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The Register Takes Aim at Wikipedia Again

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the keep-em-honest dept.

Media 630

Syberghost writes "The Register has fired off another salvo in their long-running war of words with Wikipedia, in the form of an article about the lack of "moral responsibility" from the operators of Wikipedia. Wikipedia users fired back less than an hour later, making the Register headline obsolete."

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Moral Victory (5, Insightful)

biocute (936687) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242400)

making the Register headline obsolete.

And then what? Does that make the Register story obsolete too?

While I don't think Wiki should worry about all these whingings (does TheOnion have moral responsibility to warn its readers?), Wiki users might get more out of the whole ordeal by asserting (via an entry) the unnecessity of moral responsibility in Wiki.

Re:Moral Victory (1, Flamebait)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242431)

What is worrisome is the number of people who cite Wikipedia in online debates- as if it actually proves anything other than that the person doing the citing is an idiot who can't tell truth from fiction.

Re:Moral Victory (5, Funny)

winkydink (650484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242455)

online debating is to real debating as wikipedia is to a real encyclopedia

Re:Moral Victory (3, Insightful)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242517)

But thats the purpose of a citation isin't it? Would you rather them not cite anything?

I think wikipedia is a perfect example of democracy and what happens within. The people that use the site must police the site. Or do you want to elect a governing body to determine what goes in and what does not go in? And who controls that body?

Wikipedia works perfectly. The only flaw I see is that they even bothered to remove that offensive article. That sets an unfortunate precedent for wiki. They should have left it, and let the community do the job they are charged with. Wiki must encourage/force/let the community to do its job.

Re:Moral Victory (4, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242568)

Wikipedia is much closer to anarchy than democracy.

Imagine if the federal government worked like Wikipedia. I could log on to wiki.gov and add new laws and edit existing ones at will, but so could anyone else.

It would be pretty cool to see how that would turn out, if you didn't have to live there.

Nah, it'd still be cool. (wikilaw) (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242691)

There'd still be juries to decide whether the law is reasonable and what the punishment should be. Every infringement is a chance to reevaluate the law. Revert wars and vandalism might get certain people temporarily or permanently banned from being able to edit certain portions of the law.

Note: the word "vandalism" is abused a lot by various wikipedia editors to refer to edits they dislike.

Re:Moral Victory (1)

Krach42 (227798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242580)

The particular article for the incorrectly-alledged JFK assassination conspiracist does yet remain in the wikipedia. It has been cleaned up and fixed to be less... factually incorrect.

Re:Moral Victory (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242640)

They should have left it, and let the community do the job they are charged with. Wiki must encourage/force/let the community to do its job.


I agree. We're planning on dumping our product in your neighborhood tomorrow. Please keep in mind that it's the communities job to handle things that impact the community.

Thanks,
Bob.
Bob's Toxic Waste & Dumping

Re:Moral Victory (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242641)

Wikipedia is completely useless for any topics that even marginally touch on politics. Many people use wikipedia to spout their political views on any topic they can get away with it. It is fairly ridiculous. In some cases, outright lies are listed (I had to correct one article that talked about several nuclear meltdowns on US submarines that was unchecked for about a year). On the other hand, wikipedia is an excellent resource for topics that normal encyclopedias would never touch, like an episode guide to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (awesome series by the way), a character listing for the Simpsons, or information about Led Zepplin. So if someone is going to quote the Simpsons in a debate, then wikipedia is a decent resource. If they want to quote something about the safety of a nuclear reactor, I would prefer them not to use the 'Greenpeace'-quality wikipedia pages.

Re:Moral Victory (5, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242703)

I'd rather that people THINK instead of bowing out to anonymous authorities in an attempt to "prove" something.

Wikipedia is just worse than most because it's essentially a peer reviewed group without actual peer control. That means it's prone to myths within the community and ignorances from the original writers of the articles, as well as political and religious biases brought from outside the community.

I completely agree it's a fascinating experiment in electronic democracy and group hive minds. It's just not a repository of facts or anything resembling facts.

Re:Moral Victory (4, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242533)

People cite Wikipedia's unreliability almost as a feature, because it insulates Wikipedia from criticism over accuracy, libel, etc.

But if Wikipedia is intended to be so unreliable that it is worthless for debating purposes (which are pretty trivial compared to, say, public safety), then is there any point to having it at all?

Personally, I love Wikipedia and would be very happy if it found a way to be both open and reliable.

Re:Moral Victory (2, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242649)

The key is to understand what it's reliable for- it's an awesome searchable collection of the collective ignorance and opinions of the worldwide culture. It is decidedly NOT a repository of fact or knowledge.

Re:Moral Victory (2, Insightful)

Asmor (775910) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242651)

One shouldn't take any single source to be reliable, ever. If you're doing something where accuracy matters, look it up somewhere, and then verify your facts elsewhere, preferably with multiple other sources.

Many sources may individually lack authority, but when each independant source is consistent with others, it can be assumed that they are accurate.

Re:Moral Victory (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242678)

I love Wikipedia and would be very happy if it found a way to be both open and reliable.

Then accept it as an aggregator of potentially useful information that still needs to be verified, rather than authoritative source. Many of us don't believe everything we read in newspapers, and cross reference the parts which may be contentious.

