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Stephen Colbert Wikipedia Prank Backfires

ScuttleMonkey posted about 8 years ago | from the falsiness dept.


Vicissidude writes "The champion of 'truthiness' couldn't resist making fun of a website where facts, it seems, are endlessly malleable. But after making fun of Wikipedia on Monday night's "Colbert Report," Colbert learned some hard truths about Wikipedia's strength in resisting vandalism. Here's how the segment started: 'Colbert logs on to the Wikipedia article about his show to find out whether he usually refers to Oregon as "California's Canada or Washington's Mexico." Upon learning that he has referred to Oregon as both, he demonstrates how easy it is to disregard both references and put in a completely new one (Oregon is Idaho's Portugal), declaring it "the opinion I've always held, you can look it up."' Colbert then called on users to go to the site and falsify the entry on elephants. But Wikipedia's volunteer administrators were among those watching Colbert, and they responded swiftly to correct the entry, block further mischievous editing, and ban user StephenColbert from the website."

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Always Hilarious (5, Informative)

telbij (465356) | about 8 years ago | (#15833647)

The Colbert report is always hilarious, and this is no exception.

Re:Always Hilarious (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833683)

You got that right.

Re:Always Hilarious (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833885)


One Trick pony (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833842)

His whole show is nothing more than a rip on O'Rielly. After about 5 minutes it's incredibly played. I thought it was a one show joke, but a series? Pulease! How come they don't do a spoof series on Larry King? Dan Rather? CNN? Oh right, because they're all liberals like Colbert and all of Comedy Central.

One sided humor is just lame. Sorry.

Re:Always Hilarious (5, Informative)

mozumder (178398) | about 8 years ago | (#15833890)

Unfortunately, he did get the idea from last week's Onion: "Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence"

Wiki works, but it shouldn't be the only 'Source' (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833648)

Who in their right mind would use Wiki as a 'source' document?

It is a great tool and it works as a starting point. You still have to verify data.

Then again, there are people that still try to go whale watching in Lake Michigan.

Re:Wiki works, but it shouldn't be the only 'Sourc (1)

hkgroove (791170) | about 8 years ago | (#15833684)

Well, of course they will when you can convince them that Lake Michigan is one of the Seven Seas.

Re:Wiki works, but it shouldn't be the only 'Sourc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833861)

And to sail across it, you need to take a ricky-dan-doo.

Re:Wiki works, but it shouldn't be the only 'Sourc (5, Funny)

'nother poster (700681) | about 8 years ago | (#15833697)

Then again, there are people that still try to go whale watching in Lake Michigan.

Considering how many whales I've seen on that little beach across from the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago I can see why.

That was my WIFE, you inconsiderate jerk! (5, Funny)

mmell (832646) | about 8 years ago | (#15833803)

Only kidding, honey - it was the other women on the beach, honest!

Whales (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833702)

Are there really no whales in the lakes? No large creatures of any sort?

Seems strange now that I think about it. The lakes are so large you would think there would be giant manatees or something.

Re:Wiki works, but it shouldn't be the only 'Sourc (1)

sterno (16320) | about 8 years ago | (#15833750)

You still have to verify data.

If you care to have accurate information this statement is true of all sources.

Re:Wiki works, but it shouldn't be the only 'Sourc (1)

bunions (970377) | about 8 years ago | (#15833850)

Unless you have unlimited time or are documenting something very basic, at some point you will have to trust a source.

Re:Wiki works, but it shouldn't be the only 'Sourc (2, Insightful)

aleksiel (678251) | about 8 years ago | (#15833828)

i was listening to npr today (yes yes, i'm a nerd).

there were callers that made many good points, including these two gems:
- no one would write a credible paper with just one source. if you use wikipedia, back it up with other sources. any source can be wrong, even ones bound and published, just like wiki ones.
- think critically while reading wikipedia. think critically while reading newspaper, the internet, etc etc. don't just dump anything straight into memory, assuming it to be fact.

