To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
58 messages

Wow! Read This About Wikipedia

30 Nov 05 - 02:30 PM (#1617409)
Subject: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Ebbie

Character Assassination without Recourse

30 Nov 05 - 02:43 PM (#1617418)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: John MacKenzie

Unfortunately I can't say I'm surprised.

30 Nov 05 - 02:46 PM (#1617421)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Nigel Parsons

From a founder of The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, and ex newspaper editor.
Clearly he believes in the freedon of speech as long as people don't talk about him.


30 Nov 05 - 02:50 PM (#1617423)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Clinton Hammond

So what... it's just the internet....

You don't really think that people should take what's written on it seriously do you?????

30 Nov 05 - 02:53 PM (#1617425)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Big Mick

Nigel, the Freedom of Speech is not the freedom to defame unjustly. This is the kind of tripe that bothers me mightily. It seems that in the age of the internet, appropriate behaviour and morals are a fluid thing. I am not trying to squelch anything, but this clearly rises to the level of libel. Is that OK because "it's the internet and you shouldn't believe anything"? Lives that have been devoted to good works can be destroyed or damaged simply because someone with a case of the ass decides to do it.


30 Nov 05 - 02:54 PM (#1617427)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Big Mick

We cross posted, Clinton, but I almost used your name in my post because I knew you were going to say that. You are getting pretty predictable, my friend.


30 Nov 05 - 02:57 PM (#1617428)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: John MacKenzie

Freedom of speech is a privilege much abused by people who regard it as carte blanche to insult and defame people without having to account for their actions.

30 Nov 05 - 03:18 PM (#1617445)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Don Firth

I take it, Nigel, that you've never been slandered or libeled. It ain't nice. Usually there is legal recourse, and rightly so.

And, "You don't really think that people should take what's written on it seriously do you?????"

The problem, Clinton, is that people do! And that could really cost you.

Don Firth

30 Nov 05 - 03:29 PM (#1617451)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Ebbie

The reason I posted this initially upstairs is that if there were a designation for 'Reference', that is how I would have headed it. But this is fine.

Many people - including Mudcatters - refer to Wikipedia, notwithstanding that many people have posted their reservations regarding such information. But this is the first definitive example I have seen.

Nigel, I think you've missed the point. If an enemy or a prankster can post false information about you - and the receiver has no way of checking it out or even of identifying or finding the culprit, that is not a place I will go.

30 Nov 05 - 03:43 PM (#1617462)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko

I remember a valuable lesson my high school history taught the class. One day he began a lesson on the California Gold Rush.   He told us of a European immigrant named Tondoleo Gunderschmutz who traveled to California to start a new life. He told us that the only items he had were the clothes on his back and a spoon.   Tondeleo could not afford food, so he would dig wild plants to make his supper. One day, while digging up some plants with his spoon, he noticed something shiny in the dirt. It was gold. He kept digging, with his spoon, and struck it rich. Soon others traveled to the area and began digging in the ground with spoons. Soon everyone was rich.

Now, there were actually people who were believing everything and were writing notes and asking questions. Half of us were looking at each other trying to figure out what was going on, the rest were believeing him in earnest.   The name "Tondeoleo Gunderschmutz" should have been a clue.

Of course he stopped the lesson and told the class he was making it up. His point was, don't believe everything you are told or read.   Just because someone writes or says something, it doesn't make it so.   Just because somone is an authority figure, like a teacher, that doesn't mean you shouldn't question. Find backing evidence. Use common sense.

That was an incredibly valuable lesson (to learn from an important authority figure) and it has stuck.    You can find out a lot of useful information on the internet, but you can also find crap. The internet is a tool, but it is not the final product.

30 Nov 05 - 03:58 PM (#1617478)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Big Mick

I repeat, this isn't about factual information one would use in research or for general knowledge. This is about a piece of information posted with the intent of harming someone's reputation. It is not harmless. It suggests that the person was involved with two murders.


30 Nov 05 - 04:00 PM (#1617479)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Wesley S

You mean Tondeoleo Gunderschmutz DIDN'T start the California Gold Rush ??

I'm crushed.

30 Nov 05 - 04:00 PM (#1617480)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: katlaughing

And people thought I was being an idiot for refuting the BS it has about AMORC.

Clinton, you can't have it both ways. In that discussion, wiki was just fine as a resource, according to you. In fact you said you'd believe it, about AMORC, over what I, a member of over 25 years, had to say.

Thanks, Ebbie!

30 Nov 05 - 04:08 PM (#1617486)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Wolfgang

.. it's just the internet....

I disagree on two counts:
(1) I have read false informations galore in real books. Main difference: the author is easier to track.
(2) The internet will increasingly be the only way of publication for many types of information. So we should demand and expect that information published this way has to be correct as well.

