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The Register Takes Aim at Wikipedia Again 630

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the keep-em-honest dept.
Syberghost writes "The Register has fired off another salvo in their long-running war of words with Wikipedia, in the form of an article about the lack of "moral responsibility" from the operators of Wikipedia. Wikipedia users fired back less than an hour later, making the Register headline obsolete."
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The Register Takes Aim at Wikipedia Again

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  • Moral Victory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by biocute (936687) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:02PM (#14242400) Homepage
    making the Register headline obsolete.

    And then what? Does that make the Register story obsolete too?

    While I don't think Wiki should worry about all these whingings (does TheOnion have moral responsibility to warn its readers?), Wiki users might get more out of the whole ordeal by asserting (via an entry) the unnecessity of moral responsibility in Wiki.
    • by KDan (90353) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:10PM (#14242468) Homepage
      Yes, of course. In the wonderful world of the Wikipedists, anything they say is golden because it's in a kind of encyclopedia, which automatically justifies it as being the absolute truth and if you don't like it you can change it yourself or go whine about it on slashdot and claim that the "Wikipedia has fired back" and if this is a firing back then the ammo was a fart and I'm getting bored of writing in this long add-on sentence style that resembles some Wikipedia articles and so I'm going to stop now.

      Daniel
      • Two-word response (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Kelson (129150) * on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:45PM (#14242718) Homepage Journal
        Straw man [wikipedia.org].
        • Re:Two-word response (Score:3, Interesting)

          by StikyPad (445176)
          The problem with a community of anonymous authors is that every one can claim plausible deniability and label any argument as a straw man. Not that the GP made much of an argument, except to comment on the ridiculous characerization of an article on Moral Responsibility as somehow "firing back." In fact, it's clearly an attempt at an ex post facto justification of legitimacy. He may have made an inaccurate presumtion that the submitter was a "wikipedian," but I think his characterization of the summary a
          • Re:Two-word response (Score:4, Informative)

            by MarkusQ (450076) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @12:42AM (#14244252) Journal

            I'm probably wasting my time, but:
            • The "straw man" accusation was targeted at the post above it, not the wikipedia, so the anonymity of the Wikipedia community has no bearing on the point.
            • In any case, anonymity has nothing to do with straw man arguments.
            • And even if it did, print encyclopedias do not provide their readers with information on the authorship of individual articles
            • In fact, Wikipedia actually provides more (and more accessible) information on the revision history and editorial decisions leading to the present state of an article than any print encyclopedia I've ever heard of.
            • Wikipedia may not provide a strong or prominent enough disclaimer to suit you, but the obvious question would be: what does? TV news? The New York Times? Can you name a single "authoritative" source of information that either 1) Prominently disclaims their status as authoritative or 2) provides some substantive guarantee of the accuracy of the information?

            --MarkusQ

              • The "straw man" accusation was targeted at the post above it, not the wikipedia, so the anonymity of the Wikipedia community has no bearing on the point.

              I think you have missed the point.

              • And even if it did, print encyclopedias do not provide their readers with information on the authorship of individual articles

              I think it's obvious that it's not worth the paper. I submit that you have never even attempted to ask for authorship information from an encyclopedia. I had a physics science project I failed in

    • Re:Moral Victory (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Seumas (6865)
      I didn't even know documenting facts and events involved any sort of "morality" in the first place. Some degree of ethics, sure - but morality? You can present history and facts and data in an ETHICAL manner... but how the hell do you present them in a MORAL manner? How do you describe the reign of Hitler in a MORAL manner? I don't get it.
    • Re:Moral Victory (Score:5, Interesting)

      by metlin (258108) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:17PM (#14242524) Journal
      Exactly.

      Wikipedia is a wiki - quite obviously, the system is not perfect and it has its benefits and its downfalls. They are not claiming otherwise, either.

      Now, what is the Register's alternative? Rather, what's Andy Orlowsku's alternative? That dude seems to rate a classic /. troll, or worse, a school kid who's picking on something he doesn't like and keeps whining.

      Wikipedia isn't perfect, and there are always morons out there who'd do some nasty things. If you're using Wikipedia for your research, you must be nuts. However, it is a starting point.

