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Rightly or wrongly, Wikipedia doesn’t have the best reputation for accuracy. However, is that simply a hangover from its early days?

Does it deserve this reputation, or is Wikipedia now as trustworthy as any other website presenting a version of the truth?

We’re keen to find out how people view the trustworthiness of Wikipedia, and we need your help in doing so. Welcome to this week’s MakeUseOf Poll!

Blank Friday

To answer this week’s question please scroll down the page until you see the poll staring back at you. But first, we need to look at the results from last week, when we asked, “Did You Buy Any Gadgets on Black Friday? Did You Buy Any Gadgets on Black Friday? [MakeUseOf Poll] Did You Buy Any Gadgets on Black Friday? [MakeUseOf Poll] Congratulations, you survived Black Friday yet again, managing to avoid being crushed under foot by stampeding bargain-hunters. But did you manage to nab a bargain for yourself while doing so? Read More

Out of a total of 117 votes, 53% chose No, I Didn’t Want Anything, 29% chose Yes, I Got a Bargain, 7.7% chose No, I Tried and Failed, 1.7% chose Yes, But I Regret It, and 8.6% chose What Is Black Friday?

These results suggest that most of our readers didn’t head out on Black Friday Beware of Black Friday Scams, Avoid Star Wars Spoilers... [Tech News Digest] Beware of Black Friday Scams, Avoid Star Wars Spoilers... [Tech News Digest] Beware the Black Friday scammers, avoid Star Wars spoilers, listen to Adele on Pandora, watch movies on Tubi TV, and Samsung encourages us to break our old television sets. Read More determined to grab a bargain. Mostly because they didn’t actually want anything. Still, a fair proportion of those who voted in the poll did manage to pick something up, no doubt ensuring this tradition will continue on for many more years to come.

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Comment of the Week

We received a lot of great comments, including those from James Howde, Patrick Balingit, and DzBnk. Comment of the Week goes to Mark Major, who earns our admiration and affection for this comment Did You Buy Any Gadgets on Black Friday? [MakeUseOf Poll] Did You Buy Any Gadgets on Black Friday? [MakeUseOf Poll] Congratulations, you survived Black Friday yet again, managing to avoid being crushed under foot by stampeding bargain-hunters. But did you manage to nab a bargain for yourself while doing so? Read More :

2 words… Cyber Monday, I got ever so slightly better online deals last year so I’ll try and see if I can repeat that this year.

We chose this comment because while it’s short, simple, and to the point, it could help explain why the popularity of Black Friday seems to be dipping. Why waste a day fighting through crowds to save $100 or so 7 Sure-Fire Ways to Be 100% Prepared for Black Friday 7 Sure-Fire Ways to Be 100% Prepared for Black Friday Here's how you can make the most of this year's Black Friday online. Read More , when you can probably save more shopping online in your underwear?

Shopping online is now such a mainstream activity that we suspect Cyber Monday will end up becoming a much bigger deal than its bricks-and-mortar equivalent in the years to come. If it hasn’t already done so.

Wikipedia Worries

building-wikipedia

Wikipedia has been one of the foundations of the Internet 7 Most Important Websites We Can't Live Without 7 Most Important Websites We Can't Live Without The World Wide Web (now more commonly known simply as the Web) has been with us for over 20 years now, and in that relatively short space of time it has unequivocally changed the world.... Read More for many years, providing a source of knowledge for children and adults alike. However, it has its flaws, one of which is the possibility of mistakes creeping into its pages. Its team of editors do a fine job, but no one is perfect.

With the news that Wikipedia has developed a new artificial intelligence YouTube Copies Netflix, Google Kills Songza... [Tech News Digest] YouTube Copies Netflix, Google Kills Songza... [Tech News Digest] YouTube channels the spirit of Netflix, Google subsumes Songza, Wikipedia creates a new AI, Adele admits streaming is the future, and the pop songs of 2015 get mashed up into one. Read More designed to weed out bad edits, we thought it was worth finding out what our readers think of the online encyclopedia. We’re especially interested in finding out how much you trust Wikipedia, whether fully, partially, or barely.

Once you have voted in the poll above, please explain in the comments section below why you voted that way. If you trust Wikipedia, why? If you distrust Wikipedia, why? Have you had a good or bad experience using Wikipedia 7 Ways To Learn Something New Every Day With Wikipedia 7 Ways To Learn Something New Every Day With Wikipedia Wikipedia is packed full of content. At the time of writing there are over 4 million articles contained within the English language version, with more being added all the time. All of these pages are... Read More ? Is there a particular Wikipedia page you have issues with?

