[Air-l] Wikipedia warning -- Wikipedia is not a reliable information source

elijah wright elw at stderr.org
Sun Dec 4 11:08:18 PST 2005

What's your larger point?  Or are you just trying to stir things up?

These are issues that have been widely discussed.  And largely things that 
are very evident to users of wikipedia... and often to students.


On Sun, 4 Dec 2005, Ken Friedman wrote:

> Date: Sun, 4 Dec 2005 20:02:17 +0100
> From: Ken Friedman <ken.friedman at bi.no>
> Reply-To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
> To: air-l at aoir.org
> Subject: [Air-l] Wikipedia warning -- Wikipedia is not a reliable information
>     source
> Dear Colleagues,
> This letter is a suggestion that you address the problem of bad 
> information in student papers from an increasingly poor source: 
> Wikipedia. Wikipedia is not getting better. It is getting worse. One 
> reason for this is the apparent case that the status of Wikipedia as a 
> much-used reference resource makes it the target of opportunity for hoax 
> efforts that would never enter an edited reference text.
> There are now enough serious incidents of false and defamatory 
> information in Wikipedia biographies to warrant prohibiting this as a 
> reference source in universities and university-level professional 
> schools. The same is true of inaccurate or false assertions in many 
> articles.
> The problem with Wikipedia is not that the Wiki system MAY develop a 
> solid and reliable reference work, but that in the current form, it DOES 
> NOT. It is as easy to change an article for the worse as for the better.
> Nearly any university student today has access to a decent library and 
> good on-line reference texts. In addition, anyone willing to search a 
> bit will also fine outstanding SIGNED references sources by major 
> scholars in many fields, as well as useful albeit older versions of 
> respected references source no longer covered by copyright.
> The current scandal concerning a false and defamatory biography of 
> Robert Kennedy aide and friend John Siegenthaler (see below) and similar 
> recent cases lead me to conclude that Wikipedia has no way to prevent 
> problems like this from happening. This is made worse by the fact that 
> Wikipedia is an automatic flow-through resource for other on-line 
> sources.
> Wikipedia is unacceptable as a research tool.
> I have informed my students that they may no longer use Wikipedia as a 
> reference or source on papers in my courses. I urge you to consider a 
> similar statement. While Wikipedia may be a useful first step in seeking 
> information, I no longer accept it as a credible source. Therefore, I 
> advise students to look further when a project requires a reliable 
> source.
> Use of Wikipedia by students and researchers is an important validation 
> mechanism for Wikipedia.
> If enough of us prohibit Wikipedia as a reference source in our courses, 
> programs, and schools, the message will eventually get through.
> When it does, Wikipedia will find an appropriate way to monitor 
> contributions. If they do not, the reputation of Wikipedia will sink to 
> that of another crank web site.
> Yours,
> Ken Friedman
> The Siegenthaler case in the New York Times and USA Today via Yahoo:
> http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/04/weekinreview/04seelye.html
> http://news.yahoo.com/s/usatoday/20051130/cm_usatoday/afalsewikipediabiography

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