Media

Who's Easier to Fool, Wikipedia or the World's Newspapers?

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Answer here.

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  1. An immoral childish action or a valid sociological experiment?

    I’m going with the latter.

  2. I dunno, there was a time that if you were researching cephalopods you could read in Wiki about a “tree octopus.” Who knows, though, how many kids actually put that in their science reports. Some stuff doesn’t pass the laugh test.

  3. The “journalists” who used quotes from Wikipedia should be fired. And Shane Fitzgerald should be punched in the face.

  4. And Shane Fitzgerald should be punched in the face.

    Why? Why do people hate on the pranksters? He may have put a false quote up, but it’s not his fault journalists didn’t do their fucking job and check it.

  5. Punched in the face if it was a prank, perhaps. But, he hypothesized that paid journalists would use an easily editable source in leiu of verifiable facts because it was easy. He was right. He has done journalistic integrity a service.

  6. Sigh. Do I really have to explain it to YOU, Epi?
    I love throwing a monkey-wrench into the gears as much as anyone.
    But you prank journalists, even idiot journalists who are in the biz only because they were too stupid to get a degree in “education,” and some old-timer, probably after a couple shots of Beam, just might punch you in the face.

    Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

  7. “He has done journalistic integrity a service.”
    Come on. Really? Like the guys who write viruses and send them out do a favor to the software companies?
    Really?

  8. Looking at Wikipedia as a starting place or for something informal is one thing. Relying on it as a source of information for formal publication is stupid. If I were an editor, I’d send the offending reporter back to the obituary beat as a punishment.

  9. Yes, CN, I really believe this. It was obvious that the common knowledge about wikipedia not being a respectable source is missed by some journalists. This magnifies it and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t make reporters and editors more diligent in their fact-finding. Viruses don’t really do any good. I’m surprised you think they are similar. Once again, this was not a prank, it was an experiment for proving a hypothesis. If it were just a prank it fails the humor test anyway.

  10. Most ‘journalists’ are absolutely brain-dead stupid.

  11. “Like the guys who write viruses and send them out do a favor to the software companies?”

    Not the same thing at all. Virii damage private property, and Fitz simply submitted false information to the public domain which was subsequently reported as true by the media.

  12. BAH!
    He should name names.
    All that article tells us is The Guardian bit, but acted responsibly when informed of the hoax.

    We need a list of who printed what, and how they acted subsequently.

  13. Cute article, and Reason’s take on it is great!

    Say, let’s all agree not to mention how Wikipedia is a source for disinformation or anything. Let’s not actually think about the impact of the #1 search result for most terms containing false or misleading information in many of its pages or – even worse – omitting key facts.

    Everything’s fine in Reasonland!

  14. Some (several sources say “most”) journalists are idiots. This is true now and will be forever. And, now and forever, many will take shortcuts. This “prank” won’t change a damn thing. At best it’ll get a couple of idiots fired. (I’m sure computer viruses have gotten a few programmers fired, too.)
    But there are always more idiots to take up the burden.
    And you’re right about it not being funny. Fitzgerald should be punched in the face to uphold the honor of comedy, if not journalism.

  15. What’s interesting about this is to me is that establishing the validity of historical information in the future is going to be damned hard.

    Do you think the government (ours and others) spends lots of time re-writing key wiki entries? If not now, how likely it is they they won’t in the future?

  16. Shut the fuck up, LoneWacko.

  17. And one more thing: ShuttheFuckUp LoneWacko.

  18. Beaten to print again. Sigh.

  19. Do you think the government (ours and others) spends lots of time re-writing key wiki entries?

    At least it’s a level playing field. The government has exactly the same ability to modify information as every other internet-equipped computer user on the planet.

  20. Shut the fuck up, LoneWacko.

  21. Just playful government pranksters, Pro L, putting the “info” out there. Why would they be responsible if anyone takes it seriously?

  22. Pro Lib, I read an article a while back that said many Congressmen staff members often updated wikipedia and were pretty active at “correcting” what outsiders had put in with their own edits. But, this was regarding the pages directly related to their Congressmen, and there was no word on articles either way that were about anything else. I wouldn’t put it past them, though.

    CN, he was not trying to be funny so he shouldn’t be punched for not being funny. You wanna punch someone for not being funny when that was their goal, punch Wanda Sykes. She needs to go back to telling huge turd in the back seat jokes.

  23. Punching Wanda Sykes is always a good idea.

  24. Except if she’s posting fake info on Wikipedia, in which case she’s doing a public service, of course.

  25. Punching Wanda Sykes is always a good idea.

    I don’t know, man. She was in Pootie Tang. Personally, i can forgive a lot from someone who was in Pootie Tang.

  26. Pro Liber – What concerns me even more than that is after seeing the modern discrepancies in reporting of events, what historical events that have been accepted into “modern history” are highly fabricated?

  27. Depends on why she’s posting false info, CN. You still don’t get it.

  28. I was gonna post this yesterday.

  29. Wikipedia is great. You just need to keep in mind a few basic rules. Don’t trust anything on a subject that is at all controversial. Don’t trust anything about current political figures, or people who have recently died. And don’t use Wikipedia as your source for research or anything that will be published.

    And this is very funny. Someone should give that kid a medal.

  30. Oh, I get it. I just don’t agree.

  31. what historical events that have been accepted into “modern history” are highly fabricated?

    Yep. It’s not like missing citations or just plain making shit up is a new thing of the Wikipedia age. Such an incredibly huge amount of history is just not known. There’s a reason they say it’s written by the winners.

  32. The plural of virus is viruses, not virii. Virus in Latin has no plural. And if it did, it would probably be vira, not viri or virii.

    Naturally, this can change with [mis]usage.

    Citizen Nothing,

    I think there’s a line somewhere between intentionally disseminating false information and testing the press in this manner. I don’t think he crossed it, though it’s an arguable point. If the government were doing the same, I’d be pissed. I’m sure they edit entries on things like the president, etc., but I suspect they go beyond that, editing scandals and other things they have no business messing with. Of course, the government isn’t the only entity capable of promoting false information.

    Seng,

    Ascertaining the truth is hard enough when something happens right in front of you. With more and more information moving to computers, it will be easier to change, and the truth or falsity of that information will be harder to prove.

    The flip side of this is that we have much less information about the past today than, potentially, our successors will have about us.

  33. “And this is very funny.”
    See, the standards for comedy have fallen dramatically.
    Speaking of funny, last night read Ian Frazier’s essay “Lamentations of the Father,” for the first time. I was laughing so hard I was gasping for air.
    Ian Frazier – now there’s a funny dude. (But don’t believe his Wikipedia entry.)
    CN says “check it out.”

  34. I wonder if Mencken ever got punched in the face for his Taft-bathtub hoax. Some people still fall for it.

    “… there was a time that if you were researching cephalopods you could read in Wiki about a “tree octopus.” Who knows, though, how many kids actually put that in their science reports.”
    Ruh-roh, ‘splains that D-minus I got.
    Really? No tree octupi at all? Anywhere?

  35. Of course, the government isn’t the only entity capable of promoting false information.

    Also, conversely, the internet is the natural habitat of millions of pedantic nerds, who will correct any false information they find just for the thrill of proving somebody else wrong.

  36. “I don’t know, man. She was in Pootie Tang. Personally, i can forgive a lot from someone who was in Pootie Tang.”

    Best. Film. Evah.

  37. Best. Film. Evah.

    Wah da tah.

  38. The “journalists” who used quotes from Wikipedia should be fired.

    Anyone using anything from WikiPedia beyond the purposes of light discussion should be fired.

  39. The plural of virus is viruses, not virii. Virus in Latin has no plural. And if it did, it would probably be vira, not viri or virii.

    Same mistake gets made with the plural of Octopus.