With Wikipedia it's as easy as selecting a phrase, right clicking and selecting "Search web for ". Anyone who is unwilling to cross check information is either negligent or spoiling for a fight.

Reliability and quality come from accountability. (4, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242687)

Reliability and quality come from accountability, be it an encyclopedia or a complex engineering project.

An engineer who makes one mistake, even if it is not fatal, will lose his license. Why is that? Because said mistakes cannot be tolerated.

The same goes for an encyclopedia. If a high degree of quality is wanted, then people will have to pay severely when they make a mistake. Of course, that's very difficult to accomplish in an online setting, especially one like Wikipedia.

Re:Moral Victory (2, Informative)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242547)

Citing Wikipedia is perfectly reasonable. It's like saying "the facts are such-and-such, here's a place to start investigating these facts". Most of the time I see Wikipedia being cited, it's as a convenient link for more information, not "proof".

Sure, some of the time the facts might be wrong, but in that case, the other person is free to counter it with a more authorative source. It's only when the citer then responds "that can't be right because Wikipedia says otherwise" that it becomes a problem. I don't think I've ever seen that happen. Have you?

Re:Moral Victory (2, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242621)

Sure, some of the time the facts might be wrong, but in that case, the other person is free to counter it with a more authorative source. It's only when the citer then responds "that can't be right because Wikipedia says otherwise" that it becomes a problem. I don't think I've ever seen that happen. Have you?

About 20% of the debates I've been involved in end with that statement, and a link to the "relevant" wikipedia article. Of course, I have a tendency to flamebait in an effort to get people to think, so I'm involved in more online debates than most people. I consider *anybody* refering to an authoritative source rather than actually thinking the situation throught themselves to be a failure in that.

Especially since it's rare that any of the debates I'm involved in are fact based to begin with. I've even been known to deny that facts actually exist- at best we have models of myths that represent facts, human brains aren't capable of getting closer to truth than that. Wikipedia is just a peer review system- and as such is prone to the same mistakes of all peer review systems- mythology in the community.

Re:Moral Victory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242646)

You frighten me. Please don't breed.

Re:Moral Victory (1)

aslate (675607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242692)

My school's got a subscription to the Encyclopedia Britannica i can use, but if i were to reference the link to you in a debate, you'd have to pay for the priviledge. I find the ability to link to a Wikipedia article easy and mostly useful, especially if trusted sites are referenced (BBC News articles etc.).

I mostly use Wikipedia to look up something of interest, especially if it's something factual, scientific or mathematical. Those can often be impossible to find easily elsewhere but can hardly be full of bias.

Re:Moral Victory (1)

Krach42 (227798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242647)

This is entirely the purpose of citation. I make a claim, here's a supporting authority, or source. You're free to then argue with the credability of my source, but you can't attack my credibility, as I have none in that field. I'm not an authority in that field myself.

So, to take a real example, I personally can assert certain positions concerning the relations and relative strengths and weaknesses between AltiVec and SSE. I have authority there, and I can back up my claims with first hand experience, and those hefty absolute authorities such as specifications and actual implementation variations.

But when I go talking about politics, I don't have a leg to stand on. I'd probably forgotten the name "Bob Dole" a long time ago, if my friend didn't keep using it as a generic pseudonym. In these cases, I need an alternate source to obtain credibility. And I should cite those credible sources.

Otherwise, I'm attempting to gain Ethos on my own credentials, which I do not have any at all. So, either I can take the potentially tainted and arguable authority of Wikipedia, or I can try and drive my point with my own credability in a field that I have no authority at all. I'll take the former choice, and let you know where I'm getting my authority. Then you can argue with the authority, not me.

Re:Moral Victory (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242681)

Except for you can't argue with an anonymous authority- it's better to bow out of the debate entirely than to refer to an anonymous authority.

Re:Moral Victory (4, Funny)

KDan (90353) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242468)

Yes, of course. In the wonderful world of the Wikipedists, anything they say is golden because it's in a kind of encyclopedia, which automatically justifies it as being the absolute truth and if you don't like it you can change it yourself or go whine about it on slashdot and claim that the "Wikipedia has fired back" and if this is a firing back then the ammo was a fart and I'm getting bored of writing in this long add-on sentence style that resembles some Wikipedia articles and so I'm going to stop now.

Daniel

Re:Moral Victory (1)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242672)

Indeed, some people seem confused and think that wikipedia is an encyclopedia: "reference work that contains information on all branches of knowledge or that treats a particular branch of knowledge in a comprehensive manner.".

That does clearly not fit wikipedia as it is now.

Re:Moral Victory (2, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242514)

I didn't even know documenting facts and events involved any sort of "morality" in the first place. Some degree of ethics, sure - but morality? You can present history and facts and data in an ETHICAL manner... but how the hell do you present them in a MORAL manner? How do you describe the reign of Hitler in a MORAL manner? I don't get it.

Re:Moral Victory (4, Interesting)

metlin (258108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242524)

Exactly.

Wikipedia is a wiki - quite obviously, the system is not perfect and it has its benefits and its downfalls. They are not claiming otherwise, either.

Now, what is the Register's alternative? Rather, what's Andy Orlowsku's alternative? That dude seems to rate a classic /. troll, or worse, a school kid who's picking on something he doesn't like and keeps whining.

Wikipedia isn't perfect, and there are always morons out there who'd do some nasty things. If you're using Wikipedia for your research, you must be nuts. However, it is a starting point.

In fact, in some domains (e.g. Physics), Wikipedia has oodles of good information that it becomes an excellent reference. Is it a 100% reliable reference? No. But it is a reference, and like anything else, it has its pros and cons.

These guys sound like little whiners - who just know a wee little and go on and on about something. Reminds me of the case with Al Fasoldt who kept doing the exact same thing.

Wikipedia is a dynamic, free, open encyclopedia that is more sophisticated and more comprehensive than a lot of encyclopedias out there. And this dynamicism brings with it a small price - brainless morons and vandals who, like in every other system, have no moral scruples or accountability.

That does not mean the system is flawed - that means some of the people are.

Please do not use the word "troll". (-1, Troll)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242637)

Please do not go referring to people who pose a different opinion than yours as "trolls". "Troll" has become the Internet equivalent of "terrorism", as used by American and British politicians. The word "troll" has been misused so many times that it means nothing any more. If anything, it just makes the person who uses it against another look bad. It shows a lack of proper debating style.

That said, the Register reporters are pointing out serious problems with the structure and functionality of Wikipedia. It's better for these issues to be addressed in public, with proceedings that we can all see and participate in. In the end the community as a whole will be better off if all media is held to very high standards.

So instead of resorting to ad hominem attacks and throwing out buzzwords like "troll", let's put our heads together and come up with a way that we can fix the problems with Wikipedia. At least then we're doing something productive, and we will benefit in the end.

Ha (1)

sheepab (461960) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242408)

wikipediOWNED!

Re:Ha (5, Funny)

servognome (738846) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242453)

wikipediOWNED!

UGH, it's wikipediPWNED! I'm so sick and tired of poor spelling on /.

relevance (2, Funny)

thexdane (148152) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242416)

and slashdot will make this article irrelevant by posting it several times over in various forms

Morals? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242422)

And whose set of morals are we talking about here?

Re:Morals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242616)

Whose? That is answered when you substitute Ethics (a better word) for Morals (old fashioned). Normally divided into normative ethics, prescribed ethics and individual ethics. The first is what one would do to fall into the median/mean/average behaviour (ie blend into hivemind, safety in behavioural norm), the second is what one would do to avoid breaking social rules (laws), and the last, (perhaps the only one that really counts as ethics in philosophy) is what one *must* do to maintain good conscience. Both former types are motivated by external fear, either of social exclusion or imprisonment or torture at the hands of others. Only the last type requires original thought but some philosophers ascribe even that to fear, fear of the internal pain of living with ones actions (conscience). A God and notions of Hell are not required for this. Often they are all in conflict, for example deciding whether to desert from an army who are commiting war crimes and face the tradeoff of fear of coutmartial and imprisonment (prescribed), the hatred of your brothers in arms (normative) or the depression and regret you know you will feel later in life. A small number of people (psychopaths) lack the capacity for the latter form of ethical reasoning, which essentially is why laws exist.

Re:Morals? (1)

Krach42 (227798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242656)

And whose set of morals are we talking about here?

whose sets of morals. Or are you intending to imply that everyone needs to have one set of morals, you insensitive clod?

Ironically (4, Insightful)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242427)

The Register article saying that Wikipedia was filled with errors was itself filled with errors. At one point they actually called MMORPG's "shoot em up games." The real definition is right in the acronym, I mean how hard is it to figure it out.

Re:Ironically (1)

shawnmchorse (442605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242485)

Well... they can be [sony.com] . I hear that the redesigned Tabula Rasa [playtr.com] may be a shoot 'em up as well.

Re:Ironically (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242550)

No, they can't be. That would be an MMOG, not an MMORPG.

Re:Ironically (1)

toleraen (831634) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242608)

Planetside is considered a MMOFPS [wikipedia.org] . And yes, I'm citing Wiki to tick off the posters above. Wiki has good information to be taken lightly, and not as an official source.

Re:Ironically (1)

Donniedarkness (895066) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242509)

Massively Multiplayer Online Rail Projectile Games?

Re:Ironically (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242518)

No, Massively Menacing Orbital Rocket Propelled Grenades

Re:Ironically (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242577)

For those asshats over at The Register, it's always hard to figure things out, even those which are spelled out for them.

What about 'editorial responsibility'? (1)

alexo (9335) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242599)


> The Register article saying that Wikipedia was filled with errors was itself filled
> with errors. At one point they actually called MMORPG's "shoot em up games." The real
> definition is right in the acronym, I mean how hard is it to figure it out.


Or the following on the first page (emphasis mine):
"Seigenthaler, a former Robert Kennedy aide and newspaper editor wrote about his anguish a fortnight ago, describing how an edit to his Wikipedia biography implicated in him in the Kennedy assassination."

Get some perspective! (5, Insightful)

bchernicoff (788760) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242433)

The very openeness that makes Wikipedia such a dynamic and powerful resource exposes it to abuse. Is it a perfect system? No. Is it an incredibly valuable tool? Yes. Will it continue to improve because of things like this? Of course.

Re:Get some perspective! (1)

mysqlrocks (783488) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242495)

The very openeness that makes Wikipedia such a dynamic and powerful resource exposes it to abuse.

