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Wikipedia
Annoyingly inaccurate articles!
Liane




msg:393105
 9:39 am on Jun 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

I find it incredibly annoying that Wikipedia doesn't seem to verify their content. It seems any "goober" can write anything they want and it goes unchecked.

Some of the articles are incredibly inaccurate, but because it calls itself an "encyclopedia" ... people are willing to believe anything written on their pages!

I don't want to become a wikipedia editor, I don't have the time or the inclination to rewrite their stuff for them. But c'mon ... doesn't anyone check for quality or at the very least, verify historical facts on this site?

Man it irks me! I was talking to a friend's 9 year old son yesterday and he stated an incorrect fact about our country. When I corrected him, he said, "nuh ahh ... I checked and Wikipedia said this ..."

I took a look and sure enough, there it was. This kid was using Wikipedia to do his homework for heaven's sake and they had 3 "facts" wrong within a 4 paragraph page.

Why is so much credence given to this site by the search engines? I just don't get it. It is really annoying! Arrrgh. :(

 

donpps




msg:393135
 8:15 pm on Jun 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Unfortunate that is the downside of the "democratization" of content. Blogs are no different. I think it behoves anyone doing research online to read between the lines... opinions are not facts.

Check trusted sources and double-check against offline resources (if possible)

Don

imstillatwork




msg:393136
 9:02 pm on Jun 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

<snip>

"I don't think the search engine giants have a choice. If a site is popular and receives millions of pageviews per month, the SE's will categorize it, rank it, etc. - no matter if the information is good or bad."

Search engines CAN'T tell how much traffic a site gets. Only how many other indexed sites send traffic it's (wikipedia.org's) way.

link:http://www.wikipedia.org/ pulls up 1.5 million results in yahoo and 400K in MSN!

[edited by: physics at 10:05 pm (utc) on June 29, 2006]
[edit reason] let's try to keep politics out of it [/edit]

Liane




msg:393137
 9:59 pm on Jun 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

One problem is that those not familiar with what Wikipedia is all about assume it's accurate - it's not.

Exactly. People are sheep and assume that if a search engine spits up a wikepedia page when searching for information ... well it must be accurate!

Another problem is the weight that search engines like Goggle give to Wiki. It's an instant authority on any topic published.

Also true ... and that's just plain wrong! There are any number of topics which have far greater authorities than Wikipedia. One of Google's failings for instance is that it seems whoever writes about something first is forever after considered the "authority". Hogwash!

well,
you that some information is wrong, yet you don't want to correct or add to it, because you don't want to become an editor, so what do you want from Wikipedia? They are volunteer based, and they can't hire 1000's of fact-checkers just so you and I can access the information for free. Try other subscription based enciclopedias...you might get dated, but otherwise more factually accurate information.

I have written three pages on the topic. It took me nearly 4 hours to check my facts and then recheck them. It took another two days to go and take photographs and then write my article. Why in the world would I care to help Wikipedia (who already outranks me) to get their facts right?

Why pick on Wikipedia? It's only as accurate as the rest of the internet. This is a problem that affects the whole of the web, and not just one prominent site.

Because they are passing themselves off as an encyclopedia. In and of itself, an "encyclopedia" is considered by the vast majority to be a trusted authority.

Just because the web is mired in mediocre works ... does that mean its ok to present inaccurate information and pass it off as "fact"?

I don't think the search engine giants have a choice. If a site is popular and receives millions of pageviews per month, the SE's will categorize it, rank it, etc. - no matter if the information is good or bad.

The search engines rank pages ... not sites. There are far better authorities around than Wikipedia. If a Wikipedia page with 4 paragraphs containing three fatual errors outranks 3 pages of "factual" and accurate information, then there is an inherent error in their algo.

Trustworthy publishers take great pains to maintain their reputation for being trustworthy.

Precisely! Wikipedia is simply an accumulation of words, written by God knows whom, containing information which may or may not be accurate. It is NOT an encyclopedia which by definition is a "comprehensive" study. One would think that any "comprehensive" study includes fact checking!

physics




msg:393138
 10:04 pm on Jun 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

It might be possible for Wikipedia to be more accurate if data was also cheked by a random user with an interest in that category before it could become live.. peer review. That wouldn't necessarily solve the copyright infringement problems but it could help if the reviewer was also asked to check for that.

gibbergibber




msg:393139
 11:18 pm on Jun 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Perhaps the best solution would be a huge disclaimer notice at the top which leads to a page that explains wikipedia is not verified by anyone, and shouldn't be used in isolation from other sources.

