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Stephen Robinson
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Posted: 19 March 2007 at 11:38am | IP Logged | 1  

 

 

 

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As I always tell my students, Wikipedia is a tremendous resource.  Tremendous.  It's a gateway to reams and reams of useful information.  However, follow their links.  Any good Wikipedia article will have citations up the yin-yang, which you can follow for yourself and judge their credibility.  Use Wikipedia to point you towards information, but don't cite it, cite the cites.

Well said.

SER: Sorry, but Wikipedia is garbage. Recent case in point:

Sinbad Dismisses Death Reports

 American comedian Sinbad has laughed off reports he died of a heart attack last Saturday, after website Wikipedia.org stated he had passed away. Wikipedia describes itself as 'the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit', and is used by internet surfers across the world. The entry for funnyman Sinbad was incorrectly edited last weekend by an unknown user. The Jingle All The Way actor - born David Adkins - realized something was wrong when he started getting hundreds of phone calls, emails and text messages from people concerned about the star. And despite the mix-up, the 50-year-old actor accepts the mistake could easily be made in the future. He says, "(On) Saturday I rose from the dead and then died again. It's gonna be more commonplace as the internet opens up more and more. It's not that strange."
 
SER: I've always seen "articles" that referred to an actor as gay (he isn't and if he is, then he's not out publically) and an actress as having gotten a role via the casting couch. The site lacks any journalistic integrity. If it wants to allow people to "edit" content freely, then at least have a moderator who reviews changes before they are "live." Is it really that difficult?
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Paulo Pereira
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Posted: 19 March 2007 at 6:06pm | IP Logged | 2  

Well, again, you have to make sure the article cites its sources, then look at those sources.

On another note, Sinbad is 50?

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Zaki Hasan
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Posted: 19 March 2007 at 8:33pm | IP Logged | 3  

Sorry, but Wikipedia is garbage. Recent case in point:

******

Hey, funny how that article in no way whatsoever invalidates the point I was making.
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Kurt Anderson
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Posted: 19 March 2007 at 10:02pm | IP Logged | 4  

So much for my term paper on deceased comedic giants from Star Search.

How's Brad Garrett's health?

 

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Thomas Moudry
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Posted: 23 March 2007 at 10:32pm | IP Logged | 5  

I've banned Wikipedia from my classroom for formal papers. The kids were
miffed at first, but in the end, it's made them better researchers.
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Paulo Pereira
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Posted: 24 March 2007 at 1:54pm | IP Logged | 6  

I'm not as anti-Wikipedia as some others (as has been mentioned, it can be a good place from which to find other sources) but there are definitely irritating aspects about Wikipedia.  Saw this curious statement on the Rubin Carter entry:

"The question of Carter’s actual guilt or innocence remains a strongly polarizing one. However this much is certain: either the criminal justice system released a triple murderer from the punishment that two separate juries had recommended, or it imprisoned an innocent man for almost 20 years."

That's basically like saying "it's certain Rubin Carter is either guilty or innocent."



Edited by Paulo Pereira on 24 March 2007 at 2:09pm
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 01 April 2007 at 8:39am | IP Logged | 7  

This tidbit from the NYTimes today, in an interview with Douglas Hofstadter:

>>Your entry in Wikipedia says that your work has inspired many students to begin careers in computing and artificial intelligence. I have no interest in computers. The entry is filled with inaccuracies, and it kind of depresses me.

So fix it. The next day someone will fix it back.<<

Nutshelled.



Edited by Michael Penn on 01 April 2007 at 8:40am
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Chris Schillig
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Posted: 10 April 2007 at 6:33am | IP Logged | 8  

My students aren't allowed to use Wikipedia, either. Too much faulty information, too many better places to search.
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anthony reed
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Posted: 13 April 2007 at 10:02am | IP Logged | 9  

My first post; yay!  I only recently joined, and I'm [mostly!] impressed with the discussion here; sane, well thought out, respectful [mostly...] and entertaining. To quote Annie Warbucks, I think I'm gonna like it here!

