Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Jimmy Wales Says Students 'Should Use' Wikipedia

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the taking-himself-too-seriously dept.

Education 345

An anonymous reader writes "The BBC has up an article chatting with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Wales views the Wikipedia site as an educational resource, and apparently thinks teachers who downplay the site are 'bad educators'. '[A] perceived lack of authority ... has drawn criticism from other information sources. Ian Allgar of Encyclopedia Britannica maintains that, with 239 years of history and rigorous fact-checking procedures, Britannica should remain a leader in authoritative, politically-neutral information. Mr Allgar pointed out the trustworthy nature of paid-for, thoroughly-reviewed content, and noted that Wikipedia is still prone to vandalism.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

I Love it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21621939)

When I get the phirstus postus

Institutions (1, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 6 years ago | (#21621945)

Remember, educational institutions depend on a perception of sub-par education when it's acquired through any means other than them and their material. Not entirely unlike the RIAA and the DRM infatuation. If it's not learned through their facilities and one of their "trained educators", it can't possibly be real knowledge!

Re:Institutions (5, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622057)

I've had professors (PhD program in physics) say that they look stuff up on Wikipedia.

All the grad students look stuff up on it. There are lots [wikipedia.org] of [wikipedia.org] pretty scholarly [wikipedia.org] physics articles [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia, and it's a good place to go when you need to look something up or get guidance on a fundamental topic.

Of course, in physics, you're supposed to think about anything you read and confirm that it makes sense before you repeat it or believe it. This really should be true in all fields, but for some reason it's beaten into physicists' heads more than some others, I think.

Wikipedia is never the final authority on anything, but it's a good starting point. If you can't remember which one of Maxwell's equations has the minus sign, it's a quicker place than most (unless you have your copy of Jackson [wikipedia.org] at hand.)

Re:Institutions (2)

andruk (1132557) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622211)

Oh yeah? So how did quantum physics come about? You call that "making sense"? ;-)

But, yeah, as a physics undergrad, the Wikibooks come in very handy when the text book you *paid* for ends up not being able to describe some of the basic principles. Everything Feynman had a hand in producing also explains things extremely well.

Re:Institutions (4, Interesting)

Entropius (188861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622255)

As someone who tutors undergrads, I concur: a lot of the texts suck. :)

And, yes, while the Feynman Lectures were intended for undergrads, a whole lot of people use them to study for PhD quals.

Quantum physics makes a great deal of sense in the only way that physical theories can: it explains our observations, to an uncanny level. *Why* it should be this way we don't really know. Quantum mechanics really isn't terribly counterintuitive; it's just *different* than the rules that govern large collections of matter. Those rules -- macroscopic mechanics, classical electromagnetism, and so on -- are just what happens when you look at the limit of quantum mechanics when a great many particles act together.

Re:Institutions (2, Informative)

mustpax (983305) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622555)

Wikipedia Natural Science/Math articles are very useful. They really are the best place to start most of the time (so long as you don't end your "research" there).

Humanities are much trickier however. There are many more pitfalls when, say, paraphrasing Heidegger's definition of "Being." It is much easier to verify that a mathematical derivation follows the same steps as a cited source. So Wikipedia editors' reliance on primary sources can't always be taken at face value. For more obscure articles, key alternative interpretations can be missing as well. Incompleteness is Incorrectness' evil twin. [cinecultist.com]

I'm not saying Wikipedia is useless outside the hard sciences. Just keep in mind that other disciplines are not always so lucky.

Not a spec of Bias. (5, Insightful)

djcapelis (587616) | more than 6 years ago | (#21621963)

So they ask Jimmy Wales if he thinks his encyclopedia is a good resource and then pose the same question to Wikipedia's main competitor?

Well color me surprised at the answers.

yup (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21621971)

No matter how clean it gets, there's still instances like the Jeff Garlen article saying he was killed by a mountain goat or whatever for months and months and nobody fixed it. Anyone can still put anything on it which means all of it can't be 100% correct and that's that.

Re:yup (4, Insightful)

dangitman (862676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622229)

Anyone can still put anything on it which means all of it can't be 100% correct and that's that.

Not even Britannica is 100% correct, so I'm not sure there's any substance to the point you're trying to make.

Re:yup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622515)

So if someone prints that information in a book or host it in a non-*wikipedia.org domain it gets more credibility?

They are bad teachers (2, Insightful)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 6 years ago | (#21621989)

Every fact on Wikipedia has a link back to the primary source. All you have to do is tell kids to look up the fact from the primary source and cite that, and obviously not to cite it if there is no link back or they can't find the material. Any teacher who is too intellectually lazy to take the time to understand this is by definition a bad teacher. You aren't allowed to cite Britannica in any real class either, you have to follow the exact same procedure, so there is no difference. I don't even see how someone could defend a teacher who would lie to kids about the purpose of an encyclopedia.

Re:They are bad teachers (4, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622025)

Exactly. That's a policy worth following even at the level of internet debates. If someone asks me for a summary of a topic, I'll point them at the article. However, if what's called for is a discussion of one aspect, or an authoritative reference, WP is not the right answer. However, more and more I find that WP is the fastest way to find a good reference on a subject -- find the relevant article, look at the references section, and the odds are good there will be an appropriate link.

Knowing how to use, and more importantly, how not to use, and encyclopedia should be basic knowledge. Teachers should be teaching it, and shouldn't matter in the slightest what encyclopedia you use for a paper, because the reader will never know.

