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Phony Wikipedia Entry Used By Worldwide Press 391

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-your-sources dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "A quote attributed to French composer Maurice Jarre was posted on wikipedia shortly after his death in March and later appeared in obituaries in mainstream media. 'One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head, that only I can hear,' Jarre was quoted as saying. However, these words were not uttered by the Oscar-winning composer but written by Shane Fitzgerald, a final-year undergraduate student, who said he wanted to show how journalists use the internet as a primary source for their stories. Fitzgerald posted the quote on Wikipedia late at night after news of Jarre's death broke. 'I saw it on breaking news and thought if I was going to do something I should do it quickly. I knew journalists wouldn't be looking at it until the morning,' The quote had no referenced sources and was therefore taken down by moderators of Wikipedia within minutes. However, Fitzgerald put it back up a few more times until it was finally left up on the site for more than 24 hours. While he was wary about the ethical implications of using someone's death as a social experiment, he had carefully generated the quote so as not to distort or taint Jarre's life, he said. 'I didn't expect it to go that far. I expected it to be in blogs and sites, but on mainstream quality papers? I was very surprised.'"
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Phony Wikipedia Entry Used By Worldwide Press

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  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:22PM (#27853739) Journal

    I, for one, welcome our revisionist-history overlords!

    • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:24PM (#27853753)

      [citation needed]

      • by goombah99 (560566) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:58PM (#27854073)

        [citation needed]

        [1]

        • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Morlark (814687) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @12:31AM (#27855619) Homepage

          Of course the said thing is, when it gets added back to the article, they'll just cite the mainstream newspapers that copied the phony quote. And then it'll become a part of the ever burgeoning body of Wikipedia's New Truth. Facts? Facts be damned, we don't need those in an encyclopedia.

          • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Interesting)

            by aywwts4 (610966) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @12:51AM (#27855751)

            I had this exact problem.

            It was a trivial fact, a submarine was listed as having four times the horsepower it really contained, since there were four engines some fuzzy math took place and this submarine just under four times more powerful than it's direct successor.

            The problem was the fact stood for years, I worked at a museum which actually had one of these submarines, Among my sources were A, the number written on the engines, and B, Dead tree books and manuals clearly stating the engine size.

            My vandalism was taken down because this fact stood so long it couldn't be false, I said it wasn't cited, how can you prove me wrong, He quickly found citation, hundreds of sites got their stats info from wikipedia, and as we all know "The Internet" is a more trustworthy souce than a real navy manual any day of the week.

            • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 07, 2009 @02:03AM (#27856113)

              Then publish your findings. It's really not that hard, just take some pictures of the engine with the size clearly demarcated, and some scans of the manuals. Then show your references from the museum. Then change it back. Challenge anyone who wants to post the other number to come up with pictures. Reasonable people will probably agree and if not, then other reasonable people will side with you.

              That's the cool thing about wiki: if it's something you care about, and if you care about truth being preserved, then the power to enshrine that truth is at your fingertips. In general, an expert with some persistence will beat out a random editor.

              So quit bitching and get that number corrected! Do it for the children!

              • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

                by MPolo (129811) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @03:03AM (#27856377)

                I think that there is the problem. Most of the experts seem to easily give up when faced by the Wikipedia system. Expert: "Um... actually, I'm the most reknowned expert in this author, having published 40 books about him, so I can really state with certainty that his favorite color was in fact blue." Wikipedia-Drone: "Original research! Reverting to 'fuscia'!" Expert: "Wikipedia is worthless. I'm going home."

                If the expert has to dedicate hours of his valuable time to correct even the most trivial error, the people who have time to devote their entire day to Wikipedia are going to win every time.

                • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@world3AAA.net minus threevowels> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:46AM (#27857523) Homepage

                  The problem is that Wikipedia does not recognise experts or primary sources. In the eyes of Wikipedia, everyone is the same plankton level contributor who can only be trusted as far as they can google sources.

                  Therefore, the people who really write Wikipedia are the people who write in "reliable" sources, which seem to include things like newspapers or blogs where the author spent 1 minute researching their subject on Wikipedia itself.

                • Re:Obligatory (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by Moryath (553296) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:31AM (#27858789)

                  Rephrase:

                  If anyone who knows what they're doing have to waste their time beating their heads against a wall composed of overweight teenagers living in their parents' basements, they're going to give up and go back to the real world every time.

