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Sacha Baron Cohen Wikipedia Entry Creates Circular References 234

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the 10-goto-20;-20-goto-10 dept.
Lantrix writes "An anonymous user added information to Wikipedia's entry on Sacha Baron Cohen three days before the now-referenced external article was written. The Independent wrote the referenced article apparently using Wikipedia as the source establishing his 'Goldman Sachs' career. Now Wikipedia uses as a references the article that came after the initial modification to Wikipedia itself."
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Sacha Baron Cohen Wikipedia Entry Creates Circular References

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  • Accountability (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 26199 (577806) * on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:43AM (#23127794) Homepage

    So a journalist used Wikipedia as a primary source, added something incorrect to an article. Now the same Wikipedia page is using that article as its primary source, which in the view of Wikipedia makes the incorrect fact true. Chaos ensues.

    The weak link is the journalist -- who should have known better. And now the newspaper presumably knows all about it. So perhaps this kind of problem can be self-correcting in the long run...

    • Re:Accountability (Score:5, Insightful)

      by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan...jared@@@gmail...com> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:53AM (#23127864)
      I agree. This doesn't even seem to be as big a deal as the article makes it out to be.

      Now wikipedia uses as its references the articles that came after the initial modification to Wikipedia itself

      I found the summary particularly inflammatory for no apparent reason. I mean, wow! People sometimes misuse wikipedia! We had no idea! This isn't standard practice or any guideline set down by admins. It's one case where some anonymous editor acted foolishly.

      You can take this and make a point about how lightly people these days treat information. They don't even consider verifiability and good practice like that. What you can't do is somehow take this and make it a crusade against wikipedia like the summary hints at.
      • by Lantrix (186021)
        Note though that the summary is not from the actual article but a quote from the anonymous slashdotter.
      • by budgenator (254554) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @01:21PM (#23128370) Journal
        Wikipedia is notoriously bad at biographical content regarding famous people, it's just the nature of the beast. The wikinazi's can plaster citation needed all over the place, but it's not going to change the spin that PR types are going to places on every bit of information they can lay their lying hands on. I'm waiting for a Wikipedia article explaining how the Chinese have rolled out modern infra-structure and established human rights in Tibet
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by PopeRatzo (965947) *
          Wikipedia isn't mean for serious academic research any more than a yardstick is meant for making precision measurement.

          It's just a tool for getting in the ballpark. I'm amused at the hysteria that always ensues when a story like this comes out.

        • by kestasjk (933987)
          [Citation needed] is becoming the "-1, Troll" of Wikipedia; it makes the things you disagree with seem much less convincing, while being immune to counter-argument. :-)
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by amRadioHed (463061)
            You could counter the argument by providing a citation, right?
            • by pipatron (966506)
              Indeed, and every time you do, it makes the article and the whole Wikipedia stronger and more trustworthy and useful. I've only seen one instance where it was used for trolling, and then it was simply solved by removing the tag.
              • Whats the point, try adding anything interesting to wikipedia, they'll slap a [notability] tag on there before you can even find the citation. That is the new -1 troll of wikipedia
      • Re:Accountability (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AlXtreme (223728) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @01:35PM (#23128454) Homepage Journal

        You can take this and make a point about how lightly people these days treat information. They don't even consider verifiability and good practice like that. What you can't do is somehow take this and make it a crusade against wikipedia like the summary hints at.

        This issue isn't black-and-white; the journalist is to blame, the editors are to blame, and wikipedia too is to blame.

        How come the latter? Well, over the last few years the average Internet-user has had quite a few articles comparing the reliability of Wikipedia against Encylopedia Brittanica. It was always a study comparing a fixed set of articles, but this has lead to the public perception that Wikipedia is comparable to EB.

        This wouldn't have been a problem, if the Wiki-cabal wasn't trying to reinforce the meme that the two are comparable. The public is increasingly relying on Wikipedia to be correct, but due to its nature you have to take each and every article with a large grain of salt. Nowhere on your average Wikipedia-page is this stated.

