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Wikipedia's New Definition of Truth

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the beware-the-man-with-the-lantern dept.

The Internet 428

Hugh Pickens writes "Simson Garfinkel has an interesting essay on MIT Technology Review in which he examines the way that Wikipedia has redefined the commonly accepted use of the word 'truth.' While many academic experts have argued that Wikipedia's articles can't be trusted because they are written and edited by volunteers who have never been vetted, studies have found that the articles are remarkably accurate. 'But wikitruth isn't based on principles such as consistency or observability. It's not even based on common sense or firsthand experience,' says Garfinkel. What makes a fact or statement fit for inclusion is verifiability — that it appeared in some other publication, but there is a problem with appealing to the authority of other people's written words: many publications don't do any fact checking at all, and many of those that do simply call up the subject of the article and ask if the writer got the facts wrong or right. Wikipedia's policy of 'No Original Research' also leads to situations like Jaron Lanier's frustrated attempts to correct his own Wikipedia entry based on firsthand knowledge of his own career. So what is Wikipedia's truth? 'Since Wikipedia is the most widely read online reference on the planet, it's the standard of truth that most people are implicitly using when they type a search term into Google or Yahoo. On Wikipedia, truth is received truth: the consensus view of a subject.'"

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Food for Thought (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456473)

[B]ut there is a problem with appealing to the authority of other people's written words: many publications don't do any fact checking at all, and many of those that do simply call up the subject of the article and ask if the writer got the facts wrong or right.

Which raises an interesting question that no one seems to be asking: What if the problem is not Wikipedia at all? What if Wikipedia is a symptom of a much larger problem in our culture? What if the solution isn't to berate Wikipedia for that which they cannot fix, but rather to ensure the foundations upon which the system is based are fixed?

Failures in authority are of far greater reach than just Wikipedia. That's why academia seeks to correct itself on a regular basis. But the rigid standards of academia (standards which have weakened over time) are not applied to all fields that Wikipedia reports on. Using the case of Jaron Lanier, how is an impartial observer supposed to distinguish between a failure in authoritative reporting vs. an attempt to rewrite history for personal benefit? The only way to prove one over the other is to find evidence. In the case of Wikipedia, it must find another authortative party to dispute the original because doing detective work is beyond what is reasonable for an encyclopedia.

Re:Food for Thought (5, Insightful)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456623)

That is if you are an empiricist there is no other way to provide proof other than evidence. I never took a philosophy class so I'm not sure of the term but I think there are far more people who subscribe to proof through consensus which would be wikipedia's methodology. An abundance of rigor tends to make alot of people shut down or at least slow mental processing down to where they are non-functional(admittedly probably by choice). I don't know that converting everyone to empiricism is actually a rational goal.

Re:Food for Thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25457147)

Obviously, the real solution is to give Wikipedia lots of good, verifiable sources with accurate information and then to cite them.

Which reminds me. Be sure to include information on my island fortress in the next revision, okay? And my IQ is 500, not 200 ... :]

Re:Food for Thought (5, Insightful)

tzhuge (1031302) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457275)

Argumentum ad populum [wikipedia.org] ... yes that's a wikipedia link; did I just blow your mind a little?

Re:Food for Thought (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456713)

To add to my point, the Nintendo DSi announcement is a perfect example. Take a gander at the Slashdot story:

http://games.slashdot.org/games/08/10/02/2116202.shtml [slashdot.org]

"Nintendo finally came out with a solution to the Wii's lack of storage capacity -- a 2GB SD card from which users can execute games"

Sounds pretty cool, eh? Expect that it's wrong. Nintendo announced a solution to DOWNLOAD games to the SD Card. At no point did they confirm an executable solution. (In fact, they seemed intent on steering away from such an announcement.)

But Slashdot's reporting was not the worst. The worst was GameSpot [gamespot.com] , a site that SHOULD by all rights be authoritative. Yet here they are putting words into Reggie's mouth:

9:23] "Iwata is addressing the problem of Wii storage," he says. "Soon you will be able to download and store virtual console and WiiWare titles directly on your SD card, and play them off your SD card. This will make the Wii download experience much easier."

I emailed a more reputable editor who was at the event and confirmed for a fact that those words were never spoken. Yet many, many people quoted GameSpot's poor journalism as proof positive that Nintendo announced a solution to execute games off of SD Cards.

What is a site like Wikipedia supposed to do?

Thankfully, this is a case where a mountain of solid reporting existed to counteract the poor reporting. So Wikipedia reports the correct information. But what if this was more obscure information? How would Wikipedia know who to trust? How would they be able to check again bad reporting?

Answer: They can't. Reporters must be help accountable for the factual nature of their statements. (In the case of GameSpot, that means they should have issued a retraction.) If they cannot maintain a reasonable level of journalistic standards, the industry as a whole should start advertising them as an unreliable source.

Re:Food for Thought (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25457093)

Expect that it's wrong

That's what I usually do while reading Slashdot.

Indeed (5, Insightful)

autocracy (192714) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457189)

Perhaps one of the best things to come from the Internet (for me, at least), is a high level of professional skepticism. I love Slashdot, I read it near religiously, but I know better. The truth for any Slashdot posting is usually found in the comments, or in some misreported part of the article. I know how to look at the comments, deal with conflicting statements, and find the real answer. Sure beats having a single source newspaper.

Re:Food for Thought (3, Interesting)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456905)

The problem goes deeper then that, the author comes across to me as missing the deep links between religion, gossip, and ideology -- that they trump the facts every time.

