Wikipedia is a wonderful resource built with technology (called a Wiki) that lets anyone update a sort of encyclopedia of information. All you need to do is sign up, for free, browse articles and add or correct as you see fit with your knowledge.

Some controversy came up recently when an article about John Seigenthaler Sr. was altered in a fashion that misrepresented him to readers, to put it very lightly. Since then, there has been some discussion about the validity of Wikipedia as a resource and the methods used to fact check existing articles, limit the ability others have to change things, track who is making changes to what, and record the details of those changes.

I think Wikipedia being able to show who made what change when isn’t all that infeasible. It already tracks changes so you can “undo” them several times over. They have changed their policy that you must be logged in to make changes. I think that’s as far as it would need to go. It is up to the user from there on to have integrity to post factual information and check on what they aren’t sure of before making a change.

Further, regarding the accuracy of information, I know the people who edit Wikipedia about as well as I know the people who wrote the books I used in college. To me, there’s really no difference between the two. For all I know, the people who wrote my college textbooks are busy editing Wikipedia. Granted, the textbooks undergo an academic review that is meant to weed out factual in accuracies or any character defamation, but even that review is subject to the same bias as Wikipedia. In light of that, I wouldn’t ever use Wikipedia as a reference in a paper unless the subject was about Wikipedia. I would, however, use it as a starting point in looking for more information.

Wikipedia is fun to use. I take my lunch breaks on this to read the articles about my favorite movies or tv shows or the comic book characters my other friends tell me about. I’ve corrected a couple of things myself, but for the most part I’ve found it to be accurate. After all, what kind of person would spend time going into articles about West Wing or Babylon 5 only to change them to convey false or speculative information as though it were true?