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Sacha Baron Cohen Wikipedia Entry Creates Circular References

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the 10-goto-20;-20-goto-10 dept.

The Media 234

Lantrix writes "An anonymous user added information to Wikipedia's entry on Sacha Baron Cohen three days before the now-referenced external article was written. The Independent wrote the referenced article apparently using Wikipedia as the source establishing his 'Goldman Sachs' career. Now Wikipedia uses as a references the article that came after the initial modification to Wikipedia itself."

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Accountability (5, Interesting)

26199 (577806) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127794)

So a journalist used Wikipedia as a primary source, added something incorrect to an article. Now the same Wikipedia page is using that article as its primary source, which in the view of Wikipedia makes the incorrect fact true. Chaos ensues.

The weak link is the journalist -- who should have known better. And now the newspaper presumably knows all about it. So perhaps this kind of problem can be self-correcting in the long run...

Re:Accountability (5, Insightful)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127864)

I agree. This doesn't even seem to be as big a deal as the article makes it out to be.

Now wikipedia uses as its references the articles that came after the initial modification to Wikipedia itself

I found the summary particularly inflammatory for no apparent reason. I mean, wow! People sometimes misuse wikipedia! We had no idea! This isn't standard practice or any guideline set down by admins. It's one case where some anonymous editor acted foolishly.

You can take this and make a point about how lightly people these days treat information. They don't even consider verifiability and good practice like that. What you can't do is somehow take this and make it a crusade against wikipedia like the summary hints at.

Re:Accountability (2)

Lantrix (186021) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128052)

Note though that the summary is not from the actual article but a quote from the anonymous slashdotter.

I saw this one coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128242)

This isn't standard practice or any guideline set down by admins.
It's not that this is a policy, it's that there's no policy preventing it. This (IIRC) also happened with Ronnie Hazlehurst [theregister.co.uk] when he died- hoax info was added to an article stating that he'd written songs for S Club 7, this was used as a reference by various newspapers, and then the newspapers were used as references.

If reports are correct, WP refused to remove the information on the basis that it was referenced correctly according to its policies(!)

Anyway, it's been quite a few months since I did any serious WP editing. However, a while back, before either of these cases happened, *I* spotted this exact scenario as a potential problem with people adding references to articles written by others some time previously.

I raised the issue via the usual channels and got no satisfactory answer. The vague implication was essentially that it hadn't been a problem so far. Well, it is now.

Re:Accountability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128262)

I found the summary particularly inflammatory for no apparent reason. I mean, wow! People sometimes misuse wikipedia! We had no idea! This isn't standard practice or any guideline set down by admins. It's one case where some anonymous editor acted foolishly.

I think you're missing the greater implications that this case has caused, though. Because the erroneous information that was originally contained in the Wikipedia article has since been published elsewhere, Wikipedia now considers that information to be factually correct, when it is clearly not. We happen to be aware of this instance, but that doesn't mean that there aren't others out there. And by Wikipedia's own standards, if there is an external source that makes a claim, it can be included in the Wikipedia article.

Re:Accountability (3, Funny)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128370)

Wikipedia is notoriously bad at biographical content regarding famous people, it's just the nature of the beast. The wikinazi's can plaster citation needed all over the place, but it's not going to change the spin that PR types are going to places on every bit of information they can lay their lying hands on. I'm waiting for a Wikipedia article explaining how the Chinese have rolled out modern infra-structure and established human rights in Tibet

Re:Accountability (3, Insightful)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128454)

You can take this and make a point about how lightly people these days treat information. They don't even consider verifiability and good practice like that. What you can't do is somehow take this and make it a crusade against wikipedia like the summary hints at.

This issue isn't black-and-white; the journalist is to blame, the editors are to blame, and wikipedia too is to blame.

How come the latter? Well, over the last few years the average Internet-user has had quite a few articles comparing the reliability of Wikipedia against Encylopedia Brittanica. It was always a study comparing a fixed set of articles, but this has lead to the public perception that Wikipedia is comparable to EB.

This wouldn't have been a problem, if the Wiki-cabal wasn't trying to reinforce the meme that the two are comparable. The public is increasingly relying on Wikipedia to be correct, but due to its nature you have to take each and every article with a large grain of salt. Nowhere on your average Wikipedia-page is this stated.

I'm not talking about a 'disputed' block, but a 'wikipedia-is-not-an-encyclopedia' block on each and every page. Until that time, you can't put all the blame on the (mis)users of Wikipedia.

Fact checking (4, Insightful)

wbean (222522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127888)

And what happened to fact checking? There was a time when a small army of fact checkers would verify things like this before they were published. The Internet is a great tool but it's pulling the rug out from under the newspapers and we will all suffer from the loss of reliable, fact-checked information.

Re:Fact checking (1)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127982)

Axed, account being too expensive and detrimental to the newspaper bottom-line. And because also to often the facts stands in the way of the world view of the newspaper right-wing owner.

Re:Fact checking (1)

salimma (115327) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128426)

Why the immediate assumption that newspaper owners are right-wing? Or that incompetence at newspapers must be a result of right-wing ownership?

