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An Accidental Wikipedia Hoax 189

Andreas Kolbe writes: The Daily Dot's EJ Dickson reports how she accidentally discovered that a hoax factoid she added over five years ago as a stoned sophomore to the Wikipedia article on "Amelia Bedelia, the protagonist of the eponymous children's book series about a 'literal-minded housekeeper' who misunderstands her employer's orders," had not just remained on Wikipedia all this time, but come to be cited by a Taiwanese English professor, in "innumerable blog posts and book reports", as well as a book on Jews and Jesus. It's a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of Wikipedia. And as Wikipedia ages, more and more such stories are coming to light.
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An Accidental Wikipedia Hoax

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @10:30AM (#47565777)

    You will invariably come across some who think they know, some who know, some who pretend to know, some who know they don't know and some who just want to mess with you. It's still better than not asking, for fear of not getting distilled truth.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Where people claim to have added information to wikipedia as part of a hoax when in fact they didn't.

  • re: 'unreliability' (Score:5, Interesting)

    by emagery ( 914122 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @10:33AM (#47565811)
    then again, a joke update written about something as obscure as jumping spiders by a coworker some years ago was found and removed within HOURS of its posting. Wikipedia still, due to the competitive nature of its maintenance, beats out well established entities such as encyclopædia brittanica, et cetera.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Spot on... Wikipedia is only as unreliable as WE are. If we see an error and don't fix it, we're part of the problem.

      The fact that this went unnoticed and unchanged all this time shows a fundamental flaw in the process: not everything gets reviewed. If the majority of editors spent more time reviewing articles and less time reverting my edits in nitpicks over "policy," Wikipedia would be much improved!

      • Spot on... Wikipedia is only as unreliable as WE are. If we see an error and don't fix it, we're part of the problem.

        Bt when you encounter a lemma about a childrens book you don't know, you usually assume it's just a book you don't know! Which is usually not an error, unless you can claim to know all childrens books. (and the standard pronounciation is pretty far from the prank call like "I'm a liar" that's probably supposed to be)

      • Why the fuck should we work for free for Google, or do some one's homework for them? Why should I do it unpaid and also have to put up with a bunch of know nothing fuckwits at the same time?

        WP is a joke it becomes more and more so every day. Contrary to it improving what is happening is that the people overlooking the site are diminshing. It mostly runs now with scriptkiddies that can remove SUCKS COCKS and NIGGA but are unable to distinguish crap like "By 1345, during Richard II reign" in their Feature A

    • Re: 'unreliability' (Score:4, Interesting)

      by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @10:54AM (#47566015)
      The last time there was a thread here on the topic, someone posted an article and stated the article showed wikipedia was better than Encyclopedia Britannica. I must have been the only person who read the original article, because the numbers in the article showed that wikipedia had a 3% higher error rate than the encyclopedia.

      ...due to the competitive nature of its maintenance...

      This so-called "feature" has turned out to be more of a problem than a feature. You have competitive hovering mods removing any content they happen to disagree with, even if that content is accurate.

      Sorry, Wikipedia is good, but it is not all its fan-bois crank it up to be.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I also RTFA about that here, and yes, it was long but I read it all.
        It said that Wikipedia had more errors, but much longer and complete articles than the Britannica, so error rate was lower overall.

      • Re: 'unreliability' (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @01:46PM (#47567945)

        You have competitive hovering mods removing any content they happen to disagree with, even if that content is accurate.

        Even if that content is accurate and sourced and being written by an expert in the field. It's for this reason that I no longer even try to edit Wikipedia for any reason. And it's why I don't really trust it for anything important - the system as it is allows non-expert keyboard warriors to be the bottleneck for information. That's ridiculous.

    • You got a cite for that little factoid?