To expand on your point... it seems like the detractors to wikipedia don't seem to understand it's purpose. Articles with misinformation continue to have misinformation because very few people are reading them. It all balances out in the end. Have they heard the phrase, "don't believe everything you read"?

Re:Get some perspective! (1)

shystershep (643874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242579)

Have they heard the phrase, "don't believe everything you read"?

That's pretty much the whole point of the Reg article: how can you claim that it's an encyclopedia (as opposed to a random jumble of sometimes-accurate trivia) if there is no prima facie way of knowing what to believe? The whole point of an encyclopedia is to be an accurate and definitive source of information; any inaccuracy should be the result of the limits of the state of science/history/etc when it was written.

That said, I find the Wikipedia to be a valuable tool occasionally, but I can't say that I ever actually rely on it to be right. "Don't believe everything you read" is a pretty terrible motto for fans of a resource they claim is at least as good as a print encyclopedia.

Re:Get some perspective! (2, Insightful)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242502)

Very true. Wikipedia has a lot of accurate articles, and if nothing else, collates a lot of good sources for someone to look at. Obviously it isn't perfect. But it's darn good. This is like me giving you a free luxury car, and you complaining that it only has half a tank of gas in it. Accept good things, and strive to make them better, don't reject them because they aren't perfect.

Re:Get some perspective! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242534)

Does anyone actually care? No. Will people that pretend to care continue to harass those that don't give a penguin's scrote? Yes. Is it going to rain before the end of the week? Sure. Will someone post that there is no way in hades you can get people that don't care to come here and read about people that do? Absolutely. Do I care? You figure it out.

Note that wp says this concerning the meaning of 'openeness'. No entry. Did you mean: 'I'm so damn excited!!!'

Re:Get some perspective! (1)

KDan (90353) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242612)

Define "incredibly useful"? I find the Wikipedia is moderately useful. When there is some bit of cultural trivia and you want to find out what the hell it is, you can trust that Wikipedia will give you some kind of answer that's related to the truth. For anything more complicated, I always double-check anything I find on there.

Daniel

Re:Get some perspective! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242705)

Honestly, if you're ever looking up anything that's more than just pop culture references, wouldn't you want to go to more than one source anyway?

The problem isn't with Wikipedia, the problem is with how Wikipedia is used. The Wikipedia is not perfect. It is a source of information that just about anyone can add to / modify / whatever.

I don't buy the line that 'Wikipedia is no printed encyclopedia'. Print encyclopedias can get it wrong, get outdated, etc. They have editorial controls, but those are not perfect either.

No, the real problem is that people are far too inclined to look at one source and be done with it. Whether that one source is Wikipedia, a 'real' encyclopedia or the first Google hit doesn't matter. In the end, it is just a bad way of looking information up.

The other problem is that people will believe the information sources that line up with their world view over ones that don't. That's a different discussion entirely, but annoys me just as much.

Fired back? (4, Funny)

hesiod (111176) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242437)

If that Wiki entry is firing back, the gunpowder must have been wet.

Re:Fired back? (2, Insightful)

DarkSkiesAhead (562955) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242535)

If you had checked the article in the Register you would notice that the wikipedia article is "firing back" by its existence, not by its content. The content was meant to be honest and helpful, not an argument with the Register. That allows wikipedia to look better without sinking to the Register's tactics.

The Register is absolutely right (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242454)

They should be held just as accountable as, say, the Boston Globe.

The Register is a bunch of hypocrites (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242456)

If you knew their history, you would know why.

Founded in Nazi Germany by Adolph Hitler they were used to register all Jews marked for death in concentration camps. During the 60's, they supported neo-Nazis in America and were involved in the Kennedy Assassination. In the 90's they started covering IT news.

  - From WikiPedia

Pot.. Kettle.. (5, Interesting)

Dynamoo (527749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242458)

Now, Wikipedia has its faults.. but to be honest, I find it a hugely relevant, usually accurate and very enjoyable resource, sometimes marred by personal agendas and bias. On the other hand, The Register is a hugely relevant, usually accurate and very enjoyable resource, sometimes marred by personal agendas and bias.

I think this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Any intelligent netizen takes a variety of sources (e.g. Wikipedia, El Reg, Slashdot, Digg, the BBC etc) and forms their own opinions.

Yes, Wikipedia has grown up, and I think it needs to tighten up procedures. But The Register's bizarre vendetta against what the term "wiki fiddlers" is annoying. Perhaps The Register needs to grow up a little too?

Re:Pot.. Kettle.. (4, Insightful)

radicalskeptic (644346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242557)

Now, Wikipedia has its faults.. but to be honest, I find it a hugely relevant, usually accurate and very enjoyable resource, sometimes marred by personal agendas and bias.

Seriously. Wikipedia is a tool, similar to almost all sites presenting information on the internet: good for a quick reference, but not authoritative. And I think most people realize that.

A few weeks ago I was writing a paper on Thelonious Monk [wikipedia.org] . Wikipedia says he started playing piano at age six, but, for example, this site [monkzone.com] says age nine. So Wikipedia has a 50% chance of being wrong on that point. But really I don't mind, and I'm not going to stop using it, because Wikipedia is more of a springboard and a starting place in exploring a subject, rather than an etched-in-stone authority. And I think most people "get" that. The Register, apparently, does not.

