And there’s more on Wikipedia’s problems here. I find it a decent place for casual reference when the subjects aren’t politically charged, but much less useful when they are.
UPDATE: Bruce Rolston emails that he thinks the worries above are silly. Perhaps so — I don’t really think that Wikipedia has any sort of “in” with search engines beyond what their algorithms give it — but Wikipedia’s biggest problem stems from lack of trust, which is an issue with a reference site. I’ve certainly seen stories on it being manipulated by people with agendas ranging from random individuals, to Microsoft, to Congressional staffers.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ben White emails: “For a new-media guy, your line above has quite the old-media-elite color to it.” Hmm. Really? It’s just that you go to Wikipedia for a reference, not an opinion. But the way it works means that — though errors probably do get fixed over time — people with an agenda and persistence can undermine the reliability of what you see on any given visit. I’m all for the “asymptotic approach to the truth,” as Kaus calls it, but I’m not sure it works well in the context of a reference. And I’m hardly alone in having such concerns. This isn’t a huge slam at Wikipedia — if you follow the link just above you’ll see that even Wikipedia folks share some of these concerns — but a warning about what’s there, especially on controversial issues. Just remember that Wikipedia is part of the low-trust environment of the Internet, even if it seems, somehow, more like, well, an encyclopedia.
MORE: Ed Driscoll reminds us that Big Media are not immune from this sort of thing, too.
STILL MORE: Ted Frank: “The problem is worse than he imagines, because lazy mainstream media are now relying on the site.”