While I've been a librarian/archivist for over ten years (working mostly at archival shops), I recently started doing some part-time reference work at a local college and was a little surprised at the vitriol over Wikipedia (and Google, for that matter) from most staff. It's such a different world from when I was a student (can you hear me over the creaking of my walker?): myspace, amazon, blogs, texting, ipods, wireless, wikithis and wikithat...even public opinion forums! And it's the way the world is going. Kids today!

I think what hasn''t changed is the need to teach students (and, well, everyone) critical thinking and editorial discretion. I don't think I would want a student quoting an unnamed world-renowned holy book and one of the greatest pieces of literature as a scientific resource. I wouldn't want "The Daily Show" or FoxNews, for that matter, (WWJSD?)  to be considered a news source. And I sure as hell wouldn't want an unsupervised teenager going to look for information on the dangers of breast implants or HIV on the Internet and stop after one website (and depending on the website, ick).

I am thrilled - thrilled! - that one parent above let their kid use Wiki, and discover that it - like the Colbert Report, like the Encyclopedia frickin' Britannica, like the Warren Commission Report - are all written by people with varying degrees of knowledge, bias and "senses of humor". It's a golden lesson for a kid to learn. At any age.

I love wikipedia. I find it a fantastic resource. It's fantastically useful and fantastically flawed. It is written "by the people" with all the joy and horror that entails. It's often a starting point for my research. If it's the end point for other peoples' research (or for their "shits and giggles", well, whatever; another rockin' Friday night alone, huh?), I'm not sure if that's more the producers', or the consumers' problem? fault? issue?

Sorry for the length, espcially on my first; may not be the best way to endear myself, but opinions are like belly buttons...

JB - thanks for starting such a rousing conversation!

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John Byrne
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Posted: 14 April 2007 at 6:27am | IP Logged | 10  

I love wikipedia. I find it a fantastic resource. It's fantastically useful and fantastically flawed.

****

I'm curious -- by what magical method do you sift the flaws from the useful? Having seen myself described as a "registered sex offender" on Wikipedia, I think it would be very good if you could share with the world your method for determining at a glance that such entries are false.

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anthony reed
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Posted: 14 April 2007 at 8:04am | IP Logged | 11  

With all due respect, it's not really a magical method at all and - and this is my point - it's not at a glance. Reading that Alighieri Dante was a transvestite, you're a sex offender, global warming comes from cattle flatulence, the war in Iraq is about oil prices and/or overthrowing dictatorships or some [basketball?] player makes pancakes, all of these are rather secondary to what I go to Wikipedia for: when the Inferno was written (1300's; who knew?), what your run on FF was, where Iraq geographically sits, what team a particular Chicago player was on before the Bulls, whatever. If I want to know about an alleged sex offender registration status, and I'm serious about it, I'll check with the local (state, federal) authorities. (if THEY can be believed! dunt-dunt-DUNNNN!)

I'm just saying that KNOWING it's popularly written (again, the joys and the horrors...), it's a great big fat grain of salt I take when I read anything on Wikipedia, or anywhere on the Internets, for that matter. Depending on the nature of my inquiry (curiosity, general info, job search investigations, historical research, legal documentation), Wikipedia might be my first stop, but for things that matter to me, that I care about, that I'll be held accountable for, it would not be my last.

On the down side, the fact that I don't care DEEPLY about your SO registration status, I might read that on Wikipedia, accept it with a shrug and be done with it, filed away for some later fanboy cocktail conversation (really, "fanboy cocktail conversations"? likely?) and voila, the damage: she is done. I hear what you're saying about what's reliable information and what's not on Wikipedia, and I'm not tying to be obtuse here, but I guess I'm just wondering if, or rather, proposing that, the burden of responsibility is on being a critical consumer (and, to a lesser degree, a serious author of Wikipedia) rather than the webmasters. Caveat emptor and all that. I’d much rather teach kids the responsible use of Wikipedia than forbid its use altogether.

All that said, I'm not a celebrity and I've never had my Wikipedia page hacked (granted, no page: no vandalisation!), and from what you're saying, Mr. Byrne, you have, and that sucks. I can only imagine - luckily for me, I'll say - what that sort of slander or libel (I can never remember which this falls into) can do to your life. I’m not familiar with the history of the situation, but it sounds like it was a hugely personal attack (rather than a sort of random act of douchebaggery, which would make it only a little less awful) and that is nothing I would ever want a family member, friend, or loved one to experience. I just wanted to clearly state that so the personal aspects of this are not lost in all of my “theoretical intellectual responsibility” frah-frah-frahing.

Again, I appreciate the willingness to discuss and, again, apologies for the length (you’d think by the second apology, I’d learn about editorial control myself!).

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Mike Murray
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Posted: 14 April 2007 at 12:32pm | IP Logged | 12  

Anthony, if you can't trust JB's wikipedia page not to lie about him bing a sex offender, how could you trust it to accurately define his FF run?  Whoever screwed with the page to libel him could easily have screwed with the issue numbers.  The same goes for the other examples you mentioned, if the page has been "vandalized" it all it can't be trusted.
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Aaron Smith
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Posted: 14 April 2007 at 9:18pm | IP Logged | 13  

Anthony, you like JB's work enough to join his forum and address him personally in your post, and then you go on to say that you don't really care if this website which you say you like so much contained false information about him being a sex offender? Seems a little mixed up to me.
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John OConnor
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Posted: 03 May 2007 at 9:16am | IP Logged | 14  

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Gregg Halecki
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Posted: 26 May 2007 at 11:18pm | IP Logged | 15  

There are a few limited things that the site is useful for. Mostly I use it to help me recall things that I already know but can't put my finger on. Most importantly, it is fine for looking up something that is completely unimportant.

I am sitting having a conversation with my brother about the Three Stooges. We disagree over some fact such as "how many Howard brothers were there" or "What was Joe's last name?"

I am fairly confidant that Wiki will gove me answers that are credible enough for those kinds of questions.

I may by trying to think of something to do with American hevolution, and I can't remember what George Washington called his home. I will look it up and when I see Mount Vernon I will say "oh yeah" but if I saw Monticello or Montpelier I would say "hey wait a minute..."

If I wanted to look to see who created the Submariner, I would look and say "Bill Everett...I was thinking Carl Everett the baseball player"

I would NOT ever think to myself  "gee, let me check Wikki to see if it is safe for my mother to mix these medications".

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Matthew McCallum
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Posted: 16 June 2007 at 7:00pm | IP Logged | 16  

Gregg --

If you're approaching Wikipedia with an existing knowledge-base and using it as confirmation or a gentle reminder, you might be successful in sifting the wheat from the chaff. But if you're an elementary school child looking up data for a research paper about George Washington, you're not going to know "Mount Vernon" is right and that "Monticello" is wrong. You're going to operate on faith that what you see in print is truth, particularly if your resource bills itself as an online encyclopedia.

What I find most troubling about Wikipedia are the "useful" things like the John Byrne WikiQuote page where you have a number of statements made by Mr. Byrne on various topics that are yanked out of context, and may or may not even be quoted correctly. Essentially it's an agenda-driven effort by individuals who have a difficulty separating the artist from his art. Moreover, it seems to be assembled by those who are afraid of diversity of opinion.

Over the course of a 30-plus year career, a creative talent -- frankly, any of us -- will have made statements that may or may not reflect our current state of mind. Opinions evolve and mature over the course of a lifetime. Some ripen like fruit on a vine; others fall away and are left to rot. More to the point, such context free quotations do not differentiate between words spoken in earnestness and things said to provoke a reaction from a particular audience, or words written in conviction vs. gentle sniping between friends.

Consider the two quotations that lead off that page, both on the topic of terrorism. Mr. Byrne offers some strong opinions on that subject, and I think in the aftermath of 9/11 many of us had very strong views about an appropriate response. Now, I suppose these quotations offer me a glimpse into Mr. Byrne's thoughts post-9/11, although neither of these quotations informs me any further concerning Mr. Byrne's art. These quotes would be useful if they were placed in juxtaposition to one of his works, either as a counterpoint or an accent, but beyond that, why should Mr. Byrne be quoted on this subject in Wikipedia and not, say, Richard Gere (whose 9/11 comments at the Concert for New York made a bit more of a cultural impact)?

Let's leave aside that the reference for these quotes are secondhand sources (and message boards at that). The "context" for those comments is a link to an article by some fellow I've never heard of (but I'm an old guy and obviously out of the loop) which appears to be an attempt at comedy. And this twaddle is related to the topic of terrorism... how?

I've always thought that Wikipedia is a wonderfully utopian concept, and it proves on a daily basis just how far humanity is from perfection.



Edited by Matthew McCallum on 16 June 2007 at 7:09pm
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Jesus Garcia
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Posted: 24 June 2007 at 4:24pm | IP Logged | 17  

I use wikipedia as a starting point and, depending on the subject, found it to it to be extremely useful.

For example: last year I had to perform a system evaluation of a computerized system based on Microsoft's DOTNET technology -- something that I had ZERO exposure to and therefore experience with. My boss is a non-technical sales guy who doesn't know anything about the nuts and bolts and he'd presold me as an all-around knowledge expert.

I had 1 hour = 60 minutes (my lunch hour, natch) to assimilate enough information to be able to deliver intelligent answers to the customer's question -- especially the customer's techies who were in on the interview and would know shit from shinola.

I passed with flying colors and we extended a two-week engagement into a two-month contract. I've been "using" Wikipedia ever since.

Is wikipedia reliable? In the sense that you can mine gold from the ocean if you're willing to look long enough and hard enough, and maintain a healthy level of skepticism ... YES.

In the Britannica sense, no. But it is more a matter of degree than a matter of intention, design, or substance.

Furthermore, it is useless to attempt to move me from this position by enumerating a long list of personal bad experiences. In the end, it is only MY EXPERIENCE THAT MATTERS, and my consistent experience is that I have been able to use Wikipedia (and cross-referencing, of course) to arrive at a profitable result. Having some personal knowledge of the subjet at hand, of course, does help in assessing the value of the information.

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Wallace Sellars
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Posted: 24 June 2007 at 7:53pm | IP Logged | 18  

Does Wikipedia allow the "Wikipedia" entry to be edited by site visitors?  Is there an entry for the site's founder?  If so, is that entry subject to editing by anonymous visitors who wish to alter existing biographical information or contribute additional text? 
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Kevin Hagerman
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Posted: 14 August 2007 at 6:31pm | IP Logged | 19  

http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/08/vote-on-the-top.htm l

I LOVE THIS.

I harbor no illusions that Wikipedia is in any danger of going away, however.

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George Peter Gatsis
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Posted: 21 August 2007 at 11:33pm | IP Logged | 20  

well people... here it is... the GREAT WIKI even-the-playing-field do-hicky...

http://wikiscanner.virgil.gr/

Yes that's right, now you can track the evil-posters on wiki, right to the source and out them for being naughty...

I looks like a small step to trying to clean up the royal mess that the wiki-concept is...

edit: just check out all the nasty-ness-ess that is going on...

http://wired.reddit.com/wikidgame/


Edited by George Peter Gatsis on 21 August 2007 at 11:36pm
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James Peterson
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Posted: 27 October 2007 at 6:28pm | IP Logged | 21  

Are they seriously going the PBS route and asking for donations?

http://wikimediafoundation.org/donate/2007/psa/


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Jacob P Secrest
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Posted: 27 October 2007 at 6:31pm | IP Logged | 22  

They've been doing that for a long time.
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James Peterson
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Posted: 27 October 2007 at 6:33pm | IP Logged | 23  

I haven't been there in awhile.
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David Ferguson
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Posted: 29 October 2007 at 12:22pm | IP Logged | 24  

This is a far more factually correct site:

http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
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Taavi Suhonen
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Posted: 29 October 2007 at 3:11pm | IP Logged | 25  

"In the video game Chrono trigger, made by Squeenix, it is rumored that if you play the game for 5 weeks straight after having just lost your wife, its possible that you might be sent back in time to a random era in history."

I love Uncyclopedia. It's like Encyclopedia Dramatica with less gay porn.
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