A recent MyeEMBA article addressed the issue of Wikipedia being an appropriate resource for MBA students. The article generated a lot of discussion. The consensus appears to be that MBA students can use Wikipedia as a starting point; however, MBA students should not use Wikipedia as the authoritative source. Two recent online articles provide new information regarding Wikipedia practices, which reinforces the conclusion that MBA students should not use Wikipedia as an authoritative source. The articles call into question the quality and objectivity of Wikipedia’s content and provide insight into Wikipedia’s editorial process and the way in which Wikipedia editors manage content changes.
Article #1: Timothy Messer-Kruse’s article, The ‘Undue Weight’ of Truth on Wikipedia describes his attempts as a subject matter expert to edit what he describes as, “one particularly misleading assertion chiseled into” a Wikipedia entry relating to his area of expertise. The article describes his multiple attempts over several years to make changes to the entry, all of which were rebuffed by Wikipedia editors. The article calls into question the extent to which Wikipedia’s content is based on subject matter experts. The reader comments to his article provide insight into how professors, academics, and others view Wikipedia and their editorial processes. Reading both the article and the comments helped me better understand why many MBA faculty members may not want MBA students to use Wikipedia as an authoritative source or even as a starting point.
Article #2: David Martosko’s article, Obama ‘Forward’ campaign slogan inspires Wikipedia editing war describes a situation where Wikipedia content became embroiled in politics and thus an editing war. The article provides some support to the belief that high profile political campaigns may have “an official or unofficial Wikipedia team [social media team] ready to cleanse postings that might not play well with voters still on the edge.” While Wikipedia has the editorial tools in place to deal with such unintended uses of content and the editorial process, the article does point out the challenges editors at Wikipedia have to address in the new media environment. However, addressing the concerns raised about political biases influencing the editing process may be more challenging.
These two articles may help explain why some MBA faculty discourage or even prohibit the use of Wikipedia as a reference source for their MBA classes. However and perhaps more importantly the articles provide an opportunity to emphasize the need for critically evaluating any information source no matter how authoritative it may appear to be. A friend of mine says he has, “Developed a healthy distrust of Wikipedia.” Perhaps we should all develop a healthy distrust of all popular press articles and academic sources as well, Wikipedia included.
Should MBA students develop a healthy distrust of Wikipedia, popular press articles, and academic sources? Share your thoughts by adding a comment below.
Rodney G. Alsup, D.B.A., CPA, CITP
Professor of Accounting
Founder of MyeEMBA.com
[Image from Wikipedia web site]