Re:They are bad teachers (1)

GospelHead821 (466923) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622327)

Golly, it's only 2:20 in the morning and I have already learned something today. All the way through high school, I was taught that encyclopedias were appropriate reference sources for papers. In fact, I don't think that any of my teachers even pointed out that the encyclopedia cites primary sources. By the time I was writing papers where it was necessary to consult primary sources, encyclopedias were hardly even worth looking at in the first place. That's a good piece of knowledge to have. When I have kids and they're struggling as much with their papers as I did, I'll direct their attention to the references at the bottom of their encyclopedia article and they'll have LOADS more about which to write.

Re:They are bad teachers (1)

cprael (215426) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622163)

No, every fact on Wiki has a link back to a source. That source might be a primary source, or it might be hearsay, or a first-person witness statement... with the inherent biases therein.

Found it interesting having a factual debate on a particular Wiki page about a particular fact.

Source A (me) was a first-person participant, but was barred from directly describing something since no original research is allowed to be posted on Wiki.

Source B was also a first-person participant, and agreed in private email about the facts of the matter.

Source C was also a first-person participant, but had gotten in a pissing match, oh, 15 years ago with source B. However, since he'd made a usenet post at the time, that was considered a "primary source" and thus was gospel. It was, however, wrong as stated at the time, and therefore wrong in Wiki. But wasn't allowed to be amended due to the sourcing rules.

Wiki is only as good as the last person who posts an edit. Nothing more or less. Its fact-checking controls _suck_.

Re:They are bad teachers (2, Informative)

capoccia (312092) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622315)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Reliable_source_examples#Are_USENET_postings_reliable_sources.3F [wikipedia.org]

Are USENET postings reliable sources?

Posts on USENET [wikipedia.org] are rarely regarded as reliable sources, because they are easily forged or misrepresented, and many are anonymous or pseudonymous.

One exception is that some authorities on certain topics have written extensively on USENET, and their writings there are vouched for by them or by other reliable sources. A canonical example is J. Michael Straczynski [wikipedia.org] , the creator of the television series Babylon 5 [wikipedia.org] , who discussed the show at length on Usenet. His postings are archived and authenticated on his website, and may be an acceptable source on the topic of Babylon 5 under the self-publication provision of WP:ATT. [wikipedia.org]

Re:They are bad teachers (1)

fhqwhgads (603131) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622199)

Really? I would say that is not the case based on my experience with Wikipedia. Having just done a rough count of those articles in the articles lacking sources category [wikipedia.org] , roughly 4% of all wikipedia articles are tagged as having no sources. And using an admittedly small sample of 20 random articles (discarding the disambiguation pages), only five were sourced - and that's including three stubs with one source apiece. I'm sure YMMV with that standard, however, as I came across 2 articles in the aforementioned category, which would be a disproportionally large.

Re:They are bad teachers (1)

WestCoastJTF (1192081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622251)

I don't even see how someone could defend a teacher who would lie to kids about the purpose of an encyclopedia.

Why not? You're defending something Wales didn't say in the article.

I guess RTFA is sort of like looking at a "primary source"...

Source criticism (3, Insightful)

sd.fhasldff (833645) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622291)

One of the most important lessons students can learn pre-college is, in my opinion, source criticism (a term which is unfortunately used mainly in a biblical context, which is NOT my usage here).

"A critical mind is a questioning mind" is a good lesson and should be taught at every level of education.

Virtually all sources are biased, in one way or another, and students need to be aware of this and treat the information in a manner befitting the source.

Wikipedia is just another source (not a primary one, of course, with a few exceptions) and should be treated like every other secondary source - with skepticism. The fortunate thing about Wikipedia - and one that makes it a much better secondary source than most others - is that there are abundant links to other sources (although not necessarily primary sources, which would be preferable).

Additionally, Wikipedia enables one to view the version history and a discussion of the article in question. This discussion can often be used to discern if there are any particular points of contention that one should be aware of. This shouldn't replace ones critical view of "accepted facts", of course.

In practice, we are inundated with such an overwhelming amount of "news", "facts" or interpretations of same, that we cannot possibly be highly critical of every single item. Instead we rely on the reputation of the source. It is important, however, that we routinely question the reputation of the source.

For teachers to ignore Wikipedia does not seem particularly insightful and one has to wonder whether the teachers in question are the same authoritarian breed of teachers that can wreck havoc on a young mind.

Re:They are bad teachers (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622319)

"Every fact on Wikipedia has a link back to the primary source."

Have you ever actually read Wikipedia? Is there a different one I'm not aware of? That statement is wrong in two major ways:

1) Many things do NOT have links. You can find whole articles full of nothing but [citation needed] or ones without even that. Many things have links to sources, however many don't. As such while it can potentially be useful for background research, it isn't like a scholarly paper where you are guaranteed a list of works cited. Maybe you get that, maybe you don't.

2) Equally important many of the sources are not primary and often no good. I can link to a page saying anything I wanted. If I wanted I could just make some shit up, post it on my own website, and link to it. Bam, there's a source. However that doesn't mean the source is any good or that the information is true. A reference to a source is only good if the source is accurate, and really to be useful it needs to be to a primary source (meaning for statistics from research you don't link to an article discussing someone's research, you link to the research itself).

Wikipedia really isn't a good starting point for a scholarly paper unless you know nothing about the topic and are looking for general background. A search through a good library collection is going to get you far more useful starting points, and the works cited from those will continue it. With Wikipedia it's a crap shoot. Maybe you get a good article, edited by experts, with proper citations that will lead you to material you can use. Maybe you get a page written by an idiot, that links to misinformation.

Re:They are bad teachers (5, Funny)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622323)

I fixed your edit to this discussion.