  40. “Also, conversely, the internet is the natural habitat of millions of pedantic nerds, who will correct any false information they find just for the thrill of proving somebody else wrong.”

    Maybe that’s where joe is.

  41. “I wonder if Mencken ever got punched in the face for his Taft-bathtub.”

    Ok. See THAT was funny. If Fitzgerald had gotten some improbable, off-the-wall “fact” or quote into print, something not insipid or banal, I could probably forgive him.

  42. Just playful government pranksters, Pro L, putting the “info” out there. Why would they be responsible if anyone takes it seriously?

    The point is that you need to take everything with a grain of salt. Multiple sources. And that’s just for you or me. Journalists are supposed to do better than that, but they’re human and therefore most are lazy hacks like anyone else.

    But there’s nothing wrong with pointing that out using false quotes.

  43. Why? Why do people hate on the pranksters? He may have put a false quote up, but it’s not his fault journalists didn’t do their fucking job and check it.

    Epi, I pretty much agree with you. Here at Reason, I have noticed the Craigslist stalker/killer/hooker stories ALWAYS say that a CL erotic services ad is free.

    Well, they are not and when I was finally ready to pop off about it someone else beat me to it, at least once.

    Change anything? Nope. Bet the next CL story has the same fake info in it.

  44. Jarre’s most famous work was an opera based on the life of Marcel Marceau. The entire third act was silent, which threw critics of the time into an uproar.

  45. One readily apparent problem here: What if the Wikipedia editors hadn’t caught the unattributed quote in time, it was published on a major news site, and that news site was then listed as the source?

  46. Merely the latest in a long list of hoaxes that the MSM have fallen for.

    Anyone remember the WMD hoax? What a thigh-slapper that was!

  47. Is HEB the latest incarnation of Guy Montag? Just (guy-)curious.

  48. CN, you hypocrite. First you said he should be punched because he was committing a prank, which was not the case. Then you say he should be forgiven if he was actually funny, but funny is what makes it a prank. In the end, it was not supposed to be funny, it was supposed to be simply wrong, so as to test the theory that journalists don’t fact check. Making it funny would have raised their flags and they would not have used the quote. Make up your mind. What are you really mad about?

  49. I’m not mad, Nick. If I punched Fitzgerald in the face, it would be as a lesson, a prank, if you will. It might even be funny.

    I’m not following you on your hypocrisy charges, but you may be right.

  50. “If it were just a prank it fails the humor test anyway.”

    Weren’t you the one positing a “humor test,” Nick?

  51. Actually, I think the idea of an avenger who seeks out and punches in the face those who post falsehoods to Wikipedia is a pretty funny idea, if I do say so.

  52. Hey, everybody now knows that it was a false quote, so our knowledge of the truth has been improved by that much. I think that the point is not so much that some of the media got bamboozled by the quote, but that some of the media didn’t get bamboozled by it.

  53. CN, you said he should be punched for committing a prank and then said you’d forgive him if it were funny and made it in print. So it sounded hypocritical to me.

    I’m saying he should only be punched if it were a prank that happened to not be funny. But I could understand punching him just for committing a prank, but I maintain he should not be punched for testing the media in an essentially unharmful way.

  54. that a CL erotic services ad is free.

    Well, they are not and when I was finally ready to pop off about it someone else beat me to it, at least once.

    I uhh… never mind.

  55. Xeones | May 12, 2009, 12:37pm | #

    Shut the fuck up, LoneWacko.
    _______________________________

    Citizen Nothing | May 12, 2009, 12:38pm | #

    And one more thing: ShuttheFuckUp LoneWacko.

    Who needs real journalism when we have this classic blog gag to amuse us for ever and ever?

  56. can I have your: PIN number?
    ATM machine:?

    Funny are these?

  57. One readily apparent problem here: What if the Wikipedia editors hadn’t caught the unattributed quote in time, it was published on a major news site, and that news site was then listed as the source?

