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Wikipedia: About Wikipedia

A guide to understanding, evaluating, and editing Wikipedia.

The Good: The People of Wikipedia

Wikipedia operates on a foundation of openness, neutrality, and respect as outlined in its Five Pillars, but its greatest strength arises from the millions of people who voluntarily contribute their time and knowledge to its growth.

Benefits of Wikipedia

Because anyone can edit Wikipedia, articles have the potential to be more up-to-date and often contain fewer errors than traditional printed encyclopedias. Also, unlike traditional encyclopedias, there is no limit on the length or depth of an article. Bias can be monitored and corrected (though it is not absent), and because Wikipedia is international, articles have the potential to reflect non-Western interpretations of the world.

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Examples of Good Articles

Articles that reach the "Featured Article" status are judged to be well-written, comprehensive, well-researched, neutral, and stable. However, this could change at any time, especially if new and/or controversial knowledge becomes available. The following articles have been given Featured Article status:

The Bad: The People of Wikipedia

The motives behind Wikipedia edits are as diverse as the people who contribute to it. Harrassment is not uncommon and bias is not entirely absent. You can learn more about these internal conflicts by looking at the Admin Noticeboards.

Dangers of Wikipedia

Just as anyone can improve Wikipedia, anyone can vandalize, delete, or discredit information created by other Wikipedia editors. Some of the largest "edit wars" have concerned seemingly trivial topics. There is no formal peer-review process in place and so specialized topics often lack competent fact-checking. Even worse, it is not uncommon for some blatant hoaxes to persist on Wikipedia for years at a time.

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Vandalism of the Harlem Shake Article

In February 2013, a song called "The Harlem Shake" went viral. This had an unfortunate effect on an article about a dance of the same name. The following selected edits illustrate how quickly an article can become unstable. (source: April Sheppard of ASU)