But perhaps the only way to ensure that will be to take away anonymity. Which is how it is done in serious internet publications.


30 Nov 05 - 04:21 PM (#1617492)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Don Firth

One should not throw out the baby with the bath, however. There is a lot of darned good, authoritative information to be found in Wikipedia. On strictly factual stuff (history, science, most things one might look up in an encyclopedia), Wikipedia is very convenient for research (couple of mouse-clicks and you're there), it's about as current as you can get, and in most cases it's very reliable. I generally use it as one of at least two sources, and rarely have I found it to be wrong.

HOWEVER—I never use it when I want information about politics or anything much of a controversial nature. I have looked up a few things like that, and frequently there is a disclaimer connected with a specific article, warning you that this entry is biased.

I just looked up John Seigenthaler Sr., and noted that the folks that maintain Wikipedia have jumped onto it. Take a look HERE, scroll down, and read the fifth paragraph.

Wikipedia is intentionally fluid. Whenever they find that something is inaccurate, they do their best to correct it. That doesn't happen very swiftly or easily in printed encyclopedias. You'll find a correction or retraction in Wikipedia one helluva lot faster that you will in the twenty-five volume set you have sitting in your den.

No matter how good the source, you still have to use your head.

Don Firth

30 Nov 05 - 04:25 PM (#1617494)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Wackypedia publishes much undocumented garbage. Unfortunately, even some people here at mudcat quote from it. The idea of a reader-based encyclopedia is laughable.

30 Nov 05 - 04:42 PM (#1617503)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Folkiedave

I used to teach history and needed to teach the difference between primary and secondary sources.

We did an exercise on Emily Davidson who threw herself under the King's horse during the Derby,as a form of suffragette protest and was killed and about which everyone knew. Except she didn't. And her name was Davison. And she died later.

Apart from that it was all true.

Check, check and check again!!

Best regards,


30 Nov 05 - 05:20 PM (#1617522)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Rapparee

This highlights the problem of information on the Internet: there is no guarentee of either accuracy OR responsibility.

Witness these statements, quoted verbatim from the Internet:

Communism is jewish. The jews have aligned all the different pure races against each other, using their power of the purse and their total control of the national news media in the United States. When all other races rise up together against the jew all over the world, then true Freedom and Liberty shall prevail.

An organization has been granted a Federal Hearing on the same subject by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, DC. Their petition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel of our Lord and Savior, on the airwaves of America. They got 287,000 signatures to back their stand!

If this attempt is successful, all Sunday Worship services being broadcast on the radio or by television will be stopped. This group is also campaigning to remove all Christmas programs and Christmas carols from public schools!!

...properly placed faith and trust is both the missing preventative and curative for smallpox and every other ailment that plagues humanity. So as an alternative to toxic vaccinations, apply Divine actualizations for continued health and well-being.

30 Nov 05 - 05:27 PM (#1617523)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Ebbie

Oh, and the Bible is effective against PMS, don't you know.

30 Nov 05 - 05:36 PM (#1617528)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Stilly River Sage

There is a pecking order in the credibility department on the Internet. I use Google and Metacrawler as search engines, and when results appear I have them set so that at least 50 will appear on the page, and I give a quick scan to see the nature of the results. I may scan the contents of one of the "free" commercial places like Geocities, but I don't quote it. I first go to .gov and .edu sites and evaluate the results there. Am I looking a course materials or a student using their assigned web space? I look for sites that are most clearly affiliated with the subject I'm interested in.

When it started Wikipedia was an interesting novelty and I even posted a couple of things there a couple of years ago. But the proliferation of material and the lack of expert oversight EXCEPT by other general readers makes it a highly unreliable source. The information on a page may be perfectly factual, but if someone is opposed to the subject, it is in their interest to edit the page to nonsense or to dilute things that really should be left alone (instead an opposite viewpoint should be posted separately).

I believe that Wikipedia got a huge boost when Hurricane Katrina happened and people were able to post and share a lot of information. As a social document I'm sure it has merit, but is still an unreliable narration. That said, I would look back at those .gov sites I mentioned above. They are no longer as reliable as one could wish. The Bush administration is systematically going through the governmental web sites and removing information they disapprove of and presenting biased political information as if it is "fact." So be careful in what you're looking for there. .edu sites also have political issues, funding issues, and many hands contributing to pages.

Finding a reliable primary source and verifying with trusted secondary sources is pretty standard in scholarship and is something that needs to be taught when approaching the Internet. If you read something on one sight that is copied verbatim on another site, that isn't a reliable secondary source. You need evidence of research, sources, and unique verbiage.

The university where I work has had technology competency requirements in place for a number of years. Students are required to show more than a passing familiarity with computing skills, use of productivity programs, demonstrated Internet competency, and demonstrated research skills. Librarians are at the front of this process, and seminars are taught on evaluating Web sources every semester.

