Okay, so I admit to being biased here. I’m an open-source advocate, work for an open-source company developing an open-source application, and my Wikipedia edit history goes back to 2005, ranging from fixing picayune details to reverting massive vandalism to creating new articles. (I actually recall making edits long before that, but I don’t recall what the account was, much less its credentials.)
But let me ask this: Why shouldn’t you trust Wikipedia? The answer anyone would give you is that anyone can edit it.
I don’t understand this logic. Isn’t that exactly why you should trust Wikipedia? On another site, or in a print dictionary, only a select few can make edits. The presumption is that the fewer editors, the better the quality. This seems insanely backwards to me, though. When something isn’t quite perfect on Wikipedia, anyone in the world can fix it. When something is wrong on a traditional site, or in a print encyclopedia, hardly anybody is empowered to fix it.
Digging a little deeper, I think the “Don’t trust Wikipedia” notion has got to stem from a belief that there are more people seeking to do harm than good. But in my experience, the opposite is true. Back when I had a lot more free time than I do now, I’d watch the list of recent changes, investigate suspicious ones, and roll back vandalism. Maybe 5% of changes were malicious, and one of the reasons I lost interest in reverting vandalism was that I was very frequently beaten to the punch. The changes to Wikipedia are overwhelmingly for the better, and the tiny minority vandalizing articles rarely have their changes stick for more than 30 seconds. (And I’ve seen persistent vandals get banned in a matter of minutes. In keeping with the spirit of openness, bans, with rare exception, only last a week.)
I was going to try to think of some ludicrous analogy, like “Not trusting Wikipedia is like being afraid to (something very safe) because you’re afraid of (something extremely rare),” but then I realized that there are tons of things that fit that category — being afraid to swim in the ocean because you’re afraid of being eaten by a shark, not trusting airplanes because sometimes they crash, not visiting Mexico because of the crime, distrusting Muslims because a minuscule minority of people hold perverted violent views…
But if you’re the type that thinks Muslims are swell and realizes that you’re far more likely to be killed in a car accident than in a plane crash, I don’t understand why you’d think Wikipedia was anything other than the most trustworthy site out there.