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Thread: Wikipedia Woes

  1. #1
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    Wikipedia Woes

    When I first saw www.wikipedia.org I was quite amazed. It was already fairly well-established and appeared to be working remarkably well. What really amazed me was the open nature of contributions - it seemed that anyone could contribute and yet there was no sign of abuse.

    Our business has had some experience with opening up website content for public contribution and we know all too well how vulnerable such a system is. I found it astonishing that Wikipedia could operate without being abused.

    It turns out I just needed to wait a while. In the last few months I've seen a number of examples, from the photo of Pope Benedict XVI being replaced by a photo of Darth Sidious to the defamatory entry about John Seigenthaler Sr (see http://news.com.com/A+little+sleuthi...?tag=nefd.top). A little Googling shows that deliberate false entries are not uncommon.

    One of the biggest problems I see is the lack of accountability. Wikipedia simply denies any responsibility to get facts right. Whilst I can see their need to protect themselves I don't think this situation is acceptable. If you're going to declare yourselves to be a reliable information provider, back yourselves up. That's what other publishers have to do.

    Based on my own experience I would never consider allowing the public to have editorial access to a website which aims to provide reliable information. It's the nature of the beast that some people will abuse it. It's a very sad state of affairs but I think that we need to be realistic. At this stage of human evolution we simply aren't trustworthy enough to give each other unbiased, accurate information. I wish it were otherwise but it ain't.

    Wikipedia is a wonderful idea and I'll still read their articles, but I won't take them at face value. Wikipedia articles should be treated as some anonymous person's opinion (possibly with a hidden agenda). If you want the real facts, I say stick with traditional encyclopedias.

    ------------------------
    These sites are worth a look (I'm not endorsing them, just showing them):
    http://www.wikipedia-watch.org
    http://wikipediareview.proboards78.com
    Dave Owen
    MediaCollege.com

  2. #2
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    Re: Wikipedia Woes

    Wikipedia scores a valuable point with the release of a study which shows their level of errors is comparable to Encyclopedia Britannica:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4530930.stm

    This is good news for Wikipedia but unfortunately I think it misses the point. It certainly misses the two points I'm most concerned about:

    (1) The spread of deliberate misinformation.
    (2) The lack of accountability.

    It's one thing to say that both publications make mistakes. It's another thing to acknowledge that only one of them has people doing it on purpose and refusing to accept any responsibility for errors.

    I really think Wikipedia needs to make a more concerted effort to tighten things up. What's with their "registration" process which doesn't even require a valid email address? For goodness sake, any 2-bit Internet forum has more protection against fraud than that
    Dave Owen
    MediaCollege.com

  3. #3
    Simple Simon
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    It's true

    Last year I worked for a software development company. The marketing manager was struggling to come up with ways to compete with our main competitor who had a lot more marketing money than us. Then he had a great idea.

    He went to wikipedia and created an "article" comparing our software with our competitor's. He's a clever person and he wrote the article to sound like it was written by someone neutral. He made some points in favor of each product but concluded that ours was the best.

    There's no way anyone could know that this article was propaganda planted by our company. It looks well-informed and objective but it's far from it. It's a devious trick and the article is still there at wikipedia.

    I wouldn't trust anything wikipedia says. You don't know who wrote it or what their real motivation is.

  4. #4
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    Re: Wikipedia Woes

    I can't say I'm surprised. Coincidentally I recently saw a Wikipedia article about a particular product which seemed suspiciously complimentary. Of course there's no way to know if it was written by an objective reviewer or someone from the company.

    Anyway, about your situation - I shouldn't be making judgements without knowing more but it seems that the right thing to do would be to alert Wikipedia. I seriously doubt whether they would do anything about it but at least you would have tried.
    Dave Owen
    MediaCollege.com

  5. #5
    Roop
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    Yep

    Yeah, tell them about it. No point complaining if you aren't going to let them know.

  6. #6
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    It turns out that the Wikipedia vs Encyclopedia Britannica study may have been deeply flawed, possibly even deliberately rigged. There certainly does appear to be a case to answer - Nature Magazine may be guilty of a serious mash-up as reported by The Register:
    Nature mag cooked Wikipedia study

    The Register is no fan of Wikipedia, referring to it as "a decaying biomass of misinformation". Check some of these articles:

    Avoid Wikipedia, warns Wikipedia chief

    Wales and Sanger on Wikipedia

    There's no Wikipedia entry for 'moral responsibility'

    Why Wikipedia isn't like Linux

    Wikipedia founder admits to serious quality problems
    Dave Owen
    MediaCollege.com

  7. #7
    Member Libor's Avatar
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    How do you like the CIA World fact book at
    http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html Dave ?

    And others also, of course.....

    Libor

  8. #8
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    To be honest I know very little about it, although I've been racking my brains because I know I heard a story about it some time within the last year or so. I don't remember any details except that it was something to do with biased or incorrect information, possibly about New Zealand.

    What do you think about it?
    Dave Owen
    MediaCollege.com

  9. #9
    Member Libor's Avatar
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    A site that provides useful overall informations about
    most countries of the world. Can be useful, if you are going to
    visit that country, to give you some facts (which you forget most probably
    before you get there). Some facts are correct, some were correct let say
    10 years ago, some can be hard to accept. It is interesting, that some
    "facts" can be true but are hard to accept by those, who live there.

    Summing up, if you know nothing about the country you choose, you get a good overview of some facts. May inspire you to search further.

    Libor

  10. #10
    Ex Wikipedia Fan
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    The latest Wikipedia debacle involves the death of Kenneth L. Lay. It has been a farce with people sitting at their computers fighting over the editing, reporting rumors as fact and even blatantly inventing facts.

    In reporting this case the Washington Post says: "Wikipedia is an active deception, a powerful piece of agitprop, not information."

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...070800135.html

    I used to love Wikipedia but it's dying fast.

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