16
Aug
10

wikipedia’s false information loop

Wiki Strength: Wikipedia is editable by anyone.
Wiki Weakness: Wiki fact checking policy takes information from newspapers as fact.

After reading Laurel Papworth’s blog post about how the “The Big Chill” festival in Herefordshire, UK was originally named “The Wanky Balls Festival” I just had to find out about some more wikipedia stuff ups in the media.

I found a report on Slashdot that highlights a particular case where these two facts combined to form a false wiki entry about German politician with a really long name.  When rumors first surfaced that Karl would be appointed his post as minister of economic affairs someone edited his Wikipedia entry and added the name Wilhelm (to make it Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Wilhelm Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg).   Both German and international media soon picked up the incorrect name and published various reports in newspapers and on TV without realizing the error.   Meanwhile, the wiki entry was reverted with a request for the evidence of name which was promptly supplied by spiegel.de where an article refers to Mr. von und zu Guttenberg using his ‘full name’  yet, while the quote might have been real, the full name looks as if to have been looked up on Wikipedia when the bogus edit was in place. Thus the circle was closed: Wikipedia states a false fact, a reputable media outlet A copies the false fact, and later media outlet A outlet is then provided as the foundation to verify the false information to Wikipedia.”

This really just highlights the importance of checking information and the fact that if  tools like Wikis and social media are to be used in the workplace some structure must remain.  In the workplace the deliberate planting of bogus information might be less likely but would be focused closer on accidental errors.  Perhaps something as simple as still allowing anyone to be able to edit articles, but to have a certain review process in place in the form of assigning someone relevant (like a manager) and getting them to just follow an RSS feed to check updates on a weekly basis.

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