                  There we go.

                  The problem with Wikipedia, in a nutshell: clueless morons with no life, no social skills beyond MMORPG-style "how do I game the system to become an admin" playing, and no expertise in anything (least of all writing and grammar) are given the ability not simply to edit, but to ban others from editing.

                  This is the equivalent of giving someone who's been on cocaine for 20 years a badge, a loaded gun, and telling him to shoot anyone that he thinks might be breaking the law first and ask questions later.

      • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DiamondGeezer (872237) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @10:02PM (#27854647) Homepage
        Slashdot headlines with "Phony Wikipedia" should be marked {{tautology}}. The mere fact that supposedly responsible journalists are even citing Wikipedia shows what an intellectual cancer Wikipedia is on the Internet. Wikipedia is extremely difficult to avoid - there are many thousands of scrapes of Wikipedia around the Internet and millions of blogs that cite it. Any alternative to Wikipedia (and I don't mean Citizendium) had better grasp why Wikipedia is so easily disseminated and deliver something better.
        • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mdarksbane (587589) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @10:20PM (#27854775)

          Something more reliable, like the newspaper? The same newspapers that are apparently referencing wikipedia without checking it? Why would you trust them to find a more accurate source if wikipedia did not exist.

          Studies have shown wikipedia to be, in general, nearly as accurate as more established encyclopedias. But that isn't the point.

          The point is that by not hiding behind an establishment of respectability, wikipedia shows that trusting any single source for your information is ludicrous. When Britannica is wrong, no one writes an article about it.

          • Re:Obligatory (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @12:52AM (#27855761) Homepage

            The stamina of false information, and the circulatory of citation, is what's really the issue. There are a lot of falsities that get passed around as assumed truths. Our system of "knowledge" is really fragile - unless we've witnessed ourselves (and this is true for historical information as much as it is for scientific "knowledge") it's just folklore with institutional power.

            In other words, data really is the plural of anecdote.

            That was why revisionist history came into existence: to put to the test claims that had gone unchecked for decades.

          • Re:Obligatory (Score:4, Insightful)

            by rve (4436) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @01:47AM (#27856027)

            Studies have shown wikipedia to be, in general, nearly as accurate as more established encyclopedias.

            But the vandalism! The situation in TFA is not unique.

            A journalist writing a story about carrots [wikipedia.org] may at any one time find information that's either not relevant [wikipedia.org] or not entirely truthful [wikipedia.org], or even raise unwarranted fear [wikipedia.org] about the subject.

            Journalists citing wikipedia on more controversial topics may at any point in time have read one iteration in an edit-revert war. Which of the two versions is correct?

        • Re:Obligatory (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MrNaz (730548) * on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @10:23PM (#27854787) Homepage

          It's not fair to blame Wikipedia for that. Wikipedia offers a "clearing house" for commonly held knowledge, an unfiltered method of exchanging both verified and unverified facts.

          If journalists, who are expected to exercise thoroughness, professionalism and proper methods of investigative journalism have become to retarded that they simply quote whatever "research" they first trip over, then that's their fault.

          Seriously, we in the west want to get all high horsed about our "free media" and point fingers at places like North Korea where the news is state run. Personally, I say clean up our own back yard before complaining about the mess next door.

          • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

            by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @10:29PM (#27854843) Homepage Journal

            Seriously, we in the west want to get all high horsed about our "free media" and point fingers at places like North Korea where the news is state run. Personally, I say clean up our own back yard before complaining about the mess next door.

            Exactly. And at the same time, all the newspapers are claiming that the Internet is putting them out of business due to blogs and such, but that "citizen journalism" cannot compete with the quality of traditional journalism due to the costs of putting reporters on the ground in various newsbreaking places around the world.

            Then they go and pull a stupid stunt like this.
            If that "citizen journalism" that they complain about so much is so bad, why the hell are you using it for your sources?
            I don't care whether it's a single source or multiple. It simply says that they don't believe their own propaganda.

            • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Idiomatick (976696) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @12:45AM (#27855713)
              This was NOT an AP or Reuters screw up. They are the ONLY people that are really "putting reporters on the ground in various news breaking places around the world.". Please learn the difference.
              "the Guardian, the London Independent, on the BBC Music Magazine website and in Indian and Australian newspapers." -- These are completely different. What they do is have a bunch of people that sit at desks and write stories that are profitable. These fools can be replaced and they are being replaced.

              AFP, AP, Reuters are not the same. They cannot be replaced by blogging armies. If they fail we will be entering a new Dark Ages. We will have no real journalists.
              • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Informative)

                by aus_jackd (1141789) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @02:42AM (#27856295)
                AP and Thomson Reuters (while high quality news providers) are not the ONLY people putting reporters on the ground around the world. Dow Jones has over 2,000 reporters around the world. They also consistently win awards for best news provider, best financial news, journalist of the year etc. The only difference being Dow Jones doesn't give any news away for free. Plus they focus on business and financial news, not your standard "missing white girl" or human interest story.

                Disclaimer - I work for Dow Jones. Not as a journalist, but with the journalists.
        • What the hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TrekkieGod (627867) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @10:34PM (#27854873) Homepage Journal

          The mere fact that supposedly responsible journalists are even citing Wikipedia shows what an intellectual cancer Wikipedia is on the Internet.

          It most certainly is not. It's exactly as bad for a journalist to quote wikipedia as it is for a journalist to quote britannica or any other encyclopedia. Journalists are supposed to use primary sources, and they're supposed to check those sources.

          Hell, I wasn't allowed to use encyclopedias as a source for my middle school papers, and you're saying the availability of wikipedia and it being "difficult to avoid" is an excuse for journalists? You don't go to a website to get a quote from the guy who just died, you call his estate and get information and statements from them.

          Wikipedia is fantastic when used for the purpose of an encyclopedia. In others words, it's a great place to get a general idea about a subject and figure out what aspects you want to look at when you start your research. You don't ever, ever cite one or use information from one directly.

        • Re:Obligatory (Score:4, Insightful)

          by timeOday (582209) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @01:05AM (#27855821)

          Slashdot headlines with "Phony Wikipedia" should be marked {{tautology}}. The mere fact that supposedly responsible journalists are even citing Wikipedia shows what an intellectual cancer Wikipedia is on the Internet.

          Mischievous deception of news agencies has a storied history [bostonphoenix.com] which long predates Wikipedia:

          This past spring, a physicist called Alan Sokal rocked the academic world and made the editors of a major intellectual journal look pretty silly when they published his gibberish-filled parody as an authentic scholarly work. And the humor magazine Might, in an effort to mock the sensational news media, snowed readers and Hard Copy, and set news organizations running after a story that claimed former Eight Is Enough child actor Adam Rich had died. But frankly, when it comes to making fools of the experts, there is no one like Joey Skaggs.

          Skaggs, a lean ex-Brooklynite who favors cowboy boots, is a surprisingly affable artist who has made it his life's work to embarrass the Establishment, and to humiliate the media in particular. "They have a big stake in making everyone believe that they have integrity," he said matter-of factly one rainy afternoon at a SoHo café, as he handed over an immense packet of news clippings dating back more than 20 years.

          ...

          But in 1976, his work moved to a new level. Those early brushes with the press inspired him to attempt a different kind of conceptual piece, one that would make it clear that the media were far from infallible -- that reporters, in fact, were more than willing to forgo some deep digging in their shameless pursuit of an apparently hot story.

          So Skaggs took out an ad in the Village Voice that read CATHOUSE FOR DOGS and announced "a savory selection of hot bitches." And he sent out press releases trumpeting this great new way to reward your dog: get him laid. Potential customers, furious animal-rights activists, and, of course, the press started calling immediately. The local ABC affiliate did a segment. Skaggs finally gave up the truth when he was subpoenaed by the state attorney general. The ABC affiliate, he says, never retracted its story.

          So, yes, people can be tricked. But you'll notice most of these types of pranks (including the one on Wikipedia) are inconsequential. You might argue that's because the pranksters are well-meaning, but it does make it uniquely hard to verify the stories, since whether they did or didn't happen has no lasting effect. Did Skaggs actually take out an ad for a doggie brothel he intended to open, or did he actually just take out an ad for a doggie brothel he was pretending to indend to open? Did one person pen a poetic remark about music influencing his life, or was it somebody else? Yes, it would be better to have the absolute truth even on such trivial issues, but this is not necessarily indicative of equally faulty reporting on more weighty matters. (Those kind of lies usually take somebody higher up in the government to start them :)

    • Offtopic? (Score:3, Funny)

      by adolf (21054)

      Fine then, let's try this:

      In Soviet Russia, Wikipedia rewrites you!