That religious or slopping thinking is the standard for all human beings, even science is subject to the same sloppy thinking they accuse creationists and other "nonscience" disciplines, peoples and opinions of and hence the dire need for peer review, criticism, and understanding, etc.

But the truth is, all truths people think are true are riddled with errors and misconceived ideas based on flawed understandings that pass as "true" during the historical period and culture in which the people exist. Cognitive science has shown that sciences understanding of truth and objectivity is deeply flawed also, science has shown the enlightenment's ideas about science and reasoning are deeply flawed also.

Most people and scientists don't even have a clue what has been discovered in the neurological sciences over the last 30 years and how it undermines the enlightenment's view of reason and enlightenment's view of education. Most people still operate under the enlightenment's view of reason

(quick version)
http://i35.tinypic.com/10fruxh.jpg [tinypic.com] [tinypic.com]

Longer version:
http://www.linktv.org/video/2142 [linktv.org] [linktv.org]

Today, with authoritarian governments in power around much of the world, increasing authoritarian tendencies in democratic governments, and increasing amounts of power vested in unaccountable corporations, the need for openness and transparency is greater than ever, and despite wikipedia's flaws, the fact that the internet exists and "anti wikipedia" sites exist, allow us to balance it's shortcomings through open criticism.

But you have to realize that this is a fundamental human problem for every human being, regardless of status, class, intellect, or education, many of histories brightest minds were horribly wrong in enormous ways about other things. Look at Newton for instance and the amount he wrote concerning religion, etc.

(site for those interested)
http://www.isaac-newton.org/ [isaac-newton.org]

Socrates showed a long time ago that all knowledge and claims to morals and truth is political. The truth is political, hence the phrase:

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. --George Orwell

Re:Food for Thought (1)

bwalling (195998) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457005)

But you have to realize that this is a fundamental human problem for every human being, regardless of status, class, intellect, or education, many of histories brightest minds were horribly wrong in enormous ways about other things. Look at Newton for instance and the amount he wrote concerning religion, etc.

What makes you so sure Newton was "horribly wrong" about religion?

Re:Food for Thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25457159)

Yet you try to make your point with reason...

Re:Food for Thought (3, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457089)

Which raises an interesting question that no one seems to be asking: What if the problem is not Wikipedia at all? What if Wikipedia is a symptom of a much larger problem in our culture?

In fact, I think Wikipedia has some features that make it more reliable than the culture at large.

When I read a WP article on a controversial topic, I always make sure to take a look at the talk page as well. This allows me to see what issues are really controversial, what ideological axes people have to grind, etc. That's something I can't do with the New York Times.

Re:Food for Thought (3, Interesting)

dnwq (910646) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457115)

A highly relevant note from WP:UNDUEWEIGHT [wikipedia.org] :

NPOV says that the article should fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by a reliable source, and should do so in proportion to the prominence of each. Now an important qualification: Articles that compare views should not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views, and will generally not include tiny-minority views at all. For example, the article on the Earth does not mention modern support for the Flat Earth concept, a view of a distinct minority.

...From Jimbo Wales, paraphrased from this post from September 2003 on the WikiEN-l mailing list:

* If a viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts;
* If a viewpoint is held by a significant minority, then it should be easy to name prominent adherents;
* If a viewpoint is held by an extremely small (or vastly limited) minority, it does not belong in Wikipedia regardless of whether it is true or not and regardless of whether you can prove it or not, except perhaps in some ancillary article.

So, despite TFA, verifiability is not the only criterion. I daresay NPOV comes into play more often: WP policy is only ever important when an issue is fought over by differing editors, after all; and it is trivial to find sources for all sorts of contradictory viewpoints.

Note that even the UNDUEWEIGHT policy is not strictly followed in Wikipedia - e.g., creationism has a lot of adherents at a popular level. It's also trivial to find cited sources and endless lines of arguments and counter-arguments. Despite this, Wikipedia is usually sceptical of creationism - statements on evolution are usually phrased "it is the case that x" whereas creationist statements are carefully bracketed as "many people believe that x".

...but who seriously thinks that this is a bad thing? WP:IAR [wikipedia.org] is probably the best guideline here. Common sense, indeed...

Re:Food for Thought (3, Interesting)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457121)

Which raises an interesting question that no one seems to be asking: What if the problem is not Wikipedia at all? What if Wikipedia is a symptom of a much larger problem in our culture? What if the solution isn't to berate Wikipedia for that which they cannot fix, but rather to ensure the foundations upon which the system is based are fixed?

WP might not be "the" problem, but a part of the problem, I agree on that.

However, the aggregation and the claims that WP makes about itself contribute to the problem. Most people with some critical thinking don't trust everything they read on the Internet, and have a clue about how reliable certain publications usually are. Most of us know which newspapers have good reporting and which ones don't.

WP merges everything. That means loss of differentiation. Someone decides which version is "true", maybe because he doesn't know the others.

More simply put: If you read it in a magazine, you're more likely to check at least one other source. If you read it in an encyclopedia, you aren't. For the most part, the encyclopedia is the most authoritative source a normal human will check.

Ob simpsons quote (4, Funny)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456489)

Don't you worry about Wikipedia we'll change it when we get home. We'll change a lot of things.

2+2 (3, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456527)

"Even 2+2 is 4 only if everyone agrees". Sum like that.

Re:2+2 (0, Offtopic)

Androclese (627848) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456699)

[edit]
2+2=fish
[/edit]

There, fixed that for ya.

fish (1)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456805)

primordial slug-thing + evolution = fish

Re:fish (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456897)

only if t > 6000?

