Op-ed piece: What’s wrong with Wikipedia?

According to the Giles article titled “Internet encyclopedias go head to head” there are now over 4 million entries on Wikipedia making it one of the most used online resources for information.  This has happened for multiple reasons. One being its simplicity to find. Often when searching Google, a Wikipedia result displays at the top of the page. Also when looking for quick information, Wikipedia is one of the easiest sites around. It displays all the important information on a nice organized page; why wouldn’t people use it? However Just because of its popularity does this make Wikipedia reliable? Unfortunately it does not, and much of the information posted online is biased or grounded in opinion, not facts.

When looking at the Wikipedia page titled: Child Obesity, and considering Jensons article titled “Military History on the Electronic Frontier:Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812” we can see how Wikipedia really does lack authority as Jenson mentions. As with most topics there is a wide range of different views and opinions, thus deciding what belongs on a Wikipedia page and what doesn’t can be challenging. Although Wikipedia has written rules which outline the type of information that is allowed to be posted on pages, these rules are unknown to most and loosely followed as there is no authority to deter those who break the rules.

When issues and tensions arise surrounding questions, controversies or incorrect information users are left to deal with it themselves. Often the conversation results in bickering where one user states his opinion on the subject, followed by another user doing the same. This is consistent with Kapila and Royals article titled “What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information”. They argue that the information contained on Wikipedia reflects the views and interests of the people who contribute the information. This means that the majority in information contained on Wikipedia is socially constructed reflects the biases of the writer. Although this can be said for all sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, the journals provide scientific experiments or facts which support their views. Whether their views are correct or incorrect, we know the information is reliable and people are left to critically make their own decisions on if they consider it correct or not. This is opposed to Wikipedia where debating if information is credible or not is simply two people arguing their opinions, rarely backing it up with factual information.

A troubling part about reading through the negotiations between different contributors on Wikipedia was the lack of credentials or sources used. When people make suggestions on a particular post we are unaware if the contributor is someone with experience and knowledge on the subject or just someone stating their opinion or beliefs. Even if people were to share background information about their knowledge on the subject, it is impossible to know if they are being truthful or not. For example, a teenager could suggest they are a doctor in order to add credibility to their words. Once again it is impossible to monitor the identity of posters thus regardless of credentials all users carry the same merit.

Another issue that arises on Wikipedia when working to resolve questions or tensions is a lack of respect. Although most users show a level of respect even if they disagree with another users opinion, there are regular instances where there is a complete lack of respect and people are crude and vulgar to others. This diminishes the credibility of Wikipedia as the users behaving like this are also the ones contributing to Wikipedia and are responsible or the information displayed.

The article by Giles titled “Internet encyclopedias go head to head” brings up an interesting point. It talks about how Wikipedia’s structure ensures that reliability of information can never truly be possible. They are referring to the ability for anyone to edit a page at anytime. By allowing anyone to edit and change information, it is impossible guarantee the validity of the information. Although the article mentions that not all information on Wikipedia is incorrect and in fact a large portion of it is factually correct, the potential for an error to be in the information is too great to trust it as a reliable source.

Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.

Jensen, R. (2012). Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. Journal of Military History. 76, 1. pp 1165-1182

Giles. J. (2005). Special Report: Internet encyclopaedias go head to headNature. 438, pp 900-901.






Wikipedia part 2

The popularity of Wikipedia

In my last post I talked about my perception of Wikipedia and how I do not believe it can be used as a trusted source. I also discussed how the articles we read mentions Wikipedia as the most popular education tool for students. This and comments on my blog lead to the question Why is Wikipedia so popular? If we know that anyone can change information at any time thus creating a risk the information we are looking up is incorrect, why do we still choose to use Wikipedia? Are its users naive to the process of creating a Wiki and how Wikipedia works? Do its users trust the online community to only update the Wiki with accurate factual information? Or do users simply not care and use Wikipedia for its ease and simplicity?  

I would argue that it’s a combination of the three that make Wikipedia such a popular tool. Before I began university I had never learned about media literacy or how to find reliable information online. Media literacy is simply not touched upon in the standard curriculum. Therefore many of the people who use Wikipedia are unaware that the information can be changed at anytime. They believe since Wikipedia is a credible name the information posted online must be accurate. As we know, anyone can change at Wikipedias information at anytime. Therefore if someone wishes to tinker with information to make it inaccurate, they are able to do so.

Another reason I believe people use Wikipedia is that they trust the online community to provide accurate information. Although I have made it clear I do not trust Wikipedia as a reliable source, I am not saying everything posted on Wikipedia is incorrect and unreliable. The fact is a majority of the information on Wikipedia is correct and very informative. Contributors to the Wiki often post accurate information with sources and evidence to back it up. This allows people to trust the information that is posted online. If the majority of the information posted is accurate, one is likely to believe all the information is accurate when some may not be. Therefore while someone may use Wikipedia and find accurate information for certain topics, other topics that are incorrect may be trusted as users have found previous accurate information on Wikipedia.

A third reason for the popularity of Wikipedia is its simplicity and ease. As was mentioned in my comments, Wikipedia is often the first search result on Google making the information extremely accessible. Additionally, well written Wikis are organized in neat sections that provide different information all within a related topic. Therefore if someone is looking for quick information on a certain topic, Wikipedia often provides a variety of information on the topic all in one handy page that is easy to find. The efficiency and ease associated with using Wikipedia is a large selling point for many, especially students and youth.

