07 April 2007

Wikipedia revisited

A comment made on one of my previous posts (‘Shouldn’t we demand more?’) by a fellow blogger had me thinking. As she had commented, I must confess that I, too, regularly search for information in Wikipedia. And, as a first-off source of information, Wikipedia is pretty good.

Normally, in my work, I do not confine my search to Wikipedia alone and continue to research my topic, gathering information from various sources (some also from Wikipedia links), reading, assimilating and forming a certain point of view, before I use that information for my work. By that time, that ‘intelligence’ (if I may use that word) with which I work is no longer an exclusive product/derivative of Wikipedia, but a result of many other sources and intelligence, some of which may not even be available on the Internet.

So, in spite of its weakness (as I had blogged about earlier), Wikipedia is, indeed, a quick and convenient source of basic information. And, therefore, it is immensely useful to Internet users like us – whether or not we have access to more reputed sources like Encyclopedia Britannica or other industry journals. Or, we have data from our own field work, lab experiments and market research.

As users of the Internet, maybe what we should keep in mind is that Wikipedia, and similar sources of open-source information, need to be used for a specific purpose – the purpose of gathering basic information. We should then pursue other sources for more, and perhaps more qualitative, information before assimilating the facts and arriving at our own conclusions.

And, in our search, should we find information contrary to, or deviating from, our initial finding, we should be willing to ‘edit’ our information and our intelligence – even our views – as Wikipedia does. That’s because things change, new discoveries are made everyday. Information grows old by the hour. The danger, of course, lies in our sticking to Wikipedia, or any other source for that matter, as the only source of reliable information.

It’s not what Wikipedia is, but how we use it that determines the quality of our work and our conclusions. Isn’t that true for all tools, technologies, information and education?

Many thanks, Madhuri.


Madhuri said...

Thanks for the reference :)
I see that in accordance with views expressed here, you are already revising your ideas.
BTW, your "Unsettled Views" are quite settled and welll-expressed.

runawaysun said...

@ Madhuri

Yes, revision, like an audit, is a good practice.

Glad you liked my ‘unsettled views’. If you like short fiction, my ‘immigrant experience’ posts (now, sadly, abandoned) may make interesting reading. They are fictionalised accounts of my childhood in Australia.