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When a Primary Source Isn't Good Enough: Wikipedia

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the citation-needed dept.

Wikipedia 333

unixluv writes "Evidently, Wikipedia doesn't believe an author on his own motivations when trying to correct an article on his own book. A Wikipedia administrator claimed they need 'secondary sources.' I'm not sure where you would go to get a secondary source when you are the only author of a work. Thus, in a lengthy blog post for The New Yorker, Roth created his own secondary source. He wrote, 'My novel The Human Stain was described in the entry as "allegedly inspired by the life of the writer Anatole Broyard." ... This alleged allegation is in no way substantiated by fact. The Human Stain was inspired, rather, by an unhappy event in the life of my late friend Melvin Tumin, professor of sociology at Princeton for some thirty years.' The Wikipedia page has now been corrected."

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Working as intended (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274087)

Convince someone else first, then convince Wikipedia.

Re:Working as intended (3, Interesting)

csnydermvpsoft (596111) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274213)

Who decides who these official arbiters are? Does it have to be an established, traditional publishing house? What if it's a self-published e-book?

Re:Working as intended (5, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274641)

Who decides who these official arbiters are? Does it have to be an established, traditional publishing house? What if it's a self-published e-book?

The "who decides" is those who give a damn enough to help write the article and help to determine what counts as a reliable source. That is sort of the point of the article talk pages, where things like this is actively discussed. Sometimes it may simply be a blog that is accepted, other times it may need to come from a published scientific journal which has been cited by other publications a number of times.

Hopefully those who are active on the talk page of a given article are sufficiently interested in the topic to also be knowledgeable about most of the available sources which can discuss the topic in the first place, so they are after a fashion "subject matter experts" who can properly evaluate what is a reliable source and what isn't. Discussions about what counts specifically as a reliable source are extremely common debates on article talk pages, including where there are multiple opinions as to what counts and what doesn't.

I fall into the camp that thinks primary sources are just fine... within reason and as long as they don't dominate the article. But the funny thing about Wikipedia is that it depends on those who are active and willing to join into the discussions about such things. It isn't really some hierarchical authority but rather simply those who care to chime in can, and if for some reason you disagree with the decision being made you can also "appeal" to the greater Wikipedia community... particularly when a group of people are acting against general Wikipedia policies.

If somebody is being a real asshat and doing constant edit wars, ignoring discussions or group consensus on what works, they can be "moderated" by wiki admins. There is even a formal judicial procedure called "ArbCom" (the "Arbitration Committee") where you can lay your disputes out before a group of very experienced users who can make a final determination and take action if necessary including imposing a user ban or editorial restrictions like "User X can't edit or participate in Comic Book discussions and articles for the next six months". BTW, the ArbCom is an elected office determined by the Wikipedia community and needs to be re-elected in order to maintain the position. Generally Arbcom doesn't get into disputes about individual sources though but rather dealing with users who don't care about what is happening on Wikipedia but know enough of the rules to stay on the fringe and not get immediately banned.

Re:Working as intended (0, Troll)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274217)

Or just sue the Wikipedia Corporation. They had ample opportunity to correct the Defaming statement, but refused to listen to the author being biographied. Therefore the author should have sued them.............. and no I don't think that's taking it too far. Corporations certainly don't hold back from suing their own customers, so why should we individuals hold back?

Re:Working as intended (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274443)

What fucking Wikipedia corporation? There's a Wikimedia foundation, a non-profit. While this might have been a bit ridiculous, you know that Wikimedia practically just gets enough money to get year by year? This would potentially kill the biggest and widest encyclopaedie out there.

Re:Working as intended (5, Insightful)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274487)

Nobody said anything about suing for money. Typical thinking of today, someone wronged you - time to cash in. No, some people just want the mistake fixed and I'm pretty sure the author would have been OK to just have the modification permitted.

Re:Working as intended (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274593)

+ 1. I like your answer better than mine.

Re:Working as intended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274495)

Good, it would serve them right for continuously being douche bags.

Re:Working as intended (4, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274509)

>>>There's a Wikimedia foundation, a non-profit.

Sounds like a corporation to me. And if the lawsuit did kill it, well then maybe it deserved to die for having such stupid rules that won't even let the MAN BEING TALKED ABOUT correct his own damn page. It would be akin to wikpedia publishing, "Glenn Beck raped a woman when he was a college student," and Beck tells them that never happened + no such criminal record exists. But instead wikipedia just keeps citing blogs that make the claim.

Would you expect Beck to just say, "Oh well" and do nothing?? Of course not. He would sue for defamation. And if the Wikimedia corporation/foundation died.... then tough shit. Guess they should have thought about that possiblity BEFORE they defamed/insulted a living citizen. (Or in this case: book author.) Another better e-encyclopedia will rise up to replace it. Just as when Atari stopped making videogame consoles in 1983, Nintendo moved in to fill the vacuum in 1985.

Re:Working as intended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274599)

You are confusing hosting information with being responsible for the content of that information. Slashdot.org isn't responsible if someone says "cpu6502 is a serial rapist". Slashdot.org doesn't even have to take it down or correct it. Only the poster is responsible for the defamation, unless that poster is employed by slashdot.org.

Additionally, Wikipedia has a big ass disclaimer at the bottom of every page. Read it.

Re:Working as intended (4, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274741)

The Wikimedia Foundation almost never gets involved in disputes about content or users thumping each other's chests in some show of primal dominance. That is entirely dealt with on individual projects unless it becomes something like a project bureaucrat that is going rogue and being a real pain in the behind.