        I'm not talking about a 'disputed' block, but a 'wikipedia-is-not-an-encyclopedia' block on each and every page. Until that time, you can't put all the blame on the (mis)users of Wikipedia.
        • Re:Accountability (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Snowmit (704081) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:13PM (#23137390) Homepage
          You got modded insightful for this?

          It's not some secret Wiki Cabal that is somehow misleading people into thinking that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It's the goddamn mission [wikipedia.org]. You can have an intelligent discussion about whether or not Wikipedia is doing well to meet that mission but you can't possibly argue that the "free content encyclopedia" project should stop calling itself an encyclopedia.

          You are right about one point though, it's true that in many ways the Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia are not comparable. For example, the Sacha Baron Cohen article on Wikipedia had some faulty information about his employment history for awhile. On the other hand, the Sacha Baron Cohen article in the Encyclopedia Britannica DOESN'T EXIST.
    • Fact checking (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wbean (222522) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:56AM (#23127888)
      And what happened to fact checking? There was a time when a small army of fact checkers would verify things like this before they were published. The Internet is a great tool but it's pulling the rug out from under the newspapers and we will all suffer from the loss of reliable, fact-checked information.
      • by Pig Hogger (10379)
        Axed, account being too expensive and detrimental to the newspaper bottom-line. And because also to often the facts stands in the way of the world view of the newspaper right-wing owner.
      • by bongomanaic (755112) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:23PM (#23128026)
        This is the British press we're talking about. Instead of "Is it true?" the question they ask is "Will they sue?"
        • In fairness this is The Independent, its a broadsheet, they're actually fairly good, far better than what Ive seen of some American press.
          Plus since the sun got their asses handed to them on a plate for Iraq torture pictures, the new trick seams to be to not say anything, my farther reads the express (he now just claims its for the crosswords) and every time i go home I flick through, and they tend to just not put any content in.
          my favourite example was
          Paragraph 1: about Tony Blair's holidays
          paragraph 2: ab
        • I don't think bongomanaic was making a joke. In the US, "truth" is a defense to a defamation suit--the plaintiff must prove that the statement is untrue.

          However, in the UK, truth is not a defense to a defamation lawsuit.
      • by HeroreV (869368) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:51PM (#23128184) Homepage

        we will all suffer from the loss of reliable, fact-checked information.
        I don't see how that's related to newspapers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
        The pressure to get a scoop out is higher now, as well as the pressure to cut costs. Fact checking takes time and money. People generally don't seem to remember the goofups either. Sometimes it comes to light and rips through the "blogosphere", but I think it's likely that the circumstances of most errors just fade away and people remember the incorrect fact, not any corrections that might have been silently done.
    • Re:Accountability (Score:5, Informative)

      by unlametheweak (1102159) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:03PM (#23127928)
      I would think that any circular references would be self-correcting by the Wikipedia community. Therein lies the solution, and the problem; there does need to be consistent and enforcible rules that are devoid of ambiguity and self-interest, with a measured degree of accountability.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Wikipedians like to think that given enough time, the wikipedia will be perfect, and use this to brush off complaints of someone seeing factually incorrect information.

        This, however, doesn't really fly; whether it could one day be perfect is irrelevant when people are seeing false or misleading information in the *now*. People aren't going to constantly check up on a page. Any misinformation in the now is "damaging" as it tells people incorrect things. That's true of all media, but the fact that it can b
        • Wikipedia is an eternal work in progress. Your complaint is like complaining that you're running software straight from CVS HEAD and there are bugs.
          • Wikipedia is an eternal work in progress. Your complaint is like complaining that you're running software straight from CVS HEAD and there are bugs.

            Yes Wikipdia is a work in progress, as are all encyclopedias.

            The complaint however is not like running software straight from "CVS HEAD". Wikipedia is published as an end product, and there is no disclaimer or indication otherwise to indicate this. On Sourceforge for example, they will tell you outright that this is an alpha or a beta, but on Wikipedia there is no 'alpha' listing for articles. One could argue that an end user should read (and follow) the discussion areas, but this is like asking a software

            • Erm, it is most certainly not published as an end product, but as the live working draft it claims to be. It is in fact CVS HEAD.

