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An Accidental Wikipedia Hoax

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the isaac-newton-invented-the-apple dept.

Wikipedia 189

Andreas Kolbe writes: The Daily Dot's EJ Dickson reports how she accidentally discovered that a hoax factoid she added over five years ago as a stoned sophomore to the Wikipedia article on "Amelia Bedelia, the protagonist of the eponymous children's book series about a 'literal-minded housekeeper' who misunderstands her employer's orders," had not just remained on Wikipedia all this time, but come to be cited by a Taiwanese English professor, in "innumerable blog posts and book reports", as well as a book on Jews and Jesus. It's a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of Wikipedia. And as Wikipedia ages, more and more such stories are coming to light.

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An accidental headline (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47565751)

It's a cautionary tale... more and more such stories are coming to light.

if it's cautionary then I'd assume they weren't coming to light.

Wikipedia on SHIT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47565825)

In humans, defecation may occur (depending on the individual and the circumstances) from once every two or three days to several times a day. Extensive hardening of the feces may cause prolonged interruption in the routine and is called constipation.

Human fecal matter varies significantly in appearance, depending on diet and health. Normally it is semisolid, with a mucus coating. Its brown coloration comes from a combination of bile and bilirubin, which comes from dead red blood cells.

In newborn babies, fecal matter is initially yellow/green after the meconium. This coloration comes from the presence of bile alone. In time, as the body starts expelling bilirubin from dead red blood cells, it acquires its familiar brown appearance, unless the baby is breast feeding, in which case it remains soft, pale yellowish, and not completely malodorous until the baby begins to eat significant amounts of other food.

Throughout the life of an ordinary human, one may experience many types of feces. A "green" stool is from rapid transit of feces through the intestines (or the consumption of certain blue or green food dyes in quantity), and "clay-like" appearance to the feces is the result of a lack of bilirubin.

Bile overload is very rare, and not a health threat. Problems as simple as serious diarrhea can cause blood in one's stool. Black stools caused by blood usually indicate a problem in the intestines (the black is digested blood), whereas red streaks of blood in stool are usually caused by bleeding in the rectum or anus.

Food may sometimes make an appearance in the feces. Common undigested foods found in human feces are seeds, nuts, corn and beans, mainly because of their high dietary fiber content. Beets may turn feces different hues of red. Artificial food coloring in some processed foods such as highly colorful packaged breakfast cereals can also cause unusual feces coloring if eaten in sufficient quantities.

Clinical laboratory examination of feces, usually termed as stool examination or stool test, is done for the sake of diagnosis, for example, to detect presence of parasites such as pinworms and/or their eggs (ova) or to detect disease spreading bacteria. A stool culture — the controlled growth of microbial organisms in culture media under laboratory conditions — is sometimes performed to identify specific pathogens in stool. The stool guaiac test (or guaiac fecal occult blood test) is done to detect the presence of blood in stool that is not apparent to the unaided eye. Fecal bacteriotherapy — also known as a fecal transplant — is a medical procedure wherein fecal bacteria are transplanted from a healthy individual into a patient.

Human feces collected for a specific practical use, such as for fertilizer, is known as night soil.

The distinctive odor of feces is due to bacterial action. Gut flora produce compounds such as indole, skatole, and thiols (sulfur-containing compounds), as well as the inorganic gas hydrogen sulfide. These are the same compounds that are responsible for the odor of flatulence. Consumption of foods with spices may result in the spices being undigested and adding to the odor of feces. The perceived bad odor of feces has been hypothesized to be a deterrent for humans, as consuming or touching it may result in sickness or infection. Human perception of the odor may be contrasted by a non-human animal's perception of it; for example, an animal that eats feces may be attracted to its odor.

Feces elicits varying degrees of disgust — one of the basic human emotions — in all human cultures. Disgust is experienced primarily in relation to the sense of taste (either perceived or imagined), and secondarily to anything which causes a similar feeling by sense of smell, touch, or vision. As such, human feces is regarded as something to be avoided diligently: expelled in private and disposed of immediately and without trace. It is often considered an unacceptable topic in polite conversation and its mere mention may cause offence in certain contexts. An example from the ancient world of the repulsion people have felt toward feces is found in Deuteronomy 23:12-14.

12Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. 13 As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. 14 For the LORD your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.

The disposal of feces has always been associated with the lowest people among a society, the social outcasts, the pariahs, and the social discards. The Caste system in India was created along the lines of profession and the dalits (untouchables) were left to do work related to human emissions. They did such work as cleaning and picking feces from streets, cleaning toilets, and working with dead bodies. Such practices are prevalent even today in the rural and small villages of India.

Re:Wikipedia on SHIT (0)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 3 months ago | (#47565869)

"This coloration comes from the presence of bile alone. In time, as the body starts expelling bilirubin from dead red blood cells, it acquires its familiar brown appearance, unless the baby is breast feeding, in which case it remains soft, pale yellowish, and not completely malodorous until the baby begins to eat significant amounts of other food." How does that make sense, breast feeding prevents red blood cells for dying? Also, that is wrong, I have seen many babies, and Yellow Poop is just right away, not for months afterwards while they continue to only drink milk.

Wikipedia is like talking to a lot of people (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47565777)

You will invariably come across some who think they know, some who know, some who pretend to know, some who know they don't know and some who just want to mess with you. It's still better than not asking, for fear of not getting distilled truth.

Now prepare for a whole new style of hoax (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47565791)

Where people claim to have added information to wikipedia as part of a hoax when in fact they didn't.

Re:Now prepare for a whole new style of hoax (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47565959)

I read a Wiki article on that recently

re: 'unreliability' (4, Interesting)

emagery (914122) | about 3 months ago | (#47565811)

then again, a joke update written about something as obscure as jumping spiders by a coworker some years ago was found and removed within HOURS of its posting. Wikipedia still, due to the competitive nature of its maintenance, beats out well established entities such as encyclopædia brittanica, et cetera.

Re: 'unreliability' (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47565905)

Spot on... Wikipedia is only as unreliable as WE are. If we see an error and don't fix it, we're part of the problem.

The fact that this went unnoticed and unchanged all this time shows a fundamental flaw in the process: not everything gets reviewed. If the majority of editors spent more time reviewing articles and less time reverting my edits in nitpicks over "policy," Wikipedia would be much improved!

Re: 'unreliability' (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 3 months ago | (#47566285)

Spot on... Wikipedia is only as unreliable as WE are. If we see an error and don't fix it, we're part of the problem.

Bt when you encounter a lemma about a childrens book you don't know, you usually assume it's just a book you don't know! Which is usually not an error, unless you can claim to know all childrens books. (and the standard pronounciation is pretty far from the prank call like "I'm a liar" that's probably supposed to be)

Re: 'unreliability' (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566347)

The fact that this went unnoticed and unchanged all this time only shows that nobody f***ing cared.

Re: 'unreliability' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47567381)

> If the majority of editors spent more time reviewing articles and less time reverting my edits in nitpicks over "policy," Wikipedia would be much improved!

[citation needed] [NPOV]

Better take this to arbcom and look for "consensus."

Re: 'unreliability' (3, Interesting)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 3 months ago | (#47566015)

The last time there was a thread here on the topic, someone posted an article and stated the article showed wikipedia was better than Encyclopedia Britannica. I must have been the only person who read the original article, because the numbers in the article showed that wikipedia had a 3% higher error rate than the encyclopedia.

...due to the competitive nature of its maintenance...

This so-called "feature" has turned out to be more of a problem than a feature. You have competitive hovering mods removing any content they happen to disagree with, even if that content is accurate.

Sorry, Wikipedia is good, but it is not all its fan-bois crank it up to be.

Re: 'unreliability' (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566821)

I also RTFA about that here, and yes, it was long but I read it all.
It said that Wikipedia had more errors, but much longer and complete articles than the Britannica, so error rate was lower overall.

Re: 'unreliability' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566989)

Competition is the worst incentive system except for all others that have been tried. The only difference between these Wiki mods and Britannica editors is that the mods do everything out in the open.

And I'm sure I'm not the first person to tell you that accuracy is not the sole criterion for inclusion in an encyclopedia.

Re: 'unreliability' (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 3 months ago | (#47566037)

You got a cite for that little factoid?

Re: 'unreliability' (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566219)

You got a cite for that little factoid?

Yep, here ya go:

http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=5471141&cid=47565811

Re: 'unreliability' (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47567157)

You got a cite for that little factoid?

Yep, here ya go:

http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=5471141&cid=47565811

rv to previous version - source must be notable

Re: 'unreliability' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47567445)

Slashdot requires notable sources? Oof, that's a good one!

Re: 'unreliability' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566613)

How many 'joke updates' are put into Brittanica?

Re: re: 'unreliability' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566863)

Except that authors of encyclopedia articles are not inclined to insert hoaxes, as their real-life reputation depends on their reliability. Which is how they got the job in the first place.

Citing Wikipedia (5, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 3 months ago | (#47565819)

Well there is your problem right there. This Wikipedia scare mongering creates a cloak masking real problems. You are never going to stop, nor should you, people form using the most comprehensive information source ever. Complaining about how it is not perfect is just hurting any valid points to be made. The point being, Wikipedia is not a source of anything, it is the product of a series of sources. So you do not cite Wikipedia, you cite the article it points to. If people had told me that back when I was in school, I would actually used that idea to get better sources, instead of just scoffing at the idea of not using Wikipedia (which was and continues to be a ridiculous idea).

