back to article Happy birthday: Jimbo Wales' sweet 16 Wikipedia fails

Sixteen years ago, Larry Sanger had the idea for a wiki-based encyclopaedia anyone could edit: the "wiki-pedia". On January 15, 2001, he and Jimmy Wales launched the site. Today, it's everyone's go-to place for quick factlets. Wikipedia's convenience is undeniable. But its anonymously compiled content has flaws and quirks …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me
    Facepalm

    At least they're the only web service provider posting fake news. Oh wait.....

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      I liked "revenge editing" - could create a new term rediting. Oh, wait....

  2. monty75

    My favourite was the obituaries of Ronnie Hazlehurt which credited him with writing Reach for S Club 7 http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/03/wikipedia_obituary_cut_and_paste/

    1. JN

      Yes, that was a good one too.

  3. Cuddles Silver badge

    Citation needed

    Ultimately, none of the mentioned problems are actually particularly important. Any encyclopedia is essentially just a compilation of sources; they might give a handy summary, but if you need information for something that's actually important it's entirely your own fault if you don't bother checking the references. I don't know exactly how things stand these days (I suspect it's not changed much), but back in the early days of Wikipedia there were studies done showing that it was at least as accurate, if not more so, than the Encyclopedia Britannica. For all the issues with trolls and fraud, crowd-sourcing your fact-checking can do wonders compared to putting it all in the hands of a few overworked employees.

    Basically, there's no such thing as "wiki-literacy", it's simply called "scholarship", and it applies regardless of what you use as your initial source of information. Wikipedia, the Britannica and the Kazakh National Encyclopedia are all fine as long as you follow them up and don't just blindly believe everything they tell you. Wikipedia doesn't have more problems or different problems, it's just a bit more popular.

    1. The Mole

      Re: Citation needed

      The problem is the circular nature of wiki edits (particularly in conjunction with newspaper). That is someone adds a 'fact' to a wiki article. Another website (particularly lazy journalists) will quote that 'fact' and then someone updates the wiki with that site as a supporting 'reference'. With no clear indication of dates and sources how can people effectively judge references? If you find 10 other websites (or even books) quoting the same fact that doesn't make it true if they all used wiki as their original source, but there is no way to determine that. This is particularly bad that people think news papers should be trustworthy (particularly given they do regularly do original research on events) and certainly would assume books published by university press are reliable.

      1. JN

        Re: Citation needed

        "If you find 10 other websites (or even books) quoting the same fact that doesn't make it true if they all used wiki as their original source, but there is no way to determine that"

        The only way to check is to first figure out when the info was added to Wikipedia (you have to go to the article's revision history and perform a "revision history search"), and then look for sources mentioning the same info that were published prior to that date (if there aren't any, it's likely to have been a Wikipedia invention). The process is extremely cumbersome, and will become more and more difficult as time passes.

      2. strum Silver badge

        Re: Citation needed

        >Another website (particularly lazy journalists) will quote that 'fact' and then someone updates the wiki with that site as a supporting 'reference'.

        But that happened, long before Wiki. A 'fact' was publshed, somewhere, that issue went into the newspaper's 'morgue' (or on to a library shelf). Every time the subject came up again, the same 'fact' was re-published. Such 'facts' could have many, many citations.

        There used to be thousands of these 'facts' - but some of them have died, thanks to Snopes and other fact-checkers.

        So - The Reg can find a few dozen pranks? Out of how many pages? Is The Reg confident that it has never propagated a 'fact'?

        1. JN

          Re: Citation needed

          "But that happened, long before Wiki."

          Sure it did.

          And in a way, Wikipedia takes us back to how things were centuries ago, when there was, say, only one standard work on South American fauna, and everybody else copied from it. (Ironically, the Cambrige University Press book linked in the article, The Legacy of Dutch Brazil, edited by Michiel van Groesen, discusses exactly one such case of scholars simply copying from their predecessors... and in the process makes two mistakes: firstly copying the fake "Brazilian aardvark" moniker from Wikipedia and secondly referring to the coati instead of the agouti Buffon was actually writing about ... but I digress.)

          So in the 18th century, you had a situation where there was one standard work, and everybody else, for the most part, copied from it, rather than presenting their own research. With Wikipedia, we're now effectively returning to this situation.

          Centuries ago, the problem was that there weren't enough sources to choose from. Today, there are too many sources for people to choose from. The choice is too bewildering, and people look for a one-stop shop. But the outcome is the same: one source dominates everything else, and its errors and biases propagate.