The Independent happens to be politically left-of-centre, and in the early years of New Labour being in power it is arguably the only major broadsheet (back when broadsheets actually refer to physical dimension as well) on the centre-left that regularly criticizes the British government.

It always seems like the Indie is struggling to establish a market niche, though -- flanked by the Guardianistas on the left and the right-leaning Times and Daily Telegraph. A lot of readers, myself included, prefers reading Guardian and Times because they are simply better-written; not surprising that the Independent struggles to fund proper fact-checking.

Re:Fact checking (5, Funny)

bongomanaic (755112) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128026)

This is the British press we're talking about. Instead of "Is it true?" the question they ask is "Will they sue?"

Re:Fact checking (3, Funny)

HeroreV (869368) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128184)

we will all suffer from the loss of reliable, fact-checked information.
I don't see how that's related to newspapers.

Re:Fact checking (1)

SaltTheFries (738193) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128254)

"Don't fact-check your way out of a good story" -Weekly World News motto

Re:Fact checking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128354)

"There was a time when a small army of fact checkers would verify things like this before they were published."

Did any of those projects create a million-page book in 18 months for free?

Re:Fact checking (1)

OMNIpotusCOM (1230884) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128356)

The Internet^Wperson who thought this was a good article is a great tool...
There. Fixed that for you.

Re:Fact checking (1)

wallyrulz (1275124) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128364)

So you think "old fashioned" media such as newspapers and television never made anything up? Hello! Can you say Jayson Blair. Can you say Dan Rather? If anything, the internet has made these morons that thought they could get away with whatever they want, do their jobs. There is a reason ratings and subscriptions have plummeted. It's the new media baby, get used to it.

Re:Fact checking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128526)

It is now down to the rest of the world to prove that Sacha Baron Cohen DID NOT work for Goldman Sachs.


This is now a P x NP problem...

Re:Fact checking (2, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128592)

The pressure to get a scoop out is higher now, as well as the pressure to cut costs. Fact checking takes time and money. People generally don't seem to remember the goofups either. Sometimes it comes to light and rips through the "blogosphere", but I think it's likely that the circumstances of most errors just fade away and people remember the incorrect fact, not any corrections that might have been silently done.

Re:Accountability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127896)

The weak link is the newspaper's editor, for allowing the journalist to use Wikipedia as a source.

Re:Accountability (4, Informative)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127928)

I would think that any circular references would be self-correcting by the Wikipedia community. Therein lies the solution, and the problem; there does need to be consistent and enforcible rules that are devoid of ambiguity and self-interest, with a measured degree of accountability.

Re:Accountability (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128144)

You mean like the reliable sources policy [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Accountability (2, Interesting)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128518)

Your quote:

You mean like the reliable sources policy? [wikipedia.org]
Yes!

And as an example:

The appropriateness of any source always depends on the context, which is a matter of common sense and editorial judgment.
- "context" needs to be defined, and more importantly:
- "common sense" needs to be defined or eliminated altogether (the vast majority of people do not have 'common sense' IMHO, or do they mean 'common consensus'?)
- "editorial judgment" is just judgment. Without accountability such judgment is meaningless (I'm not just speaking of pseudo-anonymous administrators, but of the Big Guy [Jimbo] himself). Of course we need to define 'accountability' as well. With anonymous and pseudo-anonymous postings allowed this can be difficult, but I don't think it would be impossible. I think if I racked my creative side I could come up with some rules, like for example those people who are administrators should supply credentials (to the executives at least; of who they are and what their credentials actually are [especially if they are making false claims in the discussion area]).

Re:Accountability (2, Insightful)

GalacticLordXenu (1195057) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128564)

Wikipedians like to think that given enough time, the wikipedia will be perfect, and use this to brush off complaints of someone seeing factually incorrect information.

This, however, doesn't really fly; whether it could one day be perfect is irrelevant when people are seeing false or misleading information in the *now*. People aren't going to constantly check up on a page. Any misinformation in the now is "damaging" as it tells people incorrect things. That's true of all media, but the fact that it can be changed on the page later doesn't diminish the fact that everyone who sees it in the now is getting (and possibly spreading) incorrect information--just like a newspaper that makes an error. Unlike a newspaper, however, you often have complete crazies and idiots edit wikipedia and I've seen that information stay on there for a long time or until I had to correct it--things that should have been caught long ago.

Additionally, not only are corrections made to wikipedia but errors are constantly introduced as well. It'll never be perfect precisely because, to be direct, IDIOTS edit the wikipedia frequently throwing in nonsense and bullshit, often those with an ideological bent and don't know how to be objective.

And often, if errors are "fixed" they error-fixer doesn't realize that it was nonsense to begin with! I once saw a circular reference on Michael Shermer's article get changed to an outside reference like it should have, but it didn't change the fact that the "information" was misusing Shermer's words and meaning completely out of context, possibly out of the original writer's ideological bias.

And if you got a true nutcase on your hands, they'll just edit it back in. I don't know if these rules are still in effect, but back when I edited wikipedia I was watching a real lunatic edit in bizarre stuff on an article. When I sought help on their IRC channel they told me not to worry and let the community deal with it. Since they didn't seem to care, I waited and saw it still there a month later.