Revision as of Fri Dec 07, '07 11:52 PM:

Every fact on Wikipedia has a link back to the primary source. All you have to do is tell kids to look up the fact from the primary source and cite that, and obviously not to cite it if there is no link back or they can't find the material. Any teacher who is too intellectually lazy to take the time to understand this is by definition a bad teacher. You aren't allowed to cite Britannica in any real class either, you have to follow the exact same procedure, so there is no difference. I don't even see how someone could defend a teacher who would lie to kids about the purpose of an encyclopedia.

Revision as of Sat Dec 08, '07 01:23 AM:

Every fact on Wikipedia has a link back to the primary source {citation needed}. All you have to do is tell kids to look up the fact from the primary source and cite that {citation needed}, and obviously not to cite it if there is no link back or they can't find the material {citation needed}. Any teacher who is too intellectually lazy to take the time to understand this is by definition a bad teacher {citation needed}. You aren't allowed to cite Britannica in any real class either {citation needed}, you have to follow the exact same procedure {citation needed}, so there is no difference {citation needed}. I don't even see how someone could defend a teacher who would lie to kids about the purpose of an encyclopedia {citation needed}.

Re:They are bad teachers (1)

TheSeer2 (949925) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622435)

Sure every source has a link back. Maybe on the 0.1% of articles that have decent people working on them. For the rest, there's usually a "group" that reverts any attempt to remove uncited content.

Re:They are bad teachers (1)

tmk (712144) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622575)

Every fact on Wikipedia has a link back to the primary source.
No. There should be a link to every source but this goal is far from being achieved. And most sources used in Wikipedia are those that can be found with Google, not the actual primary sources.

Re:They are bad teachers (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622617)

"...All you have to do is tell kids to look up the fact from the primary source and cite that, and obviously not to cite it if there is no link back or they can't find the material..."

Wikipedia vandalism by the elite assessors with their secret mailing lists now comprises cutting out all reference to anything they don't approve of. So this advice will leave you (in some cases) with a biased and one-sided view of a subject.

Luckilly, the Illuminatii who control access to this knowledge all seem to be American. So if you look at a non-American topic it will probably be undefiled. Anything the Americans have an interest in, however, will be presented in a biased way.

So what the teachers should be saying is:

  - Don't use it for American politics.
  - When you use it for technical issues, ignore references to the long list of Americans who are claimed to have invented whatever it is.
  - Don't use it for American history.
  - It's probably ok for Geography and Maths, but don't expect decent coverage of any non-American place
  - Don't use it for any reference to records or extreme human endeavor - non-American instances will be ignored
  - .....
  -

Re:They are bad teachers (2, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622651)

Every fact on Wikipedia has a link back to the primary source. All you have to do is tell kids to look up the fact from the primary source and cite that, and obviously not to cite it if there is no link back or they can't find the material. Any teacher who is too intellectually lazy to take the time to understand this is by definition a bad teacher.

As has been recently brought up [slashdot.org] , Wikipedia is not above corruption. It can be used to push an agenda, simply by leaving out sources which contradict your agenda and linking to those which agree with it. If you aren't already familiar with the subject (which would make Wikipedia unneccessary), how are you going to notice ?

No, a teacher who tells his students to not trust Wikipedia is right. It can't be trusted, at least not for anything the people in charge of it are likely to care about. Of course the exact same is true of Encyclopedia Britannica and any imaginable source.

So... what does that leave us with ? A healthy amount of suspicion for any information source, I'd hope. And I truly hope that students learn mistrust and suspicion, rather than blindly believing anyone who can get at least one other creep to agree with them.

vandalism (1)

CapsLock343 (1046372) | more than 6 years ago | (#21621997)

The bus is prone to vandalism. I should stop using that.

Sure they should, sorta (5, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21621999)

Students should definitely use Wikipedia as a good place to find real sources. Of course, if they actually cite it, they're freakin' insane and should go back and re-learn how to research.

Re:Sure they should, sorta (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622073)

it's useful as a general resource to become nominally informed like any other web page. the previous statement is compatible with it being full of mistakes because it should be used as a good enough reference not an authoritative source of information (some articles are quite good, others are horrible)

Re:Sure they should, sorta (4, Interesting)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622105)

It's possible to cite Wikipedia, but one thing as a student is that you must learn how to be critical of your sources. If Wikipedia is one source among others it's one thing but as any sole source of information it may be utterly wrong. No dictionary is free of errors.

It also depends on your point of view if you think that some information is correct or not.

And don't forget - Wikipedia may actually contain original information from time to time and that's worth to consider. Just because some abuses the tool doesn't mean that the tool is useless. On the contrary - it means that the tool is actually useful enough to draw the interest of abusers. The only catch is to identify the abusers.

Re:Sure they should, sorta (2, Insightful)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622289)

And don't forget - Wikipedia may actually contain original information from time to time and that's worth to consider. Just because some abuses the tool doesn't mean that the tool is useless. On the contrary - it means that the tool is actually useful enough to draw the interest of abusers. The only catch is to identify the abusers.

Wikipedia policy is to not contain original information [wikipedia.org] , so you shouldn't be looking for it there.

Re:Sure they should, sorta (4, Insightful)

Zibblsnrt (125875) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622433)

One other thing that a student must learn is that encyclopedias typically aren't useful material for citation in the first place. If you're doing research at anything beyond a fifth-grade library project, you need to get your information from grownup books. If a student of mine used Wikipedia, Britannica, or any other encyclopedia or encyclopedoid thing in a paper, I wouldn't recognize it as a valid source for citation, and neither would (or should) most other educators at the high school or university levels.