              Unfortunately, we have yet to perfect the wiki-based encyclopedia that the reader can use while not bringing their brain to the party.

              • Erm, it is most certainly not published as an end product...

                This is not apparent to me, or perhaps we need to define "end product". I would argue that to the casual Web surfer who looks up a definition or word on Google will often times be brought to Wikipedia and will be presented information as-is.

                It certainly is presented as an end-product (IMHO), and there is no (or little information) to state otherwise. "citations needed" references etc are fine, but I would argue that these things have more value to Wikipedians than they do to the casual Web surfer.

                If the fr

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            What a very good analogy! I already sort-of addressed it, so I suppose that's yet another wikipedian form response to a complaint.

            Yeah, and I'll expand on that analogy. Wikipedia is geared towards the normal reader. Do a google search, and you'll often find wikipedia at the top.

            Do normal users run software straight from CVS? No, because normal users don't try to look for and find bugs, they're there for the software. Wikipedia is like software straight from CVS HEAD released directly to the public--the
            • 1. Despite your impassioned defence of the right of readers not to have to think ever, we've still yet to perfect the Wikipedia that works if the reader insists on being stupid.

              2. Google's rankings are its own business. If we didn't get as much business from Google ... our bandwidth bills would probably be much lower.

              I knew the Galactic Lord Xenu. I worked with the Galactic Lord Xenu. And you, sir, are no Galactic Lord Xenu.

        • Thanks for your reply. FYI, I have never edited a Wikipedia article (although, on occasion I felt like it; but the time involved [of due diligence] has prevented me). I was often thinking of creating a 'profile' on Wikipedia (a user name associated with an edit history), but my ideals have prevented me. By that I mean, as a university and college trained non-expert as I am, I have always felt the need to deeply research anything I 'publish', and for that reason I have not found it practical (time-wise). The
      • I would think that any circular references would be self-correcting by the Wikipedia community.

        Unfortunately, that's not easy. While Wikipedia cites its sources (if they are known), most journalists don't. And if they cite, they probably don't want to cite Wikipedia. So, it's hard to tell if a newspaper checked the information or just look the Wikipedia article up.

        This is not new, and it is a real problem for Wikipedia, since WP became more and more popular. It happens all the time; iirc this was also the c

      • by blair1q (305137)
        I would think that any circular references would be self-correcting by the Wikipedia community.

        You would think wrong. The way Wikipedia works (or fails to) is that people who are ignorant demand removal of facts added by people who are knowledgeable, and the rank and number of the ignorami is always sufficient to force the change to stick. If there is a dispute, the ignorami goad the knowledgeable person, hold a kangaroo court, and discourage or prevent further participation.

        Wikipedia's high error content
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SL Baur (19540)
      I think you're missing the bigger implication. What if the person writing the article was the same anonymous person editing Wikipedia? I assume that is the case here.

      There is absolutely no way Wikipedia can "defend" against abuse like that.

      The weak link is the journalist
      No, the weak link is the amount of trust folks put in Wikipedia. Humans are human and it is human nature to game the system whenever the rewards outweigh the risks.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:44AM (#23127802)
    When the whole world uses Wikipedia as the reference for a lot of things, what's wrong when Wikipedia does it? This is completely biased...
    • {{POV-check}}

      When the whole world uses Wikipedia as the reference for a lot of things{{Citacion needed}}, what's wrong when Wikipedia does it? This is completely biased...
  • by grm_wnr (781219) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:47AM (#23127824)
    From TFA:
    >A recent post on SlashDot quotes an IT professor saying

    I hope this isnt a circular reference to THIS post.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hal_Porter (817932)
      The whole Web 2.0 Internet is a just a mass of circular references. Be thankful that it isn't telling you the holocaust never happened, or something else obviously untrue.
      • by flimflam (21332) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:39PM (#23128108) Homepage

        The whole Web 2.0 Internet is a just a mass of circular references. Be thankful that it isn't telling you the holocaust never happened, or something else obviously untrue.
        Actually, it's the believable but false information that's much more insidious and dangerous.

