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Journalism Students Assigned To Write On Wikipedia

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the putting-wasted-research-to-use dept.

Education 138

Hugh Pickens writes "eCampus News reports that at the University of Denver, journalism students are assigned to write Wikipedia entries as part of a curriculum that stresses online writing and content creation, and students have so far composed 24 Wikipedia articles this year, covering topics from the gold standard to the San Juan Mountains to bimetallism, an antiquated monetary standard. Journalism instructors Lynn Schofield Clark and Christof Demont-Heinrich say students are told to check their sourcing carefully, just as they would for an assignment at a local newspaper. 'Students are leery about mentioning Wikipedia, because they might be subjected to criticism. But I tell them it's an online source of knowledge that just has some information that might be questionable, but that doesn't mean you have to dismiss all of [its content],' says Demont-Heinrich, who first assigned the Wikipedia writing to students in his introductory course taught during the university's recent winter semester. He said the Wikipedia entries didn't require old-school shoe leather reporting — because the online encyclopedia bars the use of original quotes — but they teach students how to thoroughly research a topic before publishing to a site that has over 350 million unique visitors and gets over 10 billion page views a month. 'I see journalism as being completely online within the next two to five years,' says Demont-Heinrich. 'If you're not trained to expect that and write for that, then you're not going to be ready for the work world.'"

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138 comments

Next in the programme.. (2, Funny)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | about 4 years ago | (#31626518)

A course on manipulating Slashdot?

Re:Next in the programme.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31626844)

What are three things you CANNOT give a nigger? A black eye, a fat lip, and an education.

Re:Next in the programme.. (1, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 4 years ago | (#31627736)

Oh! Oh! Oh! I know this one.

Mention Algore or Brocko Bamma in a bad light, and your garma goes from excelent to negitive in one post!

buahahhah (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31626522)

FIRST. WIKIPEDIA THAT!

Non-Notable (4, Interesting)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about 4 years ago | (#31626548)

Given Wikipedia's propensity to delete articles as non-notable [wikipedia.org] , I consider this a very, very bad idea.

Re:Non-Notable (1)

Ltap (1572175) | about 4 years ago | (#31626612)

Maybe, but it depends. On the surface, it's a bad idea to try and judge what is notable and what isn't. On the other hand, historical and scientific stuff is almost always kept (unless it's totally inaccurate), it's usually people creating praise-filled articles about themselves that are slapped down.

Re:Non-Notable (3, Interesting)

delinear (991444) | about 4 years ago | (#31626718)

Maybe they can work with Wikipedia, by asking for a list of article stubs or proposed articles Wiki would like to see researched and written. It could be something that benefits both parties.

Re:Non-Notable (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | about 4 years ago | (#31626920)

Maybe they can work with Wikipedia, by asking for a list of article stubs or proposed articles Wiki would like to see researched and written. It could be something that benefits both parties.

Excellent. Then the students will know what to write, and the Wikipedia admins will know what to expect so they can delete it. Everyone wins!

Re:Non-Notable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31627030)

Excellent. Then the students will know what to write, and the Wikipedia admins will know what to expect so they can delete it. Everyone wins!

Blah... Just write an algorithm, why have the admins bother? After all it shouldn't be too damn hard to detect articles written by journalism students!

Re:Non-Notable (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 4 years ago | (#31626772)

I consider this a very, very bad idea.

Really? I consider it a very very wonderful idea. If an article is deleted, big deal. The student will most likely retain their own copy when they submit it to the professor.

Let's take my report on Carl Sagan in high school and my lengthy paper on the pros and cons of the EU's end of the year reallocation between countries in my Macroeconomics course. The former is probably better documented on Wikipedia already but might have served as a decent seed article. The latter I cannot find anything on and am not even sure if it still goes on. Regardless, you have no option of reading any form of my two works. Any information or references I had accumulated are lost to the ages. Just like if the articles had been deemed non-notable.

I like the idea of being able to produce something useful out of what seems like an inane exercise and to allow students the pleasure of disseminating knowledge responsibly.

I maintain it's a great idea with no bad consequences when you compare it to the old way. The only bad thing would be if you made a very embarrassing error and it was stored in wikipedia's history for eternity. Oh well, better learn early about the foreverity of the internet. Just like my Slashdot comments.

Re:Non-Notable (2, Insightful)

Bakkster (1529253) | about 4 years ago | (#31627442)

If an article is deleted, big deal. The student will most likely retain their own copy when they submit it to the professor.

Personally, I would think this could affect your grade. As a journalism student, a valuable skill to have is picking the notable stories from those that are non-notable. Your future employer will want you to write about stuff people care about (particularly your publication's target audience), so you better be able to accurately judge that for yourself.