Re:Wiki works, but it shouldn't be the only 'Sourc (1)

rtaylor (70602) | about 8 years ago | (#15833873)

Then again, there are people that still try to go whale watching in Lake Michigan.

I find whale watching in Lake Ontario to be very relaxing.

Re:Wiki works, but it shouldn't be the only 'Sourc (1)

andrewman327 (635952) | about 8 years ago | (#15833888)

Silly whales []

Wikipedia is a great link aggregator but too much of the rest is too opinionated and poorly written. I altered the date of a vital foreign affairs treaty by 50 years to prove a point to a professor who loved Wikipedia. She changed it back when I told her what I had done, but it had been wrong for two weeks before then. Wikipedia generally gets the big picture right but don't trust it for details.

XFD. (2, Funny)

MostAwesomeDude (980382) | about 8 years ago | (#15833651)

After all, if administrators don't block users, than the vandals win, and that's just not patriotic at all...

Re:XFD. (1)

digitrev (989335) | about 8 years ago | (#15833682)

XFD indeed. That one guy can cause a small amount of chaos in all of about 5 minutes is a testament to society.

I for one (5, Funny)

gentimjs (930934) | about 8 years ago | (#15833654)

plan on voting for the Stewart/Colbert ticket in '08 !

Hang on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833715)

I thought it was McCain/Stewart '08

Re:I for one (1)

saskboy (600063) | about 8 years ago | (#15833738)

McCain/Stewart was announced the other day on The Daily Show. Odds are they were kidding, but we just can't know yet ;-)

Re:I for one (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833774)

Oh, man. McCain/Stewart vs. O'Reilly/Colbert. No way the American people can lose on this one.


Nice Try... (1)

Kid Zero (4866) | about 8 years ago | (#15833657)

But they've already dealt with Morons who can't agree on the facts before. He deserves it. ...and practial jokers? Draw and Quarter, it's the only solution.

Backfired? (5, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | about 8 years ago | (#15833659)

I thought the goal was to be funny. Considering it was hilarious, I think it worked out perfectly.

Somebody better head over to Wikipedia and proofread the entries for 'irony' and 'satire'.

Re:Backfired? (1)

GearheadX (414240) | about 8 years ago | (#15833766)

Irony and Satire become a little more hazy when people have a nasty habit of going ahead with suggestions about randomly meddling with other pages.

Re:Backfired? (2, Funny)

bugnuts (94678) | about 8 years ago | (#15833809)

I heard the amount of "irony" and "satire" have tripled on television in the past 6 months.

Let's check wikipedia and see if it's true.

                (It isn't)

Re:Backfired? (0, Troll)

Otter (3800) | about 8 years ago | (#15833832)

Considering it was hilarious, I think it worked out perfectly.

Only if Colbert had previously vandalized the Wikipedia definition of "hilarious". Actually, for most of Comedy Central that would probably be a shrewd strategy.

Re:Backfired? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833843)

Funny it was, yes.

What happens when the saboteur's objective is sabotage alone, and not simply humor? I've planted plenty of "facts" that are either dubious or patently false; I check on them often, ensuring the longevity of my fallacious implants. After a while, they've become so cannonized that the wonderful bots patrolling these articles actually revert truthful corrections to my false data.

Maybe I'm a sick bastard, but I think that's funny.

Re:Backfired? (2, Insightful)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | about 8 years ago | (#15833902)

Your mom must be very proud.

Hucksters and Pranksters (1)

duckwaltz (861889) | about 8 years ago | (#15833664)

Typical really I suppose. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833666)

Not exactly... (5, Funny)

Kuj0317 (856656) | about 8 years ago | (#15833668)

I went to the elephant listing on wiki that night. Apparently the population of elephants has tripled in the last three months. That is quite impressive, as each female elephant gives birth to one child at a time (twins and beyond are very rare) and there is a 22 month pregnancy period.

