Archive for October, 2009

Why Wikipedia is mad at me (and why I deserve it)

October 26, 2009

So, for those of you who read my previous post on my wikipedia experiment, you may notice that int he comments, many wiki-folks were none too pleased about my “experiment.” The common strand in their thoughts was that what I was doing was not as innocuous as I had thought, but was doing damage to their project, and was undermining what they try to do over there.

In hindsight, it was irresponsible. I came to the project with a couple of assumptions (both conscious and subconscious):

1. Since wikipedia belongs to the people, I can do what I want with it

2. What I did had no long lasting harm to anyone

3. Since I was doing it with the intention of gaining data and quantifying information and whatnot, it was ok. You can do anything in the almighty name of SCIENCE!

In the end, I don’t know if all of these are legit. First off, you can’t just mess around with someone’s project and think that it is OK. It does not matter how I view the legitimacy of the information on Wikipedia. It does not matter what I think about their work. It matters that they are trying to put something together and I was tinkering with it for my own curiosity. That is no good.

On top of the fact that I, in practice, do use wikipedia as an authoritative source. And, to be honest, you do too. Maybe not for papers, maybe not for scholarly works, but if you want to know a bit of trivia about anything, and you find it on wikipeida, you believe it. When I ask when Martin Luther was born, and the first entry on google is the wikipedia page, I doubt that very many people at all say to themselves: “I can’t check wikipedia, it is not a credible source.”

So, all in all, my idea was ill advised, and I am going to desist from adding false information to wikipedia in order to test the wiki-editor response time.  I did not mean harm, but harm was done. And so….

Sorry wikipedia. I won’t do it again.

My Wikipedia experiment

October 8, 2009

Today was the beginning of what will probably end up some weird hobby of mine.

It started with a joke about the Newsboys with a friend. At the end of our witty interchange, he added a false single in 1997 to the Newsboys Wikipedia page. 1 hour and 15 minutes later, the revision had been undone.

That kind of speed is impressive.

So, this made me want to see how quickly wikipedia can correct itself. How good are their editors? Was it a fluke?

I needed more source data

So, I went ahead and made a slight revision to the page un Huldrych Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer and contemporary of Martin Luther. I wanted the false fact to be indisputably false (not just a debatable opinion), and yet not glaringly obvious (Like “Also, Zwingli invented the light bulb and flew into space”)

[I would like to note, that while I considered this to be an interesting study, my wife considers it just being a jerk.  She does have a point.]

So, in the historical context section, I added that Zwingli participated in the Old Zurich War, which ended about 40 years before Zwingli was born.

Ten hours later, it was still on the site. I took it down, as to not be a TOTAL jerk, although inside I seriously wonder how long it could have stayed.

Now, it was inserted (accidentally) right before a footnote which was intended for something else, potentially making it look more credible, and thus would be passed by on first glance by an editor. But why did it make it so long, while an addition of a single to a Christian rock band’s library was so quickly corrected?

I feel like there is some sort of potential spiritual truth here, and maybe even a criticism of Wikipedia or postmodernism or the wiki-trend as a whole.  But that is for a later post.

What is really important is that I may have found a new fun thing to do. I plan on collecting more source data on figuring out how long it takes for errors to be corrected on Wikipeida. Expect either more blog posts or an entirely new blog on the subject.

**Edit – see my apology in the next blog post: