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Wikipedia != Authoritative?

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the well-duh-people dept.

Education 783

Frozen North writes "Recently, this article in the Syracuse Post-Standard caused a stir by dismissing Wikipedia as an authoritative source, and even suggesting that it was a little deceptive by looking too much like a "real" encyclopedia. Techdirt suggested an experiment: insert bogus information into Wikipedia, and see how long it takes for the mistake to be removed. Well, I did that experiment, and the results weren't good: five errors inserted over five days, all of which lasted until I removed them myself at the end of the experiment."

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ps (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162053)

haha first post

I added an entry about myself (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162056)

And they removed it. Tarts.

What part of it wasn't true? I hate Wiki-willy-wavers. Go and get a real job.

surprising? (4, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162057)

why would you keep it surprising? it's a website everyone can submit to, you should treat it like websites you don't trust.

that doesn't mean they're not good for finding information however, you just have to check it from somewhere else as well(which is easier if you know what you should check too).

(real encyclopedias have errors in them too sometimes, encarta as one)

Re:surprising? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162070)

Not at all. Furthermore, the expertise required to check information on wikipedia would be immense.

Re:surprising? (4, Insightful)

a3217055 (768293) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162086)

yes I agree, there are always going to be errors, but when there is an error in an encuclopedia it is usually fixed the next year or through a set of books that have additional information. All the information in the world is not always correct. Some of it is correct some of the time. And also it is good that people can add and remove. It is like sharing a document online, so people can read from it. So if you ever make changes and somebody used your wikki entry as a source then they can check back and see what the changes have taken place.

Re:surprising? (4, Insightful)

Directrix1 (157787) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162146)

So give them a year and not 5 days.

Re:surprising? (3, Insightful)

Dashing Leech (688077) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162181)

...there are always going to be errors... Some of it is correct some of the time.

The ironic thing is that the wikipedia might actually be more correct more often than normal encyclopedias. Wikipedia entries are often entered by experts in that field who have the best understanding of the subject. "Real" encyclopedia enties are written (as I understand it) by information researchers who are experts at researching information, not in the subjects of the fields they're writing about. The tradeoff is, of course, that there is no verification of expertise of the wiki writers so it's more or less a "use at your own risk".

Re:surprising? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162130)

Hmm .. get a job at brittanica or encarta and try that experiment.

Once they print an edition it's out there .. never to be fixed.

This is really crappy. He only let it sit for a short time .. that's not enough time to get it fixed. Also, and this is significant.. HE TRIED TOPICS THAT WERE SHITTY. Seriously .. read his article .. it's not like he vandalized the page on current events or something .. the pages he vandalized were boring !! Topics nobody is interested in or has ever heard of. What do you expect the results to be?

Wikipedia operates with under $40,000 per year. Their funding needs to be $2 or $3 million a year come foundations are not stepping up to the plate? Or, give these guys a government grant (not just US govt. other govts should help out) ..instead of funding stupid stuff.

Re:surprising? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162193)

Oh, so we should only be concerned about the accuracy of information on popular topics? To hell with the boring ones?

Re:surprising? (5, Interesting)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162198)

Yes, specifically if you go to the Wikipedia page Making Fun of Britannica [] they have a whole list of britannica errors. Furthermore, if you look at the disclaimer on Britannica you notice that they do not guarantee any of the validity of their article contents. It is true that there are less errors per sentence in Britannica than in Wikipedia, but Britannica has been around hundreds of years. In the last month alone, according to Wikistats [] the English version of Wikipedia has grown from 99 million words to 107 million words, 8 million words in a single month. Wikipedia as a whole will hit the 1 million article mark between september 15th and 20th. So if you give Wikipedia just a few more years until there are articles about every major topic and the current topics are just edited again and again, the accuracy of Wikipedia will be comparable with Britannica.

Also it is worth pointing out that one should never cite sources in a paper from an encyclopedia, rather you should find the sources the encyclopedia gets its facts from and cite those. Anyone who has ever failed a paper for getting all of their facts from the encyclopedia, be it Britannica or Wikipedia, will know what I mean by this. So in this sense it doesn't even matter so much because if a Wikipedia fact isn't true then one just won't be able to find it in a primary source so citing it in a paper incorrectly won't be an issue. The problem is that teachers lie to little kids and brainwash them in thinking that an encyclopedia is an unquestionable source of all truth, when really nothing could be further from the case.


Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162058)

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Re:GNAA == AUTHORATIVE (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162217)

That troll is pathetic. We kill dogs, we're like, so offensive or something!

Duh. (3, Insightful)

keiferb (267153) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162061)

Seriously... do you believe everything you read on the internet?

It's a publicly editable encyclopedia. By now, people should realize that there are many kiddies out there who have nothing better to do than to screw with others.

Re:Duh. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162111)

"By now, people should realize that there are many kiddies out there who have nothing better to do than to screw with others."

Don't tell me you got that impression when reading /.

Censorship (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162062)

There seems to be a disturbing trend. If you try to include information in Wiki entries about people or events that add perspective to them that are seemingly unpopular but still true, those additions will get deleted and you will get a message to the effect your account will be deleted if you do that again.

The fact that you can put in bogus information and no one cares does not suprise me.

Re:Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162102)

I'll go out on a limb here and speculate that your information may not actually have been true.

First, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself honestly: Am i a crackpot?

Re:Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162124)

Are you so deluded to think just becuase a Wiki editor didn't like something means it was indeed not true? I guess you blindly worship people.

I posted some information about a certian political party, with proper documentation from multiple sources, and it was deleted. Not edited, deleted.

Re:Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162154)

I would love to know what this "information" is, that you claim to be true but refuse to post

Re:Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162218)

Did you take the time to take note of any dissenting sources?

Re:Censorship (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162133)

Please give an example 'cause this needs to be adressed.

Re:Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162157)

I don't care anymore. After my experience with Wikipedia and its "Staff", I have given up on trying to improve the place for all. When I want to write information about something, I just post it to my webpage. When I want to refer someone to information, I either link them to a real scholarly source of information or a trusted web page. No little nazi with a 'delete' button is going to come to my webpage.

Re:Censorship (1)

GlassUser (190787) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162150)

That's happened to me several times. I've removed my submissions and won't bother to make any more.

Re:Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162155)

Oooh censorship. Quit having delusions of persecution.

Make your OWN webpage. Wikipedia isn't a web hosting company. If wiki people think your page is innappropriate .. get your own damn hosting company. Nobody is "censoring" you.

Re:Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162178)

I didn't say anything about persecution. Censorship can come in many forms. If Wikipedia removed information that they don't like, it is censorship.

Re:Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162216)

If Wikipedia removed information that they don't like, it is censorship.

Sure, and if you don't put information that you don't like on your website then that must be censoship too. In fact if you select what information you want to include in your Slashdot comments then that must be more censorship. OMG we're all censors!

Cant be Censorship (0)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162164)

Unless its the government that is removing the data.

Regardless of what the data is, be it 'true' but meant to cause grief for the individual, or just
that he likes to watch 'WWF' on tv... its not censorship to edit the data in a public database.

As long as its in the private sector, be it commercial or by a private citizen, its NOT censorship..

Only the government must honor your right to speech. ( at least in my country. YMMV )

Re:Cant be Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162199)

Since when?

Censorship is whenever someone in charge, this case Wikipedia & their editorial staff, decides to not let someone speak. The term applies here correctly.

Wikipedia is perfectly in their rights to prevent someone from saying or posting information. Its their property. I simply stated that Wikipedia will censor information they don't like, including information that I thought would be perfectly germane to the topic I was adding to.

what was the info? (-1, Troll)

Roger Keith Barrett (712843) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162063)

If you inserted "Comander Taco is a stud" then you killed people with laughter. No wonder they couldn't fix the wiki.

Just so this isn't modded as funny... let me say that Cmdr Taco's wife comes to me to get fucked. 2 inches just doesn't do it for her.

Sigh (3, Insightful)

ReTay (164994) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162065)

And how much are people paying to use the site?

Oh ya its free. And not a bad quick referance.

Re:Sigh (1)

eatmadust (740035) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162095)

there are also a lot of other free, but non-wiki enceclopedias online, for example britannica. But they usually don't have as much content!

Favourite funny wikipedia pages (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162066)

Mine is the 2pac [] entry by some fan boy. A sample paragraph:
Shakur had minor beef with LL Cool J, who he thought was a wannabe thug, as well as having an album produced by Puff Daddy. Shakur was a little miffed at Mobb Deep for snubbing him at a concert, but Mobb Deep apparently showed respect for Pac after his death. For some reason, Jay-Z dissed Shakur on his first album, Reasonable Doubt, and Shakur responded in kind.

