The Basics, Pros & Cons Of Wikipedia

When you want a quick answer, Wikipedia is often the best place to turn. The name of the site is derived from a combination of the common Hawaiian phrase for “quick” (wikiwiki) and “pedia”, the last part of the English word “encyclopedia”. The aim of the website is to provide a platform where people can find, share and edit information about any given subject. This information is available to anyone, worldwide, free of charge.

Wikipedia Is A Busy Website
The website offers a wealth of lively information with more than thirty-million articles available in nearly 300 languages. Because of the interactive nature of the site and the fact that it is free to use, this website is incredibly busy. In fact, the information on the site is added to and altered on a constant basis. Thousands of entries and alterations are made every hour. Needless to say, this constant stream of traffic makes Wikipedia one of the top ten popular websites in the world.

Originally (in 2001) the site was completely open and anyone could post and edit information. Unfortunately, this led to “vandalization” of the site with the addition of offensive and false information and images. For this reason, registration is now required and some topics are not open to editing.

Wikipedia Pros & Cons
Naturally, there are pros and cons associated with this sort of flexible information source. Below is a quick guide to Wikipedia pros and cons.

a. Information is up to the minute thanks to continuous revisions.
b. The site is entirely public for complete transparency and safety.
c. Errors are corrected quickly by dedicated editors.
d. There are several editors assigned to each page.

a. Content is sometimes not true.
b. Inappropriate content sometimes slips past the editors.
c. Wikipedia is not written by journalists, so the information is admittedly biased.
d. Although all pages are public, there is still some danger involved in interacting with strangers on the forums and other areas of the site.
e. Editors are volunteers and seem to be mostly male causing a lack of gender diversity. This could cause information to be skewed and/or biased.
f. There is no mechanism in place for determining socioeconomic or ethnic background of editors, and this could be an important factor to consider in terms of value of information.

The Bottom Line
When seeking interesting, lively, up-to-the minute information Wikipedia is a good source. It should not be considered a deciding source, however. Any information gleaned from a Wikipedia search should be verified before being presented as proof of any point.

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