Entry #4: Wikipedia: Friend or Foe?

Throughout my time as an undergrad student I had been told by numerous professors to never use wikipedia. There was the assumption that Wikipedia would never be a trusted site for information. However, there have been times that I found the site to be useful. One being the cited sources. Wikipedia has always been my first stop for research.

Many times the sources sited on a Wikipedia page are great for starting research. The foot notes give some understanding of pivotal information and a good place to start researching a subject. With reading some of the text it is understandable to see that the text is great for a basic explanation of information.

It is a typical encyclopedia-esque explanation of a topic that gives a basic understanding of a topic. It is true that the text can be misleading at times but that can be attributed to one of the side effects of an open source website. There are numerous different people that are responsible for the content on a single Wikipedia page which leads to not so reliable information. But, it is the very open source style that leads wikipedia to being more reliable than other encyclopedia sites, like Britannica. There are more people editing and adding to the wikipedia site evolving the information to be accurate. There is the occasional vandal to a page but it is nothing that can’t be easily eradicated. Editors are patrolling the pages and keeping a close eye on what is posted and how accurate the information is, making the site more reliable than I had previously thought.

I visited the wikipedia site and took to looking at three webpages holding some sort of relationship. The pages I visited were, Counterculture, Beat Generation, and Counterculture of the 1960s. These sites served as a basic insight into a topic that I knew a bit about but hadn’t focused on in a few years and would serve for a refresher for some upcoming research.

As I looked at the pages, all three held similar components, they gave a quick understanding before breaking the information into sub-headings. The counterculture page served more as an umbrella for the other two pages that I had visited for this post. Even referring to the other two pages for further detail on those two focuses of the counterculture.

On the Counterculture talk page, the discussion is going strong people are trying to improve the site but it is proving difficult for the follow through for some of their ideas. At one point someone argues that the specific movements discussed in the article went into too much detail and there were too few movements discussed. Those were accurately played, as there have been numerous different social movements in the history of the world but the page only discusses five.

The article on the Beat Generation served as a sign of what the Counterculture page should structure itself as. It was broken down into sub-sections giving enough information without the text being too overpowering for the visitor to read. The talk section of the Beat Generation was more heated, with two people being in an argument over editing out Hatnotes. At one point a wiki-cop intervened. This is a downfall for constructive editing, the ability of the individual to work with another person to put forth information is extremely difficult due to our independent nature as human beings with our own unique thought process.

The Counterculture of the 1960s page was an amazing page. The topic of the 1960s counterculture has been popular among the people because of its occurrence only being fifty years ago. People who lived through the events of the 1960s are still alive and find it reminiscent to think back on the events. The Page is one of the lengthiest pages I have seen on Wikipedia six sections holding sub-sections holding sub-sections. The information is in abundance but it is portrayed in a manor that is easy to read and understand while visual cues are placed in the margins allowing for some primary source material to be available. It is also extremely surprising to not that there is a lack of talking going on between editors of the page. There are very few discussion threads that are being addressed in the active sense but the archive is similarly bleak. yet the talk page of the Counterculture of the 1960s page allows for an example of how to properly use the discussion threads: Constructive conversation driven by the desire to improve the articles content.

My recent experiences with Wikipedia has giving me the ability to put some added trust into the website. I may not take every word on a page with a grain of salt, I will interpret the sources and verify that the are correct. In other words I will continue to use the site like I had previously but with an understanding that the site holds some merit on the web as holding valuable basic information for the public. It may not be a hundred percent correct but it is important to understand that no site can be.


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