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Kennedy, Byrd the Latest Victims of Wikipedia Errors


Sen. Ted Kennedy's Wikipedia page was edited to include false information yesterday after he suffered a seizure at an inauguration luncheon in the Capitol.

By Ben Pershing
As if suffering a seizure during President Obama's post-inaugural luncheon wasn't bad enough, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) endured an additional ordeal Tuesday, as did his friend, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) -- death by Wikipedia.

Kennedy, who has been undergoing treatment for brain cancer since being diagnosed last year, went into convulsions during lunch in the Capitol for Obama and members of Congress. He was taken by ambulance to Washington Hospital Center, and the chairman of the hospital's neurosurgery department later released a statement saying: "After testing, we believe the incident was brought on by simple fatigue. Senator Kennedy is awake, talking with family and friends and feeling well."

But in the period between Kennedy's seizure, which was widely reported by a throng of reporters staking out the luncheon, and later indications that the Senate veteran was doing okay, there was much confusion about the seriousness of his condition. Particularly for anyone who happened to view Kennedy's Wikipedia page, which was edited at 2:59 p.m. ET to say that he had died.

"Edward Moore 'Ted' Kennedy (born February 22, 1932- January 20, 2009) was the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts," began the erroneous entry, a version of which can be seen here. It went on to report, "Kennedy suffered a seizure at a luncheon following the Barack Obama Presidential inauguration on January 20, 2009. He was removed in a wheelchair, and died shortly after."

According to the "Revision History," which Wikipedia provides on every page, the initial error was edited in by a user with the catchy name, "Gfdjklsdgiojksdkf." Within about five minutes, other Wikipedia editors had caught the errors and fixed them. As "Rickyrab" put it: "we dunno if he's dead, ok?" Gfdjklsdgiojksdkf was warned by editors not to make any more "disruptive edits"; apparently he had also inserted "oscenities" into the entry of soccer star Mia Hamm.

Byrd, meanwhile, apparently became upset during the luncheon by his longtime colleague Kennedy's plight and decided to leave the room. Initial press reports incorrectly suggested that the 91-year-old Byrd was also taken out of the lunch due to "a medical issue," but his office later said that the West Virginian left of his own volition and was in his office "just fine."

But for a short time, Byrd's Wikipedia page also said that he was dead, though not quite as definitively as Kennedy's. At 3:08 p.m. ET, a death date of January 20, 2009 was added (see it here). But the entry below said only that he had collapsed at the luncheon -- which turned out to be untrue -- and his biography was left in the present tense (i.e. he "is" the senior senator, not "was"). The death date was removed four minutes later, as was the suggestion that Byrd had collapsed.

As Wikipedia itself acknowledges, "Allowing anyone to edit Wikipedia means that it is more easily vandalized or susceptible to unchecked information, which requires removal." In one well-publicized case, the Wikipedia biography of journalist John Seigenthaler was edited to suggest he was complicit in the assassinations of both John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. While Kennedy and Byrd's entries were fixed within minutes, Seigenthaler's was wrong for months.

Sometimes the mistakes aren't wholly the fault of Wikipedia editors. The site falsely stated last August that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had died, but that was because Bloomberg News had accidentally published Jobs' obituary. And for the sake of full disclosure, embarrassing as it might be, Capitol Briefing also once prematurely reported the death of a politician.

Kennedy probably isn't comforted by the fact that he is neither the first nor even necessarily the most famous person to be written off prematurely by Wikipedia. But he can at least take heart that he got to see Obama, whose candidacy he gave crucial support to during the primaries, sworn in as the 44th president. How do we know for sure that Obama is president now? It says so right here.

By Ben Pershing  |  January 21, 2009; 2:55 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

Umm, you're doing a disservice to Wikipedia with the headline "Wikipedia Flops Again". By your own article, you acknowledge that the Wikipedia's published procedures handle these situations properly, but your headline would prejudice people to believe Wikipedia is unreliable in general. Wikipedia might as well place on their homepage, "Washington Post Flubs Again!". And most likely more people would read it.

