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|The Beginning of the End for UGC?|
Strange Manipulation of Wikipedia
|Two and a half years ago, Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne penned an editorial for The Wall Street Journal, warning that widespread stock manipulation schemes - including abusive naked short selling - were threatening the health of America's financial markets. But it wasn't published. |
|Then, on September 17, the SEC issued a new order meant to curb naked shorting of all stocks. "These several actions today make it crystal clear that the SEC has zero tolerance for abusive naked short selling," read a statement from SEC chairman Christopher Cox. "The Enforcement Division, the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, and the Division of Trading and Markets will now have these weapons in their arsenal in their continuing battle to stop unlawful manipulation." |
|In the wake of the SEC's crackdown, the mainstream financial press has acknowledged that widespread and deliberate naked shorting can artificially deflate stock prices, flooding the market with what amounts to counterfeit shares. But for years, The Journal and so many other news outlets ignored Byrne's warnings, with some journalists - most notably a Forbes.com columnist and former BusinessWeek reporter named Gary Weiss - painting the Overstock CEO as a raving madman. |
Byrne has long argued that the press dismissed his views at least in part because Weiss - hiding behind various anonymous accounts - spent years controlling the relevant articles on Wikipedia, the "free online encyclopedia anyone can edit."
|"At some level, you can control the public discourse from Wikipedia," Byrne says. "No matter what journalists say about the reliability of Wikipedia, they still use it as a resource. I have no doubt that journalists who I discussed [naked shorting] with decided not to do stories after reading Wikipedia - whose treatment [of naked short selling] was completely divorced from reality." |
That is one of the most interesting articles I've read in awhile. I've always been a bit suspicious of the inner cabal of wikipedia, they have so much authority with the general public and are able to influence public perception with complete anonymity. Hopefully this will wake the public up to potential for abuse.
Having graduated from university in the past 5 years, I can tell you that Wikipedia is a strange phenomenon. So many of my fellow students used it as a sole resource! Most professors would not accept papers and thesis which cited Wikipedia; would not allow it to be a resource at all. So...students would simply use it as the resource and then cite the sources quoted in Wikipedia. While I admit it is very handy in the same way the Guiness Book of World Records is useful -- for solving disputes on random topics like the wardrobes of tv characters, etc. -- it is not the academic journal many appear to accept it as. If academics won't trust it on their own topics of expertise, why is the public so willing?
I can see exactly what Mr. Byrne was up against; haven't companies like Microsoft and IBM already gotten into trouble for manipulating entries? This example seems to be a bit more personal and malicious, but the methodology has been evidenced before.
The title of this "thread" is a bit misleading. This is really about the legitimacy of Wikipedia... Which in my opinion is NOT user-generated content. It is highly controlled, reviewed and edited.
User generated content is free flowing content and opinions from the user community, un-edited...
|User generated content is free flowing content and opinions from the user community, un-edited... |
Very few (if any) sites that feature user-generated content would meet that criteria. At a minimum, most sites filter content for vulgarity.
Here's another one:
|CNN's iReport website hosted a user-submitted story that claimed falsely that Steve Jobs had suffered a heart attack. The prank puts citizen journalism in the line of fire. |
This one had direct economic consequences. Not to say the Wikipedia one didn't.
Unchecked, user generated content is fast coming under fire. Have you ever been negatively affected by it? If so, what have you done?
News publications make errors in facts all the time. Every magazine publishes corrections in each following issue.
As to the point that pure user generated content does not exist. Have you ever been on YouTube? MySpace? Facebook? Epinions? Yelp?
Vulgar language filters do not infringe on user generated content. The filters do not edit posts, they often simply highlight problem words and let the editor correct it. It is an automated process. You cannot compare a language filter to that of the editing control going on over at Wikipedia. ;-)
Big media wants to blame UGC desperately. Fact is, big media is NOT doing investigative reporting anymore and are biased by the Big ads.
John Smith who isn't a journalistic won't likely post a news story that goes viral every week. He may catch something once in his lifetime that goes viral and has more value than a paid puppet, er journalist does these days.
