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Wikipedia Education

Wikipedia Admin's Manipulation "Messed Up Perhaps 15,000 Students' Lives" 264

Andreas Kolbe writes: Recently, "ArbCom", Wikipedia's highest court, banned an administrator account that for years had been manipulating the Wikipedia article of a bogus Indian business school – deleting criticism, adding puffery, and enabling the article to become a significant part of the school's PR strategy. Believing the school's promises and advertisements, families went to great expense to send sons and daughters on courses there – only for their children to find that the degrees they had gained were worthless. "In my opinion, by letting this go on for so long, Wikipedia has messed up perhaps 15,000 students' lives," an Indian journalist quoted in the story says. India is one of the countries where tens of millions of Internet users have free access to Wikipedia Zero, but cannot afford the data charges to access the rest of the Internet, making Wikipedia a potential gatekeeper.
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Wikipedia Admin's Manipulation "Messed Up Perhaps 15,000 Students' Lives"

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  • by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @09:44AM (#49335131) Homepage Journal

    without further fact checking, is a complete idiot.
    Or as Ronald Reagan once said, "Trust, but verify."

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Or as honest Abe said, "Anyone can make up quotes on the internet."

    • by mha ( 1305 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @09:58AM (#49335225) Homepage

      Here, just for you, a quote from the Slashdot headline itself, not even the article:

      > India is one of the countries where tens of millions of Internet users have free access to Wikipedia Zero, but cannot afford the data charges to access the rest of the Internet, making Wikipedia a potential gatekeeper.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @10:36AM (#49335547)

        The impoverished people living in rural areas, without affordable access to the Internet, and the people that can afford to send their kids to this school, are probably disjoint sets.

      • And this is why the "channel" Internet is a horrible, horrible idea, which needs to be nuked from orbit, just to be safe. It'll be the return of corporate-interest TV, with all the propaganda that comes with it - but with the veneer of "it's on the Internet, so people checked it!".

      • Bullshit. From the article: "Students paid up to $15,000 for IIPM’s courses."

        So they can plunk down $15,000 in fees but can't "afford data charges" to do a tiny bit of non-wikipedia research on what that $15,000 is going to get them?

        Again, bullshit.

    • without further fact checking, is a complete idiot.

      No just Wikipedia...

    • by tpwade ( 1419451 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @10:01AM (#49335257)
      It's not hard to image that the families thought they had done their fact checking. From the summary: "tens of millions of Internet users have free access to Wikipedia Zero, but cannot afford the data charges to access the rest of the Internet". So a person, who is saving every last bit of money they can (i.e. not paying data charges) gets a flyer that says: "attend our awesome business school", and they "fact check" using the only source easily available to them: Wikipedia. It's easy to critisize them from our priveledge position in the west, with dozens, if not thousands of independent sources freely and easily available to us, but the situation is different elsewhere.
      • I think it really demonstrates the importance of having those independent sources (even if a few of them are going to be cranks or pure propaganda) simply because if there's only a single source of information, it becomes trivial to control perceptions. It also suggests that Wikipedia needs to do a better job at fact checking, which is difficult given how many power users treat certain articles like their own little kingdoms and actively prevent others from changing them.

        It's a noble goal to provide info
      • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 )

        They go to "great expense" to send their children on courses there, but can't afford a SIM card to do any research?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by prefec2 ( 875483 )

      You should always check information from any source before using as fact. Especially, if it is about business or law schools. What is new about that? Wikipedia is a good source in areas which are not entangled with business, like math, biology, computer science. However, you still should check primary sources.

    • by Andreas Kolbe ( 2591067 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @10:04AM (#49335279)
      It's not so easy. With Wikipedia Zero and Facebook Zero, tens of millions of Indians in rural areas do not have access to anything else. They get Wikipedia and Facebook free as part of their mobile phone deal, but would need an expensive data plan to access anything else on the Internet. The situation is the same in many other third-world countries. What you have then a is a large captive audience who can only consume Wikipedia, but cannot check its sources or access alternative sources. Hence the concerns [accessnow.org] voiced by AccessNow and the Electronic Frontier Foundation [eff.org] about Facebook and Wikipedia becoming gatekeepers: keeping information out as much as bringing information in. The potential for manipulation is stupendous, because only political and business elites will have read-write access to Wikipedia. This case illustrates why people in developing countries need affordable access to the entire internet, not a Wikipedia and Facebook band aid.
      • A band-aid is better than nothing. Global, free, uncensored internet will arrive (eventually).

        • It's debatable. I appreciate there are two ways you can see this, but I believe band-aids like this are self-serving and ultimately slow progress towards that "eventual" point down. I'd rather see the Wikimedia Foundation putting their weight (and millions) behind AccessNow [slashdot.org] and EFF [slashdot.org] on this.
          • You got a good point, but is the amount of money and effort wikimedia is putting on this venture be that big? To me it seems most of the work is being done by Facebook and the Indian Carriers themselves.