I like the idea of being able to produce something useful out of what seems like an inane exercise and to allow students the pleasure of disseminating knowledge responsibly.

Agreed, if you're going to go through that much effort to colelct the information you might as well publish it somewhere it could be read.

Re:Non-Notable (2, Insightful)

wealthychef (584778) | about 4 years ago | (#31629178)

As a journalism student, a valuable skill to have is picking the notable stories

I was going to say, yes, but here it's just a small committee at one business deciding what's notable, instead of the public, but then I realized, that's probably how it's done at a newspaper too.

Re:Non-Notable (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | about 4 years ago | (#31629932)

Exactly, it's either a useful skill or a harsh life lesson. Either way, it's worthwhile to learn while still in college.

Re:Non-Notable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31629918)

Why not have journalism students maintain a blog? Isn't that more in line with their future profession?

The benefits to Wikipedia is that writers who are passionate and have a specialized skill in a particular post this knowledge online to share with the Internet community. If you have a bunch of journalism students arbitrarily picking topics they know absolutely about and then writing a bunch of non-notable articles, It wastes the time of more legitimate volunteers who now have to sift through items written, just to make a grade.

Sorry, but leave Wikipedia articles to those that actually know something about the subject.

Re:Non-Notable (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31626804)

Assuming they write an article that cites reliable sources, it's incredibly unlikely that will happen. If it's a 20 kilobyte article about a minor video game/manga character, maybe. But if it's a historical or political article that's neutral and well-cited? I'll give you 20:1 odds (and that's only because it's a single case; amortized, I'd be willing to give much longer ones). Of course, if they stray too close to Wikipedia's unofficial official positions on controversial issues, the odds fluctuate a bit, depending on which side they're on. But the truth is always the first casualty of human conflict, and there is no fathomable way Wikipedia could be exempt from that rule.

Re:Non-Notable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31626876)

...as opposed to good old fashioned homework assignments turned in on paper. The professors hang those on the office wall, where they'll stay forever and ever.

Re:Non-Notable (2, Insightful)

Warlord88 (1065794) | about 4 years ago | (#31626918)

In my opinion, if the paper does not conform to the Wikipedia guidelines for notability, it is not worth writing it.

Re:Non-Notable (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#31627078)

I think you worry too much.

Wikipedia has tons of non-notable articles, like an article about the VHS v. Betamax War (they're both dead - who cares?), a list of Kim Possible episodes, characters from the Star Trek universe (one article per character), and so on. I see no harm in adding articles about the gold standard, San Juan Mountains, and bimettalism.

Re:Non-Notable (2)

daten (575013) | about 4 years ago | (#31627186)

There could be historical value in something such as an article on competition between the VHS and Betamax formats. The details could be interesting to someone who wasn't around at the time to have personal experience with the subject. It could also be of interest to someone who was. It may be valuable to compare that format competition with older and newer format competitions. Lessons may have been learned in VHS vs Betamax that could be valuable in Blueray vs HD-DVD.

Information about television shows may also be valuable to fans of those shows. Even if you have no personal interest in "Kim Possible" or "Star Trek", someone else may still appreciate them as art or entertainment. That person may want to study every detail of the show and contribute to a collection of knowledge about its plot or characters.

I find it disappointing that an article can be classified as "non-notable" just because it isn't of personal interest to the person making the classification.

Re:Non-Notable (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 4 years ago | (#31626964)

It's not as bad as you might think. It also means that people have to pick a subject THAT MATTERS, so you can't just pick a paper about nothing. And your creative writing skills mean you make it interesting for the editors. But thats just for whole new articles. The idea of Wikipedia for school projects isn't new.

My girlfriend does Ancient Medieval History and Archaeology at the University of Calgary. One of her assignments last semester was either a large paper (which she chose) or you could edit an existing Wikipedia Article that was innaccurate and needed an update. Specifically, my Girlfriend could edit this:
Women in ancient Rome [wikipedia.org]

But she chose not too. Not as Web Savvy as others.

Re:Non-Notable (1)

Hadlock (143607) | about 4 years ago | (#31627430)

That might discourage journalists from taking up the profession altogether, especially considering the amount of non-notable tech journalism on the internet these days. And - horror of horrors - might subject them to actual quality standards. I recently emailed a journalist about the low quality of their article [tomshardware.com] and learned that major tech blogs don't actually have an editorial staff.

Re:Non-Notable (1)

pyrosim (856745) | about 4 years ago | (#31627716)

Did you even read the page you linked? Wikipedia's notability policy is simply "A thing is notable if and only if you can provide citations that make us think you're not just making shit up." The requirements of the journalism assignment were explicitly that the articles should be well researched, so if a student produces an article that doesn't satisfy that policy, they should fail the class.