OR, some John Smith will post a bogus story that Big Media doesn't realize is bogus and they popularize it...or Digg does. So what, they make mistakes too.
We NEED big media, but they focus on pictures of Paris naked.
P.S. Wikipedia is full of it on topics I know well. Definitely not trustworthy, though can be useful sometimes.
|big media is NOT doing investigative reporting anymore |
And when they do provide investigative reporting they often leave out critical pieces of information to "slant" the story whichever way they want the audience to go. Does anyone remember the debacle with Dan Rather and CBS news over the fake memo about President Bush just before the election in 2004?
The bloggers started picking the story apart very quickly, but CBS kept sticking to it and calling the bloggers untrained amateurs in their pajamas. In the end the bloggers were right and the story was proven false and they [Dan Rather and CBS] had to offer an apology.
I think having alternative news sources out there is important, but I do see the point that this can cause a problem with verifying real information and sources. Unfortunately if CBS can lie so can everyone else. I am not sure what the solution is except cross checking all your information against multiple sources.
|Does anyone remember the debacle with Dan Rather and CBS news over the fake memo about President Bush just before the election in 2004? |
Sure. He was held accountable; that debacle effectively ruined his career.
|I am not sure what the solution is |
There may not be a "solution" per se. I fear the mainstream will simply lose what little confidence there is in UGC already. Or is there a better way to hold content creators more accountable?
On the other hand, perhaps our society as a whole is less concerned with objectivity, and is more interested in pundits and specific points of view. I think one could make an argument claiming big media certainly subscribes to that philosophy. In that case, UGC's objectivity or pursuit of the truth is irrelevant, and my thread title could indeed be misleading. ;)
My surprise at reading the article was the apparent control of the media through Wikipedia. It's a far-fetched allegation, but believable given the circumstances.
The trick is, the internet is the future, more people get their news (or whatever you call it) than through any other source...so who cares if the media loses belief in in ugc?
FYI, I was at a relatively small meeting on the roof of the Reuters building with some big names in media, and they were rather upset that the networks stopped paying for them to do their job. They knew the internet was changing their field and were a combination of worried about the effect and ignorant of how it all works.
My conclusion was that the media is becoming irrelevant in some ways and in other ways corrupt.
>>>My conclusion was that the media is becoming irrelevant in some ways and in other ways corrupt.
that's a very astute synopsis IMO.
UGC, and all the grassroots bloggers and internet media are excellent, as they're 'by the people'. Commercial interests mean little and thus don't necessarily bias much in that sphere. The drawback is that there's next to no validation or accountability.
I'd expect the validation or accountability to be there in mainstream media, and believe it used to be there. But what I see from mainstream media is very little reporting. It's mostly op-ed pieces spewed out as reporting or investigative journalism, and that means no accountability either. If the mainstream media actually reported instead of opining and commenting, I'd buy into their concerns a bit more than I do. As it stands right now, mainstream media is *less* accountable and perhaps even less reliable than UGC and the blogosphere.
Mainstream media is still full of cash, but their rapidly turning into dinosaurs. Do 20 somethings even get their news from these sources anymore? Ultimately, I'd bet that we may eventually see some firefight from the mainstream folks yet, as perhaps their last gasp or the flames as they pull a pheonix :).
Well said :)
I do have a problem with how wikipedia handles references.
If some of the powers that be come around a page and for some reason (like having ads on a site apparently) don't like the granddaddy site that existed long before they themselves were invented. They don't hold back to REMOVE existing references, and replace them with "better" ones. Now the "better" references point to things made after their article existed, and match their content better (guess why that is :-( ) ....
[If you have an academic background this should make you even more weary of wikipedia, referencing sources isn't something you mess with in that world]
I've also an issue with their users adding pointless links and then not the users getting banned, but the site that is pointed to getting banned and loosing its links like in the above scenario. If you have competitors listed in wikipedia, this makes it trivial to get them banned on wikipedia.
I understand letting people anonymously edit anything is a recipe for disaster if you don't control it properly, but they aren't doing it properly in my book. They also are next to impossible to confront (it's all anonymous, even the administrators of it all), and they don;t really bother to justify their actions.