Re:Citing Wikipedia (1, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 3 months ago | (#47565887)

What happens is circular references with enough depth that it evades detection. A Points to B, B points to C, C points to D, D Points .... and eventually something points back to A.

Re: Citing Wikipedia (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566197)

When it cycles back to citing A and the A is a wikipedia article the chain is broken. So your theory of circular citation is incorrect.

Re: Citing Wikipedia (3, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 3 months ago | (#47567161)

Only if people follow the complete chain through.

Re: Citing Wikipedia (2)

Salgat (1098063) | about 3 months ago | (#47567389)

The problem is if one of those sources no longer exists. Now you have a trusted news source stating something as fact with a source from another trusted new sources but no way to actually verify the origin of the source. This results in a lie on Wikipedia transforming into an unverified claim that may not be able to be proven true or false, giving it much more legitimacy than before.

Re:Citing Wikipedia (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#47567411)

It doesn't even take any depth. I've cited wikipedia on my website (the intent was to link to more information, not to utilize it as an exhaustive source) and later gone on to visit that link to make sure it still says what I want it to say only to find out that since I cited the article, the article cited the very page on which I had cited it. Whoever cited my page was either too lazy to check the bibliography, which was at the foot of the page as normal, or didn't care that they were potentially creating a circular reference one reference long.

Re:Citing Wikipedia (5, Informative)

dontbemad (2683011) | about 3 months ago | (#47565967)

Keep in mind the possibility of this, though: http://xkcd.com/978/ [xkcd.com] (oblig xkcd, etc.)

Re:Citing Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566473)

In Slashdot you can trolled and never get removed.
In wikipedia, if you obviously troll, you get removed, but when you try to hide your troll, your troll can start this citing circle.

Re:Citing Wikipedia (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 3 months ago | (#47566705)

keep that in mind, but don't forget that this is nothing new. We've had hoaxes pick up steam for a long time.

Re:Citing Wikipedia (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 3 months ago | (#47566055)

...So you do not cite Wikipedia, you cite the article it points to. ...

Here, let me fix that typo for you...

So you do not cite Wikipedia --- you cite the article it points to, plus the opinion of any hovering mods who remove any citations of alternate (yet accurate) viewpoints.

Wikipedia is not the utopia you envision, it is the product of territorial mods who want "their" articles to read the way "they" want them to read.

Re: Citing Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566271)

So you read the history and discussion pages for that Wikipedia topic. Then you get all sides of the argument (for popular topics).

Re: Citing Wikipedia (1)

plover (150551) | about 3 months ago | (#47566667)

So you read the history and discussion pages for that Wikipedia topic. Then you get all sides of the argument (for popular topics).

I would do this kind of research if I were referencing a hot-button topic, or a political figure, etc. I expect multiple viewpoints, vandalism, and trolls are all intertwined when the topic is controversial or widely publicised. I do not expect such nonsense on a page for a children's book, or on satellite orbital mechanics, and would not necessarily think to dig in there.

Re:Citing Wikipedia (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566227)

Criticism is not scare mongering. Also, someone motivated to work on Wikipedia is not going to be put off by critics. Pretending that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia on par with the Britannica is simply a profound misunderstanding of the concept of what an encyclopedia is. Wikipedia is at best a glorified blog on many topics of general and sometimes extremely vicarious knowledge. Admittedly, much of this accumulated stuff is quite well based in evidence and sources are cited. The rambling style and regularly frustratingly repetitive writing is almost impossible for me to read other than for a quick look-up of something. That's the kind of hilarious hodgepodge you get if you attempt to create articles on individual topics by a committee of several thousand people, most of whom are decidedly non-experts. And don't get me started on the infighting at Wikipedia, which ranges from the mildly entertaining to the nasty, ugly grandstanding and conspiracy theory laden drivel of collective nutjobbery.

In summary: I like wikipedia for what it really is: a blog on vicarious knowledge, sometimes based on good evidence and sources. A sometimes interesting read. Not a real competitor for Britannica. There's room for blogs and encyclopedias in this world.

Re:Citing Wikipedia (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 3 months ago | (#47566737)

You are probably correctly assessing the reliability of Wikipedia, but I think you are grossly overestimating the reliability of Encyclopedia Britannica. Also, you apparently have no idea what the hell a blog is..

Re:Citing Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566437)

Exactly. Wikipedia is a starting, or launch point to, hopefully, established and reputable sources of information. To think it is something else with regard to reliability, especially when dealing with matters of fact, is absurd.

it's not that hard to use Wikipedia (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 3 months ago | (#47565833)

Especially if you are a professor you should know better. Wikipedia articles cite sources. Well, some of them do. If they don't, you should raise an eyebrow.

If you see a statement in a Wikipedia article that you are thinking of repeating or relying on for something, look first to see: does it cite a source? In this case it did not. In that case, stop here, you should probably not trust the statement. At least not if it's something that matters at all. If it does cite a source, then things are better, but there is still one more step before you should rely on it for anything more than barroom trivia (like, say, publishing an academic paper): you should probably take a glance at that source and see if it really says that.

