Person A: "What is speleology"
Person B: "The study of caves. Here's a wikipedia link if you want to learn more."
Person C: "Wikipedia isn't a reliable source@!@!!!!"

Me: I wish people would stop mistaking "don't use this as an academic source for citations in a paper" with "this is not a reliable source for getting an overview of what something is." For non-controversial topics, Wikipedia is rarely inaccurate, and controversial topics are typically flagged.

@eleanorkonik TBH if more people treated Wikipedia as if it were an academic paper, that would solve a lot of problems from people who are not plagiarists.

@eleanorkonik And I think that even in academia the actual reason to not use Wikipedia as a source is that as a mutable and not-easily attributable media you can't really cite it reliably, not that the content would necessarily be unreliable...

@eleanorkonik I've caught a factual, non-controversial error before in WP, specifically a claim that Stalin was the third leader at the Casablanca conference.

WP is useful, fascinating and a wonder really. But it's hard to tell when it's wrong.

@mpjgregoire Sure, but that doesn't Wikipedia *uniquely* bad. I never claimed that Wikipedia has a 0% error rate.

The textbooks I use to teach have factual, non-controversial errors, too. So do news articles, informational websites. So do peer-reviewed journal articles. So does Encyclopedia Britannica. People on Reddit are wrong all the time.

It's hard to tell when those are wrong, too... but they don't get nearly the bad rap with students that Wikipedia does.

@eleanorkonik Absolutely true.

I wonder if anyone has researched relative error rates for WP?

@eleanorkonik in fact, Wikipedia is downright impenetrable in some subject areas because the pages are only edited by people getting advanced degrees in those subjects

@DialMforMara Haha yeah, this is the main reason I don't recommend it to my 6th graders or anything, and I certainly don't find it useful for figuring out mathematics concepts.

But for something like "hey, where does cobalt come from?" it's pretty freaking awesome!

@eleanorkonik I find the mathematics articles on Wikipedia are better at explaining concepts than most textbooks or teachers


Wikipedia is one of the best places for finding actual sources on any subject

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