      3. goldcd

        Yes, but to echo a comment a few up

        This isn't particularly new or unique to wikipedia - scientific papers have always been a bit incestuous and peer-review by other experts competing in the field, causes the odd bit of revenge work.

        Stepping back to something more popular - "5 fruit and/or veg a day" or "8 glasses or water" - all complete tosh that's endlessly re-fed to us.

        Only difference now with anybody being able to bang in an update and fewer journalists being asked to bang out more and more, the loop is just getting tighter.

    2. Wade Burchette

      Re: Citation needed

      I have also read about individuals who were serial censors. Someone would come along in a controversial topic (i.e. climate change), post relevant information complete with valid citations, and a few minutes later it was gone. I remember reading about one person who did this, but I forgot his name. He was eventually purged from the system. But the problem has not been purged. Nor will it ever because of human nature.

      This is why I tell everyone never ever trust Wikipedia in any way about controversial topics. There are too many censors who have nothing to do with their time except to make sure you don't see any of those pesky facts that disagree with their cherished belief. These censors occupy high levels in the Wikipedia organization, so they can serial censor while you get banned from editing.

      1. Bruce Ordway

        Re: Citation needed

        I learned early I life to question anything and everyone, even my teachers.

        In an elementary school lecture on the Panama Canal I asked my teacher why they used locks instead of cutting right through. She told me the Pacific was higher than the Caribbean and that the use of locks prevented wide scale flooding. Until I found better information, I carried the image of Brazil partly underwater with me.

        The general spread of "bad info" related to current events is what scares me more than Wikipedia.

        Wouldn't it be nice if we always had access to accurate knowledge or scholarly information.

        Until something better comes along I will continue to use Wikipedia for my light entertainment and answering trivia questions.

        Then there is http://www.snopes.com/

      2. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Citation needed

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salafi_movement

        I can't remember how long it lasted, but for a while, it was entirely filled up with innocuous and harmless citations from the Koran and mainstream Muslim content. Nothing mentioned that was in the least bit threatening or coercive ;-).

        Fortunately, because the goat-molesters doing the edits were totally brain-dead, it was also clearly recognizable as whitewash.

        Bit like the Church of Scientology suing folk that publish their actual religious tenets.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Citation needed

        The man yuou are thinking of was a Cambridge software engineer - Connolley - who falsified several thousand entries in wikipedia to promote the global warming agenda.

        https://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/14/willia-connolley-now-climate-topic-banned-at-wikipedia/

    3. John Lilburne Silver badge

      Re: Citation needed

      Twaddle. This is the constant excuse made by wikipedia for the total bollocks that it contains. Its no one's responsibility to constantly watch wikipedia to make sure that they aren't being lied about, nor should that spend days arguing with a "mentally deranged anon on the internet" to get it corrected.

      The problem is that most of the refererences are dead. Its rare to find an article where the refs don't 404 and when the do pound to a penny they don't support the wiki statement (see Jagged85 as one of many examples of bullshit).

      Besides what use is the thing if you need to check each factoid against the reference? You might as well have gone and read the referenced material in the first place.

      You can't rely on their feature articles being any better "Richard II king of England in 1345" was in one FA for three years. The FA and GA reviewers don't think it is their job to check the accuracy of anything they are reviewing, besides they aren't subject experts. They simply check style, whether there is a picture and whether there is obvious copyright violations. So you get a system where technical text gets mangled to avoid copyright issues and ends up stating something different from the original. No one picks this up. "X has a yellow or red stripe" becomes "X has a stripe which is orangey".

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7yb-JncKow

      The copy editors don't think that fact checking is necessary either. Just think about that for moment ... you are rearranging sentence construction and have no regard as to whether at the end of the process your rearrangement accurately reflects the original.

    4. JN

      Re: Citation needed

      Reinforcing the false impression that Wikipedia consistently achieves a level of accuracy comparable to that of Britannica really doesn't help. Interestingly, it's a hoax in itself that compounds the problem.

      For a start, Wikipedia contains millions of articles on pop culture, sports, companies, business schools, villages and other minor topics that no one will ever be able to conduct a comparative study on, simply because other encyclopedias don't cover them. (Britannica has no article on Amelia Bedelia, for example, or the Boston point-shaving scandal.) The Wikipedia articles on Neptune, the Aral Sea or Barack Obama may be quite excellent, but it's the more obscure articles where Wikipedia's vetting lets the site down, and bad edits slip through.