Re:Sure they should, sorta (1)

MarcoF (1165863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622353)

"Students should definitely use Wikipedia as a good place to find real sources. Of course, if they actually cite it, they're freakin' insane and should go back and re-learn how to research." I couldn't have said it better, see my own thoughts on why Wikipedia should never be used as a real source here: http://digifreedom.net/node/61 [digifreedom.net]

I consider citing Wikipedia okay... (1)

r6144 (544027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622523)

...if the student can understand the stuff on Wikipedia but the primary source is too difficult for him. It's not good to cite an encyclopedia, but it is at least better than citing something you don't properly understand.

The smart way to cite Wikipedia (1)

SamP2 (1097897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622591)

It's no secret that many teachers and profs dislike WP. This is what I do when I need research:

1. Go to WP and look up the subject
2. Visit the references of the article
3. Use those references in my work, quoting directly from them
4. Cite those references in my work
5. Never cite Wikipedia

This way, I achieve:

1. Making it seem like I did an assload of research on my own, with lots of good sources cited. WP does most of the work for me in not only providing reasonably realiable sources (well, most of the time), but also due to NPOV policies I can get sources which are from different perspectives, and offer a comprehensive coverage of citations in my own work.
2. Didn't mention the Wikipedia they don't want to see
3. No plagiarism, since I didn't quote anything from WP itself but only from the sources it used. Everything I did followed the letter of academic honesty, if not the spirit.

rubish... (5, Insightful)

Slurpee (4012) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622001)

I'm a student doing my second degree in a fairly rigorous academic institution. This time it is a humanity degree (As opposed to my first degree - Computer Science).

There is no way referencing Wikipedia is OK. It's not peer reviewed. Not only is the information often wrong, but the information it does has is very biased (which is OK - all information is biased, but you need to see the whole range). Referencing Wikipedia is like saying "Some random guy on the internet once said...". Not exactly a lot of weight.

But using Wikipedia for a starting point - that's a good thing to do. When researching a new subject, I will often read Wikipedia for initial information, and use the sources it cites as a starting point.

Re:rubish... (5, Insightful)

Alaria Phrozen (975601) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622231)

It's not peer reviewed.
I'm sorry.. what? Wikipedia isn't peer reviewed?

Re:rubish... (1)

Zibblsnrt (125875) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622517)

I'm sorry.. what? Wikipedia isn't peer reviewed?

If someone's got advanced degrees in a subject they've been studying for five or ten or thirty years, I somehow doubt they're going to consider J. Random Wikipedian to qualify as a "peer" as far as expertise or experience go.

Peer review (3, Interesting)

McDutchie (151611) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622641)

It's not peer reviewed.
I'm sorry.. what? Wikipedia isn't peer reviewed?

You're kidding... right?

Just in case you're not, you might want to read about peer review [wikipedia.org] (at Wikipedia, of all places) as you don't seem to have a clue what it is...

Wikipedia can misappropriate the term "peer review" for itself all it wants, but that doesn't make it peer reviewed.

Re:rubish... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622351)

"often wrong" -- anything to back up that up? Because it seems it is the other way.

Re:rubish... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622363)

And what humanity article are you going to find that's peer reviewed? Most articles are going to be position papers, not scientific ones. I find Wikipedia a really good source to cite* when defining definitions or looking up statistics - it's going to be about as accurate as any other paper out there. Furthermore, considering that Wikipedia has been found to be about as accurate, if not moreso, than established encyclopedias, then it stands to reason that when citing Wikipedia, you should follow the exact same format as you would with any other encyclopedia.

* By cite, obviously you cite the specific article you're referencing, so that the transitive nature of WP doesn't impact your reference. Also, I like to check out the discussion page to make sure there's no dispute regarding accuracy about what I'm referencing - otherwise, I try to find another source.

Re:rubish... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622385)

There is no way referencing Wikipedia is OK. Not only is the information occassionally wrong, but the information it does have is sometimes biased (which is OK - all you need to do is look through the history page). Referencing Wikipedia is like saying "Some random peer reviewed articles on the internet once said...". Not exactly a lot of weight.
Fixed some of that for you. [I know it's popular to rag on wikipedia, but please stop the hyperbole.]

Re:rubish... (1)

Derosian (943622) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622429)

Not only is the information often wrong, but the information it does has is very biased (which is OK - all information is biased, but you need to see the whole range). Good thing you're going back to college.

Re:rubish... (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622565)

I think you miss the point of your own argument. Yes, it is common knowledge that you can't reference Wikipedia, but I don't think you correctly argue why.

To make it clear, Wikipedia is a peer reviewed reference. It is *often* either correct, or so obviously wrong (i.e. vandalized) that it does not matter. Most people who argue it is biased don't realize anyone can hit the "edit" or "discussion" button on the top. This is all irrelvant in the academic world, hoever. You do not reference a secondary source - ever. You don't reference Britannica, you don't reference Wikipedia. If you want to reference something, you should find the original source, to avoid any sort of introduced bias or misinformation.

The less channels of information you go through, the better - this is the primary reason why you should never reference Wikipedia. As far as Jimmy Wales' original point? Yes, I think students should use Wikipedia because it is an excellent secondary source. At the same time, students should learn the shortcomings of secondary sources as well as Wikipedia's shortcomings specifically.

Vandalism is overblown. (5, Insightful)

L4m3rthanyou (1015323) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622011)

I can't stand it when teachers or professors prohibit Wikipedia as a source of accurate information. Of course it's subject to vandalism and other issues, but so is any other source. That is why all research should make use of multiple sources. If something is incorrect in an article, a good researcher will find discrepancies with other info.

Even when it's not allowed as a direct source, Wikipedia is always a great first stop to find more information about something.

Re:Vandalism is overblown. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622249)

A big problem with Wiki is it has homosexual groups grossly manipulating anything to do with psychology and sexuality. Its sad really.

