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Topic: Wikipedia - A Reminder (Topic Closed Topic Closed) Post ReplyPost New Topic
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Aaron Smith
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Joined: 06 September 2006
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Posted: 30 October 2007 at 5:12pm | IP Logged | 1  

Somebody went and did it again. An hour ago, Wikipedia was reporting the death of Regis Philbin. Apparently, those reports were greatly exxagerated.
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Matthew Chartrand
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Joined: 17 June 2007
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Posted: 24 February 2008 at 6:35pm | IP Logged | 2  

wiki seems to be Orwell's 1984 history revisions made real.
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Brad Brickley
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Posted: 22 June 2008 at 2:09pm | IP Logged | 3  

Just a reminder folks!

Remember, just because it's on the internet, don't make it true!
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DAMON KELLY
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Posted: 23 June 2008 at 6:12pm | IP Logged | 4  

Matthew Chartrand: " wiki seems to be Orwell's 1984 history revisions made real."

Well, if it were government run-and-sanctioned, and it represented the ONLY official background history of everything available anywhere: yep, I'd agree with you.

Otherwise, its just a large group of laypeople chattin' 'bout stuff, with all the implied (in)accuracies.

There were three articles that I revised on the site: a minor edit to building development in Baltimore, additions to an article about Gay Street in the same city, and re-writing a few paragraphs about the fare structure of the Baltimore light rail system.  The last entry was somewhat frustrating to deal with because my direct experience (backed up by facts) was less important than someone else's (remoooooooote) impression of how the system works.  It took the input of two other participants to restore my edits.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 24 June 2008 at 3:30pm | IP Logged | 5  

its just a large group of laypeople chattin' 'bout stuff, with all the implied
(in)accuracies.

••

Okay. From now on, this is no longer the John Byrne Forum. Henceforth, it
is the John Byrne Encyclopedia!

(BTW --- THAT'S your first post??)
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Matthew Chartrand
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Posted: 24 June 2008 at 7:55pm | IP Logged | 6  

The problem is is that too many people start and stop their research with wikipedia. That is where my orwellien reference came from.
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DAMON KELLY
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Posted: 26 June 2008 at 12:00am | IP Logged | 7  

John Byrne: "Henceforth, it is the John Byrne Encyclopedia!"

<Insert impossibly corny joke here, 'cause its late and I'm tired>! HaHAH!

John Byrne: "(BTW --- THAT'S your first post??)"

As much as I wish to post my magnum opus (tm) that would launch a thousand ships, foment bittersweet heartbreak among millions of women across the globe,  and reduce this server to dust in a whirlwind of frenzied destruction inked by George Perez, I held back.  I'm a respectful guy.  I'm gonna start off slowly for a change.

As for Wikipedia being Orwellian, I can now see that aspect of the site.  Nowadays, there are square yards of elbow room at the local library branch (when it is open).  Lots of people will always go to fastest, easiest place to get (barely) plausible information.  Yesterday it was Millie the gossip, or shifty-eyed Jake in the corner of the locker room.  Today, it is Wikipedia.  Tomorrow, it'll be Olu'ah the hyper shock-jock in the stealth ship hanging across from Omicron Perseii VIII.
 I think the human race will survive in spite of the presence of Wikipedia.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 26 July 2008 at 7:13am | IP Logged | 8  

I think the human race will survive in spite of the presence of Wikipedia.

••

Getting dumber, and dumber, and dumber. . .
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Brad Brickley
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Posted: 26 July 2008 at 1:45pm | IP Logged | 9  

Are we getting dumber or are there just more dumb people?  
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John Byrne
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Posted: 27 July 2008 at 8:19am | IP Logged | 10  

Amounts to the same thing. If the dumb people outnumber the smart (or at
least, not so dumb) people, it tips the balance.
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Bob Neill
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Posted: 27 July 2008 at 1:28pm | IP Logged | 11  

Semi-on topic, JB, have you seen the movie Idiocracy? It's a satire of a future society in which that balance has tipped.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 29 July 2008 at 5:27am | IP Logged | 12  

…have you seen the movie IDIOCRACY?