  • First Post (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:23PM (#27853747)

    "First Post"
    -Maurice Jarre

  • Lazy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timpdx (1473923) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:27PM (#27853777)
    The press is lazy, always have been. Nothing like sourcing your story in a few keystrokes.
  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:28PM (#27853783)

    As the author noted.

    We see it all the time, where no one wants to delve into details & analyze something.

    After all, that takes time & "I have to get my Latte @ Starbucks."

    I am also struck by the lack of actual questioning of people "journalists" interview. It doesn't happen for the most part. It is mostly "star-struck fan time" when journalists interview the politicians and famous people.

    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @09:32PM (#27854349) Homepage

      It is mostly "star-struck fan time" when journalists interview the politicians and famous people.

      It might actually be worse than that. Lots of journalists know that if they ask real questions and press for real answers, the person they're interviewing won't like it, and will stop submitting to the interview. The journalist will get a reputation for being difficult, and other people won't give them interviews either.

      So they might not be that they're star struck, but instead kissing ass to get access. And then there's laziness. It's hard to do a good job.

  • Google (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:28PM (#27853795) Journal
    And on the Internet you can spend $8 a month and $8 for a domain name per year, and have your own private site. Devote a shrine to anything, write bullshit, and Wikipedia's massive peer review team ("The Whole Fucking World") can't stomp all over you and delete your edits. Best of all, if you have a shiny Web design, people will 1) incorporate your shit in Wikipedia, citing it; and 2) use your shit to debunk other (actually factual) shit in Wikipedia because another "not-Wikipedia" site says Wikipedia is wrong.
    • Re:Google (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:41PM (#27853919)

      Funniest part is when they argue your site is a better resource than any musty old stack of books because it's *~on the internet~*.

    • Re:Google (Score:5, Funny)

      by beckett (27524) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:54PM (#27854045) Homepage Journal
      godaddy can cut this cost in half for you.
    • by benjamindees (441808) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @09:13PM (#27854199) Homepage

      Note that this is the same type of failure as what happened in the mortgage bubble. Realtors and buyers and auditors were not actually determining the real value of the houses they were trading, but were merely checking to see what everyone else thought the value was. Most of the players (at least those with the most control) had an incentive to inflate the value. So the result was a spiral of home prices that rose far beyond the true value.

      Now that the market has corrected and prices are closer to the actual value, all parties are crying foul and saying they don't want to have to "mark to market" or face foreclosure or bankruptcy for their inability to correctly determine the true value of their investments.

      In the same way, Wikipedia does not check for actual truth of the statements it publishes, just that they are corroborated by some other medium or by some other website. This process is subject to the same manipulation and error that has decimated the global real estate market. In the same way, the consequences of failure are externalized by Wikipedia and not borne by any of its editors, contributors, or sponsors.

      Caveat emptor.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lehk228 (705449)
        it was the banks offering huge loans to people who couldn't afford the actual payments (not the one or two year introductory payments) that drove prices higher and higher as massive amounts of fraudulent wealth was created.

        if you pay attention to history you will see that this is not the first time the international banking industry has undermined the security of the people in order to consolodate money and power. and this won't be the last time unless we the people push through a comprehensive reform on
      • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @11:50PM (#27855415) Homepage

        Note that this is the same type of failure as what happened in the mortgage bubble. Realtors and buyers and auditors were not actually determining the real value of the houses they were trading, but were merely checking to see what everyone else thought the value was.

        The real value of a house is what 'everyone else' thinks the value is - there is no 'real' or objective way to determine the value of a house.

    • Re:Google (Score:4, Informative)

      by Tom (822) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @04:09AM (#27856715) Homepage Journal

      use your shit to debunk other (actually factual) shit in Wikipedia because another "not-Wikipedia" site says Wikipedia is wrong.

      Actually, you don't have to go that far.