Re:Pot.. Kettle.. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242674)

Wikipedia says he started playing piano at age six, but, for example, this site says age nine. So Wikipedia has a 50% chance of being wrong on that point.

Did you learn statistics from Wikipedia too?

Re:Pot.. Kettle.. (1)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242620)

The Register has its own provocative style on debates. I do not think that they "need to grow up". Their opinnion articles are (allmost) allways thought provoking, but being opinnion pieces they are ofcourse consisting of opinnions. Are they allways right? ofcourse not.. but even then they usually make good points.

Blame..? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242467)

"The blame goes here, the blame goes there - the blame goes anywhere, except Wikipedia itself. If there's a problem - well, the user must be stupid!"

If this statement wasn't sarcastic then...

Speed of Response (4, Insightful)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242470)

This episode shows a strength of Wikipedia, it is quick to respond to problems when it recognizes them. Tell a company about a bug, wait a month, get a response. Tell Wikipedia about a factual error, wait a hour, and see it fixed.

But also a weakness (1)

jolyonr (560227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242562)

And (you couldn't have scripted it better if you'd tried) - the initial response that wikipedians posted to the "Moral Responsibility" page was itself copied without permission from another site!

However.... the great strength of Wikipedia is in how quickly it is able to recover and self-heal from these sorts of problems. It's far from perfect, but it is damn useful nonetheless.

Jolyon

Re:Speed of Response (2, Insightful)

NumbThumb (468496) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242575)

better: don't wait at all, fix it yourself.

Re:Speed of Response (2, Insightful)

teslar (706653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242598)

This episode shows a strength of Wikipedia, it is quick to respond to problems when it recognizes them.
Mmm. Yeah, I guess you're right there. However, it can take a long time for a problem to be recognised. Case in point, it was months before anyone complained.

I think this episode also shows what I see as the fundamental problem of Wikipedia... the assumption that, somehow, articles will get better over time is in my opinion just flawed. To really get better, they have to be read by people who know the stuff anyway and who are willing to correct mistakes. Now granted, there will be experts on topics out there that do this, but your average guy will not look up things he already knows to see if they need checking - he will look up things he only has a vague or perhaps no idea about. He will not necessairly notice mistakes or omissions. He might add things he believes to be true but are in fact wrong, simplified or otherwise inadequate. If no expert on the topic comes along, these erroneous facts will simply stay there.
Just like the allegations against Seigenthaler did.

For me, this whole episode just solidifies my belief that, while I can use Wikipedia for a quick checkup on a topic, I cannot use it if I really need accurate information. There is no guarantee for me that what I'm being told on Wikipedia is accurate and complete.

So no, I acknowledge that the quick fixing of problems is a strength, but ultimately, I don't think this episode shed a good light on Wikipedia, in spite of this.

Who cares? (5, Insightful)

Albinofrenchy (844079) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242477)

The reason this went unfound for so long? No one cares about Seigenthaler. Even if he was a Nazi.

The Regs moral responsibility? (1)

Henriok (6762) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242479)

What moral responsibility does the journalists at The Register have to write an important article obviously missing from Wikipedia?

Re:The Regs moral responsibility? (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242629)

It amazes me how much effort people will put into complaining about how whatever they were looking for was missing from Wikipedia, but they won't take the time or effort to add it themselves.
If the information wasn't there and you took the time to research it somewhere else, take a couple of minutes more and add the entry. Make the effort to make it better. Maybe next time what you are looking for will be there because someone else also took the time.

The Register (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242491)

I am surprised the people at The Register can say moral responsiblity without choking. Speaking of Wikipedia an edit should be made under yellow journalism to include a link to The Register's site.

Spoof Articles.... (1)

mofomojo (810520) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242492)

...C'mon people, we've all tried to publish a good ol' spoof article on wikipedia here and there. Unfortunately, none of them have made it through, so we've had to resort to several other sites where the Internet isn't such serious business.

Damn, if only I could've gotten that site past about me being the greatest man in the universe.

The media has no sense of humour, and that's a damned shame.

What the fuck? (2, Insightful)

0olong (876791) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242499)

Wikipedia is a very easily accessible free source of information with just as much reliability as any other non-peer-reviewed source. Would we somehow be better off if Wikipedia didn't exist at all? Of course not. I can only assume the bad press is fueled by ulterior motives.

The key question (4, Insightful)

Darius Jedburgh (920018) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242602)

Would we somehow be better off if Wikipedia didn't exist at all?
Despite some inaccuracies the Wikipedia is a veritable goldmine of useful information. What do the people who complain about it expect? An editor to peer review every single article? Wikipedia is probably the best model for a free encyclopedia that anyone has come up with and it's an amazing use of technology almost undreamt of a couple of decades ago. As long as we bear in mind how the entries are created (and it's not exactly a tough concept to grasp) how can it not be providing great benefit for people? The nay-sayers would put us back into the dark ages where we have to pay money for out-of-date information when there are people out there with the up-do-date facts who want to share them now for nothing. By all means don't keep the innacuracies a secret (because, among other things, that'll help to get them fixed), but there's no need for moral lectures unless you have a better alternative to propose. So I think your question is the right one to ask.

