How important is Wikipedia?

As I’m trying to shuffle my outline around, I’m asking myself “How important is Wikipedia?”

Wikipedia serves as one of the two dominant schemas in the book (the other being Surowiecki’s four conditions in The Wisdoms of Crowds), but given that this is a practical theology book, I don’t want to spend any more time on Wikipedia than is needed.  It’s the classic writers conundrum: How much is enough, and how much is too much?

Here’s what I know:

  • Talking about the role of “Users,” “Administrators,” and Jimmy Wales as “The Benevolent Dictator” are must haves.  The book is about open source leadership – I can’t get away with not addressing Wikipedia’s leadership structure.
  • It seems that the “Expert vs. Amateur” issue has to be taken on, including its peripheral aspects: user-generated content (UCG) and consensus reality (CR). My question, however, is how deep to go with the peripherals?  UGC seem quite germane to the project (content that is not sourced from an expert) but is CR needed?  One reason people bad-mouth Wikipedia is due to what they perceive as its questionable relationship to “truth.”  This is certainly related to the leadership question, but is it related enough for a project about church leadership?
  • The reason Wikipedia functions as well as it does is because it’s clear what it is and what it isn’t.  The Five Pillars have to be included and likened to a congregation’s normative practices/understandings.

Where I’m stuck (I think) is how important the history and development of Wikipedia is.  Given what you know of Wikipedia, what would you say?