Re:Non-Notable (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 4 years ago | (#31628568)

Wikipedia's notability policy is simply "A thing is notable if and only if you can provide citations that make us think you're not just making shit up."

By that standard, the Wikipedia page on non-notability is non-notable.

Re:Non-Notable (1)

Otto (17870) | about 4 years ago | (#31628332)

Perhaps you should try creating something notable. I've created dozens of articles on Wikipedia. None of them has been deleted.

I don't see the problem (4, Informative)

Ltap (1572175) | about 4 years ago | (#31626558)

People are very negative about wikipedia, but generally it is accurate. It is also valuable simply to see where the writers of the articles got their information from, so it's a good starting point for researching a topic.

Re:I don't see the problem (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 4 years ago | (#31627158)

I think most people who go to a Post Secondary that takes researching seriously all agree with your point of view. The thing is that for a paper you normally want either a primary source or a peer-reviewed piece. Wikipedia is a great source of knowledge but its none of those - as much as they TRY to be a peer-reviewed source of information they lack the structure to ensure it is that way.

What they need to do is make an application process so that if you want to be an editor for a specific field, you need a Doctorate in that field or something. Then when you get multiple editors together from around the globe all with 8+ years studying Egyptian History, they can shell out what makes it on the page and what doesn't. Even discrepancies can be noted on the article!

I think it'd be a better system, but theres too many things with logistics and politics to have that work, especially when people don't get paid for doing so.

So, as it stands, people are forced to use Google Scholar.

Re:I don't see the problem (1)

Otto (17870) | about 4 years ago | (#31628376)

Having a doctorate in a field doesn't mean you know anything about that field.

Having known many PhD's, I'd say it's quite the reverse, in fact.

Re:I don't see the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31628956)

Actually, having a Ph. D. in a field means you know a whole lot about a field (for a suitably narrowly defined notion of field).

For instance, if your thesis is on graph theory I'd say you probably know a hell of a lot about graph theory, but that doesn't say anything about your understanding of, say data-mining. You tell non-scientists that you have a Ph. D. in Computer Science; you tell C.S. folks you've done one in graph theory, and you tell the one other person that understands you you did one on using a discombobulator to frob the minimum spanning widget on your bipartite bullshit-ometer to induce a graphagasm.

Re:I don't see the problem (1)

wealthychef (584778) | about 4 years ago | (#31629272)

Wikipedia is a great source of knowledge but its none of those - as much as they TRY to be a peer-reviewed source of information.... What they need to do is make an application process so that if you want to be an editor for a specific field, you need a Doctorate

The purpose of Wikipedia is not to provide peer-reviewed source of information, and they are not TRYING to do that. They are using a wisdom-of-the-crowds model to provide very good but not guaranteed information to as many people as possible and it is a spectacular success.

Re:I don't see the problem (4, Informative)

CannonballHead (842625) | about 4 years ago | (#31627334)

but generally it is accurat

For non-controversial subjects.

Re:I don't see the problem (1)

welcher (850511) | about 4 years ago | (#31627586)

It's very accurate for all sorts of subjects. Look at the article about the Israel-Palestine conflict [wikipedia.org] or articles about political figures. It's great how these things often reach an equilibrium where both sides of a debate or opposing views are presented.

Re:I don't see the problem (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | about 4 years ago | (#31628660)

  • This article is a stub
  • This article needs to be wikified
  • This article needs to be cleaned up
  • This article does not cite any sources

It's very accurate for all sorts of subjects.[citation needed] Look at the article about the Israel-Palestine conflict or articles about many [weasel words] political figures. It sucks how these things never reach an equilibrium where both sides of a debate or opposing views are presented.

Fixed that for you.

Re:I don't see the problem (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 4 years ago | (#31628706)

Well, what do you want, a conclusive, objective ruling on whether George Bush was a good president? look at his article [wikipedia.org] , there is an incredible amount of factual information and citations there, with plenty of ammo for making either case. Now that is a good information source.

Re:I don't see the problem (1)

Mashdar (876825) | about 4 years ago | (#31627378)

It seems scary to me that a bunch of know-nothing journalism undergrads (or undergrads of any sort, frankly) would be forced to write on a website used for informational purposes. Granted, some of them will do a great job, but many of them will be lazy, sloppy, and far less credible than the typical Wikipedia authors.

