Diderot began the first encyclopedia riding the wave of excitement that accompanied the enlightenment. Unlike earlier ages, where determination of the truth relied on revelation or received wisdom, the encyclopedists believed that there was an objective discoverable truth that could be approached through reason. To say that something was true was to say that it accurately reflected that reality. The goal of the encyclopedists was to sift through opinion and error and determine was that actual truth was.
Does Wikipedia rest on that same epistemological view of what truth is?
No one that I am aware of, has ever seriously claimed that the traditional way of building reference works is infallible. (And it annoys me that wikipideans are so eager to punch at that straw man -- are library schools really teaching their students that they should never question traditional reference books?) What has been argued is that a combination of expert investigation, various modes of peer review, vigorous debate among knowledgeable people, and transparency about inevitable biases is the best way we've found so far to do a pretty good job, and that it has the fallback mechanism of giving the intelligent reader the information that they need to make a judgment about how reliable the information they are getting is likely to be.
Wikipedia suggests that none of these things are necessary. Not only does it not matter what the expertise of the person drafting an entry is, it doesn't matter whether or not we as the reader know what that expertise is. We should trust that information (at least) as much as a traditional reference work because the model is self-correcting and errors will (inevitably?) be caught. And at a certain point, the community will decide that the entry is stable and true. The underlying bias seems to be that everybody's opinion is as good as everybody else's and the majority will eventually decide what the truth is.
How are we to decide whether or not to believe this? The implication is that truth is malleable, and that there isn't an objective standard that we should measure information against.
Try this as a thought experiment -- the most popular tool among residents and young clinicians for assisting their decision making is UpToDate, which rests on the same assumptions of expert opinion and authority as traditional reference works, although it uses digital technologies in creative ways to greatly increase the currency of the information. And yet, it is undoubtedly rife with errors (it is, after all, a human construct). Would you be more comfortable having your clinician use it if you knew that it was created using the wikipedia model?
In other words, is the wikipedia way a better approach to discovering the truth about the world, and if so, why? And what does that say about the nature of truth?