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Wiki how much do you trust it?

  1. Sep 7, 2010 #1
    Since there are more than 1 wiki sites, let's narrow down to this one


    so there's some arguments over how accurate the informations are. (I do admit that it's a good source to look to get general idea of something though... )

    What do you think?

    and what do people think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2010 #2


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    I agree with you, it's a good general source and should be taken with skepticism. I'd never use it as a reference for a paper, though. But the links at the bottom of the page are often good sources.
  4. Sep 7, 2010 #3


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    It's an excellent source. Like any other source, I'd be careful and check the references. But I'd do the same with a paper encyclopedia or math reference book.

    I've seen math books with more errors (Yan's number theory textbook) and math books with fewer errors (Prime Numbers: A Computational Perspective). It's all relative.

    Edit: In response to FrancisZ, below, I was speaking only the the mathematical/scientific/technical articles in Wikipedia. I don't know much about the quality of their culture/news/entertainment articles.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2010
  5. Sep 7, 2010 #4
    I very much love wikipedia for information on both history and scientific research; but I don't trust it as far as looking for information on celebrities.

    Case in point: I have a somewhat notorious distant cousin, whom is no longer with us. And apparently, there is in fact an article written about him on wikipedia (imagine my surprise). But aside from mentioning some names correctly, the article (and I can't understand who would do this) is the polar opposite of everything I have ever been told about this person. So either my family is a bunch of liars (not impossible), or someone very intentionally messed up this biography.
  6. Sep 7, 2010 #5


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    Why don't you ask the authors of the article for references?
  7. Sep 7, 2010 #6

    this doesn't seem to be that rare these days
    I've seen name of my friend on wiki, it happened to be that he was a different person just under same name and occupation and interests.
  8. Sep 7, 2010 #7


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    I have a number of famous relatives that have wikipedia entries, they also have encyclopedia entries. How much they affected world history, and in which ways, differs, depending on whether someone thinks what they did was good or bad.

    Wikipedia is just an entry from someone that cared enough to write about it, and sometimes input from others that know about it. If your ancestors are in a major encyclopedia, that helps. :tongue2:
  9. Sep 8, 2010 #8
    I trust the information from the wikipedia. Most non-sense gets changed right away and all it takes is a double checking of main points. Mmost of the articles on there are well written for everyone to understand, so if you need a quick run down on something it's the best place to look.

    Sometimes things are biased, for instance if you look up stuff about the Iraq war, or about celebrities etc.. For historical, scientific or mathematical referneces though I trust it.

    I recall one time my teacher thought he'd show us how 'bad' wikipedia was... we went on to the site and found our independent study unit topics (we were writing essays on anything we wanted to from beginning of civilization to 1600) and to mess around with the info providing citations and everything. Needless to say it was caught quite quickly and the school got a permanent ban from editting any articles. I believe the ban is still in place to this day (6 years later aha)
  10. Sep 8, 2010 #9
    Hi there,

    This can be applied not only to wiki, but to the web in general: blogs, forums, and even serious looking web pages.

    Anyone can apply for a domain name, get a computer hooked up to the web, and make a web server out of it. On it, any information can be displayed, ranging from personal experience, to trying to sell merchandise, to propaganda. The sky is the limit.

    Therefore, the discussion could be broadened to: "Do you trust information displayed on the web???"

  11. Sep 8, 2010 #10
    i think most basic science is OK. things get a little more tricky if you're trying to determine say in-vivo effects of certain chemicals. lots of articles are clearly penned by the person selling the related product, or otherwise pimping their pet theories. and then when it comes to more political stuff... there are just constant battles going on.

    even so, i love wikipedia. i say take the trust but verify approach. wiki can literally save you hours weeks or years digging this stuff up on your own. with all its faults, it's still invaluable.
  12. Sep 8, 2010 #11
    actually, anyone can publish a book now, too. so, you could broaden that to print media.
  13. Sep 8, 2010 #12
    Hi there,

    Not really. To publish a book, you need a publisher. This publisher makes a business out of selling books. Therefore, if the publisher wants to keep making money in the long run, he/she must review the books they publish.

    The same stands for articles, that are reviewed by a team, to make sure of the correctness of the content.

    But on the web, no one will ever check the content of your website, prior to being displayed. Therefore, the web is much more of an open library.
  14. Sep 8, 2010 #13
    ...no one was talking about making your own website. They were specifically talking about wikis... for now specifically about wikipedia.

    Wikipedia definitely DOES care about their public image since they rely heavily on people giving them money (donations for instance). They do care a lot about the information being put on THEIR site much like the publisher cares about what gets published under their name.

    You can't have your cake and eat it too. (Trying to say that wikipedia 'publisher' isn't to internet what book publisher is to books in general)
  15. Sep 8, 2010 #14
  16. Sep 8, 2010 #15
    Hi there,

    The Internet is all about sharing information. Whether, it comes in the form of a static web page, or in a wiki. Information is given to whomever wants it.

    Wikipedia is definitely a good source of information. Specially the pages that contain references, and that are reviewed by other peers. Errors can still slip here or there, but in general the information is very good.

    But don't forget that wikis, like wikipedia's subjects, can be written by a complete Joe Blow that has no clue about the subject. So if you are looking for solid information, wikis might not be the best place to find it. Then again, unless you can verify its validity, any web page can be doubted in its content.

  17. Sep 8, 2010 #16
    Wasn't there a study done a while ago which showed that Wikipedia contained fewer errors, per article, than the Encyclopaedia Britannica?
  18. Sep 8, 2010 #17
  19. Sep 8, 2010 #18


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    Not really. To publish a book, you need money.

    And not that much. About 10 years ago printing 1000 copies of 100 pages book (soft cover) was in the $2k range if memory serves me well (and if it doesn't, I am wrong by no more than $1k). I am talking about prices in Poland, so ymmv.

    Now, making money out of the book is a completely different thing, but it is really not hard to publish your own "Theory and everything and French fries".
  20. Sep 8, 2010 #19
    There seem to be there at the bottom. That would imply that the references--some of which are also famous--were at least 50% incorrect about my cousin.

    Here's the article in question: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McMahon

    His name was "Frenchy" because he spoke French fluently--and not because he simply picked it up at the airport, as the article suggests. He spoke it well, because he was raised by a French prostitute; one who also taught him how to steal, as a kid. There was very little "lace Irish" about the man; he grew up during the Depression, and his McMahon relatives were piss-poor.
  21. Sep 8, 2010 #20


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    Don't forget that the other sites that throw 'wiki' in there somewhere have absolutely nothing to do with the original wikipedia. Go to the actual "wikipedia".
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