[Wikipedia-l] Article - Librarian: Don't use Wikipedia as source

Andrew Lih andrew.lih at gmail.com
Thu Aug 26 02:06:56 UTC 2004

I hesitate to even post this, because it's virtual flame-bait. :) But
with all the accolades Wikipedia receives in the press, you have to
take the knocks too.

This from the Syracuse Post-Standard and comes up with a very weak and
uninformed criticism of Wikipedia. I'm sure one of Jimbo's wonderful
standard letters will set this writer straight.

Andrew Lih (User:Fuzheado)
andrew.lih at gmail.com


Librarian: Don't use Wikipedia as source
Wednesday, August 25, 2004

In a column published a few weeks ago by my companion Dr. Gizmo,
readers were urged to go to the Wikipedia Web site at www.wikipedia.
org/wiki/Main Page , an online encyclopedia, for more information on
computer history. The doctor and I had figured Wikipedia was a good
independent source.

Not so, wrote a school librarian who read that article. Susan
Stagnitta, of the Liverpool High School library, explained that
Wikipedia is not what many casual Web surfers think it is.

It's not the online version of an established, well-researched
traditional encyclopedia. Instead, Wikipedia is a do-it-yourself
encyclopedia, without any credentials.

"As a high school librarian, part of my job is to help my students
develop critical thinking skills," Stagnitta wrote. "One of these
skills is to evaluate the authority of any information source. The
Wikipedia is not an authoritative source. It even states this in their
disclaimer on their Web site."

Wikipedia, she explains, takes the idea of open source one step too
far for most of us.

"Anyone can change the content of an article in the Wikipedia, and
there is no editorial review of the content. I use this Web site as a
learning experience for my students. Many of them have used it in the
past for research and were very surprised when we investigated the
authority of the site."

Stagnitta gives two quotes from the Wikipedia site that illustrate the problem.

>From the home page:

"Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written collaboratively by its readers.
The site is a Wiki, meaning that anyone, including you, can also edit
any article right now by clicking on the edit this page link that
appears at the top of every Wikipedia article."

>From the disclaimer page:


"Wikipedia is an online open-content encyclopedia, that is, a
voluntary association of individuals and groups who are developing a
common resource of human knowledge. Its structure allows any
individual with an Internet connection and World Wide Web browser to
alter the content found here.

"Therefore, please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily
been reviewed by professionals who are knowledgeable in the particular
areas of expertise necessary to provide you with complete, accurate or
reliable information about any subject in Wikipedia."

I was amazed at how little I knew about Wikipedia. If you know of
other supposedly authoritative Web sites that are untrustworthy, send
a note to technology at syracuse.com and let me know about them.

The best thing about the Web is also the worst thing: Information is
all over the place. You need to be careful about trusting what you

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