Wikipedia is wacky

July 9, 2008

This is a response to my classmates post on wikipedia

On Antibloggergirldc’s blog she posted about her wikiscanner report on the Indy Racing League.  In her findings the changes to the IRL wikientry were made by a few people.  It’s interesting, but make sense that most of the changes and discussion were centered around “controversy.”  Here are her observations:

Because some of the IRL edits were so old and have since been updated, I found more interesting comments on the IRL discussion and talk page. It started out much as I might expect: “I was looking at Wikipedia today and decided to see what they had on the EARL. The article wasn’t sufficiently negative, so I made some changes.” Another editor responded that “someone else might want to respond to that.”

The back & forth about controversial topics she cited was interesting.  But just look at the obsession with conflict in American culture.  Just think, everyone in America knows who Paris Hilton is, however, I doubt anyone can name any significant work she’s done.  But, she seems to always be involved in conflict and people keep watching.  Seems I’m rambling a bit…

…back OT…I agree with the current trend to reject & denounce the use wikipedia for citation on news articles and scholarly works.  Public Relations guru Steve Rubel agrees with me and asks these questions on his blog:

…when journalists cite Wikipedia articles, what happens when the facts they reference from the wiki entries change (assuming they do)? Do the reporters go back and update their articles? The news reports call more attention to the articles, potentially opening up a can of worms each time they source WIkipedia.

Here are more examples I found of rejecting & denouncing wiki as a source:  History department bans wiki; Professors reject wikipedia ; though this professor at a California University allows limited use of wikipedia.

Now, you ask, “Majorman, didn’t you just make your own original wikipedia entry on The Rocks, Inc. and significantley revise another biographical entry?” Yes, I did.  And you can use them as a good source because they have numerous citiations that will link you back to articles, official websites, and other websites.  I recommend you check the “history” of the wikipedia entry to determine if there are wacky wikipedians who wreck entries.


Wikiscanner Report: Susan E. Rice

July 7, 2008
Rice and Obama

Rice and Obama

So I chose a person I admire for this Wikiscanner report.  Susan Rice, PhD, foreign policy expert.

Some of you are thinking “what’s wikiscanner?”  Well here’s a description from the Wikipedia entry on Wikiscanner

WikiScanner (also known as Wikipedia Scanner) is a tool created by Virgil Griffith and released on August 14, 2007,[1][2] which consists of a publicly searchable database that links millions of anonymous Wikipedia edits to the organizations where those edits apparently originated, by cross-referencing the edits with data on the owners of the associated block of IP addresses. WikiScanner does not work on edits made under a username. The Associated Press reported that Griffith wanted “to create minor public relations disasters for companies and organizations [he] dislike[s].”[3]

After randomly going through a list a people I admire (General Odierno, Gov. Sebelius, General Vince Brooks, General Petreaus, Pacman Jones, Papa Smurf), I settled on Susan Rice who I met in person in November 2007.  I was curious to know what those who created her biography page on Wikipedia.

HERE ARE SOME FACTS/STATS ON SUSAN RICE’S WIKI PAGE:

Creation Date:  4 August 2005

Last Modification:  22 June 2008

# of Modifications:  80 Total

# of Modifications tracked by wikiscanner:  25 (thru 2 February 2007)

WHO IS EDITING? Perhaps as a testament to her foreign policy prowess, Susan Rice’s page has been edited by IP addresses throughout the world.  Wikipedians from New York, Washington DC, Washington state, South Africa, Austria, Thailand, Texas, Colorado, Georgia, and New Mexico have made revisions to the page.

OKAY, SO WHAT WAS INTERESTING?

  • Well, it seems Dr. Rice began her career by working at McKinsey & Company–prior to the invention of the internet (I wonder if Chelsea Clinton has returned to her job there?).  The good people at McKinsey wanted to make sure everyone knows that by adding:

“She subsequently worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, the global management consulting firm.”

  • October 25, 2006:  They also took efforts to remove controversial information about Dr. Rice’s positions and accomplishments at the State Department.  Click here for controversy.
  • April 26, 2007:  The editor from Vienna, Austria vandalized Susan Rice’s page and this was visible for over 30-days!!!
  • May 29, 2007:  The anonymous person from Georgia deleted the salacious accusation that Susan Rice:

“Served the Fatal cup of Tea that killed the acclaimed winner of of the June 12 Nigerian Presidential election Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola .”

CONCLUSION: Using the wikiscanner on Susan Rice’s page I was able to determine that there is good & bad with an encyclopedia “anyone can edit.”

Good:

  • New information beyond standard press releases and corporate bios (Over time the name of Dr. Rice’s secondary school and employment history has been expanded.  Those are linked internally to other wikipedia pages)
  • Real-time changes are made to entries (Dr. Rice’s page includes information that she is currently an adviser to Barack Obama’s campaign)

Bad:

  • Unscrupulous wikipedians can vandalize pages with the absolute worst of accusations that are totally baseless
  • Unsuspecting researchers (commonly students) can encounter vandalized entries and use them in subsequent publications.  This is even more hazardous in the age of citizen journalist

READERS:  If you’re interested in learning more about how wikiscanner works feel free to leave a comment.  Be advised new scans are being conducted this summer.  Read the Wikiscanner FAQ.