The power of the media (2, Interesting)

elessar12 (952713) | about 8 years ago | (#15833669)

Hence we are shown the power of the media to change the truth, then censor themselves, then to undo those changes at which point Mr. AvgJoeCitizen is so baffled that the truth loses any meaning.

Resisting Vandalism? (-1, Troll)

Timesprout (579035) | about 8 years ago | (#15833670)

how the fuck is it resisting when he was allowed change it in the first place and they cleaned it up afterwards

Re:Resisting Vandalism? (1)

blamanj (253811) | about 8 years ago | (#15833755)

Yeah, maybe if the Iraqi car bombers announced on national TV where and when they were going to show up next we could defend against them, too.

Re:Resisting Vandalism? (1)

happyfrogcow (708359) | about 8 years ago | (#15833781)

how the fuck is it resisting when he was allowed change it in the first place and they cleaned it up afterwards

The same way a magnet resists being moved from iron. you can push it away, but when you let go, it will be drawn back.

*insert standard analogy disclaimer here*

Re:Resisting Vandalism? (3, Insightful)

gigne (990887) | about 8 years ago | (#15833833)

Agreed that this is probably not the best way to go about things.
It would be much better for the articles to be changed in a background copy, and then upon some sort of verification, or validation of data, it gets switched to main. It would certainly stop the see-sawing of article submission reliably between fsckers and wiki admins.

That said, if we are going to build a collection of the entire of human knowledge, we are going to have a few rough edges on the data. It's an almost insurmountable task to verify each piece of data entered into wikipedia. Some data can not be verified because of current views, or differing conclusions based on research. If were to ask 30 people to go and count all elephants, I would see 30 different method of counting elephants. Some would use statistical methods to build a "pretty close count" while others would get more accurate results.

There is also the problem of verifying unquantifiable data. How many Ants are there in the world?

There are some things that are impossible. People will have to put up with the fact the the information on community based sites are going to be fuzzy at best. Wikipedia will always be in some sort of "truth flux" where the information you see may, or may not contain some truth. The point is, Wikipedia is a great starting point to get information, but linking to a wiki article in a paper as fact will get you laughed off.
I applaud the notion of a centralised source of human knowledge, even if that comes with it's own drawbacks.

Re:Resisting Vandalism? (1)

bahwi (43111) | about 8 years ago | (#15833836)

Well, it's not vandalized if it's fixed, now is it?

You resist vandalism when you actively protect and clean it up afterwards, you don't care when you do nothing(graffiti in the slums vs. graffiti downtown in a lot of cities is an example).

If you're resisting an invasion, they may make a few wins but you clean it up after them, kick them out and all that.

Re:Resisting Vandalism? (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 8 years ago | (#15833868)

It seems to me that Wikipedia needs a 'stable' branch. Things that have been checked by n registered users and are more than m days old in the main branch get promoted to the stable branch. One of the problems with Wikipedia that has been in the news recently is the fact that no matter how little time elapses between a page being vandalised and being repaired, someone will have looked at it in the meantime.

Casual users should be able to switch between the two easily and decide whether they wanted potentially less trustworthy, but more current, information, or the vice versa.

Please... (5, Funny)

Orthodork (975038) | about 8 years ago | (#15833671)

All it did was demonstrate that Wikipedia is capable of defending itself from obvious vandalism. It does nothing to further the argument that Wikipedia is anything more than a big bag of trivia, edited by people who argue endlessly about whether captain Kirk wore a yellow or marigold shirt.

Re:Please... (5, Funny)

TheOtherChimeraTwin (697085) | about 8 years ago | (#15833737)


Re:Please... (1)

falcon5768 (629591) | about 8 years ago | (#15833759)

damn beaten to the punch. though technically green AND goldenrod are both correct depending on if he wore the normal uniforms or the captains wraparound.

Re:Please... (1)

Durandal64 (658649) | about 8 years ago | (#15833852)

So we've got the Captain's Log and the Captain's Wrap-Around. Is the Captain's Reach-Around next?