Re:fish (1)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457071)

I didn't bother with the Creationist version: God + desire for suchi = fish

Oops! (1)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457153)

Hopefully you all realised I meant Sushi...Doh!

So exactly how do creationists explain me, anyway?

Re:2+2 (1)

solafide (845228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457019)

corn, not fish!

Tomato [wikidot.com] plantain [wikidot.com] tomato [wikidot.com] grass [wikidot.com] corn, [wikidot.com] spinach [wikidot.com] fish! [wikidot.com]

Every programmer knows... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456885)

Two and two is two.

Re:2+2 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25456889)

Hitting the nail on the head there, though I suspect there will be arguments. But it is kind of a bad example because math is a self contained and self proving system and does not relate to truth in the epistemic sense, though the same problems exist at the level of language and symbols.

But truth is far from a simple concept. The scientists have one unspoken definition that hinges on repeatability and observability. The philosophers have hundreds of definitions for different contexts.

In day to day talk we usually only mean "without intent to deceive".

My point is, that (as Wittgenstein showed) we can not know what truth is. It's not like a cow that we can point to as the final arbiter of definition disputes. So the way we think of it will change. It's natural.

Actually, it doesn't work like this (4, Insightful)

saibot834 (1061528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457033)

Wikipedia doesn't say that A is true because reference X says so. Wikipedia says that reference X tells us that A is true. There is a fundamental difference:
In the first (incorrect) version, Wikipedia cites X and adds something to this, specifically that X is trustworthy and makes correct statements about A.
In the second, correct version, Wikipedia doesn't claim that A is true or false. It just claims that X claims that A is true. Wikipedia doesn't add anything, it simply accumulates facts and let the reader choose whether A is true or not, and whether X is trustworthy or not.

Nothing is true just because you can verify that someone else thinks it is true. That idea is stupid and so is this story.

We can only hope... (4, Funny)

Deag (250823) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456537)

That slashdot isn't considered some other publication.

Re:We can only hope... (1)

dnwq (910646) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457265)

You may laugh, but Slashdot comments can and have been cited as sources. A trivial example is the article about /. itself [wikipedia.org] (note 28). Interestingly, the comment cited itself is modded Flamebait: 0; the citation is about the comment rather than its content.

Simson Garfinkel (5, Funny)

drquoz (1199407) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456541)

Simson Garfinkel? You mean that singing duo?

Re:Simson Garfinkel (-1, Troll)

drquoz (1199407) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456785)

Good job, people. You modded me redundant. You trying to tell me you didn't mis-read the name at first glance as well? I guess some people can't take a joke. But then, this is Slashdot, where anything with "pwnies" or "goatse" is automatically hilarious.

Re:Simson Garfinkel (1, Insightful)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457023)

Modding can be inexplicable sometimes, so don't feel hard-done-by. For what it's worth I mis-read it as well, and your comment made me chuckle and if I had mod points I'd be more than happy to give you a "funny".

Wiki BS (3, Insightful)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456571)

The claim that "it appeared in some other publication" is in stark contrast with it's own "WP:SPAM" zealots who won't accept any external publication, strongly favoring [[self-references]] instead.

Wikipedia is more like early north american land grabs. First to put down the stake wins. Any additional, equally valid info, is spam and must be defended against.

Truth... (5, Insightful)

gambit3 (463693) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456573)

Wikipedia: Where consistent opinions are correct opinions.

Re:Truth... (5, Funny)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456883)

Wikipedia: Where persistent opinions are correct opinions.

There, fixed that for you.

Re:Truth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25457027)

revert

Re:Truth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25457285)

Wikipedia: Where consistent opinions are correct opinions.

Defeat lameness filter: This exact comment has already been posted. Try to be more original...

A Reasonable Aggregate of Truth (5, Insightful)

writerjosh (862522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456581)

I think we shouldn't look at Wikipedia as being absolute truth, or not truth, but "a reasonable aggregate of truth." I know that's why I look to Wikipedia when I'm curious about something: not as a source of final truth on a subject, but a starting point. Wikipedia does a great job at collecting relevant information and presenting it in an easy to read fashion, but it should only be used as one tool in research.

As the article author suggests, Wikipedia, when compared to magazine articles or books, is still only the best opinions of other humans. True, magazine articles and books typically have more fact-checking involved - because the author has a reputation to protect - but it's still opinion - just like Wikipedia. The only way a reader can assess ultimate truth is to view Wikipedia in comparison to as many other publications as possible - online or offline. This is the scholastic method and should be the method for every Wikipedia reader. I know this isn't always the case, but this isn't always the case for your average book reader or magazine reader either: they read an opinion that jives with them, and it becomes truth - no different than a Wiki entry.

Re:A Reasonable Aggregate of Truth (5, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456703)

Perhaps we should just consider Wikipedia a reasonable aggregation of information. Some true, some false.

Re:A Reasonable Aggregate of Truth (2, Insightful)

Bishop Rook (1281208) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457055)

Quite so. People are looking at Wikipedia the wrong way. It's not meant to replace people actually seeking truth the old-fashioned way. It's meant as an aggregation of mostly-correct information about a broad variety of topics that people can use as a starting point to inform themselves.

It's not meant to replace Encyclopedia Britannica, scientific journals, textbooks, or investigative reporting. It's meant to replace, "Well I heard from my Uncle Joe who got it from his neighbor that her daughter said she heard somewhere that this Obama fellow's actually an Arab." To which one might counter, "Well I heard from Wikipedia who heard from the Washington Post that that's patently ludicrous, and I can give you the link."