But just to defend Wikipedia, there's vast swathes of human knowledge which aren't politically contentious, especially articles on science and technology, and for these Wikipedia has been very good at collecting knowledge.

I spent quite a while looking at an article about the periodic table on Wikipedia today and while there might be inaccuracies there's very little possibility of bias... who has anything to gain by skewing an article about elements?

My biggest gripe about Wikipedia is how primitive the user interface is, and how it discourages non-technical people from editing it. Maybe if they made it more user-friendly, there'd be better non-science, non-technology articles.

blaze




msg:393140
 1:34 am on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yeah, except with the wikipedia you can see the argument people are having over the verification of the facts.

That's right, rather than just seeing some narrow minded "his" story, you actually get to see a debate and discussion from all sides about the facts as presented.

Webmasters hate wikipedia, for good reason. It's open sourcing content, and yeah, I feel for them. Unfortunately, the world is moving on, you'd best find out how to work with wikipedia rather than against it.

Bennie




msg:393141
 3:30 am on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Good call blaze!

Liane




msg:393142
 4:11 am on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well, I don't care how hard Wikipedia tries to change historical facts ... an island has a definitive size, the population has a specific value at any given point in time, governments were established during a specific year, major events took place on a certain day, etc.

If a so called "encyclopedia" can't even be bothered to fact check that much ... then it is just more "noise" on the internet which doesn't deserve a second glance.

Hell ... they can't even spell the names of the islands correctly! That's how much research they've done on some of these subjects.

Webmasters hate wikipedia, for good reason. It's open sourcing content, and yeah, I feel for them. Unfortunately, the world is moving on, you'd best find out how to work with wikipedia rather than against it.

I would argue that "content writers" who research their topics, verify facts and write quality content, dislike Wikipedia because it is written by any Tom, Dick or Harry (sorry Harry) who has not bothered to verify their facts.

I would further argue that the search engines need to evaluate the quality of the works that Wikipedia and sites like Wikipedia present before serving them up at the top of the rankings heap.

And ... I might add that working "with" a website of dubious editorial and factual quality is not and never will be on my list of "things to do before I die". I will do my work as I always have. I will check and recheck my facts before I publish them and I will continue to gripe about inferior works, which for some misguided reasons are recognized as authorities when they clearly are not.

What value would you place on a book of historical facts containing approximately 30% to 40% factual errors? One might argue ... "yeah but, the remaining 60 to 70% which is accurate is really wonderful". Well isn't that special! Now, pray tell ... which 60 to 70% of that book should I take as true and accurate?

Until Wikipedia has a better editorial system in place which requires verification of facts ... none of it, not one single page can be taken seriously. And it certainly doesn't belong on the first page of results for anything other than the site name in my opinion.

adfree




msg:393143
 7:39 am on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

It's not just that many articles are well written and in balance pay-off for the inaccurate stuff, but on top there is a lot more detail from the real specialists which is the major advantage of the wikis. Written by whomever understands it best.

cornwall




msg:393144
 9:10 am on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

There is an interesting article in last Sunday's Sunday Times [l4x.org]

It starts with

Jimmy Wales, said he receives 10 e-mails a week from college students complaining: “Please help me. I got an F on my paper because I cited Wikipedia.” His disarming response was: “For God’s sake, don’t cite the encyclopedia.”

And ends with the conclusion of the Sunday Times being

Wikipedia, which has become an Aunt Sally in the debate over dumbing down. This problem lies not with Wikipedia, but our society’s criminal lack of media literacy. We are failing our children if they are so ignorant that they take Wikipedia on trust.

Perhaps Google could think about that conclusion too. I suspect WebmasterWorld readers have their beef with Wikipediamore because of Serps problems than because of the accuracy or otherwise of Wikipedia.

moltar




msg:393145
 10:39 am on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

As many said here, hard copy books aren't much better. I read a lot of books. I often see outdated and inaccurate/wrong information. Here is a good example, if you want to try this. It's something I thought of immediately, I am sure there are numerous other examples.