      What I've learned on Wikipedia is this: False is more important than true.

      Put doubt on something written in an article, and the guy who wrote it will be asked for sources, not you. The article will be marked as "needs citation", and in some cases will be deleted simply because you claimed it's all wrong, with no evidence, and nobody else bothered enough to provide said evidence.

      If you add something, you'll be asked for proof, and all kinds of proof will not count. Essentially, even if you are the primary source, you'll not count unless you've got it written up on some other website that you can point to. Heck, if you're a second-rate actor and your Wikipedia article suddenly claims you're dead, starting an edit-war with the hoaxer is your best bet in getting that removed. (Wikipedia has a special contact address if you are the subject of an article - according to my own personal experience, the reaction time of that address is about two weeks.)

      So in summary: Vandalism is easier than adding something truthful but imperfectly documented. And then people are surprised there's so much crap on Wikipedia.

  • by ifeelswine (1546221) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:29PM (#27853801) Journal
    i think that perhaps news that the composer was on his deathbed was leaked and this guy put his wiki entry in. then the composer decided to check the interweb before checking out and realized he had final words to utter. and now he's a decomposer.
  • Newspapers (Score:5, Informative)

    by Frankie70 (803801) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:31PM (#27853817)

    Both the Guardian & the Independent has this quote in their obits.
    So did BBC Music Magazine.
    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22maurice+jarre%22++%22music+was+my+life [google.com]

    The Guardian has even published a retraction blaming it on the Wikipedia vandalizer - poor Guardian.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/mar/31/maurice-jarre-obituary [guardian.co.uk]

    This article was amended on Friday 3 April 2009. Maurice Jarre died on 28 March 2009, not 29 March. We opened with a quotation which we are now advised had been invented as a hoax, and was never said by the composer: "My life has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life." The article closed with: "Music is how I will be remembered," said Jarre. "When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head and that only I can hear." These quotes appear to have originated as a deliberate insertion in the composer's Wikipedia entry in the wake of his death on 28 March, and from there were duplicated on various internet sites. These errors have been corrected.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lamadude (1270542)
      The Guardian blaming wikipedia really shows they have no shame about it at all. I thought it was one of the better UK newspapers, very disturbing...
    • Re:Newspapers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by daybot (911557) * on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @10:01PM (#27854637)

      The Guardian has even published a retraction blaming it on the Wikipedia vandalizer

      Actually they've worded it quite fairly and I think they're brave to have admitted to falling victim to the hoax.

  • This is news? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:31PM (#27853821) Homepage

    This has happened so many times before that it isn't funny. To use one example off the top of my head, there was a debate on the page about Rutgers where someone claimed with no good sourcing that the University had had an opportunity to be in the Ivy League when the league was first formed. Edit-warring over this continued for some time until someone found a recent source that made the claim. Suspicious editors thought something was up and contacted the newspaper in question. It turned out they had gotten the claim from "somewhere on the internet" that is, Wikipedia.

    Bottom line. Don't take a fact in Wikipedia unless it is sourced. Even then, check the talk page to make sure there's been no serious recent disagreement about the matter (checking the history helps too). And then, you can only trust claim as much as the source used. And don't trust things you hear in the general media without some fact checking.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aphoxema (1088507) *

      The problem is it's the trivial nonsense people bother about arguing over, not scientific fact which is easier to take for granted.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by samkass (174571)

      I hear the African elephant population has tripled in the last six months.

    • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @09:34PM (#27854369) Homepage

      You're right, it's not news, but that doesn't mean it should become accepted. Every time this happens there's a responsibility by the publisher to own up, and to reassess their practices. In effect, this is a type of public humiliation, and it serves the consumers of the content (not just in a "haha! Look at those idiots!" sense, but in the long run).

      It's not news but it's a very sad state. I'd rather get my news 30 minutes later, and *fact-checked*, rather than "here's the latest from Twitter"...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

      Even then, check the talk page to make sure there's been no serious recent disagreement about the matter (checking the history helps too).

      It would be really nice if wikipedia made such historical inquries easy, like a javascript interface where you could highlight a portion of the article and have it return a list of edits to that pertain to that part of the article.

  • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:36PM (#27853869)

    I understand those words individually, but when you put them together like that they don't make sense.

