back to article Was Gerry Adams in the IRA? Don't ask Wikipedia

The wisdom of reliance on Wikipedia as an information source has been further questioned. The latest round of bitter, heavily-politicised infighting among the wiki-fanciers centres around the involvement or non-involvement of Northern Irish politico Gerry Adams in armed violence during the recent/present Ulster troubles. Adams …

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it seems that wikipedias processes work

It looks like wikipedia's self-correcting processes are working, at least in this case.

The wikipedia article now mentions in its introduction the accusations against the party leader, and his denial - as it did before this register article was written - so readers are aware of the controversy.

When the register article was published, the admin mentioned was actually under investigation for questionable judgement and actions, and subsequently lost admin privileges.

If anyone is interested in the background, they should check the Wikipedia article's discussion page. In their own way, these pages are often as interesting as the articles themselves...

For what it's worth, the wikipedia article is rated as "B", which means: "Useful to many, but not all, readers. A casual reader flipping through articles would feel that they generally understood the topic, but a serious student or researcher trying to use the material would have trouble doing so, or would risk error in derivative work."

No idea how you'd mark a Register article on such a scale :)

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Wikipedia....

"For what it's worth, the wikipedia article is rated as "B", which means: "Useful to many, but not all, readers. A casual reader flipping through articles would feel that they generally understood the topic, but a serious student or researcher trying to use the material would have trouble doing so, or would risk error in derivative work.""

Wikipedia - surely the only encylopedia that actually marks its entries as wholly unreliable for anything beyond 'feeling' that you understand the topic....

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry? What?

So Paul, you reckon that the Encyclopedia Britannica should arrive in a truck. 12 (or whatever) volumes of Encyclopedia and a couple of hundred of argument / discussion / bollox / flames / sarcastic comments / self-serving rubbish about or vaguely related to each article, all of which you should have read before you can claim to understand the article you wanted to look up in the first place!

Then, and only then, you should look closely to see that the article you wanted is rated somewhere between "mildly inaccurate" and "utter bollox".

This works as a reference source how exactly?

Tim

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"B" for effort

The discussion pages are, almost without exception, light-years ahead of the main articles in terms of interest.

And they should do away with that silly quality scheme. "A serious student or researcher trying to use the material would have trouble doing so, or would risk error in derivative work" pretty much sums up the whole site.

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article scales

really, a scale is a good idea. Wikipedia and The Register --could-- go by the same scale - i'd suggest a simple 2 level scale.

level 1: proper journalism

level 2: shite

el reg manages level 1 a good 99% of the time, and wikipedia..well...ok maybe wikipedia should stick to letters.

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Self correcting?

Surely the best kind of self-correcting process is to get facts right BEFORE publishing? Or is that old fashioned?

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Anonymous Coward

Now if only Betacommand could...

Now if only Betacommand could remove some of the God awful Adams election posters that are littering Dublin at the moment - and while he's at it those of his fellow SF member Aengus O'Snodaigh a man who appears to me to have the personality of a chair...

...and not forgetting the magic eye Bertie Aherne ones - which have an uncanny ability to completely look through you when you look at them - something he's done to the Irish electorate for the last 10 years - so no change there so.

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Anonymous Coward

Belfast Telegraph

Adams 'quits IRA Council' in new move

Saturday, July 23, 2005

By Staff Reporter

newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

THREE senior Sinn Fein figures, including party president Gerry Adams, have stepped down from their posts on the IRA's ruling Army Council, it was reported today.

THREE senior Sinn Fein figures, including party president Gerry Adams, have stepped down from their posts on the IRA's ruling Army Council, it was reported today.

The move has heightened speculation that an IRA statement on its future intentions is imminent.

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/imported/article966018.ece

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Silver badge

Was Gerry Adams in the IRA?

And what does Wikipedia have to say on the Pope's religion?

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Is this newsworthy?

At Wikipedia, this is just their usual mode of conducting work.

Paul, the reason they actually do something about this article now, is that in this case someone went through the trouble to put a highlight on their ridiculous behavior. You could do five similar news items each day, if you cared.

But why bother? Wikipedia's reputation already has been reduced to that of a mass blog with questionable credibility.

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

Making waves

Does it really matter?

Thousands of people died and now there's the prospect of a lasting peace. People might talk of journalistic integrity and accountability but we're ten years away from a post-mortem. All history will eventually be rewritten by hindsight and Hollywood scriptwriters.

Sorry to get all Lennonesque but when the dust settles the truth will out, Peace prizes are for the people of Ireland not their politicians.

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Anonymous Coward

Classic

"it seems that wikipedias processes work"

Repeated deletions of valid, correctly attributed material by a small group of persons with a clear POV is the process working? I'd hate to see it going horribly wrong then.

Clearly Adams is a controvertial subject. Clearly those on both sides of the political divide have a vested interest in promulgating their own propaganda and suppressing contradictory evidence.

This is an area where Wikipedia is hoist by its own petard. To fix it, they need professional help from people actually know how to create neutral factual articles.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

Discussions far more value than articles

"The discussion pages are, almost without exception, light-years ahead of the main articles in terms of interest."

I completely agree, the discussions give you so many points of view and tell you so much more about the reliability of the posters. I think the discussions are by far the best and most educational thing on Wikipedia.

As any researcher will tell you, the key to finding the truth of a matter is to compare lots of points of view and take into account how much you can trust each source. The more you do this, the closer to the truth you get.

The discussions are also much more readable and more lively, as they're freed from the dry encyclopedic style of the main articles.

There's also no chance of anyone mistakenly relying on the discussions, because they very rarely let you take away just one view of a subject. They force you into analysis, in other words, which is a great thing.

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Anonymous Coward

focus on real issues instead

Why spend time on such trivialities when there are far more serious problems with Wikpedia.