    • Re: 'unreliability' (Score:5, Interesting)

      by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @02:03PM (#47568077)
      These kinds of myths and frauds aren't unique to Wikipedia. For example, there's a myth out there that prior to the Vietnam War, soldiers were reluctant to kill the enemy, and that during WWII, about half of them would either refuse to fire their guns at the enemy, or would aim to miss. This story is repeated a lot, because it's an appealing idea. It paints human nature in a positive light, it says that fundamentally we don't really want to kill other people, and it takes a lot to get us to do it. In this narrative, people are fundamentally good, until the military corrupts us and turns us into killers. Unfortunately, it's a myth, based on academic fraud. The "discovery" is based on the work of a single researcher, who never published any of the primary data or interviews his conclusions are supposedly based on, and no one- certainly no military historian- has ever found even a shred of evidence to back it up. If you think about it for even a moment, it becomes obvious that it has to be a fraud. The Japanese fought to the death over those little scraps of coral in the Pacific, preferring to commit suicide to surrender. A group of Marines isn't going to be able to take those islands unless every single soldier is fighting with the willingness and intent to kill the enemy. Contemporary accounts of the battles make it clear they were bloody and vicious, and the behavior of American soldiers wasn't always merciful. One diary talks about machine gunners gleefully using parachuting Japanese aviators as target practice, and the skipper got pissed- mostly because they were wasting ammunition.

      Years ago, this myth was exposed by an article in the New York Times. And yet the myth keeps getting repeated. A couple of years ago, I saw this nonsense being perpetuated- ironically, in an article in the Times. I wrote the editor of the article to complain that he was repeating something that the Times itself had debunked, and that they should publish a correction; they never did (the Times are a bunch of smug, lazy hacks).

      I do think Wikipedia is probably worse for this than most other sources of information, but the bigger problem is that people are insufficiently skeptical. We assess information based on how well it fits what we already know, and what we want to believe- instead of trying to verify it. Slashdot is a perfect example of this- people constantly prefer to pull bullshit facts out of the air to support their opinions, rather than spend two minutes to read the original article or look up a statistic online.

      • Re: 'unreliability' (Score:5, Informative)

        by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @04:07PM (#47569285)

        The person you are talking about was Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall who wrote "Men Against Fire" about WWII experiences, which is where the low direct fire ratio theory came from.

        And yes, it was very controversial and got debunked, but I've heard that factoid repeated to the present day. I think it gets repeated because it sounds both interesting and believable at the same time to people who haven't been shot at. For those who have been shot at (and shot back), it obviously does not ring true.

        For extra irony, here's his Wikipedia entry:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Yet when I once tried to remove some text describing a certain type of LCD technology as being lesbian, the editors had reverted my fix within an hour; LCD panels are apparently truely lesbian and I should not have wanted to hide that fact.

      More likely, some Wikipedia editors are just very protective of "their" pages and will revert any edit without verification. After several removals of these obvious kinds of jokes, typos and some none-controversial, cited additions were immediately reverted without any re

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        "Yet when I once tried to remove some text describing a certain type of LCD technology as being lesbian, the editors had reverted my fix within an hour;"

        Yea, got a link to the talk page and such about that, eh?

  • Citing Wikipedia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @10:33AM (#47565819) Homepage
    Well there is your problem right there. This Wikipedia scare mongering creates a cloak masking real problems. You are never going to stop, nor should you, people form using the most comprehensive information source ever. Complaining about how it is not perfect is just hurting any valid points to be made. The point being, Wikipedia is not a source of anything, it is the product of a series of sources. So you do not cite Wikipedia, you cite the article it points to. If people had told me that back when I was in school, I would actually used that idea to get better sources, instead of just scoffing at the idea of not using Wikipedia (which was and continues to be a ridiculous idea).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      What happens is circular references with enough depth that it evades detection. A Points to B, B points to C, C points to D, D Points .... and eventually something points back to A.

      • It doesn't even take any depth. I've cited wikipedia on my website (the intent was to link to more information, not to utilize it as an exhaustive source) and later gone on to visit that link to make sure it still says what I want it to say only to find out that since I cited the article, the article cited the very page on which I had cited it. Whoever cited my page was either too lazy to check the bibliography, which was at the foot of the page as normal, or didn't care that they were potentially creating

      • Which is not unique to Wikipedia. Nothing is stopping troll blogger from blogging about made up fact A, which is picked up by the slightly more reputable reporter, and so on and so on. But at the end of the day the good journalists, and institutions like Wikipedia are supposed to keep decent standards alive, so that when you have some information you find a real source . An official presidential announcement/entry in the nobel prize official website. These sources have zero chance of getting their informat
        • by GlennC ( 96879 )

          ...institutions like Wikipedia are supposed to keep decent standards alive

          I think I see where the problem lies....

