Wikipedia:Credibility

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Wikipedia's Credibility has improved during its lifetime. Wikipedia allows anyone to edit its contents and this can undermine its credibility. An illustrious professor could post content and a "troll" or uninformed individual could easily overwrite it, with or without a malicious agenda. Wikipedia addresses this concern with internal, continuous review of new edits.

Encyclopedia editors also examine accuracy in the entry Reliability of Wikipedia, compiling the results of international third-party assessments across various disciplines. The consensus: the encyclopedia is as accurate as other encyclopedias. And as Cathy Davidson, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, pointed out in "We Can't Ignore the Influence of Digital Technologies" (Chronicle of Higher Education, March 23, 2007), unlike comparable print sources, Wikipedia errors can be corrected and often are in a matter of hours after publication.

A quote from book, even by a supposed highly respected source, can be meaningless. A great many legitimate writers refer to things as they see or believe them to be. If called upon, they can properly say it was a minor reference, based on the best available information at the time, and said without malice. Encyclopedias only quote these opinions or references if they were documented with proofs and a minimum of one other verifiable supporting source for that documentation.

Numerous problems remain, including that of Wikipedia:Disinformation by those who edit with an agenda.

The question of Wikipedia credibility has been raised by a number of sources. A September 8, 2004 Washington Post article included the following:

  • Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., conceded that at its best, some Wikipedia entries reflect the collective wisdom of many contributors. He also stated: "The problem with an effort like that is that at other times, it may reflect just the wisdom -- or lack of wisdom -- of the last contributor."
  • Wales (Jimmy Wales) conceded that Wikipedia's quality may not be up to the level of Britannica. He also stated that the 236-year-old encyclopedia "had better watch out". Wikipedia is proposing to implement editorial controls soon that Wales thinks will put it on par with Britannica.
  • "That kind of quality is important, and we do believe we can reach that kind of quality within a year," he (Wales) said. Within a few weeks, Wales plans to propose a review process that would essentially allow certain articles to be flagged as "Wikipedia:Stable versions" so they could be included in print or CD-ROM versions. The way Wikipedia works now, anything can be edited almost endlessly. Editing could continue, but a new layer would be added that identified certain entry versions as attaining an editorial standard.

A dozen years later, Britannica had stopped printing. Wikipedia had grown much bigger. "Stable versions" had not become important, but the community had developed more complex processes and structures. It was attracting academic attention as a subject of study.

In 2014, Wikipedia:Pending changes was implemented to stabilize a few articles.

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