Additionally, I would edit the page but was not allowed to revert over three times per day, as per the rules at that time. His information was obviously bogus, talking about people with no brains in their heads still acting normally (no joke!), angels, conspiracies, etc, some really weird websites he was citing. And when I edited over three times anyway, because hey, it was PURE NONSENSE, I got reprimanded for breaking the rules. The page got locked after awhile--on HIS reversion, the one with his bias and nonsense, and in IRC they just joked about the page always being locked on the wrong edit.

They don't really have a concern for the truth. They're roleplaying a bureaucracy there. It's run by people who want to make a name for themselves, to feel like they have power over something, and to bludgeon other people with their own POV biases.

Eventually time did fix the article in question, so I suppose I won out in the end, but that doesn't change the fact how they, at least in the past, dealt with wrong information and basically jerked around good editors.

And before some relativistic wikipedia comes in and says that the other guy probably thought the same of me, know that I was citing mainstream science while this guy was editing in bizarre theories, talked about "protoscience", he was a true crank.

The article was "scientific skepticism", by the way.

Re:Accountability (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128616)

Wikipedia is an eternal work in progress. Your complaint is like complaining that you're running software straight from CVS HEAD and there are bugs.

Re:Accountability (1)

saibot834 (1061528) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128610)

I would think that any circular references would be self-correcting by the Wikipedia community.

Unfortunately, that's not easy. While Wikipedia cites its sources (if they are known), most journalists don't. And if they cite, they probably don't want to cite Wikipedia. So, it's hard to tell if a newspaper checked the information or just look the Wikipedia article up.

This is not new, and it is a real problem for Wikipedia, since WP became more and more popular. It happens all the time; iirc this was also the case with a statement in the xkcd article.

Re:Accountability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128178)

Oh for Christ's sake.

A BLOG linked from the Slashdot summary says "The article included Baron Cohen's career information almost as a footnote, at the end of the article - possibly using Wikipedia as the source of his 'Goldman Sachs' career and other family information."

Get that "POSSIBLY", emphasis added by me. I'd add a blink tag if I could.

The Slashdot summary turns that into "apparently using Wikipedia as the source". Get that, Slashdot upgraded the status to "APPARENTLY".

And then you say "So a journalist used Wikipedia as a primary source, added something incorrect to an article." And you go on with "The weak link is the journalist -- who should have known better."

So it "IS" what happened now, not just some speculation of a possibility on a blog?

Oh look, +5 insightful. Well done.

Captcha: "possible", no kidding.

Re:Accountability (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128206)

Yeah, and if Sacha Cohen wasn't a filthy stinking dirty self-loathing Jew, we wouldn't have this problem. He put it best in his portrayal of the universally reviled Jew as nothing more than a cockroach in human guise in his Borat movie. You Christ-killers disgust me and all other decent human beings. You will all burn in hell for your mistreatment of the Palestinians in the west bank and Gaza. And for that hyena Barbara Streisand. You lost your place as the chosen people millenia ago. May you all burn in hell forever.

Re:Accountability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128420)

Wait a minute. There is absolutely no proof that the journalist sighted in this blog post sourced his information from Wikipedia.

It's entirely possible that the journalists actually put the information into Wikipedia while writing his article or that something else equally innocuous happened.

You guys are forming a lynch mob here when there's nothing but circumstantial evidence of wrong-doing.

Re:Accountability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128468)

But what if it could be shown that the anonymous poster whom put the information was NOT the journalist but someone else from within the investment banks?

What's wrong with that? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127802)

When the whole world uses Wikipedia as the reference for a lot of things, what's wrong when Wikipedia does it? This is completely biased...

Minor edit (1)

Dr. Cody (554864) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127870)

When the whole world uses Wikipedia as the reference for a lot of things, what's wrong when Wikipedia does it? This is completely biased...
When the whole world{{fact}} uses Wikipedia as the reference for a lot of things, what's wrong when Wikipedia does it? This is completely biased...

Sorry, can't resist (2)

alx5000 (896642) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127910)

{{POV-check}}

When the whole world uses Wikipedia as the reference for a lot of things{{Citacion needed}}, what's wrong when Wikipedia does it? This is completely biased...

Re:What's wrong with that? (1)

the brown guy (1235418) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127958)

Works Cited: "Tree Book â" Subalpine Fir." Tree Book. 5 Dec. 2006
.
"Nearest Neighbour Analysis." 5 Dec. 2006
. "Mount Garibaldi." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 5 Dec. 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Garibaldi>.
"Juan de Fuca Plate." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 5 Dec. 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_de_Fuca_plate>.
"Soil Horizon." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 5 Dec. 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil_Horizon>.
"Noble Fir." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 5 Dec. 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_Fir>.
"Devilâ(TM)s Club." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 5 Dec. 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devilâ(TM)s_Club>.
" Polystichum munitum." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 5 Dec. 2006
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polystichum_munitum>.

Thats from an IB paper that I handed in during the 12th grade. I still got a 6/7 which is pretty good seeing as I did all my research and writing on Dec 5th. Wikipedia is reliable, and according to wikipedia, it is more reliable than traditional online encyclopedias like encarta.

Worse than using Wikipedia as a reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128066)

Using CowboyNeal! :)

Rob Malda creates circular reference (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127810)

last night, he fucked Hemos up the ass, then Hemos fucked him up the ass.