        • by perlchild (582235) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:49PM (#23128170)
          I wish I had mot points. Obviously untrue disinformation is not a threat, People will use information hygiene techniques(verifiaibility, checking sources, even debate). It's not so obviously untrue disinformation, which is dangerous. If you slowly, over time, change some story from the truth to something untrue. If it happens slowly enough, people will not have the reflex to check the information, and in time, it will be established as the truth.
        • The story of the Bush regime.

          http://www.harpers.org/archive/2003/10/0079780?pg=1 [harpers.org]

          "A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies." (And that hasn't even been updated yet!)

          While everyone basically suspected as such, the nation's highest leadership exacted retribution as if it were true, creating your mentioned dangerous cognitive dissonance.
        • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

          by Dread_ed (260158)
          "Actually, it's the believable but false information that's much more insidious and dangerous."

          Oh, right. And you expect me to just believe that?
      • by DarkOx (621550)
        Oh no it is telling us all sorts of things that are certainly false. The internet is a big place it stands to reason if this has happened once it can happen again. It fallows that since this has happened once it has happened before. The charateristics of the Internet having been fairly constant for serveral years now. Even the adoption rate of new people has dropped off.

        The trick is sorting out the truth from the fiction which without solid non-Internet sources is nearly impossible. The more the non-In
  • Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Goaway (82658) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:48AM (#23127828) Homepage
    And in English?
    • Seriously. My brain hurt after reading that.
    • Re:Summary (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pla (258480) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @01:07PM (#23128274) Journal
      And in English?

      A = anonymous Wiki node, B = Independent article.

      A make a claim with B as a reference.
      B makes the same claim with A as the reference.

      Thus, both sources have technically substantiated their claim, despite the niggling li'l absence of "truth".
      • A = anonymous Wiki node, B = Independent article.

        A make a claim with B as a reference.
        B makes the same claim with A as the reference.

        Thus, both sources have technically substantiated their claim, despite the niggling li'l absence of "truth".

        That's how intel worked in the lead-up to the Iraq war. The Bushies would come up with some "fact" that none of the other intel agencies could cooberate, this "fact" would then be leaked to the media and then articles mentioning it would be cited as said "cooboration."

        This is not indepentent fact-checking, it's called shilling.

      • by Dahamma (304068)
        That's how it ended up, but it couldn't have happened that way unless A could see ahead in time :)

        What really happened was:

        A makes a claim that was false
        B writes about that claim and uses A as a reference
        A (being Wikipedia) is modified to use B as the reference for the original made-up claim

        So now it appears that the supposedly reliable and fact-checked "news" article was the source, and Wikipedia just citing facts. Fun!
  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:48AM (#23127830)
    You just have to use it for what it is... It helps you start research. It is a lead generator, or an index. But if you think it actually has answers, or your research can end there, you are an idiot. But you have a lot of company.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jake_fehr (469788)

      But if you think it actually has answers, or your research can end there, you are an idiot. But you have a lot of company.

      No kidding. It's getting pretty scary. I was talking with the teacher-librarian at a local high school a few weeks back, and she told me that a few teachers were telling their students that Wikipedia was great to use for research. She can't contradict the teachers, so she's forced to agree, then try to get the kids to also use the fulltext databases to do some better research...

    • by Salgat (1098063) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:59AM (#23127900)
      I wish people would use the damn references section at the bottom of the Wiki pages.
    • by ultranova (717540)

      You just have to use it for what it is... It helps you start research. It is a lead generator, or an index. But if you think it actually has answers, or your research can end there, you are an idiot. But you have a lot of company.

      Not neccessarily. It depends on what kind of research we are talking about: are you trying to actually find facts, or are you trying to find something to back you in writing a half-baked space-filler column, so you can later blame it all on your "source" if shit hits the fan ?

    • Wikipedia does have relevent, factual info on some technical topics.

      What is the diameter of 16 gauge wire? Runs over to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

      16 gauge wire is 1.29mm. And why do I have a strong sense that it this is accurate? Because of the technical detail of the sources listed. And how can you politicize wire gauges?

      Wikipedia is a great resource I find for technical articles on various topics. What is molybdenum used for? Wikipedia has the answer.