      And those bad edits are a qualitatively different problem from those Britannica and other traditional encyclopedias suffered from: they did not outsource some of their content writing to stoned sophomores, hoaxers, political extremists, revenge peddlers or PR companies operating under the cover of anonymity.

      People see Wikipedia described as an encyclopedia and mistakenly assume that all its content is vetted by the site's administrators before publication, in much the same way that editors and specialists did their best to verify the content of conventional encyclopedias before going to press. (Any Wikipedian can tell you otherwise.)

      It's an impression the Wikimedia Foundation often fosters, praising the vigilance of its anonymous volunteers and citing studies on Wikipedia's reliability that gave the site a passing grade. In doing so, they're doing knowledge a disservice. It would be much more helpful if they told people to be alert, check references and so on (as Amir Aharoni, to his credit, did in that interview).

      P.S.

      I don't know if you've ever read a traditional encyclopedia, but they're not "just a compilation of sources". Traditional encyclopedia articles didn't even list their sources. They didn't have to, because they employed expert writers trusted to have a full grasp of the topic's literature, and the ability to summarise key findings for the public. Listing sources for everything is Wikipedia's invention, as an alternative way of establishing content credibility.

      Nature's famous Britannica–Wikipedia comparison, by the way, only compared a small number of science topics and firmly concluded that even in this topic area, which is one of Wikipedia's strongest, the site contained a third more errors than Britannica, and was much less well written. I'm not aware of any studies concluding that Wikipedia is more trustworthy than Britannica, but if you have seen one, I'd be interested in looking at it.

      1. Falanx

        Re: Citation needed

        "Listing sources for everything is Wikipedia's invention"...

        Tell that to every peer-reviewed journal and scientific document since the dawn of fucking time.

        1. JN

          Re: Citation needed

          I was responding to the statement that "Any encyclopedia is essentially just a compilation of sources." Wikipedia articles can indeed be used like that, but traditional encyclopedia articles aren't footnoted.

        2. John Lilburne Silver badge

          Re: Citation needed

          Wikipedia is not a peer reviewed journal it is a collection of amateur blog posts with a list of inaccessible sources. Also just because something has a source doesn't mean that the source is accurate or the most appropriate, you need some subject knowledge for that, not the first thing that you get from a Google search.

      2. John Lilburne Silver badge

        Re: Citation needed

        Also a number of the 'science articles' compared were Britannica articleds from the 1911 version that the wikicomedians had cut&pasted into wikipedia. So basically Nature compared the 1911 version of a Britannica article against the current version of Britannica, and found that after it had gone through the wikicomedians hands it was less readable and less accurate.

    5. Hans 1 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Citation needed

      >Wikipedia doesn't have more problems or different problems, it's just a bit more popular.

      I totally agreed with what you wrote, hence upvote ;-), except for the above, it is plain wrong.

      Wkipedia allows anybody to edit and a great many times, BS edits are undone ... but not always. HOWEVER, and here comes the atomic bomb against Britannica: When you correct Wikipedia, it is done INSTANTLY, not in the next print, no, the very next time Joe Public accesses the article.

      Wikipedia has its issues, but it is in general, right now, more accurate than Britannica on an incredible number of articles ...

      1. John Lilburne Silver badge

        Re: Citation needed

        "not in the next print, no, the very next time Joe Public accesses the article."

        You aren't up-to-date at all. Britannica no longer has a print version.

        However, you are assuming that Britannica has an equal number of egregious errors to wikipedia in the main subject areas. It does not.

        Jagged85 should be the antidote to any assumption that wikipedia has any concern over errors. Jagged85 made 10s of thousands of edits to more than 8,000 articles. Many of the edits were entirely made up. He even invented an entire school of philosophy. The wholesomeness of his edits were questioned a number of times but his prolific number of edits gathered supporters and defenders. He edit articles in Mathematics, Medicine, History, Literature, and Philosophy and by 2010 it was understood that many of his 64,000 contributions were bogus. So bogus in fact that many people said that the articles he had worked on ought to be taken back to stub status. However, wikipedia just couldn't bring itself to stub such articles as Number Theory and many other core articles. So they made a list of all his edits and asked people to check through them, and so people did for a couple of weeks until they got bored. 10000s of edits remain unchecked to this day. So what happened to Jagged85? He was allowed to carry on editing for a few more years until he was found to have been falsifying articles on Video Games at that point he was banned.

