Re: Wikipedia as a reference? ...
NOTHING is reliable. But when you say "most of the articles seem to consist of self-serving advertising very heavily monitored by a select group (or single issue obsessives) who vigorously expunge any unorthodox facts", can you give an example?
For instance, when one looks up scientific, mathematical and computational entries they appear largely correct. When one looks up more subjective stuff, like history, then obviously there are grounds for disagreement, and at the far end of the spectrum, regarding pop culture, biographies etc, it may well be inaccurate. But who cares? If you expect any source to tell you everything you know about material where there is room for interpretation, then you aren't really able to correctly use any reference material.
So until people can point out significant factual inaccuracies in articles like "Sulphur", "Service Oriented Architecture", "Pythagoras Theorem" etc. I am going to remain sceptical. Just because Wikipedia is more wide ranging than other encyclopaedias, and stretches into areas where much less accuracy is expected, does not mean it is worthless for core reference material.