Re:I don't see the problem (1)

Atanamis (236193) | about 4 years ago | (#31628124)

The "typical Wikipedia author" is anyone who feels like making a change. This includes people who are deliberately engaging in graffiti, those with a personal agenda, or just those who are ignorant. If wikipedia wasn't able to handle bad edits it would be useless already. These journalism students are being required to document everything they say carefully, in a way that should make it easy for editors to validate what they are writing.

Re:I don't see the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31628288)

Yes, if only there were some means by which their work could be checked and mistakes corrected...

Re:I don't see the problem (3, Insightful)

Locklin (1074657) | about 4 years ago | (#31628978)

Who cares whether *they* are credible? What matters is if their *sources* are credible -and that is in plain sight.

Re:I don't see the problem (1)

Omniscientist (806841) | about 4 years ago | (#31627426)

It is also valuable simply to see where the writers of the articles got their information from,

A problem I have been noticing lately is that many of the references in older articles are dead links. I am unsure what the rate of articles with dead references is across Wikipedia as a whole; however, it seems to be quite high across the small subset of articles I have read.

While this isn't really any concern for references that originate from a printed source, a number of them appear to originate from, and exist solely on, the Internet.

Re:I don't see the problem (2, Informative)

AkaXakA (695610) | about 4 years ago | (#31627722)

Adding well researched articles to Wikipedia makes it more accurate on the whole; that's a good thing!

Re:I don't see the problem (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 years ago | (#31627740)

generally it is accurate.

Outside of the science and non controversial topics, yeah. Its "generally" accurate. But it has many glaring holes where its only about as "generally" accurate as your average coffee table book or Discovery/History channel program on the subject.
 
Which is an entirely predictable outcome of having nonspecialists write articles on topics they really don't understand by stringing together citations from works they haven't the experience to know the context of. The belief that anyone can write an article on anything, and have it be accurate, seems to me to be the same as the belief that "any manager (MBA) can manage anything". And we all know how well that's worked out.

Re:I don't see the problem (1)

Graff (532189) | about 4 years ago | (#31629048)

Wikipedia is an exercise in frustration. I made several edits to articles that were similar but missing something from each other. The edits were almost immediately undone, stating that the information was uncited. I then re-made those edits, noting the other Wikipedia article which had all the appropriate references. The edits were again undone, still saying that citation was necessary. I then went over several articles and noted numerous places where it was apparently just fine to cite another Wikipedia article that had valid citations. No dice there either, apparently that's ok if you are one of the favored editors but if you are out of luck if you are a new person trying to help out and maybe get into becoming a regular contributer.

In the end I threw up my hands and gave up on contributing to Wikipedia. It can continue to spin its web of lies, omissions, and half-truths. Some of the information is correct but a lot of it is slanted and misleading. The problem is that you have very little idea which is which. I mean, a lot of the citations are to web sites that themselves have no validation or citations. I could go out, create a bunch of official-sounding websites, use them to cite some "facts" in Wikipedia, and, if I was subtle enough, probably get away with it.

At least when you pay for reference material the buck stops somewhere and someone is directly responsible for the information which is presented. In Wikipedia you have to trust the hordes of mostly anonymous people who have their hands on the content. What sort of basis is that for solid information that you can use in a serious manner?

I'm not convinced that Wikipedia is anything but a pop reference guide in its current form. Either it needs to have a serious team of dedicated researchers validating articles or it needs to stick to its founding principles and be more open so at least you get in there and correct bad information. We have the worst of both worlds in Wikipedia's current state.

It must be disappointing (1)

Gomer79 (43434) | about 4 years ago | (#31626568)

When they find their hard work replaced the next day by a 12 year old who just made something up and posted it so his buddies would laugh it!

Re:It must be disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31626682)

That's why they make changes easy to revert?

Re:It must be disappointing (1)

bunratty (545641) | about 4 years ago | (#31626846)

Anyone can just hit Undo, and the work is back within seconds. What's to be disappointed about?

Re:It must be disappointing (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#31627514)

It depends upon how much damage is done. I spent of time researching HD Radio prior to buying one, and then decided to share what I found with wikipedia. I rewrote the article and received a lot of praise.

I came back about 6 months later and discovered most of my work had been deleted, and replaced with anti-HD propaganda (like "HD Radio blocks AM Radio reception" and "The FCC will soon remove HDR as a standard."). It was not as simple as clicking "undo" to restore my original contributions. It took about two hours to dig through the old versions and copy/paste the deleted references, engineering citations, and so.

Re:It must be disappointing (1)

JPLemme (106723) | about 4 years ago | (#31628858)

It's your own fault. You were supposed to monitor the page every hour, and get friends in different time zones to watch the page while you slept. That way as soon as somebody so much as corrected a spelling mistake you could revert it nearly instantly and discourage other hooligans from messing with your article.

