Tuesday, September 27, 2011


You've probably read something by me without realizing it because of Wikipedia. I wrote entries on Meiselman and Rosenblum back in my haredi-lite days, and they've hardly changed since I wrote them. I also contributed a good deal to the Rav's article as well and I was a mediator for a (unresolved) dispute on the article regarding the Medzibizh dynasty. I definitely wasn't the best editor in the world (I was young. Hey, I'm still young, still learning.), but I saw how things work behind the scenes. So -- even while I recognize how Wikipedia is constantly improving standards and adding important articles (this one didn't come til after the good rabbi's death) -- I know how arguments and politics and fighting and misunderstanding and pranking and silliness all contribute to undermining Wikipedia.

But that doesn't mean that the "Linking-to-Wikipedia-means-you-shouldn't-be-taken-seriously" meme should be taken as a meaningful point. Let's face it, anybody who does good research on the Internet reads Wikipedia. It has really good general treatments of the issues and then when it comes to the details -- where, even though it's often quite good, you can't trust it -- it has links to reliable sites and references to reliable books. So Wikipedia is just about always a good starting point and I will continue to link it.


  1. Wikipedia is for the intellectually lazy who want a quick link to back up a point.
    Real researchers know there are genuine search engines (findarticles.com) and materials depots (like Google books).

  2. Well, I'm at a university, so I have access to JSTOR (for what you call a "genuine search engine"), as well as a university and local library (for "material depots"), so I find myself mostly using those. But I still find the Wiki to be a good starting point. I seem to recall a smart friend of mine copying and pasting a couple articles on gedolim from Wikipedia straight to his blog...I couldn't imagine he's intellectually lazy ;)

  3. A person can be very smart and still be intellectually lazy. Listen, I had that whole "Gedolim who matter" series on my blog and used the wikipedia entries but I'll admit straight up that I did so because I had no time to research in primary sources and come up with my own biography. I wanted something quick and easy. It's just that when people start quoting Wikipedia they shouldn't be surprised that they get called "amateur".