    • Re:Citing Wikipedia (Score:5, Informative)

      by dontbemad ( 2683011 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @10:50AM (#47565967)
      Keep in mind the possibility of this, though: http://xkcd.com/978/ [xkcd.com] (oblig xkcd, etc.)
    • ...So you do not cite Wikipedia, you cite the article it points to. ...

      Here, let me fix that typo for you...

      So you do not cite Wikipedia --- you cite the article it points to, plus the opinion of any hovering mods who remove any citations of alternate (yet accurate) viewpoints.

      Wikipedia is not the utopia you envision, it is the product of territorial mods who want "their" articles to read the way "they" want them to read.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Criticism is not scare mongering. Also, someone motivated to work on Wikipedia is not going to be put off by critics. Pretending that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia on par with the Britannica is simply a profound misunderstanding of the concept of what an encyclopedia is. Wikipedia is at best a glorified blog on many topics of general and sometimes extremely vicarious knowledge. Admittedly, much of this accumulated stuff is quite well based in evidence and sources are cited. The rambling style and regularly f

      • You are probably correctly assessing the reliability of Wikipedia, but I think you are grossly overestimating the reliability of Encyclopedia Britannica. Also, you apparently have no idea what the hell a blog is..
      • I'm not convinced Wikipedia is somehow profoundly not an encylopedia. Part of the reason your post doesn't convince me is because you criticize Wikipedia for not being "on par with the Brittanica" without specifying what you think exactly that par is, or what exactly you think "the concept of an encyclopedia is". It's difficult to have a conversation about these things without understanding what you view those things to be.

        I know that I don't get the same freedoms with Brittanica I get with Wikipedia: I'm n

        • FYI the spelling is Britannica. Maybe you are confusing it with the two Ts and the one N in Brittany.

    • >

      [...] The point being, Wikipedia is not a source of anything, it is the product of a series of sources. So you do not cite Wikipedia, you cite the article it points to.[...]

      Careful. While you can use Wikipedia as a meta-index to find references, you can only cite those 3rd-party references if and only if you actually obtain a copy and view the content yourself.

      Otherwise you are merely shifting from hoping that the content to Wikipedia is accurate, complete, etc. to hoping that the citations are both

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @10:35AM (#47565833)

    Especially if you are a professor you should know better. Wikipedia articles cite sources. Well, some of them do. If they don't, you should raise an eyebrow.

    If you see a statement in a Wikipedia article that you are thinking of repeating or relying on for something, look first to see: does it cite a source? In this case it did not. In that case, stop here, you should probably not trust the statement. At least not if it's something that matters at all. If it does cite a source, then things are better, but there is still one more step before you should rely on it for anything more than barroom trivia (like, say, publishing an academic paper): you should probably take a glance at that source and see if it really says that.

    Incidentally, this will help you use other reference works as well. There are a lot of errors in printed books as well, especially more popular books (those "Who's Who In the Roman World" type books are riddled with incorrect facts). The way to avoid being tripped up by them is to look for references first, and check references second. (How thoroughly to do so of course depends on what you're using the information for.)

    • Wikipedia articles cite sources.

      Exactly, WP is an encyclopedia, academics do not cite encyclopedias, never have, and most probably never will.

    • If you see a statement in a Wikipedia article that you are thinking of repeating or relying on for something, look first to see: does it cite a source? In this case it did not. In that case, stop here, you should probably not trust the statement. At least not if it's something that matters at all. If it does cite a source, then things are better, but there is still one more step before you should rely on it for anything more than barroom trivia (like, say, publishing an academic paper): you should probably take a glance at that source and see if it really says that.

