Is Wikipedia Your Friend?
Here’s a shocking, new statistic: according to a Pew survey released today, more (53%) American Internet users regularly use Wikipedia, compared to the less than 50% who use instant messaging. Who woulda thunk it? Does this mean more people would like to learn something than would like to talk to their “friends”?
As reported on gigaom.com, Pew Research has found that more than 60% of those under 30 are regular users of Wikipedia, while only 33% of those over 65 (who already know everything) are regular users. Stuck somewhere between those two age groups, I refer to Wikipedia at least a dozen times a day.
At times I wonder if I am a Wikipedia abuser—someone who must have questions answered or facts confirmed at regular intervals throughout the day or go into info-withdrawal. Wikipedia is better than a street drug—most of the time you get more than you pay for (since you pay nothing, unless you’re a donor—Wikipedia is made possible by users like you!), but there’s still the fear that the merchandise isn’t exactly fresh, uncontaminated, or just plain fake.
Those running the big Wiki under founder Jimmy Wales, do a good job of advising when information lacks authority (citations, etc.) and is, therefore, suspect, and removing nonsense (why don’t they believe that Johnny Depp and I are engaged?) and revenge pages about people who have incurred someone’s dislike (I swear I’m not the one that published that stuff about FCE’s family!). With millions of users policing its pages, Wikipedia is nearly as pure as Ivory soap. Any serious research work (i.e., academic or for public consumption) should not rely on Wikipedia for its main resource, but is a lot easier having it as support.
Fact-checking is so much easier with Wikipedia—if you know something but want to confirm that you know it, Wikipedia is the place to go. For research, the provided links throughout and footnoted to entries provide further information on a given subject and provide a thumbs up or down on the information contained in the entry. When used as a springboard to research (not a substitute) it provides the researcher with direction.