Recursion, see also: Recursion. (5, Funny)

grm_wnr (781219) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127824)

From TFA:
>A recent post on SlashDot quotes an IT professor saying

I hope this isnt a circular reference to THIS post.

Re:Recursion, see also: Recursion. (2, Insightful)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128044)

The whole Web 2.0 Internet is a just a mass of circular references. Be thankful that it isn't telling you the holocaust never happened, or something else obviously untrue.

Re:Recursion, see also: Recursion. (5, Insightful)

flimflam (21332) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128108)

The whole Web 2.0 Internet is a just a mass of circular references. Be thankful that it isn't telling you the holocaust never happened, or something else obviously untrue.
Actually, it's the believable but false information that's much more insidious and dangerous.

Re:Recursion, see also: Recursion. (3, Insightful)

perlchild (582235) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128170)

I wish I had mot points. Obviously untrue disinformation is not a threat, People will use information hygiene techniques(verifiaibility, checking sources, even debate). It's not so obviously untrue disinformation, which is dangerous. If you slowly, over time, change some story from the truth to something untrue. If it happens slowly enough, people will not have the reflex to check the information, and in time, it will be established as the truth.

Re: Believeable but False (2, Informative)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128540)

The story of the Bush regime.

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2003/10/0079780?pg=1 [harpers.org]

"A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies." (And that hasn't even been updated yet!)

While everyone basically suspected as such, the nation's highest leadership exacted retribution as if it were true, creating your mentioned dangerous cognitive dissonance.

Re:Recursion, see also: Recursion. (1, Redundant)

Dread_ed (260158) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128572)

"Actually, it's the believable but false information that's much more insidious and dangerous."

Oh, right. And you expect me to just believe that?

Re:Recursion, see also: Recursion. (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128162)

Oh no it is telling us all sorts of things that are certainly false. The internet is a big place it stands to reason if this has happened once it can happen again. It fallows that since this has happened once it has happened before. The charateristics of the Internet having been fairly constant for serveral years now. Even the adoption rate of new people has dropped off.

The trick is sorting out the truth from the fiction which without solid non-Internet sources is nearly impossible. The more the non-Internet sources use the Internet resources as source the worse the issue gets. I personaly find it very hard to get any news form anywhere that I can be more confident in then a bunch of sixth graders playing telephone.

Re:Recursion, see also: Recursion. (1)

bencoder (1197139) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128352)

which is why we need publicly funded scientific research to be freely available. That will at least help the situation.

And the story here is? (0, Offtopic)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127826)

If they state their own article itself as the only reference they have, isn't that useful information in and of itself? This just tells people that the article is effectively pulled direct out of someones head.

As long as it's not saying there ARE other data sources involved and NOT listing those, then what exactly is the issue here? I'd be more worried if someone found as many bogus references that were close as possible to pad the article, ensuring people think it is exhaustively researched.

Re:And the story here is? (1)

26199 (577806) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127848)

*cough* RTFA?

Your comment would make more sense if it related to the story at all :)

Re:And the story here is? (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128410)

If they state their own article itself as the only reference they have, isn't that useful information in and of itself? This just tells people that the article is effectively pulled direct out of someones head.
Did you read the article? That wasn't what they said. (I wonder who the idiot was that modded you up as well).

The problem is very simple:-

1) Some random idiot adds the "fact" that "Rob Malda is made entirely of Grape Nuts" to a WP article.
2) Then some people at someothersite.com use WP to research their own article on Malda. They (unwittingly) repeat the bogus fact.
3) Finally, someone working on "improving" the WP article attempts to verify and cite all the questionable uncited facts. Lo and behold, someothersite.com has an article which states that Rob Malda is indeed made of Grape Nuts. Someothersite.com's article (not Wikipedia) is used as the reference for this incorrect information.

Summary (3, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127828)

And in English?

Re:Summary (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127922)

Seriously. My brain hurt after reading that.

Re:Summary (1)

Lantrix (186021) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128064)

Circular brain pain... Sorry... :-P

Re:Summary (1)

Pennidren (1211474) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128032)

And in English?
Whew, what a relief that you felt the same! For a moment I thought I was having a stroke.

Re:Summary (4, Interesting)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128274)

And in English?

A = anonymous Wiki node, B = Independent article.

A make a claim with B as a reference.
B makes the same claim with A as the reference.

Thus, both sources have technically substantiated their claim, despite the niggling li'l absence of "truth".

It is not a source... (5, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127830)

You just have to use it for what it is... It helps you start research. It is a lead generator, or an index. But if you think it actually has answers, or your research can end there, you are an idiot. But you have a lot of company.

Re:It is not a source... (2, Interesting)

jake_fehr (469788) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127886)

But if you think it actually has answers, or your research can end there, you are an idiot. But you have a lot of company.
No kidding. It's getting pretty scary. I was talking with the teacher-librarian at a local high school a few weeks back, and she told me that a few teachers were telling their students that Wikipedia was great to use for research. She can't contradict the teachers, so she's forced to agree, then try to get the kids to also use the fulltext databases to do some better research...

