Wide World of Wiki

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Since it has been drilled into my mind since my last year of high school and following three years of college, I've been away from Wikipedia and its world for quite some time.  Wikipedia was branded the root of all scholarly evils.  And when I turned my back on Wikipedia, I assumed it was doomed to failure as well.  How could something so unreliable, that wanted to function within the world of academia, ever survive?

Unknown to me, however, Wikipedia has been thriving even though I haven't been a part of it.  And believe it or not, there's a heart to Wiki mission; I thought it was simply ad hoc, come-and-go, do what you please, add, subtract, bash, lie, fix...anything goes!  Naive, yes.  However, there is a clearly stated ethical base to the Wikipedia approach.

This base is quite extensive, actually.  Not only are there the Key Policies and Guidelines and  Five Pillars, there is a Simplified Rule Set and a List of Policies.  Wikipedia has established an entire organizational culture.

This greatly improves my assumptions about Wikipedia.  I assumed they would ignore the inherent problems of their system; brush them under the rug and try to pass themselves off not only as something legitimate, but as a source with no problems.  These documents, however, prove that Wiki knows exactly who and what they are; they are pronouncing to the world their mission, problems and all.  Wiki announces under the heading, "Using Wikipedia as a Research Source": "Users should be aware that not all articles are of encyclopedic quality from the start, and may contain false or debatable information."

Good for you, Wikipedia.  Your mission is a valiant one.  This doesn't mean I'll start citing you as a legitimate source in my term papers, but it does open my eyes to the grander scope of Wikipedia.  The source never wanted to masquerade as a traditional encyclopedia for strictly research purposes, even though this is the box many students, like myself, wanted it to fit into.  So if you expand the purpose of Wikipedia, its problems seem manageable.  Wikipedia is more of a process, than content.  The content is there, of course, and should be held to the highest standards possible.  But don't lose the Wikipedia forest amidst all those Wikipedia trees.


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