On 12/8/05, SJ <2.718281828(a)gmail.com> wrote:
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?
And what if Wikipedia got the information from your first source? No,
I don't think this is ever a good thing to do. It might work most of
the time, but it's not a good idea.
In theory, for some highly-edited articles, it /is/
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.
It works at least some of the time, but I wouldn't say that makes it
reputable. Our reputation is that we'll allow anyone to publish
anything without even verifying the identity of that person, let alone
verifying the information. We're not reputable by any stretch of the
If you want to start digging into the history and seeing how long a
fact has been there, and this fact is somehow prominent enough that it
probably would have been caught...well, by the time you do that you
might as well have just used a better source.
In practice, WP *gives the visual impression* that all
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.
The World Book wouldn't be *as* problematic, since at least that is
fact checked before being published, but I still don't see how you can
count an encyclopedia as one of two sources unless you know what the
source was that encyclopedia used (since it might be the same source).
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.
I'm not sure that it's a *must*, because I think Wikipedia serves an
important niche even without fact-checked information. I think it's
acceptable to let someone else worry about this, someone who's willing
to stand behind the encyclopedia as a *publisher*, not just a service
provider. But it would be nice to offer a trusted revision for a lot
of articles if not all of them.
I think that it's most important that whatever is done is done without
disturbing the process we have in place now.
On 12/7/05, Daniel Mayer <maveric149(a)yahoo.com>
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.
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