There seem to be two general schools of thought on Wikipedia--it is either the root of all evil, or the greatest thing since sliced Internet. I'm fairly confident that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I get asked pretty regularly--by both teachers and students--if I think Wikipedia is a good thing. After explaining that for a full answer we would need several hours, a few graphs, a flipchart, a laser pointer, and an elephant, I shorthand my answer by saying, simply, "yes and no."
I'm not going to go in to all the good and bad parts of Wikipedia--as I have neither several hours or an elephant handy--but I have been thinking and talking about Wikipedia this week, as we spent a day talking about it in the class I'm teaching. I think Wikipedia does a great job of encompassing a number of the Web 2.0-related issues I wanted to talk about--participatory media, trust, authority, etc. (etc., in this case, being an abbreviation for "I know there's other things I want to mention, but I am functionally brain dead and can't think of them).
The one point I do want to make about Wikipedia, which I don't see made nearly often enough, is that we send a really awful message to students when we say it's "untrustworthy" because, "anyone can edit it--even you."
Why not, instead, teach students that their voice is a valuable part of the conversation? Why not tell students that the work and research they're doing has some relevancy, and that instead of vandalizing Wikipedia they could contribute to the world's largest encyclopedia? But no, instead many teachers emphasize vandalism and denigrate their students' voices. By "teaching" Wikipedia in this way we basically tell students, "go ahead and vandalize Wikipedia, 'cause there's no way you could add something of value to it." No wonder many students think most school work is pointless, when we tell them that their voice has no place in the conversation.
Sure, Wikipedia has articles like this table of vampire traits, (and thank you, Joelle, for pointing it out) which is rather silly and, it could be argued, "pointless", and probably prone to vandalism and error. But check out Count Chocula's weaknesses. And then check out the citation for it. I dare you to find an academic source that takes citation nearly that seriously.