Some truisms (4, Insightful)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242507)

The same process that makes the most popular articles on Wikipedia of better quality than Britannica also makes the least popular articles of lesser quality. Although no one was willing to say it to his face, the real reason the error in Siegenthaler's article persisted for so long is that not many people care enough about him to read his eponymous article. Over the four months it was posted I'm willing to bet less than a thousand people read it. Really it is a tree-falls-in-a-forest issue, if no one is reading incorrect material does it really matter that it's incorrect?

People ask, "Where will Wikipedia be after five years." The real question is, "Where will the world be after five years of Wikipedia?"

Re:Some truisms (2, Insightful)

shystershep (643874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242657)

if no one is reading incorrect material does it really matter that it's incorrect?

If, indeed, no one was reading it, it would not matter. But even in your example you guess that "less than a thousand people" read the Siegenthaler article. When does it matter that material is incorrect? When more than one thousand people will see it? Ten thousand?

Agreed. Try this experiment. (2, Interesting)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242710)

"Although no one was willing to say it to his face, the real reason the error in Siegenthaler's article persisted for so long is that not many people care enough about him to read his eponymous article."

Agreed. Here's an experiment: Go to Wikipedia, click on "Random article". Look at the history for that page, and determine how long it has existed, and how many edits it has had. Now, compare to the Seigenthaler article:

1st edit: 13:53, 15 September 2004. Created with only the contents, "John Seigenthaler SR"
2nd edit: 08:29, 26 May 2005. False biography added.
3rd edit: 15:52, 29 May 2005. Minor spelling correction.
4th edit: 05:06, 23 September 2005. False info deleted, replaced with correct info.

So, the article lasted for 9 months with only his name. Now, any average Wikipedian who came across this article would have marked it for "speedy deletion" immediately, since there is no content/context. In the span of over 1 year, the article had 4 edits. How does your random article compare? How about 10 random articles, or 100?

Call me a paranoiac... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242510)

From TFA:
Everything you read is suspect! You'd better duck!
Only a paranoiac, or a mad person, can sustain this level of defensiveness for any length of time however, and to hear a putative "encyclopedia" making such a statement is odd, to say the least.


This is just plain bullshit. My grandfather had a saying he taught me(and pardon me for some downhomey common sense), but it was popular among he and his friends, and they were very well adjusted people:
Believe half of what you hear, and nothing that you see.

This isn't paranoia. This is reality. Individuals, corporations, governments, etc... tend to be bullshitters. Half the time, they don't even realize they're spreading bullshit. The reason is too many mistake their opinion for fact, because most people don't go deep enough to care what the difference is.

The INSTANT you identify a source as something you can believe is honest and accurate without you having to verify facts or take with a grain of salt, is the instant you've set yourself up to be misled and enter a state of dogmatism.

You question everything. You question what you see, you question what you hear, you question it all. Not out of some hysterical paranoia, but out of rational observation of the reality that we live in a bullshitters paradise.

This article should get -1, Ministry of Truth publication. Believe half of what you hear, nothing that you see, and be happy and secure doing it.

Re:Call me a paranoiac... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242615)

I don't believe you....

The Blame Game (2, Insightful)

Arandir (19206) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242516)

If there's a problem - well, the user must be stupid!

I'll probably be modded down for saying so, but that one sentence nicely sums up Wikipedia's philosophy.

One is that Seigenthaler should have corrected the entry himself...

See, they even blamed Seigenthaler for the libel against him!

What's up with with the Reg these days? (4, Interesting)

CurlyG (8268) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242521)

They seem to be on a trolling binge in recent weeks. I don't really mind this - their tone as always been cynical and has respected no sacred cows, but the current flock of flamebait arcticles just seem to me to be a little desperate.

The blog attacks were kind of amusing last year, when the blogging hype was at it's most ridiculous, the snarky Wikipedia articles were occasionally entertaining, though I've never really understood the motivation in attacking that project (unless you happen to be an encyclopedia publisher). But it now just seems to be axe-grinding for no obvious reason than to bait various predictably-easy-to-bait groups of people, and the writing itself is less subtle and much less entertaining.

How long can you keep generating sparks from that axe you're grinding when there's no axe left?

Re:What's up with with the Reg these days? (1)

Linuxbeak (938043) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242660)

I think your comment "How long can you keep generating sparks from that axe you're grinding when there's no axe left?" is right on target. I myself was misquoted in the Register with a link to my user page (!) regarding the entire Daniel Brandt thing. You may find that gem at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/12/06/wikipedia_ bio/page2.html [theregister.co.uk] . The Register used to be mildly amusing, but now it doesn't even try to make its potshots covert. Now that they are specifically linking user pages, it only makes the job easier for trolls to harass editors who mind their own business. What *I* want to know is where all of this newfound Wikipedia-hate is coming from. I know that it's had its enemies, but what's with the targeting of specific users?

Re:What's up with with the Reg these days? (2, Insightful)

Taxman415a (863020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242671)

Yeah, I'm not sure either. They're obviously hugely pro opensource, so why they've decided to make disparaging Wikipedia their mission I have no idea. Of course, much of the negative press about Wikipedia is true-- there are thousands of crappy articles there. But where the register horribly misses the point is that Wikipedia is a work in progress and nowhere claims to be authoritative and correct. The value in Wikipedia is in the process and the open license. If this current model fails, the information can still be freely used. That's what's so powerful.