Hasn't wikipedia taught you anything?

Re:It must be disappointing (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#31629508)

Yep.

That it's a waste of time to contribute because your hard work is so easily erased by people pushing an agenda. I can understand people not liking HD Radio and adding criticisms to the article (it does in fact interfere with AM Radio during night hours).

What I can not understand is people erasing useful information, like the stream's datarate (300 kbit/s), or how many channels can be carried per station (7), or its capabilities (text, stereo, and surround sound). Why erase that useful info? It makes me wonder why I even bothered.

Lrn2Palindrome (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31627250)

Re: your sig, your userid is NOT a palindrome. It helps if you know what a word means before you use it.

Re:Lrn2Palindrome (2, Insightful)

azmodean+1 (1328653) | about 4 years ago | (#31627766)

Re: your comment, GP's user ID *IS* a palindrome. It helps if you know what a word means before you correct someone else's use of it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palindrome [wikipedia.org]
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/palindrome [reference.com]
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/palindrome [merriam-webster.com]
http://sarahpalin.typepad.com/ [typepad.com]

Oops, well 3 out of 4 anyway ;)

Wikipedia (2, Funny)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 4 years ago | (#31626584)

"But I tell them it's an online source of knowledge that just has some information that might be questionable, but that doesn't mean you have to dismiss all of [its content],'"

That's very true. In fact, Wikipedia has made it very easy for me simply dismiss only those facts I happen to disagree with. In that regard it's a great tool for anyone who wishes to be out of touch with reality.

Re:Wikipedia (1)

tpstigers (1075021) | about 4 years ago | (#31626644)

You're confusing Wikipedia with politics.

Re:Wikipedia (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | about 4 years ago | (#31626758)

Perhaps, but journalism is politics. Since when does journalism have to have anything to do with this thing called reality?

Re:Wikipedia (1)

bunratty (545641) | about 4 years ago | (#31626872)

He's not the only one [conservapedia.com] .

Re:Wikipedia (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31627026)

It almost reads [conservapedia.com] like Uncyclopedia:

"A liberal (also leftist) is someone who rejects logical and biblical standards"

These people are their own parody :)

Re:Wikipedia (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 years ago | (#31626966)

That's very true. In fact, Wikipedia has made it very easy for me simply dismiss only those facts I happen to disagree with. In that regard it's a great tool for anyone who wishes to be out of touch with reality.

Pha amateur. To be really out of touch with reality you should know with absolute certainty and express with fiery conviction that nothing you disagree with is a fact. Conversely everything you express is absolutely and unquestionably true. You might even have a book that says that what you say is true. Of course the book also says that it is itself true, so what more proof could anyone need?

Re:Wikipedia (2, Insightful)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 4 years ago | (#31627070)

it's a great tool for anyone who wishes to be out of touch with reality.

This is true of any source of information.

Journalists (and students of all disciplines) should be taught to consider the source of any information critically, no matter how well-documented, no matter how well-respected the journal, no matter how thoroughly peer-reviewed.

A quick Google search will reveal a plethora of:
Manipulated scientific studies
Faked peer review articles in respected journals
History text books that are written with a ridiculous level of bias

Pick up a copy of an Encyclopedia or History book from the 1960s.
It is laughable.

Every source of information is vulnerable to abuse and bias.
The difference with Wikipedia is that the debates are conducted out in the open.

Re:Wikipedia (3, Interesting)

Locklin (1074657) | about 4 years ago | (#31629204)

I always get the impression that such strong anti-Wikipedia commenters are the sort of people who, at least used to, take anything written in ink at face value. Few people develop critical thinking skills, and when criticism is brought out into the open, they become frustrated. I read peer-reviewed scientific papers published in established and respected journals on a regular basis and I rarely find a paper that I consider entirely well written and free of obvious error.

Re:Wikipedia (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 4 years ago | (#31629368)

Few people develop critical thinking skills, and when criticism is brought out into the open, they become frustrated.

Exactly. Out of sight = out of mind.

Once you openly raise the issue of bias/false info, the herd gets frightened and runs for the comfort of "closed" publications that are free from any of this "self-doubt" nonsense.

You see the same phenomenon in politics. Few people will vote for an intelligent person who thinks cricially and questions his own actions. Many of us prefer a self-confident moron with cowboy boots who knows with absolute certainty what needs to be done. It makes us feel good.

Re:Wikipedia (2, Insightful)

martyros (588782) | about 4 years ago | (#31627118)

Wikipedia has made it very easy for me simply dismiss only those facts I happen to disagree with.

But of course, that's the same for a newspaper article. I'd posit that as an information source, newspapers contain at least as much "questionable content" as Wikipedia. The only difference is that few people think newspapers are questionable unless they (1) disagree with what it's saying, or (2) are an expert in the subject area.