Re:A Reasonable Aggregate of Truth (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457025)

Exactly Wikipedia is great for just knowing a little about something that you have no idea about. I recently had a sandwich with capers on it. I wanted to know what those capers are that I am eating. So I did a quick Wikipedia look up on Capers then I found that it is a flower... Because the capers that I was eating were so heavily pickled and served with fish I originally assumed that it was a form of sea-weed, but I was wrong and now I know. And Knowing is half the battle (G.I. Joeeee)

Re:A Reasonable Aggregate of Truth (2, Informative)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457031)

"a reasonable aggregate of truth."

Many years ago, someone coined the term "consensus reality". I think that is more than appropriate here. What Wikipedia does is create "consensus truth", where things are true if there is a consensus that they are. That's independent of fact, although there is a fairly strong correlation. However, there is no causation. There's quite a bit on WP that's verifiably false - but the falsifications never make it because they violate some WP policy. Lanier is a good example, I know a couple more like that.

WP is an interesting experiment in expanding the scientific method by removing the "peer" from "peer-review". Ironically, it works exactly there where we-as-common-humans are peers - in the facts of everyday life, that are within our capabilities to verify and thusly thanks to the vast popularity of WP, there'll always be someone to spot the error and correct it.

By my estimate, it fails on non-mainstream topics, be they obscure or just complicated. Also in anything subjective, where you get edit wars because of differing opinions.

Re:A Reasonable Aggregate of Truth (1)

saibot834 (1061528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457195)

What the Internet should have taught everyone is, that you can't trust anything just because it is written on a piece of paper or on a computer screen. You, the user, always have to judge for yourself if you wish to trust the information you are getting, or not.

I am a Wikipedian myself and I say, that there is much wrong information in our encyclopedia - just like in every encyclopedia or any non-trivial text. Read articles, perhaps take a look at the talk page and the version history and ask yourself whether the article is somehow strange or inconsistent. If you don't find anything suspicious, you may trust the article if you like - but not if your life depends on it.

The important part here is the user, not the encyclopedia. It's more important to teach everyone to not trust everything, than it is to build an error-free encyclopedia (which is impossible anyways).

Not true (2, Insightful)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456585)

I notice the only thing supporting the idea that wiki defines true comes from wiki, which is not an outside-wiki source. Therefore it can't be verified (without RTFA at least) and is not true.

WIkipedia Truth (1)

BountyX (1227176) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456603)

If you wikipedia the word truth you will see the most popular perceptions of what truth is and how it has changed with different governments and civilizations. I think you will find that the Concensus Theory serves as an "abstract" truth in which less ambigious definitions of truth serve as components and tools of concensus. Wikipedia has not redefined the common perception of truth, it merely extended Nicholas Rescher's philosophy and it has been successfull because of its scalability and abstract nature. Concensus theory alone is nothing without derivitive explanations of truth.

And of course (5, Insightful)

ab8ten (551673) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456607)

there is the danger of the self-refferential wiki-loop, where an unverified statement on wikipedia gets used in a reputable newspaper, which is then used to 'verify' the original statement.

The Register loves this sort of thing: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/10/17/wikipedia_and_the_mirror/ [theregister.co.uk] is a minor example, but who knows what else has been elevated to truth by circular reasoning? (smart alec answers to *that* question are welcome :))

Re:And of course (2, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457095)

The Register loves this sort of thing: is a minor example, but who knows what else has been elevated to truth by circular reasoning?

Plenty!!!

  • The belief that Iraq was trying to buy Yellow Cake, had an active WMD program, and that we were somehow liberating Iraq and that they'd be our friends afterwards and pay us back for our troubles and expense.
  • A lot of the anti-climate change stuff uses similar tactics -- a couple of dissenting voices are used to support the idea that there is "widespread disagreement" on the topic.
  • How about the claim that Intelligent Design is a legitimate scientific theory that should hold equal weight to evolution?
  • Often history depends on who gets to write the official account. You can get pretty wide differences in what happened depending on whose side you listen to. Certainly, the old colonialist powers have different stories than their colonies had.
  • I'm pretty sure the tobacco industry had a bunch of them.
  • The entire numbers the *AA's use to describe the losses due to "IP theft" are essentially completely fiction, got referenced once in a government document, and are bandied about without any form of supporting basis for them.

There are a lot of things which are presented as truths which are nothing more than opinion, or completely fabricated to support an agenda.

Even matters of objective fact are open to interpretation and spin. Sadly, I don't think Wiki is any more (or less) susceptible to this. If anything, the fact that we're explicitly aware of it in Wiki might make it easier. It's all the little ones we're not even aware of that are probably of greater concern.

Cheers

philosophically groundless criticism (5, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456613)

the crticism offered in the story summary is accurate, but pointless. the idea would be to find some sort of impossibly noble source of information for which the criticism leveled at wikipedia does not also apply. since all sources of media suffer from the same sort of suspect appeal to authority or questionable fact checking, then the criticism leveled against wikipedia is not valid in the sense that it makes wikipedia any different from any other media source you can find

all media is suspect, anywhere. you go through life with a good bullshit meter, or you don't go through life at all. there is no such thing, nor will there ever be, a perfectly verifiable and 100% trustworthy media, anywhere on this planet. media is a human endeavour, and as such, it is as flawed as we are. it is not a question of purposeful intent or partisan manipulation, it is a question of the unattainability of true impartiality

it is impossible for you to discover a media source that does not also suffer from the same criticism leveled at wikipedia. so continue using wikipedia, with a healthy functioning bullshit meter, teh same bullshit meter you should have on when reading any other media soruce. the criticism is useless

learn to accept the fundamental limitations of media in your world, and stop expecting the impossible out of media. it is biased, and always will be

Re:philosophically groundless criticism (3, Funny)

Surt (22457) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456993)

all media is suspect, anywhere. you go through life with a good bullshit meter, or you don't go through life at all.