I tend to find that the more academic or obscure a topic the higher the quality of the page is.

Wrap isn't academic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162163)

It's retarded.

Re:Favourite funny wikipedia pages (1)

Weirdofreak (769987) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162197)

Naturally. When everybody knows about a topic, you'll get people who aren't experts/obsessed contributing. When nobody knows about it, you don't. Experts in a field tend to write in the language of said field, which sounds odd to the general public. Loonies with obsessions will often become experts, if not recognised ones.

Re:Favourite funny wikipedia pages (1)

One Childish N00b (780549) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162210)

That's because the more academic or obscure the topic, the more academic or informed the submitter will be. I can't see there being many informed academics lecturing in 'beefs' at Harvard University, and I can't see many thugs taking the time to make sure the articles they submit are informative, academic and unbiased. In a publicly-editable encyclopaedia, the articles are going to be edited by those with an interest in that subject, so of course the more academic articles are better-written, because they're written by academics. Articles about gangsta rappers are written by fanboys and as such are unlikely to be anywhere near as high-quality.

Oh crap (1)

wbglinks (735298) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162071)

"Wikipedia, she explains, takes the idea of open source one step too far for most of us."

What the hell does that mean, "too far"?

WBG Links []

Re:Oh crap (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162097)

What the hell does that mean, "too far"?

"It's weird and scary and dangerous and a threat to my job, so I'm going to condemn it." Cf. Microsoft, MPAA, RIAA, buggy-whip makers.

Re:Oh crap (1)

wbglinks (735298) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162110)


WBG Links []

Re:Oh crap (1)

HuckleCom (690630) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162115)

That person has the wrong perception of the term "Open Source"... Which has _NOTHING_ to do with "editable dictionaries", wrong realm, wrong bone to pick. Or... perhaps I need to stop whoring myself out for programming, it's effecting my abilities to take things literally ;_; and open source is... not "open source".

bleh (3, Interesting)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162075)

Wikipedia isn't that great. It's not comprehensive like a real dictionary, and anyone can insert bogus data and garbage up the system.

Worse, it's subject to the biases of whoever writes the article. I've seen some pretty bad stuff, horribly biased, passed off as a real encyclopedia author. It also sucks that people around here tend to insert Wikipedia links, thus inferring that they're somehow authoritative in any way. They're not.

Wikipedia != encyclopedia.
Wikipedia == blog

Re:bleh (1)

tini1212 (675633) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162103)

Wikipedia == wiki :p

Don't Forget (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162104)

That the Wikipedia editors can pick and choose which additions they like and which they don't. If you mention, say for example, little known facts about someone or some event that might make them look bad to some people, don't be surprised it a Wiki editor reverses the entry and threatens you with all sorts of things.

Re:bleh (3, Insightful)

tntguy (516721) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162158)

And then you made the necessary corrections, right?

not very surprising (3, Interesting)

tero (39203) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162076)

Ok, I can imagine this post will be redundant in about 5 seconds, but why on earth would you consider a publicly editable web encyclopedia to be authorative in the first place? This is the Internet, not all you read is true.

Re:not very surprising (1)

bearl (589272) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162179)

This is the Internet, not all you read is true.

Agreed - my rule of thumb is "80% of the information on the Internet is incorrect, and 20% is spelled wrong with bad grammar; this applies to this rule as well."

How about another experiment? (4, Interesting)

scovetta (632629) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162077)

Grab an article out of a "real" encyclopedia, and compare it to the Wikipedia article. Do they factually match?

I would be very interested in the results.

Oftentimes, Wikipedia articles are updates the same day that events happen. This is one advantage over *any* "real" encyclopedia.

Re:How about another experiment? (5, Funny)

mblase (200735) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162148)

Grab an article out of a "real" encyclopedia, and compare it to the Wikipedia article. Do they factually match?

Yes, sometimes it's even word-for-word....

And not in-depth either (3, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162080)

If you try looking for something that isn't directly related to technology the information is sparse. Try, for instance, "permian period". You'll find a rather sketchy description, if compared to a traditional ecyclopaedia, like the Britannica.

Wikipedia Errors (3, Interesting)

Silwenae (514138) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162082)

I remember seeing this story originally on Boing Boing [] , and the author, Frozen North, leaves some facts out that his site covers. However, his submission is a bit of flamebait.

Alex Halavais did the same experiment [] , changing 13 things, and all of those were changed. He did most of them over the course of the same day from the same IP, so they got caught.