Re:It is not a source... (4, Insightful)

Salgat (1098063) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127900)

I wish people would use the damn references section at the bottom of the Wiki pages.

Re:It is not a source... (1)

gparent (1242548) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127936)

For anything above High School level, that is. For most of my high school work Wikipedia was sufficient as a source, save an assignment or two. Though obviously it's better if you just use the references, I could get a 90 from teachers who didn't really care.

Re:It is not a source... (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128080)

You just have to use it for what it is... It helps you start research. It is a lead generator, or an index. But if you think it actually has answers, or your research can end there, you are an idiot. But you have a lot of company.

Not neccessarily. It depends on what kind of research we are talking about: are you trying to actually find facts, or are you trying to find something to back you in writing a half-baked space-filler column, so you can later blame it all on your "source" if shit hits the fan ?

Are we talking dry facts or juicy political facts? (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128124)

Wikipedia does have relevent, factual info on some technical topics.

What is the diameter of 16 gauge wire? Runs over to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

16 gauge wire is 1.29mm. And why do I have a strong sense that it this is accurate? Because of the technical detail of the sources listed. And how can you politicize wire gauges?

Wikipedia is a great resource I find for technical articles on various topics. What is molybdenum used for? Wikipedia has the answer.

Getting an accurate opinion on a controversial political sitnation would be more an issue with Wikipedia, as you would have lots of bias on either sides. In that case I agree that Wikipedia would be better used as a quick summary of views, rather than an authoritative view on the facts.

It makes a great technical resource for "dry" science based topics that no-one really has any reason to falsify. For hot button issues, I'll find more unbiased sources.

Re:It is not a source... (1)

brewstate (1018558) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128166)

Are you kidding I use Slashdot as a source. Wait er...

Re:It is not a source... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128290)

Yeah, no kidding. Wikipedia should become the annotated bibliography of human knowledge, but NOT the source of anything. This is why the footnotes are so important in Wikipedia. They are the real treasure for jump-starting a research project.

Even you have it wrong.... (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128632)

While your statement isn't exactly untrue, as a whole it is wrong in only getting it half right. Wikipedia is exactly like every other source; a shade of gray in the truth. Yes, it is a lighter shade of gray, but the whole idea of "primary source" is a bunch of BS. Even if you go and personally interview first hand witnesses, you cannot be sure of the facts. Heck, even if you sit down and do an experiment yourself, you cannot be sure that you are interpreting the results correctly.

People have it completely wrong when they think that any facts they have are definitely correct. What they have are the most likely correct information that they have come across to date. One of the big problems with what is considered 'good' research is that kids are taught, and then as adults, look for information that supports their assertions. There is absolutely no attempted to find information that falsifies their assertions. So, in a climate where getting the correct answer is not the goal; where the only goal is to have sources that agree with you so that you have plausable deniability when you are shown to be wrong, Wikipedia is an entirely valid source.

If I am having a debate with someone, Wikipedia is considered a valid source unless a more believable source can be presented that contradicts Wikipedia. Then, that source is considered valid until it can be disproven. Hearing people argue that newspapers and magazines and reports should use a lower quality standard of evidence than what I would accept in a nerd fight is pretty sad.

Um. Wow. (0)

MostAwesomeDude (980382) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127832)

*starts slow clap*

Ronnie Hazlehurst (5, Interesting)

MagdJTK (1275470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127840)

This has in fact happened before. When Ronnie Hazlehurst [wikipedia.org] died, multiple newspapers here in the UK mentioned that he cowrote "Reach" by S Club 7. This information came from Wikipedia (and was the result of vandalism), but once a few papers had published it, everyone did, as it was clearly backed up by many reliable sources.

The article is still being edited to include this "fact" every now and again, often referring to one of the articles which made the error.

Re:Ronnie Hazlehurst (5, Funny)

matt me (850665) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127884)

He now receives royalties.

Re:Ronnie Hazlehurst (2, Informative)

ketilwaa (1095727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128214)

{{citation needed}}

Not the first time (5, Interesting)

RockMFR (1022315) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127858)

I've seen circular referencing occur many times on Wikipedia, often by complete accident. If journalists actually gave their own sources when writing articles, it would be much less of a problem. Of course they will never do that, as then it would be revealed that they themselves don't bother fact-checking at all.

Nasty headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127876)

How about skipping the "s" at the end. It's like some dude stepped on an ant and you're writing. "Some dude exterminating ants". Get a grip.

Setup? (4, Interesting)

corporatemutantninja (533295) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127892)

Doesn't anybody find it curious that this "anonymous" poster knew the article was coming out before it did, and that the author of the article happened to look up his subject on wikipedia just as the entry was updated? If I wanted to discredit Wikipedia, or at least cause a minor stir, I would probably construct an artificial circular-reference scenario, and this is how I would do it. In any event, the previous comments to the effect that the flaw was in the journalism are spot on.

Re:Setup? (1)

26199 (577806) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127916)

Hum. The linked article implies that this sort of thing is going on all the time. In which case it could be not so much conspiracy as coincidence...

Re:Setup? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128174)

The anonymous editor didn't reference the article. What they referenced were facts that were later used in the article, presumably because the article writer got their facts from Wikipedia.