The more information you can provide with your comment, the more accurate our conclusions can be based on the results. The best comment of the week will win our everlasting admiration and affection. At least until we all meet back here again this time next week with a new question.

Image Credits: Tom Morris via Flickr, Giulia Forsythe via Flickr

  1. Aditya
    December 9, 2015 at 8:28 am

    I trust Wikipedia mostly to get initial information on the subjects that I am not familiar to. Also, to get some (mostly) clear definition on such subjects. Some subject can be very well known but very hard to define.

  2. Jack anderson
    December 8, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Wikipedia is "introductory source of information", they call it "free encyclopedia" not "reference".
    so, If the paragraph or article has a cites, you should trust it, otherwise not.

    Don't read uncited article and say "Wikipedia is not trustworthy" !! don't be a fool

  3. jsteedley
    December 7, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    Hello, all.
    Some 'information' on Wikipedia is 'factual,' so it's not very likely to be 'altered'.
    Some 'information' is primarily 'opinion-based,' so it's subject to being 'slanted';
    Political info, especially.
    Some 'information' is much more likely to be 'interpretation-based'
    [think religion, & some science],
    so it's subject to a great deal less verifiableness, or authenticatability.
    So, IMO, Wikipedia's "trust-worthiness" depends partially on the type of information.
    And that means that the knowledge-seeker must be;
    1. Aware of the type of information sought.
    2. Have at least a minimum knowledge/awareness of the subject matter.
    3. Be able to reason logically, & to critically examine the information.
    In the final analysis, Wikipedia is great, if you just want to 'brush up' on a subject.
    For more in depth learning, it may a good start,
    but should be augmented w/ more conventional sources.
    Have a GREAT day, Neighbors!

  4. m-p{3}
    December 7, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    I mostly trust it, but some controversial entries it's wise to dig a little further within the reference notes and the talk page.

  5. Bob Lucore
    December 7, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Academic studies have shown that it is just as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica, and it is much broader in scope. It is convenient, and you can always check the documentation.

  6. Kelsey Tidwell
    December 7, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    I trust it because why not? There's no guarantee with the authenticity of ANYTHING on the Internet unless I want to spend more time researching sources than I spend on the article itself. Everything I read on the Internet is subject to the very same level of suspicion.

    You don't even know if I'm myself, who you think I might be, or even who I really am.

  7. Paul
    December 7, 2015 at 6:16 am

    I use it quite a bit (a few years ago I donated 20 bucks), often several times a day---but only for the "factual" questions such as, How long was the Thirty Years War, or When did the War of 1812 start. I do trust it to tell me when a US President took office, when he left office, etc.

    If you want an informed discussion of finer points (such as the causes of WWI), look to Encyclopedia Britannica, or do more refined surfing. But for limited uses like the above, yes I absolutely trust it. I would never use it to decide who really killed JFK, if that is what you mean.

  8. Nicky K.D Chaleunphone
    December 7, 2015 at 5:58 am

    I don't trust it cause people can skew the facts to fit their own bias and hidden agendas

  9. J Yuma
    December 7, 2015 at 4:21 am

    Wikipedia is a good place to start in the never ending search for knowledge.

  10. UrsusNurse
    December 6, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    I'm a registered nurse and have found that there is much propaganda, disinformation, misinformation and biased material on many topics, especially pharmaceuticals (read the obvious biases in pages on psychiatric meds, for instance).

    In addition, way back when I several times tried to make some edits to a page due to grammatical issues, clarity issues/sentence structure, spelling and punctuation (I used to work in print advertising production as a typographer/editor/copywriter), so my command of English is pretty formidable. I was informed by hostile-toned that further attempts to edit pages by my account would cause me to be banned from editing Wikipedia pages completely. So, the authors/"owners" of pages (even though they're supposed to be collective) use threats even when you've tried to make their material more professional! Needless to say, every year when I get the email asking for funding for Wikipedia, I just refuse on this basis.

    Wikipedia is proof that crowdsourcing information isn't always a great idea. "Common knowledge" is the new term for stupidity and ignorance, and brazen stupidity is in. Even vetting is uneven, because it depends on the dependability of the source. I often look at the citations for articles, only to find that statements are often taken out of context or are of clearly dubious origin.