Re:Wikipedia (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 4 years ago | (#31629164)

Sorry if it wasn't clear, but that's exactly what I was getting at. Wikipedia is, for the most part, very accurate. Like any other source, it's not completely accurate. Wikipedia's proponents make it clear that it isn't completely accurate. And that, unfortunately, is Wikipedia's undoing.

Most people don't believe things because they're true. They believe things because they were told they were true by a convincing authority. When confronted with conflicting information, regardless of its merit, their first instinct is to reject the new idea in favor of their pre-existing notions. The knowledge that not everything on Wikipedia is correct provides people with a perfect avenue for denial. They cherry-pick only the statements that agree with their sense of "truthiness", and attribute any dissenting information to Wikipedia's self-acknowledged flaws.

The sad thing is that many other sources avoid this effect to some degree through another fallacy touched on in the last paragraph—argument from authority. If a source is sufficiently well-known and well-regarded*, like the Encyclopedia Britannica or even the New York Times, it is attributed a sense of nigh-infallibility. If someone is presented a "fact" by someone sufficiently convincing and authoritative, the person will often accept that fact in the absence of any corroborating information. They may even "forget" their previous opinions and convince themselves this new belief was theirs all along. (Aren't fallacies grand?) This—not reasoned debate, scientific study, or rational analysis of the facts—is how most people "learn".

Simply put, regardless of how accurate or even obvious your information is, the only way to convince most people is to establish in their minds that you are perfect and incapable of error. Wikipedia fails at this.

Even more simply put, most people won't even believe the truth unless it's cloaked in a lie.

* Of course, not everyone regards the same source equally. As an extreme example, one person may have learned from their earliest authority figures that the Encyclopedia Britannica is the only place to look whenever one is in doubt, while another may have learned from their earliest authority figures that the same volumes are works of the Devil. The end result is that sources that seem obscenely biased to one person may be taken as absolute truth by another.

Ready for journalism (1)

Valdrax (32670) | about 4 years ago | (#31629882)

That's very true. In fact, Wikipedia has made it very easy for me simply dismiss only those facts I happen to disagree with. In that regard it's a great tool for anyone who wishes to be out of touch with reality.

And that prepares them perfectly for a career in journalism in this age where people pick their news source based on how well it jives with their political beliefs, never having to read news articles that might challenge them.

Heading it of at the pass (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31626662)

I'm sure the +5 funny/insightful "But how many will be deleted for lack of notability?" is on its way. As hilarious as such remarks are, I think they misrepresent Wikipedia. I've created many articles over the years. Not one has been deleted. A few of the tragically short ones were merged into a larger article that covered the subject as a whole. You want to know my secret? Citing sources. You know, what Wikipedia policy says to do. And for good reason.

Re:Heading it of at the pass (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 years ago | (#31626894)

I'm sure the +5 funny/insightful "But how many will be deleted for lack of notability?" is on its way. As hilarious as such remarks are, I think they misrepresent Wikipedia. I've created many articles over the years. Not one has been deleted. A few of the tragically short ones were merged into a larger article that covered the subject as a whole. You want to know my secret? Citing sources. You know, what Wikipedia policy says to do. And for good reason.

It probably also has to do with your article being notable. I could cite sources to a deer crossing Queensbury High Street (Bradford Telegraph and Argus) but I doubt that it would last long on wikipedia.

Re:Heading it of at the pass (2, Informative)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#31626960)

It probably also has to do with your article being notable. I could cite sources to a deer crossing Queensbury High Street (Bradford Telegraph and Argus) but I doubt that it would last long on wikipedia.

Depends on the sources. If major newspapers are obsessing over the details of this alleged deer crossing, then it may well be notable even if the event itself were otherwise unremarkable.

It's a great idea (5, Insightful)

dejanc (1528235) | about 4 years ago | (#31626722)

Both news writing and Wikipedia (encyclopedia) writing requires one to be impartial, to establish notability of the subject and to be precise. The best part about it is that those students will quickly learn in the wiki process that their writing can be much improved and that there is more aspects to their subject then they thought.

Re:It's a great idea (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | about 4 years ago | (#31626830)

You're assuming that impartiality, notability or precision sells in the real world. That one hell of an assumption.

Quantum Theory (5, Interesting)

cing (1607421) | about 4 years ago | (#31626750)

A couple years ago my quantum theory course had 10% of our grade from "Contributing to Wikipedia's coverage of quantum physics and related math topics." http://am473.ca/ [am473.ca]

Re:Quantum Theory (2, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 years ago | (#31626978)

A couple years ago my quantum theory course had 10% of our grade from "Contributing to Wikipedia's coverage of quantum physics and related math topics." http://am473.ca/ [am473.ca]

Yes but could you tell me if its still there and how quickly it's going?