With its mix of general topics and a smell of yellow journalism, Wikipedia is kind of the New York Post of online "encyclopedia" sites--it isn't quite as bad as the National Enquirer, but it isn't the New York Times, either.


30 Nov 05 - 05:37 PM (#1617529)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: s&r

So much stuff on the internet is just copied and pasted that one mistake can be perpetuated on many websites very rapidly. Good as a starting point, but needs checking. you can't generatefacts by majority rule.


30 Nov 05 - 06:38 PM (#1617581)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: McGrath of Harlow

"We did an exercise on Emily Davidson who threw herself under the King's horse during the Derby,as a form of suffragette protest and was killed and about which everyone knew. Except she didn't. And her name was Davison." I suppose the idea of "except she didn't" is to show, by doing it, how easy it is to post fibs, since aside from the spelling of the name that summary is accurate enough.

"By 1911, her illegal actions increased. She began to believe that the suffragette cause needed an actual martyr to bring it the publicity it needed.

Her final act was to run out onto the racetrack at the Epsom Derby, and grab the reigns of the king's horse running that day. In so doing, she was trampled on, and died a few days later."
(From this BBC site.)

30 Nov 05 - 07:53 PM (#1617637)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Ebbie

Since when is 'reign' the same thing as 'reins'?

30 Nov 05 - 08:48 PM (#1617671)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Joe Offer

Well, I have to say that this quote is a relief to people who operate services like Mudcat:
    Federal law also protects online corporations - BellSouth, AOL, MCI Wikipedia, etc. - from libel lawsuits. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996, specifically states that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker." That legalese means that, unlike print and broadcast companies, online service providers cannot be sued for disseminating defamatory attacks on citizens posted by others.
It's from the same article at I suppose one could say that inaccuracy is one of the unfortunate side effects of free speech. I disagree with those who make scathing comments about the supposed inaccuracy of Wikipedia. I've found a lot of valuable information there - but considering the source, I do my best to double-check it. Much of the inaccurate information in Wikipedia is very easy to detect. It just doesn't make sense.
And, just as at Mudcat, the credible information is the stuff that's documented.
-Joe Offer-

30 Nov 05 - 09:07 PM (#1617683)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Bill D

I've read inaccurate textbooks, inaccurate newspaper articles, inaccurate Web sites, heard inaccurate radio & TV reports and been to classes and speeches where MUCH inaccurate and biased drivel was promulgated. Everyone must make SOME effort to learn the standards and rules by which information is sorted, judged and confirmed....and then be wary of certain types of results.

I suppose one virtue of WIKI-based articles is that they can be easily corrected, and once inaccurate information is noted, there can be many, many observers checking to see it doesn't happen again.

I think the jury is still out on how useful WIKI stuff will be in the long run, but it 'seems' to me that it is closer to a self-correcting information source than we have ever had. Look at old textbook and newspapers to see how the printed word can linger for decades.

30 Nov 05 - 09:10 PM (#1617685)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Peter K (Fionn)

Don makes a valid point. Many entries on Wikipedia are factual, authoritative and balanced, to the extent that the whole initiative has turned into something massively more useful than I could ever have foreseen. The dilemma is how to retain the good while ditching the bad (some of which is grotesquely bad, as in the example cited by Ebbie).

Here is an example that shows Wikipedia at its best: Ustaša. This is a topic that touches nationalistic, political and religious sensitivities big-time, and it's a subject I've been researching fairly intensively from all angles for more than two years, to the extent of learning the language and spending much time in Croatia and B+H.

The article itself is a model of fair play, packed with well-sourced information. But more significant for me is what you find if you click on the "discussion" tab. You are taken to a huge and involved debate, easily navigable via a comprehensive table of contents; a debate which is sometimes heated, but invariably constructive, notwithstanding that the contributors are from communities that were recently engaged in the most hideous civil war imaginable. I find it just amazing that these guys can work together in good faith in a joint quest for the truth. They finally got there a week or two ago, when by general agreement the entry at last had its "controversial" status withdrawn.

Somehow that aspect of Wikipedia deservers to be cherished. Maybe there's merit in Wolfgang's suggestion that anonymity should be disallowed. Certainly some kind of effective gatekeeping is needed to prevent harmful and gratuitous abuse. But it hard to see how gatekeepers could be effective without stifling the open-acess quality of Wikipedia that has turned out to be one of its great strengths.

30 Nov 05 - 09:39 PM (#1617707)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Rapparee

One of the greatest strengths of libraries is that the materials therein have a source, an author of the information. Even online databases such as ProQuest, Ebscohost, and others provide you the responsible party for the information.

True, the service provider cannot be sued -- they are just the pipe through with the material passes. The person who created the misinformation, on the other hand, should and must be held accountable. After all, one assumes that they are proud of their contribution and willing to stand by it.