Re:Please... (1)

TopShelf (92521) | about 8 years ago | (#15833897)

Just don't get it confused with the Vulcan Nerve Pinch...

Re:Please... (1)

The_Chicken_205 (723443) | about 8 years ago | (#15833864)

Marigold, has to be marigold...


Banned? (0)

izzo nizzo (731042) | about 8 years ago | (#15833672)

Don't ban him! He may lie all the time but his words are carefully chosen to make the truth obvious. Without his voice Wikipedia will have a much harder time explaining the subtle stuff. Censorship like this, the kind that imagines that there is a single truth or something like that, is the biggest reason why my site will some day be so much tighter than wikipedia.

Censorship? (1, Informative)

krell (896769) | about 8 years ago | (#15833735)

No one is censoring him. Colbert is perfectly free to start his own online encyclopedia with its own rules the way he wants it. Save the censor term for real censorship (i.e. when the inevitable evil mod MODS ME DOWN!)

Re:Censorship? MOD DOWN (1)

networkBoy (774728) | about 8 years ago | (#15833771)


Afterall we wouldn't want to fail to meet his expectations now would we?

BTW, while we are meeting expectations how bout some underrateds for me? Man I never get those! I want one troll and 6 underrateds! that would be awesome.
Cheers all,

Re:Censorship? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833783)

Yeah, isn't it great how people throw around the "C" word on /. without even really understanding it's meaning. These are the same morons who cry about their right to privacy and their own rights to their own property but they act like they're being put apon if you tell them "no" to giving them control of your own.

Re:Banned? (0)

Bryansix (761547) | about 8 years ago | (#15833882)

The reason he should be banned is that he was vandalizing legitimate articles. He is a funny guy and all but if he wants to be funny on the web he should do so on his own freakin' website and not wreck Wikipedia for the rest of us.

It's the Subtle Edits that are the Problem... (5, Insightful)

Quaoar (614366) | about 8 years ago | (#15833673)

...not the ones that are obvious vandalism.

Bingo! (2, Interesting)

IgLou (732042) | about 8 years ago | (#15833845)

It's those subtle edits that distort what the meaning of the truth is that not only hurts Wikipedia but the media in general. I mean how often is a war refered to as a crisis? How badly has the reporting of science been over the last 5 years? I can list more but I think we all know what topics those are and it would just draw unneeded debate.

When the truth is warped and sensationalized it hurts the overall perception of facts which destroys the public trust of fact. It reminds me so much of "corporate terminology" you know the language - give bad news using positive terms so no one realizes you're giving bad news.

Anyways, as much as I love Wikipedia as a reference. It's that haggling over the subtle wording that drives me bonkers when I'm fact checking. Reading what some of those people argue over is unreal. But I have to do it because I never really know what I'm reading until I investigate. I keep thinking that some articles shouldn't be "public" or finalized until they manage to iron them out properly and remove things like POV, opinion and vaguerities. It's still rough but I think the article shows that they are making an effort to be responsive to these problems.

did it backfire really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833686)

It shows that they are on top of high profile coordinated mischief. But what about covert coordinated mischief? I thought his segment was great and insightful. Especially when you read and know the history of George Bush's entry...go Stephen!

As an Oregonian (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833688)

As an Oregonian, this greatly offends me! Why do we have to be in the middle of all this? Being compared to third world contries and such. :(

Re:As an Oregonian (1)

saskboy (600063) | about 8 years ago | (#15833772)

"Being compared to third world contries and such."

As a Canadian, I have to take exception to being called a 3rd World country.
But taken in the likely spirit of Colbert-jest, I salute your joke.

