Like most people, I find Wikipedia to be quite useful. It has grown on me over time and I have donated to their fund drives as I think it serves a valuable function and is also a great experiment in open-source knowledge and the wisdom of the crowds. I have found that on topics that I know something about, it has often been quite good. I generally tend to use it for quick and dirty searches of information that I think has a good chance of being correct, such as names and dates and places of events, or for things where I am looking for an overview and not too concerned with a high level of detailed accuracy. I have even on occasion made edits to entries that I thought were incorrect or incomplete and those have remained.
But we know that Wikipedia is not entirely a free-for-all. There is some quality control that goes on behind the scenes and I was curious as to how it works. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education sheds some light on how disagreements are resolved. This account of a scholar’s frustration in trying (and failing) to correct the entry about the 1886 Chicago Haymarket riot and trial, a topic that he had studied for 10 years, shows the difficulties you can encounter when you try to challenge conventional wisdom or entrenched myths within the pages of Wikipedia.
The problem is that important new scholarly work tends to challenge the established consensus and can take quite a long time to become the new consensus. Wikipedia is basically meant to reflect current consensus views on a topic. It is not a scholarly journal and does not work on the peer review model of publication. Hence when it comes to scholarly disputes, journals will always be slightly ahead of the times while Wikipedia will always be slightly behind the times. That is because of their basic models of operation.
Hence one can sympathize with both parties in this case.