Archive for the ‘Accuracy’ Category
Lessons Learned (Again)
How much time should pass before you can say, with reasonable assurance, that the media has utterly failed to follow up on a story you thought was important?
It’s been over three weeks since the story of Ron Livingston’s lawsuit against “John Doe” - for using Wikipedia, Facebook, and other websites to spread a gay-rumor hoax - was plastered all over the internet. Maybe that isn’t enough time, but so far at least, the not-so-anonymous John Doe spreading the false rumor has gotten away with it completely. Livingston will probably drop the lawsuit, since the culprit presumably has no money, lives in a different country, and (having been caught) isn’t likely to continue his antics for the foreseeable future. And, by extension, Wikipedia will have gotten away with it too, despite having facilitated the whole thing for almost two years.
It’s fair to say that my own feelings in this regard constitute sour grapes. After all, our intention in researching this situation and in identifying Mark Binmore as the culprit (though WR member Tarantino had the scoop on that, not me) was to point out a serious weakness in Wikipedia’s BLP policy, and by extension, to shame Wikipedia into finally doing something substantive about the overall problem. Every little bit helps, but it looks like anyone who thought this case might be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, and caused Wikipedia to finally implement preventative features against online defamation, was mistaken.
So what did we learn? Read the rest of this entry »
“Lee Dennison” does not exist.
He’s a fictional character, made up by a man named Mark Binmore, a sufferer of something that might be termed “Multiple Online Identity Disorder” - though I prefer the term “Wikiphrenia,” just because I personally own the domain name.
Anyone who appears on the internet claiming that “Casting Director Lee Dennison” is “dating” someone (always a male celebrity) is lying, and indeed, is probably Binmore himself, using one of his many pseudonyms. These include “Lee Kaay,” “Cheekychops,” “Dean Saunders,” “Harry Dennison,” “mickeybloke,” “Ben Humble,” “Jamie Lowe,” “Ram Sweet,” “Pukkabosh,” “nick baker,” “cheekymonkey,” “Fergis,” “Luc Ferrier,” and “Lawrence Davis,” among others. All of these pseudonymous accounts, on Wikipedia, Facebook, and literally dozens of celebrity-gossip message boards and blogs, are operated by the same person.
Binmore himself apparently works for a London-based Alcohol Rehabilitation Program called Foundation66, and also appears to own (at least partially) a Bed & Breakfast in Beziers, France, called the Maison de l’Orb. He has authored a non-existent book of his copious amounts of poetry, and he is also the registered principal of a telecommunications equipment company called “Qualitiwork Ltd.,” the address for which is a mail drop also used by the fictitious companies “Lee Dennison Associates,” “Fushion UK,” “Fushion Pukka Bosh,” and “Kitty Lips.” All of these seem to have been made up out of whole cloth, some with no supporting web presences whatsoever.
In fact, the closest Binmore has been to an actual motion picture production is probably his own basement.
When an online encylopedia goes bad
This entry comes from Guest Blogger RMHED, who probably doesn’t really care how you pronounce his name.
There sits on Wikipedia a short biography of a minor British showbiz personality - let’s call him Mr X. It is unloved and unwatched. How do I know this? Well, for over 7 weeks now, the article has contained two paragraphs of creative nonsense about Mr. X’s career. The first paragraph was added on April 22nd, the second on May 14th, and neither of these additions were referenced. Both paragraphs are humorous, especially the longer one, which goes into detail about a very downmarket game show Mr. X supposedly hosted. Needless to say, this game show is entirely fictional, but it was just plausible enough to cause me to actually check to make sure.
These two paragraphs now make up more than half of Mr. X’s short biography. Shouldn’t this poor abandoned biographical article be deleted? Or does its continued existence really help Wikipedia fulfill its mission of encompassing all human knowledge?
The whole debate over whether or not Wikia’s Jimmy Wales should be referred to as the “co-founder” of Wikipedia, along with Dr. Larry Sanger, has always been more than a little amusing. Mr. Wales was the CEO of Bomis, Inc., the pornographic link-farm site/company that employed Sanger to develop an online encyclopedia project from January 2000 to March 2002. As such, Mr. Wales now assumes - perhaps rightly - that he can legally declare anything produced by Sanger during that time to be a “work for hire,” and therefore take sole credit for it. After all, money talks; employees simply get laid off.
Meanwhile, since speaker’s fees evidently make up a large portion of Mr. Wales’ personal income, the reduction in status he could suffer by being commonly referred to as merely the “co-founder” of Wikipedia might make him a less marketable commodity on the lecture circuit. Yikes! Without these fees, Mr. Wales might have to rely on his income as CEO of Wikia, Inc. just to survive - clearly not an attractive prospect, given the nature of Wikia’s business model.
