So as I go around generally bad mouthing all things Internet based (and yes I do understand the irony of posting these whinges on the Internet), Wikipedia is next in my sight.
Yes, the let’s all gather round and build the ultimate encyclopedia as an online community is an honourable ideal. But it’s just that. An ideal.
I first got warned about using the Wikipedia as a definitive resource while working for the NHS so there is some seriousness to this whinge. For a brief look up for conditions it’s OK but I would always back it with my training, my peers knowledge and the good old fashioned paper book.
I’ve seen some stupid edits about medicine on the wiki, normally when someone was trying prove that things like overdosing on vitamin c could cure all ills or you can prevent a heart attack with aromatherapy. I worked cardiology for a year and not once did I see herbs being used to restart a heart.
Secondly because of its nature, what may be a well referenced solid piece of information one day, next day gets hacked into a drooling mess of half baked ideas.
I bring this story of a friend who started a new genre of music on the wiki called ‘soft core’, as opposed to dance ‘hard core’ and a play on the porn industry use of the terms. He developed a page, added some obscure bands etc… Then got into a wiki fight with someone who said they had invented ‘soft core’ and knew better. For shits and giggles my friend strung this out for months. All over an idea that was a joke, an irony on the bad side of Wikipedia.
That said you can see why the NHS says it is not a trusted source and every hospital in the UK gives staff access to a real library with physical books and paid for databases.
Lastly I have an excellent story on the battle of the bean field and the Wikipedia. But that’s not my story to tell. Not everything is as it seems and that, more so everyday, seems true of the Internet as a whole.
The only wikis I use now are for crafting recipes for games, and as I don’t game half as much as used to it has relegated the concept of a wiki as nothing more than a ‘I really can’t be arsed to do my research’ area of my computer based life. For such a promising ideal it’s a shame but as I’ve seen with many Internet phenomenon the bubble eventually reaches critical capacity then fails or simply becomes redundant, remember Real Player or MySpace?
And I’ve personally been stung when using knowledge from the Wikipedia with people who do actually know better. When someone has actually fought in war x you pretty much bet the Wikipedia entry is going to be different from their view and you just going to sound like a twat regurgitating the Wikipedia information.
(Just for note, none of this has to do with wikileaks, that’s a conversation I’m staying well away from.)