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How Spurious Wikipedia Edits Can Attach a Name To a Scandal, 35 Years On

Andreas Kolbe Re:And the culprit is (165 comments)

Please just don't repeat the meme that a Nature study found Wikipedia to be about as reliable as Britannica.

At least say that based on a small sample of articles, a journalistic news report in Nature opined that Wikipedia's science articles were only slightly less reliable than Britannica's, but considerably less well-written, and that Britannica contested those results. That would be the truth, rather than the meme. Mkay?

Your point about the hazards of anonymous contributions is well taken.

about two weeks ago
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How Spurious Wikipedia Edits Can Attach a Name To a Scandal, 35 Years On

Andreas Kolbe Re:And the culprit is (165 comments)

First of all, the Nature piece itself found Britannica to be superior – just not by as much as expected.

Secondly, it is a matter of record that Nature only examined science articles, many of them quite specialised. It is inexcusable to omit that qualification. There simply is no evidence at all that Wikipedia is superior to Britannica in other topic areas, and copious evidence within Wikipedia itself of how often articles are biased by special interest groups (just look at the history of Wikipedia arbitration cases).

Third, Nature chose to penalise Britannica for information that was omitted, but contained in Wikipedia: that was counted as an "error". As Britannica themselves pointed out, "Nature accused Britannica of 'omissions' on the basis of reviews of article excerpts, not the articles themselves. In a number of cases only parts of the applicable Britannica articles were reviewed." In other words, they butchered Britannica articles and then penalised Britannica for the fact that the remaining stump failed to contain some item of information that the full article would have contained.

Fourth, Nature noted, but chose not to penalise Wikipedia for, confusing presentation and bad style, essentially proposing that a haphazardly compiled jumble of facts should be considered equal to a well-structured, easy-to-understand introduction to a topic written by a world-renowned expert.

Lastly, there is by now a very long list of journalists and writers found to have copied spurious facts from Wikipedia. Where is a similar list of writers embarrassed for having gotten their information from Britannica? If Lord Leveson had looked up the founders of the Independent newspaper in Britannica, he would not have ended up ascribing that achievement to some unknown Californian student.

Beyond simple errors, there is very copious evidence of bias and covert paid editing in Wikipedia. The Croatian Wikipedia was taken over by right-wing extremists, to the point where the country's education minister warned students not to rely on it, as the country's history was thoroughly falsified by fringe groups. Those are all problems Britannica has never had.

I could go on. I have been a Wikipedian for nigh on ten years. I have seen the problems first-hand.

about two weeks ago
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How Spurious Wikipedia Edits Can Attach a Name To a Scandal, 35 Years On

Andreas Kolbe Re:And the culprit is (165 comments)

Back in 2005, Wikipedia was studied for accuracy against the Encyclopaedia Britannica. And they were found to be about the same. Since then Wikipedia has improved a lot, and they've stopped printing the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The 2005 "study" comparing Britannica and Wikipedia was not a rigorous peer-reviewed study, and they only looked at articles on relatively obscure science topics – a fact that no one seems to remember these days. The average Wikipedia vandal would not even know how to find an entry on a topic like the “kinetic isotope effect” or “Meliaceae” (two of the articles they looked at).

The assertion that Wikipedia is as reliable as Britannica is ludicrous. Granted, it's a lot bigger than Britannica, and has articles on breaking news stories, but as reliable? Of the English Wikipedia's nearly 5 million articles, at least 10% are on no Wikipedia editor's watchlist – a result of the continuous increase in the number of articles combined with the continuous decrease in the number of active editors – and those articles are sitting ducks for subtle vandalism.

Britannica may have had errors, but it did not contain false information inserted by anonymous people for fun or for financial gain; it contained no anonymous hatchet jobs written by people's rivals, and was not full of puff-pieces written by the biography subjects themselves.

Repeating this false "Wikipedia is as reliable as Britannica" meme only contributes to future cases like this one here, or this one.

about two weeks ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:TFA on WP-Critical Site Critical of WP? Do tell (579 comments)

Heh. The large gender imbalance has been reported by the Wikimedia Foundation for years. The survey-based estimates (sources are the UNU survey and a WMF survey) are not corrected in the footnote (which is about which statistics to use to estimate the percentage of mothers). The gender imbalance of Reddit is cited to Huffpost, it's 72% male (which is less male-dominated than Wikipedia), and the most extreme of all the major social media sites listed there. There are multiple citations for effect on content, including New York Times, Atlantic and a recent Guardian editorial. 1 in 50 relates to survey respondents, not contributors (which some have claimed may have a *slightly* higher proportion, based on sampling bias). For participation dropping after age 20 see UNU survey (linked). WMF efforts to address the gender gap are well publicised, Sue Gardner talked about it to the press until she was blue in the face. Women aged 18-34 in Facebook and Pinterest: sources linked. The surveys were commissioned by the Wikimedia Foundation itself, and comparison to social media is relevant in relation to the argument that women have no time to be online. Relevance of anonymity on women's participation per quoted text from Wiley Handbook. User interface impact is a hypothesis, based on recent discussions on Wikipedia's Gender Task Force page.

