I had an argument with a couple of guys about the reliability of Wikipedia (see the links section). The following is a hastily written (and extemporaneous) defense of the big wiki:
Hey guys,

You are right, some articles in Wikipedia are unreliable and I should have looked more thoroughly before quoting one about the Skull and Bones because it is actually one of the unreliable ones. So I’m wrong and you are right. I apologize for inconsistency.
Separate from this stupidness on my part, I do think Wikipedia is a reliable source of information, because even “experts” in a given field are prone to the same human weaknesses as everyone else, namely, bias, and one would expect that with an effectively infinite number of editing capabilities, wikipedia would tend toward what is the average in a range of interpretations.
Also, there is little incentive for someone to go to the trouble to publish false information on the site, since they would know that it would likely be deleted very quickly. On the other hand, people who are sincerely interested in a particular subject (for example, entomology), would have a great incentive to share their unique knowledge in an unrestricted way.
While wikipedia is not a perfect source of information (and a completely worthless source of information about original research or current events), I think it is vastly more valuable than the Encyclopedia Britannica because of the democratic nature of the editing process. After all, who is capable of deciding what is worth publishing and what is not? In the information world, no one should be a semantic tyrant. The rapid nature of information exchange makes real democracy possible, at least in some realms of our lives. Why would we want to shy away from the very principals our society was founded on, but never quite achieved? Besides, wikipedia has an entire section devoted to self-criticism, which is impossible in a published work. Wikipedia belongs in the same class as operating systems like Unix, which have open source code. If either of you have doubts about the stability (leaving questions of “user friendliness” aside) of open source operating systems in comparison to a traditionally designed one like Windows, I encourage you to ask a representative of the Computer Science Department. A growing number of businesses and government organizations use Unix/Linux for their servers, not Windows because it is much more efficient, stable, and secure.
Yes, wikipedia is controversial, and yes it is not perfect, but neither is a democratic system of government…
Think it over and let me know your opinion(s)
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