    • without further fact checking, is a complete idiot. Or as Ronald Reagan once said, "Trust, but verify."

    • I disagree with your first statement but agree with the second. Most people believe what their friends and uncritical family members tell them and do zero verification with outside resources. Trusting Wikipedia, while risky, is a big step up from that. It's way over the top to say they're complete idiots for doing so. Otherwise everybody is a complete idiot for believing in anything they haven't themselves verified - and we can hardly expect such rampant skepticism to lead to a better society.

    • by louic ( 1841824 )
      This is of course true, but in some countries people may not have learned to be critical. On the contrary: I am not sure if this is the case for India but in some countries people are taught from a very young age to trust the (usually state owned) media.
    • by eexaa ( 1252378 )

      Or as Scully heard, "Trust no one."

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      Agreed. Due diligence is the responsibility of the student. If the extent of your research is a single Wikipedia article then perhaps you don't deserve a degree in the first place.
    • According to Suzanne Massie [suzannemassie.com], "trust, but verify" is the translation of a Russian proverb, "Doveryai no Proveryai," that she taught Reagan, and he repeated this saying more than once. Other source is: www.reagan.utexas.edu/... [utexas.edu].

      Full disclosure: I searched through Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      As MBAs are often complete idiots and utterly disconnected from reality, I am not sure your argument counts. In fact, believing a Wikipedia-article without any additional verification may be a good test to see whether somebody is MBA material. Hence on a meta-level, this school did a very professional assessment of whether people were qualified for an MBA or not and only directed those to it that were. Hence, again on meta-level, this would actually strengthen the belief that the school was genuine and well

  • caveat emptor (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @09:47AM (#49335157)

    Here in the US, colleges still send thick glossy booklets full of pretty pictures of campus locations students will hardly ever see in rare weather conditions with attractive and diverse people they'll never meet. Then we wonder why we have millions of non-STEM graduates serving coffee and whining about "student debt relief" for their useless degree(s). To me, all the "extra" college grads we have in the country are a much bigger deal than "just" 15K people getting a little wiser on how the world really works.

    • Re:caveat emptor (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @10:09AM (#49335335) Homepage

      One of the problems is this bit from TFS:

      India is one of the countries where tens of millions of Internet users have free access to Wikipedia Zero, but cannot afford the data charges to access the rest of the Internet, making Wikipedia a potential gatekeeper

      A bunch of poor people, with limited access to the internet, turn to one of the only sources of information they have.

      And it turns out that source isn't trustworthy.

      How is the consumer supposed to know otherwise when they have no access to better information?

      Yes, we all know that wikipedia isn't always an authoritative source. But for people who only can get to wikipedia through their basic cell phone plans .... that was the only source of information.

      Given the available sources of information, I'd like to see you arrive at a better conclusion.

      • Re:caveat emptor (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mongothesecond ( 3992413 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @11:03AM (#49335735)
        If Wikipedia is a necessary utility for the Indian population, wikipedia should charge or be funded by that government. Otherwise free is what it is, neighbor.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The talk page [wikipedia.org] for the school is extremely active, with archives going back to 2005, and hundreds of pages of discussion of the controversiality of the main page. Assuming "Wikipedia Zero" includes access to the talk page, everyone had access to enough information to see that something was fishy.

        I guess we need better education as to how Wikipedia works, with the recommendation to check the talk page if the topic is controversial.

        • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 )

          Yeah, this is not an access issue, it's more the research skills of the parents.

          Even without the talk page, the assertion that people are sending their kids to school while unable to afford food and shelter, much less Internet access is a bit... ignorant. Education is not cheap. SIM cards and data are cheap in India, even by local standards, at least for those who have enough to consider sending their kids to school. A quick search on vodaphone.in puts 1G of data for 30 days at around $4USD without a

      • by rhazz ( 2853871 )

        But for people who only can get to wikipedia through their basic cell phone plans .... that was the only source of information.

        While I agree that there is genuine concern about wikipedia becoming a gatekeeper in general, I don't think it's valid to claim this was the sole source for people to be making college decisions on. Wikipedia Zero has only been around in India for about 2 years. What did they use prior to that to look up information on colleges? Did those other sources of information disappear in those two years? Just because a new, convenient source of information becomes available doesn't mean people should suddenly treat

  • by OneSmartFellow ( 716217 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @09:47AM (#49335163)
    ... are bogus as far as I can tell.