30 Nov 05 - 10:42 PM (#1617772)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: EBarnacle

New York State has something called a Public Officer Law. this law states that any State employee acting in good faith within the limits of his or her job cannot be sued for the results. This sounds like a federal application of the same concept.

The problem with WIKI and similar sites is similar to the problem with the Cat. A malicious Guest can create as much confusion and trouble just as easily as an anonymous contributor to WIKI can. The difference is that the pool of readers is much smaller.

01 Dec 05 - 12:28 AM (#1617821)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Big Mick

I don't think this discussion is about how accurate Wiki is. The premise of the discussion, as demonstrated on the opening post, is that it can be used for character assassination. It is very easy to say that it is interesting, other things are also inaccurate, blah blah blah. The problem is that no one is accountable. When that is combined with serious libel, the problem is clear. If it was just inaccurate in some factual statement, that is easy to fix. When the statement is inaccurate, and it slanders the reputation of a person with gratuitous comments, and there is large readership, the horse gets out of the barn and the damage is done.

Free speech is a wonderful thing, as long as one is held accountable for their usage. No one should be able to cause harm to another's reputation without being caused themselves to demonstrate the validity of their position.


01 Dec 05 - 01:11 AM (#1617842)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Teribus

Ebbie - 30 Nov 05 - 07:53 PM

"Since when is 'reign' the same thing as 'reins'?"

To suggest an answer to your question - Could that be because it was the King's horse whose reins she grabbed hold of?.

01 Dec 05 - 01:13 AM (#1617843)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: CarolC

While I agree that people should be held accountable for slander and libel in all contexts, I don't think Wikipedia is necessarily any more prone to this problem than, for instance, the mainstream news sources.

Remember Richard Jewel? He was the guy the mainstream news media glommed onto as the main suspect of the bombing at the Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia in the 1990s. Richard Jewel's life was destroyed by the irresponsible "journalism" that pretty much all of the news outlets engaged in like sharks in a feeding frenzy. And every few months they glom onto someone else to completely destroy, whether that person deserves it or not. Are the media outlets who do these things ever held responsible? Sometimes yes... most of the time not. Wikipedia has at least posted a compassionate response to the libelous claims made about Mr. Seigenthaler. And they have done it conspicuously so anyone who reads the page on Mr. Seigenthaler will have the benefit of knowing what happened and what was wrong about what happened.

Most of the people against whom the mainstream media commits character assasination and other kinds of slander and libel never even get that much from the people who have caused them so much damage.

I agree that Wikipedia is not the final word on anything, but I don't think they're any more prone to this kind of destructive activity than any of the mainstream media.

01 Dec 05 - 04:02 AM (#1617872)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Paul Burke

I should think Americans will get pretty upset about character assassination by Wikipedia. That sort of thing should be left to Fox News.

01 Dec 05 - 09:30 AM (#1618093)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Grab

If it's bad enough to get all het up about it, go the court order route. Bell South gives up the ID for that IP address, and things go as normal.

If it's bad enough to deserve a correction but not bad enough to deserve a court order, contact the site owner. The Wikipedia crew fixed it as soon as they were made aware of it. But had this bloke done that, he wouldn't have had an excuse for writing his "fings-ain't-wot-they-used-ter-be" article. I know I'm blaming the victim here. It isn't his fault that some asshole libelled him online - but it's his fault that he didn't take the obvious steps to get it fixed.

FWIW, Wikipedia articles generally include citations for reference (links or books). If they don't include a source for their claim that you can check, treat it as unreliable. Same as with every other reference source.

As far as the reliability of Wikipedia goes, it's an encylopedia run by amateur volunteers. Some of those amateurs are very, very good; some of them are not. As such, it needs to be approached in the same way as you'd deal with any other system run by amateur volunteers. That doesn't mean it's worthless, just that you need to understand its limits.

If you're expecting 100% perfection, don't use Wikipedia. And also don't read newspapers, or Encarta, or the Encyclopedia Brittanica, or in fact any other reference source. If there's no actual error at the time it was written, it will gloss over some things that the author didn't think were important. And in any case, chances are that things that were true at the time of writing are no longer accurate today.


01 Dec 05 - 09:46 PM (#1618166)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Ebbie

"To suggest an answer to your question - Could that be because it was the King's horse whose reins she grabbed hold of?." Teribus

I take it that you are being facetious?

02 Dec 05 - 12:01 AM (#1618236)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Clinton Hammond

" The problem, Clinton, is that people do!"
That's their problem, not mine!

"a piece of information posted with the intent of harming someone's reputation. It is not harmless."
Oh yes it is.. because anyone really interesting in that piece of information is responsible to do as Ron says... "Find backing evidence. Use common sense."

