Wikipedia vs. Your Expertise

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by CheskiChips, Feb 26, 2010.


Would you suggest wikipedia...?

  1. I would suggest wikipedia for those unknowledgable in my field.

  2. I would suggest wikipedia for only those with prior existing knowledge in my field.

  3. I would not suggest wikipedia for anybody.

Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. CheskiChips Banned Banned

    [I will give no introduction to wikipedia here.]

    Its user-generated content in my experience is created by many who have little knowledge on the subject they're editing or writing for, however, in topics I'm unfamiliar with it appears to be very thorough. My question for all of you educated in a specific topic:

    Does Wikipedia present accurate and useful content in your area of expertise?
    The basic criteria -
    - Does the article present you with information you are unware of?
    - Does the article misrepresent true facts?
    - Does the article present blatantly false facts?
    - Does the article help you gain an understanding of specific topics with which you are generally knowledgable...
    - any many more.

    Please list in your response:
    Your opinion on the afforementioned matter.
    Your specific topic and level of expertise.

    I believe this belongs in Science & Society because Wikipedia often acts as a communicator between Scientific theories and consumers in society.
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  3. Asguard Kiss my dark side Valued Senior Member

    depends, for somethings (one example is defining generic terms like CPR) its quite useful. However for others its not concidered to be university standed BECAUSE it can be edited by people who dont know what they are doing
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  5. WillNever Valued Senior Member

    I'm an RN and I rummage through wiki occasionally to use the sources that are cited at the bottom of the articles. There is a A LOT of bad information on there about patho and meds. I see wrong information about disease processes almost every time I look something up. A lot of the home treatments that are recommended on wiki are wrong or useless too.

    That does not surprise; wiki is written predominantly by extremely bored laypeople who think they are know-it-alls. It's just too bad that a lot of people are influenced by it. So many people come in with their internet diagnosis that is wrong.
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  7. Learned Hand Registered Senior Member

    I'm a practicing attorney and know full well when I look something up from Wikipedia that it may contain far more errors and may be slanted towards a particular view than your traditional encyclopedias, such as Britannica. It's not too bad on pop culture though. When I research law, Wikipedia is out of the question. However, I do believe it has benefit to others who do not have my education or experience. But as they say, if you have pain, see a doctor, not a book. Look at the books later and talk to your doctor about them.
  8. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

    I can say from experience that a lot of the math/physics type pages are actually pretty good. I know of several cases where specific people (experts) check and fix articles to their own standards. For example, my friend Steve wrote the entry on Dirac Brackets, and regularly checks it to see that it hasn't changed. Among grad students, I think, this is not uncommon.
  9. Pinwheel Banned Banned

    Have found the pages realting to engineering (particulalry calculation methods, stress analysis, etc) to be resonably good. Some of them are a bit intensive on mathematics so I would normally advise someone to refer to a textbook first and only use the wiki as a guide for further study.
  10. Nasor Valued Senior Member

    Most of the chemistry seems to be pretty good, especially the more advanced topics. Among the lower-level stuff there's a bit of a slant toward highschool or maybe college freshman level textbook explanations, which aren't necessarily completely correct, or might be presenting a particular viewpoint held by the author of that textbook but not necessarily everyone else.

    I've given up on trying to edit that sort of thing, because there's always some self-righteous smartass with an Intro to Chem textbook who gets confused by attempts to present alternative viewpoints or offer more accurate explanations.
  11. CheskiChips Banned Banned

    It seems like a mix of opinions on the subject. I'd guess those who work in the sciences spend more time on a computer in general and likely know more about programming -and thus are more likely to edit a Wikiarticle. In my experience the Meteorology pages on decently explain some things such as certain clouds types or raw data such as composition. It fails entirely in providing useful forms of the Dynamic equations and the synoptic scale events don't even exist.

    I've never gotten a useable form of an equation from a Wikipedia.

    Learned Hand mentioned media - no kidding, Wikipedia users build media pages almost as fast as the events happen.

    And appologies for the poll questions - they were unintentionally ambiguous as is evidenced by multiple selecting a single option for completely opposite reasons.
  12. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    Wikipeida is only for an overview proposes when credibility is not a must, for any professional I would recommend primary source literature (science articles) not tertiary sources like wikipeida which is often take from something which was taken from something (hence tertiary) now wiki does often provide citations to secondary and sometimes primary literature so wiki can often be used when you want to find primary literature that blatantly makes the same case your want to make, so occasionally instead of searching scifinder or scirus you can find the really good stuff already cited on wikipeida, occasionally.

    I would recommend Scholarpedia or Citizendium because in those cases you know who the authors are and their credentials have been at least reasonably checked. So if they are caught lying you can reme'em.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I echo the consensus that I see forming here. Wikipedia articles are pretty accurate and pretty well written in math and the hard sciences such as biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy and geology. When you get into recent research you might find two articles contradicting each other because the writers disagree on the validity or ramifications of that research, but if you understand this then what you're seeing is just science in process.

    It's pretty good with medieval history and with the ancient history of regions that have been studied thoroughly. Modern history may be filtered through the cultural superstratum of the writers, perhaps not so much in disagreeing over facts as over their effects, or simply not considering the same set of facts important enough to report. With ancient history it seems that there's always some new discovery that turns the old knowledge on its head.

    They do a pretty good job with recent history and current events, at least reporting the basic facts accurately. There's enough action on this stuff that the staff manages to keep a close eye on it.

    Other types of articles don't get a lot of traffic, so inaccuracies may be present. I have found and corrected errors and omissions in articles about breeds of dogs I'm familiar with, towns I've lived in, songs my bands have played, the origins of words, etc.
  14. Facial Valued Senior Member

    Wikipedia only summarizes things - that's what encyclopedias do.

    For someone not knowing my field, I wouldn't recommend the articles, because they are still somewhat beyond introductory scope.

    For someone like myself "in the know," I still wouldn't because there are some omissions which I feel would make any further knowledge gain misled.

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