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False Fact On Wikipedia Proves Itself 513

An anonymous reader writes "Germany has a new minister of economic affairs. Mr. von und zu Guttenberg is descended from an old and noble lineage, so his official name is very long: Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg. When first there were rumors that he would be appointed to the post, someone changed his Wikipedia entry and added the name 'Wilhelm,' so Wikipedia stated his full name as: Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Wilhelm Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg. What resulted from this edit points up a big problem for our information society (in German; Google translation). The German and international press picked up the wrong name from Wikipedia — including well-known newspapers, Internet sites, and TV news such as, Bild,, TAZ, or Süddeutsche Zeitung. In the meantime, the change on Wikipedia was reverted, with a request for proof of the name. The proof was quickly found. On an article cites Mr. von und zu Guttenberg using his 'full name'; however, while the quote might have been real, the full name seems to have been looked up on Wikipedia while the false edit was in place. So the circle was closed: Wikipedia states a false fact, a reputable media outlet copies the false fact, and this outlet is then used as the source to prove the false fact to Wikipedia."
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False Fact On Wikipedia Proves Itself

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  • 1984? (Score:5, Funny)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:08AM (#26811141)
    Wikipedia now creates the truth. If they say 2+2=5, then 2+2=5. You will learn to love Big Wiki.
    • Re:1984? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cornwallis ( 1188489 ) * on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:10AM (#26811163)
      I'm glad I'm not the only one who notices this stuff. Not that it will do any good. These kinds of "authoritative citations" are no better to me than what I used to hear "in the old days" - that is, "I heard it on TV so it must be true!"
      • Re:1984? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:33AM (#26811397) Homepage Journal

        Here we go again.

        Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Like all encyclopediae, it cannot be taken as a primary source of information. Der Spiegel is not a scholarly journal, either. It also cannot be taken as a primary source of information.

        Bottom line: If you want to do real research, you need to go to primary sources. Calling something from Der Spiegel an authoritative citation is like calling something from The National Enquirer or Vogue an authoritative citation. Maybe the problem is that the Wikipedia editors think Der Spiegel is an authoritative source.

        • Re:1984? (Score:4, Funny)

          by Dog-Cow ( 21281 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:37AM (#26811443)

          Der Spiegel is not a scholarly journal, either. It also cannot be taken as a primary source of information.

          I take exception to the idea that only scholarly journals may be primary sources of information.

          Your attitude sucks.

          • Re:1984? (Score:5, Funny)

            by linhares ( 1241614 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:07AM (#26811737)

            I take exception to the idea that only scholarly journals may be primary sources of information. Your attitude sucks.

            [citation needed]

          • Re:1984? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:24AM (#26811983) Homepage Journal

            I take exception to the idea that only scholarly journals may be primary sources of information

            Actually, scholarly journals can be sources of disinformation, too. It's happened before that researchers have gotten something wrong, then were quoted by other researchers in other papers. It has often gone full circle (and I wish I had a citation, but it's been a long time since I read about it).

            There have been instances of respected newspapers using The Onion [] as sources, not realizing that fine news source is humor. The Onion must hate that, it would be like when you make a joke comment on slashdot and it gets modded as "insightful".

            In Wikipedia's defence, I've complained about an edit I made after I became a cyborg [] in its entry about cataract surgery []. I added information about the accomodating lens I had implanted in my eye, and it was quickly removed. I added it again and it was removed again. I gave up, and a few months ago I mentioned it here and someone encouraged me to try once more.

            The entry finally stayed put, although someone changed the date that the FDA approved it from 2003 to 2004, despite the manufacturer's website says 2003 (I just now changed it to 2003, I wonder if it will stay?). I suspect that a different IOL manufacturer edited my edit out because the device is by far superior to any other IOL.

            Kudos to Wikipedia. It is a great resource for satisfying curiosity; when I found I needed cataract surgery it was the first place I went. Same goes for when I had to undergo a vitrectomy [] (I wouldn't wish that procedure on my worst enemy).