Re:As an Oregonian (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833776)

Well, like most third world countries, you only have one large city...

f\irst post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833692)

THINKING ABOUT IT. the proj3ct to

This is why... (1)

jimktrains (838227) | about 8 years ago | (#15833694)

...Wikipedia can't be reliable. People do not take it seriosly, and therefore don't care if it's facts are true. I had teachers who would put false info up to see if we would cite it or not. This is a load of bull. If people put what they were sure to almsot certain was true, we wouldn't have these problems.

Re:This is why... (4, Funny)

LouisZepher (643097) | about 8 years ago | (#15833821)

In many of the more relaxed areas of the world, Wikipedia has already supplanted the local libray as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal -or at least wildly inaccurate- it scores over the older more pedestrian collection in two important respects. First, it is doesn't charge late-fees; and second, it allows lazy people to do research without having to get their fat-asses outside. (With apologies to DNA...)

Re:This is why... (3, Informative)

‹berhund (27591) | about 8 years ago | (#15833867)

Thanks! I thought that sounded familiar. :-)

"In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitch Hiker's Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects. First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words Don't Panic inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover."

That's democracy in action! (1)

darkhadden (941003) | about 8 years ago | (#15833707)

I'd hate to see someone edit out any reference to his deepthroating a banana, that's one of the funniest things I've ever seen!

Is this on the level? (2, Insightful)

MilenCent (219397) | about 8 years ago | (#15833708)

I saw the episode in question, and it seems to me that there's no why he could actually have edited it *on the air* like that, not with the theatrical keyboard-punching he did on the show while talking at the camera.

This strikes me as a total non-story, or worse, an invented story either to defame the Colbert Report show (possible) or a promotional stunt on behalf of the show.

(Further, anyone who thinks that Stephen Colbert, on the show, urging people to change Wikipedia actually MEANS he wants those people to do that betrays an utter ignorance of what the Colbert Report is: a dead-on satire of the right-wing talk show arena. No one should ever take anything the character of Stephen Colbert says seriously.)

Re:Is this on the level? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 years ago | (#15833746)

Actually, he could have had the edit pages up already, prepared by a staffer and just used the alt-s keystroke. with a fast enough connection, it would be beleivable. and the edits did occur 4 hours before the show aired.

Don't you get it? (1)

krell (896769) | about 8 years ago | (#15833789)

"This strikes me as a total non-story, or worse, an invented story either to defame the Colbert Report show (possible) or a promotional stunt on behalf of the show."

Don't you get it? It is a satire of an invented Internet story, intended to defame those who have a view that "Colbert" is not a satire (along with those who think that "Colbert" is real and "O'Reilly" is a satire of "The Colbert Report"). At which point, the entire enterprise twists itself into a Mobius-strip of self-referential irony and avant-gard humour and then bursts into flame.

Re:Is this on the level? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833790)

Dude, Will you stop explaining the joke! If they don't get it to begin with they still won't think it's funny when you explain it to them, they will simply resent that you felt the moral superiority of explaining the joke. Please stop ruining it for those who do, and those who don't, get the joke. Mmmmkay?

Re:Is this on the level? (1)

interiot (50685) | about 8 years ago | (#15833808)

Look at the timestamps [] . The edits were made sometime before the show aired. I agree, it didn't look like he was really interacting with the computer on the parts of the video that aired... nonethless, somebody made the edits. Maybe it was him before he taped the show, maybe it was a staffer instructed by him, just to make it more funny / authentic, I don't know.

Re:Is this on the level? (1, Insightful)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | about 8 years ago | (#15833866)

Duh, talkshows are never aired live.

Re:Is this on the level? (2, Funny)

ArmyOfFun (652320) | about 8 years ago | (#15833823)

No one should ever take anything the character of Stephen Colbert says seriously.
Fine! I guess I'll have to stop eating a BLT everyday (a true American original).

Backfires? (5, Insightful)

edremy (36408) | about 8 years ago | (#15833711)

Umm, I'm not so sure about that. The Elephant page *was* vandalized before it was locked down. So were multiple other pages having to do with Oregon, Colbert, other elephant-related stuff and the like. Every one of these pages is going to have to be either locked or watched continuously by editors for months if not years to prevent additional vandalism. I'm sure other talk show hosts will pick up on this somewhere along the line: can you imagine the edits if Rush or Hannity tells their followers to start changing stuff?