••

Yes, several times.
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 31 July 2008 at 1:09pm | IP Logged | 13  

That movie scared me.

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Andrew Hess
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Posted: 02 August 2008 at 10:11pm | IP Logged | 14  

"Several times"?

Sounds like a recommendation to me; and since that's the second time it came up this week, it goes on the "reserve" list.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 14 August 2008 at 6:36am | IP Logged | 15  

I've been rereading THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, by Erik Larsen, and
decided this morning to Google some of the key figures. Of course, the first
"hits" came up from Wikipedia, and immediately Wikipedia proved once
again its great value, its entry stating that H.H.Holmes, the titular "devil" of
the book was arrested in 1895 and hanged in 1886.
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Monte Gruhlke
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Joined: 03 May 2004
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Posted: 14 August 2008 at 8:15am | IP Logged | 16  

Ahhh... so THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY is a time-travel piece...
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Kevin Hagerman
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Posted: 14 August 2008 at 1:30pm | IP Logged | 17  

Maybe it was an inquisition-type dealio, where they'd dig up corpses, charge them with heresey, and give 'em a good whippin'?
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Al Cook
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Joined: 21 December 2004
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Posted: 01 September 2008 at 8:07am | IP Logged | 18  

THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY is a fine read. Enjoyed it immensely.
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Philipp Lenssen
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Posted: 09 October 2008 at 3:09pm | IP Logged | 19  

I'm chipping in way too late, but wanted to add my two cents:

- Usually, the more attention a Wikipedia article gets, the more accurate it becomes. Wikipedia works on "human computation" if you want -- its CPU is our attention. Sometimes, when articles becomes extremely hot topics of the day or become controversial, than the article improves because many eyes watch out for what they perceive to be neutrality. As a counter-example, take a look at the project Simple English Wikipedia, which has far less eyeballs, and a quality that is often ridiculously bad.

- Following above general point, more specifically speaking, anything directing attention to the John Byrne entry on Wikipedia -- be it a link, or a ban as here -- has the power to improve the article.

- Wikipedia admins or "Wikipedians" are often non-transparent in the ways they admit errors, and they have an elitist touch at times, but their whole system builds on human input, so that makes the site human too, including human flaws, jealously, attacks, but also great, great content. I guess it can be a 90% thing, so if you'd like to lift it up to 100%, you'd have to shut down the site, but it's often tough to find any other article which has the scope many Wikipedia articles have.

- Following above point, if you happen to find yourself in an article and then you end up having the article be one of the more rare but existing problems -- false accusations of being a "sex offender", as John mentioned, and accusations that stay in for a long time without being unedited (because while trolls often try it, their slanders are also often... but not always... quickly removed) -- than that may feel to that person as if the whole project is doomed.
You'll often find a similar arguments from opposing sides in regards to such Wikipedia flaws. One side may say, "Well you can just change it to correct it, what are you complaining, at least at Wikipedia it's much easier changing a flaw than in a paper encyclopedia or in an online news report. So there's no problem at all." And another side may say, "Well, anyone can insert a ridiculously false statement into Wikipedia by the click of the Edit button. This is just not as fact-checked as a news report or paper encyclopedia. So the problem is unsolvable." Both arguments are on the extreme sides of the issue, but Wikipedia is more of a gray area that is not perfect but also not doing too bad either on average.

- As a reader, there's a simple guideline: you may read Wikipedia content but you must absolutely add a grain of salt. You must understand, and I think many (but likely not all) people do understand, that if there's a random sentence about "person x being a sex offender" popping up, that you must not just blindly believe it. The more specific the article gets, the more you need to find verifiable other sources for a statement. Then again, that kind of reading makes sense in any context, be it that you're reading a newspaper article and what-not...
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Steve Horn
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Joined: 26 February 2008
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Posted: 24 December 2008 at 3:59am | IP Logged | 20  

Looks like Wikipedia might be going down hill and is having trouble http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate/Letter/en?utm_sou rce=2008_jimmy_letter_r&utm_medium=sitenotice&utm_ca mpaign=fundraiser2008#appeal
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John OConnor
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Posted: 02 January 2009 at 10:51am | IP Logged | 21  

Here's hoping 2009 brings a better class of celebrity
death hoaxes.

