has become my preferred destination for links.
Yes there are major problems with it,
and something much better could be imagined.
But on balance, it is better than the alternatives.
In defence of Wikipedia:
I link a lot to Wikipedia now. Yes I know it can be edited by anyone,
and all information needs to be cross-checked,
and entries regularly are vandalised, but here's why I still link to it:
Vandals are usually discovered quickly,
because so many people are watching the page.
Re-load a little later and the vandalism is gone,
and the vandal banned.
Vandalism may be only a short-term problem.
I trust that the software will improve so that, as on eBay,
authors can build a long-term reputation,
and we can choose views to see all authors,
or only those above a certain quality.
There are many software ways that Wikipedia can improve,
and I think it will, and I can keep my links to it.
Even where information is sketchy,
I still link to Wikipedia for the
external links sections,
which is for many topics
better quality, better maintained, and more up to date than
other lists of links like Open Directory.
View the Wikipedia link as a starting point for exploration,
not a destination.
Wikipedia is so up-to-date because so many people are always working on it.
Whereas some other resources or lists of links
may only get updated every few months or even years.
Links are so simple in format:
that: (1) you can actually guess them,
and: (2) it looks like they will never need to be changed,
whereas hierarchies like Open Directory
re-organise their directory structures regularly and break links.
What is shocking is the vast amount of simple vandalism
coming from IPs in supposedly repectable news organisations, NGOs
and even governments.
These edits are not just mild bias,
all-out vandalism that will obviously be removed.
Sure these organisations can't control every junior intern,
but it is shocking that people would commit such vandalism
while at work.
WikiScanner also shows sinister edits, by
many religious and political bodies
and campaigning groups
(your ideas of exactly who is sinister may differ from mine).
Again, we rely on the collective edits of the community to
restrain and control
the edits of partisan groups.
Wikipedia is flawed, but better than the alternatives:
The whole Wikipedia debate points out that, even today, so many years after the start of the Web,
there is still no perfect site to link to.
- Biography. Rich internal and external links.
Quality biography, written by professionals.
Few external links.
Sparser than Wikipedia
but certainly an alternative.
Will link always work without subscription?
- Not bad. Come back in 10 years. See discussion below.
If you linked to these, you will regret it, since they have shut down:
Wikipedia is flawed, but better than the alternatives.
But there is a real gap in the market for someone
to produce the perfect site to link to.
It would need
a huge spread - several million topics,
great internal linking,
and with great external links to other websites.
"SUGGEST EDIT" button on each page.
Gives you source. You edit and submit.
No easy way of mass-converting my Wikipedia links to Britannica links though.
Could you cite Wikipedia in a paper?
Use Wikipedia as a starting point to find a real, stable, author-identified
source that you can cite.
"Normal academic usage of Wikipedia .. is for getting the general facts of a problem and to gather keywords, references and bibliographical pointers, but not as a source in itself."
shows up many of Wikipedia's flaws.
(And yet everyone is at his class,
and no one is at
Professor Britannica's lectures.)
Warning: Some vulgarity.
Despite all the above, I think I should close by being negative.
Sometimes I link to Wikipedia.
I have written something
In defence of Wikipedia.
It is often a useful starting point
but you cannot trust it.
Linking to it is like linking to a Google search.
A starting point, not a destination.
highlight in red all
links to Wikipedia and Google search
and other possibly-unreliable user-generated content.