Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I'm Donating to Wikipedia

Each year about this time, Wikipedia asks for donations to support the service and keep the world's largest internet encyclopedia "free of advertising." Supporters of Wikipedia can give money to Wikimedia, which is the non-profit organization that oversees the operation of the site. I have given money to the open-source brainchild of Jimmy Wales in the past, and I plan to do so again this year. I do so for one simple reason:  I use Wikipedia regularly, and I firmly believe in the value it provides. In fact, I know of few people who don't use Wikipedia reguarly - for you can hardly avoid it in any given Google search, nor should you. Wikipedia is an excellent resource and starting point for wanting to learn about anything.

On numerous occasions researchers have analyzed and studied Wikipedia entries for accuracy and reliability, and the site has been confirmed to be overwhelmingly accurate. In fact, because Wikipedia is an open-source document with regular peer review, it can in many ways be more accurate than print sources. Rarely does inaccurate information stay on the site for long because the community of users will correct errors. For that reason, I have no problem with my students using Wikipedia, and I always encourage them to use it as a starting point for more extensive research. It is a valuable tool, and because we all use it so regularly, we should be willing to fund and support it, just as we may do for NPR or PBS or any number of non-profits and foundations.

Granted, there are many critics of Wikipedia and especially Wikimedia's fundraising efforts. Yet, I don't really understand the aversion to the fundraising drive. Even if the foundation has ample funds, there are still obvious costs associated with maintaining the site. If you use it, you should pay for it. And I plan to do so.

1 comment:

Gregory Kohs said...

"Rarely does inaccurate information stay on the site for long because the community of users will correct errors."

This is an unfortunately popular fiction. You can read more about a systematically tested viewpoint right here.