Wikipedia's Downplayed Because (4, Informative)

phalse phace (454635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622013)

its entries can too easily be cleaned [slashdot.org] , editted [slashdot.org] and whitewashed [slashdot.org] that it can't be trusted as a reliable source of information.

Hitting a moving target (2, Insightful)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622017)

Quoted: "students should be able to reference the online encyclopaedia in their work"

The problem there lies in referencing something which is changeable.

You reference it,
Someone edits the article,
Your reference is potentially no longer valid.

Referencing the 2006 edition of Britannica is fairly straightforward.

Referencing the 7:13 AM EST July 24th, 2007 version of a Wiki article on the other hand....

Now, his comment about how Wikipedia should be seen as a 'stepping stone' to other sources is 100% on the mark. Great for a basic understanding and the in-text links to related material make for better overall understanding.

Re:Hitting a moving target (5, Informative)

interiot (50685) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622029)

See that "Cite this article" link on the left column of Wikipedia?

Click on it. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Hitting a moving target (2, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622075)

See that "Cite this article" link on the left column of Wikipedia?

How well does that work when the articles get deleted [slashdot.org] ? If Wikipedia was append-only, sure, but entire articles go missing all too often to ever reliably cite.

Re:Hitting a moving target (2, Insightful)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622087)

Not well at all. However, if the article is deleted, then it's probably going to have happened because it wasn't notable enough (yes, very controversial), it probably didn't cite any sources so you'd be an idiot to cite it in the first place, or it was defamatory - in which case, again, you'd be an idiot to cite it in a paper.

Re:Hitting a moving target (1)

Zibblsnrt (125875) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622545)

Or it's about a subject that some "I know nothing about this therefore shouldn't be here" guy stumbled over and stirred up a deletion campaign (or two or three or twenty) out of some misguided spite.

Anyone who claims the only articles on Wikipedia that get deleted are those which 'need' to be needs to lay off the paint chips.

Re:Hitting a moving target (2, Informative)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622045)

That is not accurate. Citing from Wikipedia is actually extraordinarily easy to do. You read some information that is good that you want to reference. You go to the toolbox, then click on "Cite this article".

Example: I read about Krill [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia. I think the information is well sourced and written. I decide to cite it. I click on "Cite this page", which takes me to this link [wikipedia.org] , which provides me with 7 different citation styles, including APA, MLA, Bluebook and Chicago style citations. If that isn't enough, then I just use the info in the box labelled "Bibliographic details for 'Krill'".

Try doing that with the EB, or in fact any other online journal.

Re:Hitting a moving target (2, Informative)

potpie (706881) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622085)

Try looking at the "history" tab of the article. Not only can you view the page as it was at that certain time, but you can compare the page with later or newer versions with a special tool that hilights alterations in red.

Re:Hitting a moving target (1)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622097)

Not to mention that you can also use "Cite this article" in the toolbar box on specific revisions. :-)

Re:Hitting a moving target (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622095)

You reference it,
Someone edits the article,
Your reference is potentially no longer valid.
Go to the article's history page and select the appropriate historical version (can be the latest). That way, you get a link to a page that should not change, since it is a link to snapshot in time.

Re:Hitting a moving target (1)

buxton2k (228339) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622329)

The parent nailed the real issue with Wikipedia: it's changeable - and that means the student can change it too.

I love Wikipedia - I can spend (waste) hours there. But when I was teaching Public Speaking and Argument These are classes where students needed to provide evidence, but which didn't necessarily demand intense, formal academic research into whatever subject they'd picked to speak or write about. While an encyclopedia might have been sufficient (sometimes) as a source, I never let my students cite it (although invariably many did and I had to mark them down).

There are really two very distinct goals in researching and citing others' works. One is to develop your knowledge, so that what you say is more informed. Wikipedia is great for this, as are other encyclopedias, so long as you don't need to become too specialized an expert.

The second is buttress your opinion and credibility. Citations do this by demonstrating that what you are claiming has been claimed by some credible third party.

When it comes down to the line, in a class setting, it can never be a final citation in and of itself. This is not simply because it is changeable; more significantly, the student him/herself could have changed it to reflect what they want to say. There is simply no way for the teacher to be able to determine this.

Inaccurate summation of Jimbo's words (4, Insightful)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622021)

This says that Jimbo believes that those teachers who "downplay" Wikipedia are "bad educators". That's not actually what he said!

"You can ban kids from listening to rock 'n' roll music, but they're going to anyway," he added. "It's the same with information, and it's a bad educator that bans their students from reading Wikipedia."


Note that he says this about those who fully ban students from reading Wikipedia. He doesn't say that those who "downplay" the project are bad educators, he says that those who fully ban students from even reading the website are bad. And you know what? He's right, as that's censorship. Those teachers who undertake bans are bad - they do a great disservice to their students. Sure, criticise Wikipedia, but don't ban it! in life students need to be able to read a source critically and at least assess what is being written. Banning it doesn't help build critical faculties. I should also point out that as a first source for information, in general Wikipedia can be really good.

Re:Inaccurate summation of Jimbo's words (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622269)

Note that he says this about those who fully ban students from reading Wikipedia. He doesn't say that those who "downplay" the project are bad educators, he says that those who fully ban students from even reading the website are bad.

But this is a problematic statement, because he's attacking a stawman. Is there any evidence of teachers banning students from simply reading Wikipedia? I know many teachers ban their students from citing Wikipedia, but that's nothing like banning students from reading it. So, who is he referring to?

OMG Vandalism! (2, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622033)

and noted that Wikipedia is still prone to vandalism

Yeah, that would suck if because of vandalism on Wikipedia kids wrote in papers that the Earth is the largest planet in the world [wikipedia.org] , or that Mark Taddonio built the pyriamids (sic) [wikipedia.org] .