Go to your local library and get 10 random books on HTML. Read the table of contents only, and see how inaccurate the information is today, or even at the time of writing. Font tags anyone? Tables for layout? Just a few years passed, and this is considered to be a big no-no, and the sign of amateurism.

But if a curious person goes to the library and gets a book to learn HTML, he or she will learn incorrect information and will be almost 100% sure that it is correct. How can it be wrong? "It's in a book with hard cover, from my local library, surely it must be the most accurate and up-to-date information I can get."

adamas




msg:393146
 11:09 am on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)


[news.com.com...]

Actually a recent study by Nature magazine found errors averaged out to 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia.

Can't let this one go unchallanged. Hope the links are alright.

Nature mag cooked Wikipedia study [theregister.co.uk]
Unnatural acts at Nature [theregister.co.uk]

I would add that the author of the above seems very willing to publish anything negative on certain subjects - wikipedia, google, blogs etc - not all of which I agree with. So the same caveats apply as with WP. Check the information given yourself.

trillianjedi




msg:393147
 11:10 am on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia

That's really not bad at all for a non-professionally produce encyclopedia?

gibbergibber




msg:393148
 12:05 pm on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

-Yeah, except with the wikipedia you can see the argument people are having over the verification of the facts.-

It would indeed be a great resource to show these discussions and debates in tandem with an article, but very often the discussion goes unnoticed by the end user (just a small tab at the top of the article) and is very difficult to take part in compared to other discussion systems.

It would be great, but you can't really follow the arguments because the "discussion" system merely consists of yet another editable-by-everyone page which is very unfriendly towards newbies.

The discussions for each article ought to take place on a message board like this one. There's no reason to make people's opinions and replies on a discussion page user-editable, I have no idea why the Wikipedia software does so. There's no thread system either.

celgins




msg:393149
 12:50 pm on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

The search engines rank pages ... not sites.

Yes. When I mentioned pageviews, I was referring to a particular page on Wikipedia...not the entire site.

From cornwall:
Without full time editors, Wiki will get more bogged down in this sort of thing. But they cannot afford the editors without the money. Make contributors aspire to that sort of uber-editor, and you degenerate into ODP politics. It is difficult to find a solution :(

I think this sums it up nicely.

Liane




msg:393150
 1:14 pm on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

That's really not bad at all for a non-professionally produce encyclopedia?

Trillianjedi, did you read the articles (links provided by adamas) right above your post. This is exactly what I am talking about! Somebody grabs a statement such as:

2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia

... and suddenly it is taken as fact! It takes on a life of its own. Hogwash!

There were 6 facts contained within the 4 paragraphs on the page I cited. 3 are wrong. That's 50% factual inaccuracy on that particular page. Doubtless, there are other pages containing 100% correct and accurate information ... but I also have no doubt there are pages which contain 80% factual errors or more.

Whatever ... I just think it is a very poor excuse for an "encyclopedia". To me, its all just "Wikidross" built for the sheeple and by the sheeple.

trillianjedi




msg:393151
 1:24 pm on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

I would think that even Britannica have information with lots of errors. The overall averages are the important metric in my view.

I didn't look at the above links, no. But my experience of Wikipedia has overall been very very good, so I can't really knock it.

TJ

Genie




msg:393152
 1:27 pm on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

>its all just "Wikidross"

That's pretty unkind Liane! I have contributed a number of articles to Wikipedia which are as factually accurate as I can make them. And I am a researcher.

There is plenty of room for improvement in Wikipedia. There is no doubt about that. I have personally corrected errors and removed dubious to downright dotty material. On the other hand I find myself linking more and more to the relevant Wikipedia article from the Open Directory and my own site, because it has the best content I can find on the topic.

It seems impossible that a user-generated encyclopedia could work. The amazing thing is the degree to which it does. I have been surprised to find articles of far higher quality than I would have expected.

Liane




msg:393153
 1:30 pm on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

But my experience of Wikipedia has overall been very very good, so I can't really knock it.

Fair enough. We will have to agree to disagree then ... but its not often I disagree with you! :)

I have been surprised to find articles of far higher quality than I would have expected.

And just how would I or anyone else know how to distinguish which articles are factual and therefor helpful and which are wikidross?