"In fact you said you'd believe it, about AMORC, "
Yes... because it best summed up what I learned looking into AMORC... and I'm certainly not going to listen to the opinion of someone IN a cult when they are talking about that cult...   I didn't say I referenced wiki and wiki only... only an IDIOT only uses ONE reference or information source...

"we should demand and expect that information published this way has to be correct as well."
It is YOUR responsibility to be your own fact-checker...

I'm gonna quote what Don said, cause it bears repeating
" No matter how good the source, you still have to use your head."

And one more time

" No matter how good the source, you still have to use your head."


"The problem is that no one is accountable."
The person READING the article is accountable to CHECK what they read BEFORE they believe it...

02 Dec 05 - 12:10 AM (#1618241)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: M.Ted

Just in case Grab's point was missed--any time during the 132 days, the "maligned" party could have changed the text, just as simple as that--The fact of the matter is that, for one reason or another, he did not use this recourse--

Another thing that interests me is that he uses the "Cut open the pillow/gossip" story, and claims that his own mother told it to him--now maybe she did tell that story to him, some 60 or 70 years ago, but I find it interesting that that story is floating around on the internet now--a typical PR device is to grab a quote out of the and then stick a more credible attribution on it--I know this from my own years of experience--

My short point being that this seems, more or less, to be a suspiciousl convenient "opportunity" for the head of an organization to make a point about a law that they feel is unfair--

02 Dec 05 - 02:08 AM (#1618254)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Gurney

Wandering around on the Web, I found a 'Dictionary of British (or English?) Slang'. Noting a couple of omissions, I tried to post them, but while they were accepted, I was informed that they would be checked before they would be included. Wikipedia should do the same.

Regarding legal action; newspapers and other large media organisations retain high-priced lawyers. (Why not, it's pre-tax)   Unless you have a high-priced lawyer of your own, it might be better to accept what you'll get, which is likely to be a grudging 'apology' somewhere on page 9.

02 Dec 05 - 05:06 AM (#1618299)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: GUEST,ivor

The most nearly authoritative people are academics, and we see that their writings usually end with a (sometimes large) bibliography. In other words they don't rely on anything like one source.

Further , there is the informal law,"For every PhD, there's an equal and opposite PhD." Even "authorities can disagree, and scientists argue.

Other people being taken in actually is a problem for all of us because anyone taken in by incorrect information can thereby do things which are dangerous, annoying, problem-creating.

As for Ms.Davison, your point wasn't clear Folkiedave, but I saw the movie of Davison and the King's horse, and she is clearly show avoiding horses once she's on the track because she was clearly seeking out a particular horse.

One line of persistant error about which i have a collection is of Popular Fallacies. E.g.Historians have known for a rather long time that King John didn't sign Magna Carta, but the error has persisted for nearly 800 years and counting. That's just an example, and for the record, the reason is that John was illiterate. What he did was seal it

03 Dec 05 - 03:42 AM (#1619108)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: GUEST,ivor


04 Dec 05 - 05:00 AM (#1619673)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: autolycus


04 Dec 05 - 03:42 PM (#1619906)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Grab

Gurney, how many submissions do you think that one guy gets? I'd be willing to bet it's not more than a half-dozen each year at most (from random visitors like yourself), and that would be a generous estimate.

Compare and contrast to Wikipedia, which has hundreds of changes a *day*. The original version of Wikipedia actually *did* try to have reviewing by the staff - and it crashed and burned big-time because there wasn't a hope in hell of them achieving it. Wikipedia is structured that way precisely for that reason - because if it's going to be useful then formal reviewing by paid staff isn't possible within their budget. Are you volunteering to donate enough money for them to do so? ;-)


05 Dec 05 - 03:19 AM (#1620211)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Gurney

Graham, overpopularity can kill a site quite easily, I should think, particularly if a percentage of unchecked (in both senses) errors are included. What is your stance on faulty health advice? Legal information? How about, as in this case, character assassination?
Just because there is as yet no culpable entity on websites, it does not follow that that case will always apply, and IMO haste-the-day when there is one.

On your point that Wikipedia (Wikipaedia?) cannot (sensibly) cope with their growth, then it follows that in a short while they will not be able to cope with the required corrections, either. A general encyclopaedia is the biggest single source of information that scholarship compiles, but if it is not compiled by named scholars, but by unknown people with unknown agendas, then sooner or later someone's head will be on the block, and probably not the guilty party's.

No, I don't feel constrained to support them financially. I do think they might be better advised to specialise, like Mudcat does. How unwieldy would the DT be if it included every piece of music that was ever written?

05 Dec 05 - 09:49 AM (#1620387)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Grab

As far as "required corrections" goes, do it yourself! ;-) This guy could have fixed the entry himself. As a backstop position, he could have contacted the admins and said "I don't know how to fix it myself, so please can you do it?"

As far as "someone's head on the block", if this muppet had really cared then he *would* have got himself a court order against Bell South; Bell South *would* have given him chapter and verse on whoever it was; and he'd then be at liberty to start proceedings against whoever it was. He calls it a "remote possibility" - in fact it's 100% solid incontrovertible fact, because it's happened several times before. The whole reason they need a court order first is that ISPs were originally handing over info on their customers (name, address, DOB, SSN, etc.) to pretty much anyone who contacted them, and that was plainly unworkable.

So in short, if you're looking for a culpable entity for websites, the system is in place today, and it works!!! That's why I say this guy was only in it for self-publicity - had he cared in any way about following any path towards solving this, he could have done so. Instead he writes a bitchy editorial. That's a very English solution, bitching about things instead of solving them. ;-) But I'd expect more from a self-confident American, especially an American who's supposedly been smart enough to be in the US government, set up some lobbying foundation, and be a journalist.

For health advice and legal information, I'd use Wikipedia as a first point of reference, but I wouldn't assume it's authorative. As a volunteer-led effort, with varying qualities of volunteers, that would be stupid. However, I would be prepared to use it as a preliminary reference, and I would expect the links to point to more detailed (and official, if necessary!) points of reference. Legal-wise, for example, citing specific parts of the US Constitution for US legal issues would be a good start. If I was concerned, I'd also check the history of the information on that page and see what's happened over the last few edits, in case it's been vandalised.

People have been doing the whole "what if it was all corrupted by some troll?" thing since Wikipedia started. But Wikipedia's still going, and is still mostly worth it. There's a large number of people who keep an eye on changes in their particular areas. Less frequently visited areas (such as pages about some obscure bloke from the Kennedy administration) may get missed, but most of it is tracked pretty closely.

And if they specialised, how would they still be useful? The DT quite clearly attempted to include every piece of folk music that wasn't under copyright. It wouldn't be much use if it only included sea shanties, for instance. Similarly, an encyclopedia that doesn't provide a wide knowledge base is worthless. As far as formal reviewing goes, you're assuming an intention in the planned structure of Wikipedia which simply isn't there. And if you're smart, you use Wikipedia with that knowledge in mind.


11 Dec 05 - 09:17 PM (#1625346)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: freda underhill

meanwhile, back at the ranch..

A Little Sleuthing Unmasks Writer of Wikipedia Prank;
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE, Published: December 11, 2005, New York Times

It started as a joke and ended up as a shot heard round the Internet, with the joker losing his job and Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, suffering a blow to its credibility. Snared in the Web of a Wikipedia Liar A man in Nashville has admitted that, in trying to shock a colleague with a joke, he put false information into a Wikipedia entry about John Seigenthaler Sr., a former editor of The Tennessean in Nashville. Brian Chase, 38, who until Friday was an operations manager at a small delivery company, told Mr. Seigenthaler on Friday that he had written the material suggesting that Mr. Seigenthaler had been involved in the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy. Wikipedia, a nonprofit venture that is the world's biggest encyclopedia, is written and edited by thousands of volunteers.

Mr. Seigenthaler discovered the false entry only recently and wrote about it in an op-ed article in USA Today, saying he was especially annoyed that he could not track down the perpetrator because of Internet privacy laws. His plight touched off a debate about the reliability of information on Wikipedia - and by extension the entire Internet - and the difficulty in holding Web sites and their users accountable, even when someone is defamed. In a confessional letter to Mr. Seigenthaler, Mr. Chase said he thought Wikipedia was a "gag" Web site and that he had written the assassination tale to shock a co-worker, who knew of the Seigenthaler family and its illustrious history in Nashville.

"It had the intended effect," Mr. Chase said of his prank in an interview. But Mr. Chase said that once he became aware last week through news accounts of the damage he had done to Mr. Seigenthaler, he was remorseful and also a little scared of what might happen to him. Mr. Chase also found that he was slowly being cornered in cyberspace, thanks to the sleuthing efforts of Daniel Brandt, 57, of San Antonio, who makes his living as a book indexer. Mr. Brandt has been a frequent critic of Wikipedia and started an anti-Wikipedia Web site ( in September after reading what he said was a false entry about himself.

Using information in Mr. Seigenthaler's article and some online tools, Mr. Brandt traced the computer used to make the Wikipedia entry to the delivery company in Nashville. Mr. Brandt called the company and told employees there about the Wikipedia problem but was not able to learn anything definitive. Mr. Brandt then sent an e-mail message to the company, asking for information about its courier services. A response bore the same Internet Protocol address that was left by the creator of the Wikipedia entry, offering further evidence of a connection.

A call by a New York Times reporter to the delivery company on Thursday made employees nervous, Mr. Chase later told Mr. Seigenthaler. On Friday, Mr. Chase hand-delivered a letter to Mr. Seigenthaler's office, confessing what he had done, and later they talked at length. Mr. Chase told him that the Seigenthaler name had come up at work and that he had popped it into a search engine and was led to Wikipedia, where, he said, he was surprised that anyone could make an entry.

Mr. Chase wrote: "I am truly sorry to have offended you, sir. Whatever fame comes to me from this will be ill-gotten indeed."

Mr. Seigenthaler said Mr. Brandt was "a genius" for tracking down Mr. Chase. He said he "was not after a pound of flesh" and would not take Mr. Chase to court.

Mr. Chase resigned from his job because, he said, he did not want to cause problems for his company. Mr. Seigenthaler urged Mr. Chase's boss to rehire him, but Mr. Chase said that, so far, this had not happened.

Mr. Chase said that as Mr. Brandt and the news media were closing in and he realized how much he had hurt Mr. Seigenthaler, he decided that stepping forward was "the right thing to do."

Mr. Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center, said that as a longtime advocate of free speech, he found it awkward to be tracking down someone who had exercised that right.

"I still believe in free expression," he said. "What I want is accountability."

Jimmy Wales, who founded Wikipedia, said that the site would make more information about users available to make it easier to lodge complaints. But he portrayed the error as something that fell through the cracks, not a sign of a systemic problem. "We have to continually evaluate whether our controls are enough," he said.

11 Dec 05 - 09:57 PM (#1625358)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Ebbie

Great story!

12 Dec 05 - 08:53 AM (#1625560)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia

This is a tempest in a teapot, methinks. Especially since I can't quite figure out who is the bigger jerk, the poster or the whiner with bully pulpit access to mainstream media sources to vomit righteous indignation all over the nation in USA Today.

I'm with those who say consider the source of anything. As far as I'm concerned, I'd trust Wikipedia before I would trust the mainstream media.

The supposed cream of the crop of American journalism is the NY Times. Anyone remember Jason Blair? Why he just made stuff up and had it published in the Times too.

Or hey--how about the American mainstream media and the so-called intelligence on the war in Iraq, hmmm?

And I read the original article at Wiki (this is an old news story). It certainly didn't rise to the level of libel for a public figure like this whiner. It's a very grey area, and certainly it's author could have claimed it was a parody. Not a particularly good one, but libel laws do allow public figures to be lambasted.

Wiki is much more on top of this than the NY Times has been with the Jason Blairs and Judy Millers, or the Washington Post has with Woodstein.

I find people who are obsessed with character, and quick to scream character assassination, usually don't have much of it themselves. This case (and this thread) certainly prove that.

I'm with the poster above who said that sort of thing should be left to Fox News. ;-)

12 Dec 05 - 09:06 AM (#1625572)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Big Mick

Typical demagogic tripe from GUEST. The difference is that Jason Blair and the Times could be held accountable and were. How is that possible in the Wiki incident.
I will agree that checking sources is always the right thing to do. I agree that you should never trust Internet sources without verification. It is the inability to hold folks accountable for what they put out there that is the crux. Of course, GUESTS like that concept. That way they can take shots and never have to worry about how they are perceived.

12 Dec 05 - 09:17 AM (#1625581)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Greg F.

Man apologizes after fake Wikipedia post

Associated Press
Last updated: 8:17 a.m., Monday, December 12, 2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A man who posted false information on an online encyclopedia linking a prominent journalist to the Kennedy assassinations says he was playing a trick on a co-worker...

Chase said he didn't know the free Internet encyclopedia called Wikipedia was used as a serious reference tool.

Nor should it ever have been! And certainly not after this.

You need to do research? Go to a library & use verified sources.

12 Dec 05 - 03:09 PM (#1625793)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: katlaughing

No kidding, Greg! Totally agree with you.

12 Dec 05 - 04:07 PM (#1625842)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: BuckMulligan

There are accountable, verifiable sources on the internet. Lots of them. The unreliability of sources such as Wikipedia does not arise from the fact that it resides on the internet, but from the fact that its information is "open source," unattributed, and frequently unverifiable.

12 Dec 05 - 07:23 PM (#1625987)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: autolycus

It still remains aproblem to know what sources count as reliable. Reference books carry errors - we all thought Encyclopedia Britannica was authoritative until Harvey Einbinder published The Myth of the Britannica(1964), showing how full of errors that great work was.
The latest Brewer's Dictionary has errors.
The US academics Boller and George, in "They Never Said It" uncover many misquotes, fake quotes and misattributions that even a work like the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations continues to repeat.
I have a shelf of books of Popular Fallacies, fallacies which are constantly repeated. For example,it's not the case, according to Professor Tom Burnam (The Dictionary of Misinformation, the the Declaration of Independence was signed on 4th of July (Hm - 4th of July - that'd be 4/7 then)   
Many reference compilers copy errors from other reference books.
World Almanac was still printing the idea as a fact that King John signed Magna Carta.
It can take time to see how different media skew things and why.
Melvyn Barg, in his In Our Time series on Radio 4, managed to do 45 minutes on te history of astronomy, and the same period on Isaac Newton, without, in that 90 minutes, mentioning astrology once. So one way to check on a source is to see what it leaves out, and those who know less than their source can be mislead out of ignorance.

My point is not that nothing is to be trusted - that would be ridiculous - but that getting the facts requires constant vigilance,and holding

12 Dec 05 - 08:16 PM (#1626018)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: BuckMulligan

Right - but when one is conducting casual research, one plays the odds, and the odds are heavily on favor of the Britannica and the OED, etc. over Wiki-anything, and blogs. And the thing about poor old King John is a bit of a cavil; true he didn't write his name on it, but he did indeed "sign" it in the sense of "validated it by affixing his mark." I suspect one could find more than one source that would support that sense of the word "sign."

12 Dec 05 - 10:55 PM (#1626126)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia

I don't agree with your assertion. People mistrust open source information, because they are so certain that "experts" must be in control of information, in order for it to be legitimate.

People for whom open source is a godsend will be the new information *managers* not owners or controllers of information. Therein lies the difference.

If you love the status quo, and don't like having your "the world is the way I perceive it to be" boat rocked, then you will never trust open sources. Or vote for anyone except Democrats and Republicans, except to vote Libertarian, perhaps.

It isn't the accuracy or legitimacy of the information for status quo types (which the majority of Mudcatters are), it's about not trusting the "anonymous"--also known as we the people.

Like Is aid, the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot. The guy lost his job, wiki corrected the information as soon as they got wind of the story. You can't be any more accountable than that, as the New York Times and Washington Post and Fox News and Dan Rather, et al keep proving reliably.

It's kinda like the whole Rodney King trial thing. The jury refused to find the cops guilty, even when presented with incontrovertible proof of their guilt: the video. Yet, the jury found the cops innocent of all charges, and a city burned.

Belief systems are a damn hard thing to crack. For those who grew up believing that certain types of information and knowledge is better if it comes from authoritarian sources, then no amount of proving them wrong will change their minds, as this thread proves.

13 Dec 05 - 12:47 PM (#1626462)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: BuckMulligan

I'm not sure whose assertion you're disagreeing with, but if you're claiming that there's something called "ownership" of facts, then I suspect there's very little we can dicsuss, as I don't speak Theory.

13 Dec 05 - 12:50 PM (#1626466)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia

Tell it to Rupert Murdoch.

18 Dec 05 - 02:58 PM (#1630138)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Don Firth

To reiterated what I posted above, I've found Wikipedia to be a valuable and very convenient resource. A couple of clicks and I'm there. I also use the Merriam-Webster online dictionary a lot for the same reason. I do, however, verify what I read in Wikipedia if anything about the article I'm checking strikes me as at all dubious. Googling makes this pretty easy. If everything I find on-line about whatever I'm working on makes me wonder a bit, I get up from the desk and go to the bookshelves—or make a trip to the library. But even that, it seems, can be caveat emptor.

I heard a radio interview about Wikipedia a couple of days ago. For those who consider Wikipedia to be "Wackypedia," you might want to take a look at THIS. It contains the same information I heard on the radio interview. If you own a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica and consider it to be the ultimate source of accurate information, superior to Wikipedia, you might want to think again. A thorough check demonstrates that EB and Wikipedia are about even-up. Except that Wikipedia has an immediate self-correcting feature. With EB, for corrections you have to wait for the next edition, and it's pretty pricey.

Also, pull up google, type in "Wikipedia accuracy," and you'll see an example of what Wikipedia does when it has an article that contains disputable information and what you can do about it.

Much too valuable a resource to be ignored or abandoned. But with any reference, you have to use your head as well.

Don Firth

22 Dec 05 - 08:11 AM (#1632813)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Wolfgang

The Science magazine Nature has recently published a study in which the accuracy of the Britannica was compared with that of the Wikipedia in the realm of Science articles.

The Britannica had 3 errors or inaccuracies per article, Wikipedia had 4.

So, WP is quite reliable in the world of science. That fits with my impression too and I do not at all agree with those who say that WP cannot be relied upon. It depends on the context. WP is quite good in reporting in the factual fields. I find it reliable in sports too and many other fields. But when it comes to fields in which emotions and prejudices play a role you should not trust the contributors.


22 Dec 05 - 03:58 PM (#1633200)
Subject: RE: Wow! Read This About Wikipedia
From: Don Firth

The report also stated that whereas Wikipedia averaged four mistakes per article against Britannica's three, the articles in Wikipedia tend to be substantially longer, which gives scope for more possibilites for error. So all in all, it's pretty much a wash.

Don Firth