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

Tom Erickson snowfall at acm.org
Mon Dec 5 10:59:26 PST 2005

This has been a very interesting discussion. Nobody has mentioned 
what seems to me to be the biggest problem in using Wikipedia as a 
source: the fact that its articles are not stable. Since, obviously, 
articles can and do change over time, simply citing an article would 
seem insufficient, as the content may change.

It is interesting that the Wikipedia's design does not make it easy 
to do a citation that will continue to point at the version actually 
used. If one clicks on the history tab (for "past versions of this 
page"), one sees the history list and can copy those URLs. And in 
fact, contrary to what the flyout text for the history tab suggests, 
the history page also contains a URL for the current page, so in fact 
one could cite the specific instance of the article with something 
that would presumably act like a permalink. It seems to me that, for 
courses where Wikipedia citations are permitted, that this might be a 
good discipline to follow, as it foregrounds the issue of the 
stability or lack thereof of knowledge.

Tom Erickson
IBM T.J. Watson Research Center
Email: snowfall at acm.org (preferred); snowfall at us.ibm.com(IBM confidential)

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