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Author Topic: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.  (Read 2284 times)

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Offline MnemaxaTopic starter

Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« on: May 11, 2009, 09:12:59 PM »
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090511/ap_on_re_eu/eu_ireland_wikipedia_hoaxer

Summary:  Guy invents quote by famous composer.  Posts it on Wikipedia to see how fast the news travels across the world.  Official newspapers and documentaries pick it up quickly....and don't even catch that it's made up.

If the news services didn't catch this for a month or more, then how reliable can their information be as well?

Offline The Overlord

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2009, 10:08:03 PM »

No system is perfect, and guys like this will always find the cracks in the system. That being said, the level of veracity on Wikipedia is quite good considering itís an open and editable database. Reports to the contrary are greatly exaggerated.

A number of times Iíve checked Wiki on topics I was knowledgeable on, and already knew the answers before I surfed them. I have yet to find glaring errors there.

Wiki also doesnít just post facts, but is good on citing its sources, which of course is the crucial part. My college instructors repeated to us donít use Wiki for research to the point they sounded like a broken record, instead asking us to use Galileo, which IMHO is about the most unorganized and un-navigable piece of shit database Iíve seen. Smells like politics if you ask me.

Interesting then that my brother conducts online research for his employer one of his sources is Wiki.

Offline setojurai

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2009, 01:39:05 AM »
You shouldn't trust Wikipedia because our politicians say so, and remember, Al Gore invented the internet, so he's right!

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Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2009, 03:03:00 AM »
You could always try conservipedia for an alternative viewpoint *sniggers*

Offline Lithos

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2009, 03:37:55 AM »
Actually, Wikipedia removed that rather quickly, but magazines using that as source did not.

So in fact Wikipedia beat normal media by heaps in that example. Also, there was the warning of quote in question not having real references from the start so anyone using that as reference has been at fault from the beginning.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2009, 03:52:35 AM by Lithos »

Offline The Overlord

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2009, 06:16:40 AM »
You could always try conservipedia for an alternative viewpoint *sniggers*

Wow...an entire database devoted to head-buried-in-sand ignorance. Can't say I'm surprised. All I had to do was read the page for Obama and I was out of there.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2009, 09:18:46 AM »
I get a 404 on that link, Mnem.

That said, the normal media has been shoddy for years on some things that are interesting. One afternoon spent on Snopes.com will show you that. That said, even primary sources can be doubtful. The first rule of eyewitness statements at a crime scene is that they are some of the least reliable evidence. Many of the cons freed by the Innocence Project were convicted on eyewitness testimony, and they spend an average of twelve years in prison for crimes they haven't committed. (And people wonder why I oppose the death penalty.) In most peoples' view, you don't get much more primary than someone who saw it happen.

Wikipedia makes an awesome jumping-off point. I would be laughed out of my classes if I ever cited it, but I use it often. Sometimes it's wrong, but many times it's right... and those things that come off as wrong usually end up being just gross oversimplification meant for layperson digestion.

Offline Neferus Andolini

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2009, 09:24:21 AM »
The topic of this is... Why you should not trust Wikipedia.


Because what you're reading might have been posted by an academic researcher trying to find out how stupid you are?

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Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2009, 02:16:03 PM »
Wow...an entire database devoted to head-buried-in-sand ignorance. Can't say I'm surprised. All I had to do was read the page for Obama and I was out of there.

Apparently realitys liberal bias convinced them that they Had To Do Something! I wander through it once in a while if I'm in need of a laugh.

Offline The Overlord

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2009, 04:19:40 PM »


Because what you're reading might have been posted by an academic researcher trying to find out how stupid you are?

Good case of pot calling kettle black I'd say. In a position like that, you're supposed to be supporting the free-flow of information, not alter it on a spiteful agenda.

Do that and you're no better than the government, and the question of who's stupidity we're discussing is, well...academic.

Offline Neferus Andolini

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2009, 05:01:50 PM »
In a position like that, you're supposed to be supporting the free-flow of information, not alter it on a spiteful agenda.

In a position like.. college student?

Offline The Overlord

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2009, 05:08:36 PM »
In a position like.. college student?

This makes the fact that you altered information any less relevant?
« Last Edit: May 12, 2009, 05:09:39 PM by The Overlord »

Offline Neferus Andolini

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2009, 07:01:28 PM »
This makes the fact that you altered information any less relevant?

You're making it sound like a doctor who was breaking the code of ethics that all medically licensed practitioners are sworn to uphold, and not just for personal reasons, but because this guy has some hidden void in his soul that requires that he hurt and insult people every chance he gets.

As opposed to what would be closer to the truth of.. a kid whose professor was saying "My, isn't it wondrous that new information can travel the globe and touch individuals within hours these days?" And our man saying "Hm, I wonder what the downsides of this might be?"
« Last Edit: May 12, 2009, 08:44:45 PM by Neferus Andolini »

Offline setojurai

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2009, 08:42:49 PM »
We are the internet.  Welcome to Anonymous.

Sorry, but that's the sad reality of it.  While Wikipedia is the best of the bunch as far as citing sources and fact checking goes, it's still susceptible to the basic human need to BS people.  We shouldn't mistrust Wikipedia, or any other information source, but what we SHOULD do is do our own independent research and cross-checking.  When you stop thinking and start believing everything they say, they win.

Offline Cysma

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2009, 09:33:12 PM »
My professors ALSO told us not to use Wikipedia due to its supposed unreliability.
I think it's very reliable, however, especially considering anyone can edit it, if only for the fact that they carefully cite their sources.