Re:Quantum Theory (-1, Offtopic)

barfy (256323) | about 4 years ago | (#31626982)

I was taking that course. Apparently I has getting an A and an F at the same time. And I wouldn't know which until somebody looked at my work. So I audited it instead.

Journalists? That'll end well (0, Flamebait)

Sockatume (732728) | about 4 years ago | (#31626794)

Nobody writes neutral, well-referenced articles like journalists! And they're great at engaging viewpoints that undermine their article's thesis!

Banned (-1, Offtopic)

barfy (256323) | about 4 years ago | (#31626944)

I was writing articles about "Tea-Baggers", and what and why they do the things that I do. Apparently overuse of the term "fucknards" will get you banned.

Refreshig (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31626980)

How refreshing it is to see someone in academia who truly cares about preparing their students for the real world...

If more of our teachers and professors actually had real world experience, we might not have a workforce that is falling behind.

EXCELLENT idea - student hours are not wasted (5, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#31627022)

Rather than have students waste time producing busywork that the professor will Trashfile at the end of the year, they are contributing their efforts toward society. These Wiki articles will be picked-up by other editors and added to with new information, and someone like me will come along and read them years later.

Re:EXCELLENT idea - student hours are not wasted (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31627778)

These Wiki articles stand a fair chance of being deleted by other editors, too. Remember, even if something has reliable sources [wikipedia.org] it may still not be notable per WP:NOT#NEWS [wikipedia.org] . See, for example, Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/2007 New York City steam explosion [wikipedia.org] .

Re:EXCELLENT idea - student hours are not wasted (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 4 years ago | (#31628698)

Wow, misterdiscreet is a dick. He should find something better to do than delete other peoples articles.

Post a Comment (3, Insightful)

jamesyouwish (1738816) | about 4 years ago | (#31627072)

They should be forced to post a comment on /. if they want to learn how to take criticism.

Re:Post a Comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31627228)

You, sir, are an idiot. Yours is without doubt the stupidest post I've seen in the history of slashdot.

Re:Post a Comment (1)

Hadlock (143607) | about 4 years ago | (#31627574)

Nice low-content post. Want to back that up with some sources? Your user name is terrible and you're a terrible person for posting this. I bet you like to eat hot grits while watching natalie portman films.

Great, competent contributors (3, Insightful)

mi (197448) | about 4 years ago | (#31627096)

Just what I wanted. An undergraduate student writing an Encyclopedia article on monetary standards...

Better Than What It Replaced (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about 4 years ago | (#31627402)

An "Encyclopedia" article on monetary standards written by a fifteen year-old on a bet made in the back of school bus that he couldn't work mentions of both John Maynard Keynes and Jenna Jameson into the same article.

Re:Better Than What It Replaced (1)

Geeky (90998) | about 4 years ago | (#31629324)

An "Encyclopedia" article on monetary standards written by a fifteen year-old on a bet made in the back of school bus that he couldn't work mentions of both John Maynard Keynes and Jenna Jameson into the same article.

I quoted Milton Friedman extensively in one of my degree level essays, citing as my source "The Collected Playboy Interviews", as it was the most convenient source for the soundbite quotes I wanted to use. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.

Re:Great, competent contributors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31628494)

What's so insightful about this negativism? An article will be written, citing sources and all, that might not have been written at all in the first place. If it's bad, it just might trigger someone more knowledgeable, who otherwise wouldn't have cared enough to write the article in the first place, to correct it.

wikipedia is stupid (1)

Sam36 (1065410) | about 4 years ago | (#31627292)

I always deface wikis and put false info into them just to show people how stupid this fad is. Through wikipedia we end up with 20 year old college children trying to challenge researched data in encyclopedias. Ludicrous.

There have been several of these projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31627294)

I've seen quite a few of these projects- ongoing ones are listed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:School_and_university_projects, while past ones are at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:School_and_university_projects. They seem to cover a lot of different areas- technical, cultural, historical, whatever. Those lists don't seem to include the high school projects; I've seen a few biology classes with projects to write articles about animals and such.

Copyright (1)

Lemming Mark (849014) | about 4 years ago | (#31627412)

I like this sort of problem but it does bother me a bit when a teacher can assign his students "Give away your intellectual property" as an exercise. Writing articles, yes, using Wikipedia yes. Good skills. But even if stuff is done for a class (which you're typically paying to attend, directly or indirectly) I don't see why the school should own stuff you produce or be able to determine what you do with it, beyond requiring you to give them reasonable access so they can mark it. It's a bit different for research students since at least they might be getting some funding / support (although often less than you'd think).