Or you go through life anyway, and vote republican.

Re:philosophically groundless criticism (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457137)

all media is suspect, anywhere. you go through life with a good bullshit meter, or you don't go through life at all. there is no such thing, nor will there ever be, a perfectly verifiable and 100% trustworthy media, anywhere on this planet.

Bingo. What media can you trust as 100% verifiable and trustworthy? CNN? Fox News? Encyclopedia Britannica? BBC? National Geographic? (Any Christians who say "Bible" will be shot on sight.)

The answer is none of the above. And you said it just right -- media is a human endeavor. Humans are riddled with errors, therefore so too will be their creations.

Seriously, Wikipedia? (2, Funny)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456615)

Wikipedia provides the new standard of "truth"?

We all know that nothing is "true" until it has been posted on Slashdot. Jimbo Wales is fit to polish Commander Taco's sneakers.

Re:Seriously, Wikipedia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25456871)

Well, I think the level of truth depends more on the number of times the same article has been posted on slashdot to the power of the number of memes it creates divided by the number of times its also been picked up by digg.

No different than any other encyclopedic work (1)

thered2001 (1257950) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456621)

Do the compilers of any encyclopedia create the knowledge which they record? Or do they concisely record knowledge from other sources?

Re:No different than any other encyclopedic work (1)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456949)

The Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1910 included original research, Kropotkin on Anarchism [pitzer.edu] .

Of course, that was nearly 100 years ago.

The point is though, other encyclopaedias can check the credentials of their authors ("original researchers"), and decided whether or not to include them.

Wikipedia has no real verifiable method of know who is who. Even if I say that I am "apathy maybe", the only real and honest "apathy maybe", Wikipedia can't know that if I only say that on Wikipedia.

If I say here, "my Wikipedia account is 'apathy maybe'", and then I say on Wikipedia, "my Slashdot account is 'apathy maybe'", then that provides some level of verification. Except, who verifies all these links?

Wikipedia isn't like any other encyclopaedia.

Verifiability (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456643)

What makes a fact or statement fit for inclusion is verifiability -- that it appeared in some other publication,

I finally figured out what bugs me about this; it means that Wikipedia is only a repository of Media-knowledge: what publication owners want us to know (or believe). Where is the line drawn for a publication? Would the Federalist Papers have made the cut?

original truth (1)

inaneframe (971456) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456661)

Yeah, would wikipedia's definition of truth be considered original research?

Useful Vs. Official (4, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456697)

Wikipedia has errored on the side of being "cited" over being "useful". Opinions that may be subjective or not cite-able can still be very useful information.

What is needed is a kind of competitor that *does* allow "unofficial" info. One can use wikipedia when they want cite-able stuff and the less formal one for less formal tidbits. (And maybe link them somehow.)

For example, in my opinion one of the most striking things about the original video game "Asteroids" that set it apart was the brightness of the phaser torpedoes, due to its use of vector screen scanning instead of raster scanning. I put a note about this on wikipedia, but the "citation police" kept deleting it. This despite the fact that most of the existing article was not cited either. (Cut-off time rules?) It was a frustrating experience. Subjective opinions about why people liked (or thought others liked) X is useful info to many of us. Personal experience from an arcade owner about customers' first reactions would be interesting also, even if not citable.

There's a niche to be tapped. I even considered starting "casualpedia.org" to serve it, but don't want to manage/rent the fat server farms needed. (I've filled my quota on personal dot-bombs already.)

Points? (1)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456709)

Perhaps some sort of points system might work, like a democracy of truth. People could "vote" on how accurate they believe a page to be (hopefully in an informed way) and a "How likely is this article to be accurate" index shown on each page.

Multiple sources (4, Informative)

interiot (50685) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456723)

but there is a problem ... many publications don't do any fact checking at all

That's why multiple sources are the best. Whenever sources disagree, the more reliable [wikipedia.org] sources are trusted over less reliable sources.

Verifiability is really an appeal to authority--not the authority of truth, but the authority of other publications. Any other publication, really.

That's just not true. Many talk pages are filled with disputes over "my source X is more reliable than your source Y because ...". That's ultimately a very healthy discussion. And WP:RS [wikipedia.org] does say that some sources aren't reliable enough to be worth including at all.

About the Article (0)

isBandGeek() (1369017) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456731)

[citation needed]

You shouldn't trust wikipedia! (1, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456741)

Use the uncyclopedia instead. Wikipedia is lacking in many respects:
  1. Wikipedia's incomplete. For instance, nothing whatever about Kitten Huffing [uncyclopedia.org]
  2. They're inaccurate. For instance, Wikipedia's entry on black holes [uncyclopedia.org] lacks Jack Thompson's observation that "They suck more than I do", God's observation that "Black holes are simply where I decided to divide by zero", Steven hawking's observation that "Originally, Black Holes were known as 'Gravitationally Collapsed Stars" and Oscar Wilde's observation that "I'm going to stick something in there and see what happens".
  3. Your mom [uncyclopedia.org] likes uncyclopedia... when she's not flat on her back
  4. better writing [uncyclopedia.org]
  5. No trolls [uncyclopedia.org]
  6. Wikipedia doesn't quote Oscar Wilde, unless of course you look up Oscar Wilde. [uncyclopedia.org]

Re:You shouldn't trust wikipedia! (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457171)

Flamebait? Wow, Jimmy Wales got mod points! Way to go, Jimbo!

