Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Just a note on Wikipedia

I'm always telling my English 131 students not to trust Wikipedia as a reliable source.  Yes, I often turn to Wikipedia for information, but you have to always remember that the information there can be put up and changed by anyone at any time.

Yesterday, I saw proof of this.  When feminist theologian Mary Daly died two days ago, there was little news found on the internet covering it.   Yesterday, I noticed that her Wikipedia entry had been updated with her death date, but that was one of only three sites I could find reporting her death.  And, at the bottom of the first paragraph, the Wikipedia entry read, "Thankfully the bitch died on January 3, 2010." 

It didn't last long.  I flipped over to the page where you can see the site's history, to see if I could figure out either how to remove it or how to report it.  I achieved neither, and flipped back to the entry.  It was gone.  But the point is, for a brief point in time, that is how the entry read.  Go to any controversial figure at any given time, and you may find similar.  The pages are being constantly updated and changed, so these sorts of remarks don't last long, but the more controversial the figure, the more people are doing this sort of thing and the more likely that at any given moment you'll find something like this in the entry.  And sometimes it's not something as obviously biased as "Thankfully the bitch died."

Wikipedia is a great and useful project.  It definitely has its purpose.  But for me, for now, if you're taking an English class from me, anything from Wikipedia needs to be corroborated by a more reliable source.

3 comments:

Caroline said...

Very interesting... good example to remember. Thanks for reporting it publicly.

dtedac said...

I have noticed the same thing on several articles on Wikipedia. All you can do is try to fix them and keep them accurate. If you are the creator of an article, then you can try to assert some sort of dominion over it and make sure it stays accurate.

David

*Larry said...

I love wikipedia, but you highlight the fact that you have to follow up with more credible sources. When I am doing research, I utilize the "links" on the bottom of each wikipedia entry to find the actual source. If the source is credible, I use it! Thanks for the reminder