Wikipedia Has Worn Out Its Welcome
By James Derk
One of the most interesting things to arise out of the Internet age is Wikipedia, a self-edited reference manual for the masses that allows anyone, anywhere, to add content, enrich the effort and generally leave the Web better than they found it.
Well, if only that were true.
I was one of the original fans of Wikipedia, writing enthusiastically about it and even submitting some material and photographs. Today I won't go near it. What's changed?
The lure of the site, that anyone, anywhere can contribute to the discourse, is long gone. Wikipedia is now managed by a group of fanatical editors that nit-pick everything from a person's "worthiness" to be listed to arcane, subtle additions. There are numerous discussion boards on the site where the 1,000 unpaid editors debate endlessly instead of making substantial improvements to the site.
Most schools already have banned Wikipedia from being used as a scholarly research source because the information can be supplied by anyone and can be involved in "he said/she said" editing wars. Some pages are the subject of "WikiVandals" who like to add fake or destructive information. In some cases this information has remained on the site for months while Wiki's editors were engaged in "edit wars" about arcane people or information.
Just editing or adding pages has become a bit of an art, beyond the skill of most traditional computer users, as the site has moved away from its roots. I remember a while back uploading a photograph I took of an experimental, declassified aircraft to Wikipedia and receiving more than 100 thank you notes for doing so because the plane was seldom seen in print and enthusiasts hadn't seen one in a while and didn't know where it was being kept.
Despite the photo being clearly labeled as taken by me and offered in the public domain, the photo was removed less than a week later because some editor was unhappy with the license I offered for its use and wanted me to fill out and upload a legal document.
The site was founded with five pillars of behavior, including "be open, be welcoming and be civil." The site now is none of these things and should be left to the trolls, in my opinion.
Where should you find reliable information? I would start with good old Google. On nearly any topic under the sun you can down your own research courtesy of the world's most effective search engine. There you can find peer-reviewed or at least professionally edited publications for the information you seek. Google's search patterns (rewarding sites for being linked to) helps push reputable information to the top.
WEEKLY WEB WONDER: If you don't find what you like on Google by yourself, I would suggest ChaCha (www.chacha.com) that offers you a human guide (an expert in online research) for your search. I think this service is phenomenal and the times I have tried it I was very impressed with the quality of assistance I received.