STA 01 – Wikipedia

The article, The Upper Canada Guardian, demonstrates a Wikipedia article that illustrates the importance the site can have in understanding and acquiring historical information.  This article is heavily sourced, using a wide range of sources, using both primary and secondary sources.  Important information from primary sources are paraphrased onto the article for readers to benefit from and links readers to places where they can view entire segments of the newspaper (The Upper Canadian Guardian is a newspaper) online.  All the basic information is addressed in the beginning of the article to familiarize the reader with the topic and subheadings are used to organize the rest of the article, making it easy to find information.

On the other hand, the article The Haitian Revolution, is an example of how some Wikipedia sources can be of poor quality, despite the heavy traffic the page may receive.  The page is riddled with citation needed requests and information that is unverifiable.  Statements often assert things and then subtly imply something different and not enough links to relevant articles are used. Additionally, despite the wide range of sources many are used twice, and not enough are used to support such a large article.

Looking at the edit history I found something I did not expect.  The Haitian Revolution article had numerous changes made to it from various contributors. Many of these contributions were redactions and changes to vital information. The article for the Upper Canadian Guardian had very few contributors, some of who were repeat visitors and each seemed to have a lot to offer the page.  The changes made to this page despite its age were few and far between and some of the changes were just changes to the coding, fine tuning the presentation of the information.

The insight this gave me was that articles of a broader topic were more likely to have higher traffic in information.  While this allowed many public historians to share their viewpoints on the subject at hand it undermined the credibility of the information.  This is because many of these contributors neglected to source their information.  Wikipedia does not have time to investigate every single claim on their website, and it seems that many of the changes made are the result of competition between users, not the legitimate sharing of information.  These pages appear to nurture the fierce competitive nature between users and fail to look at the quality of the page.

Lower traffic pages such as The Upper Canada Guardian found less users contributing information but this increased the quality of the contribution.  The more specific a page becomes on a topic, the higher the chance that the contributors have a vested interest in the subject.  These contributors tend to be authorities on the subject and thus have more meaningful sources to share and can provide more valuable information.  Additionally, rather than squabbles over what was on the page and redacting other users contributions the history and discussion shows users working together on this page to provide the best quality information possible.  The broader implication of the Wikipedia Project is that there is a divide in the community based on intelligence.  Intelligent users and subdivided into their specialities and tend to focus on the content of their pages.  Meanwhile, general users focus on broader pages and make changes based on petty grievances with other users in between looking at pictures of the Willy Wonka meme.

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