Calling Captain Kirk... (4, Funny)

One Louder (595430) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456743)

So, if somebody creates a Wikipedia article called "Everything on Wikipedia is a Lie ", will it start arguing with itself, then explode?

Re:Calling Captain Kirk... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25457045)

perchance to dream ...

Re:Calling Captain Kirk... (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457157)

So, if somebody creates a Wikipedia article called "Everything on Wikipedia is a Lie ", will it start arguing with itself, then explode?

Hopefully! It's certainly worth a try.

Simson Garfinkel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25456745)

Didn't they break up quite awhile ago? I really liked The Boxer and Bridge Over Troubled Water...

Notability is King (5, Informative)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456757)

There's also the accepted rule that "Celebrity equals Existance." Don't believe me? Try and write a highly detailed wiki entry about a webcomic that has been consistently updating for years but won no awards, or a music band who has been steadily working on the independant scene but went largely unnoticed by the major labels. Your hard work is sure to be rewarded by a "lack of notability" deletion notice. Does this mean that I don't exist until I get the cover page of People magazine? Wikipedia seems to think so...

Help change Wikipedia for the better (seriously) (4, Interesting)

snarfies (115214) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456773)

There is a real attempt at changing some of Wikipedia's guidelines going on at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Notability/RFC:compromise [wikipedia.org]

Please have a look, and please chime in. Please strike a blow AGAINST deletionism.

Creative Anti-Realism for the win! (1)

EarthandAllStars (1214536) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456777)

Look up some Plantinga for what that means.

Jaron Lanier (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25456787)

Jaron can fix the problem rather easily. Post the correct information elsewhere on the web. Now that information can be referenced on Wikipedia and is no longer "original research." The situation still kind of blows.

B3tans had some fun.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25456813)

http://www.b3ta.com/links/Lazy_Journalist

Don't trust wikipedia!

Encyclopedia Dramatica (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25456819)

The Encyclopedia Dramatica, although mostly just entertainment, manages to catch the essence of Wikipedia perfectly. Just go and read it yourself at http://encyclopediadramatica.com/Wikipedia

I couldn't seriously agree more with that article. Especially the MMORPG part.

Irrelevant (3, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456855)

We all know that the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom.

So, unless Wikipedia adds a huge DON'T PANIC header to their website, I won't be using it.

People often _lie_ about themselves. (2, Interesting)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456873)

> Wikipedia's policy of 'No Original Research' also leads to situations like Jaron
> Lanier's frustrated attempts to correct his own Wikipedia entry based on firsthand
> knowledge of his own career.

Has he offered documentation?

Re:People often _lie_ about themselves. (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457255)

The easiest thing for Jaron Lanier to do in this case is to publish an autobiography and source that. He might even make a few quick bucks off it.

Truth is dangerous (3, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456879)

The problem is that people require truth, rather than observation, as well as an over dependence on facts. Some articles are fact based. William Shatner portrayed Captain Jame Tiberius Kirk in 79 episodes of the ST:TOS. These are widely known, verifiable facts, and anyone who disputes them is likely delusional.

Some facts are less widely known, like what Shatner was doing last week at tea time, or what motivated someone to jack a car. One might be tempted to ask Shanter or the car jacker, and that would certainly give a credible version of the truth. But what if 10 people saw Shatner at the time on the state day, or what if the car jacker just had a discussion with someone prior the incident describing what he or she was feeling. And what if the first hand and observed description of the 'truth' did not match? Do we accept the personal accounts or first hand observations? Do we accept the car jackers claim that he had been offered the car as a gift when 10 people saw the car being taken at gunpoint? The problem with truth is that we are forced to accept a single version, even though, at least sometimes, both can be seen as reasonable in certain contexts.

Which is why there is no issue here. Wikipedia deals with facts, figures, and personal statements. This is a commonly accepted fact. This is what I saw, and many people agree with me. This is the gestalt consensus of the truth at this moment. Confusing this with anything other than fallible observation causes nothing but problems.

OTOH academic observation often talks about validity. Starting with this data, and using these methods, this is what a reasonable person would conclude. Is the data good? You be judge. Are the methods appropriate? You be the judge. Do you trust that the procedures are carried out properly? That is also a judgement call. There is no truth, just observation and valid conclusions. Wiki cannot handle this because it usually just include out of context 'facts', with little context. No way to know why these 'facts' are more valid that those reported last week. It is this exact thing that makes people so confused about health and nutrition issues. People tend to believe what they are told, even though there is no reason to believe it.

Wikipedia brings a whole new meaning to (1)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456887)

the phrase "tyranny of the majority" doesn't it?

Re:Wikipedia brings a whole new meaning to (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457219)

Yes, it does. As well as providing a forum for the minority with an ax to grind to fervently manipulate truth. It's a perfect arena for those who like burning books, and wielding authority.

Wikipedia probably more truthful than most (2, Insightful)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456901)

I found the idea that "real" encyclopedias were considered to be somehow more accurate to be questionable at best. Does Wikipedia contain multiple errors? You bet it does. Does the Encyclopedia Britannica contain multiple errors? Yup. The real difference is that while the "professional" compilations don't tell you how they collect or evaluate the material they present as absolute truth. Wikipedia doesn't hide where the information comes from or how it is evaluated - this provides valuable information that the others choose to hide.