On a side note, I like going to a completely random page and using only the links on each entry to find my way to Kevin Bacon.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2009, 10:32:09 PM »
On a side note, I like going to a completely random page and using only the links on each entry to find my way to Kevin Bacon.

I don't believe they've gotten it down to only eight pages yet.

... yet.

Offline Vandren

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #16 on: May 13, 2009, 03:20:03 PM »
My professors ALSO told us not to use Wikipedia due to its supposed unreliability.
I think it's very reliable, however, especially considering anyone can edit it, if only for the fact that they carefully cite their sources.

Hmm.  This is a common misconception (unfortunately, among faculty).  A study done a couple years back showed that Wikipedia is actually more accurate than The Encyclopedia Britannica.

However, as I tell my (college level) students, reliability is not the reason that we don't cite Wikipedia in academic/scholarly work.  The reason we don't cite Wikipedia is that, like Britannica, it is an encyclopedia, and no one should be citing an encyclopedia after they get out of middle school (possibly high school) because they're far too generalized.

That said, wikis in general (also as I tell my students) can be helpful for pop culture things and for refreshing one's memory about things we already have a basic understanding of.  Same with IMDB (for class use, at least).

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Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #17 on: May 13, 2009, 09:16:29 PM »
I have yet to find glaring errors there.

Wiki also doesnít just post facts, but is good on citing its sources, which of course is the crucial part.

Perhaps it has improved since I last spent much time there...  But at least a few months or a year or so ago, I did have these kind of problems with Wikipedia a couple times.  Perhaps it depends what sorts of topics you're searching for.  But, when you're doing it for work or school, a couple or a few times can quickly feel like too many.  Although, it doesn't help that professors tend to go on about Wiki just being "generally" unreliable.  I'm not sure that's exactly true, either.  It does make the cases where it is incomplete or dubious, more glaring for me.

While it leads to many different kinds of documents, by and large I've found Galileo to be very useful for academic materials.  Not perfect, but good.  And the citations are more often to academic publications than people whose credentials are either 1) outside academia, 2) from places I can't recognize or know the standards for or 3) simply not established.  However, just how useful Galileo is, depends on what kind of subjects you are looking for, how patient you are in delving into what it gives you (often produces dense and very specialized documents), and how many subscriptions your provider/institution has with the sources Galileo links up with.


Offline Lithos

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #18 on: May 13, 2009, 09:28:20 PM »
When using wikipedia, it is very very important to be able to read, if there are small notations next to information bits and if it says things such as "Citation needed" or "Missing reliable source", then that piece of information should not be taken at face value.

Also one of the most important things you can do when reading wikipedia, if you see something that is not reliably cited nor marked as lacking citation, it is good to make a notion about it.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2009, 09:31:34 PM by Lithos »

Offline Salernine

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2009, 11:54:45 PM »
That said, wikis in general (also as I tell my students) can be helpful for pop culture things and for refreshing one's memory about things we already have a basic understanding of.  Same with IMDB (for class use, at least).
Or as an aggregation of sources if there are any cited.

Offline Neferus Andolini

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2009, 06:13:24 AM »
What I don't understand is why you wouldn't treat Wiki as a finder of sources for you.. just go to their page on Greek architecture or whatever your assignment is on and find their sources.. and use those, instead.

Offline Vandren

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2009, 07:08:57 AM »
What I don't understand is why you wouldn't treat Wiki as a finder of sources for you.. just go to their page on Greek architecture or whatever your assignment is on and find their sources.. and use those, instead.

This can certainly be done . . . depending on the rhetorical context and what's actually cited, if anything.  And, for say a class' purposes, the individual assignment's/facultyperson's requirements.  Some faculty, and some assignments, require only scholarly source material, which may or may not appear on a wiki. 

Personally, for academic purposes, I'd recommend not doing it until you're comfortable with using things like Academic Search Complete, other EBSCO databases, and library catalogs, because it's a very good idea to get comfortable with those.  Makes class-based research papers a lot easier in the long run.  Especially since EBSCO is the Clearchannel of research databases (they own 40+, covering roughly 30 different academic/professional fields, and use the exact same software to search all of them).  Cannibalizing other people's research is a time honored tradition, but it definitely helps to know how to find many of these things on your own first, in my experience.

Offline Lithos

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2009, 11:14:01 AM »
If you use only scholarly source material you wont be able to make science though, cause you have at times find something new too and explore something not yet researched. Schooling that does not prepare you for that would be quite useless.

Offline Vandren

Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #23 on: May 14, 2009, 11:25:57 AM »
If you use only scholarly source material you wont be able to make science though, cause you have at times find something new too and explore something not yet researched. Schooling that does not prepare you for that would be quite useless.

Where's that come from?

It seems, to me, to be beside the point.

First, raw data (primary sources) and source material (secondary sources) are two very different things.

Second, the point I'd previously made is that some faculty and some assignments require scholarly material only.  Ex. one of my relatives teaches a psych course that requires scholarly sources only, so that his/her students don't just go online and get specious source material and so they actually employ the professional databases that they have available.  For this sort of assignment, one cannot count on Wikipedia sources to be "approved" by the instructor or within the assignment.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2009, 11:29:15 AM by Vandren »

Offline Trieste

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Re: Why you should not trust Wikipedia.
« Reply #24 on: May 14, 2009, 11:35:53 AM »
I like JSTOR, as long as I'm not going for something that needs to be recent. :)