        Back to up-to-date-ness wikipedia is not uptodate and can never be. It must always lag behind the likes of Britannica. The reason being is that wikipedia cannot react to new data until after it has been published in scholarly journals, that takes time. Whereas a subject expert in some field of Quantum mechanics can update the Britannica article with the latest research as soon as it is accepted by practioners in the field.

    6. Gregory Kohs

      Re: Citation needed

      "...but back in the early days of Wikipedia there were studies done showing that it was at least as accurate, if not more so, than the Encyclopedia Britannica..."

      There were no such studies. This is a perfect example of how the crowd can't be trusted, because like any game of whisper-down-the-lane, the facts get distorted into something completely wrong.

      You're thinking of a Nature news project (not a "study") that found that Wikipedia had about 4 errors per science topic, versus Britannica having about 3 errors per topic. That's "less accurate" than Britannica, for those keeping score.

      Also, there's this -- some measure of proof that the problem is just getting worse: http://wikipediocracy.com/2015/04/13/experiment-concludes-most-misinformation-inserted-into-wikipedia-may-persist/

  4. MrT

    Are they not asking for donations...

    ...to the Wikipedia Knowledge Management Trust? I'm surprised the bannerbegs haven't been on the site for a while now...

    "If Wikipedia is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today."

  5. Paul Woodhouse

    wasn't the term 'Wiki-Salting' first popularised on these here very pages?

    i.e. you need bullshit techie excuse quick so you go and write a quick wiki page on it, your marks look it up and believe your bollocks.

    1. John Lilburne Silver badge
      Trollface

      We did that to troll the David Ike forums. Nowadays we do it to troll a far wider audience.

      1. MrT

        David Ike...

        ... I'd forgotten about that. Hang on whilst I just nip over there and redefine turquoise as the Holy Colour and add a few 'facts' about lizards... ;-)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Wikipedia has messed up perhaps 15,000 students' lives."

    Perhaps Wikipedia can use some of the millions they hold in their reserves to compensate those harmed by their ineptitude and negligence?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe students shouldn't rely on a single source?

      The Britannica was also full of issues, and sometime back, it was found Wiki was only slightly worse (before Britannica dies a death)

    2. stephanh Silver badge

      Or they could hire some fact checkers.

      I've heard newpapers had them back in the old days.

  7. Mr Dogshit

    The 1978-79 Boston College point-shaving scandal. Yeah, I remember it well.

  8. chivo243 Silver badge

    Jump back 20 years

    and we have the telephone game. We start with one person with one piece of information, they pass it on to the next, and at the end there is a purple elephant in the elevator game...

  9. Lazy Jack

    Reference

    Obligatory xkcd reference: https://xkcd.com/978/

    1. JLV Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Reference

      which now has become a noun:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:List_of_citogenesis_incidents

      Good article, but, in Wikipedia's defense, there is little a public-content based website can do to eradicate this problem. On their end, best would be to mitigate it as much as possible while keeping the openness that has fueled its mostly pretty darn good usefulness.

      I'd be curious to know if Wikipedia has been improving in this regard. And what additional remedies could be applied.

      StackOverflow & co has a partial solution: answer up/down votes.* But that relies on multiple answers being self-contained entries mostly edited by one person, not mingled paragraphs. i.e. it fits their content. And even then, you have the phenomena where the accepted answer turns out to have better alternatives but it gets stuck as THE answer.

      My takeaway: Wikipedia as a quickie source is OK, as long as you are not doing anything too important/sensitive with the info or you know the subject somewhat. Unfortunately, journalists, by definition, have a higher duty to be factual than most people, but not always having the domain knowledge to weed out issues. So that leaves El Reg in the lurch - but at least they know that there is a problem.

      * I recently took down one of my answers when several people pointed out it wasn't particularly clever. I rode out the first comment or two, but then figured more probably indicated a real problem.

  10. Ilmarinen
    FAIL

    It's worse than that Jim...

    Although it seems fairly OK for basic factual stuff, it most definitely goes off the rails where the subject is is in any way contentious and then it degenerates into warring factions of wicki-fidelers and competing reality-distortion fields.

    I was recently watching the edit war on the Tracey Curtis Taylor page - hilarious - go read the "talk" tab to see how this works. Or see anything to do with Climate Change (tm).

    And it only seems to be "The Free Encyclopedia that Anyone can edit" if the "Anyone" has the correct opinions - witness the recent airbrushing from reality of the "The People's Cube" page.

    Punchline: You can't trust it further than you can spit ! (but us technical folks all knew that anyway)

  11. Keith Langmead

    Another one

    For many years the entry listing the ladies wheelchair winners of the London Marathon wasn’t even correct. I happened to date one of the former winners for a while, and she mentioned getting the gold medal. It was early days and I decided to check online, found the wiki article which listed someone else and accused her of telling fibs. Needless to say seeing the certificate and her gold medal set me straight! It seems for several years Tanni Grey-Thompson had won, and someone had just inserted her name in there (either by mistake or just being lazy) and no one had noticed. That’s the first and only time I’ve edited an entry, but at least it remains correct.

  12. steelpillow Silver badge

    Don't whinge about it, fix it

    The thing that no longer surprises me about comments on Wikipedia is how utterly uninformed its critics are. Clearly they are not experienced contributors or they would know better than to spout such rubbish. Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that, provided you stick to the house rules, anyone can edit - even you. As somebody once said, "Try it, you might like it."

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Don't whinge about it, fix it

      As people have said, an expert can't fix Wikipedia because the house rules are to prefer sources over accuracy. Wikipedia is broken by design.

      1. Ilmarinen

        Re: Don't whinge about it, fix it

        This was my take on watching the page I cited above. Factual information on the subject, from experts in the subject, was deemed ineligible because it was "original research". References that a pilot had crashed a plane were excluded on the grounds that this was "not notable".

        Wikifiddlers with an agenda are far more tenacious than ordinary folks, however expert or well informed, so their version of reality will tend to win out over time.

  13. Notas Badoff
    Facepalm

    Failed at finding fails

    You'd think if someone wanted to write an attack piece they'd at least research it and find out "What was the worst event that best illustrated what can go wrong?" These are mere bon-mots.

    User:Mantanmoreland

    Eventually found out to be a stock market 'expert' who had been guarding against the concept of "naked short selling". It wasn't the sock puppets or the long-time sneaky edits to protect his articles, it was the way in which he was able to co-opt WP establishment figures to defend him. Years went by, with multiple other users blocked, but defended by luminaries he continued. Most definitely including Wales himself, who knew the user personally.

    It was only when several people accumulated inconvertible, though circumstantial, evidence of exactly who the editor was and what he had done, that the majority of users overwhelmingly forced the PTB to ban the user. Unfortunately because of the initial acrimonious dismissal of obvious facts by those powers, several users quit in shock and dismay. Wikipedia's best defenders were pilloried and rejected by Wikipedia!

    It is this episode that best illustrates Wikipedia's greatest vulnerability - people can be played. (*and* the second greatest - failures are swept under the rug).

    The author here has failed at this assignment, having only amputated a few of JW's toes and quite failed at a head shot.

  14. cream wobbly

    It is quick and convenient

    "Wikipedia users may say that if you have to corroborate everything in Wikipedia, it's no longer quick and convenient."

    Who told you it was meant to be and why did you believe them? Wikis were never meant to be "wikiwiki" for the reader, but quick and convenient to *enter* information. This is especially important in roles where collaborative documentation is hard to achieve, thus twiki, Mediawiki, and a bunch of other "wikiwiki" engines were born. (Confluence makes it slow and inconvenient, but that's another story.)

  15. apalamarchuk

    Wikipedia used as a weapon

    I'm surprised nobody mentioned the cesspool of the Russian Wikipedia and the trash the state-sponsored trolls put into the English version. The Russian state uses the open tools such as Wikipedia, Wikileaks and forums to their ends.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stuck

    This is an oddly Wikipedia-ish article, for something criticising Wikipedia: List of Wikipedia Fails (totally not random stuff random people have chucked together into a list, honest, no, it's really scientific and shit)

    Anyway, as I occasionally moaned back when I was active, the Wikipedia model is broken as much as anything because it makes zero allowance for the accumulation of knowledge. An article on a major subject that has gone through loads of work, informed debate, well-sourced (with sources archived online where possible to guard against linkrot), etc, has exactly the same status as an article on something that possibly doesn't even merit an article written by one person, this morning. Everything is just one click a way from being a blank slate. Until or unless that changes, Wikipedia is just the online equivalent of a chalkboard in a school toilet.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I was asked to teach a night school class a few years ago, I told the students that if they used Wikipedia as a cited source, it must be verified by 6 other accredited sources that are not related to the wiki article.