If that's a joke backfiring, what's success? Having America celebrate it's 750th birthday? []

Re:Backfires? (1)

nebaz (453974) | about 8 years ago | (#15833745)

two open windows, prepared ahead of time, with the edits already made (one for George Washington, one for Oregon), then he clicks 'submit' on the air. It could be done. If you read the article, you would see that a StephenColbert user did indeed make these changes at the approximate time the show aired. Either he has a helper on the show, or he did indeed do it. No one outside could have done it live, as the show is not aired live.

Re:Backfires? (1)

kfg (145172) | about 8 years ago | (#15833900)

Either he has a helper on the show . . .

Ya think?


Re:Backfires? (3, Informative)

Ignorant Aardvark (632408) | about 8 years ago | (#15833826)

So what if a few pages displayed vandalized entries for a little while? Two nights ago we were on such high alert that the Stephen Colbert vandalism was reverted on average in under 30 seconds. And that was before I started locking down pages. Considering the vandalism was spurred on by a television show with an audience of over one million people, it only took about half a dozen admins to quelch all of the vandalism.

What do you want to bet... (1)

the phantom (107624) | about 8 years ago | (#15833713)

What do you want to be that the article on elephants gets vandalised by a horde of slashdot users following this article? (Yes, I know it is locked, but only to new and non-users of Wikipedia -- this is slashdot, everyone is has a Wikipedia account, right?)

Backfired? Hardly. (5, Insightful)

technomom (444378) | about 8 years ago | (#15833719)

On the contrary, it proved exactly what Colbert's point was. Wikipedia's very nature makes it prone to misttatements and error. Wikipedia practically had to shut itself down after Colbert proved his point.

Seems like the submitter couldn't see the beauty of the satire. Just like Dave Barry's "Dog Ate My Toes" poetry project, it gave us all a good laugh, which is the entire point of humor and satire.

Backfired? No way. We all got a great laugh from this.


Re:Backfired? Hardly. (3, Insightful)

interiot (50685) | about 8 years ago | (#15833830)

Wikipedia had to limit editing to pages that got vandalized. That doesn't mean any of this "truth by mob" will actually stay in... Wikipedia requires information to be cited by reliable sources, so there's no way that the statements will stick for longer than a few minutes.

Re:Backfired? Hardly. (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | about 8 years ago | (#15833847)

Exactly. Backfired? No. Reinforced his point? Absolutely!

Re:Backfired? Hardly. (5, Insightful)

Tyir (622669) | about 8 years ago | (#15833874)

I'm not sure how putting the 'elephant' page and a couple other pages under semi-protection means that "Wikipedia practically had to shut itself down".

Wikipedia is a bit larger than that, and is quite a bit hardier than you imagine.

This is the normal process (3, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | about 8 years ago | (#15833721)

The tribe's process for dealing with newcomers, change, or upheaval:
  1. fear it
  2. hate and persecute it
  3. shun and ridicule it
  4. make fun of it
  5. get bored of it
  6. accept it
  7. eventually stop caring altogether

You can see this process most clearly, in the evolution of society's treatment of homosexuals over the past 50 years.

Funny how academia is now going through this process with Wikipedia.

Not really (2)

Zebra_X (13249) | about 8 years ago | (#15833722)

This shows nothing about Wikipedia's strength in resisting vandalism. It is like calling the cops and saying "i'm going to rob a bank now", "look i'm in the bank on Maple and Main stealing money", "Oh now i'm leaving, I'm headed home to 123 Main St."

Re:Not really (1)

interiot (50685) | about 8 years ago | (#15833881)

It doesn't really matter whether admins are warned ahead of time or not... pages are only protected once there's a real pattern of vandalism. Some pages weren't protected until long after the vandalism started, because nobody was hitting them at first.

huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833728)

Why do they have an article on elephants... shouldn't someone who is curious be looking it up in the singular..