I have recently been researching the subject of Dwarf Tossing, and was surprised to find that the female world record holder lives in Sweden.

Since Sweden is so proud of its reputation both in gender equality and in minority rights, I was interested to find out more about the female dwarf throwing champion 'Lucey Normosbuthol', but there does not appear to be anyone of this name registered in Sweden...

hmm...

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Silver badge

Why does it matter

I don't see what all the hubbub is about. Any "reference" source is only valid until somebody with a big brain and a lot of letters after their name disputes it. Happens all the time but we of few or no letters aren't privileged enough to see it. Any article in Nature or Science is debated hotly prior to publication then it gets really nasty. Letters fly around in super niche publications refuting the original publication and calling it total crap. No body ever knows who is really right. Publication = right in today's world. Ye muppets have decided that if it's printed is true. Just because Wikipedia brings traditional scholarly conflict into the public eye does not invalidate it. (some of their controls and process are questionable for sure but the fact that "scholarly debate" is moving into the public realm is a good thing)

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Re: Perhaps it's me but...

Encyclopedias are useful references for undergrads. Most universities require students to take all sorts of bollocks courses in crap that is utterly unrelated to their real coursework. They say it gives their students a more well-rounded knowledge base, and they call it "General Education." In my experience, the best people coming out of the universities are the ones that learn how to get by these "General" courses with minimal effort and focus on their specialty and chosen path. So they end up taking things like Astronomy 001 - dead-end introductory classes meant to flesh out the facts of a subject and provide a limited understanding to those who may wish to go further.

Professors being professors, though, they want papers and presentations and crap. But the level of the course means that the primary focus of grading will be on the information conveyed rather than on analysis, understanding, or any meaning. So you go look the crap up in the textbook, encyclopedias, and other general references. 15 minutes of reading, and a half hour of typing nets you a really slick powerpoint, or an A-paper.

Outside those crap 000 and 100 level classes, though, you're still expected to provide meaningful analysis (though you can't ever make any original analysis - undergrads aren't allowed to have any original thought that isn't attributed to a professor or else it's plagiarism).

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lot of rubbish written about wikipedia

There is a lot of rubbish written about Wikipedia - generating lots of heat, and little light. It's not the same as an encyclopaedia - but neither is it useless.

If there is a continuum of reliability running from say Holy Writ (if you're a believer) or Dawkins' stuff (if you're the prophet Richard), through scholarly journals, then proper Encyclopaedias, then press websites and blogs (in reverse alphabetical order), finishing with conspiracy sites and Fox News.

Wikipedia fits in there somewhere (probably below Britannica and above most blogs). You shouldn't blindly believe it, but that's true of most sites. There is no completely reliable fact checking, but there is enough that it's better than my blog, say.

So use its information, discussion and links as a basis for further investigation. Don't get distracted by the pro or anti hype. It's a useful collection of information, but no more than that.

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Anonymous Coward

Is that the truth....

Is that the truth, or did you read it on Wikipedia?

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what I edit three times is true

No :-)

Wikipedia thinks it's an encyclopaedia, which it isn't, quite. But it's still a very useful website. Its discussion pages are an excellent - and sometimes entertaining - resource. And it's taking some steps to improve quality.

Uncritically accepting its claims is about as sensible as uncritically accepting El Reg's line that it's rubbish.

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Why all the venon toward Wikipedia?

Did Wikipedia kill your wife? Or did Wikipedia commit unspoken acts of genocide in Darfur? What did Wikipedia do to make El Reg hate it so?

The Reg is very juvenile when it comes to Wikipedia. It actively searches for mistakes and when it finds one, it goes around saying "Nah nah nah." Like a little child on the schoolyard. The Reg is good for a lot of things, but when it comes to this, it is just childish.

Let it go! So what, Wikipedia is not perfect. Get over it. Did Wikipedia publish something that was true and exposed some people at El Reg? Or do you view Wikipedia as a threat? Which is it? My vote is the latter.

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As long as it doesn't take itself too seriously who cares?

As a general resource it seems ok. Obviously you wouldn't use it for anything serious in nature.

No it seems to me we start having problems when people use it as the be-all and end-all of knowledge.

Learning that a level 350 enchanter in the World of Warcraft can enhance these kinds of objects in a particular way is not the same thing as producing a school assignment.

Discovering the history behind Babel Fish is not the same thing as going to a UN summit representing the UK armed only with knowledge from Wikipedia. It would be funny, but not something most people would do.

So as long as you make sure that people doing serious work understand it's probably not a great idea to use Wikipedia as their only research tool I think we'll be ok.

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Wikipedia is pretty useless (shock)

Just tried to edit that article on wikipedia, one_night_in_hackney removed the attempt i made to make a contribution to the peoples encylopedia stating that is was poorly sourced material...

I am not sure that material sourced from the BBC, NY Times, Washington Post etc can be described as poor - afterall that is the sort of thing normal people will be reading after all.

I put it down to Wikipedia silliness and again it removes any type of faith i have in the dungpile

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I looked that up on wikipedia

I had a look at the article history.The other editor may have been overenthusiastic in removing your contribution entirely, but I can see why he might have reverted your edit - phrases like "many new sources as well as local knowledge..." and "some may argue that..." are not attributions, the "local knowledge" phrase sounds like "original research" (which Wikipedia does not favour) and Ivan Foster's website is perhaps not the best source or most impartial source for analysis of the IRA Army Council.

You did have some good links as well though, and made relevant points. If you're serious, why not take it up on the talk page, as he suggested?

That said, your other edit (Jeremy Beadle has small handitis) was reverted as vandalism within the day, so I'm not sure how seriously you're taking this whole wikipedia thing.

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