      In fact, in some domains (e.g. Physics), Wikipedia has oodles of good information that it becomes an excellent reference. Is it a 100% reliable reference? No. But it is a reference, and like anything else, it has its pros and cons.

      These guys sound like little whiners - who just know a wee little and go on and on about something. Reminds me of the case with Al Fasoldt who kept doing the exact same thing.

      Wikipedia is a dynamic, free, open encyclopedia that is more sophisticated and more comprehensive than a lot of encyclopedias out there. And this dynamicism brings with it a small price - brainless morons and vandals who, like in every other system, have no moral scruples or accountability.

      That does not mean the system is flawed - that means some of the people are.
      • Re:Moral Victory (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jlowery (47102) on Monday December 12, 2005 @09:49PM (#14243493)
        What can be said against Wikipedia can be said against the WWW. If you go to Wikipedia for information, you will find it light in some areas, heavier in others, and pure fluff or chicanery everywhere else. Sound's like the WWW, doesn't it?
  • by sheepab (461960)
    wikipediOWNED!
  • relevance (Score:2, Funny)

    by thexdane (148152)
    and slashdot will make this article irrelevant by posting it several times over in various forms
  • Ironically (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pHatidic (163975) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:05PM (#14242427)
    The Register article saying that Wikipedia was filled with errors was itself filled with errors. At one point they actually called MMORPG's "shoot em up games." The real definition is right in the acronym, I mean how hard is it to figure it out.
    • Massively Multiplayer Online Rail Projectile Games?
    • Chase thought Wikipedia was a joke site and he made the edit to amuse a colleague. From which we conclude that the spoof site Uncyclopedia, which consists entirely of fictional entries, is doing far better than expected, and that Wikipedia has a long way to go to rid itself of the image that it's a massive, multiplayer shoot-em-up game, or MMORPG.

      They're obviously not referring to MMORPGs as shoot-em-ups. They're saying it's not a "massive, multiplayer shoot-em-up game" nor is it a "MMORPG". It's neither on
  • by bchernicoff (788760) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:07PM (#14242433)
    The very openeness that makes Wikipedia such a dynamic and powerful resource exposes it to abuse. Is it a perfect system? No. Is it an incredibly valuable tool? Yes. Will it continue to improve because of things like this? Of course.
    • The very openeness that makes Wikipedia such a dynamic and powerful resource exposes it to abuse.

      To expand on your point... it seems like the detractors to wikipedia don't seem to understand it's purpose. Articles with misinformation continue to have misinformation because very few people are reading them. It all balances out in the end. Have they heard the phrase, "don't believe everything you read"?
    • Very true. Wikipedia has a lot of accurate articles, and if nothing else, collates a lot of good sources for someone to look at. Obviously it isn't perfect. But it's darn good. This is like me giving you a free luxury car, and you complaining that it only has half a tank of gas in it. Accept good things, and strive to make them better, don't reject them because they aren't perfect.
  • Fired back? (Score:5, Funny)

    by hesiod (111176) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:07PM (#14242437)
    If that Wiki entry is firing back, the gunpowder must have been wet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:09PM (#14242456)
    If you knew their history, you would know why.

    Founded in Nazi Germany by Adolph Hitler they were used to register all Jews marked for death in concentration camps. During the 60's, they supported neo-Nazis in America and were involved in the Kennedy Assassination. In the 90's they started covering IT news.

      - From WikiPedia
  • Pot.. Kettle.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dynamoo (527749) * on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:09PM (#14242458) Homepage
    Now, Wikipedia has its faults.. but to be honest, I find it a hugely relevant, usually accurate and very enjoyable resource, sometimes marred by personal agendas and bias. On the other hand, The Register is a hugely relevant, usually accurate and very enjoyable resource, sometimes marred by personal agendas and bias.

    I think this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Any intelligent netizen takes a variety of sources (e.g. Wikipedia, El Reg, Slashdot, Digg, the BBC etc) and forms their own opinions.

    Yes, Wikipedia has grown up, and I think it needs to tighten up procedures. But The Register's bizarre vendetta against what the term "wiki fiddlers" is annoying. Perhaps The Register needs to grow up a little too?

