The other day I had to hook up some code via JSON. Having no idea what JSON is, I looked on Wikipedia. Basic data types, examples, syntax, and a link to RFC 4627 later, and I was set. Cool!
I wanted to implement a hash map, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do what I’ve done in the past, which is to represent each hash bucket with a linked list, or if I wanted to use a list. Unsure of the pros and cons, I looked up Hash tables on Wikipedia and got a reasonable overview discussion.
I’m finding there is a lot on Wikipedia that provides a good cursory overview of different protocols and algorithms, and more importantly, points me to the relevant research, descriptions or RFCs which describe the thing in greater detail. And while I tend to take Wikipedia with a grain of salt (you never know if the guy who wrote the article knew what he was talking about, or if the page was vandalized), the cursory overview (even inaccurate) combined with pointers to scholarly research or published standards makes a great reference.
I know this is old news: however, in the past few days I’ve found myself using Wikipedia as a starting point for a lot of CS related searches.