Wikipedia and Content Trustworthiness

Wikis are a type of website or online application that is a result of a collaboration of a community of experts that add and edit online content dedicated to a variety of highly specific topics.

English Wikipedia

Statistics

In a 2003 blog post about importing Wikipedia into a local version of MySQL database, I stated that “the minimum requirement for hosting an offline version of Wikipedia (English version) is 45 GB of free space” (Joe0.com, 2013). Since then, the English version of Wikipedia grew by over 600 articles a day and according to En.wikipedia.org (2017), the download size today is nearing 60 GB, containing almost 40 thousand times more text than an electronic version of the King James Bible. It is noticeable that the wiki content created by an online community can proliferate and contain vast amounts of information.

The English version of the Wikipedia is not only one of the most popular sources of comprehensive information among Canadians, but also worldwide. According to Siteviews Analysis (2017), in August 2017, in a single month, the site had over 7 billion page views (more than 232 million page views a day).

Content Trustworthiness

The focal reason of stating the above Wikipedia stats (size and page views), is to point to an unfortunate and somewhat enormous issue of the wikis in general and that is the problem of the content trustworthiness.

Although Wikipedia remains hugely popular among Canadians, it is widely considered to be an unsuitable resource for referencing in academic papers or articles. It is recognized that most of the universities do not trust Wikipedia. Alan Coomer of the University of Lancaster says: “My department’s “Essential Guide for Students” leaves no room for ambiguity, warning all students to: “Never cite Wikipedia.” (Coomer, 2013).

The Wikipedia’s reliability and accurateness have been questioned by many of the academics as soon as the service started to gain the popularity. Even the Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales stresses very early on that “Encyclopedias of any type are not usually appropriate as primary sources, and should not be relied upon as authoritative.” (Robbins, DeCenzo & Coulter, 2008).

In my view, the issue of Wikipedia’s trust is one of the most unfortunate side effects of the wikis in general. The problematic part, is the content itself, as it tends to be generated by unknown authors with often hard to verify expertise and agendas. Regrettably, this renders most of the efforts of the online community rather ineffective, especially when it comes to usability and value of wikis in the academic world. However, the recent large scale American research shows, that even though most universities prohibit the use of Wikipedia references, the majority of students keep using Wikipedia, especially in the area of essay research.

Conclusion

I will conclude that in my view, the overall value of the Wikipedia compensates the risk of somewhat inaccurate content. I think that as long as students remember that wiki information is not a definitive authority on the subject and should always be verified using academic resources, Wikipedia can continue to be a great start to a successful online research.

 

References

Robbins, S. P., DeCenzo, D. A., & Coulter, M. K. (2008). Fundamentals of management: Essential concepts and applications. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Joe0.com. (2013). How to import entire Wikipedia into your own MySQL database. Steps for creating MySQL database out of Wikipedia XML dump… – Jozef Jarosciak Blog. [online] Available at: https://www.joe0.com/2013/09/30/how-to-create-mysql-database-out-of-wikipedia-xml-dump-enwiki-latest-pages-articles-multistream-xml/ [Accessed 3 Sep. 2017].

Coomer, A. (2013). Should university students use Wikipedia?. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/may/13/should-university-students-use-wikipedia [Accessed 3 Sep. 2017].

Head, A. and Eisenberg, M. (2010). How today’s college students use Wikipedia for course-related research. First Monday, [online] 15(3), p. Available at: http://firstmonday.org/article/view/2830/2476 [Accessed 3 Sep. 2017].

Wikimedia.org. (2017). Index of /enwiki/latest/. [online] Available at: https://dumps.wikimedia.org/enwiki/latest/ [Accessed 3 Sep. 2017].

O-bible.com. (2017). Download Bible. [online] Available at: http://www.o-bible.com/dlb.html [Accessed 3 Sep. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Size of Wikipedia. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Size_of_Wikipedia [Accessed 3 Sep. 2017].

Alexa.com. (2017). Top Sites in Canada – Alexa. [online] Available at: https://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/CA [Accessed 3 Sep. 2017].

Siteviews Analysis (2017). Tools.wmflabs.org. [online] Available at: https://tools.wmflabs.org/siteviews/?platform=all-access&source=pageviews&agent=user&range=last-month&sites=en.wikipedia.org [Accessed 3 Sep. 2017].

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