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Whatcha Wanna Know?

  • Sep 2, 2009
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Let me ask you a question... when was Alexander Hamilton born?  How long did he live?  How about giving the big details of his life?  A great deal of us will pick up a book or do a google search on Alexander Hamilton to figure out these answer.  But an even greater deal of us will turn to Wikipedia for all of this information.  In fact, if you are the type that will turn to google immediately, the first result will link you to Wikipedia (when trying to search on google I had the option of it just taking me to wikipedia immediately rather than even just completing the search).  This is how popular Wikipedia has become, and how often people rely on the website.  It is the sixth most visited website in the world, and with good reason.  Whenever you have to write a paper for a class, or know a quick fact, Wikipedia is probably one of the first places you go.  Here on, there are Wikis for each topic, but most of us probably just head off to Wikipedia for a quick fill in.  Some of you, I know, use Wikipedia when writing some of your reviews (or, for movie goers you probably use IMDB... maybe both).  Of course, wikipedia has had its share of problems, and we'll get to that.  First, let's talk about the website as a whole. 

Wikipedia has millions of articles in several different languages.  As I write this review there are over 3,000,000 articles in English.  And when you go into the sites main page you are thrust into a world of vast knowledge.  On the main page there's an article of the day, learn about what is in the news, and a little factoids of what happened "On this day..."  Then there's a section called "Did You Know..."  The site is organized with all this stuff, but chances are most of you are going to head on over to the search section and look up whatever it is you want.  

You can find almost anything on wikipedia.  You can even look up wikipedia on wikipedia.  And each article consists of a small wiki at the start and then several subsections.  For celebrities you can look up things like their education and how they grew up, up to their career (and downfall if they had one).  For movies you can always look up a plot synopsis, reception and little trivia tidbits (but Wikipedia won't replace IMDB any time soon).  Most of the time it's quick information, but some articles have a lot of detail to them.  If you actually looked up Alexander Hamilton you'll see that his profile is HUGE.  And going through it there are several links to many other articles within it (highlighted words similar to how I linked you to Alexander Hamilton's profile).  But then the question and the common Wikipedia criticism comes up... is it right?

It's very true that Wikipedia allows just about anyone to come in and edit any article.  On the other hand, it seems to slip people's mind that Wikipedia also has a staff that goes around and cleans up as well.  On the other hand, that isn't to say that Wikipedia is never wrong.  Sometimes it is but this comes from the fact that a lot of people who go to the website don't appear to know just how to use the site in the first place.  Wikipedia themselves states their site shouldn't be used for serious research, but again, this comes from people not knowing how to use it.  As you read through articles you might notice superscript numbers.  These are citations, and at the bottom of every article you can find all the references.  So if you click on superscript 1 you'll be taken down to reference 1.  This means you can actually go to the place where the information came from in the first place (if it came from another website).  If it comes from books, they're cited accordingly as well.  If you're ever skeptical to what you're reading on wikipedia... go to the source it came from.  On the other hand, some claims don't have a citation.  That doesn't mean it isn't true, but it means you've got little options on double checking what it is your reading. 

Other criticisms of Wikipedia, aside from the fact that you could read something that isn't true, has a lot to do with who is actually editing some articles.  Wikipedia now has a wikiscanner that allows them to track IP addresses and figure out who is editing what.  On profiles related to certain public and political figures Wikipedia discovered that biased sources were coming in and either deleting critical information or actually changing up information to slam certain people (Fox News and MSNBC anchors immediately come to mind...).  This is seen by some as a potential danger in the editing of pages.  Wikipedia tries to maintain neutrality, but some have alleged that it has a political liberal bias.  For those who believe that there's always Conservapedia (which is apparently some kind of joke--there's a portion in the article on Earth which suggests that the earth is flat).  In terms of Bias, that's a little hard to state about Wikipedia.  For every issue you look up, they do go into both sides (sometimes they have their own articles for the opposition), so it's not like you can't find the other side of any particular issue if you decide you're curious and want to look into it. 

Yet for what it's worth most of the time the information is quite useful.  Especially when you can go to the sources.  And while people complain that "Anyone can edit it..." (which includes idiots, apparently) they never seem to realize Wikipedia has a staff that will get rid of A LOT of misinformation.  There's a huge community and staff that runs Wikipedia.  So while "idiots" can edit the site, chances are what they edit in won't actually be there for very long in the first place.  Or it'll be changed later.  There are certain contributors to wikipedia who spend a lot of time verifying information.