[edited by: Liane at 1:33 pm (utc) on June 30, 2006]

celerityfm




msg:393154
 1:31 pm on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

(disclaimer: I am a sometimes Wikipedia editor)

I, for one, look at Wikipedia in a two-fold manner:

First off, it's entertainment. It's always fun to see what Wikipedia has to say on a subject. Whether that information is correct or not is up to you to decide, and hopefully edit.

Secondly: In theory, every article in Wikipedia should be cited with sources. Many are, many aren't. Those that are cited can actually be a good source for, well, SOURCES! All the students mentioned in the previous post who cited Wikipedia deserve the F. They should have looked for the sources cited in Wikipedia, read them and then cited them instead! If there were no sources cited then how can they even BEGIN to trust the article?

So basically I see Wikipedia as an entertaining read and in many cases a good collection of resources for research. Use it for other purposes at your peril.

As to the original poster, how about you point out what article and errors you have qualms with? The errors bother me too, and even more so to just leave the bad information in the article. Not sure if it's against WebmasterWorld TOS to post them or not, so PM me if you need to :)

Liane




msg:393155
 1:40 pm on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Specifics are against WebmasterWorld terms of service, but as I stated before, I have written three pages on the one subject I originally posted about. Since making that post, I have checked 6 more pages. All of which contain mistakes.

When I write articles for my web site, I check my facts and then I double check them. I do not intend to spend my time correcting mistakes for Wikipedia. If someone uses volunteer editors ... you get what you pay for. Improve the system or stop calling it an "encyclopedia".

Sorry, I don't mean to be "unkind" ... I am simply stating the "facts" as I see them!

Feel free to edit me ;)

gibbergibber




msg:393156
 2:25 pm on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

--Secondly: In theory, every article in Wikipedia should be cited with sources. Many are, many aren't. Those that are cited can actually be a good source for, well, SOURCES! All the students mentioned in the previous post who cited Wikipedia deserve the F. They should have looked for the sources cited in Wikipedia, read them and then cited them instead! If there were no sources cited then how can they even BEGIN to trust the article?--

Yes, this is exactly right. This is exactly how people should use Wikipedia, as a set of user-contributed links to sources rather than as a source in its own right.

commanderW




msg:393157
 2:27 am on Jul 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hello all - Well, this topic got my juices flowing. it;s my 1st post & i hope i don't seem too strident.
There's a chinese saying goes ' what one hound bays incorrectly, 10,000 hounds will bay incorrectly.' This saying is ancient, & human nature has not changed since. Most people i know believe & repeat things because a friend or someone they like or respect told them so, or just because it sounds good. What people believe about the internet is part of this phenomenon.
i spent years in the used/rare book business, building my own library for my own research. I wish there was a click counter for every time someone has said to me, "oh all that stuff is on the internet now."
It also seems that alot of people think that because they're smart enough to use a computer they have been certified to be anything & know everything . People have died because they diagnosed their own illness on the internet instead of consulting a trained licensed physician. What is being revealed is how many supposedly educated people there are who do not have any experience handling real information.
As for a guarantee of factuality, the search for 'facts', & the process of telling what is a fact, is at the heart of the scientific endeavor, & it is not a trivial matter. To understand this read Karl Popper, or Thomas Kuhn or Stephen J Gould. We would not want search engine algorithms doing it for us.
Concerning wikipedia,it is not an encyclopedia actually, it appears to be a wikipedia. that's why it's not called an encyclopedia! Authoritative sources are created by the academic community according to long established protocols ( including peer review, wich is also not a trivial thing.). I have not seen wikipedia pretend to this stature. It is promoted as an experiment. It needs to be appreciated for that ( & explained to 9 year olds that way, if they can even understand this.).
Perhaps it's founders were thinking of an answer to the complaints & concerns that academia itself, & it's presumed facts, are themselves so often biased & wrong. look at all the explanations of what happened to the dinosaurs!( their brains were small so they died. replaced in another political climate by - mammals sucked their eggs.).
In any case, Wikipedia is whatever it is, not anything else. At the very least it is a chance for independent intellects to pool & share their knowledge.
Finally, there's no reason to be angry just because the worlds foremost sientific journal has published a paper wich proves that - "GOOBERS ROOL!"