But why all the fuss over one word, “co-founder,” when that word isn’t even accurate in referring to either of these two giants of unpaid-volunteer online content aggregation? Wouldn’t it be better for all concerned to use a term that’s more descriptive of what these two men actually did, like “co-instigator,” “co-conspirator,” or “co-defiler of Western educational traditions”? At least that way, there wouldn’t be all this petty sniping, since presumably there would be less objection to sharing such a title in the first place.
Then again, if people would just use accurate terminology to describe Wikipedia itself (i.e., Multi-User Dungeon, rather than “encyclopedia”), maybe this entire dispute would be unnecessary. Read the rest of this entry »
Several months ago, a number of Wikipedia Review members joined me in a project to methodically enumerate one calendar quarter’s worth (4Q 2007) of edit data underlying the 100 Wikipedia articles about the (then) current United States Senators.
What we found was alarming at times. While most vandalized edits were brief in duration and clearly juvenile in content, a substantial portion of edits were plainly intended to be hurtful and defamatory against the Senators — and they lasted for not just minutes, but hours, days, even weeks at a time.
Using the Wikipedia page traffic tool, we attempted to interpolate the number of “page views” that each Senator’s article likely witnessed during the damaged edit. The damaged edit that saw the greatest number of page views before correction regarded Senator John McCain: “McCain was born in Florida in the then American-controlled Panama Canal Zone“, which lasted for over 3 days, under about 93,000 views where nobody noticed or bothered to correct this obvious error.
Just for fun, I took a look at how many Google hits there are for the phrase “I love Wikipedia” (54,000) versus those for “I hate Wikipedia” (542). Are you serious? At first glance, this might suggest there are perhaps 1,000 Wikipedia lovers for every hater! That’s disturbing.
But, fear not. As we look at the Top 10 sites that Google returns for “I love Wikipedia”, we see the following:
- A mis-ranked page from Wikipedia about the country music album, “Everything I Love”, which has nothing to do with loving Wikipedia.
- A Flickr page depicting a clearly deranged cultist breeding another likely Wikipedian.
- A “Bestuff.com” voting page, which includes a Google-friendly quote from 2 years ago, by someone named Adrian who said (incoherently), “I love Wikipedia, funnily i’m using these days for also tech specs on standards. It’s just sooo good.”
- Next is a blog, “Journeys of Jack Tripper” who only loves Wikipedia because there was at one time an article about a EuroLeague basketball player which stated, “He was the 6th pick in the 2008 NBA draft by the New York Knicks. He was promptly traded for 4 pounds of fresh mozzarella cheese.” Yeah, we love Wikipedia in that way, too. Read the rest of this entry »
Another accomplished academic fell afoul of Jimbo Wales’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ this week. This latest calumny involved the usual Star Chamber trial and subsequent banishment imposed by anonymous figures lacking published credentials. This week’s victim was a well-known mathematical physicist, a Director of a major research group and Professor at a major University.
His efforts to clarify the origins of a set of dubious physics equations, given undue prominence by Wikipedia, led to an attack by a mob of editors during a heated debate. Many of the professor’s adversaries openly admitted that they had no knowledge of the subject matter, but weighed in on the dispute nonetheless. The episode is discussed in this Wikipedia Review forum thread.
Two important Wikipedia related stories were published this week. These stories illustrate why people should take Wikipedia’s negative impact on our culture seriously, before it is too late.
The first report told of the collapse of the leading French Print Encyclopedia Quid, which canceled its annual publication due to lack of advance sales, citing competition from Wikipedia for the shortfall. According to the Independent Newspaper:
The book’s publisher, Robert Laffont, says the whole concept of the print encyclopedia can no longer compete with the free information available on the Internet. Quid, produced by a family team for the past 45 years, has suffered especially at the hands of the French-language version of Wikipedia, the do-it-yourself web encyclopaedia.
Meaning that a legitimate, credible body of work has become the first major conquest in Jimbo Wales’s cultural war.
In 2005, Wikipedia user Ikkyu2 wrote what was to become a well distributed and resonant criticism of Wikipedia. Though the essay was eventually deleted at the writer’s request, a copy was saved and it was hosted on another user’s wikipedia page. Very recently, this copied version was also deleted for unknown reasons.
For posterity’s sake we’ve dug up a cached version of the piece to add to our growing collection of essays. And to ensure that it doesn’t disappear down the plug hole for ever.
What’s wrong with Wikipedia
What’s wrong with Wikipedia is neatly summarized in Wikipedia:Policy, which is a very old and very entrenched official policy.
The offending text follows:
Respect other contributors. â€”Wikipedia contributors come from many different countries and cultures, and have widely different views. Treating others with respect is key to collaborating effectively in building an encyclopedia.
Then there is a list of links, which essentially are a user’s manual concerning how to implement respect for other people in a civil and effective manner. These are fine. I have no beef with them. I also have no beef with the factual accuracy of the second or third sentences of that quote. To my mind they are correct as stated.
Here is the problem: Respect other contributors, while a good guideline, is too broad. Let me explain why… Read the rest of this entry »