Archive for August, 2007
Truth and fact are at the core of an encyclopedia, be it “user-edited” or otherwise. Wikipedia is hollow at the core, because it subordinates truth to consensus and a passive compliance that it calls “civility.” This flaw has crippled its credibility, and will continue to do so as time marches on.
A thicket of Wikipedia “pillars,” “policies,” and guidelines give lip service to the truth, but the reality is different: Wikipedia’s users routinely remove verified facts from articles, and their actions are routinely upheld by administrators. As a result, no Wikipedia article can be considered reliable by its reader.
This is increasingly apparent in colleges, which have begun to forbid students from citing Wikipedia in their research. The general public is catching on as well, as a consequence of a series of revelations including a senior Wikipedia administrator’s fabrication of academic credentials (with the knowledge of Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales) and the revision of encyclopedia entries by corporations and government entities… Read the rest of this entry »
How can you trust the truth of Wikipedia’s articles if you can’t even trust the truth about their own history?
If you are like most people, you aren’t quite sure about how Wikipedia started. So you start off by checking out Wikipedia’s own entry on History of Wikipedia. You would assume that it would be correct, because they should know their own history. Then we get the question of trust. Do we trust that Wikipedia is accurate about itself? They have a policy on Neutral Point of View, so in theory we should be able to trust them. But at the same time, would we trust anyone when talking about themselves? A little research will uncover that Larry Sanger considers himself to be co-founder with Jimbo Wales, while Jimbo Wales considers himself to be the sole founder. Wikitruth, who seems to know a lot about such things, highlights how important that issue is. So you might be led to believe that that is the only issue, and that, thankfully, it is now listed in some form at least, in the article about the history of Wikipedia.
The problem is that there is more to it than that.
Michael Moore, creator of the documentary “Sicko” that criticises the US health system, has now targetted Ted Frank, who is a lawyer who has defended Merck in cases involving Vioxx, who were adversely affected by the movie and is hyper-critical of Michael Moore. Wikipedia’s response has been to label Michael Moore’s web site as an attack site, to delete all references to it, and to go out of their way to protect and support Ted Frank (Wikipedia user THF), including suggestions that he was “outed”, even though he originally called himself TedFrank on Wikipedia, only recently changed it to THF, and is a public figure with a Wikipedia article written about him.
To borrow from the “Brady Bunch” theme song, here’s the story… of a man named Jimmy…
Wikimedia Foundation Board of Directors includes: Jimmy Wales (Chairman Emeritus) and Michael E. Davis (Treasurer). Wikimedia Foundation also enjoys the services of a former Board member, who remains a member of the Communications Committee of the Wikimedia Foundation and also chairs the Foundation’s Advisory Board: Angela Beesley.
Contrast the above list of individuals with a list of key players at the for-profit Wikia, Inc.: Jimmy Wales (co-founder), Michael E. Davis (Treasurer and Secretary), Angela Beesley (co-founder and vice president for community relations).
Non-profit and for-profit board members and accountants both have fiduciary duties to act in the best interest of their organizations. By various laws and governance principles they have to recuse themselves or avoid involvement when there is a conflict of interest. Even a perceived conflict can be corrosive to governance and is sometimes prohibited because donors and volunteers lose faith. Someone who is on the board of Wikimedia Foundation or prepares its finances and also has a financial stake in Wikia should be very careful about taking positions within Wikimedia properties that could benefit Wikia by directing traffic there, banning things from Wikipedia so as to distinguish it from a commercial site, making Wikipedia less attractive to constituents than Wikia, etc. Actions that seem to raise a conflict might include hiring personnel from the volunteer Foundation to work at the for-profit corporation, installing Wikia, Inc. employees into positions of power within Foundation properties, selectively banning some commercial links while allowing others, travel and speaking engagements for the Foundation that are also used to drum up support for the for-profit venture, etc.
It would appear that all of these warning signals have been played out in reality at the Wikimedia Foundation. Read the rest of this entry »
Ordinarily, updates go at the bottom somewhere, but this particular update basically destroys the whole point of this post.
