps it got fixed the next day.

    Wikipedia may have changed (for the better) in the last year.

    I really don't understand the "there's a fundamental flaw in the whole concept and philosophy of it". Had that error been in a book, it would still be there.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  8. Oct 20, 2013 #7

    arildno

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    It's trivial. Just go into the revision history.
    It took me a minute to establish that it was removed March 25, 2013.
     
  9. Oct 20, 2013 #8

    Drakkith

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    A common argument from people who don't know what they are talking about.
    Wikipedia is primarily an encyclopedia, not a source for detailed, technical information. As such, it is at best a reference for a good summary of a topic. Attempting to use it to back your position can be hazardous to your side of the argument.

    Also, like any work, if it says one thing while almost every other work says something different, it's probably wrong.
     
  10. Oct 20, 2013 #9
    I'm going with the same:

    A common argument from people who've no idea what they're talking about.

    Wikipedia IS indeed an encyclopedia, noone said otherwise. Even Wikipedia says it's an encyclopedia (lol).

    The concept and philosophy of wikipedia comes down to "Free information". "It is the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet"

    Wikipedia is basically a place where people share knowledge, and do it freely. That knowledge is then used as a summary of a topic. It does not substitute a book (It can't! You need references!!). That is its concept and philosophy.

    Where is the "flaw in the whole concept and philosophy of it"? If you give it a completely different concept and philosophy then of course. Let's play 'make up concepts and philosophies'!
     
  11. Oct 20, 2013 #10

    arildno

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    Yes, I agree with Crake that those who think there is a "fundamental flaw" in Wikipedia are conflating two issues:

    1. Namely, that USERS of Wikipedia are making the fundamental flaw of regarding Wikipedia as a reference work, where the set of references is "the best possible" on the topic at hand.
    Wikipedia is not, sometimes, the references AT Wikipedia are terrible.

    2. That Wikipedia has its main aim to be such a work.
    It never has had that aim, and hence the philosophy behind Wikipedia cannot be regarded as being flawed.

    3. However, I fully agree with ZapperZ that the wholly unwarranted AUTHORITY Wikipedia has gained as a primary source of information (not to speak of as "pedagogic" tool) is deeply troubling. In particular, Wikipedia is not, and cannot ever be, a good PEDAGOGIC tool, even if information there is accurate. Why? Because due to the multiplicity of editors, the situation will remain that sufficiently related subfields, that would better have been learnt under a SINGLE main approach will exhibit a multiplicity of views that jars against each other. IT doesn't mean, necessarily, that these viewpoints by themselves are false, or some objectively less worth than others, but that pedagogically, it remains CONFUSING to meet several points at the start of your learning curve (then the student will INEVITABLY jumble them together in his brain!), rather than that you learn the "other" views, once you have built up the COMPETENCE at one valid approach.
    Wikipedia, in contrast to an academic institution and the textbooks used there, do not follow such elementary, and indispensable guidelines for good pedagogics.

    ----------------------------------
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2013
  12. Oct 20, 2013 #11

    Redbelly98

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    There is a wrong way and a right way to use Wikipedia.

    If you find yourself in an argument with somebody, Wikipedia should NOT be cited as a source to back up your argument.

    If you find you have no idea what some concept or topic is about, Wikipedia is often an EXCELLENT source to gain a basic understanding of it.
     
  13. Oct 20, 2013 #12
  14. Oct 20, 2013 #13

    arildno

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    Well, I'm much into history. I often check up what I'd call "fact stuff" there (when did he live? where? Major opponents? So on..)
    However, source criticism and important scholarly controversies over the specific reliability of the different primary sources is rarely well given or presented at Wikipedia.
    Then, a single short article in a peer-reviewed article is typically far better.
     
  15. Oct 20, 2013 #14

    mfb

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    It will also lead to reality, existence, world, human, primates, mammal, clade, species, biology, natural science, science, knowledge, fact, proof (truth), Necessity and sufficiency, and logic, as this is a loop. There was some active influence on some key topics to get as many articles as possible to point to that loop.

    "The rest lead to an article with no wikilinks or with links to pages that do not exist, or get stuck in loops."
    A pointless statement. Those are the only options, and philosophy is part of a loop as well.
     
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