Incidentally, this will help you use other reference works as well. There are a lot of errors in printed books as well, especially more popular books (those "Who's Who In the Roman World" type books are riddled with incorrect facts). The way to avoid being tripped up by them is to look for references first, and check references second. (How thoroughly to do so of course depends on what you're using the information for.)

Re:it's not that hard to use Wikipedia (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 3 months ago | (#47566057)

Wikipedia articles cite sources.

Exactly, WP is an encyclopedia, academics do not cite encyclopedias, never have, and most probably never will.

Re:it's not that hard to use Wikipedia (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 3 months ago | (#47566203)

If you see a statement in a Wikipedia article that you are thinking of repeating or relying on for something, look first to see: does it cite a source? In this case it did not. In that case, stop here, you should probably not trust the statement. At least not if it's something that matters at all. If it does cite a source, then things are better, but there is still one more step before you should rely on it for anything more than barroom trivia (like, say, publishing an academic paper): you should probably take a glance at that source and see if it really says that.

Unfortunately that isn't enough, many sites copy unreferenced information from wikipedia without indicating their source. These sites can later end up being cited by wikipedia.

Especailly if you are new to a field it can be difficult to know who are the reputable sources and who are the not to reputable ones.

Re:it's not that hard to use Wikipedia (1)

c (8461) | about 3 months ago | (#47566329)

If you see a statement in a Wikipedia article that you are thinking of repeating or relying on for something, look first to see: does it cite a source?

The problem being that Wikipedia's been around long enough that (like in this case), it's entirely possible to point to a source which got its original erroneous information from Wikipedia.

Which leads to a much harder secondary problem: how to determine/rank the quality of Wikipedia sources.

Re:it's not that hard to use Wikipedia (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 3 months ago | (#47566491)

Yeah, that's definitely true. A particularly common pattern is that a journalist just cribs something from Wikipedia without researching it, and then Wikipedia cites the news article as if it were an independent source, when in reality it isn't. I'd personally be in favor of tackling this by strongly discouraging the use of news articles as sources, because they typically have extremely poor standards of research. However that leads to other problems, because for contemporary events there is often no other source available, and pushing this too far then runs into the opposite criticism of Wikipedia, that it's too "deletionist". Tricky balance, I think: Wikipedia should cover as much as possible, but should also be as reliable as possible, which are two goals often in conflict.

Wikipedia is an entertainment medium (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47565835)

Suitable for those who use knowledge as entertainment.

Like Slashdot polls, if you use it for anything serious, you're insane.

Even where it's supposedly fairly accurate, e.g. in mathematics, it's fucking awfully written - assumes too much for any non-mathematical person to read most of the maths articles, but so waffly and wordy and poorly edited that an undergrad will soon find even resources like Mathworld or MacTutor (for biographical background) way more efficient.

Re:Wikipedia is an entertainment medium (1)

Boronx (228853) | about 3 months ago | (#47567205)

There must be competition to see who can write the most inscrutable math article that's gotten way out of hand.

Awww yes! (1)

modi123 (750470) | about 3 months ago | (#47565855)

I do love the smell of collateral misinformation in the morning!

It was mildly amusing that the author's wiki account was suspended. Better late than never..

Oh no, a childrens' book series (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47565867)

Whatever will we do with this incorrect fictional character biography?

Love the comments so far (3, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 3 months ago | (#47565883)

Has anyone verified that this actually happened, or are we taking the words from a blog literally true? You know, the way Amelia Bedelia would.

Re:Love the comments so far (4, Informative)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47565915)

Re:Love the comments so far (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47567415)

It's worth paging through the history of this one "obscure" book to get a sense of what wikipedia is going through. At one point she is a "bitchass" maid, but only after she makes a killer lemon meringue. It's amazing how much vandalism happens to just this page - at one point in 2010 someone listed a series of movie releases that had to be reverted. It's an absolutely straight man routine - I wouldn't have known that such info was false, it's no surprise the camaroon reference lasted so long.

Seems like an easy fix... (1)

rwa2 (4391) | about 3 months ago | (#47567459)

Obviously the only thing to do is to actually write a book about Amelia Bedelia's antics. Then all would be well with the world.

/ off to write a wiki article about how humanoid sexbots will free humanity from its chains

I did the same thing (1, Funny)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 3 months ago | (#47565899)

About five years ago, I had a friend who was in school getting his Master's in Topology. I haven't spoken with him since then (due to both of us being busy and losing contact) but my guess is that he's got his PhD by now. At the time, there was a Wikipedia page, which I can't seem to find today, that was a list of well-known eccentrics - by that I mean people displaying eccentric behavior, not painters or electricians or any of the other multitude of ways that term is used.