Besides that I think people taking potshots at Wikipedia has just become the think to do. Wikipedia is more important than the Register and traffic stats prove it. I suppose that's not easy to take if you're a site with your income depending on drawing traffic. Wikipedia's traffic is rising at an enormous rate, and has actually made a leap since all this bad press has come out. http://noc.wikimedia.org/stats.php?period=monthly [wikimedia.org] (and yes that M is million). But what everyone should reallize is that it's a work in progress, it's certainly not ready for brick and mortar publication, and as a whole, it's contributors are just fine with that for now. But trolls like the register will keep claiming as this article does that Wikipedia supporters think it is perfect in order to get people riled up.

Human Nature is the Issue Here (1)

intrico (100334) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242527)

A big issue with Wikipedia is that it assumes that humans are not prone to mischief, and that most everyone is prone to do the right thing. We all know that this is not true in society, therefore it should be common knowledge that Wikipedia in its current form cannot be thought of as any dependable objective source of information, any more than someone's personal web page on Yahoo's Geocities! There really shouldn't even be a "media controversy" over Wikipedia, but the major media players choose to make it an issue.

57 electoral votes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242556)

is not how many Wyoming has no matter how many times Wikipedia claims that.

Re:57 electoral votes... (3, Funny)

Synic (14430) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242578)

so correct it? that's the whole point, jackass

Re:57 electoral votes... (0)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242658)

Please do not make such ad hominem attacks in the future. They're not good discussion style.

That said, the point the original poster may be trying to make is that making the correction may not do any good. Sure, he or she could fix the number, setting it to the correct value. But that does not stop somebody else from coming along and changing it back.

Of course, the best compromise would be for both values to be listed, with an explanation as to why each is considered "correct" by different parties.

ethical motive (1)

davro (539320) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242559)

TheRegister motivation is based on there ideas of "right and wrong"

if the Government has no or little morals, then is there a place for moral responsibility.
Its just another boring old fashioned social contract, principle of political right, yawwn.

Its not about (right, wrong), (right, left), just does it work or does it not work.

Lawsuit (5, Informative)

MeatSockit (938334) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242573)

Just to note, there's allegedly [zdnet.com] a class-action lawsuit against Wikipedia. But it turns out [ridingsun.com] that the site was created by an organization called QuakeAID [wikipedia.org] , who had previously had complaints about Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] due to information about possible problems as an organization soliciting donations. Today, they posted a whiny press release [baou.com] about the site going live:

Now another story suggesting that Wikipedia is out of control emerges. Some months ago, OfficialWire published an article about untrue postings on Wikipedia, by Christian Wirth also known as RaDMan. Shortly after the devastating earthquake and tsunamis on December 26, 2004 in the Indian Ocean, Wirth took upon himself to wage a war against QuakeAID Foundation, Inc. Wirth's arsenal consisted of untrue, libelous writings that he and Wikipedia published as fact. All attempts, by QuakeAID's founder, to correct the untrue comments were re-edited, blocked or labelled as 'untrue' by a group of volunteers, who hold themselves untouchable and above the law.

QuakeAID has written once again to Jimbo Wales, demanding the untrue and libelous information be removed from Wikipedia, while a group of interested parties have joined together and plan to initiate legal proceedings against Wales and Wikipedia Foundation, Inc., and numerous others--the so-called anonymous 'volunteers'--who they believe should be held responsible for the content they publish.

On Wheels! (1)

Willy on Wheels (889645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242585)

Moral responsibility on Wheels
The Register on Wheels
Long running war of words on wheels
Andrew Orlowski on Wheels
Do you have a need for speed on Wheels

Willy on Wheels!

oh, shut up already (4, Insightful)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242586)

I don't see any reason to change anything about Wikipedia or how it is created. I understand how it is created, how much I can trust it, and what I need to do to verify the information on it. Anybody who doesn't understand this about Wikipedia at this point must be from Mars.

I think people who criticize Wikipedia for the way its entries are created are living in a world where they assume that just because an information resource is well known or popular, it must be accurate. That wasn't true when companies like the New York Times and ABC had a near monopoly on information dissemination, and it sure isn't any more accurate today.

What needs to change is not Wikipedia, it's people's naive notions about epistemology. Or, to put it more bluntly: don't trust any information unless it either doesn't matter, or you can verify it from multiple independent sources yourself. Popularity, trust, and reputation of a source are very unreliable guides to the validity of information.

Re:oh, shut up already (2, Insightful)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242650)

Userfriendly had a good take on subject of reliability in their Friday comic... insulting wikipedia by claiming it is as unreliable as CNN.

Re:oh, shut up already (1, Insightful)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242675)

"That wasn't true when companies like the New York Times and ABC had a near monopoly on information dissemination, and it sure isn't any more accurate today."

True, true. That's why NYT and ABC have been sued for libel so many times. See? That's how it works, and Wikipedia shouldn't be above it all just because it's geek.

It's too bad we don't see this in the mass media. (2, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242593)

This kind of conflict is excellent. It keeps everybody honest, or at least brings flaws out in the open, so as to lead to potential resolutions to such problems.

Of course, the world will never see NBC Dateline truly questioning what is said on FOX News, nor will the New York Times truly question the reporting of the Washington Post.