The real danger is in assuming that any other source of information is significantly more accurate, complete or truthful than Wikipedia. You'd be better served by assuming that any / all of these references are not completely reliable.

Three kinds of truth (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456921)

> On Wikipedia, truth is received truth: the consensus view of a subject.

There are three kinds of truth: direct personal experience, consensus truth, and "faith" (which is really a form of consensus truth).

Welcome ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456931)

...to teh internets. Post a factoid in various places around the interweb enough times and it becomes true.

The article is original research (1)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456969)

Since Wikipedia is the most widely read online reference on the planet....

...(big logical jump)...

it's the standard of truth that most people are implicitly using when they type a search term into Google or Yahoo.

The problems with wikipedia: (5, Insightful)

gr3y (549124) | more than 5 years ago | (#25456975)

Wikipedia is not authoritative.

  1. Wikipedia is not a primary source.
  2. Wikipedia is not a reliable source.

    Wikipedia's content is generated by pseudo-anonymous individuals who incorrectly assert the public Internet is a reliable source of information. The public Internet is not a reliable source of information, therefore wikipedia is not a reliable source.

  3. Wikipedia is not an objective source.

    Wikipedia's editors break the rules governing their behavior and the behavior of others if it will benefit them. As a result, wikipedia advances the subjective views and beliefs of its editors.

  4. Wikipedia is not a representative source.

    Contributing factors to this delusion include the competing concepts "notability" and "neutrality", as advanced by wikipedia. Lacking from that discussion, of course, is the question: notable or neutral, to who? Rather than host disputed versions of articles, representing the majority opinion and any significant minority opinions, wikipedia prefers a version advancing assertions, but not facts, which are easily disputed by any minority.

And I frankly despise the appearance of wikipedia in search results, or having some article on wikipedia quoted in a discussion online, as if it provides information of value, in lieu of the reliable primary sources wikipedia references, as if wikipedia itself is the source of that information, and not merely a link farm with some content wrapped around it.

But then, I make a living because of the difference between assertions and facts, and I'm apt to notice such things. Wikipedia is long on assertions, and short on facts.

Truth does not vary (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25457043)

I wish people would stop muddying the term truth. A thing does not "become" true -- either it is true or it is not. Truth is independent of any person's or group's perceptions or beliefs. 2+2=4 is true whether you believe it or not.

Wikipedia basically presents a consensus of opinion among some group of contributors. The real problem with it is that there is no control on whose opinions get included in the consensus. If you gather a consensus among a group of informed observers, that consensus has a relatively high probability of coinciding with objective truth. If you gather a consensus among an arbitrary group of self-selected observers, that consensus has a relatively lower probability of coinciding with objective truth. If you gather a consensus among a self-selected group of ignorant or unintelligent observers, that consensus is likely to be far removed from objective truth.

Thus the key issue with Wikipedia is that, looking at a given article, it may be difficult to discern its credibility. For an intelligent and well-informed reader, this is usually not a problem -- comparing the article to one's own knowledge and to other sources provides the indication of how trustworthy the article's statements are likely to be. Unfortunately, most readers are neither intelligent nor well-informed. They are in fact all too likely to simply believe whatever coincides most closely with their personal fantasies and desires. Oh, well.

Re:Truth does not vary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25457149)

2+2=4 is true whether you believe it or not.

By my reckoning, 2+2=11. Of course, I count in base 3.

What we need is a Rebuttal-pedia (2)

Tipa (881911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457057)

Here's the million-dollar idea. Make Rebuttal-pedia, a place where Jason Lanier and people like him can post their side of the story, and it can then be used a source for Wikipedia articles.

Research on Wikipedia is fairly easy (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457059)

At least it's easy if you accept that anything worth referencing off of it is cited in the article. In this way you'll have what is normally a more credible source to cite instead of simply going off of Wiki's word.

I wonder how many people ever look at the references section to do further research.

Verifiability, not truth (4, Informative)

Stephen (20676) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457067)

Wikipedia hasn't redefined truth. It is very explicit that doesn't claim to report truth, only verifiability. Read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Verifiability [wikipedia.org] :

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth.

If readers sometimes look to it for truth, well, they're misusing it.

Jean-Pierre Petit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25457085)

You also have the example of Jean-Pierre Petit, ex director of CNRS. He have been banned for obscure reasons, but mainly because his research are not in the mainstream.

e.g.s? (1)

Push Latency (930039) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457097)

Does anyone have good examples of content which relied on other sources that turned out to be flat wrong? I mean, just a few good examples - I'm sure there are many...

How Wikipedia Makes People Dumb (3, Insightful)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457101)

As a WP user myself, I have to say that the editing process inculcates editors with a "truth has been established"ãmindset. I've never seen the ideal of a "search for truth"ãso subtly yanked out of the toolset of a group of intellectuals so fast as has happened at WP. When "Citation Needed" is used as a weapon much more often than an honest inquiry, you know that you're standing in the midst of hypocrites.

Oh, and I *am* a hypocrite too. But I'm trying to get better at defining what lengths I will or will not go to in an intellectual argument. It's really easy to pull the carpet right out from beneath your own education by attempting to bring down others' viewpoints for the sake of ego.