Whatever the reason for Wikipedia’s popularity its important we understand how the information gets on the Wikis and who provides the information. This will allow us to make informed decisions on whether information is reliable or not. 

Can we trust Wikipedia?

Prior to reading the assigned articles I have always been skeptical of using Wikipedia as a reliable source. When I first began to explore the internet and discovering information online, Wikipedia seemed like the perfect source. It had all the important information on almost any topic you can think off. However as I began to learn more about which information you can trust online and which you cannot, I began to back away from Wikipedia when looking for reliable information. This September I will be entering my fourth year of university and after countless research papers I now consider myself a pro at finding reliable information online. Through the use of academic journals and various online databases we have access to a wide variety of peer reviewed scholarly articles. These are the most reliable sources of information usually as they are scientific studies that use evidence and research to back their argument. Online we must beware of sites that claim to know the answers but are simply someone stating their opinion with little facts or evidence to meet their claims. This is why I have stayed away from Wikipedia as anyone can change the information posted at anytime. As the article What’s on Wikipedia and what’s not argues, Wikipedia’s information often has perspective/interest biases behind it as anyone can add information to Wikipedia, regardless of research or evidence to back it up.

Reading these articles did not change the way I view Wikipedia’s information as I have always known it is not the most reliable. However following the readings, I began to worry as the article Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812 states that Wikipedia is now the worlds most dominant education resource with hundreds of millions of users. These users tend to ignore scholarly and historical information and use Wikipedia. This is a worry as many people use Wikipedia as they assume its factual information however they are unaware how the information gets to Wikipedia and who writes it. Internet users must possess media literacy skills in order to understand the online world and the different perspectives and biases of some of the information online.

Another reason I worry is brought up in the article The Social Life of Documents. The article states that documents are changing entirely during the switch from paper documents to online ones. This allows for greater access to the document to a wider audience of people. Thus if this information is incorrect or strongly biased, a wide variety of people will be exposed to it.

With the Internet now one of the easiest and quickest ways to obtain information it is important we are informed about not only the information, but who has produced the information and for what reason. People must understand how the information gets on Wikipedia and where it comes from in order to make informed educated decisions on weather it is accurate or not. 

Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.

 Jensen, R. (2012). Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. Journal of Military History. 76, 1. pp 1165-1182

 Brown, J. S. & P. Duguid. (1996). The Social Life of DocumentsFirst Monday. 1, 1.



Cyberspace and social media

Since its invention social media has changed the world. Never before have so many people been connected online simultaneously. The barrier of distance has virtually been eliminated as people can connect with each other instantly all over the world. Along with the rest of the world I have hopped on the bandwagon and have Facebook and twitter. I don’t consider myself much of a social media junkie, however I do find myself checking twitter on a regular basis. Mainly because I can do so on my phone anytime, anyplace. Although I belong to social media sites and use them regularly I decide not to share much information about my self online. I’m sure we all have those friends who think its their social media duty to share their life and what their doing/eating with all of their friends… As the article cyberspace and identity examines, while interacting online people form their own cyber identity. This identity can be much different than their real world identity, as ones cyber identity is based solely on what that person chooses to share with others. I choose to only post information online very occasionally and not to share much information. When deciding to post online I ensure I am not giving people too much personal information.

The article Online Social Networking as Participatory Surveillance talked about how social networking is a snoops dream. People are voluntarily giving personally information online thus making it extremely easy for others to track or “snoop” around your personal life. Not only are you providing that information to others but the government has also began to place surveillance on social media, primarily after the September 11th terrorist attack. This is another reason I choose not to share personal information online, as although I understand why the government should monitor social networking as it is a very effective safety measure, I personally do not feel comfortable sharing much personal information with the world. Along with the government, social media has also provided a wonderful platform for identity thief’s and other scam artists. Identity theft can ruin people’s lives and providing personal information online allows theirs to easily obtain information needed.

The last reading I would like to touch on is the ted talk by Sherry Turkle titled please we don’t want to go. I couldn’t help but laugh reading the article as I couldn’t agree more with her. She mentions how situations that used to seem odd such as texting in class or a boardroom or even a funeral now seem familiar and normal. Additionally the article mentions how people talk about the new skill of learning to text someone while making eye contact with another which is difficult, but can be done. This was my favourite part is I consider myself a master of this new “skill”. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing but reading about it in the article made me laugh.

 Cyberspace and Identity Sherry Turkle Contemporary Sociology Vol. 28, No. 6 (Nov., 1999), pp. 643-648


 Albrechtslund, A. (2008) “Online Social Networking as Participatory Surveillance.” First Monday. 13,3

Places we don’t want to go: Sherry Turkle at TED2012


Physical education: post 1

The main topic I will be addressing throughout this course is the importance of physical education. Through my schooling experience I always loved gym. The majority of the year was spent playing games and being physically active, while 1-2 weeks were dedicated to health class. Now as a very high-energy student, the health section of gym class was never my favourite. As I reflect upon the health sections of class I truly believe they should incorporate information about living a healthy lifestyle and the importance of diet and nutrition. If physical education is educating oneself about their physical body, then diet and nutrition should be a heavy focus as they play a crucial role in the well being of a human being. I believe that simply teaching students about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and more importantly how to live a healthy lifestyle will play a large role in increasing the wellness of our students.