Mav (chrismaverick) wrote,

on Wørds and Wisdom... (and a little about Women at the end)

truth·i·ness (trōōth' ē nəs)
n. The quality of being "truthy, not facty."
So recently, (and to some extent repeatedly, over the last year or so) I've had the opportunity to discuss the merits of Wikipedia1 with ludimagist and others. As an academic, and in fact a sometimes professor, Meron seemed to have a great deal of problems with Wikipedia. As a borderline psychotic with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I happen to love it.

Let me take you back to a simpler time. A time before the internet, a time before blogging and myspace and google. Let me take you back to the dawn of civilization. Let me take you back to 1981. I was but a wee lad of negro and chinaman descent, living in the ghetto. A hungry little boy with a runny nose, playing in the street as the cold wind blows, in the ghetto. Back then, if someone asked me a question or I was say, given a report to do on space, I couldn't very well just go to the Encyclopedia Britannica. We didn't have that in the hood. We had Funk & Wagnalls. And the answers to all questions were contained within. Many a school report was written by consulting Funk & Wagnalls. The problem is that all information contained within it was both heavilly editted and out of date having been published some 4 years earlier. Plus most ghetto families, being what they were, were missing a volume or two. Its not like anything important occured between LACE and MAOTS anyway. Fuck Volume 15!

But now we have Wikipedia. An enclopedia on the web. And its always up to date. Why? Because unlike the lame Funk & Wagnalls of the past, where if you wanted the 1983 edition instead of the 1977 edition you had to go over to your grandmothers, Wikipedia is updated all the time, because ANYONE can update it. So all of the really smart people in the world, who are can't get dates because they are extremely annoying and pedantic can put all of that to use by self editting the worlds largest encyclopedia.

Since anyone can edit it, you of course end up with the problem that any piece of information is immediately suspect. If I want to be 4th in line of succession to the British Throne, the HOVAdammit, I'm only a quick edit away from anointing myself the Duke of York. And there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it. Well except of course, they'll change it back.

My basic love of Wikipedia comes from this. Since the dateless contributors are constantly fighting back and forth to install their version of the truth in the wiki, eventually it reaches a sort of equilibrium of things that are kind of "true enough." And I'm firmly of the opinion that true enough is usually good enough.

Meron pointed out that he wouldn't let his students use wikipedia as a reference because of its obvious dubious reliability. But the thing is, I'm not writing academic papers. I haven't had to write one in 8 years. Usually I don't care so much about the intricate details of any given fact. I care about a cursory overview of the facts and what people at large think about the fact. Like Stephen Colbert says, Truthiness! It's about thinking with your gut. It's about truth. Not facts. Maybe Wikipedia gets some of the little details wrong here and there. Who cares. It just feels right. And at the end of the day pathos is so much more important than ethos.

The same can be said of the internet in general. When I want to know something, say, what the capital of Uganda is, I don't really look it up anymore. I google it. And I just trust that the answer I get is right.

So that leads us to today's question. Is Wikipedia a good idea? Do you go there when you need information? Do you trust it? What about the rest of the internet? How do you decide what's trustworthy information and what's not?

Also, if you haven't voted in my hottest women poll (replacement for the original which I deleted), please do that too. I'm shutting it off tuesday night so get your votes in as soon as possible. And hey, get some of your friends to vote in it. I want a good sampling group.

1. For those not in the know, wikipedia is basically an online encyclopedia. A grand repository for all great knowledge of the universe. If you want to know about something, then wikipedia can probably tell you all there is to know about it. There is a small catch. One that's barely even worth mentioning. The small catch is, it could be completely wrong.

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