      Unfortunately that isn't enough, many sites copy unreferenced information from wikipedia without indicating their source. These sites can later end up being cited by wikipedia.

      Especailly if you are new to a field it can be difficult to know who are the reputable sources and who are the not to reputable ones.

    • by c ( 8461 )

      If you see a statement in a Wikipedia article that you are thinking of repeating or relying on for something, look first to see: does it cite a source?

      The problem being that Wikipedia's been around long enough that (like in this case), it's entirely possible to point to a source which got its original erroneous information from Wikipedia.

      Which leads to a much harder secondary problem: how to determine/rank the quality of Wikipedia sources.

      • by Trepidity ( 597 )

        Yeah, that's definitely true. A particularly common pattern is that a journalist just cribs something from Wikipedia without researching it, and then Wikipedia cites the news article as if it were an independent source, when in reality it isn't. I'd personally be in favor of tackling this by strongly discouraging the use of news articles as sources, because they typically have extremely poor standards of research. However that leads to other problems, because for contemporary events there is often no other

  • I do love the smell of collateral misinformation in the morning!

    It was mildly amusing that the author's wiki account was suspended. Better late than never..

  • Whatever will we do with this incorrect fictional character biography?

  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @10:40AM (#47565883)
    Has anyone verified that this actually happened, or are we taking the words from a blog literally true? You know, the way Amelia Bedelia would.
  • About five years ago, I had a friend who was in school getting his Master's in Topology. I haven't spoken with him since then (due to both of us being busy and losing contact) but my guess is that he's got his PhD by now. At the time, there was a Wikipedia page, which I can't seem to find today, that was a list of well-known eccentrics - by that I mean people displaying eccentric behavior, not painters or electricians or any of the other multitude of ways that term is used.

    I used to joke with this guy that

    • by ShaunC ( 203807 )

      I tweaked the page for the doughnut theory of the universe last December, adding a new link for the acronym CMB (cosmic microwave background). But my link for CMB pointed to the entry for Color Me Badd, that 90's R&B group whose best-known song was "I Wanna Sex You Up." It looks like someone finally noticed while they were fixing an unrelated typo in the article, and fixed it back in June [wikipedia.org], so it was up there for 6 months or so.

    • It sometimes goes for years. Sometimes it goes the other way. One day in 2012, I looked up a tiny unincorporated community (< 100 residents) in west central Illinois and found that it had been vandalized 2 days prior. I reverted the edits and cleaned it up.

      You'd think that's the sort of edit that would go unnoticed for years. Although it was pretty extensive:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/w/inde... [wikipedia.org]

  • by honestmonkey ( 819408 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @10:46AM (#47565925) Journal
    I can see how this would be considered frustrating. However, it seems to me that the Wikipedia idea is still a valid one. This article can now be changed, corrected, as it were. And overall, most people that come along and care about the information are going to try to correct it. If this were in a physical book, and wrong, it's wrong basically forever.

    Encyclopedias are (were?) expensive, and for instance, my folks bought me a set when I was young and didn't get a new set for probably a decade or more. But I always "knew" that they were correct. However, teachers always made you have several sources, not just an encyclopedia. That cross-checking should be in place even today with Wikipedia. In fact, this could help fix a broken entry.

    Of course, they need a process to stop "back-and-forth" changes of things. I think they need to have some indication that over all, an article is getting more and more correct, and thus should be harder and harder to change. I don't know, maybe they have something like this in place.
  • A cautionary tale? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FhnuZoag ( 875558 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @10:46AM (#47565929)

    This is not a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of wikipedia. This is a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of human knowledge. That Taiwanese English professor, those "innumerable blog posts and book reports", that book on Jews and Jesus - all of them accepted the account as given. That makes them *also* unreliable, together with the plethora of tertiary sources that might cite them. The fact that the untruth was initially added to wikipedia and not some other location is irrelevant. The real problem is the tendency of mankind to accept things as given without checking up on it.

