Wikipedia Versus Libraries

Posted on August 1, 2007

Wikiality EncyclopediaRichard Farmbrough, a 45-year-old technology project manager living in England, is said to be the person with the most Wikipedia entries. Wikipedia is often accused of containing innacurate listings and was even made fun of by Stephen Colbert who coined the term Wikiality. In an interview with Smith Magazine, Farmbrough says he thinks Wikipedia can be a better source of information than a library in some situations.
Do you think Wikipedia is a better source of information than going to the library?

Farmbrough: In some ways. The question only makes sense if you state who is looking for what, and which library is involved. For example, if you have a university library available to you, you will get more and better information on most subjects, except, perhaps, popular culture. If you only have a small-town library, you can probably find out as much or more from Wikipedia on many subjects, but it will be "chunked" differently -- it might not be easy to learn calculus, certainly not Linux or Anglo-Saxon from Wikipedia (although, there are sister wikis which address these types of needs). The Wikipedia community has a strong belief in maintaining the goal of building an encyclopedia, rather than a how-to resource, a dictionary (though there is also Wiktionary) or "an indiscriminate collection of information."
Some of Wikipedia's seven million articles are debated or contested as people often have different takes on what the facts are. However, printed media - books, magazines and journal - may also carry the bias of the author(s). Most of the Wikipedia entries do try to source the facts in the article by linking directly to each source in the References section.

Some who disagreed enough with Wikipedia have even launched their own wiki encyclopedias, like Conservapedia. Stephen Colbert's clever wikiality term now has over 400,000 results on Google. There's even a Wikiality encylcopedia that's dedicated to truthiness.

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