            It's also great for when you're turning old LPs and cassettes into CDs, [] you can copy and paste track titles into your burning software.

            My dad gave me great advice when I was a kid: never believe anything you hear (or read) and only half of what you see.

            • Re:1984? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @12:02PM (#26813555)

              There have been instances of respected newspapers using The Onion as sources, not realizing that fine news source is humor. The Onion must hate that, it would be like when you make a joke comment on slashdot and it gets modded as "insightful".

              But the best humor is humorous because it is insightful and witty. Compare an "all guys getting hit in the groin" show like America's Funniest Home Videos to some really, really good stand-up comedy, or to A Modest Proposal... nothing prevents something from being both insightful and humorous.

              • Re:1984? (Score:5, Funny)

                by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @01:07PM (#26814785) Homepage

                That's odd. I always though America's Funniest Home Videos was an insightful commentary on inherent masculine insecurities, and the fear that no matter how strong and capable we may try to appear, someone will find and exploit our vulnerabilities and reduce us to the weeping man-child that we all secretly fear we are deep inside.

                And that the someone will be a 1st grader with a whiffle-ball bat.

                But maybe I'm reading too much into the show.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Bottom line: If you want to do real research, you need to go to primary sources. [...] Maybe the problem is that the Wikipedia editors think Der Spiegel is an authoritative source.

          For something as simple as the full name of a German public official, Germany's major news weekly really ought to be authoritative. What is a primary source for a person's name, anyway? Their birth cerificate? What would be a scolarly journal on that subject? Should I ask the librarian to subscribe us to Trends in German Public Officials' Names?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nabsltd ( 1313397 )

          Maybe the problem is that the Wikipedia editors think Der Spiegel is an authoritative source.

          The problem is that if some "fact" is posted on the Internet and there is nothing else posted on the Internet that contradicts that "fact", then that is "authoritative" to Wikipedia.

          So, it's not really an issue over the quality (or lack thereof) of work Der Speigel produces. If you substitute the New York Times website, an official government web page, or even a "scholarly journal" for Der Speigel, you could just as easily end up with the same kind of mistake.

          • Re:1984? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:56AM (#26812435)
            Right, it's not as if this type of event is new or unique. The Bush administration was caught a few times leaking information/lies to the press, which were published unsourced in reputable news outlets, then the administration cites the press in a press briefing or a public address.
          • Re:1984? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Ploum ( 632141 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @01:03PM (#26814719) Homepage

            Wikipedia-fr is already affected from a long time in this article :


            It is stated that the "Fat_Gourg" has a fan club of thousands of people in France.

            The fact is that the fact gourg started as a running joke on a website/forum after someone found this picture online. The game, between approximately 20 people, was to found the author of the picture. One of those 20 people was a regular wikipedia editor with a good record and created this page with false statement like "Thousand of people".

            Ultimately, the fat gourg joke came to a journalist in UK who interviewed someone on the forum which, of course, putted some exageration and emphasis in his description. The journalist then wrote an article saying that "it was an huge phenomemon in France followed by thousands of people". This artcile was followed by a very small television reportage in the school of the child who drawed the Fat Gourg.

            The article was then added as a source on Wikipedia.

            I tried two or three times to correct that page but :
            - a (otherwise) respected wikipedia editor which is part of the joke always undo my changes
            - my version is now in conflict with all of the sources in the article (which are, in fact, comming from one and only one person)

            So I look like a liar because Wikipedian the television and newspapers say something but, ultimately, nobody in France know about the Fat Gourg except a few tenth of people on a forum.

            And yes, I feel that something is bad but I have no real solution.

        • Re:1984? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by schon ( 31600 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:31AM (#26812071)

          Here we go again.

          You mean with all the wikipedia apologists?

          Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Like all encyclopediae, it cannot be taken as a primary source of information.