      Getting an accurate opinion on a controversial political sitna

    • While your statement isn't exactly untrue, as a whole it is wrong in only getting it half right. Wikipedia is exactly like every other source; a shade of gray in the truth. Yes, it is a lighter shade of gray, but the whole idea of "primary source" is a bunch of BS. Even if you go and personally interview first hand witnesses, you cannot be sure of the facts. Heck, even if you sit down and do an experiment yourself, you cannot be sure that you are interpreting the results correctly.

      People have it com
  • Ronnie Hazlehurst (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MagdJTK (1275470) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:50AM (#23127840)

    This has in fact happened before. When Ronnie Hazlehurst [wikipedia.org] died, multiple newspapers here in the UK mentioned that he cowrote "Reach" by S Club 7. This information came from Wikipedia (and was the result of vandalism), but once a few papers had published it, everyone did, as it was clearly backed up by many reliable sources.

    The article is still being edited to include this "fact" every now and again, often referring to one of the articles which made the error.

  • Not the first time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RockMFR (1022315) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:52AM (#23127858)
    I've seen circular referencing occur many times on Wikipedia, often by complete accident. If journalists actually gave their own sources when writing articles, it would be much less of a problem. Of course they will never do that, as then it would be revealed that they themselves don't bother fact-checking at all.
  • Setup? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by corporatemutantninja (533295) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:58AM (#23127892)
    Doesn't anybody find it curious that this "anonymous" poster knew the article was coming out before it did, and that the author of the article happened to look up his subject on wikipedia just as the entry was updated? If I wanted to discredit Wikipedia, or at least cause a minor stir, I would probably construct an artificial circular-reference scenario, and this is how I would do it. In any event, the previous comments to the effect that the flaw was in the journalism are spot on.
    • by 26199 (577806) *

      Hum. The linked article implies that this sort of thing is going on all the time. In which case it could be not so much conspiracy as coincidence...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The anonymous editor didn't reference the article. What they referenced were facts that were later used in the article, presumably because the article writer got their facts from Wikipedia.

      For a timeline of events:
      1) Anonymous editor adds fact X to the Wikipedia entry.
      2) Article gets published, making mention of fact X.
      3) Wikipedia entry now adds the article as a source for fact X.

      It really is just a matter of coincidence. Had the Wikipedia entry mentioned the article before it was published, then sure, s
    • It's a trap! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Unordained (262962) *
      Maybe it was meant to discredit the journalist, rather than Wikipedia. If I were ticked off that the guy in the next cubicle over kept getting away with, say, using Wikipedia as a reference, and I knew what assignments were on his plate this week, maybe I would go add a reference to his upcoming article (but not too obviously so) somewhere I knew he would find it, just to see what would happen: would he go back to Wikipedia once again, would he find the plant, would he fall for it, or would he figure out it
  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:02PM (#23127920) Homepage
    There are more effective and direct ways to correct Wikipedia than by posting Slashdot articles about every little error that worms its way into the system.

    You'd think Slashdot was turning into The Register. Or a cheap tabloid. (Oh, but I repeat myself.)

    • by CRCulver (715279)

      There are more effective and direct ways to correct Wikipedia than by posting Slashdot articles about every little error that worms its way into the system.

      As long as Wikipedia refuses to change so that these little problems cannot happen again and again, it makes sense to show how their resistence to improvement ensures a stready stream of errors.

      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        ok sparky, what can wikipedia do to make sure nobody ever makes a bad edit ever again?
      • Refuses? are you sure it's just simply that they haven't thought of a solution yet that doesn't make that or another problem worse?

