In “The Book Stops Here”, published in Wired, Daniel H. Pink said it all: “Encyclopedias aspire to be infallible. But Wikipedia requires that the perfect never be the enemy of the good. Citizen editors don’t need to make an entry flawless. They just need to make it better.” This is exactly why I trust scholars with years of dedication to the study of a specific field of knowledge (the traditional encyclopedias’ writers) more than I trust a group of curious, smart online contributors.
I’m skeptical about Wikipedia’s contributors because 1) we don’t know who they really are (real names are not required) and what their background is (how can we trust unknown sources?); 2) they can be very passionate about a subject and full of good intentions, but not accurate; 3) the Web war of vanities may lead contributors to start a poorly written entry just to be “the one” who created it, and it’s weird that an encyclopedia offers less than perfect information to its users (so, when do we know an entry is complete and accurate? Will it ever be? Will we ever know?)
I’ll never really trust Wikipedia; I’m attached to traditional encyclopedias because I’ve spent my life using grandma’s encyclopedias for school work and I respect them so much. Traditional encyclopedias could take “ages” to be produced and published; they were very expensive, featured only subjects that had been already widely studied for generations and would only change if a new scientific discovery were made, which was rare because things used to happen in a slower pace. They were produced to last years on shelves as an updated source of information, and I like this idea of bastion of truth.
Although I trust traditional encyclopedias more than I trust Wikipedia, I do search for information on Wikipedia more frequently than I do on encyclopedias nowadays, but I use Wikipedia only as a first source of information; Wikipedia’s content should be validated by credible sources, such as academic ones.