There is even a group of "overseers" that are volunteers (using Wikimedia terms, they are called "Stewards") who have broad powers across multiple projects to clean up messes of this nature. Usually their main purpose is to "promote" somebody to the status of a "bureaucrat" when one doesn't exist on a local project or to grant some special privileges like the "oversight" rights that permit some users to dig into page histories and determine who might be sock puppets with information that generally isn't available to the general public.

About the only thing the Wikimedia Foundation does, besides frivolous spending of donations, is to maintain the server farms running the website. On a very rare occasion they do get into some broad policy discussions, and they are also involved in accepting new projects such as the move of Wikitravel community to a Wikimedia sister project. The Wikimedia Foundation also manages the development of the MediaWiki software, but that is more like the Debian Foundation or even the Free Software Foundation for similar kinds of software projects. Jimmy Wales used to be much more into local project administration (particularly English Wikipedia) but even that has all but stopped. Larry Sanger is nowhere to be found and isn't even involved in the Wikimedia Foundation at all, certainly not on this level to be sued for content on Wikipedia.

Besides, thanks to the DMCA, you can't sue the WMF for defamation. Read up on the law, it might be educational. You might be able to sue an individual contributor to Wikipedia for defamation, but if you think suing some 16 year old kid is going to make any bit of difference (assuming you can even find the actual identity of "User:RockStarz421" or whatever the name is that they are using, and assuming they are even in a jurisdiction where you can sue them), good luck.

What you are complaining about here is just one other fellow editor being a prick. You should be aware that there are all sorts of pricks in this universe, so live with it. They don't have any more authority to act than you do, just try to be nice and don't be a jerk yourself.

Re:Working as intended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274783)

You don't get it do you?

Maybe this [xkcd.com] will explain it better.

Re:Working as intended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274545)

Sorry, poverty isn't an excuse to defame someone.

Re:Working as intended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274573)

And if it did, you'd only have the idiotic Wikipedia admins to blame.

Re:Working as intended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274525)

Yes, sue the fat cats who run Wikipedia. Those rich bastards! What have they ever done for us?

Maybe taking a couple billion dollars from their budget might teach them to stop racing their Lamborghinis around, get home to the solid gold palace, and use the silver and ivory keyboard to do some fact checking.

Re:Working as intended (1)

Tommy Bologna (2431404) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274585)

So, only people who make giant piles of money should be prevented from gratuitously damaging other people's reputations? Laws and consequences only exist to reign in the destructive behavior of the wealthy?

Re:Working as intended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274677)

No, but websites shouldn't be held responsible for what their users post; that's ridiculous.

That said, the US has the TSA, the Patriot Act, and a plethora of other garbage. Why not some censorship to go along with it?

Douches (5, Insightful)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274091)

I don't pretend that I understand the internal machinations or politics of WikiPedia, but I have had several edits reverted because someone out there didn't like certain information being revealed. I included proper references for those edits, but when they go against the agenda of someone on the inside, you can't compete.

LK

Re:Douches (4, Funny)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274129)

So then Wikipedia really isn't run by impartial androids? Damn!

Re:Douches (2)

guises (2423402) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274243)

It would be good enough if Wikipedia was run by humans who were honest. Androids would be pretty cool too though.

Re:Douches (1)

loonycyborg (1262242) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274455)

Good enough? More like amazing! Where would you find enough honest humans to staff entire wikipedia? Making sentient androids seems more practical in comparison..

Re:Douches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274221)

yeah i see mistakes like that. it's just a one or two sentence fix but i'm not trying to spend hours a week to become part of the wikipedia scene and get into an ego contest just to fix somebody else's mistake. wikipedia is pretty decent but they let some "common knowledge" stuff slide without really checking it which is unfortunate. all i can say it when you read wikipedia make sure whatever you're taking away from it has a footnote at the bottom and that you have at least skimmed the footnote to see if it says what it's supposed to. of course it really gets ugly when the footnote is a discredited source! then it can be really hard for the casual reader to tell what the hell is going on.

Re:Douches (5, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274279)

Then you revert the Edits back into the article with a note: "It is a violation of wikirules to remove properly cited material. If you think it should be removed, goto Talk page and justify your case."

Re:Douches (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274699)

Not all helpful people feel like becoming deeply involved in wiki-politics just to make a single edit on a topic they know well, and can cite sources for. Just like people like to donate to charity without actually having to run a fucking charity.

Re:Douches (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274821)

see the problem i ran into was that the footnote the article referenced was wrong...what do you do when the page is citing a misinformed (but credentialed) source? get into a pissing match for 6 months to change a couple sentences on wikipedia? i'm not going to do that. if some college freshman gets a slightly warped view of history from it, well that's too bad but oh well.

Re:Douches (2, Informative)

teg (97890) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274353)

I don't pretend that I understand the internal machinations or politics of WikiPedia, but I have had several edits reverted because someone out there didn't like certain information being revealed. I included proper references for those edits, but when they go against the agenda of someone on the inside, you can't compete.

LK

Sometimes it's necessary - you can find "references" for almost anything these days. Three examples: Evolution, Obama being born in Hawaii and global warming all have opponents with pages to quote and an axe to grind even though the facts strongly support all of these and there isn't any real controversy surrounding them.

I'm not a Wikipedia editor or contributor (other than financially), and I don't know your issue either, but I do believe that some manual oversight is needed.