I used to joke with this guy that he was becoming like John Nash, the schizophrenic game theorist (see: A Beautiful Mind) and writing math on his walls at night. He showed me the list of eccentrics, and I put him (his name is John Lynch) on there stating that he was known on the Boston University campus for covering his dorm walls in obscure mathematical formulas.

That edit lasted at LEAST three years, but I hadn't thought about it until now. If someone can find that article (assuming it's still up somewhere) I'd like to see if his name is still on it.

Re:I did the same thing (1)

curmudgeoner (3770155) | about 3 months ago | (#47566783)

Oh man, I LOVE schizophrenic games!

Re:I did the same thing (1)

ShaunC (203807) | about 3 months ago | (#47567497)

I tweaked the page for the doughnut theory of the universe last December, adding a new link for the acronym CMB (cosmic microwave background). But my link for CMB pointed to the entry for Color Me Badd, that 90's R&B group whose best-known song was "I Wanna Sex You Up." It looks like someone finally noticed while they were fixing an unrelated typo in the article, and fixed it back in June [wikipedia.org] , so it was up there for 6 months or so.

Wikipedia is unreliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47565907)

sure, but at least anyone can see edit history, talk pages and references, analyze them, draw her own conclusions and possibly make some edits to incorporate newest research. In your typical oficial encyclopedia you just have to rely on someone's authority.

Re:Wikipedia is unreliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566159)

I'm just worried if the one problems of Linus's Law ("given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow") applies here: you can see the source code, but it's very questionable whether there is enough people doing it. I mean, you can see the edit history of a Wikipedia article, but are there really people to do the boring work of actually combing through the edit history to see if something spurious is going on.

Re:Wikipedia is unreliable (2)

plover (150551) | about 3 months ago | (#47566779)

'Heartbleed'.

It took 4 years before it was discovered, and even then, it was only found because it was a security-related bug. Shallow bugs don't cause the Internet to break.

"Linus's Law" is a failed hypothesis; it is not a theory, and certainly not a law. The distinction is important. At best, it could be rewritten as "Linus's Oft-Repeated Wish."

Re:Wikipedia is unreliable (1)

suutar (1860506) | about 3 months ago | (#47567551)

Linus's law works perfectly well; it simply has an implicit assumption that most people don't realize: a bug is known to exist. It was never about bugs leaping out of the woodwork at passersby, it was about bugs being unable to elude a sufficiently large number of searchers.

Yes and no, maybe (2)

honestmonkey (819408) | about 3 months ago | (#47565925)

I can see how this would be considered frustrating. However, it seems to me that the Wikipedia idea is still a valid one. This article can now be changed, corrected, as it were. And overall, most people that come along and care about the information are going to try to correct it. If this were in a physical book, and wrong, it's wrong basically forever.

Encyclopedias are (were?) expensive, and for instance, my folks bought me a set when I was young and didn't get a new set for probably a decade or more. But I always "knew" that they were correct. However, teachers always made you have several sources, not just an encyclopedia. That cross-checking should be in place even today with Wikipedia. In fact, this could help fix a broken entry.

Of course, they need a process to stop "back-and-forth" changes of things. I think they need to have some indication that over all, an article is getting more and more correct, and thus should be harder and harder to change. I don't know, maybe they have something like this in place.

A cautionary tale? (5, Insightful)

FhnuZoag (875558) | about 3 months ago | (#47565929)

This is not a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of wikipedia. This is a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of human knowledge. That Taiwanese English professor, those "innumerable blog posts and book reports", that book on Jews and Jesus - all of them accepted the account as given. That makes them *also* unreliable, together with the plethora of tertiary sources that might cite them. The fact that the untruth was initially added to wikipedia and not some other location is irrelevant. The real problem is the tendency of mankind to accept things as given without checking up on it.

Re:A cautionary tale? (2)

timeOday (582209) | about 3 months ago | (#47566069)

I liked your post right up to the last sentence when you said the real problem is our tendency to not check everything. That is simply not possible. Life rolls forward on a vast number of assumptions every moment, and most of them are correct, or good enough to get by on. (False assumptions that don't matter and cannot be observed - like this Amelia Bedelia thing - can linger indefinitely).

Re: A cautionary tale? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566317)

I read what you said and it seemed wrong. So I checked the GP comment. They did no say 'check everything'. Thatvis obviously impossible. They also didn't write 'don't check anything' so I think we're safe.

So what's your problem? Clearly some selective review and checking what seems to warrant verification is enough.

Re:A cautionary tale? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566643)

The real problem is the tendency of mankind to accept things as given without checking up on it.

[citation needed].

Re:A cautionary tale? (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 3 months ago | (#47566741)

This is a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of human knowledge.

Which is why we need to not treat history as a series of absolutes, but to realize that the saying "To the victor goes the spoils" and "history only remembers the winners" are truths.

