Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wikipedia -- Caveat Emptor

There are lots of web reference tools out there, from Onelook to Google to Slashdot and many, many others. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia with a major twist: Anyone can add to it, and anyone can edit the contents. There is no editorial board. There is no real editing, except that anyone can "edit." Wikipedia even describes itself using its own format -- anyone can edit the entry on Wikipedia!

The theory of Wikipedia is interesting to me, but to my mind the results are extremely uneven. "Editors" with one ax to grind or another modify entries to fit their point of view, which sometime errupt in edit wars. I looked up "Dog" in Wikipedia, thinking it to be a relatively benign subject. Yet, despite the fact that the day is young, there are fourteen edits to the content, some of which were "reverts" back to earlier versions, meaning that someone erased what someone else entered!

To Uncle Mark's mind, a medium in which anyone can contribute with no real fact checking is to be taken with a ton of salt. So, while Wikipedia is good for a quick lookup for obviously true data (like the US is in North America -- no controversy there!), caveat emptor!