Accuracy on Wikipedia

The popular Web-based encyclopedia Wikipedia has revolutionized the way people learn. Free, multilingual, and written and edited collaboratively by volunteers, the site covers such a broad depth of topics from so many different angles that the effect is staggering.

But in some circles, Wikipedia is like an information technology boogie man, considered wholly untrustworthy. This is because of its potential for inaccuracy. Wikipedia admits this — its entry on itself states “critics argue that Wikipedia’s open nature and a lack of proper sources for much of the information makes it unreliable.”

Much of the information contained on Wikipedia (such as the above statement) is tagged with citations verifying it as being corroborated by an outside source. But that doesn’t necessarily ensure the information is accurate.

For example, last year I bought the album “Fresh” by Sly & the Family Stone on CD. This year, I bought the newly released reissue of the same album.

In playing the new reissue, I found it was noticeably different from the old CD version, and I wasn’t sure why. Eventually, in reading the Wikipedia entries for Sly Stone, Sly & the Family Stone and every Sly & the Family Stone album individually, I discovered why.

The entry for “Fresh” noted: “Stone held on to the ‘Fresh’ masters well beyond the record’s official release, constantly remixing and rerecording the tracks. As a result, alternate and significantly different versions of at least 10 songs from the album are known to exist.…

Daniel Margolis


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