    • I liked your post right up to the last sentence when you said the real problem is our tendency to not check everything. That is simply not possible. Life rolls forward on a vast number of assumptions every moment, and most of them are correct, or good enough to get by on. (False assumptions that don't matter and cannot be observed - like this Amelia Bedelia thing - can linger indefinitely).
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      This is a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of human knowledge.

      Which is why we need to not treat history as a series of absolutes, but to realize that the saying "To the victor goes the spoils" and "history only remembers the winners" are truths.

      The "truth" is written by the winners - it was us "freedom fighters" versus the "imperialist overlords", or it was "capitalist democracy" versus "terrorists".

      There's three sides to every story - our side, their side, and the truth. And rarely is th

      • History is not always written by the winners. A good example is the history of the Roman Empire. The history of the Roman Empire consists partly of the Roman Senate gradually and consistently losing more and more power to the Emperor. But, Senators were still independently wealthy politicians and statesmen, and many wrote treatises on the history of Rome which survive to this day. In these treatises, they typically vent about how assholeish past emperors were. Now, they couldn't ever say the CURRENT em

    • "The real problem is the tendency of mankind to accept things as given without checking up on it." That isn't a problem that is one of the fundamental pieces to how our minds process a complex world.
    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

      This is a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of human knowledge.

      Precisely. If you think no "respected published author " ever did this exact same thing (got drunk and added a fabricated "fact" to one of their books), you are kidding yourself. This incident just shows how an incorrect fact can be made correct by mass citation.

      An acquaintance of mine (a "first nation" tribal member) several decades ago got one of the elders drunk, and convinced him of a story he made up on the spot about a supposed ancient tribal sacred place. By the time the guy sobered up the next day

    • I found it interesting that this seems to be presented as a hoax that lasted a long time. As in way back when the author was a sophomore implies a long time ago. Then I discover it's really only been there since 2009. It's only been a measly 5 years! Ok, maybe that's a whopping 20% of the author's life but it's still a very short period of time, too short to be something forgotten due to the passage of years (maybe because she was stoned when she wrote it though).

      Would it have been discovered in due cour

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @10:52AM (#47565989)

    It's a cautionary tale about the fundamental unreliability of Wikipedia

    As opposed to what? The things that people "knowledgeably" trade, like the one about us using "only 10% of our brains"? Or the things that we "know for sure" about ancient history? A few uncaught jokes in Wikipedia, and suddenly it's no more reliable than hearsay? (Or how else am I supposed to interpret this "fundamental unreliability"?) Sooner or later, someone would have attached a [citation needed] to that anyway.

  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @10:52AM (#47565991) Homepage Journal

    Take a look at Snopes once, huh?

    Every time somebody says something, it passes through the public mind. Sometimes it gets down five people and dies; others, it becomes an ever-growing ball of horse shit, and people start claiming that it takes 8 pounds of honey to build a honey comb that holds 1 pound of honey when, in reality, beeswax is pretty cheap in terms of hive storage economy.

    There are so many untrue things on Wikipedia just by way of almost everyone believing them--things that are printed in earnest in College textbooks and technical manuals, repeated by experts in field, and yet readily testable as not-true. These are just like Aristotle claiming heavier objects fall faster--and, 3000 years later, Galileo drops a grape and an iron brick at the same time, and both hit the ground simultaneously; did nobody think to check something other than a rock versus a feather? Today, we have the same.

    To make matters worse, anyone can purchase a domain name, set up a Web host or lease hosting, and publish anything they want with nobody able to edit it or mark it as suspect or inaccurate. Between word-of-mouth, books printed by whoever the hell wants to, Web sites with no validating authority, and forums where inaccurate posts aren't edited by moderators or community and are often supported by a circle jerk of clueless idiots, where do you expect to get any authoritative information?

    Wikipedia has the public access problem in a different scale: anyone can post anything on the Internet or in books or private magazines without contradiction; but, on Wikipedia, you get only as much contradiction as attention, amplified inverse to plausibility. That is to say: if what you post is not obviously wrong and not on a high-traffic article, it will probably fall through; if what you post is ridiculous or is on a high-traffic article, someone will notice the inaccuracy.