For a timeline of events:
1) Anonymous editor adds fact X to the Wikipedia entry.
2) Article gets published, making mention of fact X.
3) Wikipedia entry now adds the article as a source for fact X.

It really is just a matter of coincidence. Had the Wikipedia entry mentioned the article before it was published, then sure, start wearing a tinfoil hat. But that's not what happened here.

It's a trap! (2, Interesting)

Unordained (262962) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128654)

Maybe it was meant to discredit the journalist, rather than Wikipedia. If I were ticked off that the guy in the next cubicle over kept getting away with, say, using Wikipedia as a reference, and I knew what assignments were on his plate this week, maybe I would go add a reference to his upcoming article (but not too obviously so) somewhere I knew he would find it, just to see what would happen: would he go back to Wikipedia once again, would he find the plant, would he fall for it, or would he figure out it was a joke (on him), would he then start a witchhunt in the office to figure out who had tried to trick him? Or *maybe* his officemates were starting up a new Alternate Reality Game just for his birthday, and this was supposed to be the starting point, only he failed to catch the clue train and it's already Game Over?

Journalistic ethics? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127914)

Watch out that the Bush administration doesn't get any wise ideas from this. It's much simpler to edit a Wikipedia page than to leak false information to NY Times reporters, then refer back to the stories they've written as justification for a run-up to war.

Oh, for crying out loud.... (2, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127920)

There are more effective and direct ways to correct Wikipedia than by posting Slashdot articles about every little error that worms its way into the system.

You'd think Slashdot was turning into The Register. Or a cheap tabloid. (Oh, but I repeat myself.)

Re:Oh, for crying out loud.... (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127960)

There are more effective and direct ways to correct Wikipedia than by posting Slashdot articles about every little error that worms its way into the system.

As long as Wikipedia refuses to change so that these little problems cannot happen again and again, it makes sense to show how their resistence to improvement ensures a stready stream of errors.

Re:Oh, for crying out loud.... (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128050)

ok sparky, what can wikipedia do to make sure nobody ever makes a bad edit ever again?

Re:Oh, for crying out loud.... (1)

belthize (990217) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128422)


    Agreed ... They could realize it's not in fact a problem that needs solving.

    If even http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideal_gas [wikipedia.org] is considered factually questionable by some then I wouldn't be overly concerned about the veracity of some biographic page concerning somebody I don't give a damn about anyway.

Belthize

Re:Oh, for crying out loud.... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128114)

Refuses? are you sure it's just simply that they haven't thought of a solution yet that doesn't make that or another problem worse?

What would your solution be, btw?

So, uh... (0)

pathological liar (659969) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127956)

This is what passes for front page news now, huh?

A citation (2, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127968)

...is only worth as much as the credibility of the one saying it. I could cite any crackpot site on the net, and it wouldn't mean shit. In the days of "Internet news", I see hoaxes and blatantly incorrect stories fly around like wildfire. Throw one sensationalist and catchy news case out there, and there'll be a hundred sources who never got the correction afterwards.

It must be true. I read it on the Internets. (4, Insightful)

Jonah Bomber (535788) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127980)

Well, if Wikipedia AND the Independent say it's true, it must be. Right?

I know wikipedia doesn't like independent research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127984)

But if someone wants to spend the 83 cents to make a phone call, most corporate HR departments will confirm dates of employment.

Happened before ... (2, Informative)

gladiacuk (1171423) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127986)

This has happened before, with the Ronnie Hazelhurst article [wikipedia.org] , as reported here [theregister.co.uk] .

1984 (3, Insightful)

AcidPenguin9873 (911493) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128016)

This story reminded me of 1984's Ministry of Truth, which regulary "edited" history to match the current political scene. Writing stuff in Wikipedia makes it true.

damn dirty wikitrolls (2, Insightful)

xPsi (851544) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128034)

I was talking to someone recently who bragged about regularly trolling wikipedia to intentionally and actively create dead end and circular references. He was practically giddy with the notion that wikipedia "only requires some kind of external citation, but you can really mess with this because people rarely check them." I'm a wikipedia fan, so was quite annoyed with him, so beat him about the head and chest; this is clearly a 2nd order loophole that should be actively combated. I realized I would be naive to think otherwise, but I still found it illuminating to be reminded people are actively out there creating dead and circular links . It is a more subtle way to create noise in wikipedia rather than the more obvious act of injecting copious uncited nonsense into an article.

Since there seems to be a bit of confusion... (1)

grm_wnr (781219) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128038)

Won't quote the article text for phat karmaz here (because it's pretty unreadable), but this is what happened, in a nutshell: 1. Someone makes stuff up on Wikipedia 2. Some ostensibly reputable source acts not all that reputable, takes that information, and oublishes without saying where they got it from (in short, without doing their homework). 3. Said publicatin is then used to reference the made up information in Wikipedia. 4. ??? 5. There is no step 5.

What can we learn from this? (3, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128068)

The "easy" answer is: "Wikipedia is unreliable".

A better answer might be: "Journalists are unreliable".

I find it interesting when I hear about people complain about errors in Wikipedia, but don't put it into the same context as errors appearing everywhere else. How many people have read an article about something they had personal knowledge of written by some journalist, and found glaring errors in it? I know I have.

People need to stop trusting single sources of information blindly. All information can be wrong, even "conventional wisdom".

Great Success! (2, Insightful)

WilyCoder (736280) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128094)

Great Success!

Cheney did it first (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128110)

This is not the first time something like this has happened. Before the invasion of Iraq, the New York Times quoted a "high level" person within the administration of as saying Iraq has started up their weapons program again. Dick Cheney then quoted that article on Meet the Press I believe as proof of the Iraqi weapons program. It later surfaced that Cheney was the "high level" person within the administration who made the original quote.

Subconcious anti-semitism (1)

monoi (811392) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128122)

What's amusing about this is that the article in question [independent.co.uk] talks about Baron Cohen's experiences with anti-Semitism -- but the journalist took it at face value that he worked at Goldman Sachs because hey, after all, he is a Jew...

happens constantly (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128154)

I've tried to correct errors on the Wikipedia page for a relatively popular consumer product I worked on. I corrected technical errors, only to have them removed and replace with incorrect "facts" that were even footnoted as correct by links to articles which were written using the incorrect info from the Wikipedia article.

Yawn (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128182)

Since when is a screwed up Wikipedia article newsworthy?

A tempest in a demi-tasse (1)

baomike (143457) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128188)

EOM

NB: I hope the original poster is not a journalist, I would expect better writing from a pro.

So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128224)

Is this really a problem? Wikipedia allows people to put things up without citations supporting their claims, but has a policy of removing unsupported claims after a while.

So, Wikipedia is not at fault here, in fact, they stuck to their standards, by allowing the claim to stand as it could (now) be referenced.

What -is- wrong is that some lazy journalist wrote something that was based only on Wikipedia. No doubt he will be reprimanded or even fired. What he did is a disgrace to the newspaper (as I understand that this claim is totally fictitious) and they can't have lazy reporters writing their stories just based on Wikipedia. Their credibility would drop down to zero and people would stop subscribing to their newspaper and just read everything on Wikipedia.

So, what should happen now is that the newspaper should come with a retraction, preferably also mentioned in the article as posted online and then Wikipedia will remove this reference and (later) the claim itself. Problem solved. Journalists the world over taught a lesson. Wikipedia's policies stand.

Of course, in my experience newssites are quite lazy about updating content on their website. Probably employing people trained at the same school the Independent guy came from... Too bad, because this is a way in which newspapers can make themselves unique. They still have a reputation better than the average blogger, so why not use the possibilities of the internet to their advantage?

Pure speculation (1)

AySz88 (1151141) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128230)

I see nothing in TFA to back any of this up - it's all speculation. Basically:
1) Anonymous users write that Sasha Cohen worked at various investment banks, without citing. One of these edits came from one of these banks (which neither increases nor decreases the credibility of the statement).
1a) TFA assumes the statement is bogus.
2) Other news sources also say that Cohen worked at these investment banks.
2a) TFA assumes that the other news sources used Wikipedia as their source, without fact-checking.
3) Wikipedia users are initially unsure about the accuracy of the statement, but then they find these news sources and cite them.

Assumptions 1a and 2a are unfounded - both are admitted to be uncertain, but then the uncertainties of the assumptions are ignored! There is no evidence that Wikipedia was actually used as the source for any of the journalists. Also, there's no evidence that this information is untrue - indeed, the contrary: there is actually evidence that it is true, because respected news sources say it, and (presumably) these published sources are almost certainly factual! TFA ignores this, because it assumes a very high probability that the journalist used Wikipedia as a source, but I think the actual probability is much lower and this does not dent the truth probability very much. The TFA tries to boost the probability by noting that there was "no verifiable information existed anywhere on the internet ... prior to the 14th November 2006" - but there are plenty of other reasonable and more-probable ways to interpret this sequence of events.

For example, this could be something that one might expect to happen if there were some fact not yet On The Internet, just now emerging onto the Internet. Just because some misguided anonymous fan of Cohen adds something to Wikipedia first doesn't mean that it's automatically untrue, but simply unfit for Wikpedia until a better source is found. Then other sources emerged, and the cite is added - this whole scenario occurs with Wikipedia having information that was probably true, but simply not cited in any online source.

The TFA reasons, it's Wikipedia from an anon, without a source on the Internet previously, so all the other sources from now on are now "tainted" and it's probably untrue? What the heck? Does this mean that if reliable sources say that the population of African elephants has actually indeed tripled in the past 20 years, Wikipedia can't add it? I hope everyone can see the problems with TFA... While this scenario is interesting and theoretically possible, it's not credible or probable.

And even supposing that all these assumptions are true, it's not "evidence" that Wikipedia's doing anything wrong. The problem here is not Wikipedia, but the other news sources. It's reasonable to presume that a (theoretically) respected news source should be accurate. Maybe there's an argument that Wikipedia shouldn't respect these news sources (as TFA assumes), but that's for another day.