Re:OMG Vandalism! (1)

SagSaw (219314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622101)

Yeah, that would suck if because of vandalism on Wikipedia kids wrote in papers that the Earth is the largest planet in the world, or that Mark Taddonio built the pyriamids (sic).

And if they did, it would be an excellent opportunity to discuss critical evaluation of an article's claims, the value of having multiple sources, etc.

Wikipedia's value is that it gives the reader a broad overview of a topic and then points the reader (at least in the better articles) to more detailed and authoritative sources.

Re:OMG Vandalism! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622301)

they also might accidentally include references to FatSlut

Re:OMG Vandalism! (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622305)

Earth isn't the largest planet in the world? If you define "the world" as Earth (as most people do), then it definitely is.

Re:OMG Vandalism! (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622589)

Earth isn't the largest planet in the world? If you define "the world" as Earth (as most people do), then it definitely is.

O RLY? How insightful! Thanks, Captain Obvious! Obviously it is, but it's an absurd claim, aduh! I didn't claim it was a false claim, only that it was vandalism.

Re:OMG Vandalism! (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622659)

"vandalism" (and still waiting for an acceptable definition of that) like that in the parent is not a problem. The real issue is with the subtle changes in historical and political pages. Change one or two words and you can change the whole perception of facts. It's not easy to see those changes, and yet those changes go on all the time on Wikipedia.

And there are admins who are involved in that process. We all know about the Ayn Rand issues here. That's just one example among many.

There is a fundamental lack of trust in the Wikipedia foundation. Any attempts to validate Wikipedia -- like this one -- need to be heavily scrutinized, and rejected until such time as transparency and honesty are part of the Wikimentality (probably never).

If only Wikipedia would stop trying to be important, it would naturally become so over time. It's great for zeitgeist and trivia, but the vanity of Jimmy and his cabal try to push it beyond that. It, thus, becomes less free, less fun, and of less value.

Lazy Teachers = Lazy Students (3, Insightful)

PolarBearFire (1176791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622041)

I use Wikipedia all the time but always with a grain of salt. When you're in college, they should stress more at looking through primary sources of information. People think they're so smart on the internet when they read about scams, corruption and controversy and react with unimformed ideas. Even on Slashdot this is very prevalent where people just react at topic titles, not bothering to take 2 minutes to read through the information. People always complain about the media or politicians influencing the masses. But what about the masses? They only read the shit the media and politicians put out. This is the age of information and almost everything is available online we should better make use of it. There's a growing trend of people spamming Youtube and everywhere else with scientific hoaxes and conspiracy theories. The first few times, I've found them funny, because I can see through them almost immediately and some of them are pretty cleverly done. But then, I found that alot of people were taken by erroneous info. Then I felt very sad indeed.

Wikipedia and pulp culture... (4, Informative)

nweaver (113078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622047)

IS it just me, or is Wikipedia best suited for pulp culture trivia...

Eg, it is a great resource if you want to learn about say, Cop-Tur [wikipedia.org] of the Go-Bots [wikipedia.org] (eg, if you are wondering about a random Robot Chicken [wikipedia.org] episode).

As an academic resource, it is nonciteable and nontrustable, due to the volatile nature and anonymous content.

(Admittedly, I have edited Wikipedia to add corrections. But I would never cite it, but instead use it as a smarter google for some topics)

Re:Wikipedia and pulp culture... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622185)

IS it just me, or is Wikipedia best suited for pulp culture trivia...

It's useless for that because that's the stuff they like to delete [slashdot.org] . Well, maybe not useless as long as you don't attach any weight whatsoever to a subject not being listed in it.

Re:Wikipedia and pulp culture... (1)

WestCoastJTF (1192081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622235)

IS it just me, or is Wikipedia best suited for pulp culture trivia...

Wikipedia sucks for pulp culture trivia. There is a ton of information on 1920s-1950s mystery/sf/adventure magazine short stories that is completely missing.

It's not bad for pop culture trivia, though, but who cares about that crap?

Re:Wikipedia and pulp culture... (3, Interesting)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622395)

As an academic resource, it is nonciteable and nontrustable, due to the volatile nature and anonymous content.
I can't speak for all "academic" topics, but I find Wikipedia to be extremely reliable on the math topics I've looked up there. Sometimes the Wikipedia article does a better job of explaining a topic than the textbook for which I shelled out $125. Maybe that's a bizarre anomaly caused by a small number of math geeks taking the time to make the articles useful and correct, though. Is it really so unreliable for other topics?

Re:Wikipedia and pulp culture... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622425)

That's what I use it for. I've found the "scientific" articles to be VERY uneven. Some of them are quite good, some use very sloppy and imprecise language and look like 40 people edited them (duh). The articles on database theory, for instance, are almost all trash, apparently written by Ruby on Rails programmers or other people who never studied basic database concepts in their life. I was just reading a nutrition-related article that was completely incoherent, with paragraphs contradicting other paragraphs.

Re:Wikipedia and pulp culture... (1)

Zibblsnrt (125875) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622551)

I came across one the other day that was written entirely in the second person.

That someone would write a multiparagraph article like that was too weird a thing to even annoy me. I need to find it again..

Re:Wikipedia and pulp culture... (1)

ZombieRoboNinja (905329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622593)

Nonciteable and nontrustable it may be (not that those are words), but it's still often a decent place to start, if just to scroll down to the references and external links at the bottom of an entry.

I consider it basically the same as asking a question on Slashdot. You may get lies, stupidity, and egregious stories about pooping in response to your query, but there are generally a few informed people who can at least point you in the right direction.

