July 26, 2006

Wikipedia

In the current issue of the New Yorker, Stacy Schiff writes a balanced article about Wikipedia (I hope this link works indefinitely).

I was particularly struck by this passage:

"Wikipedia functions as a filter for vast amounts of information online, and it could be said that Google owes the site for tidying up the neighborhood. But the search engine is amply repaying its debt: because Wikipedia pages contain so many links to other entries on the site, and are so frequently updated, they enjoy an enviably high page rank."

While researching my next book, I was struck by how often Wikipedia entries popped up on top of Google searches. My strongest piece of advice for researchers, particularly students who are doing serious work, is not to rely too much on the top hits at Google. Wikipedia contains no original research. For many topics, try to seek out the folks who discovered the stuff that Wikipedians summarize.