Re:Douches (4, Insightful)

wisty (1335733) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274375)

Also, Neil Gaiman claims he made up a "fact" in American Gods, which Wikipedia put in unreferenced. Another website used Wikipedia as a source for this fact. Wikipedia then referenced the other website. Neil Gaiman thinks it's too funny to spoil, by actually telling anyone what the "fact" was.

Citogenesis in action.

Re:Douches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274749)

And apparently, if he told them they'd leave it up anyway!

Re:Douches (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274829)

Also, Neil Gaiman claims he made up a "fact" in American Gods, which Wikipedia put in unreferenced. Another website used Wikipedia as a source for this fact. Wikipedia then referenced the other website. Neil Gaiman thinks it's too funny to spoil, by actually telling anyone what the "fact" was.

Citogenesis in action.

It sounds like reliable sources weren't really followed. The person to blame here is not "Wikipedia" in general and certainly not the "Wikimedia Foundation", but rather the people who participated in the development of that particular article.

The fact that you know about this bit of trivia and are doing nothing about it sort of puts the responsibility of trying to fix this "issue" on you, or in this case with Neil Gaiman as well since he is openly bragging about it.

If you like Wikipedia and use it on a regular basis, it sort of seems like good karma to try and make it better when you can. Not everybody can be experts on everything, but they are usually experts at something, which is precisely how Wikipedia was written in the first place. Get over the fact that you are used to hierarchical organizations where there is a "boss" that will be in charge to fix stuff like this. Such stuff doesn't really exist on Wikipedia as it is much more of an anarchy than anything else.

For myself, I get out of Wikipedia as much as I put in, and I'm glad that I've been able to help clean up my own little corner of the project from time to time and make improvements along the way. I don't spend a whole lot of time writing on it, but when something seems wrong or out of place, or simply missing a whole lot of information that I can easily find, I start to contribute.

Re:Douches (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274435)

Wikipedia is about as partisan as /. is. Don't trust it as a source, it's as simple as that.

Re:Douches (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274683)

Wikipedia is about as partisan as /. is. Don't trust it as a source, it's as simple as that.

It is even simpler than that: Don't trust any single source. For something like a school assignment, Wikipedia is fine. But for anything that you actually care about, your research should include multiple sources.

Re:Douches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274751)

If you can't trust it as a single source then why is it trustworthy for a school assignment? You make no sense

Re:Douches (1)

helix2301 (1105613) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274605)

I know a lot of educational institutes do not take Wikipedia as a source for any factual papers because of the way the editing process works. I have found good information on the site but fact checking is an important piece.

Credibility over Knowledge (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274099)

This is how Wikipedia is like a failed software project: they value their process more than their goal.

I could go out and make the most amazing, society-altering discovery ever, but I wouldn't be allowed to tell Wikipedia about it, because it would be "original research" and it would require "secondary sources."

If or when Wikipedia dies, this, along with the oft-reviled entrenched fiefdoms, will be the reason.

Re:Credibility over Knowledge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274557)

I could go out and make the most amazing, society-altering discovery ever, but I wouldn't be allowed to tell Wikipedia about it, because it would be "original research" and it would require "secondary sources."

Sure you would: publish it in a noteworthy scientific journal, and then cite that.

Re:Credibility over Knowledge (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274717)

I could go out and make the most amazing, society-altering discovery ever

Crackpots make "amazing, society-altering discoveries" everyday. Almost none of them are noteworthy. Those that are noteworthy get mentioned in peer reviewed scientific journals, or at least a few newspapers. These are the "secondary sources" you dismiss. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a newspaper, and certainly not a peer reviewed journal.

Re:Credibility over Knowledge (5, Insightful)

bagorange (1531625) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274723)

If you had a science altering discovery it would be published in peer reviewed journals and you could use those as references.
Until they are published somewhere reputable, no-one has a good reason to believe science altering claims

Re:Credibility over Knowledge (1)

manaway (53637) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274747)

This is how Science is like a failed software project: they value their process more than their goal. I could go out and make the most amazing, society-altering discovery ever, but I wouldn't be allowed to tell AAAS Science Magazine about it, because it would be "original research" and it would require "peer review." If or when Science dies, this, along with the oft-reviled entrenched fiefdoms, will be the reason. [emphasis added]

Re:Credibility over Knowledge (4, Insightful)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274823)

Another perfect example is there "no trivial" policy, which is totally retarded.

One man's trivia is another man's junk! I mean, its not like the "trivia" section is taking up wads of disk-space. The WHOLE point about a dynamic non-linear encyclopedia is to link to all SORTS of information in the first place!

Wikipedia is run by a bunch of fucktards who think they can decide is worthy of being "knowledge"

Back to School (5, Funny)

chill (34294) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274111)

This reminds me of the Rodney Dangerfield movie "Back to School".

The English professor gives and assignment to read and write and analysis on a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Dangerfield's character hires Kurt Vonnegut himself to write the analysis.

The professor, during fit of scorn, throws the paper at Dangerfield and yells "and you don't understand the first thing about what Vonnegut meant!"

Vonnegut himself has a non-speaking cameo where Dangerfield tells him he's stopping payment on the check and Vonnegut flips him off.

Re:Back to School (4, Funny)

platypussrex (594064) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274159)

Or that wonderful scene in Annie Hall when they are in the queue at the theatre, the loudmouth ass in front of them is spouting off about his knowledge of Marshall McLuhan, and Woody Allen brings out Marshall McLuhan in person to refute the ass.