Wikipedia is a tool, nothing more. If you believe everything you read on the internet, well, you get it.

Re:Wikipedia Errors (1)

etrnl (65328) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162112)

Actually in his writeup he mentions that Alex did it, and why the errors were probably caught the way they were.


You know, when I was in school ... (5, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162083)

... I was taught by teachers and librarians not to rely on the printed encyclopedia (the only we kind we had back then, you young whippersnappers!) as an authoritative source, since all it contained, by its nature, was summary data which was easily outdated. I remember one teacher in high school even telling the class that anyone who cited an encyclopedia article in a paper would get an F. A bit drastic, maybe, but it got the point across: an encyclopedia is not supposed to be the be-all and end-all of research. It's a place to get a quick idea of a subject and ideas on how to learn more, a starting point for research in depth. In this role, Wikipedia performs admirably.

Re:You know, when I was in school ... (1)

a3217055 (768293) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162101)

Damn you must've had some good teacheres. That took me about 10 years or so to learn till i came to college and did some real research.

Re:You know, when I was in school ... (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162123)

Yeah, I was lucky. My American History teacher in particular (who IIRC was the one who made that pronouncement) held us to a college-level standard of research, if not of length and volume of writing. He took a lot of flak for it, but you know, we learned in that class -- not just the history itself (which is always good to know) but also academic skills that have served me, and probably my classmates, well ever since.

Actually... (2, Interesting)

sw155kn1f3 (600118) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162090)

You should not post such information here!
With amount of people reading slashdot there's a possibility of many pranksters who didn't have any motivation to deface etc sites now have such motivation...
Be careful slashdit! May as well introduce the new slashdot effect.

Re:Actually... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162152)

BTW, it's Arwen.

Re:Actually... (1)

Tuvai (783607) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162166)

The GNAA has been taking liberties with wikipedia for some time my good friend, involving both minor edits and complete defacements to a large number of entries (KKK, Linux, Slashdot, any definition linked to on the main page etc..)
Of course turnabout is fair play, with the Gay Nigger Association of America entry itself being defaced and blanked to hell and back over the months.
They've gone for freedom and content size over accuracy and restriction, you have to laud them for it, even if it becomes a trolling honeypot.

Wikipedia ? (1)

alainq (94877) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162091)

Wikipedia got the Ars Electronica price for best initiative to share information in between communities. Oh man, i know some people here that will be pissed.

Wait A Sec (1)

The Dobber (576407) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162096)

You mean just because it's published on the internet doesn't mean it true?

Where am I gonna get the cold hard facts about the presidential campaign now?

How is this different.. (4, Insightful)

starphish (256015) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162098)

..than any other news or reference source?

I read inaccurate news. I read mistakes in references. The only difference here is that it can be malicious.

I'm sure that just like every other reference sourc Wikpedia isn't perfect, but it's pretty damn cool.

At least it doesn't have a political stance like a news source does, by endorsing a point of view, or a candidate. That worries me more than some prankster inserting bad data.

Re:How is this different.. (2, Insightful)

Karzz1 (306015) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162187)

The only difference here is that it can be malicious.

Articles in newspapers can be malisciously incorrect as well. One name: Jayson Blair []

Kuhn model of science (4, Interesting)

davejenkins (99111) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162105)

The scientific philosopher Thomas Kuhn [] put forth a model of "scientific progress" where-- simply put-- once you get enough people to accept a theory as "true", it becomes the baseline for truth. The most common example of this is the slow progressive adaption of Newtonian Physics, and then of Einstein's Relativity: doubters are in abundance, until they are won over to the new paradigm.

WIkipedia, IMHO, is the epitomy of that concept: if you get enough people on the Internet to write a common text, and go to great lengths to democratize the process, then you will get the generally accepted "truth". Even scam busters like Snopes often resort to the line of reasoning "this sounds too much like an urban myth, therefore it's an urbam myth" variant on the same theme.

Don't get me wrong-- I love the WIkipedia. In my book, it's enough truth to get you through the day, and that's all I really need 98% of the time.

wikipedia is a messageboard not an encyclopedia (1)

Leonig Mig (695104) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162109)

Ok so I'm not daft enough to cite wikipedia in a paper, or make an important decision based on it's content. . .

. . . but the same applies to slashdot - and how many smart and knowledgeable people post here? how much do I learn even each week from reading posts on here

wikipedia is a messageboard, which means you can't cite from it, or use it as an authority. that doesn't mean it's not one of the most valuable learning tools on the net.

