Teen perspective: Careful with that Wiki

Teen perspective: Careful with that Wiki

Summary: Wikipedia has pulled more than one students ashes out of the fire, but Stephen Colbert's antics should remind students to be wary.

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Soumya Srinagesh, an intern at News.com, who will enter Wellesley College this fall, offers some perspective on the Wikipedia debate. Wikipedia has been getting a solid drubbing in the media lately as being rife with defamation, lies and generally bad behavior.

Wikipedia is the reason I was able to finish my massive second-semester AP English research final project in less than 45 minutes.

As the deadline loomed, I knew there was no way I would be able to sort through thousands of Google search results or go to the library to research while simultaneously performing other vital homework completion functions like talking online, reading celebrity gossip and downloading music. So I did what any desperate, procrastinating student would do--I logged on to Wikipedia, pulled up the entries on Renaissance literature and filled in the gaps until I had a presentable product.

She notes that Wikipedia made waves when it banned Stephen Colbert from editing its pages when he urged fans to "change reality" by entering false statements on the site.

But Colbert's antics may have done the world--and by the world, I mostly mean me and my peers--a favor. Until recently, many kids in my high school, myself included, used Wikipedia without questioning the integrity of its content. Before Colbert highlighted the unreliability of the site's information, I doubt many people even realized it isn't an authoritative, credible source.

Yes, teachers and parents constantly remind students to think twice before relying on certain online sources, but it's easy for a student in a rush to forget that Wikipedia belongs in the category of unverified information rather than credible information--especially because its format is one of a traditional encyclopedia.

So please take my advice, students: Wikipedia is a great place to find out about local bands or start doing research. However, before including Wikipedia information in a term paper or using Wikipedia entries to study for exams, make sure you support your findings with more legitimate sources.

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  • Because, of course, the accurate information is found ...?

    first:
    http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,69844-0.html
    Second:
    Tough to trust information from someone who makes their money having you trust them. We are seeing it all over:
    Newspapers say blogs are wacky junk. ( But wait, are the papers not 0wn3d?)
    TV news says that internet news is low quality ( Why are you in Iraq anyway??? Did they ever tell you why?)
    and now Britannica et al seems to have spent some change putting wikip in a bad light. Gosh, it seems that having some choice move to the consumer is not that popular. Not to worry, I'm sure they will fix that.

    So wikipedia might be a bit off. Let's see:
    you trust CNN?
    how about FOX?
    ABC?
    Brittanica?

    Face it anybody with a bit of money will try to spin your data. I am a huge fan of the free market.. but really , if the corporations are going to run everything, then why are you paying taxes? Oh right , right... you pay taxes to make sure that the corporations have a safety net. Would be nice to have that for yourself eh? Ah well.

    pfft.
    PrinceGaynor
    • Interesting points, but

      You are a little off the mark with your concerns to a large degree as far as this article is expressing concern with Wikipedia. While your comments about the media, like newspapers and CNN are valid its not the same problem as with Wikipedia. While there are people who just take the news at face value without any personal intellectual dissemination of the facts they are presented with it has never been claimed that that is the right approach with the news. I know even the media personalities themselves would tell you that all news has to be examined from a critical point of view and I would hope that even the simplest minds are fully aware that the news can change from time to time as it is ?news? and things are often reported on before all the facts are in. Some news is given outright as opinion in an editorial format, so at no time is there any serious implication that what is presented in the news on a day to day basis should be taken as empirical fact to simply be relied on without verification in some academic way.

      The problem with Wikipedia is a horse of a completely different color. Look at it like this; every website has some kind of purpose or reason for having someone visit it, correct? News websites for example have people visit who want to find out the news for example, that is the newest information, reliable or otherwise about the current events of the day. Wikipedia is not presenting news for its visitors, its presenting facts purported to be about established events, persons, places etc. that is not news, meaning the information has moved out of the newest information available mode and into what has been established as reasonable known facts. Now the problem is with Wikipedia that the ability of the public to alter and edit the information without adequate checks and balances to ensure the alteration of the information remains within that ?established as reasonable known facts? means that the information you come across in Wikipedia may not be established as a reasonably known fact. And there really is no way to know if the particular article you are reading has been affected that way without going outside Wikipedia to find other confirmation, and that in many respects belittles the point of going to Wikipedia first, or at all.

      This is a very serious problem for Wikipedia; as it is presented, or at least considered by most people to be a type of online encyclopedia dealing with known established facts, but the truth is there are insufficient checks and balances to ensure this. The very thing that makes any resource useful as a source of known established facts is that there has been significant checks on the information to ensure it is the commonly accepted fact that is being presented, or if it is a lesser accepted fact or pure speculation it is noted as such so the reader will know this upon reading it. Because Wikipedia does not have the appropriate checks in place its ability to be a source for accepted facts is literally obliterated because one can never be sure what they are reading has been checked for accuracy by an authority with some independence. The information may in fact in some cases may be empirically false, known by any authority on the matter, but completely misleading to anyone uneducated in the matter.

      So now you are left with the question; if Wikipedia is not good for finding out the news, and it is not good for finding out established fact?.what is it good for? For example, if I was in a discussion with someone who took up a contrary position that I thought was very questionable, and I found they were relying on Wikipedia for their facts I would dismiss their position out of hand.
      Cayble
    • pfft to you too!

      Who do you think you can convince by blowing off the article with such a childish expression as 'pfft'? And who do you think is going to going to pay for your 'choice'?

      Yoru entire post has only one good point in it, that yes, those with money [b]will[/b] try to spin your data.

      Unfortunately, the rest is bunk. CNN is far more trustworthy than either FOX or the blogosphere, Britannica is yet more trustworthy than Wikipedia, CNN or FOX.

      Perhaps if you actually [b]thought[/b] about what was in the article instead of responding with 'pfft', you would have a chance at realizing this.
      mejohnsn
  • go encyclopedias! (c.c. government-it)

    1 think that the normal standard of limiting 2 many encyclopedia sources is the correct thing to do, and wikipedia has received very little donations to accomodate their vision of what true sources could be like, particularly for those students who do not have the resources to always purchase what they need online!

    SVS
    irene_sellers@...