Re:Back to School (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274273)

+1 Love that scene!!!

Re:Back to School (2)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274235)

Meh, Philip Roth just doesn't understand Wikipedia.

Imagine that you're writing a report on The Human Stain. You see Roth's direct edit to Wikipedia, but since that's the only place he made the change, that's the only source. How would you cite that in your bibliography, knowing that any cite of Wikipedia is immediately scored an F? How do you know Roth personally made the edit?

Wikipedia is, by design and definition, unreliable.

Re:Back to School (3, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274271)

Irrelevant. Roth contacted an editor himself, who acknowledged him as the primary source. The editor could make the change, having established to his satisfaction that the person was indeed the author.

Besides, if you're writing a report on The Human Stain, you should be reading The Human Stain, not Wikipedia.

Re:Back to School (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274675)

"...if you're writing a report on The Human Stain, you should be reading The Human Stain, not Wikipedia."

Writing a report on David Copperfield and NOT reading a biography on Charles Dickens in addition to that is practically only doing half the work.

Re:Back to School (4, Insightful)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274483)

I would go farther and say that the author is not necessarily the end authority on their own work. The process Wikipedia has is actually superior to letting the author put direct edits. The author wrote a separate article, and that article was quoted. That gives a path to put the authors intentions into Wikipedia while also giving those that think he may be misrepresenting himself a footing to put that into the article as well.

The thing is that people often lie about their own actions and intentions. They lie to themselves, and they lie to other people. This gets even worse when you start seeing someone try to sell something. Something like a book. I'm not saying that THIS author was lying, but there are plenty of authors who would.

If they took Roth as a primary source and allowed his words to be stated as unreferenced facts, they would need to take Whitley Strieber [wikipedia.org] as a primary source when he says he was actually kidnapped by aliens.

It is infinity better for Wikipedia to remain a secondary source reference with links to the primary sources.

Re:Back to School (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274763)

You're a moron.

Re:Back to School (4, Insightful)

SilverJets (131916) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274819)

I would go farther and say that the author is not necessarily the end authority on their own work.

If they took Roth as a primary source and allowed his words to be stated as unreferenced facts, they would need to take Whitley Strieber [wikipedia.org] as a primary source when he says he was actually kidnapped by aliens.

Roth was refuting claims made by reviewers of his book that Wikipedia was quoting. Reviewers that wrote reviews that were nothing more than their own opinion's on Roth's works. What secondary sources of the reviews did Wikipedia have? None. Just the reviews themselves. So Wikipedia took the reviewers at their own words on the motivation behind the book (no facts just their own written reviews) but would not accept the author's? That's completely asinine.

As for Strieber if he believes he was abducted by aliens and this was the motivation for his books, who the hell is Wikipedia to say any different? That if anything points to exactly what is wrong with Wikipedia. They have their own agenda. Their own twist on things. Truth be damned.

Re:Back to School (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274537)

I think that the whole idea that Wikipedia is too unreliable for citing is absurd and this is a clear example where the article is the real deal because the author himself edited the page.

Unless you personally recognise the sources listed in a work how can you tell which ones are reliable? I've seen a lot of people writing papers from wikipedia and then just linking the sources of the wiki page. The papers are all accepted since the sources are obscure and expert sounding. It's all the same bullshit in the end.

Re:Back to School (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274687)

Well, at some point the citations actually do matter. Takes a while and it's a ways up the educational ladder, but eventually they do matter.

At least, I think so. I've never made it that far myself.

Re:Back to School (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274773)

"It's all the same bullshit in the end."

Yay scholarship!

Re:Back to School (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274639)

Except he didn't want to add a cited claim he just wanted to remove a reference to some critic deciding that the book was inspired by something it wasn't.

Of course that's a bad idea anyway, since it's just going to get added back in future since there it was a claim with an easy cite to a new york times article that's on the nyt web pages, And the wikipedia page was stating the inspiration as a fact, it was stating that someone (who wasn't the author) had stated they thought it was - which is completely true.

Re:Back to School (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274245)

I had a similar exchange with an English teacher about Huckleberry Finn. In the book, he and Jim choose to go south down the Mississippi river before heading north to Ohio. We were told to write a paper about why Mr. Twain would have them go south. I talked about how the Mississippi river was almost impossible to navigate north at the time (even for steam ships) due to the swift currents and huge amount of water during that part of the year. I cited several scholarly works, and quoted Mr. Clemens himself as to why he made that decision. Got it back with a "D" because, while the mechanics and citations and the rest were all correct, I missed the "symbolism" of that choice and blah blah blah. It took a meeting with the principle for the grade to be set straight.

Re:Back to School (2)

just_a_monkey (1004343) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274445)

It took a meeting with the principle for the grade to be set straight.

What was the problem with the grade? Wasn't there symbolism, which you missed?

Re:Back to School (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274695)

If I write a story located in US and all the people drive on the right, is it symbolic?

Re:Back to School (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274757)

well, about half the people.

Re:Back to School (1)

bosef1 (208943) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274469)

Don't worry, your teacher's an idiot. Aside from their obvious failures in instruction: that is, the teacher should have explicitly asked for a discussion of the symbolism inherent in the southward journey in Huck Finn, instead of the broader question of just why did Huck and Jim go south; the teacher obviously missed the explicit instructions regarding the finding of motives, morals, and plot in the novel, and should therefore probably be prosecuted, banished, or shot.