The "truth" is written by the winners - it was us "freedom fighters" versus the "imperialist overlords", or it was "capitalist democracy" versus "terrorists".

There's three sides to every story - our side, their side, and the truth. And rarely is the intersection more than just a tiny speck.

Re:A cautionary tale? (1)

internerdj (1319281) | about 3 months ago | (#47567219)

"The real problem is the tendency of mankind to accept things as given without checking up on it." That isn't a problem that is one of the fundamental pieces to how our minds process a complex world.

Re:A cautionary tale? (1)

T.E.D. (34228) | about 3 months ago | (#47567325)

This is a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of human knowledge.

Precisely. If you think no "respected published author " ever did this exact same thing (got drunk and added a fabricated "fact" to one of their books), you are kidding yourself. This incident just shows how an incorrect fact can be made correct by mass citation.

An acquaintance of mine (a "first nation" tribal member) several decades ago got one of the elders drunk, and convinced him of a story he made up on the spot about a supposed ancient tribal sacred place. By the time the guy sobered up the next day, he was convinced this story was true. It got all kinds of coverage, there's now a monument there, and of course it now has a Wikipedia page and everything. In this case Wikipedia did absolutely nothing wrong, other than believing their multiple sources.

Surely this kind of thing happens all the time.

I call BS (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#47565989)

It's a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of Wikipedia

As opposed to what? The things that people "knowledgeably" trade, like the one about us using "only 10% of our brains"? Or the things that we "know for sure" about ancient history? A few uncaught jokes in Wikipedia, and suddenly it's no more reliable than hearsay? (Or how else am I supposed to interpret this "fundamental unreliability"?) Sooner or later, someone would have attached a [citation needed] to that anyway.

Re: I call BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566411)

One problem is the anonymous 'anybody can contribute' nature of Wikipedia. A reference where every entry is referenced byexperts won't be seeded with untruths tossed in by random anonymous contributors. When contributors have to invest their credibility in their entries, entries are less likely to be wild untruths. Also, this means that when a lying spammer, or a crank, is identified, their crap can be quickly found and ejected.

Re: I call BS (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 3 months ago | (#47566557)

When contributors have to invest their credibility in their entries, entries are less likely to be wild untruths.

I'm not sure that's true. There is a lot of total shit in the academic literature, and it's getting worse. And part of the problem is precisely that people's names are attached, so they now have an incentive to game the system. People get promoted based on publications and citation counts. This leads to huge pressure to manufacture them, by any means necessary. There are citation rings out there, people reviewing friends' papers, people falsifying or misconstruing results, etc. Some of them are uncovered, but many aren't. And there are lot more low-level gray-area things going on that are less likely to be uncovered.

Re: I call BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47567229)

Here's what you want:
http://en.citizendium.org/

Unfortunately, it hasn't caught on because most people don't want to register their identity so some crank can harass them IRL.

So it's like all other information? (5, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 months ago | (#47565991)

Take a look at Snopes once, huh?

Every time somebody says something, it passes through the public mind. Sometimes it gets down five people and dies; others, it becomes an ever-growing ball of horse shit, and people start claiming that it takes 8 pounds of honey to build a honey comb that holds 1 pound of honey when, in reality, beeswax is pretty cheap in terms of hive storage economy.

There are so many untrue things on Wikipedia just by way of almost everyone believing them--things that are printed in earnest in College textbooks and technical manuals, repeated by experts in field, and yet readily testable as not-true. These are just like Aristotle claiming heavier objects fall faster--and, 3000 years later, Galileo drops a grape and an iron brick at the same time, and both hit the ground simultaneously; did nobody think to check something other than a rock versus a feather? Today, we have the same.

To make matters worse, anyone can purchase a domain name, set up a Web host or lease hosting, and publish anything they want with nobody able to edit it or mark it as suspect or inaccurate. Between word-of-mouth, books printed by whoever the hell wants to, Web sites with no validating authority, and forums where inaccurate posts aren't edited by moderators or community and are often supported by a circle jerk of clueless idiots, where do you expect to get any authoritative information?

Wikipedia has the public access problem in a different scale: anyone can post anything on the Internet or in books or private magazines without contradiction; but, on Wikipedia, you get only as much contradiction as attention, amplified inverse to plausibility. That is to say: if what you post is not obviously wrong and not on a high-traffic article, it will probably fall through; if what you post is ridiculous or is on a high-traffic article, someone will notice the inaccuracy.

Re:So it's like all other information? (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | about 3 months ago | (#47566963)

I'd like to fact-check the number of years between Aristotle and Galileo. That one is off by about 1000 years, says my memory.

Re:So it's like all other information? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 months ago | (#47567581)

Might be. We're 2000 years off from Christ, and the Greeks were what? 1000 or 2000 BC? Galileo was around 1400s or 1600s? I don't remember.