  • hirarious (Score:4, Funny)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:37PM (#27853885) Homepage Journal

    I've pretty much given up on articles without citations. I don't find them particularly interesting any more because they beg too many questions in the light of skepticism. Perhaps the eventual fallout of this sort of thing will be that others have the same attitude :) Also a very good reason to cite Wikipedia with a permalink (which the cite link will do for you) as it will let people at least know WHY you said something TOTALLY WRONG.

  • by hduff (570443) <hoytduff@NoSPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:39PM (#27853899) Homepage Journal

    On the Diane Rehm Show on NPR, the topic today was the demise of newspapers and what could be done about it; suggestions included government bailouts and subsidies or reorganization as not-for-profit organizations. The "politically correct" argument was that they wanted to preserve the newspaper business model per se, but preserve "journalism" and all those high standards and ethics it embodied as opposed to the unprofessional world of bloggers and news aggregators who could (obviously) not hold themselves to high standards.

    Perhaps the journalists could be Jarre'd back to reality?

  • Well played (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rastoboy29 (807168) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:43PM (#27853949) Homepage
    If it had to be done, this was a good way to do it.  Maybe it should be done more.
  • by formattedFury (1549017) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:46PM (#27853967)
    And they tell me I can't use Wikipedia as a source for my high school research papers... Please, if the press can do it, I can do it.
  • A Good Read (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cornwallis (1188489) * on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @09:07PM (#27854147)
    I'd suggest reading Mark Helprin's "Digital Barbarism" for much more on this topic (as an aside from the main thrust supporting copyright). It amazes me how the Internet has lowered the bar. Hell, when my daughter was three years old she used to cite herself as an authority: "Daddy, according to me..."
  • ~Innovating (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drDugan (219551) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @09:24PM (#27854277) Homepage

    Why is Wikipedia no longer innovating?

    The basic premise of the project evolved rapidly as the encyclopedia was developed in the early years- creating rules, policies and a vibrant and effective community; and now is a massive and globe-changing entity. However, to remain relevant, the site and the ideas that drive it must continue to evolve. To me, as a slightly disinterested outside observer, it seems that Wikipedia hasn't changed what they do or how they do it now for several years.

    There is *so much* they could do to make explicit and transparent the edits, the timeliness of added information, and many other things - to handle issues like this - but they are not. Why?

    • Re:~Innovating (Score:4, Insightful)

      by owlnation (858981) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @09:42PM (#27854443)

      There is *so much* they could do to make explicit and transparent the edits, the timeliness of added information, and many other things - to handle issues like this - but they are not. Why?

      Because Jimbo Wales is earning from it nicely the way it is, thank you very much.

    • Re:~Innovating (Score:5, Insightful)

      by teslatug (543527) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @09:51PM (#27854555)
      They got bogged down due to their own weight. It's not easy to do anything when you have millions of people using your site, millions of articles, etc. They were able to innovate when they were small, nimble, and could afford mistakes.
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @09:35PM (#27854381)
    ... that this happens. But to be honest, if this had been done to a relative of mine right after his or her death, I would probably track down the author and attempt to break some limbs.
  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @09:41PM (#27854437)
    Check facts (Y/N):> Y

    Option not available. Please try another option.

    Check facts (Y/N):> N

    Publish article (Y/N):> Y
  • by seer (21011) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @10:11PM (#27854715) Homepage

    This is something I've wanted since Wikipedia became big. I'd like to have a slider bar that allows me to highlight (say, in red) everything that's been changed within the last 7 days. And everything (say, in yellow) everything that's been changed within the last month.

    That way, when I'm looking at an article on Albert Einstein I'll know when there is something strangely recent put in there. Also, when I'm looking at the swine flu article, I'll be able to set the slider bars for 12 hours/3 days and see what's new.

    Yes, yes, it'll be a few more database hits, but think if everything you could do with this. And not just as a viewer, but as an editor.

    Now, someone with way more time on their hands than me, please Make It So.

