I’m getting relatively sick of people bitching about Wikipedia, arguing that since anyone can edit it that makes it suspect or problematic. It simply isn’t true. If you are not familiar enough with Wikipedia or the standard practices of verifiable citation to use it, don’t. Otherwise, you should have no qualms.
Why do I say this? Well, at its current maturity you can use Wikipedia with dependable results if you know your way around. Down the road you won’t even have to be able to read the handful of links at the top of every article and use a little noodling to work out some things you should do to verify an article for accuracy.
Why do I say that “down the line” bit? Wikipedia is actively working on version 1.0. This will be a ‘canonical’ set of articles that have met certain standards (much like the standards for the featured articles displayed on the front page).
After 1.0 the project will release archives of the article set that meets the criteria for inclusion and you’ll be able to purchase at the cost of media, purchase at a higher cost which will donate the difference to Wikipedia, download, etc. the article set.
Not only that, you’ll be able to read Wikipedia at a 1.0 threshold. That means at your option (and likely by default on some number of articles) the information will be static. No more tripling of elephantiasis diagnoses in the past six months. You’ll still be able to click a link to the ‘current revision’ of the article, but a comparison (known as a diff) to the 1.0 will clearly show whether you’re looking at valid or specious content.
So, please all of you media types and bloggers and who the hell knows who else criticizes Wikipedia from a point of ignorance: stop.
Disclaimer: While I know that Wikipedia is in fact working toward a version 1.0, I don’t have any confirmation about the threshold aspect. I assume that will be incorporated. It’s what I thought when I read about the 1.0 plans, and it makes sense.