It's still within Fermi estimation and thus still valid: how the fuck do you go thousands of years without checking that a brick falls faster than a grape?

Unreliable? (1)

countach (534280) | about 3 months ago | (#47566005)

Yes yes, wikipedia is "fundamentally unreliable". But didn't someone do a study and find that Encyclopaedia Britannica was MORE unreliable? Considering how many factoids are in wikipedia, my guess is that the overall reliability is probably pretty excellent, and the discovery of an error, even a deliberate an egregious one like this one, doesn't change that.

Maybe the REALLY unreliable factoid is the claim that wikipedia is unreliable. We should learn that anecdotes do not make good statistics.

Re: Unreliable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566465)

How would we know if "somebody did a study" if you just pose it as a supposition, then move on as if no citation is necessary?

Culture is unreliable (1)

swb (14022) | about 3 months ago | (#47566529)

Our entire culture of information exchange is unreliable.

People believe things simply because they're told them. They discount ideas, facts and people simply because it runs contrary to their beliefs, incorrect facts held as true or it simply because runs contrary to what they want to believe.

Bear Attacks (3, Insightful)

jae471 (1102461) | about 3 months ago | (#47566007)

A former coworker once vandalized the list of fatal bear attacks (he added a friend of his to the list). Wikipedia has since been corrected, but not before the name Nick Ruberto (who is alive and well) appeared on several other lists of bear attacks (on some lists he appears as Nick Roberto, but all other details are the same.): https://www.google.com/?gws_rd... [google.com]

According to my ex-coworker, he received a one-year edit ban once discovered, which was increased to a lifetime edit ban when he appealed.

YAWN (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566063)

Another anti-Wikipedia article from te perennially Jimmy Wales/Wikipedia obsessed Andreas Kolbe. Nice touch linking to his own site in TFS. Not self-promotional AT ALL. BTW, what ever would Andreas do if Wikipedia went away? Criticizing it seems to be his whole raison d'être.

YAWN (1)

Milowent (3770123) | about 3 months ago | (#47566163)

Andreas submitted it here, but the author of the Daily Dot piece is not wikipedia-obsessed.

Re:YAWN (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566255)

No, but the wikipediocracy site is his.

I confess. I did this to the page on "Rambo IV" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566065)

I'm sorry.

https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]

.

In the olden days... (1)

jason.sweet (1272826) | about 3 months ago | (#47566231)

In the olden days, as my children like to call them, we learned that you only use an encyclopedia. For those too young to remember, and encyclopedia is a set of articles about stuff, like Wikipedia. It came in a large set of books. It was edited by a much smaller, and, we assume, more educated set of people than Wikipedia. But even so, we recognized that a small summary article could not sufficiently convey the complexity and nuances of the subjects we were eager to study. We also understood, that such a large volume of knowledge was likely to contain oversimplification and plain errors. That is why the articles included a bibliography of sources, so we could find those books and expand our knowledge more completely and accurately. Somewhere along the line, we grew lazy. We got used to the instant gratification of the internet. Somewhere along the line we decided it was too much trouble to GET OUR HEAD OUT OF OUR ASSES AND READ A FUCKING BOOK.
Sorry
This isn't about Wikipedia being unreliable. It's about authors being unreliable. Check your fucking sources, or get a job at MacDonalds.

Re:In the olden days... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566377)

> , or get a job at MacDonalds.

"Mc". The word is "McDonalds".

Why do so many people misspell and mispronounce that? Especially some of the brothers. They draw it out, with heavy emphasis, like "MACK donalds".

Is it because you figure, they sell "Big Macs" so that must be what the name of the place is?

Re:In the olden days... (1)

jason.sweet (1272826) | about 3 months ago | (#47566619)

Why do so many people misspell and mispronounce that?

The better question is "Why do you care?" I submit a "get off my lawn" rant without proofreading, and the best you can do is criticize my spelling of the name of a crappy burger joint. Your internet-foo is weak.
As far as I'm concerned, MacDonalds is the one who doesn't know how to spell MacDonalds.

Re:In the olden days... (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 3 months ago | (#47566925)

> As far as I'm concerned, MacDonalds is the one who doesn't know how to spell MacDonalds.

Tell that to the Clan Macdonald, who were sued in spite of using the proper spelling (yes, lower-case D)

Re:In the olden days... (2)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 3 months ago | (#47566443)

I think the best part of this whole debacle is everyone has apparently believed this blogger about her first hand account of her memory of an event from several yeas ago when she was admittedly stoned without batting an eye. The problem isn't Wikipedia. The problem is terrible critical thinking skills. The fact that the edited article is about a literal minded person just makes the irony even more delicious.

Re:In the olden days... (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 3 months ago | (#47566969)

GET OUR HEAD OUT OF OUR ASSES AND READ A F------- BOOK.

by golly that's a really good idea! Really, it takes time, it takes skill, it encourages using your brain, etc.

ok, now back to whining on the forums.

BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566379)

Innumerable blog posts by a Taiwanese English professor.
Daily Dot.and EJ Dickson.
What are we, Hogwarts?

The ability to correct is better than perfection. (4, Insightful)

eepok (545733) | about 3 months ago | (#47566385)

I'm so done with this "Wikipedia has incorrect information and thus it's not worth anything" BS. The brilliance of Wikipedia is that if you know about something and can cite some high quality source, you can ethically edit an article. Some people edit articles imperfectly, but others will come by and improve.

While we like to think that being absolutely perfect is the best option, it's impossible. Getting that last 5-10% of absolute perfection requires a massive amount of work (time, money, etc.). When striving for anything error-free, perfection becomes the enemy of good and we don't have the massive community within Wikipedia to actually add new articles and information. Instead of perfection, it's the agility of the Wikipedia community that brings the greatest value. They can add, remove, and correct anything-- and so can you. You just have to care enough to do so and do so with informative source material.

Not true... or is it? (0)

curmudgeoner (3770155) | about 3 months ago | (#47566495)

In an alternate, and possibly parallel universe, even "Creamy Azid" is a dish best served cold. However, in THAT universe, Amelia Bedelia is actually a manic-depressive Tribble searching for the ultimate question.

Wikipedia is not the Bible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566583)

Which would you trust for accuracy?

more and more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566639)

When many more just isn't enough.

Uggg, totally bogus argument (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 3 months ago | (#47566881)

What a BS complaint. "I posted something untrue on a self-publishing site". Gee, color me oh-so-impressed.

All the more amusing is the comments system, which only offers logins though FB or TW, and as a part of this, gains your friends list and the ability to post on your behalf. That's so the software in question can post lies (adverts) with your name on them.

Maybe the Wiki caused the term "truthiness" to be created, but it certainly didn't create the concept. People have always, and always will, greatly prefer to believe whatever they believe other people like them believe rather than anything resembling the truth. The fact that the comments system is based on taking advantage of this invalidates the entire argument of the article.

It's not an accident if you did it on purpose. (0)

cyborg_monkey (150790) | about 3 months ago | (#47566967)

n/t

Good wikipedia pages have siting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566983)

Well written wikipedia pages have sitings.
You have other places to go to verify the information posted on them.

Re:Good wikipedia pages have siting (1)

mwehle (2491950) | about 3 months ago | (#47567163)

Well written wikipedia pages have sitings.

And really well-written pages have citations.

O dear inaccurate information (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47567027)

about a children's book character that most children have never heard of. Try hoaxing an article about something that matters or many people are interested in.

Thanks, drug addicts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47567063)

Another selfish and greedy action by a pothead that has now persisted and led to misinformation.

Too bad she didn't OD.

Hasn't been my experience (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 3 months ago | (#47567195)

The information for 99.9% of wiki pedia articles is useful.

Only politically charged articles and obscure articles are suspect.

I can see how something that might be true but which is very hard to verify as true or false on a non critical subject (like this book character hoax) would last a while. But I'd never encounter it in my use of the Wiki.

No Request for Citation? (1)

linearZ (710002) | about 3 months ago | (#47567301)

I'm shock that nobody questioned this un-cited fact for this important book about a servant and her duties. Is anyone thinking of the children? This does not bode well for our civilization.

Propaganda (1)

koan (80826) | about 3 months ago | (#47567437)

All the errors whether intentional or not occur in printed media as well.
There seems to be another effort underway to discredit Wikipedia, I'm amused by the claims of errors and inaccuracies and frankly they pale in comparison to some I've seen in printed books.

The nice thing about Wikipedia is you can hop right on there and fix it.

The real error (1)

g01d4 (888748) | about 3 months ago | (#47567567)

Is that Ms. Dickson didn't correct her attempt(s) at humor after she sobered up. That no one else ever bothered could be taken as an indication of the significance of the subject. While the books may be popular, the author's life clearly isn't (yet).

The contexts in which her entry was cited ("Jews and Jesus" - really?) probably also indicate a lack of significance.

It happens (1)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | about 3 months ago | (#47567591)

I'm not very good at the HMTL linky thing, so I'll skip that, but interested parties may want to check the Wikipedia article on the late Ron Stewart, former hockey player in the NHL. If you go through the history of edits and look at the original article, you probably don't have to know much about hockey to realize that the article content is absurd with multiple references to his supposed love of pottery and other ridiculous claims. Yet the absurd and unsubstantiated claim from the original article that his father was a lumberjack and Stewart grew up in Mobile, Alabama (there is no way an NHL hockey player of his era could have grown up in the Deep South of the USA and made it to the NHL) persisted for over 3 and a half years before finally being removed. The current article on Stewart seems factual.
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