If your post is representative of Wikipedians' ability to read sources, Wikipedia is not destined for greatness.

about 2 months ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:It's the wiki software stupid (579 comments)

I do think paid crowdsourcing is the future. All the talk about "sharing" is hypocritical spin, given that Google and other scrapers are using Wikipedia content to make money from ads, while unpaid volunteers do all the work. See Wall Street's internet darlings require an endless supply of idiots – Sharing Economy? Mug Economy, more like.

In terms of social development, the internet currently compares to the darkest age of the industrial revolution. So, more power to you.

about 2 months ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:why the focus on gender balance? (579 comments)

Many academics have said the same thing to me. No desire, and not enough time, to argue endlessly with nincompoops. There is currently an initiative underway, focused on medical articles, to get funding for experts to peer-review Wikipedia articles. Once an article is up to scratch, there would then be a permanent link to the peer-reviewed version displayed on the article page. This might be a more promising approach, and it could scale to other topic areas as well. Experts would (1) be paid, (2) have the guarantee that their work will have some permanence, (3) derive a degree of kudos from their having been appointed to do this work. Funding would, in this case, come from charities interested in making reliable medical info available online. Currently, for example, there is a Wikipedian-in-Residence at Cancer Research UK, who is working with CRUK experts on Wikipedia's articles on cancer. The position is funded by the Wellcome Trust.

about 2 months ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:Discrimination (579 comments)

Quite. I think the whole discussion about what turns women off once they're there addresses only the smaller half of the problem. The main question is, why don't women come to begin with.

about 2 months ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:If wikipedia wants information, lower barriers (579 comments)

If you take things on people's say-so, you end up with this. Reliability is bad as it is – looking at an article, you can never be sure, without checking the references, whether it is a bunch of nonsense or a well-researched, accurate article. But if you allow everyone – well-intentioned, knowledgeable people like yourself as well as pranksters and hoaxers – to add stuff without citations, the site would quickly be corrupted altogether. No one can tell if you are sincere or making stuff up out of whole cloth.

Kozierok's First Law: "The apparent accuracy of a Wikipedia article is inversely proportional to the depth of the reader's knowledge of the topic."

about 2 months ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:why the focus on gender balance? (579 comments)

Yup. And of course, you are looking at the English Wikipedia, which is the most-developed language version of Wikipedia. Yet Wikipedia claims to be available in over 280 languages, when in many of them, coverage is really, really rudimentary. See e.g. the "Mind the zombies" slide from a recent Wikimania presentation – basically, only 125 language versions of Wikipedia have more than 5 editors. The others are, to all intents and purposes, dead.

Note also that even English Wikipedia contributor numbers (as opposed to reader numbers, which are immense) are really quite small. (Someone else has pointed this out above.) If you look at this table, you'll see that there are only about 3,000 regular editors in the English Wikipedia, i.e. people who make more than 100 edits a month (i.e. about three a day). That number has shrunk considerably over the past few years, from a March 2007 high of 4785. At the same time, of course, the number of articles continues to increase constantly (now at 4.6 million). There are fewer contributors, and more articles to be watched over.

So Wikipedia has many articles that it does not have the (wo)manpower to curate adequately. In the early days, of course, everyone thought that "eventually" all these articles that someone started would become little masterpieces, but it's becoming clear that this will not happen. Little-watched biographies in particular are a problem, as the only people interested in them are usually the subjects and/or people who hate them for some reason, so they turn either into puff-pieces or hatchet jobs, with no one really noticing (there are well over half a million articles that no one has on their watchlist). Yet they are the top search hit when someone Googles the name online.

about 2 months ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:Work for free? (579 comments)

This reminds me of Newslines.org, a news-based crowdsourcing project that overlaps to a certain extent with Wikipedia, with the difference that they *do* pay their contributors. They report that their gender split is reversed: they have more women contributors than men, and also have more contributors from ethnic minorities than Wikipedia (in fact, their two leading contributors are black women).

about 2 months ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:Wikipedia is not Social Media! (579 comments)

The comparison is relevant in response to the argument that women simply don't have time to spend online and edit Wikipedia. They clearly do have time to spend online, but are spending it elsewhere.

about 2 months ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:demography & culture (579 comments)

Yes indeed. Well done for pointing it out. While Wikipedia is a top-ten website, the vast majority of people using it never edit it. With men, it's a minuscule proportion, and with women an even more minuscule proportion. Still, the disparity has an effect on the content.

about 2 months ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:why the focus on gender balance? (579 comments)

If you don't get the "surely", imagine an encyclopedia where 90% of the writers were women. Do you think it would be as good as an encyclopedia could be?

Incidentally, since you mention it, gays are well represented on Wikipedia, I think. African-Americans on the other hand are poorly represented, and you can tell from some of the content in related topic areas. The hair straightener hoax described here for example probably wouldn't have succeeded if there weren't a dearth of Black editors.

about 2 months ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:why the focus on gender balance? (579 comments)

We're not talking about any occupation or hobby, but about the web's primary reference site. No one has a problem if football or knitting forums have an unequal gender balance, but Wikipedia's coverage ends up lopsided if one half of humanity is barely there.

about 2 months ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:Women crave Feedback (579 comments)

Yeah, you don't get paid for it. But work is done there, and isn't the fact that you don't get paid for it all the more reason why it should be rewarding? People don't volunteer if the working climate isn't in some way satisfying.

about 2 months ago
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Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Re:Women crave Feedback (579 comments)

Don't you think any workplace works better if people enjoy working with each other? We're both men, but I think neither of us would enjoy working somewhere where we don't get on with people, and probably would enjoy working somewhere where we feel we're doing good and worthwhile work together with people who appreciate what we're doing, and whose work we in turn respect. Surely, Wikipedia should ultimately be no different if it's to produce the best work it can.

about 2 months ago

Submissions

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Guilt by Wikipedia: how lazy journalists made Joe Streater a basketball villain

Andreas Kolbe Andreas Kolbe writes  |  about two weeks ago

Andreas Kolbe (2591067) writes "For more than six years, Wikipedia named an innocent man as a key culprit in the 1978/79 Boston College point shaving scandal. The name Joe Streater was inserted into Wikipedia by an anonymous user in August 2008. The unsourced insertion was never challenged or deleted, and over time, Streater became widely associated with the scandal through newspaper and TV reports as well as countless blogs and fan sites, all of which directly or indirectly copied this spurious fact from Wikipedia. Yet research shows that Streater, whose present whereabouts are unknown, did not even play in the 1978/79 season. Before August 2008, his name was never mentioned in connection with the scandal. As journalists have less and less time for in-depth research, more and more of them seem to be relying on Wikipedia instead, and the online encyclopedia is increasingly becoming a vector for the spread of spurious information."
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What do your donations to keep Wikipedia "online and ad-free" really pay for?

Andreas Kolbe Andreas Kolbe writes  |  about 1 month ago

Andreas Kolbe (2591067) writes "As the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) prepares for its main annual fundraiser, many Wikipedia readers are presented with a banner inviting them to donate an amount equivalent to the "price of buying a programmer a coffee". It's to keep Wikipedia "online and ad-free", the site says. However, this masks the fact that the WMF’s revenue, assets and expenses have risen by about 1,000% in recent years. While the WMF got by on annual donations totaling $5 million in 2007, it now wants over $50 million a year, despite reporting net assets of $45 million last summer and having taken another $50+ million in donations since then. Most of this money is not spent on keeping Wikipedia "online and ad-free", but on a ballooning bureaucracy that sees a select group of Wikipedians transitioning from unpaid volunteer to paid tech staff positions, creating a two-tier society and causing outgoing Executive Director Sue Gardner to raise concerns over the potential for "log-rolling and self-dealing" last year. Meanwhile, the WMF’s software engineering work has been judged inept by the unpaid volunteer community. The VisualEditor (VE), a WYSIWIG editor touted as "epically important" by Jimmy Wales, was so buggy and caused so many errors (such as inserting chess pawn characters in Wikipedia articles) that volunteer administrators rebelled, going over the Foundation's heads to disable VE as the new default editor. Last month's new Media Viewer feature was equally controversial. The WMF had to create a new access right, "Superprotect", to prevent angry volunteer administrators from disabling it, bringing community relations between the WMF and the volunteer community to a new low. An open letter protesting the WMF’s actions acquired an unprecedented number of signatures. Flow, a planned Facebook-style revamping of Wikipedia discussion pages that has been in development for some time, is already mired in controversy, with volunteers complaining that the WMF is turning a deaf ear to their concerns. Donors should be aware that most of their money is not used to keep Wikipedia online and ad-free. It's not used to improve Wikipedia’s reliability either. Instead, it funds the further aggressive expansion of an organization that's at loggerheads with its volunteer community and criticized for having a "miserable cost/benefit ratio"."
Link to Original Source
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Why women have no time for Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Andreas Kolbe writes  |  about 2 months ago