    I think the dependability of Wikipedia is wildly variable, and one must therefore take everything that appears there with more than one grain of salt. In regards to advice I give patients for online health research, I always strongly advise them to ignore Wikipedia.

  11. Frank
    December 6, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    It is trustworthy as long as its readers realize that everything that's written on its pages must cite a source. If something's unsourced, then you have to assume it could be wrong. Wikipedia should be considered as a collection of reliable sources rather than a proper encyclopedia. If you look at it from this perspective, then it's a great tool for sharing knowledge. The downside is that you have to spend some time to make sure that what you're reading is based on a trustworthy source.

    • UrsusNurse
      December 6, 2015 at 7:16 pm

      But the issue remains: how does one determine what a "reliable source" is? Just because it's written down somewhere doesn't make it reliable, especially online. (See also: news reports that simply cite other news reports, therefore implying that the other reports are factual, when this often is simply untrue. It's a reporter reporting that some other reporter reported something. Doesn't make it factual.) Citing a source isn't proof. Totally different things!

      • Frank
        December 7, 2015 at 12:27 am

        Well, there probably are some topics that are unreliable "by design", such as medical and political ones, since it's difficult to realise whether the used sources are reliable or not. But, as for topics like literature, sports, philosophy, music and so on, if registered newspapers with a decent reputation in that specific topic are used as sources, reliability is usually not an issue. I'm not very active in the English Wikipedia, but I contribute to the Italian one, where adminis and "patrollers" do a very good job at checking edited pages: vandalisms are often reverted in a matter of minutes, and when questionable sources are used, they are promptly removed. If you absolutely need an information with the highest degree of accuracy, maybe Wikipedia sholdn't be your first choice. But whenever I want to learn something new in my spare time, I consider it accurate enough to be a useful tool.

        • UrsusNurse
          December 7, 2015 at 6:46 am

          You raise an interesting point and I think it's well taken. Certain areas of Wikipedia are much less prone to be influenced by opinion, bias and sensationalism (ahem, TV/newspaper-headline-ism).

          There are areas of medical information such as a drug's chemical formula, indications, etc. that are not easily touched by an editor's biases. I agree that not all articles are untrustworthy; it's just that readers should approach all articles with at least a little skepticism. I also had never considered the different language versions of Wikipedia in this regard. That sounds like a whole different matter entirely. I do wonder if the U.S. Wikipedia is more given to editorialized content compared to the Wikis in other languages/from other countries?

          I absolutely agree with you, though, in your statement "if you absolutely need an information with the highest degree of accuracy, maybe Wikipedia shouldn't be your first choice." That's pretty much my point in a nutshell. And again referencing my occupation of healthcare, I don't want patients negatively influenced by subjective articles (or amateurs or laymen's opinions masquerading as scientific expertise by misusing citations). This can be a matter of life or death to a patient when the articles ideally are supposed to be informative, complete, objective, unbiased and scientific.

        • Frank
          December 7, 2015 at 9:22 am

          I agree with you when you say that everything should be taken with some skeptimism: I would have said the same in my first post if I had the chance to edit it. Especially when it comes to medical information, Wikipedia's accuracy leaves to be desired, so it should not be referred to for this kind of info. But I think this issue applies to the Internet in general: for those who are not experts in this specific field, it's hard to distinguish between a serious publication and a crappy one, and even if the article is reliable it's easy to misunderstand it.

          But, if the topic is not a matter of life and death, it's good to have a "meta-site" that combines different sources of information without continuity solution. Also, the quality of Wikipedia has dramatically improved over the past few years, and if some articles still look like crap it's because they've been written ten years ago, when the guidelines were indulgent, and nobody has updated them yet. It's utopistic to believe that every issue will be solved, but I think dependability will be greater and greater in the long run.

          As for the different languages of Wikipedia, each community has its own guidelines (although the fundamental rules are the same and you can participate in any one of them with the same account): the English one seems very well organised to me, because the community is wide and active, but I had the feeling that there's less attention to the quality of the sources compared to the Italian edition, although my experience is limited. On the other hand, the Italian community has much less users, so many articles which are very comprehensive in the English one are just drafts in Italian.

  12. n2b
    December 6, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    "Do you trust Wikipedia?"

    I didn't until my Magic 8-Ball told me I should.

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