OMG! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162114)

Could this mean the Fark photoshop contests are not authoritative? I shudder to think if this whole thing has been a trap all along.

A governmental source is better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162116)

For instance you know everything from the Bush administration is a lie. Easy and reliable.

Actually... (5, Interesting)

BJH (11355) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162117)

I find Wikipedia to be most useful in the field in which traditional encyclopedias are weakest; pop culture.
There's thousands of pages in Wikipedia dealing with up-to-the-minute descriptions of cultural phenomena that won't make it into the Britannica for years, if ever.

So what? (1, Troll)

Ianoo (711633) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162128)

Does Wikipedia claim to be "authoritative" anywhere? The Internet has led to a variety of totally new media over the last couple of decades. Perhaps we should treat an "open content encyclopedia" as something conceptually different from a "traditional encyclopedia", in the same way a blog is different from a paper diary or an e-mail is different from a "snail mail".

Each of these evolved from older print-based media, but each of them have a slightly different "dynamic".

It's blindingly obvious to anyone who has clicked the numerous "Edit" links on a Wikipedia page that Wikipedia is fundamentally different to a print-based Encyclopedia Britannica or Encarta. What this doesn't mean is that it's useless or pointless or should be discounted as a source. It should just be treated in an appropriate way given what it is.

Authoritative (1)

Zorilla (791636) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162131)

Wikipedia is not alone in this. here [] is another one you should avoid if you wish to seek accurate information.

But.. (2, Interesting)

Ckwop (707653) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162136)

Wikipedia is taking a leaf out of Debian's book. There going to create a "stable" [] version of the wikipedia that isn't editable by everyone and only factual errors will be corrected in this stable version.

Then users will have a choice between the bleeding edge and possibly factually incorrect or the stable
version that's had some kinda of audit done on it. Another straw man argument exposed for what it is :)


Re:But.. (4, Insightful)

mblase (200735) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162162)

Another straw man argument exposed for what it is

How can you call it a "straw man" when it's entirely accurate as an argument? The "stable" Wikipedia you mention does not yet exist, and therefore arguing that the article writer should have used it instead of the "bleeding edge" Wikipedia is silly.

Exaggerated Antihype (2, Insightful)

plasticmillion (649623) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162137)

To me this is just another example of the "antihype" that anything popular and successful is exposed to (and not just in technology). Wikipedia is amazingly good compared to what I (and probably most people) would have expected. Is it perfect? Of course not, but the nice thing about an internet-based encyclopedia is that it's easy to double check stuff (and most important articles have plenty of external links).

Wikipedia has proven the concept, and I'm sure we'll see more and more advanced community-managed information sharing projects in the future. For example, adding a moderation system like /.'s would already be a huge step forward.

You forgot to measure page hits.... (1, Insightful)

gorehog (534288) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162138)

How many people actually looked at your entries before accepting these facts?

Also, if you dont know, you look it up. If I check encyclopedia britannica for info it's cause I dont know the answer. Most people looking for info are not in a position to rate the quality of the answer. And most people who have the answers are not going to go looking for the fun of fact checking.

You are right though. The system does seem to have some fatal flaws and might need some rethinking.

Keep in mind though that many "authoritative sources" often present myths as fact. I can think of three.
1)The NYT claiming that rockets cant work in space
2)History books claiming that the Civil War was fought over slavery
3)Newton getting hit in the head with an apple.

My Britannic still lists the Soviet Union! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162143)

And the pages still haven't been updated! There have been no editors arriving at my door to make things right. How is that authoritative?

Re:My Britannic still lists the Soviet Union! (1)

Ruediger (777619) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162209)

I think that's different, because this information was once true and reliable.

Wikipeia is nice because you can always find info about the latest topics, but who guarantees the quality of the information?

This whole topic is one big troll (2, Insightful)

mentatchris (585868) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162145)

Wikipedia is an excellent reference... I often use it to get up to speed on a topic. Once I've learned a little, I go off and search other sites for more information. Wikipedia is an absolutely invaluable resource... the fact that some of the data might not be 100% goes with the territory. I use wikipedia almost every single day... our customers are from all over the country, and it's as simple as typing 'Wikipedia ' to bring up almanac information about them... including population, city, climate, ect.