On Wednesday, former "Mad About You" star Paul Reiser
became, ever so briefly, the latest star to be
prematurely killed off by the Internet when two new
ominous and unverifiable sentences popped up in his
Wikipedia biography, according to E!Online.com.

"On December 27th, 2008, Reiser was discovered dead in
the Squallahassee River where he reportedly enjoyed fly
fishing," the amended entry read. "No foul play was
suspected."

The offending passage, along with the actor's supposed
date of death, was removed within several hours.
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Jim Muir
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Joined: 26 June 2007
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 1074
Posted: 31 March 2009 at 2:46pm | IP Logged | 22  

Microsoft accepts defeat to Wikipedia and kills off Encarta

source: Times Online

So, the encyclopedia using real facts is killed off by the encyclopedia using made up facts.

Discuss...


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Jeremiah Avery
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Joined: 27 December 2008
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Posts: 2431
Posted: 03 April 2009 at 12:30pm | IP Logged | 23  

I hope that was a bad "April Fool's Day" joke.
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Ken Smith
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Joined: 30 August 2009
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Posted: 31 August 2009 at 9:32pm | IP Logged | 24  

Warning: Sermon Ahead

Disclosure: I am a university professor who loves Wikipedia

Now, on with the show.

First, I want to repeat (and expand on) a point that a couple of folks have already made. Namely, that Wikipedia is valuable precisely BECAUSE we know that it can be biased/inaccurate/etc.

This is (for instance) in contrast to how many of us regard academic scholarship. We may think it is boring (and, oh god, it is often so very, very boring!). But if pressed, most of us would probably also admit that we usually regard scholars to be as reliable a source of information as we are likely to find. After all, they've put in YEARS to become experts in their fields, right? They're not just a bunch of uncontrollable internet vandals and lunatics!

However, as I made my way through grad school I was surprised to learn just how common it was for academic work to be flat-out wrong, even work by world-renowned scholars. And a good deal of this work--unlike Wikipedia--can go unquestioned for many years.

For anyone who is interested, in my field (religion), there are two really interesting books that explore examples of this phenomenon. One is Drudgery Divine, by Jonathan Z. Smith; the other is Storytracking, by Sam Gill. I won't bore you (any further!) with the details, but essentially each author demonstrates, with scrupulous attention to primary sources, that academics in certain areas of religion and anthropology have been perpetuating misinformation for decades.

I seriously doubt that a mistake on Wikipedia would last that long.

Which brings me to my other point, namely that Wikipedia is, in general, as accurate as just about any other "authoritative" source. This, at least, is my personal experience, as well as the experience of many of my colleagues. It was also apparently demonstrated in a 2005 comparison between Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica involving science entries:http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/online-encycl opedias-put-to-the-test/2005/12/14/1134500913345.html

Yes, you can find mistakes in Wikipedia. And yes, this should keep us on our toes. But more often than not, Wikipedia is actually correct -- and in any case you will find important mistakes in just about any work you delve deeply into.

So: not only does Wikipedia's nature inherently invite us to question the information it presents (hence the existence of this entire discussion thread!), but this information is in any case about as reliable as any we're going to find. All of which makes it, in my view, a MUCH better place to turn to for information than any other single source I have yet uncovered.

Plus it is possible now to see the history of each entry, what changes were made and by which user, as well as debates (=multiple viewpoints!) concerning contentious topics. How is this not fabulous?

And finally: instead of telling our students NOT to use a source like Wikipedia, doesn't it make better sense to show them HOW to use it? Teach them about bias, about human error, about validating sources, etc., etc., etc. For the foreseeable future, sites like this are going to be the way that most people search for information. Why not train our students how to do so responsibly?

Thus endeth the sermon.

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Ken Smith
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Posted: 31 August 2009 at 9:38pm | IP Logged | 25  

Sorry, for some reason the link I posted above was broken in the middle.

Here's the article for real this time.

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