TFA is loading really slow, so here's a copy:

A recent post on SlashDot quotes an IT professor saying:

People are unwittingly trusting the information they find on Wikipedia, yet experience has shown it can be wrong, incomplete, biased, or misleading

After reading this, I thought it was time to write about a something I found that backs this up. An anonymous user added information about Sacha Baron Cohen (known onscreen as Ali G.) to Wikipedia on November the 14th 2006. This entry added information about Baron Cohen working for investment bank Goldman Sachs prior to becoming famous as an actor.
On November the 17th 2007 an article appeared in the Independent with the same information. The article included Baron Cohenâ(TM)s career information almost as a footnote, at the end of the article - possibly using Wikipedia as the source of his âoeGoldman Sachsâ career and other family information.
On November the 21st 2007 a second anonymous user added information to the Wikipedia entry on Baron Cohen that his early career included work at not only Goldman Sachs, but JP Morgan. Doing a lookup on this users IP address shows that it belongs to an address block allocated to JP Morgan Chase & Co! Someone at the company either new it to be true - or didnâ(TM)t like the fact that he had been listed as working at a rival company; showing this addition as a potential one-upmanship entry.
A number of months later, a wikipedian actually did his homework, and on the 23rd February 2007 removed the bogus career information stating:

remove Goldman Sacks career as it is not mentioned in the Rolling Stone interview or anywhere else I can find

But it was too late. From 2007 onwards the Wikipedia entry detailing his career has been modified in an on again off again fashion. As of April 2008, the Independent and the Guardian are now used as the source of the information - external references that exist outside Wikipedia - albeit written after the initial entry to Wikipedia. Since Wikipedia references these articles as the source for this career move from investment banking to acting; itâ(TM)s deemed permanent information.
The anonymous Wikipedia entries appear to have been âoejokesâ, or methods of associating famous people with a company - by financial industry insiders. Not only in the case of the initial change on 14 November, but also in the additional change by someone at JP Morgan on the 21st November, and subsequent additions, removals and swapping of big-time rival company names from Wikipedia.
The bottom line is that NO verifiable information existed anywhere on the internet that Baron Cohen worked for any investment banks (Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan) prior to the 14th November 2006. The only person that can tell us the truth now is Sacha Baron Cohen himself.
In February I wrote on the user talk page of the first âoepranksterâ about this issue, but only recently has an another anonymous user commented over at SlashDot on this exact information of the same article - It could even be the same person who started this as they say:

It is now down to the rest of the world to prove that Sacha Baron Cohen DID NOT work for Goldman Sachs.

All of these thing show how easy is this to do. But how many other times has this been done? Is it the corporations, insiders or just people who work in related industries having a laugh. Iâ(TM)ll leave you with this (long) quote from anonymous@slashdotâ¦

The real Wiki-vandals are the companies, governments and lobby groups of all sorts that flood Wikipedia with their squeaky clean corporate profiles (yes, corporate governments), whipped straight from their websites ⦠These entities are the true threat to the laudable goal of Wikipedia to provide a freely accessible forum for the production and storage of (hopefully well-referenced) articles for the masses and a forum that does not restrict the privilege of contribution to those that have jumped through the all the right hoops. ⦠The printed word is no more reliable than the plasma. Lies may be propagated on Wikipedia, but not without debate. Politicians spouting their sludge find their propaganda sitting side-by-side with those that mock them⦠If knowing that anything in a Wikipedia article is as likely to be crap as correct, the average reader becomes more vigilant in clicking through to the supporting sources; then Wikipedia has served the purpose of bringing to the masses the healthy skepticism that is, after all, the cornerstone of all academic pursuits.
Dark eyes look down from ivory towers. Do they cheer or do they fear?

Not just wikipedia (4, Interesting)

plopez (54068) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128282)

Recall that some of the Iraq WMD intelligence cited as further evidence by Bush was from the Brits. And the Brits got their info from.... the Americans.

So it just isn't Wikipedia that needs to be careful.

Nothing new to see here... move along....

It's ok (4, Interesting)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128330)

It's wikipedia, it's possible to correct this kind of thing. In fact there is no longer a reference to the article in Wikipedia.

Re:It's ok (1)

Lantrix (186021) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128416)

It's wikipedia, it's possible to correct this kind of thing. In fact there is no longer a reference to the article in Wikipedia.
So in fact does that mean that the goal of the article is achieved, and now someone needs a decent source before this possibly fake information is put back onto wikipedia?
Surely this shows wikipedia is working as intended.

Totally deserves the tag... (1)

pclinger (114364) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128360)

verynice

that's not all! (1)

blakecraw (1235302) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128406)

what's worse is after all this, somebody went and divided by zero! [wikipedia.org]

now we're truly screwed! make your peace, the acpocalypse [wikipedia.org] is near

Wikipedia = systematic fail (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128552)

I think this pseudo-exploit largely explains why Wikipedia is a miserable failure. If you don't have people intentionally censoring and manipulating information, you have people who aren't qualified to speak on the matter in the first place.

Circular references happen (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128600)

Circular referencing of this sort happens unfortunately often on Wikipedia - because journalists use Wikipedia as the universal backgrounder, then of course it gets used as a reference. Then someone works it out, the journalist is somewhat embarrassed and a note goes on the talk page. It's the joy of Wikipedia being an eternal work-in-progress live draft - like running CVS HEAD for everything. The FlaggedRevisions extension should be going live on German Wikipedia soonish, though, and hopefully on other Wikipedias (including English) not too long after.
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