Re:It's too bad we don't see this in the mass medi (1)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242704)

No, but you see scores of people who actually know things question all those sources given above. Any ninformation source by it's nature is fallible, because humans are involved. Unfortunately there is a creed of people (called journalists) that thing that journalists can never be really wrong in fact unless something is against their political beliefs.

relash (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242603)

I would like to introduce a neologism

relash: disgust with criticism or backlash.

Espcially when the topic has been already rehashed a few hundered times in these very comments.

They are not the only one.. seen this? (2, Interesting)

concept10 (877921) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242609)

http://www.wikipediaclassaction.org/ [wikipediaclassaction.org]

They sent me this email after I asked why they where doing this:

Hello,

You do not understand the issues here, so perhaps, it is best for you to
sit this one out on the side.

Why must I become involved in the Wikipedia website? If there is
offending or inaccurate content, about me, my business or family, why
should I be required to become a user and edit the content?

I am interested to learn why you thought I would be interested in your
comments.

Regards,

--
http://52reasons.ath.cx/ [52reasons.ath.cx]

Internet Content (4, Insightful)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242611)

Wikipedia is the prefect format for any type of information on the Internet. Sadly The Register has failed to observe one significant point; Unlike the Register itself Wikipedia is subject to a thousand year old form of analysis: Peer Review. If peer review is good enough for the scientific community (they put a man on the moon, the register has yet to accomplish that) and the medical community (they have done heart transplants, the Register has not) and the Linux Kernel, as any open source project, is subject to peer review (they have a very good perating system, the Register has yet to boot a machine) why would we not subject our historical data to such a process? Why not subject our media to such processes. Sadly it seems that the Register has the disease many younger Internet-generation kids have, a lack of patience. Peer review is slower, but as history moves on, faster. I personally think that colleges could help improve the content by assigning classmates, in the study of their respective fields to contribute to Wikipedia's need for editors. The broad variety of instructors, and college cultures could accelerate Wiki's accuracy and improve credibility. It would also be an excellent place for students and colleges to like student thesis and papers as additional linked sites. I.e.

The American Revolution
Student Works
      Browse Purdue's Student Archives
      Browse Stanfords' Student Archives

and so forth.

If peer review is good enough for science, medicine, and open source it is certainly good enough for history as well.

My 2cents

Re:Internet Content (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242628)

ack apologies for the bad typos, was talking on the phone. That should be LINK not LIKE for the student papers section. My bad.

They may have missed moral responsibility (2, Interesting)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242613)

But Wikipedia was ready for The Register. They already had an entry for "Yellow Journalism [wikipedia.org] ."

Hey I've got an idea..... (2, Insightful)

dspisak (257340) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242663)

Stop accepting every stupid story submission about Wikipedia.

It's BORING.

Seriously, its like opening up Popular Science to see an article about how Scientific American discovered there were some factual discrepancies in Encyclopedia Britannica Vol 24 45th Edition entry on Underwater Basketweaving.

Thank goodness for The Register (3, Funny)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242676)

I'm glad we have an authoritative opinion on this issue, otherwise I wouldn't know what to think about Wikipedia. Those reckless ne'er-do-wells should heed this criticism, because as we all know, British tabloids have never had their credibility called into question due to the publication of libelous or inaccurate information.

I attribute this scandal to the streak of rugged individualism present in American culture. When will you Yanks learn that the truth is decided by experts, and that expertise is determined by well-known and respected members of a field?

Aw, it's just Andrew Ocluelesski, nothing to see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14242680)

Nothing to see, move along. It is another useless bit of typing from the clueless Andrew "I'm a journalist because it says so on this business card I printed" Orlowski.

What a waste of time. Sheesh, I guess I'll have to look into this "digg" thing.

Wikipedia abused Andrew Orlowski as a child (4, Insightful)

ChaosDiscord (4913) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242684)

Wikipedia must have abused Andrew Orlowski as a child, because I can't think of any good reason for him to keep harping on it. Check out the Register's archives. All of the Wikipedia bashing is from Orlowski. Wow, Andrew, great reporting. I totally didn't know that some things on the internet are false. Way to go on the investigative reporting! Could we maybe get a twenty part series entitled, "Shock! Falsehoods found on internet!"

Some Wikipedia fans are little overenthusiastic. Wikipedia's lack of review is a weakness. But just because it's a weakness doesn't make it useless. Indeed, most of the internet is full of unreviewed crap, yet we all still use it. While Wikipedia would like to think of itself as challenging traditional encyclopedias, I don't see it happening. But compared to doing research on the internet as whole (say, via Google), it's a definate win. Wikipedia is, compared to the general internet, better organized, more neutral, and better reviewed. For a quick overview of a topic I find it an extremely valuable resource. I accept its weaknesses, help flesh stuff out as I can, and get on with my life. If Orlowski thinks Wikipedia is unredeemable crap, so be it. He's reported that. Now move the fuck on. Reposting "Wikipedia has some errors and is therefore completely useless" every week is hardly a good use his time or The Register's money.

Teh internet lacks moral responsibilitiy... (1)

mcguyver (589810) | more than 8 years ago | (#14242685)

...putting the blame for lack of responsibility on the net solely wikipedia's shoulders just isn't fair!
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