Freakin' tape delay. (1)

scaryjohn (120394) | about 8 years ago | (#15833731)

I didn't see the show, but it'd have been freaking hillarious if this had transpired on live t.v.

Well, I suppose I'm dead to them. This has never happened before, folks. This can't be.

Wikipedia contains statistical samples.. (4, Insightful)

hhr (909621) | about 8 years ago | (#15833736)

and you need to repeatedly sample an article in order to determine it's average and standard deviation-- slowly converging on the truth.

Maybe wikipedia should include that information in addtion to the the "This article is contested" warning.

Frankly, wikipedia has a lot of information that you just can't get anwhere else and I will always treasure it for that. But trusting wikipedia for current information-- or opinion, is very dangerous.

Re:Wikipedia contains statistical samples.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833841)

I think it's better to think of Wikipedia like a draft encyclopedia. For example, say someone wanted to publish Wikipedia into a actual paper encyclopedia (or at least a select thousand articles, so the thing wouldn't be too massive). A team of experts would have to go through this draft, fact-check and verify the material, fix grammatical errors, and format everything for printing. The draft itself is close, but never quite there. Since Wikipedia is permanently a draft, still subject to editing, it should always be treated as such.

No backfire here (5, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | about 8 years ago | (#15833742)

Backfired [] ? Quite the opposite. This proves his point. If it's left open you can end up with any facts people choose to insert. The other option is to limit edit rights, which goes against the basic idea behind the site.

I'm sure he didn't go to bed crying because he's been blocked from editing wikipedia.

too late (2, Informative)

rootology (905480) | about 8 years ago | (#15833744)

It's extra funny as people are now salting more slyly references to Colbert, elephants, and truthiness in scores of articles, I saw tons being cleaned. But just as many are likely getting through based on simple probability and volume. They'll be cleaning Stephen off of WP for months.

wikipedia loses (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833749)

What about the people who dont announce to millions of people before they falsify or vandalize wikipedia entries? It's an inherent weakness to the wiki, and I dont think this example of locking a page and banning a user says anything impressive about the robustness of a wiki at all.

Hello, It's satire! (4, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 8 years ago | (#15833767)

Taking what Colbert did as some deliberate act to sabotage Wikipedia is about as ridiculous as the Bush administration inviting him to the Whitehouse Correspondents Dinner [] and expecting him to shower the President with praise. Colbert was trying to make the point that the majority opinion isn't necessarily the right opinion. One of the tenets of our government is to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. So, when you hear politicians crying for straight up-and-down votes when our republican (little 'r') government empowers the minority party to fight against it (via the filibuster), you should remember that we don't live in a democracy. That whole skit was also a clever take on how those in power love to rewrite history to put themselves in a better light.

Re:Hello, It's satire! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833819)

Do you know the difference between Republic and a Democracy (both forms of government, not the parties)?
Where is the filibuster protected by the constitution? or is it just a tradition?

Doesn't Refute His Point (5, Insightful)

Zzanath (920280) | about 8 years ago | (#15833768)

I think Colbert's point was that Wikipedia and other vote based knowledge bases ultimately conform to the beliefs of the majority, and not actual fact. The truth isn't democratic in nature (although truthiness might be). If a bunch of skinheads get together and vote that the Holocaust never happened, that doesn't make it true. Just because a moderator was watching and locked down the entry isn't a display of Wikipedia's power. The moderator can't handle everything in that fashion. If the power of Wikipedia is in the breadth and good will of it's contributors, then unlock the entry and let's see what happens.

OK, so he urged vandalism of pages about elephants (2, Insightful)

bersl2 (689221) | about 8 years ago | (#15833775)

But did anybody check for vandalism of pages about bears?

