If you can afford fifteen dollars, do yourself a favor and download the Britannica app. We had forgotten how good it is to read a real, edited, encyclopedia entry. Jeremiah used to be a big supporter of Wikipedia. The stimulus for the switch was a recent spate of Wikipedia “vandalism,” but – once you’ve seen the difference, you won’t go back.
Russian hackers changed a Wikipedia entry to say that the jets could fly at the altitude of MH17
The first episode was just good fun. America’s Congress has been banned from editing Wikipedia because, among other pranks, they have identified Sec. Donald Rumsfeld as an alien lizard. More serious was The Economist’s finding that hackers are using Wikipedia for topical propaganda.
It’s not surprising to find that an open source encyclopedia is rife with misinformation. Maybe you could use it for math and science, but certainly not for history. For an example, we compared articles on the Chilean coup. This is from Wikipedia:
Pinochet assumed power in Chile following a U.S.-backed coup d’état on 11 September 1973 that overthrew the elected … socialist government of President Salvador Allende
On Wikipedia, there is no dictator anywhere who was not installed by the CIA. Jeremiah suspects someone has “U.S. backed coup” on a shortcut key. Here is Britannica:
Augusto Pinochet …leader of the military junta that overthrew the socialist government of President Salvador Allende of Chile on Sept. 11, 1973
We chose Chile because this month’s issue of Foreign Affairs has the real story. The author, a retired spy, is credible because the CIA admits to a failed coup in 1970 and knowledge of the plot in 1973. Morally, this may not be much of a difference, but – for an encyclopedia, it is an intolerable gaffe. How would you answer the question, “when was the CIA backed coup?”
Wikipedia articles also tend to ramble, sometimes to the point of incoherence, because they’re written by committee. This blights even objective topics, like math and science. It’s much better to have one expert, with an editor, write the article from beginning to end.
Of course, any reference material is going to carry the editor’s bias, but Encyclopedia Britannica is about as clean a source as you’re going to find – plus, no alien lizards!
See also: Spectacular Acts of Wikipedia Vandalism