Case in point. (2, Insightful)

jdkane (588293) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162147)

Wikipedia has always scared me because of the trust level I cannot put into a resource that can be widely edited (even just for kicks).
For example, just now (at 10:13 EST) I entered a non-authoritative entry into the Wikipedia under the topic of Authority [] It's just a note at the bottom that says

"[Note: This comment in brackets is an unauthoritative comment that was added by an individual]"

Now my foolish edit is available to the whole world -- I didn't have to log in or anything. So gradually it gets fixed. Fortuneately I did not say anything that is untrue. However what about the poor student who wanders into the topic before it gets fixed -- at one point in time. I could never use this as a definitive resource until more protection is put in place to help guarantee the accuracy of the information. How do to that? I don't know .. but I'm sure the suggestions are coming in all the discussions here.

Re:Good Internet Advertising area? (1)

jdkane (588293) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162182)

One point I have thought about in the past, but forgot to bring up in my last post ...

I don't see why any of the Internet advertisers haven't jumped on this "band-wageon" yet by inserting their own textual advertisements amongst the materials. This would be a great way to make quick/easy advertising dollars.
Sure, the advertisements would eventually be erased, but as long as they are seen by some people, they server their purpose.... and they can always be re-inserted
I just cannot see how this Wikipedia thing is secure. I cannot see how the "trust" option works in this scenario. You cannot even trust me (a Slashdot poster commenting on this story), to not insert random content into the Wikipedia for fun.

If there's something I don't understand about the safety of the Wikipedia technology then somebody please tell me. Maybe I'm getting all worked up over nothing. Thanks.

Yeah (2, Interesting)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162149)

I wrote a diary with my letter to the guy who wrote this when it first came out. It is posted on, and you can read it here [] . Also, a good thread to read about this saga is the August wiki-list [] .

Despite the fact that Al writes newspaper articles which are reviewed by one or two other people and thinks these are unbiased truth, he thinks that wikipedia articles written and then reviewed by one or two other people are full of lies. Sure, if someone tries to sneak errors into wikipedia they can do it, just as someone could sneak errors into the newspaper or britannica if they wanted to.

The is a common misconception about what an encyclopedia is. It is not a place to cite as a source in a research paper, rather a place to get an overview of a subject. everything you find in an encyclopedia you need a source for before you can quote it in a paper, so in that sense it really doesn't matter if there are a couple of innacuracies because then you just can't find them in a primary source so that's it, end of story. The funny thing is Britannica and every other major encyclopedia has a huge disclaimer about how there is no guarantee of the accuracy of the information contained, yet Al continues to insist on it being gospel truth.

Lastly, for those who don't know, September 15th-20th is going to be one of the biggest moments in the history of Freedom. Wikipedia will hit 1 million articles, firefox 1.0 will be released, Adbusters starts their blackspot sneaker marketing blitz (which I don't necessarily agree with). In our country if you take a rich man, strip him ass naked and throw him in the middle of the woods, then in a week or two he will be relatively well off again. If you take a poor ignorant man and do the same then in a week or two he will be just as poor. Knowledge and social savvy is what separates the classes in the United States, not money itself. Information is a key foundation of knowledge. Wikipedia aims to bridge the information gap between the rich and poor, and if this Al Fasoldt guy can't see the good in that then there really isn't anything more that can be said for Wikipedia.

Not surprising (1)

Amorpheus_MMS (653095) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162151)

Most people probably aren't looking at articles about subjects where they'd recognize errors. An encyclopedia is for looking up things you don't know.

In other flameworthy news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162156)

New article claims Linux is not an OS, but is merely a DOS shell.

GENERAL DISCLAIMER for your convenience (4, Informative)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162159)

From Wikipedia [] , the free encyclopedia.

General disclaimer - Use Wikipedia at your own risk! [] - Wikipedia does not give medical advice [] - Wikipedia does not give legal opinions [] - Wikipedia contains spoilers and content you may find objectionable []


Wikipedia is an online open-content encyclopedia, that is, a voluntary association of individuals and groups who are developing a common resource of human knowledge. Its structure allows any individual with an Internet connection and World Wide Web browser to alter the content found here. Therefore, please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by professionals who are knowledgeable in the particular areas of expertise necessary to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information about any subject in Wikipedia.