        What would your solution be, btw?
  • A citation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kjella (173770) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:10PM (#23127968) Homepage
    ...is only worth as much as the credibility of the one saying it. I could cite any crackpot site on the net, and it wouldn't mean shit. In the days of "Internet news", I see hoaxes and blatantly incorrect stories fly around like wildfire. Throw one sensationalist and catchy news case out there, and there'll be a hundred sources who never got the correction afterwards.
  • by Jonah Bomber (535788) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:13PM (#23127980)
    Well, if Wikipedia AND the Independent say it's true, it must be. Right?
  • Happened before ... (Score:2, Informative)

    by gladiacuk (1171423)
    This has happened before, with the Ronnie Hazelhurst article [wikipedia.org], as reported here [theregister.co.uk].
  • 1984 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AcidPenguin9873 (911493) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:20PM (#23128016)
    This story reminded me of 1984's Ministry of Truth, which regulary "edited" history to match the current political scene. Writing stuff in Wikipedia makes it true.
  • by xPsi (851544) * on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:26PM (#23128034)
    I was talking to someone recently who bragged about regularly trolling wikipedia to intentionally and actively create dead end and circular references. He was practically giddy with the notion that wikipedia "only requires some kind of external citation, but you can really mess with this because people rarely check them." I'm a wikipedia fan, so was quite annoyed with him, so beat him about the head and chest; this is clearly a 2nd order loophole that should be actively combated. I realized I would be naive to think otherwise, but I still found it illuminating to be reminded people are actively out there creating dead and circular links . It is a more subtle way to create noise in wikipedia rather than the more obvious act of injecting copious uncited nonsense into an article.
  • Won't quote the article text for phat karmaz here (because it's pretty unreadable), but this is what happened, in a nutshell: 1. Someone makes stuff up on Wikipedia 2. Some ostensibly reputable source acts not all that reputable, takes that information, and oublishes without saying where they got it from (in short, without doing their homework). 3. Said publicatin is then used to reference the made up information in Wikipedia. 4. ??? 5. There is no step 5.
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:33PM (#23128068)
    The "easy" answer is: "Wikipedia is unreliable".

    A better answer might be: "Journalists are unreliable".

    I find it interesting when I hear about people complain about errors in Wikipedia, but don't put it into the same context as errors appearing everywhere else. How many people have read an article about something they had personal knowledge of written by some journalist, and found glaring errors in it? I know I have.

    People need to stop trusting single sources of information blindly. All information can be wrong, even "conventional wisdom".
  • Great Success! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WilyCoder (736280) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:37PM (#23128094)
    Great Success!
  • Cheney did it first (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:39PM (#23128110)
    This is not the first time something like this has happened. Before the invasion of Iraq, the New York Times quoted a "high level" person within the administration of as saying Iraq has started up their weapons program again. Dick Cheney then quoted that article on Meet the Press I believe as proof of the Iraqi weapons program. It later surfaced that Cheney was the "high level" person within the administration who made the original quote.
  • I've tried to correct errors on the Wikipedia page for a relatively popular consumer product I worked on. I corrected technical errors, only to have them removed and replace with incorrect "facts" that were even footnoted as correct by links to articles which were written using the incorrect info from the Wikipedia article.
  • Since when is a screwed up Wikipedia article newsworthy?
  • Not just wikipedia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plopez (54068) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @01:08PM (#23128282) Journal
    Recall that some of the Iraq WMD intelligence cited as further evidence by Bush was from the Brits. And the Brits got their info from.... the Americans.

    So it just isn't Wikipedia that needs to be careful.

    Nothing new to see here... move along....
  • It's ok (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HalAtWork (926717) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @01:16PM (#23128330)
    It's wikipedia, it's possible to correct this kind of thing. In fact there is no longer a reference to the article in Wikipedia.
  • I think this pseudo-exploit largely explains why Wikipedia is a miserable failure. If you don't have people intentionally censoring and manipulating information, you have people who aren't qualified to speak on the matter in the first place.
  • Circular referencing of this sort happens unfortunately often on Wikipedia - because journalists use Wikipedia as the universal backgrounder, then of course it gets used as a reference. Then someone works it out, the journalist is somewhat embarrassed and a note goes on the talk page. It's the joy of Wikipedia being an eternal work-in-progress live draft - like running CVS HEAD for everything. The FlaggedRevisions extension should be going live on German Wikipedia soonish, though, and hopefully on other Wik
  • by BorgCopyeditor (590345) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @02:18PM (#23128678)

    You people don't seem to realize what has happened. Reality is now referring to Wikipedia. In other words, something appears on Wikipedia, and then several days later, the same thing appears in reality!