Wikipedia is not a source that can be trusted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622049)

I was recently doing research on a composer and thought for interest, I'd read the Wikipedia article. I then checked out the sources and discovered that the sources said the exact OPPOSITE of what the Wikipedia article said.

I also find the articles to be fairly politically charged.

I think that if parents are investing in the internet for their children's education, that they just might be better off investing in a britannica set. Having that quality information right in the home is a really strong statement in support of learning, reading and knowledge.

Re:Wikipedia is not a source that can be trusted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622091)

And what better way to educate than to provide a constantly evolving set of information that can be referenced in a way as to locate fact and fiction and to distinguish between the two?

Re:Wikipedia is not a source that can be trusted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622141)

Saying that Wikipedia is useful as a Where's Waldo style 'Fact or Fiction' game is fine, I guess ... but that isn't what Wikipedia is about, and I don't think it's what people are going to Wikipedia to do.

This discussion is about whether Wikipedia should be used as a scholarly source, not as an exercise in finding crappily written articles.

Re:Wikipedia is not a source that can be trusted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622181)

I don't believe you. Please, show me. And don't say you fixed it--I want to read the inaccurate version; it can undoubtedly be located in the history tab.

How far along is wikipedia into it's corruption? (2, Interesting)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622053)

It used to be Free and open.

Now it has secret overlords and secret mailing lists.

Anyone notice lately less and less pages can be edited?

How long until the same people who puppet the US mainstream media have total control?
Without TOTAL transparency wikipedia is nothing but a half-rotten corpse.

Re:How far along is wikipedia into it's corruption (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622079)

I agree. I was labeled a vandalist for adding some info on a new entry. That made less interested in the future of wikipedia.

I think wikipedia is becoming a tool of propagandists and commercial interests. Alot of stupid entries like one for some Taco restuarant. Dumb.

Re:How far along is wikipedia into it's corruption (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622309)

if your company has financial dealings with wikimedia suddenly whole sections of WP: don't apply to you. conflicts of interest are OK, non-notable articles are great, and editwarring anyone who points this out will get them banned not you.

Re:How far along is wikipedia into it's corruption (1)

Zibblsnrt (125875) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622557)

Anyone notice lately less and less pages can be edited?

Now that you mention it I am kind of curious as to what percentage of the pages are locked or under some other kind of protection policy. Anyone have those numbers?

Not a primary source. (2, Insightful)

Inmatarian (814090) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622055)

Encyclopedias in general are not allowed to be cited in essays and research papers. They're starting points, providing cursory information on a subject and, at best, giving terms and vocabulary to begin a search into the real meat of the subject.

239 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622065)

of smug, inbread, pompousness...

and they're suddenly very afraid. ;)

too bad everybody remembers the study which concluded that their work contains about the same amount of errors as wikipedia. let's see them put their shit online for free...

Re:239 years (1)

Edie O'Teditor (805662) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622439)

smug, inbread
The cake is a lie?

So if it's paid for, it's 100% accurate? (2, Insightful)

Gnea (2566) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622067)

I don't think so. Even something as free-formed as wikipedia has caveats as well. Both have their strengths and weaknesses:

- one's free, the other isn't.
- one's updated in the blink of an eye many times to be filtered, altered, retouched, changed and quite possibly modified; the other has to wait a year to be filtered, altered, retouched, changed and quite possibly modified.
- one requires a computer, the other requires a lamp or the sun.
- one weighs many pounds and takes up space, the other can fit in one's pocket without ripping a hole in it.
- one requires an internet connection, the other requires a decent wage.
- one provides faster access to cross-information than the other.
- one provides constant access to information than the other.
- one could break your back, the other could break your carpal tunnel.
- both are enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee or tea.
- both provide the potential to provide the answers that people are looking for.
- both are used extensively whether anyone likes it or not.
- both will continue to be used extensively whether anyone likes it or not.
- anyone that would condone burning either to the ground could be considered to be a nazi.
- the definition of nazi can be found in either one.
- the world will continue to rotate on an axis whether or not either one exists or flourishes.
- one should generate a printed volume, the other should provide an online edition.
- both provide the information required that proves that competition works better than monopolies do in more ways than the other.

This is interesting... (2, Interesting)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622077)

The BBC says that "Mr Allgar pointed out the trustworthy nature of paid-for, thoroughly-reviewed content, and noted that Wikipedia is still prone to vandalism ... but Britannica and Wikipedia should not be seen as direct competitors. Wikipedia, he said, had made the use of encyclopaedias "trendy and popular" with young people, which could only benefit Britannica's subscription-led service."

That's a new tack! This has basically been the same thing that the WMF has been saying for years now [wikimedia.org] ("Wikipedia, and all Wikimedia Foundation projects, are not in competition to EBI or other companies in the business of reference works. Our goals differ significantly from other reference publishers, and only overlap in that we are all striving to create accurate and useful knowledge tools.")

Is this a turning point in relations between the two projects? Are we going to see an end to the stupidity of Robert McHenry style "toilet" comparisons?

So many times when people fight technology (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622083)

those people show themselves to be irrelevant to the younger audience (in perception). Also, they are not engaging the students in a meaningful way and don't overcome the myth that the "old school" methods are all outdated and worthless.

I often think wikipedia is an excellent source in itself and for deeper knowledge, a reasonable starting point. Too often, the oft-heard admonishment "dig deeper!" does not always apply to students using wikipedia as their single source for a report, but also by the teachers criticizing wikipedia - usually they scan the surface of one edit of one article to look for those errors - while wholly ignoring the revealing and complete log of wikipedias discussions and history behind that single article. Behind that one surface, you get most of the interesting parts of a subject -- the common misunderstandings, misperceptions, and myths. The genuine points of contention and controversy and the gray areas where the truth is not wholly understood or available.

