Cade Metz authors a long, thoughtful assessment of Wikipedia’s maturation as an information source.
I’ve written on Wikipedia before, about a year and a half ago. Everyone who uses it (and just about everyone who cares about current events, history, or popular culture does) has some reservations about it, but given its aims to be the largest general encyclopedia possible, the improvement that Metz–and others–see in the site is actually there.
I know of no surefire way to correct the potential abuses of having so small a set of editors and writers contributing to the project except by diligently exploiting the mechanism of public contributors already in place, and policing ourselves as we work. The Wild West days of anybody being able to publish anything in its pages are pretty much over, and the game now is for Wikipedia to be what every encyclopedia aspires to be: a useful, accurate source of information, with references to books and articles containing more detailed content.
Even the best encyclopedias can be controversial (The Oxford Classical Dictionary‘s latest edition tips its balance far in favor of modern feminism, which doesn’t please many classicists), or somewhat stodgy in its entries (The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics ranges far afield, but could use some freshening in the older articles); it isn’t easy to be everything to everybody, as a reference work must often be; but I give credit to Wikipedia’s founders for fulfilling the vision that writers like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke had decades ago about technology’s ability to expand and democratize the human search for, and interpretation of, the knowledge we need to live.