When you get entangled with True Believers, the options are limited: You can observe them with detached amusement, or you can start writing in all-caps. Now, after extended exchanges with the Wikipediaphiliacs,* I’ve chosen to view the lighter side of their circular justifications.
Believer: Wikipedia is a universal encyclopedia, dwarfing all other references, including that stodgy old Britannica, with its immediacy and scope and ability to tap into the expertise of knowledgeable people all over the world.
Skeptic: But it’s full of errors. And people go in and change things that are right to make them wrong.
Believer: Well, maybe you can’t necessarily trust all the entries, but you can follow the citations to the sources.
Skeptic: If you have the time to duplicate all the work.
Believer: It’s the openness, man, that makes it special. It isn’t held up and limited by a bunch of fussy old gatekeepers.
Skeptic: So it’s also open to changes made by the ignorant and the malicious.
Believer: Well, if you’ve read the cautions, you know you can’t trust the entries. It’s only people who are lazy or stupid who treat it like an encyclopedia.
Skeptic: I thought it was supposed to be an encyclopedia.
Believer: It is an encyclopedia, but it’s not like those slow-moving gatekeepered things. It’s up-to-the-minute and open, so it doesn’t matter that it may have a lot of little errors in it.
Skeptic: But I need a reference I can trust without having to check every detail myself.
Believer: It’s more accurate than Britannica. Some study somewhere said so.
Skeptic: I thought you didn’t care whether it was accurate or not.
Believer: You’re a bitter old man.
* In chronological order: