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Out of Our Minds
Thursday, December 08, 2005 3:59 PM
Wiki Wacky
Martin Flaherty on Ethics

I suspect that most of you have heard the latest controversy associated with
For 132 days the site's biography of John Seigenthaler Sr., Robert Kennedy's
time administrative
assistant, described
him as a suspect in the murder of both John and Robert Kennedy. The statement
is both scandalous and a lie.
However, it remained unchecked for over three months until it was brought to
Mr. Seigenthaler's attention. The verbiage was
but the author - like virtually all contributors to the Wikipedia - is unknown.
Yet, the Wikipedia continues to grown in reputation as a credible source of

It's not only
crackpots and mudslingers altering the content. Recently, former MTV VJ and
early web site developer
and podcaster Adam
Curry was found altering
the Wikipedia's section
on podcasting. In it he removed a few names of other developers and rewrote
that he had played a much larger role in its development. His edits and input
since corrected. Curry has apologized.

It's understood that loonies and ego-maniacs have been posting to the web
since day one. And throughout history, from Stalin to Al Gore, people have
made claims
weren't in line with the facts. However, I have serious objections to
the Wikipedia. I appreciate
see the
the idea
of the site.
But it strikes me as wrong that a site can present itself as a credible knowledge
base but not have to substantiate its content.


martin - 12/9/2005 9:15:17 AM
For me it's a question of trust. Self policing is wonderful, but when the information posted isn't research filtered through accepted standards, the material becomes highly suspect. I took two subjects, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Bloody Sunday and searched them on the Wikipedia. The explanation of The Protocols was (thankfully) in line with reality. While Bloody Sunday - 1972 - (much to the Wikipedia's credit) was marked with a note questioning the neutrality of the post.

With the ability to change content at will, I believe the Wikipeida should be used as - at best - a jumping off point to more credible research and viewed with highly jaundiced set of eyes.

To Jerome's point, I agree. Last night while most news reports regarding the shooting of the bombing suspect in Miami were somewhat guarded, Anderson Cooper on CNN asked less than five hours after the incident if the air marshall program was 'out of control'. Hyperbole at its best from 'The World's Most Trusted Network'.
emily - 12/9/2005 8:31:56 AM
I must say that wikipedia is an awesome source and great stuff.
Jerrome - 12/8/2005 10:43:08 PM
Taking Jule's argument one step further, we need to realize that Wikipedia isn't much higher on the food chain than the 'trusted news sources' we have come to rely upon. 'We report, you decide' at Fox? 'The world's most trusted network' at CNN? 'All the news that's fit to print'? Who's buying this anymore? At least with talk radio I know where it's all coming from. With the mainstream 'fair' media -- and now with Wikipedia -- it's disguised bias.
Julie - 12/8/2005 10:31:45 PM
Why shouldn't wikipedia present itself as credible? All sites present themselves as credible. In schools, I think we can teach kids to evaluate content on the internet (can't we?) the way we help young researchers to question pamphlets, talk radio, or an angry man shouting memorized scripture on a downtown corner. Some high school term paper writers even learn to check the credentials of authors of books they find in the bookstore or the library. We can, I think, teach a distrust of sources that can't be traced. A more difficult task may be teaching adults who ought to know better.
Steve Sherlock - 12/8/2005 10:23:20 PM
Hear, hear, caveat emptor indeed!

The thing about it is not that it took 132 days to get corrected, but that it did get corrected! wikipedia is working! Unfortunately due to its growth, there is so much more info out there to check it all will take longer.

Why aren't we equally upset when some company claims that they are number one in 'fill in the blanks'? Because they have paid for it? and the wiki is free?
Kevin - 12/8/2005 10:13:31 PM
What's amazing about Wikipedia is that it took until this week for the New York Times to make sure that its reporters were not using the 'encylopedia' for its source. Here's the note from Business Editor Larry Ingrassia (a very smart ex-colleague of mine at the WSJ) to his staff. http://poynter.org/forum/view_post.asp?id=10748

Wikipedia is lazy research -- easy to find, easy to use, easy to believe, easy to manipulate, easy to scam.
Farnsworth - 12/8/2005 9:45:03 PM
Caveat emptor.

Wikipedia handles a lot of things really well. I use it as a starting point or quick refernce. But it's not anything that I can ever see relying on for the facts.


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