    I've worked with plenty of Indian engineers (mechanical, electronic, and software) over the past 30+ years, and my general impression is that at least 50% have no knowledge of the subject matter at all. As far as I could tell they simply purchased a document claiming they had a degree. So, this appears to be just another example.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @10:03AM (#49335277)

      Corrupt institutions in India are the NORM, not the exception. Long before Wikipedia existed, the country was filled with fake diploma mills and a million other institutional scams. The parents in this case are just looking for a convenient scapegoat (and playing their favorite game of "Blame the evil American/European companies for all our shitty country's problems!").

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @10:04AM (#49335289) Homepage Journal

      That is very unfair. It could be that just the ones that are willing to work for cut rate contractors have limited skill sets... Who would have guessed.
      India has a lot of very educated people in the tech fields. After all they have do have nuclear weapons, launch vehicles, and aerospace industry. All of which go very wrong very quickly without educated engineers working on them.

      • by aralin ( 107264 )

        Close to half of the software developers from India that I've worked with did not actually touch a computer until 3rd year of their degree. I am not saying that it reflects their ability, most of them were very intelligent and could learn well, eventually, but they certainly did not come from the university prepared in the same way as I would expect.

      • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 )

        It's handy to have an Indian coworker to vet their degree. Last coworker I had from India had a masters but spelled like he was on a q9 keyboard.

        We did the same for applicants citing Chinese degrees or to call about job experience. They should be happy we had somebody who knew the schools, spoke the language and could make the calls, it often worked in their favour, but sometimes it spotted a fraud.

        Sadly if somebody can only cite a random foreign school and experience and if nobody can vet them, I'll

    • Some of them are legit, but they are a fraction of the degrees issued there, and the graduates immediately flee to America or elsewhere in the world where they'll get taken seriously. The senior architect at our company was born in Mumbai, but got a real degree, moved here, got US citizenship, and is now raising his seven kids on a 20 acre farm.
    • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @10:57AM (#49335697)

      We have Indian applicants for the web developer jobs we have open at the moment, and invariably they all seem to have achieved degrees with honours in less than 2 years, often more than one degree in the same time. I refuse to believe that any degree achievable in less time than an equivalent UK degree is worth anything, let alone two.

      And then, the number of those applicants who then claim to have achieved another major qualification in a London college or university in only a few months... Especially when you can link those London colleges to visa fraud stories in the national media.

      It would take a lot for me to take an Indian graduate at face value.

      • by Jaime2 ( 824950 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @11:08AM (#49335771)

        I used to do a lot of contractor hiring. I started with the attitude "if you lie on your resume, I won't even consider you". After realizing that I would never hire anyone - I backed off on the attitude. The interview process became an exercise in determining what the candidate knows, while the candidate made every attempt possible to deceive me. It was very disheartening and I hated hiring someone who lied to my face for 60 minutes straight because he lied less than everyone else and was the most likely of the bunch to get the job done.

        BTW, this was at a really big company and 99% of the resumes that HR sent me were educated in India and came to the US to work in the previous three to five years.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @11:19AM (#49335841)

          99% of the resumes that HR sent me were educated in India

          Well, as they say on Mythbusters...there's your problem right there. Searching for honest employees and then only looking at resumes from Indians is like searching for sober employees and then only looking at resumes from Russians.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          I used to do a lot of contractor hiring. I started with the attitude "if you lie on your resume, I won't even consider you". After realizing that I would never hire anyone - I backed off on the attitude. The interview process became an exercise in determining what the candidate knows, while the candidate made every attempt possible to deceive me. It was very disheartening and I hated hiring someone who lied to my face for 60 minutes straight because he lied less than everyone else and was the most likely of

    • You can blame a LOT of it on the caste system. I worked with a wonderful lady that left India to get away from that shit and she said there if you are from a high caste? You can walk around covered in your own shit and people have to pretend you smell like roses. If somebody from a high caste wants the job, like say teaching? You STFU and give it to them, don't matter if they know jack and shit.

      She said in a lot of ways its like Jim Crow, doesn't matter what you know, whether you are smart or dumb, or how

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @02:16PM (#49337571) Homepage Journal

      I'll see your anecdote and raise you some speculation.

      I've worked with a number of young Indian engineers and found them to be roughly comparable to American engineers with the same level of experience; if anything they have a slightly higher level of textbook knowledge because (I speculate) their educational system puts a higher premium on memorization. That turns out to be awesome when you're lucky enough to be hiring someone with that certain spark of talent it takes to be great at the job. On the other hand it also means you can easily end up hiring a dud who interviews great because he happens to have a prodigious memory. When the VC my company worked with asked us to take on some surplus H1B engineers he'd sponsored I had a range of experiences from absolutely top-notch talent to total cement-heads with an encyclopedic recall of the GoF book.

      But what I've never run into an Indian H1B who didn't know anything at all about his field, although I'm sure it happens. Given the size and level of economic development in India I'd be shocked if there were not at least a few diploma mills, but you'd be a fool to turn your nose up at a diploma from U of Mumbai or IIT/Delhi.