    Presently, since Mr. Baron-Cohen's Wikipedia entry has become capable of influencing events, and since effectively his "reference count" will never go below one...

    ...he has become immortal!

    At least, that's what some would argue happens when an information-theoretic singularity occurs. Others, however, think the very fabric of information itself will somehow be "torn," and that the self-referencing article will begin collapsing on itself, drawing in nearby articles and bending all their references in its direction. All too soon, they say, every article on Wikipedia will refer to the article on the hapless Mr. Baron-Cohen. They, and he, and all of us, will be swallowed up completely! Unlike in a real black hole, however, we may survive, only to find ourselves in a world in which every fact bears somehow upon Mr. Baron-Cohen. He will become as our God, then.

    Terrifying.

  • We pull news out of our asses for newspaper man to deliver back to us next day!
  • This is a known problem in the intelligence community. Not only are circular references possible, there's the false confirmation problem. This occurs when what appears to be confirming information originates from the same source, but is collected via a different route. That's not a confirmation and does not increase the reliability of the information; in fact, it may increase the odds that it's disinformation.

    Journalists need to watch for this, too. Bloggers should, but that's probably asking too much.

  • It has checks in place to prevent circular references.
  • My local paper had the audacity to run a front-page article and not just use Wikipedia as a source about some type of illegal substance, but included the phrase "according to Wikipedia." Instead of asking the local police "Can you define what $illegal_substance is?" they went to #*@&ing Wikipedia. The lot of 'em need to be fired, reporters and editors.

    I know the newspaper industry isn't exactly thriving, and cable and Internet news are pushing the papers to get content out quicker and not devote as lon

    • I do a lot of press for Wikipedia in the UK, and I've yet to speak to a journalist who doesn't use Wikipedia as a handy universal backgrounder. Which is what it is, after all. However, journalists should be able to handle sources of questionable reliability. I expect it's better they say "according to Wikipedia" than fail to say "according to Wikipedia" ...
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @03:31PM (#23129146) Homepage
    ...although I agree that it's scary.

    The first time I noticed such occurrence, it was in 2006 in connection with a claim that in the days when the Ivy League was being organized, Rutgers was invited to join, but declined. This claim was originally unreferenced, then referenced to a hard-to-verify source. The editor who inserted the claim said he had seen it in microfilm records of Rutger's student newspaper, The Targum, and mentioned a year, but never gave an exact date and page number, giving varying reasons for not so doing.

    One day, there was great excitement because someone found a good, verifiable print reference in a mass-circulation newspaper. It was quickly added to the article, and many of us thought the matter was settled.

    The newspaper story, of course, did not mention its source. Someone found an email address for the reporter and queried the reporter... who acknowledged that his source had been Wikipedia!

    The whole story (and much more) is at A Rutgers reference from the Daily news [wikipedia.org]
  • by damburger (981828) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @03:31PM (#23129150)

    The entire project should be shut down, and started over, taking on board the criticisms that have been levelled at it over the years.

    The concept is solid. If it wasn't the thing wouldn't work at all, or certainly not for this long and this successfully. The problem is in the details of how the community functions, or rather fails to function. It has become defensive and territorial, and has established its own POV which lies at the mean of community opinion but is quite libertarian-orientated and US/Western centred compared with the user base (theoretically, everyone).

    The fact that this bias is a direct reflection of the founder of Wikipedia (An American libertarian) shows that the system does not function correctly to remove personal prejudice from the content. Despite the vast army of editors who contribute, Wikipedia hasn't gone beyond being a mouthpiece for Walesism.

    Perhaps I am being uncharitable. Wales' beliefs are hardly far from the mainstream of techies - who are usually freedom-minded folk but have to by necessity follow a belief system that permits their relatively privileged position in life - however an encyclopaedia isn't a Linux distro. It has to be directed to everyone and thus it can't afford to get bogged down in the personal opinions of Wales or the techie community.

    Nothing I have said here will come as a surprise to Wikipedians, seeing as these issue are mentioned by the project itself. However, my experience as an editor has shown a huge gulf between Wikipedia policy and Wikipedia reality.

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