Wikipedia is one of the most controversial sites on the internet. Because anyone can add and edit articles it has brought up the concern that the information can be incorrect and unreliable. The big question is is it really that unreliable or has its bad reputation damaged its value? Based on what I have observed I have decided that the information that is found on Wikipedia can be just as reliable as other sites. Now I’m not saying that Wikipedia is the holy grail of accurate information but it definitely deserves more credit than it is getting. Because there are so many article and different topic areas, and having the most coverage on current topics (Royal & Kapila, 2009), it’s hard to say that every single Wikipedia article is correct or on the other hand unreliable. There might be some pages that are more reliable that others but in a grand overview of this site I would say that you could rely on its information.
Using the “Childhood Obesity” page on Wikipedia, I have done some background research on the validity and the reliability of this page in particular. While reading the “talk” page I was brought into the light on how things are discussed before they are approved to be removed or changed to the page. There seemed to be a good amount of respect for each other between the users, finding very little disrespectful comments to any of the users. There were some unnecessary comments but on average the respect level was high. In doing this research it was a surprise to find how much voting when on before action was taken to address the concern. On this particular site about childhood obesity there once contained multiple pictures of obese children with their faces burred and after multiple votes they were taken down and replaced by a picture that is more respectful. After viewing these comments and suggestions regarding the pictures I realized that there are people out there who truly care about the content that is on Wikipedia and are actually willing to do something about it and not just sit back and criticize. This leads me to believe that people willing to take time to contribute to the sites will most likely be providing valid information because they care about the topic and want to share their knowledge with others.
Contrary to common belief that anyone can easily add information, this page seemed to prove that statement wrong. There were a couple cases on this “talk” page where a user wanted to add a section or change a paragraph but these proposals were declined based on lack of valid sources and plagiarism. This was actually quite shocking to me that this occurs and further increased my opinion of the reliability of the information. In regards to the authority and credentials of the users of this page, there seemed to be one user that was actively involved with the process of information removal/ change and in answering any questions. An additional search was done on this user and it was found that he is an ER doctor. These findings further increased my faith in this website, that not only does there seem to be users looking out for the well being of the article but that some of the users actually have some type of credentials. This begins to explain the results found in the Nature article, explaining that there is no significant difference in the number of errors between Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica (Giles, 2005). Because there is more than just one person contributing to these Wikipedia pages, some of which having good credentials and an education in the topic, lead me to believe that there can be good outcomes to having the community work together to create an article. Wikipedia is not just an online encyclopedia but it offers the opportunity for people around the world to come together to collaborate and work as a team. In an article by Brown and Duguid it says “in passing between communities, documents play an important role, bringing people from different groups together to negotiate and coordinate common practices” (Brown & Duguid, 1996). There are thousands of websites out there that contain false information that can’t be changed or corrected by anyone but the author. Wikipedia offers a way for things to be changed and corrected when errors are found. Because of this, I believe that Wikipedia is reliable and shouldn’t have the bad reputation that it holds.
Brown, J. S. & P. Duguid. (1996). The Social Life of Documents. First Monday. 1, 1.
Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.
Giles. J. (2005). Special Report: Internet encyclopaedias go head to head. Nature. 438, pp 900-901.