Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hramblings: Wikipedia and methods of knowing

There has been a lot of discussion about whether Wikipedia is a sustainable model for knowledge aggregation. My only comment on the controversy is that encyclopedias, no matter how well vetted their contributors, are tertiary sources. If you're trying to get a rough idea about a topic, its reasonable to check the web or nudge the guy next to you. At the least its a good test of your critical reasoning skills. The practice of grabbing a few web pages worth of hearsay and poorly collected information for middle-school term papers is questionable. Its total BS beyond that point.
In short, when researching a topic, you should be doing direct observation, interviewing experts, reading their papers, looking for 2nd person accounts by reliable biographers, historians, critics, etc. This is not to say that there aren't experts on the web. But most author websites are summaries of things they've published in books and journals.


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