    Needless to say there were a lot of complaints and whining... Until as part of the class I got them to write an essay proving that wikipedia is full of incorrect facts and misleading articles. All bar the dimmest of the students had a bit of an eye opener, and never submitted a wikipedia citation again... Aside from 3 who refused to accept wikipedia could be wrong, who failed the essay on it and who insisted on repeatedly citing wikipedia as a credible source for the entire class.

    Needless to say, they failed... they complained to the college... they failed in their complaint... 2 of them eventually dropped out because they weren't capable of learning anything that didn't adhere to their narrow minded view of what they thought things should be... the other just dropped my class and took up something simpler instead.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "6 other accredited sources"

      I don't know what you mean by "accredited", but accumulating sources seems pointless to me. Rather than having a long list of sources you're better off having a single source that you properly understand: you know the author, you've looked at how and where the author gets his/her information, you've looked at some of the author's sources, and so on. Basically I'd advocate a depth-first approach (trace a chain of citations back to an original source and try to understand the motivations of each author along the chain) rather than a truncated breadth-first approach (here are a dozen people I've never heard of who seem to be saying the same thing; must be true, right?).

      An example to think about (but don't bother discussing it here please): Did Osama Bin Laden plan the attack on the World Trade Center? Did he even know about it beforehand? The truth can be discovered in an hour or two with a web browser, but how many people are capable of doing that?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "6 other accredited sources"

        I'm chuckling that something entirely made up for a post on El Reg about made up stuff on wikipedia got taken seriously by some one. :)

        C'mon... did no one really see that coming... oooh the irony.

        AC for obvious reasons

  18. Mike 16 Silver badge

    An ElReg-worthy sample

    You want controversy? As of 03DEC2016

    Length, in markup bytes, of the 'Talk' pages for

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systemd => 4112

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Israel => 10866

    Meanwhile, anybody else at least mildly amused that the included video is from RT?

    1. Notas Badoff

      Re: An ElReg-worthy sample

      'archiving'. Some talk page sections are archived in two weeks or less. Otherwise the talk pages grow until they can't be loaded into some browsers.

      The history of Israel talk page has 4 archives of 69 sections total. Want to look again?

  19. WWHP

    Oye. Wikipedia. Over three years of harassment.

    Fully documented case study

    http://wikipediawehaveaproblem.com/

  20. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Old Timer Here

    Yes, I actually owned a real, honest to God Encyclopedia Brittanica. Moved it from house to house a few times too. Heavy sucker.

    At the end of the day this all comes down to one fact: a strong, smart editor makes content better and a skilled, knowledgeable fact-checking staff will find and remove gross, and even small mistakes.

    Publishing on paper gives the time and incentive to make sure what you're publishing is accurate and honest. You want to find and fix mistakes before the presses roll, and don't want dumb errors looking you in the face for years or decades.

    Handy though Wikipedia is, it does not have a centuries long reputation for professionally prepared content and reliable accuracy.

  21. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    read it with a grain of salt and brain engaged

    well, considering ANYBODY can say/claim basically ANYTHING on Wikipedia, it's both useful and untrustworthy at the same time.

    I think articles on technical stuff (like internet protocols, higher mathematics, electronics engineering) or non-controversial things (like TV episode summaries and info on your favorite anime) are pretty good on Wikipedia, and a great source of information.

    That being said, don't look for ANY accuracy where agendas might be held by one or more people. And if you post ANYTHING that goes against the left, you'll see LOTS of revenge edits within hours. yeah, I think some people LIVE for that. So no talking about supply side economics, or natural cycles in climate data, or the inherent failures of 'The New Deal' or socialized "anything" without MASSIVE edits removing as much of your content as possible, while simultaneously attempting to make you look like a fool for posting something NOT in agreement with THEM.

    These 'editors' [who apparently don't do anything else] seem to have WAY too much time, and WAY too much power. I wonder if someone is PAYING them to do that...

    Anyway, useful for SOME things, not so much for others.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Jenkem effect

    Jenkem demonstrated the weakness in Wikipedia's citing "trusted sources".

    The media had been completely hoaxed, but the neckbeards slavishly followed wikipedia guideline and edited a totally serious article about huffing shit, blocking any "original research" that everyone knew it was a hoax.

