Wikipedia vs SDMB

I recently posted a question which ended up being fully answerable from wikipedia.

I’d say the strong points of getting info from here is that you know who wrote it, a username might not be their real name, but it still is links them to their board reputation. Plus, you can ask for clarification and there are no edit wars so you get the full story.

Sorry, I’m very sleepy right now… I’ll contribute more when I wake up.:smack:

What do you all think?

I think it depends on the subject, to be honest.

There’s lots of specialist stuff you’re not going to get an answer from Wikipedia about, particularly anything really esoteric or anecdotal.

The other thing is you can’t ask Wikipedia for clarification. There’s quite a few science and maths articles on it which make absolutely no sense to me whatsoever because I just don’t understand the fundamental principle they’re discussing.

However, on a discussion board the reader can ask knowledgeable people for clarification or an analogy that makes sense (“So pretend you’re in a spaceship looking at your watch, and back on Earth you’ve got a friend also looking at their watch…”)

The clarification thing is big.
If you read the Wikipedia page, you might or might not understand certain parts. Here, you can actually post something that says “I think this means…” or “I don’t understand what this part means…” and an expert will help.

The interactive nature makes a difference, even if the starting point is still the Wiki article.

Wikipedia doesn’t help if you’re looking for anything that isn’t strictly factual. If you want to ask a question like “Why did Germany lose World War I?” you’ll probably get decent answers on this board but Wikipedia wouldn’t even touch it.

There are plusses and minuses to both sources. In SDMB question/answer threads if there are links to other threads then they are pretty much by way of the courtesy of the person posting in one thread taking the time and trouble to point elsewhere. In my experience that is random at best. Just trying to search for similar topics can be a hassle. At least Wikipedia has links galore.

Wikipedia suffers the same trouble as any other non-expert source in that what’s there could be totally bogus. I’ve seen enough cases where hackers or trouble makers will deliberately add false or misleading text to an otherwise well intentioned article. It’s a crap shoot usually. You need support sources if the varacity of the information is iffy. What’s truly scary is if some non-expert quotes Wikipedia as a source. I’ve even seen or heard of reference librarians falling into that trap.

Caution is necessary in either place. That may be true of even “authentic” sources as well.

I have come to rely on both SDMB and Wikipedia as good “starting off” places, but won’t quote either source without further evidence for facts.

SDMB is like a consultant while Wikipedia is like a reference book. Wikipedia knows more and it’s all available right this second. SDMB can answer questions you didn’t know you had but really needed answered.

Also, on Wiki, if opinions disagree, you’ll get only the most recent edit in a edit war. Here, you can see all of all sides. Mind you Wiki is pretty good with sources.

Often, this is because the topic you’re looking up is much broader than you realize, and you’re actually only interested in one specific case of it. In such cases, Wikipedia usually has disambiguation links at the top for those other more specific topics.

For instance, the page on Charge (physics) jumps right into talking about symmetry groups and Nöther’s Theorem, which if you didn’t already know about it, won’t help you much. But there’s also a bit at the top “For charge as relates to electrical phenomena, see electric charge.”, which brings you to a much more accessible page.

If you tab over to the discussion page, you can often see some interesting back-and-forth about how the current page got to be what it is.

Nearly all the edit wars I’ve seen on Wikipedia are over rather inconsequential pieces of information. I’ve not seen this thing where the entire article becomes useless because of one. It’s a general purpose encyclopedia. It gives general knowledge, not technical details.

In fact, I’d say the biggest flaws of Wikipedia are when it fails to do this properly, like all the math articles that fail to even have a single sentence that gives an overall picture to the layman. And, no, that sort of thing is not impossible, as it happens here all the time. You may be able to explain something both completely and simply, but you can always do each separately.

Take, for example, that unexpectedly lengthy discussion of how a Stairmaster works that I’ve been involved in. There was a whole lot of ignorance being fought there, and I don’t think we’re done yet. A whole lot of detailed (and possibly middling-dumb?) questions, mostly by me, and whole lot of detailed explanations directed directly at my questions, mostly by Machine Elf and DSeid, with occasional input from Chronos et many al. That’s not something you’ll find on Wikipedia.

This too. Here on SDMB, a lot of BS (whether seen here or Wikipedia or elsewhere) gets challenged.