Ditto where teachers have taken their classes out to do stuff of OpenStreetMap. I think in both cases it's good experience and it's nice that students are encouraged to do something for The Greater Good but I think it's fairest if there's a line between what you have to do *for your class* and giving access to that information to the wider world. Seems to me that the academic / learning side does not require Free licensing to be satisfied, so whether to contribute to a public project should be an individual choice.

Re:Copyright (1)

maxume (22995) | about 4 years ago | (#31628936)

If you think a lot of people care deeply about this, you should start your own university.

Why not assign students to edit and clean up pages (1)

areusche (1297613) | about 4 years ago | (#31627858)

I remember seeing this user that hangs around on the "Articles for Deletion" page who helps fix articles. He goes around and finds trouble articles with various problems (grammar, citations, etc) and cleans them up to save them from deletion. Granted, the professor is trying something unique and I applaud him for doing that, however he should teach the students how to properly use Wikipedia. Teach the students how to follow the citations and to understand how to spot abuse. Take a look in the "Talk" pages and see where other users are spotting problems. From there teach the students the inner workings of how the entire system works, from creation, to editing, to deletion, whatever.

That journalism professor is onto something here. Wikipedia is here to stay and it is a great resource for getting information that is, relatively speaking, accurate. More people should know how Wikipedia's system works.

Not original (1)

RedMage (136286) | about 4 years ago | (#31627958)

I can see how this might be interesting in that it's related to a "writing class", but it's an on-line writing class! It is good to see that they are stressing some of the basics that may be somewhat lacking in some on-line (esp. non-journalistic) writing.

We had assignments to write articles for Wikipedia for several years as part of an electronic music class - each student submitted several articles (totals in the hundreds over the years the class ran) on music or music technology to Wikipedia. See http://wayneandwax.blogspot.com/2006/06/electro-class-of-06.html [blogspot.com] for more details.

Kudos to Clark and Demont-Heinrich (4, Insightful)

dpbsmith (263124) | about 4 years ago | (#31629276)

They "get it." Wikipedia is unique, but it is based on elements of traditional scholarship--citing sources--and journalism--the "neutral point of view."

As for the snarky comments on notability, they are misplaced. The bar for notability is very low and easy to surmount, and the community culture tends to support inclusion if there is even a shred of supporting evidence to justify it. It is mostly a problem for those who object _in principle_ to bothering to provide evidence, to self-promoters who believe they should be free to use Wikipedia to publicize themselves and thus _attain_ notability, to people who regard themselves as experts and believe that they are entitled to contribute material without supporting evidence on their own authority. There is also principled opposition by people who have a different vision of what Wikipedia should be than the prevailing view.

I have rescued a number of articles from deletion simply by citing sources. One example: an article, when originally created, read in its entirety as follows: "[name], AKA the Rarin Librarian. One of Library Journal's Mover & Shakers, West is best known for her 'blog, librarian.net." As such, it was ripe for deletion. What did I do? I found the source, the Library Journal article that called her a "mover and shaker" and demonstrated that Library Journal found her notable. I found that she'd been mentioned in The New York Times, as one of the "credentialed bloggers" given press credentials to attend a political convention, the first time that had been done. I found a Wired article about her opposition to the Patriot Act's library provisions. By adding these to the article, I showed that she had _some_ notability and allowed editors to gauge _what that degree of notability was_. That turned out to be sufficient to prevent deletion.

The librarian was no more and no less notable than she was when the original article was inserted and nominated for deletion. All that changed was that I was willing to put in a little work, and show what amount of notability she had--more than me, less than Meryl Streep; what she was notable for (not just starting a blog); and who, exactly, had taken note of her.

It is not hard to get a new article into Wikipedia. In an incident that demonstrated Wikipedia at its worst, some Dartmouth students who didn't follow their class assignments well contributed breezy articles in promotional language about their fraternities and their a cappella groups. They encountered a storm of criticism that unfortunately turned snarky, unkind, and dismissive as irritable editors saw Dartmouth article after Dartmouth article. Meanwhile, it almost passed unnoticed that other students had contributed valuable articles, such as one about an unfinished Jane Austen novel [wikipedia.org] . This was, of course, accepted, and nobody ever suggested that there was a notability problem, even though I never heard of it and I imagine you never did, either.

The new non-journalism journalists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31629404)

So, like so many new-school journalists, they look up a topic on the internet and rehash their findings on the internet.

They rearrange facts, as opposed to classic journalists whose goal was to uncover or discover them.

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