I had a somewhat similar experience: in 11th grade, we read the novel "The Awakening", in which the protagonist undergoes a radical personality shift, which is supposed to have all sorts of symbolic origins and meanings. When asked in class, I ascribed the changes in personality to a minor cerebral aneurysm.

Re:Back to School (1, Funny)

VanessaE (970834) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274379)

Incorrect.

(OH G*D someone on the Internet is wrong!)

In the movie, Thornton picks up his report calmly from Diane's desk, looks at it, and asks why she failed him. Her exact quote, in addition to comments about him failing her and being emotionally regressed is, "Tell you something else, whoever did write this doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut." Completely calmly, if obviously irritated.

(Followed by Thornton threatening Vonnegut by phone to cancel payment on the check he payed with)

Vonnegut's only appearance in the movie is as himself for a few seconds before the above, when he first shows up at the dorm at Thronton's request and identifies himself politely to Jason. He never flipped anyone off.

Re:Back to School (1)

chill (34294) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274449)

Okay, damn it. I have to rent the movie again. That was probably a 10-year old memory.

Re:Back to School (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274733)

And Vonnegut laughed all the way to the bank - both literally as well as figuratively! :-) I barely remember this bit, but I do remember seeing, and enjoying, the movie.

Primary source (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274131)

The article in the NYT, directly from the author in question, is a primary source. Wikipedia has no problems using primary sources. What Wikipedia isn't is a primary source itself, nor should it be.

IMO, this is exactly how Wikipedia should work, with the exception that the unsupported statements about Anatole Broyard should have been removed when it was pointed out that they were unsupported.

Re:Primary source (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274211)

the unsupported statements about Anatole Broyard should have been removed when it was pointed out that they were unsupported.

Indeed. I've had a few cases where a Wikipedia entry contained obvious factual errors, because some notable person stated those errors on their blog/twitter. When I pointed out the errors, I was told I couldn't do original research.

Re:Primary source (4, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274225)

Ya, it's not that wikipedia won't accept primary sources, it's that the primary source has to be statically referenceable.

A year from now there's no way to know if edits from some IP address were actually the primary source, someone claiming to be so or the like - but if you have a reference to a static source you can at least point to that and then you can have an argument over whether or not you believe him.

This does raise a longstanding question about static sources in academia - basically in the paper world keeping track of corrections and updates and so on was hard. In the internet era it should be easy, but we still cling to the structure of paper journals a lot of places.

Re:Primary source (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274713)

You raise an excellent point, though it should be noted that the statements about Anatole Broyard were not "unsupported". In the article by the author, he quotes Wikipedia as saying the novel was "allegedly" based on Broyard's life, and he also affirms that this was based on literary gossip. Likely this gossip exists in an article somewhere, which may have been sourced in the claim on the earlier entry (I didn't review the edits).

So I think that really there is nothing out of line here. Prior to the article, based on the linkable sources they had, the entry was accurate because it said "allegedly". I assume they couldn't put a source as "email from the author", so once the NYT article was published they could use that as a better source.

Wow, what a story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274141)

Somebody at Wikipedia was too heavy handed when enforcing editing rules. The issue has since been resolved to the satisfaction of the updater, who happens to be the subject of the article.

Big deal.

Re:Wow, what a story (4, Insightful)

radiumsoup (741987) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274549)

The "big deal" is the systemic flaw (although I concede my description of it as a "flaw" could be argued as a "feature" by others) which prevents the actual primary source from being cited as what it is. Wikipedia is a passable experiment in group mechanics - but is itself not credible for anything unless continually fact-checked. And by continually, I mean that one can never be sure of its accuracy, fairness, or completeness on any topic, and since edits are so trivial to make, its accuracy, fairness, and completeness must be virtually thrown out at each edit and reexamined - and by definition, reexamined by persons who are not the primary source.

Rather reminds me of AOL chat rooms at times, honestly.

(A/S/L, anyone?)

Factoid Aggregator (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274155)

While it sounds dumb on Wikipedia's part, it does make sense when you think about it. WIkipedia is more like a Factoid Aggregator, listing information that can be backed up elsewhere. They don't want to become the sole source of information, because then it isn't backed up and can't be referenced - say, in case someone needs to verify something or restore it after a clumsy edit (looking at edit history isn't good enough since you still need to verify the fact is true).

It may sound weird that some guy's blog is more trustworthy than Wikipedia, but in this instance that does seem to be the case.

blog should be the primary source (1)

Xylantiel (177496) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274157)

It seems reasonable to me that the guy's blog should be the source, not his user account on wikipedia. otherwise Wikipedia would have to verify user identities, which is insane.

Re:blog should be the primary source (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274313)

And what happens after the guy dies and his blog is shutdown? Wikipedia will just revert to the incorrect information..... shows how unreliable the place is.

Re:blog should be the primary source (1)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274691)

That pretty much covers the entire web, you know. I hope you're not suggesting that someone needs to publish a paper book or journal for what they say to be cited.

Of course, the fact that the blog could disappear does cause an issue with citations, so perhaps they should make use of something like archive.org or some other storage mechanism that maintains backups of the pages cited.

Welcome to the 21st century! (3, Insightful)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274163)

Back in the 19th century people believed in science. Science is based on the belief that there is a real world out there that has properties anyone can discover. What made this world "real" was that these properties did not depend on anybody's opinion, so you didn't have to give a damn about anybody else's opinion of your research either; you could discover the truth yourself, and be right even if everybody in the world disagreed with you.