          OK then, what do you suggest? Oh, that's right...

          you need to go to primary sources.

          You mean like the actual fucking person the article is about? Oh wait, Wikipedia doesn't consider the actual fucking person to be a "primary source"!

          And therein lies Wikipedia's problem.

          • Re:1984? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by xappax ( 876447 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @11:03AM (#26812551)
            Consider the exploits available if simply being John Doe made you an authoritative source on the "John Doe" article. You could delete anything negative in the article and back it up with "That didn't happen, and I should know." You can claim whatever false credentials you want, and cite yourself as asserting the claim.

            Treating the subject as an authoritative source on themselves may seem intuitively obvious at first glance, but it can lead to a lot of problems.

            I don't want to read an article about what John Doe claims about himself (because most of it is probably boring, and some of it is probably distorted), I want an article about what reasonably reliable third parties report about him.
          • Re:1984? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Rary ( 566291 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @11:10AM (#26812667)

            You mean like the actual fucking person the article is about? Oh wait, Wikipedia doesn't consider the actual fucking person to be a "primary source"!

            And therein lies Wikipedia's problem.

            Quite true.

            I'm mentioned in a Wikipedia article. Not by name, but by an old nickname (the same one I use for my username on this site). However, it's spelled incorrectly, mainly because it's quoting another website that also spelled it incorrectly. That website also states a bunch of "facts" that were made up as a joke, and the Wikipedia article repeats those "facts".

            I can't correct the original website, but I can correct Wikipedia -- except that I'm not allowed to, because I can't actually provide a link that proves that I really do spell the name the way I do, or that the "facts" were made up. Plus, I think it's even against the rules to edit articles about yourself.

            Therefore, both of the people out there who care about the content of this particular article will remain blissfully misinformed.

            • email OTRS (Score:5, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @11:21AM (#26812873)

              Wikipedia almost always avoids original research, because original research requires that they have staff on hand who will vet the information, and Wikipedia doesn't have the staff on hand to do this.

              Biographical mistakes are one of the few cases where Wikipedia makes an exception. Please email OTRS [], and they'll make sure that a trusted person reviews the information, and corrects the article. The fact that people who contact OTRS provide their email address (and possibly more contact info) means that you (for once) have more credibility than some random anonymous vandal.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            you need to go to primary sources.

            You mean like the actual fucking person the article is about? Oh wait, Wikipedia doesn't consider the actual fucking person to be a "primary source"!

            The primary source would be his mom ;-|

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

          I agree that there's nothing specifically wrong with Wikipedia here. The far bigger problem is the way that the media copy information from each other, and elsewhere, without checking any facts they quote. Given how, unlike Wikipedia, people are far more willing to treat the news as truth, this is very worrying.

          The same circular referencing could happen between any other kind of source too - nothing special about Wikipedia.

          The only difference here is that, thanks to Wikipedia's edit history, you can see the

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Random Walk ( 252043 )

          Maybe the problem is that the Wikipedia editors think Der Spiegel is an authoritative source.

          The problem is that Wikipedia encourages the use of secondary sources and discourages the use of primary sources. According to Wikipedia policies, it probably would have been "original research", and thus unacceptable, if an article author would have tried to get hold of the primary source (copy of birth certificate).

    • Re:1984? (Score:5, Funny)

      by NorQue ( 1000887 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:19AM (#26811265)
      Oh, Wikipedia is dead wrong in this case. According to Google [] 2 + 2 equals 4.
  • Nothing new (Score:4, Informative)

    by wjh31 ( 1372867 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:10AM (#26811159) Homepage
    This false fact cycle has been done plenty of times before. There was one recently-ish regarding a football team in some european championship, a british paper included a very silly false fact from wikipedia (something about the fans wearing wellies on their heads or something along those lines) and in a similar way, the cycle was closed. I cant remember the exact details, im sure someone will follow with a link
    • Re:Nothing new (Score:5, Informative)

      by sam_handelman ( 519767 ) <> on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:21AM (#26811271) Homepage Journal

      You're not kidding this is nothing new.

