Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wikipedia? More like Wicked Awesome

Hello all, it has been a while so figured a post was due. I have realized now that I’m home it is a lot harder to post. UNH is my inspiration to write, like rappers are with drugs. Speaking of rap and drugs, Eminem’s new album Relapse came out today (how do you like that segway) and I purchased it off itunes. I haven’t heard the entire album yet, infact I’m listening it to right now, but I think that Eminem is back for good. Speaking of being back, how ‘bout David Ortiz finally going yard! And Jason Bay continues to prove how valuable his is. Plus, Bay is very modest and quiet off the field. I think he is so quiet because he is a Canadian and he feels that he’s a failure because he didn’t make it as a hockey player. The same theory works for fellow Canadian slugger and Minnesota Twin Justin Morneau. They are both very efficient players and they both do their jobs without causing a stir.

Speaking about efficiency, I believe that it is time that Wikipedia be recognized by professors as a legitimate research tool. Now before you start shouting about that fact that anyone can edit it let me finish. Honestly, every time I get a research paper or assignment that first thing I do is open up the Wikipedia page for the given topic. For those of you who haven't been on the internet before (welcome!) Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia.

There have been studies conducted that have proven Wikipedia is comparable in accuracy to other forms of encyclopedias. In 2005 the science journal Nature performed a study in order to compare Wikipedia’s reliability to the much more renowned Encyclopedia Britannica. The results of the study surprised many people. The study was simple and straightforward; 42 pairs of articles from Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica were randomly selected and sent out to professional editors. The editors were not told which source they were assigned. Out of all the articles the editors found eight major errors, which ranged from incorrect dates to misinterpreted concepts. Four of these mistakes came from each source. As expected, Encyclopedia Britannica tested better, but the difference was shockingly small. The average Encyclopedia Britannica article had 2.92 mistakes, while the average Wikipedia article had 3.86 mistakes. This was in 2005, and Wikipedia is always progressing with its validty. However, not all the mistakes were necessarily regarded as incorrect information. Many of the mistakes with the Wikipedia articles were actually grammar related. The editors often found the Wikipedia articles to be not professional, which makes sense because professionals do not write the articles. The article by Nature described Wikipedia’s downfall as having “poor readability,” but this means that the information may have been just as accurate as that found in the Encyclopedia Britannica articles. This study clearly shows that the information presented by Wikipedia can compete with other major encyclopedias.

The term “Wiki” actually is a reference to the Hawaiian word meaning “quick,” which leads to one of the best parts of Wikipedia. The ability for the site to be updated as quickly as events happen has become very useful over the past few years. This allows the latest information to be available to anyone with a computer and Internet access. In fact, Jonathan Dee of the New York Times praises Wikipedia, not only as an encyclopedic reference, but also as a frequently updated news source. Dee goes into detail on how many Virginia newspapers praised Wikipedia as a crucial source of detailed information after the school shootout at Virginia Tech in 2007. One of the problems with other encyclopedias, even with their online forms, is that they are quickly outdated, which is never a problem with Wikipedia.

Many people, such as professors and teachers, have prejudices against the online encyclopedia despite the fact that Wikipedia has gone through numerous changes to increase its reliability. On, the online version of Encyclopedia Britannica, there is an entry on “Wikipedia.” This article describes how the format of Wikipedia allows the site to have articles that are not covered by traditional encyclopedias. The article goes on to state that trusted contributors can be offered administrative access to Wikipedia, which allows them to delete unnecessary articles and more importantly block specific IP addresses from editing material on the site. One of the major problems with Wikipedia is that sometimes people will vandalize the site by purposely adding incorrect information. Thanks to wikiscanner, a tool that shows what IP address make edits, administrators are able to block repeat users from editing content. Wikipedia also has a tool known as “bots,” which are programmed to automatically remove or edit information that has not been cited. Bots can also send out e-mail messages to users if they do not follow the correct format. (This happened to me after I tried editing the UNH page several times. I can't believe that I'm not considered a notable alumni! Well, I haven't graduated yet, so technically I'm not an alumni. Wow, Wikipedia is even better than I thought.)

Wikipedia’s main competition throughout the years has come from Encyclopedia Britannica and Microsoft’s Encarta Software. However, just recently Microsoft announced that they will discontinue Encarta because they are unable to compete with the ever growing, and free, online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia. The online version of Encyclopedia Britannica has also been forced to make changes due to the success of Wikipedia. It appears as though Encyclopedia Britannica has been struggling to compete with the up to the minute style that has made Wikipedia the number 7 visited website on the Internet; and because of that Encyclopedia Britannica will follow a new model based off of the concept of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia has evolved over the past eight years, and it is clearly the top form of gathering information on the web. It is easy to use, contains up to the minute material and it is far more accurate than the general public would expect. There is a prejudice about Wikipedia due to past experiences where people have vandalized that site, but these are often corrected rather quickly. It is a shame that so many people, especially teachers and professors, tell others not to use Wikipedia despite not knowing anything about the site. Evidence has been presented that Wikipedia is equally informative as other sources of research. It has become such a success that other companies have had to change their ways in order to keep up with the times. Wikipedia should be allowed for research to because it is a great way to start research on any topic.

*This included a couple paragraphs of a paper I wrote this past semester. I left out some other paragraphs and added some things here and there. I did get an “A” on it, so haters back off.

Stay classy, not UMassy.


  1. very interesting points on wikipedia. I always use it, even when professors say not too.

  2. I agree, I love how wiki always has the up to the minute info that you can't find anywhere else.

  3. you probably got all that data from wikipedia anyway, so that story proves itself wrong

  4. actually I didn't use it at all. found most of it on britanica and articles by nature and the new york times and other sources.

  5. I'm Canadian so what's up with that?

  6. Well, last time I checked your not in the MLB so the thoery doesn't work for you. However if you are THE "Eric McTwapiece" (if that is your real name) from you could be a modest fisherman.(In all honesty I don't think there is such a thing as a modest fisherman.)