Piston engine designer
- Jan 17, 2019
- Reaction score
I wrote a reply on YouTube to someone about this a few days ago. One very serious problem with it, for our (i.e historical context) is that it is very good for what IS. It is progressively worse the further back in time the events in question are. This is, of course the case for any information recording service, but Wikipedia "compounds" this problem due to the way it prohibits citations of REAL primary source documents, and encourages instead referencing of published works.I don't 'despise' it - I simply regard it as wholly unreliable.
But I do not think it is fair to say Wikipedia is "wholly unreliable". It is simply not always or entirely reliable--no source ever is, even if some are better for some purposes than others.
The newer the development, the chances of the published works on it being accurate, numerous and accepted is obviously very high. But, as we go back in time, we do not have published works on many topics at all, and many others are full of dramatic errors. In history, cutting edge historians and researchers doing real work, are correcting these errors in archives. But we cannot then publish these results to Wikipedia ! Because we cannot cite archive files.
The only reason I have been able to fix a few errors in Wikipeadia, is because I have been able to cite my OWN BOOK as the source, which I know, is accuate as I obviously know its all from archive files. But I think everyone can appreciate that the circular referencing this creates, is (in principle) highly irregular, and not to be encouraged.
This will never change, as Wikipedia relies on amateur fact checkers, the vast majority of whom do not have archive access, but DO have access to modern published books, which will be dramatically more numerous on contemporary matters, than aviation history. Wikipedia has inadvertantly been set up to be the antithesis of what a sound historical data source should look like, sadly. It will therefore, remain useful at only the must surfacic level, when someone who has no idea what a spyplane is, migh want to read up on the SR-71, and so on. I would myself, NEVER cite it in any book I write, because it is not reliable at the "coal-face" of research, its just a compendium of "probably correct-ish" information in a useful and accessible format. Ok for a quick scan of a new subject to spot new leads to study, but little more (at least as far as history is concerned, as I say, for stuff like contemporary physics and so on, its probably very good, as the works people can cite will be far more accurate).
I`m glad Wikipedia exists, and I often take a casual look at it for various things, but never for gathering serious, accurate historical data for publication, the chances of an error are very high.