2.3 million ton elephant in the room

The 2.3 million ton elephant in the room is that everyone uses Wikipedia, but we’re reluctant to admit it it because its reputation lacks credibility. In my previous post, I wrote that we need to keep in perspective that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, and if we use it as such, we’ll find it to be very useful.

I also wrote that Wikipedia’s untrustworthiness just might be a bit overblown. Consider the following scenario.

My husband and I are watching the credits roll on that breathtakingly wonderful HBO series, John Adams , when my husband asks: “How many terms did John Adams serve as President?”

“Hmmmm . . .” I ponder, though I really haven’t a clue.

“Google it,” my husband suggests.

I’m already reaching for my laptop, but my url destination will be Wikipedia instead of Google, as this is exactly the type of information that an encyclopedia can answer better and quicker than a search engine. Within seconds I announce that he only served one term, 1797-1801. My academic training teaches me that I should always check more than one source, but I’m satisfied that this answer is likely to be correct. Someone must have checked this date’s accuracy before now. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to be thorough.

When I click on the View Source tab at the top of the page, I’m informed that the article on John Adams is semi-protected, meaning that it can only be edited by registered users who have proved their mettle, as well as lack of intent to do harm. I am invited to click on a link that will explain the reasoning behind semi-protection. I’m also given a forum to protest the article’s semi-protected state, if I should wish to do so.

To some, protecting articles on Wikipedia from automatic editing smacks of censorship. So be it: civilization only rises when anarchy is contained. What I’m left with is a growing sense that the material I’ve read about John Adams is indeed accurate. And I learn that although the article is protected, some aspects are contested with vigor behind the Discussion tab, providing a lively and ongoing dialog about the facts.

If you were from Quincy you might have learned that Braintree was founded in 1640, Quincy was later incorporated into it, but finally made city in 1888. Look it up. He wasn’t from Braintree, he was from Quincy. I would know, I live there.

Protest-Well, David McCullough certainly seems convinced that Adams was from Braintree. He persists in calling him John Adams of Braintree and goes so far to describe him as having been born in Braintree, not Quincy. -Anonymous

Dear Quincy Resident, Why don’t you come to Braintree and view the birth records of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and John Hancock. There was no such place as Quincy. The north precinct of Braintree did not separate from Braintree and become it’s own town (Quincy) until nearly the 19th century. When Abigail Adams climbed Penn’s Hill with her young son John Quincy to watch the Battle of Bunker Hill,it was Braintree. Why don’t you get your facts straight.’

As our Founding Fathers discovered, Democracy can get a bit testy at times, but it’s a great system.


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