Wakey Wakey.
reveille precedes revelation


Quite often, when I sit down to write these discussion topics, I take my idea and look up the topic on wikipedia to get a nice little summary about what kinds of things are being said about said topic. Wikipedia’s great. So much information, so little effort.

Usually when someone says, “Wikipedia is great”, someone has to say, “Yeah but…” or make a joke about the reliablity of “an encyclopedia anyone can edit”. And well we should–I often feel a little uneasy about how much faith I put in those articles, no matter how many citations appear. But wikipedia is so easy to use, and gets it right surprisingly often, so I keep using it.

Whether you use wikipedia or not, chances are you take shortcuts to learn the things you need to know. You don’t know everything you know because you’ve investigated everything yourself–you know most of what you know because someone or something you trust taught you what you know. We put our faith in things that we haven’t personally validated every day. So the question for the week is: Is that okay? What makes it okay or not okay? Are there things that you’ve been taught to take for granted that you should’t take for granted? How do you strike a balance between your desire for certainty vs. your limited time and resources?

While you’re thinking about that, you really should check out this article on wikipedia and truth in Technology Review by Simson Garfunkel (It’s the inspiration for this post, actually). It’s 4 medium-sized pages, and you can find it here:


Registration on that website is required, and if you don’t want to register, use the usernames/passwords that can be found here:


Speaking of “registration required”, just a reminder that this site is used to publicize topics for a Verona, Wisconsin meetup group. Details can be found here. If you’ve been there before (physically), you can comment here. If you haven’t, you’re welcome to visit us in real life.


2 Responses to “wikitruth”

  1. Excellent topic, as usual. I plan to respond to the question from a statistician’s perspective (even thought I’m technically not a statistician). Basically, we always make judgments concerning the probability that something is true given all the information and experience at our disposal. If we allow new information to modify our judgment of that probability, then we are keeping an open mind. If we judge something to be true with 99% confidence, we can certainly act on that confidence, but we venture into dangerous territory if we act as though it were really 100% (i.e., certitude concerning things that are in fact not certain).

    Anyway, that’s the preview.

  2. Sorry, Grant–somehow I didn’t get your post up until today–I thought I had approved it previously. Your next comments shouldn’t need any approval process–they should just get posted when you post them. Anyway, everyone else, Grant’s real life contributions a couple weeks ago (that these comments previewed) were great, as usual.

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