        The hebrew bible gets the order of Persian kings wrong. Josephus quotes list of Persian kings found in hebrew manuscript. Tada, the list of persian kings is independently verified!

        New technology enables this kind of thing to happen with amazing *speed*, but it always took careful consideration and scholarship to disentangle. If anything, having all those explicit timestamps makes this much easier in the information age, but the volume is probably greater than people can really process.

    • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:54AM (#26811607)

      I mean, sure, if you need a handy re-cap of the fifth season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or a quick history of some server-side scripting language, you can't do much better than wikipedia: "by Geeks, for Geeks." But geo-politics? Current events? Stop. Wikipedia plays around in these and all areas, of course, but any student or journalist who uses it as source should be ridiculed, then shot.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by owlnation ( 858981 )

        if you need a handy re-cap of the fifth season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

        In that case, you definitely can. Most wikipedia articles on Film and TV contain stolen content from IMDB, or from labors-of-love fan sites that depend on page views and micro-ad revenue for survival. (Amazon, the owners of IMDB, really should sue Wikipedia sideways over this). By choosing wikipedia over them you are NOT helping the shows you love. Plus, most film and TV wikipedia pages contain spoilers without any warnings -- as

        • by xappax ( 876447 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @11:15AM (#26812745)
          First of all, chill. Nobody's stealing from Joss Wheedon on Wikipedia - synopses and frame grabs are so solidly fair use it's not even debatable. Well...maybe by the MPAA...

          Secondly, Wikipedia is /very/ against infringing on the copyright of other sources. They're kind of paranoid about it, if you ask me. If you see non-fair use content that's from a copyrighted source and it upsets you (as it clearly does), just leave a note on the talk page pointing out the violation.

          Keep in mind, of course, that it's possible permission for the copy has been granted. But if not, Wikipedia editors will remove it.
        • by Marcika ( 1003625 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @11:16AM (#26812755)
          You use the word "steal" a bit too enthusiastically, I think...
          • Most wikipedia articles contain "stolen" content from IMDB? (I guess you mean copyright infringement?) Tag it, remove it, kill it with fire... Wikipedia doesn't want illegal content. (And I am fairly certain that "most" articles are fine, contrary to what you say...)
          • Synopses breach the rights of creators? Don't make me laugh. It is now illegal to summarize the plot of a movie/TV series/book in your own words? CliffsNotes won't be happy to hear it...
          • Creating highly-visible and extensive articles about Wheedon's work (as opposed to creating these articles on a niche fansite) is encouraging people to "steal"? Again, your leap of logic is dizzying me...
  • that the number of elephants has tripled in the last few months... There will always be wrong information, but perhaps news outlets should be providing the sources of their information and the dates they were taken so that you can better trace information in a world where the information can change at anytime.
    • Re:I also hear... (Score:5, Informative)

      by internerdj ( 1319281 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:30AM (#26811371)
      Once upon a time when news outlets reported on news, they needed to protect some of their sources because some of the information could result in retribution on the source. To get sources to open up they promised confidentiality where appropriate and as time went on this became the culture: The news has source authority based on the assumption they are practicing good journalism. As information has recently accelerated, there is less time for good journalism and instead we have good-enough journalism but they still maintain a front of source authority.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Is it? Or is it that nowadays, thanks to the internet (ability to everyone connected to communicate freely and quickly among each other) makes it a whole lot easier to uncover problems, errors and lies in poorly put together stories? Nowadays it's possible to publicly debunk stories as soon as they pop out while in the past if someone happened to know the truth he couldn't possibly communicate that info to a relevant amount of people.

  • by Enleth ( 947766 ) <> on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:11AM (#26811171) Homepage

    Knowing what some journalists are capable (or rather incapable) of, I'd not be surprised if they had quoted him stating that his name is "Karl Theodor [citation needed] von un zu Guttenberg"...