    I’m pretty sure there was a published instance of this happening not too long ago.

    Anyway, this is why Wikipedia is both more reliable and less reliable than the news. It is more reliable in the sense that Wikipedia has more eye balls out there to catch mistakes than newspapers. Note how this guys quote was fixed within hours. It is less reliable in that if the original source of the information is unreliable, Wikipedia can turn that unreliable info into “fact” in no time flat.

  58. CN,

    Why does the HEB=GM prank have to come up weekly?

  59. Wiki is what wiki is. It’s not authoritative but it can, like a card catalog (remember them?), point you towards reliable documentation.

    Somewhat relevant, I occasionally meet people who’ve bought the French aristocracy’s lie about the death of Catherine the Great. There’s always been untruths in historical recording. This guy did not let the lie stand, he just made an important point.

  60. Citizen Nothing,

    Actually, I think the idea of an avenger who seeks out and punches in the face those who post falsehoods to Wikipedia is a pretty funny idea, if I do say so.

    LW would be a constant mass of bruises. I like, I like.

  61. Catherine the Great was harpooned by Russian whale hunters in the Baltic Sea. She was mistaken for a whale while taking a swim. This course of events was covered up by Big Whale, which invented and promoted the horse story.

  62. “Why does the HEB=GM prank have to come up weekly?”
    Sorry, HEB. I didn’t realize someone had already done the text analysis on your posts.

  63. I looked at Wikipedia for the entry on Guy Montag, and it says that he burns books! A Hit & Run commenter! Can you believe that?

  64. She needs to go back to telling huge turd in the back seat jokes.

    She makes Obama jokes?

    I have to say after him laughing at that performance it’s now more than ok to call Obama a turd.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing someone call him a ‘nigger’ to his face and then say “What? Why aren’t you laughing? It’s a joke.”

    I bet the media would have the same reaction…

  65. CN,

    You mean someone else spells as badly as I?

  66. Catherine the Great was the hawtness back in her prime (or at least Sid Meyers says so.)

    And even if she wasn’t, if a man says he wouldn’t do a little chubby chasing for a chance to be Czar of all the Russias, he’s lying.

  67. Kolohe,

    According to this, she looked exactly like Catherine Zeta Jones.

  68. Any woman that has to resort to having sex with non-human animals isn’t likely to be hot.

    If she was hot, she would be able to find plenty of willing human animals.

  69. JB,

    Myth.

    Now if she had been Russian, then there would be no question that she was attractive. The story about Russian women being unattractive was a CIA plot. But she was German, and she doesn’t look so good in her paintings.

  70. Right. Next you’re going to tell me Boudica wasn’t hot either!

  71. Craig – then Wikipedia will put the false information back in, because it’s verifiable. Other Wikipedia-related threads here have pointed out instances of that.

  72. From Wiki:

    ‘The “Chappaquiddick incident” refers to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, a former campaign worker for the assassinated U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York.

    In July 1969, Kopechne’s dead body was discovered inside an overturned car belonging to Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy of Massachusetts under water in a tidal channel on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts.

    The incident became a national scandal, and may have affected the Senator’s decision not to run for President in 1972.’

    Whatever your views of this “incident” are, and whether or not you are a passionate defender of Ted and his policies or think it was a conspiratorial cover-up, you can’t argue with the middle-of-the-road approach of this article.

    If wiki took any other approach it would become an Ollie Stone script. An encyclopedia is simply that. A compendium of a lot of knowledge. Wiki’s approach allows them to delve into the most obscure areas of knowledge.

    An encyclopedia is a starting point. Not the end of all research.

  73. Pro Libertate | May 12, 2009, 12:28pm | #

    Looking at Wikipedia as a starting place or for something informal is one thing. Relying on it as a source of information for formal publication is stupid. If I were an editor, I’d send the offending reporter back to the obituary beat as a punishment.

    Back to obits? They were writing an obituary (each) when they made the mistake.

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