    The article now correctly defines it as a media hoax, but this literal shit went on for years.

    1. Mookster
      Paris Hilton

      Re: The Jenkem effect

      all very well, but the article hardly screams "hoax" at the top...

      (Paris, 'cos I'm shure she'd love to)

  23. Milton Silver badge

    TANSTAAFL

    Wikipedia is extremely useful IF you're already knowledgeable enough to detect BS. But if you're researching outside your area, especially something political or controversial, you need to be extremely cautious.

    I suspect the problems are (1) anonymity, which is arguably THE great weakness of the internet, allowing all sorts of cowardly dross to lie and deceive, and (2) "free" tends to give you what you pay for. Usually "free" means "crap", whether it's Facebook or Google treating you like a commodity. Wikipedia is under-resourced with respect to its reach and ambition.

    There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, remember? Wikipedia, IMHO, should charge micropayments or periodic / institutional subs and use them to fund a large corps of experts, checkers and systems for trapping dodgy editing.

    I'd also suggest it leverages that policy to become the go-to source for fake news checking. The world bay needs a trusted, reliable, scientific approach to facts, evidence, logic and that little pearl called Truth.

  24. adam 40
    Happy

    Uncyclopedia anyone?

    The perfect antidote to Wikipedia!

  25. VulcanV5
    Paris Hilton

    A fact disputed cannot stand . . .

    "You should never believe everything you read on the Internet." Abraham Lincoln.

  26. find users who cut cat tail
    Thumb Up

    Well, a Wikipedia bashing article that was both entertaining and informative (in that order). I hope Andrew is taking notes...

  27. Herby Silver badge
    Trollface

    Hoax??

    Maybe Wikipedia is a hoax for all this time. You never know!

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Hoax??

      Some years ago (before there _was_ a Wikipdia) A famous security expert (no, not Bruce) suggested that it could be salutary to create what he called Encyclopedia Disinformatica. He proposed a sort of crowd-sourced link-farm (before those terms came about, but after Google, when Page Rank was passing AltaVista) of bullshit web pages on various subjects likely to be consulted by students instead of doing actual research. The idea was to be so outrageous, to anyone who actually knew much of anything about a subject, that it would be accepted as parody, but swallowed whole by students on a (self created) deadline. Of course, the teacher would know better than to accept a claim that Henry VIII was gay, but had a harem to placate the church.

  28. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
    Unhappy

    Wiki Warz

    I recall a character assassination attempt at Wikipedia. Offering to correct the biography of an acquaintance I knew online, I added to his Wikipedia page approved information he had provided to me. But then the flying monkeys arrived with deliberate insults and nonsense. It became a battle where even a Wikipedia editor added his own overweight ego to the mix. I ended up dazed by the dark side of open editing. In the end, the facts won out. But getting there was exasperating endeavor.

  29. 1Rafayal

    Didnt the Scottish Government base its 2014 iteration of the neverendum on Wikipedia misinformation tactics?

  30. Stese

    Relevent XKCD is relevent

    https://xkcd.com/978/

  31. kventin

    """

    As Wikimedia Foundation employee Amir E Aharoni says below: "Don't trust Wikipedia! Never trust Wikipedia! I work for Wikipedia, and I'm telling you, don't trust Wikipedia."

    """

    and below... is a video from rt

    the irony...

  32. Ken Mitchell

    Anybody Who Believes Wikipedia....

    ... is an idiot and deserves whatever anybody says about him.

  33. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
    Angel

    If People Bother To Understand The Point Of Wikipedia...

    ... It's a stupendous source of good and useful information.

    The actual problem is the usual problem of mankind itself: We're LAZY.

    This leads to laziness in both researching information we put into Wikipedia as well as verifying information we take from Wikipedia. So blame mankind please. Don't blame Wikipedia in and of itself. Do believe Wikipedia when an article is well researched and well written.

    What I find is actually useful to criticize about Wikipedia is the ability of mere human Ego to dictate what gets published. I recall helping out a friend with the Wikipedia entry that had been written about him. Some filthy old troll had decided to trash the Wikipedia entry with insults, innuendo and lies. With the permission of my friend, I edited the entry down to simple correctness. In response, a particularly lunatic Wikipedia editor went off on me about HE was the expert on this person and how dare I provide an accurate entry that had been approved and verified by the very person discussed in the Wikipedia entry.

    People are a problem. That's not going to change.

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