But what about the BEARS???? (1)

krell (896769) | about 8 years ago | (#15833844)

"But did anybody check for vandalism of pages about bears?"

If Colbert sh*ts on an Catholic elephant in the woods, does a bear vandalize the Pope's Wikipedia entry?

linux is so free and so secure i don't know why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833779)

all of you sheepole use windows

linux us a superior operating system

He's not banned (5, Informative)

ThePolkapunk (826529) | about 8 years ago | (#15833784)

Take a look at Colbert's block log: Log&type=block&page=User:Stephencolbert [] and his talk page: ert [] . He's not banned, and although he was blocked at one point, that's since been removed.

Furthermore, all the blocks put on his account were due to the inability to confirm that this account actually belonged to Stephen Colbert since creating an account with a public figure's name if you are not the public figure is against wikipedia policy. His account was not blocked for vandalism.

Hooray, look at us (2, Insightful)

nuzak (959558) | about 8 years ago | (#15833813)

"Look at how our system actually works: by protecting two whole articles from vandalism, because they were mentioned a nationally televised show. Ergo we are STILL the sum total of human knowledge, and bigger than the Apollo Program and Jesus."

Wikipedia is the greatest collection of random-third-party factoids the world has ever known, and a great resource, but hardly some grand visionary society of mind. I think Colbert proved his point quite nicely.

How to fight vandalism (5, Interesting)

Ignorant Aardvark (632408) | about 8 years ago | (#15833815)

There's only one way to fight vandalism, and it's the good old-fashioned way ... get some troops on the ground. I spent two nights ago protecting over a dozen elephant-related articles (Elephant the album, Dumbo the Elephant, Elephant Seal, etc.) and blocked a few dozen people I caught inserting false numbers about elephant populations. As Wikipedia administrators we really have all the tools that we could possibly need. I just looked at the live stream of all edits on the English Wikipedia and reviewed the ones being made to all pages related to Stephen Colbert, Elephants, or northwestern states.

(User:Cyde on en-wiki)

The point is... (2, Insightful)

DoctorDyna (828525) | about 8 years ago | (#15833827)

I think Colbert was making a point, be it satire, it was still a point. The only way to negate the point he made would be to turn off editing of wiki entries, thus rendering wikipedia useless. His point was to make fun of something he said, and use a resource that so many of us can relate to. As it turns out, it was a perfect analogy, worked great and I'm sure made more than a few viewers laugh who may have ever used wikipedia for anything.

I'm sure it would be quite funny if Colbert hated Microsoft and submitted something to slashdot about one of Vista's new features. "Watch! I'll make it a bad thing in 5 seconds."

Sources? (2, Insightful)

eemerton (980318) | about 8 years ago | (#15833837)

In Colbert's "bit", the truth wasn't in what was said or in the "call to arms" to edit the wiki, but in what he didn't come out and say. You can't challenge a "fact" that has no backing. Without sources, Wikipedia is no more than people playing professor. Even volunteer editors don't know what the hell is truth without some sort of backing. As a substitute, kids would ask me about Wikipedia and if articles would be acceptable in their bibliography. My answer was always no. If they found info on Wikipedia I expected they have something else to back it up. Colbert's stunt proves that this is the fundamental flaw in thinking of the Wikipedia as a source for anything more than opinion. BTW, I checked out the Wiki right after the show... did you know that the population of elephants has tripled in the last six months?! Incredible! -EW

To all potential vandals... (4, Funny)

grumpyman (849537) | about 8 years ago | (#15833884)

To all potential Wiki vandals... the ceiling cat is watching.

Wiki isn't a bad place to start. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15833899)

Wiki reminds me of one of my buddies. When he says something, I always take it with a grain of salt. On the other hand if it's about something that matters, I check it out. A couple of leads that he gave me have made me tens of thousands of dollars richer. Wiki is the same. I never rely on it for the final truth about anything but it's a good place to start looking. Most articles include enough citations to usefully point me in the right direction.
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