Add to it that they get plastered all over the SERPs, the gray masses don't know better and things like wikipedia will kill off the Internet as we know it and turn it into a place where people publish stuff exclusively on a few sites like wordpress, picasa, youtube and wikipedia in addition to corporate sites and parked domains.
I doubt many webmasters will truly appreciate such a future. Hence I think we need to take care where we point links and avoid those sites at all.
Equally I'm wondering how long before people will realize they might as well skip the "google" step and search directly on wikipedia. Hence I've a bit of a strange feeling for the future in that for Google just as well. Search engine might go the way many a "portal" went in the past.
Another great post. Google should just turn off the wikipedia dial. They don't because wikipedia is really GREAT at providing relevant links...but NOT necessarily the best ones and we don't need google just to parrot wikipedia but without telling us who's judging the link, if you know what I mean.
The web/internet has a problem with primary and secondary sources in general. There was a term coined for popular culture entries that have thousands more words than their real-life counterparts, but I have forgotten it.
Lack of ownership of the content is also another problem as if you don't put your name on something you wrote, why are you going to care about it?
I think people have gravitated to the 'news' or the 'facts' they liked for a long time. There is just more of it out there now. I still somewhat 'trust' the BBC, since they have actual guidelines on how to execute their reporting.
Everything you read or hear is going to be slanted. You will read and hear what you know. Very few people go out of their way to get 'the other' opinion. And if they do, most likely they do it to fortify their own viewpoint.
UGC gives more individuals a voice they did not have before. Traditional media had editors (other individuals) in place to filter those voices. Today the voices we hear - the websites and blogs we go to, are also market driven. If nobody reads your blog, how long are you going to keep doing it? Same old, same old!
Seems to me today's crowd doesn't have have the benefit of wisdom from the older crowd:
"Believe half of what you see, and nothing of what you hear."
ie. Take the time to research and LEARN... be INFORMED.
Which I wish those who call themselves "journalists" would do. (end rant)
What strikes me as interesting, is the fact that when someone gets caught gaming Wikipedia in a significant way, it's news.
"Mainstream" media needs to wrap their collective heads around this internet thing, and learn how to work with it. They have to realize that it isn't a duel to the death. No more than Radio and Newspapers had a duel to the death, or TV and Radio had a duel to the death.
The internet just ads more voices to the conversation. Like any newcomer to a standing debate, it can be loud and obnoxious in an attempt to assert itself. The longstanding members of the debate will browbeat and belittle the newcomer. Eventually, once the newcomer establishes that he has something intelligent to add, and the old timers get to understand his point of view better, things can settle down to a reasonable debate.
That's not to say they're always going to agree. But eventually, they'll acknowledge they're part of the same club, and respect each other accordingly.
|They have to realize that it isn't a duel to the death. |
Newspapers are in serious trouble.
In fact, major newspapers are folding, [nysun.com] while others are cutting staff, or on the financial brink.
It may well be a duel to the death.
|It may well be a duel to the death. |
Sooner is better for me. :)
So called "reporting", mass-media or even the 'net, really gets my motor running. :)
And that smilie above is not that jovial.
Interesting point, Jake. I think that some types of UGC, like forums, for example, encourage conflicting points of view. In a good community, a false assertion by one member will usually be corrected by other members. The reader has to make a judgment call as to who is likely the most credible. It may be tougher for a random visitor, who doesn't know bakedjake from friedfred, but anyone who hangs out in a community quickly learns who has their head screwed on, who has irrational beliefs, etc.
Wikipedia is kind of an interesting example of UGC, because any discussion (corrections, revisions, disagreements, etc.) happens off the main page. The casual visitor sees only the current version of the content.
The UGC which has the most difficulties right now is the review category. As reviews become really popular (try and book a hotel without being afforded the opportunity to read reviews), the motivation to manipulate keeps increasing. False reviews have always been around, but I see the level of effort that goes into manipulating reviews on the rise.
|They don't hold back to REMOVE existing references, and replace them with "better" ones. Now the "better" references point to things made after their article existed, and match their content better |
"Who controls the past controls the future:
who controls the present controls the past."
