It’s time to vent a grievance. Hopefully, my gripe is just an artifact of sampling bias: the people who know the truth aren’t saying anything, and the people who are uninformed keep speaking up, leaving me with the impression that nobody knows what’s going on.
Consequently, as a public service, I’m going to demonstrate the permanent link feature of the MediaWiki software, the platform which underlies Wikipedia. Pop open a Wikipedia article, say James Burke (science historian). Unless you’ve modified your skin CSS, you’ll see a sidebar on the left edge, headed by some “navigation” links (“Main page,” “Contents” and so forth). Down below the search box, in the “toolbox” section, is an item labeled “Permanent link.” This is a hyperlink to the current version of the article you are at the moment reading. The URL for this hyperlink gives both the article title and the revision ID, thus:
Upon clicking the link, you’ll be directed to that specific version of the article. Furthermore, this link will remain valid, unless extreme measures are taken, until Wikipedia itself goes foom.
Just below “Permanent link” is “Cite this article,” which opens a page containing bibliographic information in several common formats, each indicating the article revision ID and providing an appropriate hyperlink.
For example, clicking “Cite this article” on the James Burke page gives a bibliography for that specific page version in APA, MLA, Bluebook and Chicago styles, among others (including BibTeX code).
So, in all these discussions about Wikipedia’s flaws, can we at least get past the bromide about how “the page might change by the time somebody reads it”?
Grumble, grumble. Hey, you kids, get off of my lawn, etc.