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      I'd like to fact-check the number of years between Aristotle and Galileo. That one is off by about 1000 years, says my memory.

      • Might be. We're 2000 years off from Christ, and the Greeks were what? 1000 or 2000 BC? Galileo was around 1400s or 1600s? I don't remember.

        It's still within Fermi estimation and thus still valid: how the fuck do you go thousands of years without checking that a brick falls faster than a grape?

        • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

          Oh, yeah, I'm not arguing that. You'd think given a few millennia someone would try something besides rock and feather, or any other light object with significant air resistance. It's mystifying how religiously they took Aristotle on all subjects, by the way, not just gravity. Nearly everything wrong with science for the next thousand years can be attributed to him, or a misinterpretation of him.

          Math, according to my possibly faulty: Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great, who peaked around 320s BC. The Mace

        • how the fuck do you go thousands of years without checking that a brick falls faster than a grape?

          When was the last time you had a brick in one hand and a grape in the other?

  • Yes yes, wikipedia is "fundamentally unreliable". But didn't someone do a study and find that Encyclopaedia Britannica was MORE unreliable? Considering how many factoids are in wikipedia, my guess is that the overall reliability is probably pretty excellent, and the discovery of an error, even a deliberate an egregious one like this one, doesn't change that.

    Maybe the REALLY unreliable factoid is the claim that wikipedia is unreliable. We should learn that anecdotes do not make good statistics.

    • Our entire culture of information exchange is unreliable.

      People believe things simply because they're told them. They discount ideas, facts and people simply because it runs contrary to their beliefs, incorrect facts held as true or it simply because runs contrary to what they want to believe.

  • Bear Attacks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jae471 ( 1102461 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @10:53AM (#47566007) Journal

    A former coworker once vandalized the list of fatal bear attacks (he added a friend of his to the list). Wikipedia has since been corrected, but not before the name Nick Ruberto (who is alive and well) appeared on several other lists of bear attacks (on some lists he appears as Nick Roberto, but all other details are the same.): https://www.google.com/?gws_rd... [google.com]

    According to my ex-coworker, he received a one-year edit ban once discovered, which was increased to a lifetime edit ban when he appealed.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm sorry.

    https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]

  • In the olden days, as my children like to call them, we learned that you only use an encyclopedia. For those too young to remember, and encyclopedia is a set of articles about stuff, like Wikipedia. It came in a large set of books. It was edited by a much smaller, and, we assume, more educated set of people than Wikipedia. But even so, we recognized that a small summary article could not sufficiently convey the complexity and nuances of the subjects we were eager to study. We also understood, that such
    • I think the best part of this whole debacle is everyone has apparently believed this blogger about her first hand account of her memory of an event from several yeas ago when she was admittedly stoned without batting an eye. The problem isn't Wikipedia. The problem is terrible critical thinking skills. The fact that the edited article is about a literal minded person just makes the irony even more delicious.
    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )


      by golly that's a really good idea! Really, it takes time, it takes skill, it encourages using your brain, etc.

      ok, now back to whining on the forums.

  • by eepok ( 545733 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @11:28AM (#47566385) Homepage

    I'm so done with this "Wikipedia has incorrect information and thus it's not worth anything" BS. The brilliance of Wikipedia is that if you know about something and can cite some high quality source, you can ethically edit an article. Some people edit articles imperfectly, but others will come by and improve.

    While we like to think that being absolutely perfect is the best option, it's impossible. Getting that last 5-10% of absolute perfection requires a massive amount of work (time, money, etc.). When striving for anything error-free, perfection becomes the enemy of good and we don't have the massive community within Wikipedia to actually add new articles and information. Instead of perfection, it's the agility of the Wikipedia community that brings the greatest value. They can add, remove, and correct anything-- and so can you. You just have to care enough to do so and do so with informative source material.

  • What a BS complaint. "I posted something untrue on a self-publishing site". Gee, color me oh-so-impressed.

    All the more amusing is the comments system, which only offers logins though FB or TW, and as a part of this, gains your friends list and the ability to post on your behalf. That's so the software in question can post lies (adverts) with your name on them.

