Monday, April 02, 2007

wikipedia -- a tool for fools

wikipedia has gotten quite a lot of press over the last couple years as the "in place" to do internet research. something seems to happen to people's own ability to think once they read something on a computer screen -- almost as if their minds have been taken over by someone else causing them to do totally stupid things based on the instructions or information from a complete stranger!

for example, think of the emails that have been sent instructing computer users to search and delete certain files from their hard drives which "might" be dangerous. based on the words/advice of total strangers, people will delete needed files from their own computers or even their work computers. what in the world would possess them to follow the instructions of an unknown person? especially when it will be creating more problems for them on down the line when their computer no longer works as it should.

these same people pass around emails searching for lost children that have been lost for many years or were never lost to begin w/. after all, someone sent it to them or posted it on the internet -- so it MUST be true. they are just trying to do their part (as instructed) to carry on the cause. did it not ever occur to these people to check the reliability of the information before forwarding it on or before following the instructions?

i guess not -- hence the use and popularity of wikipedia. even people who are supposedly educated will state facts and then use wikipedia as their source to back it up. to the person that does that -- the fool's award should follow shortly. but then again, to those people, they probably couldn't find reliable, legitimate sources, so what else could they do to back up their ridiculous statements?

in teaching a college class on research methods, one of the first things that i do it to put wikipedia off-limits for research. why? because students don't have the ability to sort reliable and credible from not -- so why dangle the not reliable and not credible in front of their noses for possible mistakes.

even according to wikipedia itself --
"Wikipedia appeals to the authority of peer-reviewed publications rather than the personal authority of experts. Wikipedia does not require that its contributors give their legal names or provide other information to establish their identity. Although some contributors are authorities in their field, Wikipedia requires that even their contributions be supported by published sources. A drawback of this citation-only approach is that readers may be unable to judge the credibility of a cited source."

hello? if you don't have to give your legal name or do anything to build your own credibility, what makes the information that you would submit considered reliable and/or credible? even if you have to cite a source, could it not be a source that you wrote and posted to your personal web site or an article in a non-reliable and non-credible source?

think about it . . . if you found out that you or a loved one had a terminal disease, would you want information based on reliable and credible information? or just any old information that any old person w/o a legal name and w/o creditials could post to the internet based on any old sources they could find to back up their statements.

i think the answer if obvious when people take time to think about it. it's just the people who can't think or don't think that rely on sources like wikipedia to support their own ridiculous statements or claims.

the really bad thing -- these same people vote and drive and reproduce!


Anonymous said...

Amen sister. This is just too funny, because I have a coworker who uses wikipedia for every 'discussion' him and I have. He's constantly sending me their links to prove points. He believes everything he reads and sees (pictures that have been photoshopped, etc) on the Internet. It drives me insane. I have to send him your link!!!!

Warren Bunch said...

I love Wikipedia... Although, I use it for my own trivia knowledge pool, not to write a research paper! It's pretty funny that some people have tried to use it! I guess my mama just taught me better!

Thanks, Mom! Love ya!