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Why I Don’t Trust Wikipedia

Posted by Matthew Greensmith at 7:18 AM on September 2, 2008

This is not a political post; I could have easily used any other Wiki example to make my point.

It has been revealed that in the 24 hours preceding the announcement of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Republican party, an intentionally deceptive “Young Trigg” amended the Wikipedia entry pertaining to her. A rather unremarkable entry turned into something overly glowing and complimentary. More than 30 edits were made in the hours leading up to the big announcement regarding Palin, and several hundred have been made since.

The powers that be at Wikipedia have now blocked changes and have amended some of “Young Trigg’s” additions to Palin’s bio, but they have not removed all of the changes. The day of the announcement, my coworker went straight to Palin’s Wikipedia entry and read it out loud so we could all hear it. At the time I thought, “Wow, what a bio!”

As an academic, I’ve been reluctant to use Wikipedia for anything of importance. The information contained in wiki entries is suspect at the very least, and blatantly wrong at its worst. On a personal level, my husband, a retired Ringling Clown, is listed in a short list of clowns on a Wikipedia entry about clowning. It appears as if he is one of 20 amazing and incredible people in the clowning industry. I can tell you this not the case and there are hundreds more clowns with much tighter and impressive resumes than him. I did not make the wiki entry and neither did he;the person who did is unknown to us and even though I’ve asked them to amend the entry, they have not.

As an instructor, I do not allow Wikipedia entries to be used in a bibliography, and I would never use them as a conclusive resource for anything, no matter how small or large. There is just too much room and allowance for questionable amendments to make me comfortable trusting it as a source of information.

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