In the 21st century we no longer have science. Now we have social science. It's based on the belief that reality is defined by majority opinion. Naturally, one man's opinion is worthless, and only when a consensus is reached can you state that you know anything.

Re:Welcome to the 21st century! (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274497)

Agreed that's how things appear to be these days. But I'm happy to live in my own reality 'bubble' that includes this real world where you can decide truth or not by simply checking things yourself. With checking, read: set up experiment & see result with your own eyes. And use the gained knowledge to my advantage, while the rest of the world thinks otherwise. I'm interested in how things are, usually don't care much about how people think things are.

Anything you can't test yourself that way, is -to some degree- 2nd hand knowledge anyway. Which usually comes down to which sources you trust, and which not. One could do worse than believe Wikipedia, but one usually does better by checking sources cited by Wikipedia. And I've seen a number of inaccuracies myself on Wikipedia, so no blind trust there anyway (like for any medium btw, and even if you ask people directly you'll get wrong answers sometimes).

Re:Welcome to the 21st century! (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274563)

Shiiit, you're post made so much sense that it lowered my faith in humanity for the whole day...

Re:Welcome to the 21st century! (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274569)

holy fuck... not "you're", should be "your"

link back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274165)

unixluv writes: "...you would go to get a secondary source when you are the only author of a work. Thus, in a lengthy blog post for The New Yorker, Roth created his own secondary source. He wrote, 'My novel The Human Stain was described in the entry..."

How come? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274169)

How come Wikipedia editors are all fat fucks? Is it because if women would have sex with them then they wouldn't have have so much time to fill? Is it because the natures are so toxic they drive away every human contact that comes near. They must smell really bad.

Assuming we accept the direct editing... (3, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274183)

How would one cite Roth's direct edit on Wikipedia...without citing Wikipedia?
"Personal knowledge of Author, 07 September, 2012"?

This is where the argument of "why can't he just change Wikipedia?" falls apart.

Wikipedia talk page (1)

RussR42 (779993) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274191)

Here is the wikipedia talk page [wikipedia.org] .

wikipedia fails.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274203)

Because they don't have any niggers editing over there. Want to improve? Get some niggers...

Taking Itself Way Too Seriously: Wikipedia (2, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274215)

Wikipedia embraces "experts in the community," inflates them far beyond their objective worth when it comes to defending its credibility among legitimate encyclopedias, then goes all "Vonnegut in Back to School" when faced with legitimate experts who normally have little use for their sandbox.

Like I've always said: Want a wonderfully comprehensive summary of the 5th Season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or exegesis on some nearly forgotten Geek meme? Wikipedia's the place to go. Anything else? Not if your serious about it.

Re:Taking Itself Way Too Seriously: Wikipedia (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274347)

If Expert X says 'no, woozits are green', how exactly is a non-expert editor or reader supposed to verify that? Is everyone reading the article supposed to contact Expert X and ask them 'are you sure woozits are really green?'

And my experience is that Wikipedia is generally pretty good for any technical subject and pretty hopeless for anything controversial.

Re:Taking Itself Way Too Seriously: Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274349)

Citation Please.

Looks like you don't know what wikipedia is, nor how to use it. GGKTHXBYE

Re:Taking Itself Way Too Seriously: Wikipedia (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274453)

>>>nearly forgotten Geek meme? Wikipedia's the place to go. Anything else? Not if your serious about it.

Naturally. When I was in school the rule was: "No encyclopedias". We could use them as starting points but not published references. I assume the schools still have that same rule?

even worse (1)

harvey the nerd (582806) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274239)

If a biased party *lies* about what a book or group actually says but the biased party's statement is published in a "reliable source" like a journal heavily supported advertising, perhaps 98%, merely quoting what the book says is a primary source and not accepted since it is not a secondary source. Used to be "patently false" would get crap removed. Ran across this with advertising journals, the largest advertisers vs their competitors.

Wikipedia's content has often been captured by various commercial interests, including the pharmaceuticals and their proxies, witting or not.

Requiring Secondary Sources is a Good Requirement (4, Interesting)

McGruber (1417641) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274251)

Just ask George Lucas whether or not Han shot first...

It's just "pedia" now (5, Insightful)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274269)

A few months back I saw people having trouble editing the page for a court case. The citation they had provided was the actual court findings as published by the court. There were a couple of Wikipedia moderators that didn't like the topic at hand, so they slapped a big banner saying something to the effect of "Warning: this is all unsubstantiated hokum and will burn down your house if you read it" at the top of the page. They said that the court findings as published by the court were not good enough, that you actually needed an article written about the court case published by a journal instead. They supplied an article published by a journal. This was then also rejected because it was published by a law firm. Kafka would have been rolling his eyes at this point.

People seem to have lost sight of the fact that a wiki is effective because it drastically lowers the barrier to editing. Wikipedia now fetishises process and is about as far away from the spirit in which wikis were conceived as possible. It's not a wiki if bureaucracy makes it impossible to contribute without reading hundreds of pages on process and you have to fight somebody who seemingly devotes all of their time to controlling their favourite subjects.

Re:It's just "pedia" now (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274629)

It's not like that on everything, just those things that people with clout care about.

For instance, I was browsing Wikipedia one day, found something that was clearly vandalism (had added a statement that a particular screen actor was a "faggot" with no citation), and removed it without the slightest bit of difficulty. I also noticed, on an unrelated article about a public figure, that there was a list of commemorative statues, and I knew of one that wasn't on the list, and added it in without any kind of problem. The reason for this is that there's absolutely no value to setting oneself up as a petty tyrant on either of those articles, so nobody acts like a petty tyrant.