Liane




msg:393158
 4:57 am on Jul 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

Its more like "GOOBERS DROOL!" ;)

Thanks for coming out of the closet CommanderW! Hope to see more posts from you around here! :)

gibbergibber




msg:393159
 5:17 pm on Jul 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

--Concerning wikipedia,it is not an encyclopedia actually, it appears to be a wikipedia. that's why it's not called an encyclopedia!--

Actually Wikipedia calls itself an encyclopedia on its front page, so it's no wonder people assume it IS an encyclopedia.

I think they ought to take that down and change their name, call it something like Wikisources or something.

commanderW




msg:393160
 12:09 am on Jul 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

` Wow,gibbergibber i really am a goober! I was only joking in last post. But there it is right in the logo - "wikipedia the online encyclopedia". Sorry folks. i've been quietly reading posts here for about 2 months, learning all i can about website creation. I discovered that i have been 'lurking'. Spurred by a request to create a login identity, then one to post, i have discovered that not only am i a 'lurker' but a bona fide 'goober' too. For what it's worth let me clarify that i am not associated w/wikipedia & have never posted an entry there. I'm just a guy w/ too many books who somehow got hold of a computer. Like Liane, i have been irritated by some peoples citations of wikipedia as an authoritative source. But just the night before she posted, i googled 'arms of kazan'. the wikipedia entry had more info on this unlikely search than i ever imagined finding in any medium. This happens alot . Their entry on the mach kernel of unix is great, & like webmaster world, it is an invaluable resource for people like me. So it all sort of glommed together & boiled over into, well, some goobers babblings. Anyway, this is all off-topic from website authoring. Future posts will be restrained accordingly. - thanx all.

dauction




msg:393161
 12:26 am on Jul 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

I rarely encounter any constant facts in Life itself..except that if something was fact yesterday you can bet it wont be tommorrow or from anothers view of the facts.

Take all "facts" with a grain of salt .. always look at who produced the material and the discrimination of facts becomes apparent ..

wikipedias beauty is that it offers a collection of fluid facts as vast as those who submit.

It would be much more useful if wiki posted all the editor profiles , religion , financial position , political associations etc.. of course that could never be but it would certainly enlighten us on how a fact was determined.

DamonHD




msg:393162
 9:13 am on Jul 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi dauction,

Disclosure of background is potentially interesting, and probably a good idea in the financial markets where it happens to some extent, but ultimately, the people with axes to grind often cannot be trusted to be open about their reasons/background, and is it relevant to my article on random number generation who I slept with last night?

Rgds

Damon

Hester




msg:393163
 1:51 pm on Jul 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've been interviewed by various national magazines, and some of them perform incredible due diligence; fact checkers (not the author) call after the article is written to verify quotes as well as get an opinion on the accuracy of the writer's other statements and conclusions. In addition, one or more senior editors also review the copy. While this doesn't guarantee perfect accuracy, it's a good defense against bogus information and author bias.

You still have to be careful. Kate Bush gave an interview and they changed it to include things she never said. After that, she started taking a tape recorder along to every interview to make sure it was accurate.

Go to your local library and get 10 random books on HTML. Read the table of contents only, and see how inaccurate the information is today, or even at the time of writing. Font tags anyone? Tables for layout? Just a few years passed, and this is considered to be a big no-no, and the sign of amateurism.

That's not being inaccurate, but out of date. Font tags and tables were once considered ideal, and still are by some.

Secondly: In theory, every article in Wikipedia should be cited with sources. Many are, many aren't. Those that are cited can actually be a good source for, well, SOURCES! All the students mentioned in the previous post who cited Wikipedia deserve the F. They should have looked for the sources cited in Wikipedia, read them and then cited them instead! If there were no sources cited then how can they even BEGIN to trust the article?

What if the article has no sources? I could write about something new that cannot be linked to another source. What then?

Liane




msg:393164
 2:26 pm on Jul 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well, this is going well beyond what my complaint was. I just don't understand why:

1) Wikipedia calls itself an encyclopedia? It isn't.
2) Google and other SE's give it so much credence?
3) Authors/editors can't be bothered to check and verify historical facts?

dcheney




msg:393165
 2:52 pm on Jul 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

3) Authors/editors can't be bothered to check and verify historical facts?

That's one of the "benefits" of socialistic web publishing. No one gets paid, no one gets double-checked. There is no motivation to be right.

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