Ludwig de Braeckeleer, the person whose article is at the centre of this blog post, has retracted his statement that Virgil Griffith was hired by Wikipedia to create the Wikipedia scanner.Â In his post, he says:
“On July 26, OhmyNews alleged that Wikipedia may have been infiltrated by Intelligence Agencies. The story attracted more than 50,000 readers in just three days, was highly debated on the Web, and translated in several languages.(*)”
“(*) This article has been revised. “
He didn’t even go so far as to suggest why he had made the mistake, or to apologise, or anything else.Â Bad form, Ludwig, bad form!
There is still a miniscule chance that the original statement was still true, but if that is the case then Ludwig (or Ohmynews) were presenting extremely bad form by backing down.Â To make such a statement, stated as fact, and then to retract it with no explanation is really terrible.Â It has the result of greatly improving Wikipedia’s image, and of taking all of us here at Wikipedia Review for a ride.
I am keeping the rest of this blog post for the sake of an archive.Â Bad form, Ludwig!
On 13 August 2007, Cal Tech computation and neural-systems graduate student Virgil Griffith released what he calls the “Wikipedia Scanner”, which is available over the web for all to see here.
Within a larger Wikipedia Review message thread, a comment was made that Wikia officials say, “Wikimedia and Wikia are completely unconnected. There is no financial, legal, or any other connection between the two…”
That’s like asking the Bush Administration if there is a connection between Big Oil’s influence on the administration and the decision to go to war in Iraq. I’m pretty sure you’ll be told “there’s no financial, legal, or any other connection between the oil industry and the Commander In Chief”.
I’m not even going to get into the staffing “connections”, but you may want to look into the roles of Jimmy Wales, Angela Beesley, Michael E. Davis, and (until he was discovered to be lying about his credentials) Ryan Jordan, vis-a-vis Wikia and the Wikimedia Foundation. Each of these holds (or held) prominent positions in both entities. In the real world, this usually generates some measure of separation to avoid perceived or actual “conflict of interest”, but how well is it actually being done over there? Gil Penchina (CEO of Wikia) was in attendance at Wikimania 2007. Why is that, if he’s “completely unconnected“?
I would say having 9,460 outbound links from Wikipedia to Wikia is most certainly not “completely unconnected” — especially considering that when Jimmy Wales authorized “nofollow”, many of the links to Wikia were exempt from that Google-dampening measure. Read the rest of this entry »
No, of course not!
That’s the simple answer, at least. After all, Wikipedia’s User:Jayjg is Bad News Personified: He’s a POV-pushin’, article-ownin’, checkuser-abusin’, personal-attackin’ son-of-a-whatever. And what’s more, he does it all completely anonymously. In effect, he’s the epitome of Wikipedia’s most questionable aspects, and yet he can hardly be said to be “getting away with it” - he’s at the center of a disproportionate number of nasty incidents that occur on Wikipedia, embattled, criticized, bashed, and targeted by pro-Wikipedians and anti-Wikipedians alike, on a near-constant basis. Very few people actually like him, sort of in the way nobody ever likes the dictator’s right-hand man, even while everyone seems to think the dictator himself is a “pretty good guy.”
And yet, I can’t help but feel rather sorry for him. Why is that, I ask myself? Read the rest of this entry »
This post was submitted by The Review’s resident Newshound, Kato.
The latest discussions on Wikipedia Review regarding Holocaust denial and Wikipedia - have served the purpose of triggering some reflections on my part on the nature of history, and the threat that Wikipedia’s model provides to our understanding of the past.
Some time ago I spent a period analyzing holocaust denial as an example of how history and truth is impacted by the distance of time. Since the end of the war, holocaust survivors and others have consciously stressed the importance of personal, lucid testimonies to counter what they rightly predicted would be a gradual debasing of truth. The level of diligence to this noble premise is quite unique. Spielberg’s Shoah foundation is just one of many examples.