This brings about the only real problem with Wikipedia in terms of information... it's often changing.  One moment you might read something, but go back to the article a few days later and you'll find that the section you got your information from--references and all--is gone.  This is part of the reason why some don't recommend wikipedia itself as a source.  But again, the whole point of using wikipedia is to check the sources on any particular article.  The sources aren't there just to show that people researched, they're there so that you can go and check them out and verify them for yourself.  In short a lot of the criticism of Wikipedia's "Anyone can edit the articles," seems to be laziness on the part of people who don't want to check the sources. 

Then, of course, there's the criticism I throw out to almost any online community.  The anonymity of wikipedia can make the community a pain in the ass to deal with.  The good news is that those going to Wikipedia are not nearly as interseted in the community.  You can discuss any and every article with other members of the site, but Wikipedia isn't exactly immune from... well... assholes.  On the other hand Wikipedia is quite tame when compared to the atmosphere on websites like Politico,, Gaming Websites or the baords on the IMDB.  The community can be harsh but at least they're a bit more tolerable.  As with most places, it really depends on the discussion and where it's going.  

Wikipeida is also a VERY global site.  It's the sixth most visited website in the WORLD.  As a result, you're apt to see a lot of different views expressed in discussions and learn quite a bit about other cultures (countries also have their own articles--go figure). 

The best part about Wikipedia, however, is that it's an open access online encyclopedia.  Anyone can hop on it and look up something.  Several other online Encyclopedias require you to pay, and don't give nearly as much information.  Wikipedia is free. 

The last thing to note is that Wikipedia has several sister websites.  On the page I've provided you can go and check out all these places for yourself, and I'd recommend it. 

It's nice to be able to have a place that provides people with a lot of information and knowledge and gives them the chance to check up on these things.  While Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, those who use it the way it's intended to be used will find it is a great tool for quick information and easy access.

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review by . December 22, 2010
Unity in diversity
Wikipedia is not merely a virtual encyclopedia, nor is it merely a free website for all. It is a dream, a human effort (by thousands if not millions of people) and a "temple for the mind" (as written by its founder Jimmy Wales). Wikipedia is "a dream, a humanitarian project" and a way to greatness for many of the people in the under-developed to the developed world.      While in many online sites, the gather of the minds have been capitalized by the few, …
Quick Tip by . October 29, 2011
This is one of the greatest websites in the world! Gives very informative and sometimes hilariously worded articles on virtually every subject on the planet. But I love to go in and fall down the "Wikipedia Black Hole:" That's when you go in intending to get some information on a particular subject, but while reading up on it, one of the links in the article catches your eye and you have to click on it and read that too! Then in THAT article, you click another interesting-looking link, and it keeps …
review by . March 08, 2010
One of the most ambitious projects in the history of mankind.
Over the centuries men have dreamed of a day when the sum of all human knowledge could be compiled in just one place.  Until a mere decade ago this concept while quite admirable seemed utterly preposterous.  But at the dawn of a new millenium new technologies were emerging and all of a sudden the idea was not so crazy.  Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger understood this perhaps better than anyone.  In March of 2000 they launched an online encyclopedia …
Quick Tip by . September 25, 2010
posted in Awesomeness
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Quick Tip by . September 22, 2010
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Quick Tip by . June 07, 2010
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Quick Tip by . April 14, 2010
I owe part of my college diploma to Wikipedia. Its a great resource for a quick refresh before a test.
Quick Tip by . March 06, 2010
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review by . March 10, 2009
Did you know that there are, in fact, three forms of plural for "octopus?" They are: octopuses, octopi, and octopodes. Thank you, Wikipedia.     The online encyclopedia revolutionized the idea of "free knowledge" being readily available on the Internet. It also started a huge trend of wikis, some good and some bad. I don't think a day goes by where I don't look up something on Wikipedia.     Of course, this is a user-driven community and can only be as good …
Quick Tip by . September 01, 2009
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About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this website

Wiki, commonly referred to as simply Wikipedia, is a free, online encyclopedia project launched in January 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. The word Wikipedia is a portmanteau of "wiki" (a term for online collaboration websites) and "encyclopedia."

The website allows anyone to view any article, while registered users may edit, add, or delete information as they please. However, despite being open to editing by virtually any registered user, a panel of administrators constantly fact-checks submissions, and more and more, citations are required for new articles.

As of late 2008, there were over 11 million articles on Wikipedia, of which 2.6 were in English. The website is available in many languages, from Farsi to French to Friulian.
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