      It can be tricky evaluate a candidate from a different country and culture than you, so you've got to expect that a conscientious company may end up hiring a few clunkers. But if your Indian colleagues were *all* ignoramuses, it suggests to me the companies you worked for were incompetent or bottom-feeders when it comes to recruiting engineering talent.

  • Do they not lease a connection, with a certain speed, and that's that? Data caps are a thing of the nineties...
    • On mobile? Data caps are nearly ubiquitious.

    • No. See Wikipedia Zero [wikimediafoundation.org]. "For many readers in the Global South, the primary (and often only) access to the internet is via mobile. However, mobile data costs are a significant barrier to internet usage. We created Wikipedia Zero so that everyone can access all the free knowledge on Wikipedia, even if they can't afford the mobile data charges."
  • by Iamthecheese ( 1264298 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @09:52AM (#49335191)
    "Verifiability not truth" is the shelter biased and power-hungry Wikipedia editors hide behind. Post an article or fact they don't like and they'll do their level best to claim it's not a good source using nebulous definitions and intra-Wiki politics. The author of a cited article can himself say, "that's not what I meant" and it will be rejected. One symptom of this source problem is a lack of consistently followed, useful guidelines for source material. Oh, there are guideline, they're just not consistently followed and entrenched interests have allowed their definitions of a good source to slide to support various point of view various editors want to push. NPOV is a religion they follow like a Baptist in his cups.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @09:58AM (#49335223) Homepage
    Ive worked with numerous indian H1B holders. The ones that are smart enough to apply for citizenship and get the hell out of whatever indentured servitude theyve been thrust into are the ones I love working with. Eloquently spoken as always, they will be the ones that bring insight and technical expertise along for any meeting or project.

    On the other hand, ive had many experiences with ESL H1B holders that amounted to nothing short of a phone tech in the states. Any H1B hired for any oracle product for example is a roll of the dice. Ive worked with a senior level RDBM that after an entire year of working on a project and requesting funding, quit when it was revealed the funding had all been directly applied to Oracle Gold support and remote hands. H1B sysadmins that just reboot servers all day long to fix problems, or feverishly post to message boards with an irate "please respond immediately" seem to be the bulk of what ive encountered in linux and unix. Ive been present for meeting room meltdowns and phantom disappearances where H1B holders just quit showing up for a project as well.
  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @09:58AM (#49335233)

    How do you say "Don't believe everything you read on Wikipedia" in Hindi?

  • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @10:19AM (#49335391)
    Their facebook page is driving a pro-feminist agenda, and welcoming women-only posts in wikipedia under the guise of promoting "gender diversity". Last time I checked, promoting a diversity of something is welcoming from all sides, and nobody ever was preventing some sexes to use wikipedia. It is really a nice strategy to flip the bird to the people who most helped you grow. I have contributed to wikipedia in the past, but I am done with them.
    • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @12:23PM (#49336437)
      If Wikipedia wants more women to contribute, they really need to change the way that it works. All too often a single person will essentially take control of a page and reject any other contributions (and even improvements) from other people. That kind of adversarial behavior isn't something that most women tend to like working around. Even if their efforts to promote women to join are successful, I don't think it will have any long-term success as they, like many others will run into some asshole that won't work collaboratively.

      Wikipedia really needs to change the way it operates and remove the ability for individuals to monopolize and control a page. I think if they moved to a system where multiple editors would work together to collaboratively make changes to a page over several weeks before pushing out the changes to the live version. While that isn't going to eliminate the petty squabbles, it at least results in a less hostile environment that prevents one power-tripping idiot from reverting all of your changes and trying to ban you.

      Pandering to women while keeping the same environment that has been shown to drive so many women away isn't going to fix the problem. It's just trying to slap a band-aid on top of a gaping wound. Worse, it's a waste of resources that could otherwise be spent actually addressing the underlying cause of the problem.
  • by Andreas Kolbe ( 2591067 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @10:33AM (#49335531)
    can be found in this article by Mridula Chari on scroll.in: Wikipedia bans editor for consistent bias in favour of Arindam Chaudhuri's IIPM [scroll.in]. Includes some more details on goings-on in the Indian-language Wikipedias (Marathi etc.)
  • Wait, wait,.... does that mean there are non-bogus business schools somewhere?
  • In the end, these people can still claim they have MBAs. Just because it's not from an accredited school doesn't mean that they don't have one. It's up to the perspective employer to verify education. They'll get tossed out of a few opportunities, but many won't even notice.
  • by theendlessnow ( 516149 ) * on Wednesday March 25, 2015 @12:29PM (#49336493)
    Come on folks. Please verify your Wikipedia finds with something reliable. I use Reddit!

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