This is not a cut-and-dried issue, and we should treat it with respect.
Say you're tasked with quickly determining if a fact is true. You
decide to find at least two reputable sources mentioning the fact --
and moreover, you look briefly at each of their references, if any.
You're under deadline; so shaving 5 minutes off your search time a
dozen times a day is helpful.
Wikipedia offers a fast way to snag one of these sources. But is it
reputable enough to count? Or is it only useful as a portal to its
own references -- where you'll have to scour each one to see if it
contains the specific morsel of data you were searching for?
In theory, for some highly-edited articles, it /is/ reputable enough
to count, as are other encyclopedias or reporters -- that is, it
serves as confirmation that one or two reasonably-informed people did
basic background/literature checks and found something to be true. Of
course primary/secondary sources are far better still than these two
classes of information.
In practice, WP *gives the visual impression* that all articles are
comparably reputable. As such, it is problematic to include it
alongside the World Book as a tertiary source usable as "one of two"
sources verifying a claim.
Every active editor knows that not all articles -- not even all
finished-looking articles -- are equally reliable. Most of us have
our own reflexive "can I trust this revision" routines - scanning for
format quirks, or signs that a true style-guide expert has been here,
checking the talk page, checking the recent history.
We must find better ways to float this information up to the casual user.
 NB: if we fix our referencing system, this will no longer be true.
On 12/7/05, Daniel Mayer <maveric149(a)yahoo.com> wrote:
If true, oh crap:
From: [New York Times business editor] Larry Ingrassia
To: [Business staff]
You probably saw Kit Seelye's smart Week-in-Review story about inaccurate information
Wikipedia. In case you didn't, please take a look. Since the story ran, she has
received a number
of e-mail messages about other inaccurate information on Wikipedia. We shouldn't be
using it to
check any information that goes into the newspaper.
Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
Wikipedia-l mailing list