That's not to say that you won't find much valuable and accurate information at Wikipedia, however please be advised that Wikipedia CANNOT guarantee, in any way whatsoever, the validity of the information found here. It may recently have been changed, vandalized or altered by someone whose opinion does not correspond with the state of knowledge in the particular area you are interested in learning about. We are working on ways to select and approve more trustable versions of articles, but still without warranty. The closest thing to this that currently exists is the Wikipedia:Featured articles [] process, but even the articles listed there may have been mercilessly edited shortly before you view them.

None of the authors, contributors, sponsors, administrators, sysops, or anyone else connected with Wikipedia in any way whatsoever can be responsible for the appearance of any inaccurate or libelous information or your use of the information contained in or linked from these web pages.

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Any of the trademarks, service marks, collective marks, design rights, personality rights or similar rights that are mentioned, used or cited in the articles of the Wikipedia encyclopedia are the property of their respective owners. Their use here does not imply that you may use them for any other purpose other than for the same or a similar informational use as contemplated by the original authors of these Wikipedia articles under the GFDL licensing scheme. Unless otherwise stated Wikipedia and Wikimedia sites are neither endorsed nor affiliated with any of the holders of any such rights and as such Wikipedia can not grant any rights to use any otherwise protected materials. Your use of any such or similar incorporeal property is at your own risk.

Please note that that the information found here may be in violation of the laws of the country or jurisdiction from where you are viewing this information. Wikipedia does not encourage the violation of any laws, but as this information is stored on a server in the State of Florida [] in the United States of America [] , it is being maintained in reference to the protections afforded to all under the United States Constitution [] 's First Amendment [] and under the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [] of the United Nations [] . The laws in your country may not recognize as broad a protection of free speech as the laws of the United States or the principles under the UN Charter, and as such, Wikipedia cannot be responsible for any potential violations of such laws should you link to this domain or use any of the information contained herein in anyway whatsoever.

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Wikipedia is not uniformly peer reviewed; while readers may correct errors or remove erroneous suggestions they have no legal duty to do so and thus all information read here is without any implied warranty of fitness for any purpose or use whatsoever.

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Wikipedia excellent for physics and mathematics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162161)

Wikipedia is an excellent reference for physics and mathematics. If the experiment the author of this article were tried with hard core physics or mathematics articles, it would be caught out much faster.

Mistakes in Encyclopedic References (2, Insightful)

Noksagt (69097) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162165)

Traditional enclyclopedias have errors as well & users have little option to fix them--they certainly can't change them directly. They must write the publisher & hope their corrections make it into the next edition in a year.

The value of encyclopedias isn't that they are right about everything. It is that they cover so many topics in an easy-to-understand manner. If you need more in depth knowledge or need to ensure correctness, you really should be using some sources which are a little bit more primary--books or journal articles written on the specific subject you are looking into.

Everyone who rights for the wikipedia should therefore cite references where people could look for more info. Also, I don't think that one person entering 5 errors is that harmful--the quality level is still quite high. Either a lot of people would need to make small numbers of errors (which hasn't really happened--most people write on topics they know about) or one person would need to add many more errors. If this happened, it is much more likely that they would get caught--after noting an error, an editor would likely check that person's other contributions.

"Money Vector" is always felt upon Free Stuff (2, Interesting)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162167)

Anytime you have something that is both useful and free, and where it is competing with a paid product, you will always have the force of that paid product felt upon the free product.

Personally, I love Wikipedia. But this article is good in that it forces us to pay attention to the problem and try to fix it.

CmdrTaco got this one right... (1)

jlp2097 (223651) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162172)

from the
well-duh-people dept.
Everybody should be well aware that the entries are publicallly editable and may contain errors.

Re:CmdrTaco got this one right... (1)

jlp2097 (223651) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162190)

... publica
llly ...
See what I mean?

I tried this with the Internet once... (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162174)

I tried this with the Internet once! I put up 5 pages containing bogus information over 5 days. I waited to see how long they would stay there. They weren't removed . . . EVER.

Already did that... (1)

forii (49445) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162176)

I also did this a while ago. I made a bogus change, and let it sit, intending to go back and fix it in a couple of days. Whoops! I forgot, and came back a few months later, and sure enough, the wrong information was still there.

The problem is that the quality of a reference is not derived from the number of people working on it, but on the expertise of those people. A single person can make a better encyclopedia than a million monkeys banging on keyboards.

Over longer periods of time, Wiki == Authoritative (1)

theluckyleper (758120) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162180)

This guy made some subtle changes and left them for a relatively short period of time... I'm unsurprised they weren't picked up. But over the long haul, SOMEONE would eventually notice and repair the errors.