  • by Dynamoo ( 527749 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:11AM (#26811177) Homepage
    He will just have to change his name so it matches Wikipedia. Problem solved.
  • This is a story? (Score:5, Informative)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:11AM (#26811179) Journal

    I hate to bring this to the attention of the nerd community.... the world existed before the explosion of the internet. This is hard to believe, but true. I have it on good authority that the world started sometime in the 1920's.

    That being said, this type of problem existed long before the internet "Person A" starts a rumor. Others pick up on it, and a reporter who talks to "Person A" gets his story confirmed by others who heard the story from Person A. Not new. Not news. The speed of things has definitely sped up in the last decade, but this happened also with the invention of the telephone, telegraph and television.

    Also, another nice fact. Wikipedia is not your research center. It is a place to start. If you are using it as a source for your research paper, you should get an F.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:16AM (#26811229)

      The story isn't that Wikipedia isn't a source for research (as opposed to a starting point). The story is that supposedly reputable news organisations don't get this - that they blindly copy factoids from Wikipedia without checking them. And not just one or two, not just some, but pretty much ALL the major players (on the German market).

      Of course, the fact that this involves Wikipedia really is not all that important indeed; it could just as well have been about some other site, or a rumour started elsewhere instead of on the Internet. But given the importance of the press for a democratic society, it's worrying that so little care is exercised there and that journalistic integrity, for the most part, has become a fig leaf to cover up the fact that it's all just about one thing anymore: making money.

    • Re:This is a story? (Score:4, Informative)

      by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:19AM (#26811259)
      Anyone who cites Wikipedia in a paper should fail, as everything even remotely contentious on Wikipedia is supposed to be backed up by a citation from a proper source. Wikipedia's use in writing papers is in telling you where to find material you can cite.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Znork ( 31774 )

        As has been noted many times, proper sources aren't necessarily always all that good either. A healthy dose of skepticism is always useful, and when it's something important, verify claims against multiple independent sources or even yourself.

        Of course, in this case the guys name is so long that even adding a whole extra name is hardly more significant than a spelling error, which frankly isn't that uncommon in newspapers anyway.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Like in this case, where they cite an unreputable publication?

        What needs to happen is people need to understand how to evaluate a primary source. Newspapers can be a good primary source...if they're the organ of record (e.g. They originated the story after having talked explicitly with the human primary sources). You can't quote a newspaper article that was picked up from the AP wire, however. They change those.

        I am forever astonished at the people who think something is fact just because it's written down.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rfunches ( 800928 )

        And yet my local paper (News & Messenger, Prince William VA) has published front-page articles explicitly stating "According to Wikipedia" and directly quoting the wiki article. Clearly the academic bounds on Wiki use have not made their way into the world of journalism.

    • I have it on the ultimate authority that it's 2000yrs old. Back then messengers got their information wrong all the time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Stray7Xi ( 698337 )

      Little known fact, Jesus actually had a mohawk. Now I'm off to fix his wikipedia entry.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by oodaloop ( 1229816 )
      In the intelligence community, we call it circular reporting, and it also predates the internet.
  • Whoever added it probably did so because it was the only possible male name he didn't have.

    Ahhhhh ... completeness achieved.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:12AM (#26811191)

    The problem isn't that Wikipedia provided bad info, or even that Wikipedia makes this kind of hoax easier. The simple fact underlying this kind of story is that using a single source for anything is extremely bad (scholarship, reporting, research, fill in the blank).

    A much more interesting story (to me, at any rate) would be improved journalistic standards that use Wikipedia as a jumping-off point rather than The Font of All Wisdom.

  • ObPython (Score:4, Funny)

    by Chris Tucker ( 302549 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:13AM (#26811195) Homepage

    Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Wilhelm Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg, of Ulm.

  • That's what you get if you discourage the use of primary sources in favor of secondary sources.
  • Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius [] as well as other Jorge Luis Borges stories.

