TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Wikipedia Becomes Internet Force, But Faces Crisis

Re: Wikipedia Becomes Internet Force, But Faces Crisis

Neal McLain (
Tue, 20 Dec 2005 09:44:04 -0600

Thor Lancelot Simon ( wrote:

> Well, it's generally frowned upon to cite it (or similar works) in
> scholarly writing at anything but the most elementary level. The
> same kind of scorn should be applied to writers who cite Wikipedia;
> unfortunately, sometimes it is not.

Well, then I guess my writings must be at that most elementary level.
As I noted in my previous post on this subject, I find that Wikipedia
articles (at least the technical ones I'm likely to cite) are accurate
and well written. Of course, I review every cited article before I
cite it, and I always cite the permanent link.

Wikipedia offers an advantage that few other websites offer: link
stability. By citing the permanent link, I can be confident that the
article I'm citing won't be changed, and that it won't disappear (I've
learned the hard way that I can't trust the stability of websites
maintained by such presumably stable institutions as NASA, the
Illinois Commerce Commission, the Mount Wilson Observatory, or the
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department).

John McHarry <> wrote:

> Wikipedia has more vulnerabilities than a traditional edited
> collection like Britannica, but it contains a rather amazing amount
> of information. Of course, no secondary source should be trusted
> very far.

That's undeniably true, but there are many situations where a set of
facts is so well established and/or so lost in history that it's
impossible even to identify, much less cite, the primary source.
What, for example, it the primary source for parabola? Sonata?

Or consider the example I mentioned in my previous post: the concept
of the geostationary orbit. Who or what is the primary source?
Arthur C. Clarke first published the idea [1], but even he disclaimed
originality [2]. The FCC rules include a legal definition [3] which
is based Federal Standard 1037C [4] which is based on the ITU Radio
Regulations [5] (which costs 252 Swiss Franks to download). I suppose
the ITU is the ultimate authority, but it's certainly not a primary

For my purposes, Wikipedia's definition [6], though certainly not
primary, works: it's accurate, comprehensive, permanent, and free.

----------- Citations (mostly not Wikipedia) --------------

[1] Arthur C. Clarke. "Extra-Terrestrial Relays." Wireless World,
October, 1945, 305-308. Reprinted in "Ascent to Orbit: A Scientific
Autobiography." New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1984, 60-63.

[2] Arthur C. Clarke. "The Space Station: Its Radio Applications."
"Ascent to Orbit," 53.

[3] National Archives and Records Administration. United States Code of
Federal Regulations. 47 CFR 2.1.

[4] National Communications System Technology & Standards Division.
"Telecommunications: Glossary of Telecommunication Terms, Federal
Standard 1037C."

[5] International Telecommunications Union. General Secretariat and
Telecom Radiocommunication (ITU-R). Radio Regulations, edition of 2004.

[6] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. "Geostationary orbit." 19 Dec
2005, 08:48 UTC. 20 Dec 2005, 13:04

Neal McLain

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