| Ever since the inception of Wikipedia,
there has been debate about the value of an encyclopedia without
editors. The theory is that the large number of participants would
be self-correcting, so errors would be expunged as each person
corrected the errors he saw. But Wikipedia says that they do not
want experts writing their articles since they would become too
detailed and not appropriate for an encyclopedia. They want
generalists to write the articles and specialists to improve them. Their
rules even prevent using original documents -- only "peer
reviewed" books are allowed as references.
| Unfortunately, until the correction
process has run its course, a Wikipedia article is full of errors
and users have no way of knowing that the information they are
presented is inaccurate -- sometimes in major ways. Also,
unfortunately, the specialist on a subject is not given an easy
way to contact the primary author of an article to suggest changes
| An example is the Confederate
railroads in the American Civil War article. Almost every
statement is wrong or leads the user to an inaccurate conclusion.
The one photograph is incorrectly labeled and not one of the
references is a high-quality, post 1950 study of the Confederate
railroads. (The only thing good about the article is the external
link is to my site.) As far as the self-correcting mechanism
working, the record of editorial changes shows an interest in
minor matters and no effort made to improve the article.
| A second example is the List
of railroads of the Confederate States of America article. It
is clear that the unknown author copied my list of railroads and
has used it without attribution or link to my site. Unfortunately,
the list was imperfectly copied and is not being updated as my
research adds and removes names from the list.
| A third example is the Jackson's
operations against the B&O Railroad (1861) article. The
unknown author, clearly having not researched my site, totally
misstates whose idea the removal of locomotives and cars to the
Southern railroads was. He quotes from an 1898 article that is
absolutely full of errors and thus induces those errors into his
own article. Finally, he gives credence to a historian who says
the whole event never took place and never mentions the dozens of
confirming original, period documents that confirm that it did
take place (see Jackson and the Locomotive Haul).
| So, two questions remain. First, is it
"safe" to use Wikipedia articles? I never do for
anything that I want to be sure is correct. Second, why don't I
correct all these errors? I don't have time to get all the results
of my research posted and made available to you; I definitely do
not have the time to learn their software and rewrite other
people's articles. If one of you wants to do the correcting, I'll
be happy to work with you.