    This is just, umm, fantastic -- in the fantastic sense of the word "fantastic".

    And I'm very sorry for the Wikipedia link.

  • People Fail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MazzThePianoman ( 996530 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:16AM (#26811227) Homepage
    Sounds more like a failure of investigative journalism, not Wikipedia.
  • Why is it that the world never remembered the name [] of Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg?
  • Wiki is better (Score:5, Insightful)

    by delirium of disorder ( 701392 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:24AM (#26811313) Homepage Journal

    The media has always blindly repeated false information on a massive scale. The blunder referenced in the article actually shows us that Wikipedia helps the situation. We can see who makes edits and when they are made, so we can trace down these kinds of problems. The same media mistakes that have always happened continue to happen, but at least now we can know about them.

    • Totally agree. Let's worry about journalism for now, and take care of wikipedia once journalism consistently reaches wikipedia-level accuracy, balance....

  • by crt ( 44106 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:25AM (#26811329)

    All they needed to do to prevent this was to ensure that the cited references pre-dated the original edit. If you can't find a reference that pre-dates the edit, then you have to assume it's possible that the reference came from Wikipedia itself.

  • This is the oldest play in the book:

    1. Write blog post with your "facts".
    2. Write and distribute press release using your "fact" and referencing the blog as source.
    3. Watch with glee as media outlets pick up your release and create thousands of references for your "fact"
    4. Use the list of big time press that ran your "fact" in your advertising.
    5. Evil laugh on the way to the bank.

  • A lot of colleges today will either take off points or simply throw away papers that have sources cited to wikipedia due to it's known major inaccuracies.

  • by Antony-Kyre ( 807195 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:28AM (#26811355)

    Maybe this is why schools don't want students citing Wikipedia as a source. RESEARCH cannot be emphasized enough.

    Wikipedia may be good for providing an overview, but factual information it doesn't necessarily make. If anyone can edit, it's not like a newspaper, or other reputable source.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Actually my wife being in grad school, the prof's will FAIL anyone that has a reference that is online at all. He is tired of the half assing that students are doing lately and requiring that all references be in print form only with full information on how to GET access to that reference.

      She's an accounting major though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by staeiou ( 839695 ) *
        That's the 21st century version of failing a student for referencing a book from a "popular press" like Penguin, Harper, Random House, Doubleday, etc. No joke, one of my professors told me that when he was in grad school, he was publicly berated for citing one such book, even though it was a reprinted out-of-copyright classic. He was told he should have gotten the reprint published by a university press.
  • His name is my name, too!

  • Hmm. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:32AM (#26811387) Journal
    I, for one, am glad to see that the good old Authoritative Traditional Media are doing their usual bang-up job of showing their superiority to the unathoritative hearsay nonsense of those kids and their so called "new media".

    All jokes aside, that is really what bugs me about the old media/new media debate: You've got people like Andrew Keen winging about how the new media are ushering in the death of taste and truth; but comparing them to some imaginary ideal of old media at their objective best. Unfortunately, "new media" are, in many cases, crap. However, "old media" are, in many cases, crap, and generally crap that is markedly less participatory, open, or responsive.

    In certain respects, I'll be sad to see things like newspapers go, they have their upsides. If, though, they exist to parrot wikipedia and press releases, then what is the point? Wikipedia can parrot itself for free, and if you are the sort of sick bastard who actually likes press releases, prnewswire is that way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cgenman ( 325138 )

      The Wikipedia entry is already corrected, whereas the old media outlets are fixed on the page and will be wrong forever. This really shouldn't be an article about how Wikipedia destroys information, but how clueless old media can't keep up with this new world of dynamic information.