    • Re:Pot.. Kettle.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by radicalskeptic (644346) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `enotirt'> on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:22PM (#14242557)
      Now, Wikipedia has its faults.. but to be honest, I find it a hugely relevant, usually accurate and very enjoyable resource, sometimes marred by personal agendas and bias.

      Seriously. Wikipedia is a tool, similar to almost all sites presenting information on the internet: good for a quick reference, but not authoritative. And I think most people realize that.

      A few weeks ago I was writing a paper on Thelonious Monk [wikipedia.org]. Wikipedia says he started playing piano at age six, but, for example, this site [monkzone.com] says age nine. So Wikipedia has a 50% chance of being wrong on that point. But really I don't mind, and I'm not going to stop using it, because Wikipedia is more of a springboard and a starting place in exploring a subject, rather than an etched-in-stone authority. And I think most people "get" that. The Register, apparently, does not.
      • Re:Pot.. Kettle.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kelson (129150) * on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:49PM (#14242749) Homepage Journal
        Seriously. Wikipedia is a tool, similar to almost all sites presenting information on the internet: good for a quick reference, but not authoritative. And I think most people realize that.

        That's something that often gets lost in Wikipedia debates. In that respect, it is very much like the Internet as a whole: The best thing about it is that anyone can publish. The worst thing about it is that anyone can publish.
      • Re:Pot.. Kettle.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:59PM (#14242836) Journal
        Yes, it is, but over the last fortnight I've found myself handing in 3 pieces of work with wikipedia as the primary reference. It's simply a lot more possible to data-mine than any other source. When you're doing degree level physics (don't laugh at my incompetence at research) the amount of sources that will explain what you want to know in an understandable format rapidly approaches zero. What you use is wikipedia, because it's the only thing you can understand - you either reference wikipedia (allowing whoever is marking to take those references with as big a shovel of salt as they want), or you lie and reference the papers that relate to the topic but that you didn't read because you didn't understand them.
        I go with honesty
  • Speed of Response (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:10PM (#14242470)
    This episode shows a strength of Wikipedia, it is quick to respond to problems when it recognizes them. Tell a company about a bug, wait a month, get a response. Tell Wikipedia about a factual error, wait a hour, and see it fixed.
    • And (you couldn't have scripted it better if you'd tried) - the initial response that wikipedians posted to the "Moral Responsibility" page was itself copied without permission from another site!

      However.... the great strength of Wikipedia is in how quickly it is able to recover and self-heal from these sorts of problems. It's far from perfect, but it is damn useful nonetheless.

      Jolyon
    • by NumbThumb (468496)
      better: don't wait at all, fix it yourself.
  • Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Albinofrenchy (844079) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:11PM (#14242477)
    The reason this went unfound for so long? No one cares about Seigenthaler. Even if he was a Nazi.
  • What moral responsibility does the journalists at The Register have to write an important article obviously missing from Wikipedia?
  • What the fuck? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 0olong (876791)
    Wikipedia is a very easily accessible free source of information with just as much reliability as any other non-peer-reviewed source. Would we somehow be better off if Wikipedia didn't exist at all? Of course not. I can only assume the bad press is fueled by ulterior motives.
    • The key question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Darius Jedburgh (920018) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:27PM (#14242602)
      Would we somehow be better off if Wikipedia didn't exist at all?
      Despite some inaccuracies the Wikipedia is a veritable goldmine of useful information. What do the people who complain about it expect? An editor to peer review every single article? Wikipedia is probably the best model for a free encyclopedia that anyone has come up with and it's an amazing use of technology almost undreamt of a couple of decades ago. As long as we bear in mind how the entries are created (and it's not exactly a tough concept to grasp) how can it not be providing great benefit for people? The nay-sayers would put us back into the dark ages where we have to pay money for out-of-date information when there are people out there with the up-do-date facts who want to share them now for nothing. By all means don't keep the innacuracies a secret (because, among other things, that'll help to get them fixed), but there's no need for moral lectures unless you have a better alternative to propose. So I think your question is the right one to ask.
      • by jafac (1449)
        I think that one of the most valuable features of any given Wikipedia article is the "Links" section at the bottom of most entries. If an article author provides links and references, then it makes it far easier for a researcher to verify the credibility of the article.

