How to use Wikipedia

Wikipedia is basically a file of common sense. It has the common sense consensus views of people who care enough to write and edit articles. This is very, very useful, but it breaks down sometimes.

Wikipedia is at its most reliable when:

  • Someone cares enough to write a good article
  • Several other people who know what they’re talking about care enough to edit the article
  • The subject of the article is not controversial among people who care about it
  • People who care about it know what they are talking about
Wikipedia is not usually useful for controversial issues, unless:
  • The parameters of the controversy are not controversial
  • People agree about what the question in controversy is
  • Each side understands the position of the other side
  • Most people who care want both sides to be represented accurately
  • This usually only happens when most people involved consider both positions honorable

Wikipedia is very unreliable for seriously controversial issues:

  • Because Wikipedia is a file of common sense consensus positions, it breaks down when there is no consensus.
  • Wikipedia is usually mostly useless as a source of information about controversial political and religious topics
Wikipedia is also unreliable about some obscure topics:
  • Some article on Wikipedia are low-quality because no one cares about the topic much
  • The original author didn’t care enough to write a good article
  • And no one else or hardly anyone else cared enough to make edits and check facts
  • These articles usually know they’re bad and tend to come with warning labels