But try to do the same thing on an article like "Barack Obama" or "Mitt Romney", and you're going to have a lot of difficulties.

In your court case, it makes a big difference if the case in question is something like US v Richard Peters, 1795 [wikipedia.org] , or something like Citizen's United v FEC, 2010 [wikipedia.org] . Nobody really has an ax to grind over the first one (as far as I know, there are no modern political issues depending on the jurisdiction of US courts over captured privateers), but a lot of people have axes to grind over the second one (which has a major impact on US political campaigns going on right now).

Devil's advocate (1)

dasunt (249686) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274281)

Did the author provide some sort of collaboration that other people could verify? Or was this due to correspondence between him and a Wikipedia admin? After all, if I changed a Wikipedia article to claim a fact that nobody else could check, does that serve Wikipedia's fact checkers?

Odd but necessary (5, Insightful)

sheepe2004 (1029824) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274291)

As a comment on the ars technica [arstechnica.com] article pointed out

Do you want George Lucas to go edit the Wiki pages on Star Wars and note that Greedo always shot first? Enforcing a secondary source means he first has to convince some citable source that it's what happened, which provides a check that Wikipedia's crowdsourced model on its own can't.

Re:Odd but necessary (4, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274425)

Excellent examples. There are enough examples of authors and other artists rewriting history to suggest that the creator's word alone should not be sufficient to change an article. To do so would be to open Wikipedia up to inaccuracies specifically put there. There are no lack of real life Greedos who would like Wikipedia to alter the order of who shot first, so simply giving them the power to unilaterally alter statements in an article would damage Wikipedia.

Re:Odd but necessary (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274685)

Which is laughably silly - because creating a citable "secondary" [read: astroturfed] source is so simple.
 
It's also why Wikipedia is so badly broken, they trust someone's *opinion* of a source over the source itself... a complete inversion of traditional research standards and practices.

Roth isn't being serious (3, Interesting)

Canjo (1956258) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274337)

If you actually read the New Yorker article, you'll find that Philip Roth is just using this Wikipedia thing as an ironic way of introducing a piece that's really about his book and not about Wikipedia. It isn't a serious complaint.

Re:Roth isn't being serious (2)

preaction (1526109) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274621)

I read it as him creating the source that wikipedia can then cite, solving the problem.

That is kinda the way wikipedia works (3, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274427)

It's a tertiary source. Always has been. This is by design.

It relies on things that have been recorded and documented. The benefit of this is that if something is in dispute, you can go to the secondary source and verify it. The primary source may change his mind, or may not be around after a certain time.

This seems the most obvious rationale anyway. There's no particular reason to make an exception here.

Had a "run in" with Wikipedia once on HOSTS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274491)

Here -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosts_(file) [wikipedia.org] that "ticked me off" some, since I would go up against whoever maintains that page ANY DAY OF THE WEEK on what I was adding to it as being dead-up 100% solid & correct (which the bastard kept removing & it was 100% dead-on correct on my part)...

* This is 1 area that I am highly into for the benefits it gains end users in added speed/bandwidth, "layered-security"/"defense-in-depth", reliability, & even anonymity to an extent (vs. DNS request logs) & more...

Now, I see the ASTOUNDING AUDACITY of someone maintaining a page attempting to dispute the 'horses-mouth' authority of an author of the material the page is about? LMAO, please... that's ironically droll!

APK

P.S.=> Lastly, in closing summation: What was it I attempted repeatedly to addto the link above on Wikipedia on custom HOSTS files that kept being removed, even though I used SOLID backing behind it, not just my own know-how on the topic?

Ok (& I welcome ANYONE to dispute & DISPROVE more importantly, these points):

---

EXTENDED APPLICATION SECTION: ;Custom HOSTS files can speed up of resolutions of IP addresses:

This is possible using the local HOSTS file also - This is known as "hardcoding" an IP-address-to-HOST/DOMAIN name. Doing so locally results in far faster resolutions of hosts/domain names to IP addresses, since this typically takes 30-hundreds of milliseconds response from remote DNS Servers (which have also been subject to "DNS Poisoning" redirects for exploit over time and many recently also, per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNS_cache_poisoning [wikipedia.org] ), vs. mere 7-10ms access of the HOSTS file from harddisk (or faster once the hosts file is cached into memory either by the local kernelmode diskcache subsystem in modern operating systems, or when using smaller hosts files, as larger files aren't good with the local DNS clientside cache service in Windows (which has a flaw in it with them due to a fix-size buffer/array/list/queue in use, noted here for work-arounds vs. it http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.htm [mvps.org] see below next)... apk

Possible Workaround for using the MVPS HOSTS file and leaving the DNS Client service enabled (set to: Automatic)

If you find after a period of time that your browser seems sluggish with the DNS Client service enabled you can manually flush the DNS cache
Close all browser windows ... open a "Command Prompt" from the Start Menu > All Programs > Accessories > Command Prompt
(type) ipconfig /flushdns (press Enter) Then close the Command Prompt ...

A better Win7/Vista workaround would be to add two Registry entries to control the amount of time the DNS cache is saved.

