You may have noticed in some recent posts that I’ve linked several times to Wikipedia. This maybe raises two questions. First, is Wikipedia a legitimate resource for scientific citation? Then, is Wikipedia a learning tool?
To the first question, I would say “yes, but…” Certainly, you have to be careful of any source, and you have to review the standards of your particular medium if they exist. To wit: I have no issue referencing accurate info in Wikipedia for a blog post, but I may reference a standard text instead for an article in a refereed journal. (In the latter case, reluctance stems from the mutability of Wikipedia; it can change at any time and the reference may no longer make sense.)
To the second question, I say “no, but…” Unfortunately, the same can be said of most textbooks. They are less learning tool and more reference volume primarily due to lack of context. I use Wikipedia as an always available reference for:
- reminding me of details to things I already know (like Fourier Transform Pairs or Trig Identities)
- getting a quick overview of something that I might want to investigate more deeply (e.g. Hyperspectral Imaging)
- shutting up my brain by looking up minutiae (it’s the honey bee)
So in a way, I am learning things, but not always with context. Not in a way where I can see the application and the path forward. Adding some context is part of what I am trying to do with this blog; not just regurgitating facts from Wikipedia. Leave some comments if it isn’t–or is–working.
(And xkcd fans, don’t miss the citation gag in the recent what-if.)