Truthiness (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457111)

While absolute Truth may be questioned on Wikipedia, its Truthiness [wikipedia.org] is usually pretty good -- as I circularly reference:

Colbert later ascribed truthiness to other institutions and organizations, such as Wikipedia.[9]

Always read the discussion pages. (4, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457151)

A couple of times I've had someone "correct" me pointing to Wikipedia, where the article that they're pointing to is one I'd contributed to. Sometimes the article has become self-contradictory under the influence of multiple editors, other times the article is being more actively edited by someone who he happens to agree with. Either way, I "know" at least as much about the subject as Wikipedia does.

You really can't tell what a Wikipedia entry really means without reading the discussion page. In fact, that's often more informative than the article itself.

the problem with wikipedia (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25457173)

What really gets me about wikipedia is stuff like Heavy Metal (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) [wikipedia.org] . The guy loses the Afd and so what does he do? Merges every episode, save that one, into List of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episodes [wikipedia.org] . You see - this user knows he couldn't get consensus by an AfD so he engages in backroom deals to gain support.

Of course, that doesn't top Torchic [wikipedia.org] . A front page featured article with 20 paragraphs and 46 citations now reduced to redirecting to a list of pokemon, with 2-3 paragraphs (depending on whether or not a one sentence paragraph counts) and no citations. Amazing stuff.

I don't believe it.... (2, Funny)

Urger (817972) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457179)

{{Citation Needed}}

Gold Standard for Useful Definition of Truth (3, Insightful)

Roxton (73137) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457183)

The gold standard for any useful definition of truth is, "What is most likely given the information available. Incorporate the uncertainty into your answer."

In this light, the Wikipedia standard is almost as good as it could possibly be.

Not evern real verifiablity (1)

muuh-gnu (894733) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457197)

Wikipedia, as I had to learn the hard way bevor I gave up working on it, does not actually require real verifiablity of the facts presented, but solely on the verifiability of the sources presented. You are not required to actually show that A+B=C, citing a source arguing that A+B=C often suffices.

So if I can source any kind of bullshit properly, regardles of any truthfullness of the actual content, it gets in. All you can do against it is find a competing source and cram it also in. If you cant, tough luck, the bullshit stays.

"the consensus view" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25457201)

Whatever leftwing whackos have the most time to waste on revert wars.

Jaron's new definition of "film director" (1, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457215)

Jaron Lanier is complaining that Wikipedia listed him as a "film director". He did make a film once. Apparently it sucked, and he's embarrassed about it. He's whining because Wikipedia mentions that part of his life, and he'd like to delete that from his resume.

That's not a Wikipedia problem.

Wikipedia has damaged the impartiality principle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25457245)

The traditional authorities of truth have always been either scientists (typically in the field of natural science) or dictionaries. Both of these have strong principles of using as neutral, factual and conservative a language as possible.

Wikipedia claims to have a principle of 'impartiality', that has gotten so much fanfare that people seem to have accepted the conceptual framework of it as providing a form of impartiality. The new meme is that, with a lot of different viewpoints and a principle of factual references, you should get impartiality.

In reality however, Wikipedia turns out far from impartial. NPOV does not cover a large number of highly important things, such as tone, connotations, selection of focus, and the types of sources used and the way they are referenced.

As one example, one of the editors of a regional newspaper may have described a public figure as having "showed severe lack of focus in a crisis". This can be included in the article as: "NN showed a severe lack of focus in the crisis (#)", or "NN showed a severe lack of focus in the crisis according to John James at the Daily Times (#)", or "NN was accused of showing a severe lack of focus in the crisis (#)", or simply leaving it out, with the reason that a newspaper editor is not noteworthy / potentially biased / not a specialist / simply an opinion on the street / not a 'scholar'.

As another example, a public figure may in their teenage years have survived off the handouts of an uncle who ran a rubber chicken factory. If you wrote this in the article on Nelson Mandela, no matter if true, it would probably be removed. There are other individuals where it would be written in, and reinstated if removed. The fact detracts from authority, in the same way that pointing out "Dear Judge, I would like to make the point that you have very large haemorroids" detracts from authority, despite being defensible as both factual and not out of the ordinary.

Many will say that things like these don't matter at all. Which is an argument that is easy to demolish - any half competent wordsmith can take any article on a public figure, and use every trick in the book to change it from either a glorification or a crucification, and have both of which adhere to every Wikipedia policy. The reader will perceive the tone of the article, and will feel that the Wikipedia stance reflects "the public/common stance".

Does anyone care enough to do this? Naturally, it's common enough on talk pages to see people state that they e.g. have a strong sympathy or antipathy towards a subject, but they are really "looking for sources to prove it" or "ways to have it shown". Much like for adapting to tax laws; so long as the goal remains, the methods will be redesigned to fit around the laws and barriers, no matter how convoluted.

Why is this a problem? Because the sources that were used earlier (dictionaries, scientists, as mentioned) had the aforementioned principle of neutral and conservative language. Wikipedia is similarly considered impartial, but does not. I would therefore say that Wikipedia exemplifies a trend towards accepting a majority vote as 'as good as truth', rather than reserving the final arbitration of truth for specialists.

I ran into this already with Wikipedia (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457271)

I already ran into this a long time ago. I tried to correct some info on a consumer product I personally worked on. But my corrections were reverted because I couldn't point to sources. All the sources out there already had it wrong, so the wrong info was put back.

In the end I realized I can't fight it. The commonly accepted historical record/"facts" is influenced at least as much by errors and people who want to make it a particular way as much as it is set by the actual truth.

Lies create reality, so... (2, Insightful)

dogganos (901230) | more than 5 years ago | (#25457281)

In the extend that widely believed lies create reality, the truth is actually what most people regard as true.

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