  • by this great guy (922511) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @11:05PM (#27855125)
    Everybody misses an important point in that story: the fact the student had to repeatedly introduce the phony quote in the article and barely succeeded in having it live for more than 24 hours demonstrates that wikipedia is pretty good at self-correcting itself !
  • by nomad-9 (1423689) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @02:46AM (#27856305)
    'I didn't expect it to go that far. I expected it to be in blogs and sites, but on mainstream quality papers? I was very surprised.'
    Why surprised? There are no mainstream "quality" paper, nor mainstream real journalism for quite some time now... at least since all mainstream media has come under the control of a handful of corporations not really bothered by information inaccuracy.
  • by Jim Efaw (3484) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @03:14AM (#27856429) Homepage
    This "experiment" has happened repeated on Wikipedia, and is probably happening in multiple places on Wikipedia right now. Apparently there are a lot of these narcissists who think this is a really useful sociology/journalism experiment, but they're the same morons who didn't bother to take 30 seconds to go find out that it's been done before. So, since Slashdot is the most second most important source about everything that ever was (after Wikipedia, I mean), I'll point out a few other things for the so-called experimenters who think this is clever but at least do a search for "Wikipedia errors" before they try it: Not only has it been done before, but it's unlawful, against research ethics, and hypocritical. Specifically:
    1. Wikipedia is a private not-for-profit and owns the servers, and Wikipedia specifically prohibits this in Wikipedia:Do not create hoaxes [wikipedia.org]. Doing it on purpose is computer trespassing and/or unlawful vandalism, which is almost certainly illegal where you are.
    2. You're intentionally experimenting on human beings without informed consent to research. (Surely your teacher told you about "informed consent" before sending you out to tweak people, right?) If you use the slightest bit of your "experiment" in a class or research paper at any reputable institution, there is absolutely no reason that every Wikipedia editor on that same article shouldn't file an ethics complaint about you, and your teacher that approved it. (Did I mention that you're doing exactly what the location's owner told you not to do, and against human subjects who it is clear consider your behavior abuse?)
    3. It's hypocrisy. How would these so-called "experimenters" like it if someone repeatedly inserted hoax lines in their already-written news stories or sociology papers? It's OK, though, because it's an "experiment", right?

    It's amazing the kind of people who wouldn't want someone to spray-paint their car over and over to see how long it takes to clean it off, but will do it to other people because it's "just the computer". I wonder what future journalists and sociologists think their jobs are going to be based on 10 years from now. (P.S.: If someone wants this for Wikipedia or somewhere else for some bizarre reason - feel free to copy/modify it as long as you give the same rights to others for the copy/derivatives.)

    • Missing the point (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:44AM (#27857511) Journal

      That's nice, but it's missing the whole point.

      Yes, it's happened before. Yes, it'll happen again. No, it's not a nice thing to do. But it will happen again anyway.

      And _that_ is the problem. Something that is so easily vandalized, isn't that great a source of information.

      If you will, I'll draw your attention to your own point:

      It's hypocrisy. How would these so-called "experimenters" like it if someone repeatedly inserted hoax lines in their already-written news stories or sociology papers? It's OK, though, because it's an "experiment", right?

      _That_ is the whole point. If a peer-reviewed journal was as easy to "experiment" on, it anyone with enough time could redefine physics or history in it just because he was bored, then everyone would agree that it's a fucking useless journal. So, yes, how about we apply the same standard to Wikipedia?

      Again: what's not OK, isn't just the experiment itself, but the very fact that it's trivial to make such an experiment. Not that just it's hypothetically possible, but that it actually happens again and again.

      Yes, it means that some people are assholes. Do you have some safeguards against that? Because otherwise it's the same failing of techno-utopianism as of any other utopianism. If to work it would need everyone to play nice, stick to the rules, and know their own limits -- i.e., if to work it needs humans as a whole to change -- then that's the failure of any utopianism. Communism too would have worked perfectly, for example, if it weren't for those pesky humans who insist on being what they are instead of the new breed that Marx, Engels and Lenin envisioned.

      That very need to scream that someone else didn't play by your rules, _that_ is what tells me that it's yet another failed utopianism.

  • by RationalRoot (746945) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @03:14AM (#27856433) Homepage
    I've been involved in skydiving and scuba diving for many years. Any time I have read an article about either one in the papers it is invariably inaccurate.
    If they get the main thrust of the issue it's a good day.
    Sure, the political reporters know about politics, and the sports reporters know about sport, but once someone has to write up a story outside his normal scope, it's as bad as any school child's homework essay.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley

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