Is Wikipedia Reliable?

Interesting December 4, 2005, story in the New York Times entitled “Snared in the Web of a Wikipedia Liar” that is a good reminder to everyone that the quality and reliability of content on Wikipedia relies directly on the concept of “garbage in, garbage out.”


  1. Ted – it’s not quite as simple as GIGo, as you suggest. Yes you can find things like which suggest that everything is unrelaible. Yet I’ve found material that was just as good as (the older, pre-Chicago) Brittaninica. A more balanced view is in Wired at,1294,66210,00.html
    Now if you want to see a real reference tool, you can’t do better than

  2. I wonder if Ted didn’t mean, simply, that the output is variable because the input is variable. If you put garbage in then you’ll get garbage out. I know some of the people who’ve written pieces on Wikipedia and would trust their accuracy completely. On the whole, it’s much like life itself, no?

  3. By definition a Wiki is open to all users to edit. defines a Wiki as: “a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser.” The concerns raised are valid, but it also has a remarkable power as a means of information exchange. So yes, it is much like life, we must use our knowledge and experience to evaluate the material we find and ultimately utilize. If someone were to publish a poorly researched book we would also have to evaluate the legitimacy of the information contained therein as well. There is a responsiblity incumbent upon those who maintain Wikipedia to make sure that it is not abused and a mechanism for slanderous type material to be removed. But on the whole, I feel that the ability of Wikipedia to bring vasts stores of knowledge together outweighs some of the possible negatives that come with it.

  4. And thundering in from the wings comes Andrew Orlowski: “There’s no Wikipedia entry for ‘moral responsibility'” at
    As he puts it, this calls into question the entire basis of the Wikipedia: “It’s the Hive Mind wot dunnit. Not me”

  5. Some other items of note: first, the perpetrator of this ‘prank’ apologized for his errant behaviour; second, within a week of this problem, Wikipedia’s submission rules were changed to require registration before the creation of new items (

    There is hope for a world of open resources.

  6. I always wonder if this must be an either-or situation? When a community is large and can police itself – great, and when it can’t, smaller controlled group collaboration may work better. Overall, I don’t mind when the world-at-large questions what information can or can’t be trusted – it simply increases the value of those professions who gauge authority for a living.

    Great comments, and I’m going to have to check out Simon, you seem to dig in the corners of the web that others miss. Good on ya. :-)