I am a firm believer in getting the facts and educating myself on an unfamiliar topic, such as wikipedia, before forming an opinion, and if you have that philosophy I think you would agree that wikipedia is creating a great tool, a free tool for everyone in the world to access and allowing anyone and everyone to contribute.
People learn the same things in many different ways, languages etc. I think wikipedia brings that idea to life, you have many different experts ranging in backgrounds contributing to the site, therefore many different definitions are provided for the same word. This creates a definition/description much stronger than any encyclopedia. The other advantage to the wikipedia is that it is constantly being updated and added to, making it current -so important! But with anything I think you have to check your facts and your sources with several different site, publications etc, relying on just one source as the “godfather” is not the best idea.
After listening to Jim Wales speak about wikipedia, it was interesting to hear that the controversies are not from the highly opinioned left or right, as one would assume, but between the thoughtful and the jerks, people just trying to vandalize the site because they can. I image that will always be a problem, but if you have a strong community built with volunteers willing to handle and fix those situations, then it seems to be controlled.
The most interesting wiki I came across in my field report search was the realestatebubblemap.pbwiki.com, which is an interactive map above and a twin map of Past Housing Price Corrections. The goal of this experimental wiki is to protect homebuyers from overpaying in overvalued housing markets across the United States. Citizen journalists are encouraged to participate and add news articles, blog posts, and examples of falling prices to document what is going on in each local market. The participation from real estate professionals and consumers is vital in the survival of this wiki, more so because it deals with very specific local markets. This wiki had to be just recently started in the last few years as the housing market started declining.
How could wikipedia be set up better, to provide more accuracy? Maybe it starts with the users, being stricter with a background check of some kind. I mean it sounds like if you don’t play by the rules now you can be kicked out, so there is already something set in place for bad wiki use. Limiting the contributors, takes away from the purpose and goal of wikipedia. And even if you had only experts contributing –what would you then define as an expert –how would you set those standards? I think more monitoring on the backend to fix and question what is being contributed would be something to consider.