  • Hilarious (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aerynvala ( 1109505 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:35AM (#26811431) Homepage
    I think it's funny as hell. It says far more about the stupidity of journalists than it does about wikipedia. Any idiot who doesn't double check their information deserves to be a laughing stock.
  • It's a sad world when most news communities are page scraping information from the web, instead of following up leads. Old school would never permit you making any such claims until the source had been proven, avoids problems in the end. However, today, it is cheaper to go Google something and then get your info from it....

    ie- Story surfaces of Rhianna being beaten up by Chris Brown, a quick Google would show up some
    mixed stories, so if someone was really trying to be quick and landed on the first page, wou

  • When someone wants to make a malicious entry in Wikipedia, they should put in some effort to make it sound plausible. Wilhelm as a first name for a Guttenburg stands out like a sore thumb. Obvious fake.

    It is as though someone added names like Wolfram and Brian to the name of the venerable Headmaster of the Hogwartz, Albus Dumbledore.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aladrin ( 926209 )

      I seriously hope you are kidding. None of those names stand out as odd to anyone more than a few hundred miles from there.

  • I don't get it (Score:3, Informative)

    by squoozer ( 730327 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:39AM (#26811473)

    Why does everyone seem to get so up in arms when something is wrong on Wikipedia or worse when something is changed to be wrong. Do people really think that a site such as Wikipedia, where anyone can edit (just about) anything, isn't going to get abused. To be perfectly honest I'm surprised it doesn't get abused more than it does. Wikipedia is a great starting point for research it should never be the end point.

  • Sack the reporters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:09AM (#26811783)

    The German and international press picked up the wrong name from Wikipedia -- including well-known newspapers, Internet sites, and TV news such as, Bild,, TAZ, or Süddeutsche Zeitung.

    A reporter who quotes facts from Wikipedia, when those facts are not directly supported by another source (specifically, by a citation), should be fired. The job of a reporter is to obtain, verify, and evaluate information. For obtaining information, we now have Wikipedia and Google, which beat any newspaper for availability and breadth of coverage. So the remaining useful parts of the reporter's job are to verify and evaluate. A reporter who fails to do those has made himself obsolete. A middle-school kid could do the job of searching the Web and copying and pasting the findings together into an article (in fact, I understand that's how kids write research papers these days).

  • Hmmm ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by OneSmartFellow ( 716217 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:28AM (#26812027)
    ... could (and probably has) happen with almost any source. The advantage of Wikipedia is that it's self-correcting (not the same as auto-correcting), and shows a history, something not (freely) available with other private knowledge-bases.

    Yet another attempt to discredit Wikipedia - Oh well, I know I'll keep using it, as long as it's available, in the same way I use any source of information - with due skepticism.
  • by SpinyNorman ( 33776 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:41AM (#26812231)

    It's been pointed out on /. a number of times before, so I'm not going to dig up the link, but WikiPedia explicitly states that their standard of inclusion is not truthfulness but verifiability - and they are acknowledging the difference. Of course it's rather amusing when the truthless but verifyable (i.e. printed elsewhere) fact originated on WikiPedia itself, but it doesn't reflect a weakness in WikiPedia that you may interpret it to; this is the way that WikiPedia is meant to work (presumably for the simple reason that verifyability as defined is objective, whereas the absolute truth is much harder to nail down - who determines it?!).

  • by meist3r ( 1061628 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @11:46AM (#26813281)
    The terrible thing about this situation is NOT that the degrading print media and others took their information from Wikipedia which would expose their lack of journalistic precision.

    What NO SINGLE FUCKING ONE has mentioned so far is that this guy has just been appointed minister of economic affairs in my country AND NO ONE KNOWS WHO HE IS for fuck sake. They all got his name(s) wrong because this guy hasn't achieved anything yet. They looked him up on Wikipedia because our awful government has just appointed a nameless aristocrat to the most important position in the state during times of an economic crisis.