- from "1984" by George Orwell
I can't figure out if the novel 1984 was insightful or retrospective, (it was written in 1949)... history seems to repeat itself... history seems to repeat itself... history...
We are all media victims -- if we choose to consume media like we do McDonald's burgers and fries... who cares about the saturated fat and the corporate profits -- it's fast, easy and tastes good.
"Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see."
- Edgar Allen Poe (c. 1845)
BTW - I checked Google Books, (to see scans of the actual printed books these quotes come from), and the Poe Society and other resources for the quotes.. I DID NOT use WikiPedia as a reference...<grin>.
I dislike WikiPedia intensely. It panders to the lowest common denominator. It is controlled by vested interests. I do not use it to check "facts". Ever.
I have edited several technical articles with blatant untruths, obvious errors, and pure junk content - and seen those edits reverted within 10 to 15 minutes.
I found it a waste of time to get involved. Not interested.
ah, good, we have found the cause of the current financial melt down - Wikipedia - now I suppose we just have to lobby the Feds to eliminate it and all will be well again :p
|The title of this "thread" is a bit misleading. This is really about the legitimacy of Wikipedia... Which in my opinion is NOT user-generated content. It is highly controlled, reviewed and edited. |
And Wheel, you are my hero.
|I think people have gravitated to the 'news' or the 'facts' they liked for a long time. |
This is probably the most astute comment in the thread, IMHO.
Does everyone truly believe mainstream media has ceased to function as it should, and we're all doomed to be reading unedited blogs of pundits for the rest of our lives? Or is my problem that I'm asking webmasters for an opinion, which is natually a biased group. ;)
While everyone should realize that all media sources must be biased, does anyone truly think that the content of, say, The Economist, is not relatively intelligent and thoughtful?
Is it possible that mainstream media will evolve to become more objective because of the internet? It seems like the internet could help to hold the media to a higher standard.
No one seems surprised that this Wikipedia entry possibly set the tone for journalists for a couple of years on this particular issue. Why is that? As a society, have we accepted Wikipedia as the defacto resource on everything, even in the face of its flaws?
Is journalism dead?
|In fact, major newspapers are folding, while others are cutting staff, or on the financial brink. |
Is that a business model problem or a trust problem? I think a large part of the reason that major newspapers are folding is because major streams of revenue are being killed by the Internet. Classifieds, job postings, etc. That has nothing to do with the accuracy of reporting or the trust (or lack thereof) of the editorial content of the paper.
Then again, perhaps trust (or lack thereof) is indeed killing readership and therefore hurting the effectiveness of their advertising offerings.
I'm having a hard time coming to terms with the lack of interest in objective news reporting. I understand that op-ed reporting and pundits definitely get eyeballs, which will drive advertising dollars.
|UGC, and all the grassroots bloggers and internet media are excellent, as they're 'by the people'. Commercial interests mean little and thus don't necessarily bias much in that sphere. |
Really? There is advertising on The Huffington Post and The Drudge Report. Do you think that the commercial interest isn't there?
It may be more correct to say that new sources on the internet are pre-biased when deployed, and advertisers may want to reach those biased audiences.
Thanks for this thread, methinks a lot of us are commenting based on what we percieve to be our own self interest.
Afterall, most here are self published self edited bloggers , and generators of content
We need to believe that what we're doing has the moral high ground and the rights of the situation.
I use wikipedia a lot, but that use is always tinged with worry at the accuracy of the multitude of facts quoted in each article.
There are reasons why it costs lot of money for large textbooks and sensitive biographies to reach the shop shelf.
Its manifestly impossible, IMHO, for the lone blogger, or forum poster, or wikipedia type organisation to replicate what centuries of experience and litigation have wrought upon the formal/traditional publishing world
This is not to say that anyone has a lock on the future outcome of this particuler challenge
>>>I think a large part of the reason that major newspapers are folding is because major streams of revenue are being killed by the Internet. Classifieds, job postings, etc. That has nothing to do with the accuracy of reporting or the trust (or lack thereof) of the editorial content of the paper.
Well, that's true enough. But I saw an opportunity to rant about mainstream media, and I seized it.
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