And the fact that only subtle errors can survive is a testament to the power of the wiki. Major errors will be noticed immediately and corrected, subtle errors may persist for a while, but really, by their very subtlety they are less damaging to wiki users.

Although, I run a wiki myself so perhaps I am biased :)

It's still pretty good though ... (1)

Titusdot Groan (468949) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162186)

Interesting timing -- I just spent a few hours this weekend bouncing around Wikipedia and was asking myself these exact same questions.

However, I read several dozen articles yesterday, mostly for topics I know a fair amount about, and found the site surprisingly accurate and informative and well written.

I wouldn't want to trust anything that is too far off the beaten path though ...

putting false info on WP is antisocial (0, Troll)

cabalamat2 (227849) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162188)

Putting deliberately incorrect information on Wipipedia is an antisocial, immoral activity.

It is also arguably illegal in that it represents an unauthorised use of a computer system.

So... (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162191)

What is authoritative?

If you actually read the article... (1)

CMiYC (6473) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162192)

The opening line in the article says "... a few weeks ago ... my companion Dr. Gizmo ... urged [readers] to go to the Wikipedia Web site ... an online encyclopedia, for more information on computer history. The doctor and I had figured Wikipedia was a good independent source. "

Yet later in the article the author states: "From the home page:

"Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written collaboratively by its readers. The site is a Wiki, meaning that anyone, including you, can also edit any article right now by clicking on the edit this page link that appears at the top of every Wikipedia article."

The quote was sent to them by a school librarian. So these journalist were incapable of reading the front page to determine the source of the information in the Wiki.

So my question is, who's validity is in question? The Wiki's or this paper's staff writer?

Social Experiment (1)

quincunx5 (803531) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162196)

I see wikipedia as not just a dictionary, but a social experiment. One could place false information, but what is to gain? "Ooh, i'm so l33t I can put in anything I want just like anyone else." As great as it is I think it would better to follow this model: When people submit/edit a "definition", it shouldn't be updated right away, It should be looked at by a group of moderators. When you do a good job, you will be offered to moderate as well. In other words you build up your reputation. One can use public key authentication to do this.

is this news? (1)

wobblie (191824) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162200)

With policy in mind, wikipedia is not authoritative in any sense - obviously. Who would think otherwise? Anyone can edit it. So, policy-wise, it is poor; but in "fact" it is extremely useful.

That said, it is one of the most useful web sites out there, so long as the reader keeps this in mind. There are some excellent articles that outshine commercial encyclopedias by orders of magnitude, and there are some crummy ones. Just what I expected. It's one of the most interesting and successful "open" projects out there; but no, I would not list it as a source on a serious research paper - but I would definitely use it as a starting point for learning about anything.

Unsurprising (1)

Daniel (1678) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162201)

Wikipedia is pretty good for topics that are prominent and well-known, and decent for technical topics. For stuff that's more obscure,'s interesting to browse around but you definitely don't want to take it too seriously!


code changes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162203)

the wiki should be changed so that it requires a reference from non-registered members, sure this might cut down on posts but that and some other few code changes should also cut down on fake posts

Why would you believe anything you read? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10162205)

If you are seriously interested in the truth, you have to go to original sources. Anything else is just someone's opinion. However, we don't have the time to fully research everything we want to know; so we use reference works. We have to evaluate the reliability of those works. Some facts that we get from those works will probably be accurate (the area of Greenland for instance). Some of the facts will be open to dispute depending on which work we get the facts from. (High school history texts are quite different depending on which country they are for.)

Personally, I like wiki. There are articles for subjects that I won't find in Britannica. However, I use wiki as a starting place to point me to more authoritative sources.

Anyway, if you are inclined to believe what you get from any media then I suggest that you read the works of Noam Chomsky. (me ducks and runs)

The source of all Wikipedia's problem... (2, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162213)

... is that it's just three years old, and people keep expecting it to be a veritable Britannica. It's not. But what I personally find quite interesting is that it's sufficiently good that people would expect it to be reliable in the first place.

An article approval mechanism is under development and in testing at the test Wikipedia [] (you'll need to get an account to see it, mind you, and much of the user interface is currently in Finnish, but... :)

But then... (1)

alexandre (53) | more than 9 years ago | (#10162214)

the system works because statistically, people don't try to be misleading for fun too often... and when they are it is usually on a subject that is highly debated and will be re-read/verified shortly...
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