Instead, teachers indulge of what they criticize in their students - intellectual lethargy. Personally, I like what this professor is doing with wikipedia:
http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20071030-prof-replaces-term-papers-with-wikipedia-contributions.html [arstechnica.com]

It's about the smartest embrace of wikipedia I have seen so far.

Oh, the irony... (2, Insightful)

Z80xxc! (1111479) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622111)

There have been two articles this week about Wikipedia's politics and internal ring of over-powered admins. And then Jimbo Wales tells us that students should use Wikipedia. Are they running out of people to block, is that the problem? Add some student users, then we can block them, too!

Re:Oh, the irony... (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622129)

If Wikipedia strikes them down now, they shall become more powerful than you can imagine.

Re:Oh, the irony... (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622325)

if wikipedia strikes them down they will be legion, they will not forgive, they will become horrible uncaring monsters, and they will still deliver.

No conflict of interest here, of course. (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622117)

I'm sure the folks over at Encyclopedia Britannica are yielding only their highly objective, unbiased opinion on the matter... this is somewhat reminiscent of a certain large software company's "Get the Facts" campaign against a competing family of operating systems.

Re:No conflict of interest here, of course. (4, Insightful)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622299)

Whereas, of course, Jimbo Wales, founder of Wikipedia, and the for profit enterprise Wikia, at least we know he has no vested interested in selling the benefits of his works over EB, right?

Wait, what?

Self inflicted Vandalism Based On What We Read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622121)

Based on what we have been reading about Wikipedia, it sounds like a significant amount of what is wrong is propagated by the editors. I used to look to it for useful information on specific subjects. Not any more. They have convinced me that they are more interested in advancing a point of view than valid information.

Inaccurate article (1)

Titoxd (1116095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622147)

Straight from the horse's mouth: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User_talk:Jimbo_Wales&diff=prev&oldid=176450863 [wikipedia.org]

I don't know if there is a video or audio anywhere, but I said basically the same things that I always say. If you have seen any of my speeches where I address these questions, well, I said what I always say. (Basically, teachers can use wikipedia as a teaching opportunity to help students better assess information sources. Wikipedia has strengths and weaknesses. An outright ban is silly... you can tell students not to listen to rock and roll music, too. But accepting wikipedia as a citable source is not really right either.)--Jimbo Wales 22:03, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
Which is true. Citing Wikipedia as a source is stupid. Checking Wikipedia for sources, in the other hand, is not that bad of an idea.

Never consider any Encyclopedia to be reliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622191)

Past middle school it is unacceptable to use any encyclopedia as a source. With very few exceptions.

1. A source for general information on a subject, to find other avenues of research.

2. If the encyclopedia lists sources, then as a tool for finding primary information.

For this, both the Britannica and Wikipedia are equal in accuracy, but should be trusted no further, and should never be cited as supporting information.

Re:Never consider any Encyclopedia to be reliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622313)

And that begs the question: are you referring to public or private middle school?

If I let you in you'll sell me encyclopedias (2, Funny)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622243)

I find this sketch [orangecow.org] particularly apropos somehow. (Or this [youtube.com] while it lasts.)

Look shiny stuff! (1)

conares (1045290) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622337)

/me sez students should shut up in class and do their homework...but hey, thats just /me

A librarian's perspective (1)

smurgy (1126401) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622451)

As a professional-level librarian I often Wikipedia as a starting source for research - far more than I would use Britannica, especially the print edition.

They both have their strengths and weaknesses - vandalism and the wars that rage over obscure topics being Wikipedia's (how many serious reference queries begin with the question "Did Jimmy Wales really market softcore porn"?). The big fault with Britannica is rather more serious - Britannica is appalling for currency. Why? Apart from the fact that Wikipedia relies on fanatics of various sorts who provide up-to-the-minute information (which is then edited by more moderate types interested in maintaining balance and so on) Britannica must operate from a fixed budget out of which it can pay a comparitively far more limited range of editors. That article you're looking at in Britannica could easily be 10 years out of date or more if it's at that end of its review cycle.

Clearly this means that for the researcher who is using a "starter" source, they can get a more accurate quick coverage of the salient details (and particularly keywords which are of fundamental use in starting a new path of research) out of Wikipedia which they can then use to embark on more detailed exploration.

In essence Britannica is an altar to worship at; Wikipedia is a hack, and a damn good one - when used intelligently, as all good hacks are.

"Reliability" of Encyclopedia Brittanica (2, Interesting)

cattywhumpus (1098231) | more than 6 years ago | (#21622463)

Stuff and nonsense. Tests have shown that Wikipedia is about as reliable as the Brittanica. I myself found multiple errors in the edition of EB I owned, including a spectacularly misidentified orchid genus in a photograph. Wikipedia gets it accuracy by a completely different method than a conventional enecyclopedia, but it works and apparently works about as well. This is something that the Brittanica and others simply can't get their heads around and it leads them to some very silly statements. Now please note neither an encyclopedia or Wikipedia is considered an authorative source for serious (ie, grown-up) research. They are both however good at getting you oriented and giving you places to start. My EB? Went to Goodwill long ago. I can get far more current, and more accurate, information off the web (not from Wikipedia) -- provided of course I exercise a little critical analysis.

German Wikipedia better than printed encyclopedia (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21622677)

There's an article in the current issue of the German magazine Stern [stern.de] about a comparison between articles in the German Wikipedia and the Brockhaus [wikipedia.org] (a renowned German encyclopedia) done by a research institute. Surprisingly (well, not for everyone), almost all tested articles in Wikipedia were better then their equivalents in Brockhaus.

See http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/153663.html [earthtimes.org]
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?