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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 35, August 27, 2006, Article 24

A PRO-WIKI POINT OF VIEW

Arthur Shippee writes: "A pro-Wiki comment - I don't believe Delorey's
comment (seconded by Benice), comparing Wikipedia to a Magic 8 Ball.
Studies have shown Wikipedia on a par with the Britannica in important
respects.  This will be especially true for subjects meeting two
criteria:  those more studied and edited; and those more easily
described as "objective" or "NPOV" ("no point of view").

In low-traffic, off the main line subjects, errors are more likely to
appear and not get corrected.  And that's where people like Delorey
and Benice should come in.  If they come upon errors of fact, especially,
they should edit the articles.

"NPOV" gets harder in various topics:  I've seen some of the editing
tussles over the entries on Jesus, where folks who think themselves
"objective" start and end up at very different places.  These sorts
of debates can be enlightening in themselves, and they teach skills
in critical reading.

Wikipedia must be read critically, of course, as must the Britannica and
the New York Times.  It takes only a little thought to see what types of
articles and information may be more suspect.  And, unlike Britannica, if
a group of experts pool their resources, they can develop solid, important
articles quickly.  You mention the publication of a book on Illinois banks,
its print run being 100 copies.  In a few hours, the author could construct
a reasonable and succinct article (or series of articles), and the
information would be available to millions.

Wikipedia and things like it are important steps, if imperfect.  One
can complain about the imperfections, or, unlike printed books, help
correct some of them quickly."

Gerald Buckmaster agrees: "One of the most interesting aspects of
Wikipedia is that information can be corrected "on-the-spot" and a
history of "corrections" can be viewed by anyone.  If a correction
is backed up with authorative sources, readers can judge what
Wikipedia "facts" are, in fact, correct.  If we fail to correct,
no one learns."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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