        In fact, this is as it should be. If you leave the responsibility for verifying credibility with the author, well, then, thats just like interogating a criminal suspect, and then asking him if he's lying. You verify that by looking at other
  • Some truisms (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pHatidic (163975) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:14PM (#14242507)
    The same process that makes the most popular articles on Wikipedia of better quality than Britannica also makes the least popular articles of lesser quality. Although no one was willing to say it to his face, the real reason the error in Siegenthaler's article persisted for so long is that not many people care enough about him to read his eponymous article. Over the four months it was posted I'm willing to bet less than a thousand people read it. Really it is a tree-falls-in-a-forest issue, if no one is reading incorrect material does it really matter that it's incorrect?

    People ask, "Where will Wikipedia be after five years." The real question is, "Where will the world be after five years of Wikipedia?"
    • Re:Some truisms (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shystershep (643874) *
      if no one is reading incorrect material does it really matter that it's incorrect?

      If, indeed, no one was reading it, it would not matter. But even in your example you guess that "less than a thousand people" read the Siegenthaler article. When does it matter that material is incorrect? When more than one thousand people will see it? Ten thousand?

      • Re:Some truisms (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pHatidic (163975)
        If more people read it then it would get fixed. I'm not trying to suggest that it literally does not matter, but rather that there is essentially a cap on the number of people who will see bad information. This isn't perfect, but it is the best anybody has ever been able to come up with. There are basically two things that need to be done to right this wrong:

        A) Publish the number of people who have read the current revision so that users can get a rough heuristic of quality.

        B) Educate users about what Wikip
    • "Although no one was willing to say it to his face, the real reason the error in Siegenthaler's article persisted for so long is that not many people care enough about him to read his eponymous article."

      Agreed. Here's an experiment: Go to Wikipedia, click on "Random article". Look at the history for that page, and determine how long it has existed, and how many edits it has had. Now, compare to the Seigenthaler article:

      1st edit: 13:53, 15 September 2004. Created with only the contents, "John Seige
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:15PM (#14242510)
    From TFA:
    Everything you read is suspect! You'd better duck!
    Only a paranoiac, or a mad person, can sustain this level of defensiveness for any length of time however, and to hear a putative "encyclopedia" making such a statement is odd, to say the least.


    This is just plain bullshit. My grandfather had a saying he taught me(and pardon me for some downhomey common sense), but it was popular among he and his friends, and they were very well adjusted people:
    Believe half of what you hear, and nothing that you see.

    This isn't paranoia. This is reality. Individuals, corporations, governments, etc... tend to be bullshitters. Half the time, they don't even realize they're spreading bullshit. The reason is too many mistake their opinion for fact, because most people don't go deep enough to care what the difference is.

    The INSTANT you identify a source as something you can believe is honest and accurate without you having to verify facts or take with a grain of salt, is the instant you've set yourself up to be misled and enter a state of dogmatism.

    You question everything. You question what you see, you question what you hear, you question it all. Not out of some hysterical paranoia, but out of rational observation of the reality that we live in a bullshitters paradise.

    This article should get -1, Ministry of Truth publication. Believe half of what you hear, nothing that you see, and be happy and secure doing it.
  • The Blame Game (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Arandir (19206) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:16PM (#14242516) Homepage Journal
    If there's a problem - well, the user must be stupid!

    I'll probably be modded down for saying so, but that one sentence nicely sums up Wikipedia's philosophy.

    One is that Seigenthaler should have corrected the entry himself...

    See, they even blamed Seigenthaler for the libel against him!
  • by CurlyG (8268) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:16PM (#14242521)
    They seem to be on a trolling binge in recent weeks. I don't really mind this - their tone as always been cynical and has respected no sacred cows, but the current flock of flamebait arcticles just seem to me to be a little desperate.

    The blog attacks were kind of amusing last year, when the blogging hype was at it's most ridiculous, the snarky Wikipedia articles were occasionally entertaining, though I've never really understood the motivation in attacking that project (unless you happen to be an encyclopedia publisher). But it now just seems to be axe-grinding for no obvious reason than to bait various predictably-easy-to-bait groups of people, and the writing itself is less subtle and much less entertaining.

    How long can you keep generating sparks from that axe you're grinding when there's no axe left?
  • A big issue with Wikipedia is that it assumes that humans are not prone to mischief, and that most everyone is prone to do the right thing. We all know that this is not true in society, therefore it should be common knowledge that Wikipedia in its current form cannot be thought of as any dependable objective source of information, any more than someone's personal web page on Yahoo's Geocities! There really shouldn't even be a "media controversy" over Wikipedia, but the major media players choose to make i
  • Lawsuit (Score:5, Informative)

    by MeatSockit (938334) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:24PM (#14242573)
    Just to note, there's allegedly [zdnet.com] a class-action lawsuit against Wikipedia. But it turns out [ridingsun.com] that the site was created by an organization called QuakeAID [wikipedia.org], who had previously had complaints about Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] due to information about possible problems as an organization soliciting donations. Today, they posted a whiny press release [baou.com] about the site going live:

    Now another story suggesting that Wikipedia is out of control emerges. Some months ago, OfficialWire published an article about untrue postings on Wikipedia, by Christian Wirth also known as RaDMan. Shortly after the devastating earthquake and tsunamis on December 26, 2004 in the Indian Ocean, Wirth took upon himself to wage a war against QuakeAID Foundation, Inc. Wirth's arsenal consisted of untrue, libelous writings that he and Wikipedia published as fact. All attempts, by QuakeAID's founder, to correct the untrue comments were re-edited, blocked or labelled as 'untrue' by a group of volunteers, who hold themselves untouchable and above the law.

    QuakeAID has written once again to Jimbo Wales, demanding the untrue and libelous information be removed from Wikipedia, while a group of interested parties have joined together and plan to initiate legal proceedings against Wales and Wikipedia Foundation, Inc., and numerous others--the so-called anonymous 'volunteers'--who they believe should be held responsible for the content they publish.

  • by penguin-collective (932038) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:26PM (#14242586)
    I don't see any reason to change anything about Wikipedia or how it is created. I understand how it is created, how much I can trust it, and what I need to do to verify the information on it. Anybody who doesn't understand this about Wikipedia at this point must be from Mars.

    I think people who criticize Wikipedia for the way its entries are created are living in a world where they assume that just because an information resource is well known or popular, it must be accurate. That wasn't true when companies like the New York Times and ABC had a near monopoly on information dissemination, and it sure isn't any more accurate today.

    What needs to change is not Wikipedia, it's people's naive notions about epistemology. Or, to put it more bluntly: don't trust any information unless it either doesn't matter, or you can verify it from multiple independent sources yourself. Popularity, trust, and reputation of a source are very unreliable guides to the validity of information.
  • by CyricZ (887944) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:26PM (#14242593)
    This kind of conflict is excellent. It keeps everybody honest, or at least brings flaws out in the open, so as to lead to potential resolutions to such problems.

    Of course, the world will never see NBC Dateline truly questioning what is said on FOX News, nor will the New York Times truly question the reporting of the Washington Post.

  • Internet Content (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:29PM (#14242611) Homepage Journal
    Wikipedia is the prefect format for any type of information on the Internet. Sadly The Register has failed to observe one significant point; Unlike the Register itself Wikipedia is subject to a thousand year old form of analysis: Peer Review. If peer review is good enough for the scientific community (they put a man on the moon, the register has yet to accomplish that) and the medical community (they have done heart transplants, the Register has not) and the Linux Kernel, as any open source project, is subject to peer review (they have a very good perating system, the Register has yet to boot a machine) why would we not subject our historical data to such a process? Why not subject our media to such processes. Sadly it seems that the Register has the disease many younger Internet-generation kids have, a lack of patience. Peer review is slower, but as history moves on, faster. I personally think that colleges could help improve the content by assigning classmates, in the study of their respective fields to contribute to Wikipedia's need for editors. The broad variety of instructors, and college cultures could accelerate Wiki's accuracy and improve credibility. It would also be an excellent place for students and colleges to like student thesis and papers as additional linked sites. I.e.

    The American Revolution
    Student Works
          Browse Purdue's Student Archives
          Browse Stanfords' Student Archives

    and so forth.

    If peer review is good enough for science, medicine, and open source it is certainly good enough for history as well.

    My 2cents
  • by GMFTatsujin (239569) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:29PM (#14242613) Homepage
    But Wikipedia was ready for The Register. They already had an entry for "Yellow Journalism [wikipedia.org]."

  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:38PM (#14242676) Homepage Journal
    I'm glad we have an authoritative opinion on this issue, otherwise I wouldn't know what to think about Wikipedia. Those reckless ne'er-do-wells should heed this criticism, because as we all know, British tabloids have never had their credibility called into question due to the publication of libelous or inaccurate information.

    I attribute this scandal to the streak of rugged individualism present in American culture. When will you Yanks learn that the truth is decided by experts, and that expertise is determined by well-known and respected members of a field?
  • by ChaosDiscord (4913) * on Monday December 12, 2005 @07:39PM (#14242684) Homepage Journal

    Wikipedia must have abused Andrew Orlowski as a child, because I can't think of any good reason for him to keep harping on it. Check out the Register's archives. All of the Wikipedia bashing is from Orlowski. Wow, Andrew, great reporting. I totally didn't know that some things on the internet are false. Way to go on the investigative reporting! Could we maybe get a twenty part series entitled, "Shock! Falsehoods found on internet!"

    Some Wikipedia fans are little overenthusiastic. Wikipedia's lack of review is a weakness. But just because it's a weakness doesn't make it useless. Indeed, most of the internet is full of unreviewed crap, yet we all still use it. While Wikipedia would like to think of itself as challenging traditional encyclopedias, I don't see it happening. But compared to doing research on the internet as whole (say, via Google), it's a definate win. Wikipedia is, compared to the general internet, better organized, more neutral, and better reviewed. For a quick overview of a topic I find it an extremely valuable resource. I accept its weaknesses, help flesh stuff out as I can, and get on with my life. If Orlowski thinks Wikipedia is unredeemable crap, so be it. He's reported that. Now move the fuck on. Reposting "Wikipedia has some errors and is therefore completely useless" every week is hardly a good use his time or The Register's money.

  • by aphor (99965) on Monday December 12, 2005 @08:55PM (#14243208) Journal

    It seems to me that we have two separate issues to deal with. One is the theoretical limits of epistemology that Wikipedians must cite when defending errors in the Wikipedia. The other is the difference between an honest mistake and deliberately misleading content. The Register, I think, is correct to say that the former is no excuse for the latter.

    So the real problem is not that the Wikipedia cannot achieve a higher level of factual rectitude. The real problem is that the Wikipedia has no facility to help novices establish the authority of an article of the Wikipedia. The best science can offer us [laypeople] is a bunch of journals that practice a complicated protocol of anonymous referees from a select bunch of supposed "experts" in the journal's field. If you want to don the scientist hat, you can always try to replicate the results of someone's journal article. I leave it as an exercise for the reader, but plenty of crap, for various reasons, has slipped through the journals' sacred peer reviews.

    The real problem here is that the Wikipedia puports to be peer-reviewed, but each article has its subscribers, and it isn't clear whether an article has been tacitly approved by innumerable readers, or quietly corrupted out of salutary neglect. This ambiguity is the real failing of the Wikipedia, but it should be easily corrected by applying something similar to Slashdot Karma--just to show whether any editorial attention has affected any given article or not.

    The real problem with the Register's scathing polemic is that it is just scathing polemic. The Wikipedia and the Register are apples and oranges. The authority of the Register's criticism cannot really be levelled with the Wikipedia, though its argument has a resounding us and them posture. It conveniently ignores the wealth of good content in math and science and that traditional encyclopedias get historical biography just as wrong (Christopher Columbus is a good candidate for this angle). So the punk teenager straw man at the conclusion of the Register article could just as well have been a fat, lazy armchair anthropologist to characterize the racist crap in the encyclopedias I grew up using.

    In the end, I think the Wikipedians are right. "The price of liberty is vigilance." The Register is also right. This is one thing that will happen if we're asleep at the wheel. However fiery the iconoclasty makes you feel, do we throw the baby out with the bathwater? No. We take what we have and make it better.

  • Why Use Wikipedia? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GaryPatterson (852699) on Monday December 12, 2005 @09:56PM (#14243527)
    Okay, it's an online source of collective knowledge. That's a Good Thing (tm).

    Whether it's accurate or not is completely up in the air. Many articles are read by many people, so hopefully errors are weeded out. Some articles are rarely read, and errors in those will stay for a long time before being noticed.

    And then there are topical articles, which may just end up reflecting popular points of view rather than definitive information. That's also worthwhile, but it seems that Wikipedia can be used to 'shout down' dissent by editing articles you disagree with.

    Who is responsible when an article is incorrect? The users apparently, but who are they? Just people on the Internet. You, me, that guy over there, people like us. So who is responsible for ensuring accuracy and quality? No-one, really. It's so distributed that there's no real focus, and the end result is the cry of "do it yourself!"

    Well, I have a job, a fiancee, hobbies and many things I prefer doing rather than watch Wikipedia articles for changes. That answer screams out "broken process!" to me.

    What happens if I make a change to an article and someone maliciously alters it again? Am I really supposed to continually edit an article, and if not, who do I apply to for a final version to be locked?

    So what is Wikipedia? Well, it's not correct enough to be a solid source of information. It's not stable enough to be reliable. It's not actually a good source, because nothing you read may actually be correct!

    It may be, but the prevalent feel around here is to take everything with a grain of salt. That's all well and good, but if you have a child researching something, how can they do that? Even as an adult, I recognise that while we add filters of perception to events, there is one thing that actually happened, and many accounts of it. Can't we at least find the objective case in the subjective perceptions?

    Lastly, people say that Wikipedia is the starting point for research. Well, if it doesn't point you in the wrong direction it may be, but if I have to go to other more authoratative sources, then why bother with Wikipedia at all?

    I won't use it, for those reasons. If I need an encyclopedia, I'll buy Encyclopedia Britannica which is a much more reliable source and actually has a solid process for reviewing information. It's a shame, because I like the idea, but I can't see where any value comes from with Wikipedia.
  • by raddan (519638) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:54PM (#14243793)
    ...don't fucking use it!

    I suspect that the battle over Wikipedia is really a debate over the future of cognitive authority in general. All of the publishing industry has a vested interest in making sure that they stay authoritative. This is combined with the fact that many publishers (disclaimer: I work for a publisher) gear the material around what's marketable. This practice is so entrenched in publishing now, I don't think publishers even see what's wrong with it. I think in a battle between truth and money, money wins.

    Wikipedia may have some unique challenges, but at least they are free from this problem.

  • by LogicX (8327) * <slashdotNO@SPAMlogicx.us> on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:34PM (#14243946) Homepage Journal
    "This defense firmly puts the blame on the reader, for being so stupid as to take the words at face value. Silly you, for believing us, they say."

    Yes. He is correct. Despite his sarcasm, users ARE silly for believing things at face value. Just because a work is published does NOT make it the definitive source for all accurate knowledge. How many scientific findings have been published, and later discovered to be inaccurate.

    He seems to think that because a work is put to paper that is must have more accuracy than a work such as wikipedia. I challenge this: Errors in the Encyclopædia Britannica that have been corrected in Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

    Wikipedia has the opportunity to be both free and more accurate than any printed work. Even an encyclopedia, devoting resources to topics they are not experts in get things wrong, such as some of the items on the list above. Wikipedia gives those out there directly working on it -- Subject Matter Experts -- to contribute their knowledge for others to share.

    In regards to the fears of lawsuits, obviously due diligence would be given to review the content of articles before put to paper and widely distributed. What more can be asked for? This is the same thing that Britannica does.

    Until Wikipedia is making some claim to take authority over content -- they are just like the post office, the telephone company, or xerox. They are providing a service. Just as Xerox is not responsible for people violating copyright law with their copiers, Wikipedia is not responsible for the accuracy of information on their site. If you ask me, the rules, regulations and procedures they have come up with are an amazing effort at being open to respecting others, and cooperating with them. Similar to the post office working with police to track packages.

    I think something commonly being overlooked here is -- Who exactly was affected by this article? The article apparently wasn't link to from other pages -- meaning that it wasn't seeing much attention, which is why it hadn't been changed. Who cares if it was there for months, if only 5 people saw it, was he really severely hurt by this? When he came across it, fix it, move on. Hes actually created a much larger problem by bringing so much attention to this.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik

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