Andreas Kolbe (2591067) writes "Wikipedia is well known to have a very large gender imbalance, with survey-based estimates of women contributors ranging from 8.5% to around 16%. This is a more extreme gender imbalance than even that of Reddit, the most male-dominated major social media platform, and it has a palpable effect on Wikipedia content. Moreover, Wikipedia editor survey data indicate that only 1 in 50 respondents is a mother – a good proportion of female contributors are in fact minors, with women in their twenties less likely to contribute to Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation efforts to address this "gender gap" have so far remained fruitless. Wikipedia’s demographic pattern stands in marked contrast to female-dominated social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest, where women aged 18 to 34 are particularly strongly represented. It indicates that it isn’t lack of time or family commitments that keep women from contributing to Wikipedia – women simply find other sites more attractive. Wikipedia’s user interface and its culture of anonymity may be among the factors leading women to spend their online time elsewhere."
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"I accidentally started a Wikipedia hoax"

Andreas Kolbe Andreas Kolbe writes  |  about 3 months ago

Andreas Kolbe (2591067) writes "The Daily Dot's EJ Dickson reports how she accidentally discovered that a hoax factoid she added over five years ago as a stoned sophomore to the Wikipedia article on “Amelia Bedelia, the protagonist of the eponymous children’s book series about a ‘literal-minded housekeeper’ who misunderstands her employer’s orders”, had not just remained on Wikipedia all this time, but come to be cited by a Taiwanese English professor, in “innumerable blog posts and book reports”, as well as a book on Jews and Jesus. It's a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of Wikipedia. And as Wikipedia ages, more and more such stories are coming to light."
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Pranks, hoaxes, manipulation: Virtual Unreality on Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe Andreas Kolbe writes  |  about 3 months ago

Andreas Kolbe (2591067) writes "Kids confess on Reddit that in order to wind up a classmate named Azid, they added his name to the Wikipedia article on Chicken Korma. Two years on, and Azid is established online as an alternative name of the dish. A prankster twice changes the name of the inventor of the hair straightener, and both names are now widely credited with the invention online. Another kid writes in Wikipedia that coatis are also called Brazilian aardvarks, and incredibly, the name catches on in newspapers, even a university press book. Governments around the world seek to control Wikipedia content through anonymous contributions. Misinformation and propaganda on Wikipedia spread like a virus into other publications: how pranks, hoaxes and manipulation undermine the reliability of Wikipedia, and indeed the fabric of consensual reality."
Link to Original Source
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Wikipedia editors hit with $10 million defamation suit

Andreas Kolbe Andreas Kolbe writes  |  about 4 months ago

Andreas Kolbe (2591067) writes "Businessman, philanthropist and musician Yank Barry and the Global Village Champions Foundation are suing four Wikipedia editors for defamation, claiming they have maliciously conspired to keep Barry's Wikipedia biography unduly negative. The Daily Dot article includes a copy of the legal brief and quotes Barry as saying, “My page was so ridiculously false and made me sound like a terrible person and people believed it causing deals to fall through. I finally had enough.”"
Link to Original Source
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Larry Sanger blasts Wikipedia for hosting bestiality porn without search filter

Andreas Kolbe Andreas Kolbe writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Andreas Kolbe (2591067) writes "Larry Sanger has blasted the Wikimedia Foundation for failing to fulfil its promise to introduce a porn filter on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites. Plans announced by the Wikimedia Foundation last year to install a weak opt-in filter for controversial content have apparently come unstuck. It has long been known that users searching Wikipedia's media archive for terms as innocuous as "toothbrush" may find explicit adult images at the top of their search results. As Fox News reported recently: "Search for the word 'underwater' and you'll see a woman tied up, naked, and submerged face down in a bathtub." In French Wikipedia, the top result of a search for "homework" is presently a black-and-white porn film showing a man and woman having oral sex with a dog ..."
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