Flush the existing DNS cache (see above)
Start > Run (type) regedit
Navigate to the following location:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Dnscache\Parameters
Click Edit > New > DWORD Value (type) MaxCacheTtl
Click Edit > New > DWORD Value (type) MaxNegativeCacheTtl
Next right-click on the MaxCacheTtl entry (right pane) and select: Modify and change the value to 1
The MaxNegativeCacheTtl entry should already have a value of 0 (leave it that way - see screenshot)
Close Regedit and reboot ...
As usual you should always backup your Registry before editing ... see Regedit Help under "Exporting Registry files"

* THE WORK-AROUND I HAVE FOUND THAT WORKS BEST WITH LARGER HOSTS FILES is to simply shut down the local DNS clientside cache for DNS via services.msc (setting its startup type to disabled) with larger HOSTS files. This saves CPU cycles, RAM, & other forms of I/O used by said service once it is turned off (plus electricity as well as a bonus by NOT running a service that you do not need & that malfunctions with larger HOSTS files in the 1st place - the kernelmode local diskcache subsystem in ANY modern Operating System will then cache the HOSTS file, like it does ANY FILE (& just like the DNS local clientside cache service, albeit minus the "lags" it introduces with larger HOSTS files))... apk

--- ;Custom HOSTS files can speed up websurfing:

Hosts can very noticeably speed up internet websurfing by blocking out banner ad content which also frees up bandwidth, and gets a websurfer more for his money paid. A good read by Mr. Oliver Day of SECURITYFOCUS.COM on that note is here http://www.securityfocus.com/columnists/491 [securityfocus.com] by Mr. Oliver Day of SECURITYFOCUS.COM ... apk

---

SECURITY SECTION: ;Custom HOSTS files help for reliability of site access & for added security vs. DNS poisoning:

Use of hardcoded IP addresses to host/domain names can help circumvent attack & exploit by DNS poisoned DNS servers (via using hardcodes of sites you often visit, for example, as noted above for speed) - once more, this link has a good read on that also http://www.securityfocus.com/columnists/491 [securityfocus.com] by Mr. Oliver Day of SECURITYFOCUS.COM ... apk

--- ;Custom HOSTS files help security vs. DNSBL:

HOSTS files also can be used to circumvent DNSBL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNSBL [wikipedia.org] also (where DNS block out sites one may wish to visit despite such blocking): Yet again, a good read on that note is here once more http://www.securityfocus.com/columnists/491 [securityfocus.com] by Mr. Oliver Day of SECURITYFOCUS.COM ... apk

--- ;Custom HOSTS files help Anonymity vs. DNS request logs:

HOSTS can help avoid DNS request logs if you hardcode in favorites into it (for 'security/anonymity' purposes)... apk

---

Any modern antispyware or antivirus will detect malicious hosts or domains in a HOSTS file. Spybot Search and Destroy is an example thereof, & yet again, that's noted here also http://www.securityfocus.com/columnists/491 [securityfocus.com] by Mr. Oliver Day of SECURITYFOCUS.COM ... apk ;The use of 0.0.0.0 circumvents the possible "threat" noted above: This is analogous to a DNS "blackhole" and does NOT loop back to the host computer loopback address of 127.0.0.1 as noted above (and the use of 0.0.0.0 also parses faster since it is smaller by 2 characters per line than 127.0.0.1 does in hosts file entries for blocking known malicious sites/servers/hosts-domains) - An even smaller & faster blocking address format is possible on Windows 2000 & XP (Server 2003 also) in using 0 as the blocking IP address (this was also possible on VISTA until 12/08/2009 MS "Patch Tuesday" but is no longer possible on versions of Windows after VISTA (7/Server 2008)).... apk

This actually seems reasonable (3, Informative)

Renevith (1556657) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274527)

It seems in this particular case that Wikipedia editors wanted something they could cite. This strikes me as rather reasonable. If I read the statement "according to the author, the book was inspired by an unhappy event in the life of his late friend Melvin Tumin," with no citation, how could I possibly verify that? If the citation was "the author sent Wikipedia private correspondence, trust me," is that any better? For all you criticizing this decision, is that what you want the encyclopedia to look like?

Asking the author to put a previously unknown fact into a citeable public record before reflecting it in the Wikipedia article is a process that I am personally in favor of, since it now allows me to follow up and see exactly where that information came from and why it's in the article.

Wikipedia does have its problems with overzealous and protective editors, but this particular case doesn't seem to be one. Perhaps there is some additional detail that I've missed in this case but reading TFA actually makes me more confident in the information in Wikipedia.

The real issue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41274567)

The real issue is when Wikipedia editors actively obfuscate well researched but highly inconvenient (for some anyway) facts:

http://www.deepcapture.com/tag/wikipedia/ [deepcapture.com]

it's the damned gnomes (1)

John_3000 (166166) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274633)

IMHO a root problem with Wikipedia is that there is no effective check on the so-called Wikignomes --- people who mindlessly edit for form instead of content, claiming they are enforcing wikipedia rules. Some no doubt do a good job but many misunderstand those rules, or willfully distort them for their own perverse ends, as happened in the original post. There's no efficient way to police these sick little gnomes, or wasn't the last time I encountered them.

Brilliance and idiocy (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274779)

Brilliance: An online repository of knowledge on pretty much anything.

Idiocy: Having to know someone in the editor cartel or have someone who knows nothing about a subject corroborate actual authorities trying to share real knowledge.

indeed (1)

kenorland (2691677) | more than 2 years ago | (#41274865)

Just because an author makes potentially self-serving claims about his book doesn't mean that Wikipedia should just uncritically adopt them.

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