I admit it. I have a problem with Wikipedia on occasion. I find something on there, usually by getting into a Wiki article on something I am trying to verify or looking into and finding something in which I am interested. From there, a half an hour or more will be lost with my following links through of all the things that are possibly related to or at least in any way interesting to me. This is especially easy to occur if the original article or some article in the link leads to something historical. I do not know the number of times I have looked up something about Elizabeth I or Henry V and spent several long minutes engaged between the two and recalling just how they were related and the various exploits that lead from one to the other. But, Wiki has its issues and that is my point today.
The biggest problem is the way the information on Wikipedia is put there. It is, to describe it as simply as possible, who ever wants to volunteer to put the information out there. Granted, the information is supposed to then be reviewed. In theory the review should occur by some additional volunteers that are a little bit more reliable. As it can well be expected though, the more reliable folks are not necessarily able to review every page. Additionally, they are not experts in everything. They should look for things that are questionable or even just statement of specific fact and raise the point that it needs to be cited. The citation of course, should go back to a primary source of some sort or another if that is possible. At the very least a closely related secondary source that is a generally accepted source on the subject matter.
The real problem of course, is that just like some people I have known (not me mind you) can go change something to make it say whatever it they want to say. In the early days, this would show up immediately without any review. I am pretty sure that most of the time the information now gets reviewed before being released to the public, but I would have to go in and check that to be sure. Regardless there is the idea of human error that is just there and of course who ever ultimately approves the articles does influence the content with their personal believe system.
That in itself should not be surprising. And really, when you think about it, the same statement would apply to any more conventional publication, especially that older one called an encyclopedia. The difference of course, the encyclopedia of old was apt to be updated on someone’s library shelf every few years. That fact, combined with the more permanent (as in not changeable) nature of ink on paper probably leads them to be more thorough in fact checking before it goes to print.
Back to the Wiki issues, which boil down to the kind of thing that should have easily been checked. When looking at a certain person and noting that his lineage was of some interest as well I thought it worth while to follow the links. It of course read almost like the first book of Matthew, but after a third page I realized there was a contradiction. Let me see if I can follow this here, simple. A was the father of B. B married, and had person C, a girl. C married F, and in C’s Wiki entry had person D (a son) and person E (daughter). In person D’s Wiki entry, he was noted as having been the only child of C & F. In person F’s entry on Wiki, D was the second son and had been preceded by another son – person G, who died before reaching adulthood. Of note is that E and G had no Wiki entry.
** – Image from en.wikipedia.org.