    Maybe the Wiki caused the term "truthiness" to be created, but it certainly didn't create the concept. People have always, and always will, greatly pr

  • The information for 99.9% of wiki pedia articles is useful.

    Only politically charged articles and obscure articles are suspect.

    I can see how something that might be true but which is very hard to verify as true or false on a non critical subject (like this book character hoax) would last a while. But I'd never encounter it in my use of the Wiki.

  • Is that Ms. Dickson didn't correct her attempt(s) at humor after she sobered up. That no one else ever bothered could be taken as an indication of the significance of the subject. While the books may be popular, the author's life clearly isn't (yet).

    The contexts in which her entry was cited ("Jews and Jesus" - really?) probably also indicate a lack of significance.

  • I'm not very good at the HMTL linky thing, so I'll skip that, but interested parties may want to check the Wikipedia article on the late Ron Stewart, former hockey player in the NHL. If you go through the history of edits and look at the original article, you probably don't have to know much about hockey to realize that the article content is absurd with multiple references to his supposed love of pottery and other ridiculous claims. Yet the absurd and unsubstantiated claim from the original article that
  • The number of times the hoaxer says, "we were stoned" makes me think her next project is to google bomb herself with the keyword "stoned"?
  • The picture of the character at the Wikipedia site appears to be real, and was uploaded by someone else entirely.

    The reference to the author, Peggy Parrish, appears to be real, a real person, a real author.
    Numerous other links to Amelia Bedelia books, stage plays, movies, etc. appear to be valid and real, and date FAR earlier than this purported hoax.

    I submit that EJ Dickson, the self-proclaimed hoaxer, is hoaxing us all with a hoax about a non-existing hoax!

  • books, which are never updated and only rarely publish errata - and when errata IS published, it is never stored with the book. I'd love to see someone walk into a school, open a textbook and denounce every "hoax" inside. Bonus points if it's a school in an "underprivileged" area, which most likely uses older books!

    My brother went to look something up in an encylopedia the other day... but it was not there, because it was something that came about or was discovered after his encyclopedia set was publish
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @06:22PM (#47570449) Homepage

    It's a real problem, because Wikipedia's trustworthiness depends on its verifiability policy. Everything in Wikipedia is supposed to be traceable to a reliable source. Unfortunately, Wikipedia itself has become so trustworthy that supposedly trustworthy sources are becoming too uncritical about trusting Wikipedia.

    Back circa 2004-2005 a respected editor added a statement to an article saying that Rutgers had been originally been invited to join the Ivy League but had declined. This interesting, plausible, and credible statement was in the article for a while, but was eventually challenged.

    The editor originally had trouble providing a good source, but eventually came up with a newspaper article in a New Jersey newspaper, one that would usually be considered a reliable source. Other editors were inclined to accept, this, until one of them realized it was a fairly recent article, contacted the reporter, and asked for the reporter's source.

    The reporter replied that he had read it in Wikipedia and used it (without attribution).

    Now, it's not clear whether or not the statement is true. The last I knew, the editor said he had gotten it from an old issue of the "Targum," the Rutgers University newspaper, which would probably have qualified as a reliable source, but since he was unable to provide volume, issue, date, or page numbers, the statement was not verifiable at that time and was removed.

    But it is an clear example of circular reference--an unverifiable statement almost being kept in Wikipedia, based on support from a "reliable" source that had gotten it from Wikipedia.

  • Go check out the grow lights section on Wikipedia. It's so much repeated and poorly-sourced advertising-as-fact that almost all of that information is WRONG.

    And this is why I will never help/donate/edit Wikipedia. There's no way to stop the controlling interests. All information on Wikipedia should therefore be assumed false.

  • ....no one, not even the Wikipedians, has any idea how many there are. No one can even hazard a decent guess, although after 3+ years of heavy study of English Wikipedia and the "people" who run it, I can state with reasonable certainty that there are thousands of hoaxes on it at any given time. They tend to be subtle bits of misinformation, difficult to find and often lasting for many years.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern