Until recently, I was like one of the many who used Wikipedia as just another resource for information. After watching the ted.com video of Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, my already-existing trust in Wikipedia increased tenfold.
It is easy for skeptics and uneducated persons to try and bring down this ever-growing phenomenon. But the one statistic that really jumped out at me was the fact that, according to Wales, only 18% of Wikipedia contributors are anonymous. This number is shocking when you take into the account that the site is open for anyone and everyone to edit. Of course, it is inevitable that fraudulent posts will be made (like the very recent Obama page vandalism). But, as Wales points out, these scammers are outnumbered. The very loyal 600-1000 members of the close-knit contributor community have proven to be quick in eliminating erroneous posts (through reverting to a previous version or “voting for deletion”). This fact in itself should hush the skeptics. For the time being, this is Wikipedia’s best bet in keeping the site accurate.
If Wikipedia was only limited to the experts, it would be just another encyclopedia. In fact, it would lose some of its credibility. That’s not to say that Brittanica and the others should be considered erroneous (although the difference in web traffic is tremendous, according to this Wikinomics blog entry). But the beauty of Wikipedia lays in its open source software…making it a living phenomenon. The controversies that arise actually make the site unique; the scrubbing of false information keeps the site accurate. Additionally, Wikipedia’s core principles of neutrality and good faith solidify its credibility and ensures ongoing quality.
With time, this freedom of information will redefine the future of knowledge and education as we know it.