Is Wikipedia an Authoritative Source?

Most people agree that Wikipedia was one of the first “wikis” on the web.  I find that most students turn to Wikipedia for their first information overview once they have selected a topic.  In Chris Anderson’s book, The Long Tail (which is my current read) he talks about how Wikipedia “is arguably the best encyclopedia in the world: bigger, more up-to-date, and in many cases deeper than even Britannica.”  He also writes about how people trust encyclopedias to be right or wrong.  However, Wikipedia operates on the logic of “probalistic statistics…but our brains aren’t wired to think in terms of statistics and probability, yet.”  He writes, that a 2005 study by Nature, the scientific journal, reported that in “42 science entries on science topics there were an average of four errors per entry in Wikipedia and three in Britannica.  And shortly after the report came out, the Wikipedia entries were corrected, while Britannica will have to wait for its next reprinting.”  Anderson goes on to discuss how the “long tail” can be applied to Wikipedia!

It is amazing how you can be reading a book that discusses something, such as Wikipedia, and then see posts about Wikipedia at the same time.  Both David Warlick and Kathy Schrock wrote about experiences with Wikipedia this week…and responses from others about it.   

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1 Response to “Is Wikipedia an Authoritative Source?”


  1. 1 Tom Hoffman December 2, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    “Most people” don’t know what they’re talking about.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki#History


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