    That, my friends, I find far more disturbing than a few journalists looking up an unimportant guy with way too many names on Wikipedia.
  • Obvious solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sanity ( 1431 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @11:56AM (#26813463) Homepage Journal
    Any reference used to substantiate a fact added to a Wikipedia article must pre-date the addition of the fact.
  • by Straif ( 172656 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @12:24PM (#26813919) Homepage

    Same type of 'fact checking' happened with the Obama inauguration estimate.

    1) News papers reported an estimate of 2 million people.

    2) Parks service (which stopped counting crowds after the Million Man March a few years back after their analysis was way below the politically correct estimate) quotes the newspapers.

    3)When asked for verification of their numbers the newspaper points to the Parks Services numbers.

    Most independant analysis of satellite photographs pegs the number at somewhere between 800k-1.2m ; including estimates for people in transit. Still a very impressive number but nowhere near the hyped multimillions the press had been pushing for weeks so essentially ignored.

    The Washington Post did do a follow up piece which exposes some of the problems (after it was pointed out to them that they were the Parks Services source for the 1.8 figure in the first place) but even though they still headline the 1.8m figure it doesn't seem any of their other sources come withing 500k of that number.

    In the new age of media, speed of data, and it's ability to match expectations, sadly far outweigh accuracy.

  • by geohump ( 782273 ) <geohump AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @04:50PM (#26818589) Journal

    WP, while a useful web site, tends to promote "popular opinion" into "psuedo fact". As long as enough people who edit WP believe something to be true, the entries about that item will promote the popular belief as fact. Eventually, due to WP's popularity, the psuedo fact becomes accepted as an actual fact.

    Example: according to linguistics, there are no rules about what words can be added to the English language. Indeed English is the least pure, most widely hybrized language on the planet and new words are added to it daily. For example the verb "slashdotted" :-) or the verb "google" etc.. Nowhere are there any rules saying "these specific things cannot be added to the english language because they don't meet criteria 'x'." According to linguistics, the only rules used to determine if something is actually a word or not are these two:

    A: Is the word being used?
    B: Is the meaning of the word as used agreed on?
    If those two requirements are metthen the word in question is a legitimate word.

    The example peevologists hate the most: "virii" (yes, it meets the requirements. Therefore it is a word, despite being desperately hated by peevologists :-) So use it often! ;-)

    Instead of following these rules, WP indulges in what linguists call "peevology" which is the process whereby a language myth becomes accepted as "fact" due to aggresive "enforcement" of the myth by people who actually have no idea what they are talking about. []

    Fortunately even the mainstream peevologists are realizing that language just isn't used the way the 18th century grammarians (who started the whole myth of "standard english) think it ought to be used. In fact it wasn't used that way back then, and never has been from then until now. []

    The biggest issue with peevology is that many copy editors have been mis-educated about these very issues and go forth laying waste to perfectly good writing because they (incorrectly) believe said writing is not following "the rules". (the article refers to prescriptivists who have some overlap with peevologists but are generally less harmful, just annoying.)

    Examples from the language log []
    "Singular they" is illegal. []
    "Split infinitives" are not allowed. []
    "That isn't a Word." []

    David Crystal, in his new book How Language Works, says "Language change is inevitable, continuous, universal and multidirectional. Languages do not get better or worse when they change. They just -- change." []

    Geoffrey K Pullum:

    I was walking across campus with a friend and we came upon half a dozen theoretical linguists committing unprovoked physical assault on a defenseless prescriptivist. My friend was shocked. Sh

  • by pfafrich ( 647460 ) <(gro.frusgnis) (ta) (hcir)> on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @05:10PM (#26818907) Homepage
    The circularity we are seeingin wikipedia is really nothing new. Indeed this cyclic confirmation of ideas have been going on throughout human history. Much our our beleifs are the result of Chinese whispers with one source quoting another source and the original being lost in history, if it ever existed. Astrology and conspiracy theories are prime examples of this basing whole beleif systems on what others have said.

    It is one of the reasons we have profesional historians whose job is to untangle a complex web of documents to find the reality behind a situation.

May all your PUSHes be POPped.