Thing 18: Wikis

My main page on the DFW 23 Things wiki is here (and there are three subpages too).  As you’ll read on the main page, I have a lot of experience with wikis that I’m not going to repeat in this post.  All that experience is with PBworks, though, so it was fun to give WetPaint a try.  I didn’t really have any problems, but I’d already read others’ posts and comments about problems with not adding their pages in the right places and with naming pages (when the name was already in use by someone else on the wiki), so I was prepared.

Being an academic librarian, I am already pretty familiar with Wikipedia and its pros and cons.  Not surprisingly, few if any professors here allow students to cite Wikipedia as a source in papers and projects.  Nevertheless, I will often use it as a starting point for research on a topic. The best articles in Wikipedia have citations and footnotes, lists of additional reading (links and print publications), and cross-references.  I might start with Wikipedia and then go to one of those sources to get additional information.

For example, I’m currently reading The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, and I wanted to know more about Ann Eliza Young.  The Wikipedia article did provide some additional sources beyond those on the author’s website.  I also used Wikipedia to look up magnetic cartridges (for phonographs), but unfortunately this article doesn’t have any citations or links outside Wikipedia, so I’m not too confident about its accuracy, although it might still help me figure out what to buy to get the record players in our AV collection to work again!

I think it’s VERY important to look at the “discussion” tab for a Wikipedia entry and see what if any controversy and arguments the article has stirred up – that can give you a clue to its accuracy and neutrality.


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