The Problem with Wikipedia Today

For many Wikipedia is a great resource for free in-depth information on a wide range of topics.  What many don’t know is that Wikipedia also has a darker side that is not well known to the average user.

This darker side of Wikipedia stems from the fact that the information provided comes from an open group of contributors, resulting in unreliable data lacking proper sources.

Many teachers today prohibit students from using Wikipedia as a source in reports and research due to the anonymity and possibility for unconfirmed (or even falsified) information.

Wikipedia has also been a target for vandalism by unscrupulous individuals and advertisers as a way to gain traffic and increased exposure, or even to discredit and defame competitors.

The other major problem is brought on by the fact that anyone can become an editor, and by contributing to the site even gain administrator status (granting the power to block and ban users as well as lock and remove pages).

Examples:

One such example is that of the Wikipedia bio of  John Seigenthaler, Sr. (editor in chief of USA Today), in which falsified information was introduced and left unchanged for 4 months!

Another great example is that of the so called Wikipedia War on Gaming, in which articles involving traditional (and historical) gaming references and even classical games were defaced, locked, and even deleted in some cases.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia has even had problems in the past, including a short entry he created about a restaurant in South Africa that was put up for deletion because the restaurant wasn’t “notable” enough.

So the next time you find yourself on Wikipedia, remember that it can be a great resource of information, as long as you keep in mind that these are real human beings writing (and editing!) these articles (the elitist, arrogant, jealous, and spiteful creatures we are).

14 Comments

  1. Wikipedia is a great resource, I don't even know how many times it's popped up first in the SERP to answer whatever question I had. If you need to be sure, however, I suppose it pays to have access to a real encyclopedia. Anyone remember Encarta? I didn't think so. (hah)

  2. the problem is the students from today doesnt use the lexikon, they only use digital media to get informations

  3. wikipedia almost know everything , so its a nice source when u need to know something fast.

  4. i love wikipedia. ^^

  5. I really do not like it because it is not authority. Uneducated, dumb and wanna be smart ass people are the ones who are giving their opinions only. I think that it is fine if you are AWARE that a lot of what you might be reading might not be true then, go ahead and read it. BUT if you are not aware of this you will be pulling in a bunch of false data. This is NOT good.

  6. Interesting observation, I do use Wikipedia as reference but I can see your point. The same can be said of any website and its content though.

  7. yeah, but not just any website is set up to be an informational reference point. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Therefore there is an obligation to be dispassionate and accurate with the information it provides.

  8. Why is the discussion page on Wikipedia a wiki. Shouldn’t it be like a regular discussion page where it cant be deleted by anyone who wants?

  9. One problem with wikipedia is that the power of it’s content is with a few persons. Anyone can contribute but if there are different opinions then there is no good way to resolve whose opinion will be stated in wikipedia. The way it is now it’s not the educated opinion, it’s the popular opinion. Or rather, it’s the opinion of the loud few who wants to spread their word.

  10. Having contributed to an article in the past and then seeing your contributions randomly edited, moved and deleted by various editors is quite counter productive.

    Essentially there seems to be a couple of views on information in Wikipedia.
    1) The strict Encyclopedia version where all information should be referenced, irrefutable and censored by the editors according to strict guidelines, templates and as mentioned above a public consensus that may be biased according to the editors cultural and country background.

    2) The more open version where any useful information about a subject is included, unless obviously false of course. There really is no problem in including all potentially useful information, as long as the information is tagged according to reliability.

    These strategies represent different people and views that are at odds with each oter. The first category place great value on a smaller but technically correct content – while the second category places more value on including the lesser known facts about a subject.

    Personally I think the first category belongs in books, while the second is more suitable for research purposes – and that is certainly my number one reason for using Wikipedia at all.

    Additionally some editors may in effect be hired to author/edit/delete information much like the current lobbying activities of commercial or political interests. There is no good way currently to confirm or resolve such “hidden agendas”.

  11. Wikipedia has some accurate information, but many pages have become the subject of “Editing Wars” in which editors write something, then it gets deleted as it can’t be verified through an online link – then the deletion gets undone as the editor is angry over the deletion, and so on.

    Wikipedia also has a very stark, old-fashioned appearance. The addition of Wikipedia’s “Creative Commons” licenses makes it well nigh impossible to add a photo to any article, due to red tape surrounding permissions of copyright and re-use of the images. For celebrities, this means that a nice-looking, hard working actor or musician might get their photo deleted, whereas Osama Bin Laden has a (poor quality) mugshot. This is largely due to supe-editor nerds with names like Hullabaloo Wildenstern III, who have Wiki awards on their user pages, and have somehow entered the upper hierarchy of the Wikipedia Hivemind. They just go around deleting things whenever they feel like it.

    What with articles being deleted for lack of notability, and pictures being deleted without warning regardless of quality or how hard the editor worked to get permission, Wikipedia has become a shell of its former self and the very paragon of everything it claims not to be. Avoid it like the plague.

  12. Screw wikipedia!!!

  13. I’m actually writing a rant for my english exam in high school, and this is the topic I’ve chosen. The whole conflict of interests between those who like Wikipedia, and those who don’t. I mean, it’s one of the most well known online encyclopedias that I know of, and people say you can’t use it? Based upon the fact that some pages aren’t totally true, or misinformed?
    One of the comparisons I used was “Telling us to write an essay without Wikipedia (Because of the errors), is like telling us to shovel a driveway, without the shovel (because the shovel has a crack in it.)”

    My point is, nothing is perfect, but even so, it doesn’t mean it’s useless. They’re taking measures to prevent it. I can openly say that I’ve never once edited a page on wikipedia, though the only time I ever visit the page is at school for school purposes, and my school is blocked from editing.

    I might suggest having some sort of “verification” process, in which the user wishing to edit the page, has to have the change looked over by a higher up on the site.

  14. I have to agee with alot of what is being said. It can definitely be counter-productive with respect to submitting an unbiased article. I can’t believe I spent a day trying to get an article published and normal user nominating it for deletion and when all the squares were checked it was deleted just because and then there are users that have been a member for some time on there playing God…while harassing users submitting the articles. We also had an an unbiase person write an article and it was nominated. Guess it says alot when an administrator has to keep changing there screen name. I guess who really needs to be monitored is those with the power to monitor…which is almost always the case with a resource that gain notoriety.

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