Posted by: DigiMark | January 21, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Actually, a correction made within a space of five minutes is a superb recommendation for the Wikipedia model.

However, the corrective aspect of Wikipedia works well only when a sufficient number of knowledgeable people are tuned into the site. It failed in addressing the calumny against Sigenthaler.

What happens when posters completely lose interest in atopic? Is it last post standing? Does it matter?

Posted by: wgmadden | January 21, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

The idea of letting anyone and everyone post information to a website, as fact, is not a good use of technology.

Posted by: rlj1 | January 21, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Lifline - Ask the Audience.

"Philbin once said that the audience's answer is statistically 95% of the time correct."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Wants_to_Be_a_Millionaire%3F

Posted by: DonJasper | January 21, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Clearly the Wikipedia model is subject to some errors at least for a short period of time. But the more impressive reality is that Wikipedia is the best available source for a very wide range of information. It can never be taken as totally definitive. But that reality is true of every source of information. I almost always find its information useful and rarely find it more problematic than scholarly sources.

Posted by: dnjake | January 21, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post can only dream of being as accurate as wikipedia.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | January 21, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Remember that Wikipedia is a "non-peer-reviewed" web page.

There are tons of mistakes on it, and it will always be that way without SIGNIFICANT moderation by reviewers.

.

Posted by: swanieaz | January 21, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Gotcha journalism, pathetic. It's of interest that wikipedia was snookered, but your snide tone bespeaks jealousy, for the medium if not the message.

As Obama advised, time to put aside childish things.

Posted by: trashandsend | January 21, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

The headline of this article is rather disingenuous as is the whole tone of this article, considering that was published by an entity that has a standing item titled "Corrections" (for the current one, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/linkset/2005/04/25/LI2005042500027.html?nid=roll_corrections). Even a publication vetted by well-paid editors assumes that it will be publishing errors. Is the Washington Post saying that a non-profit, mostly volunteer written website should be held to a higher standard than it holds itself?

Maybe the Washington Post should publish a correction of *this* article.

Posted by: multiplepov | January 21, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

This article also states that one of the two errors made yesterday was the result of incorrect "initial press reports."

Posted by: synk | January 21, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Let's see, is this error as bad as the erroneous AP report a few years ago that Bob Hope had died, or the huge headline on washpost.com that stated John Edwards had dropped out of the presidential primaries because of his wife's health, when in fact he had just announced he was staying in the primaries. Or how about the front page headline in USA Today a few years ago that stated that all 13 miners in the West Virginia coal mine had been found alive, when in fact all but one were found dead.

I don't remember your headline saying that washpost.com had flopped again, or that USA Today or the AP had flopped again, either.

wikipedia corrected its error almost immediately and, by the way, anyone who looks for minute-to-minute news on an online encyclopedia would be better served by looking at washpost.com, the AP wire, or on some online new service.

Posted by: dcc1968 | January 21, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Wikipedia is a fantastic source of information, and the same process that leaves it open to false information also allows it to be rapidly corrected.

The headline "Wikipedia flops again" is just sour grapes from tired old media, and I say that as someone who's normally swift to defend newspapers. Can we see the Post headline that said "Post flops again" over your absurd WMD coverage?

How many people read Kennedy's entry today? How many were actually misled by it (for a few moments)?

Now, how many people learned something new and true and important on Wikipedia today? Information that 10 years ago they would have given up looking for? Or simply never come across? Millions.

Wikipedia was a stunning success today, as it is every day.

Posted by: kenonwenu | January 21, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse


Thank you.

I hate wikipedia. It is snobby, "all-knowing" and usually wrong.

It makes WaPo look good by comparison.

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | January 21, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

It's simple. Wikipedia is useful as a starting point but as not an authoritative final source that you would cite in a bibliography. You should ALWAYS verify the information with another source (which might even be Wikipedia 10 minutes later); otherwise, it's no better than asking your next door neighbor what he heard about something and accepting that as an undeniable fact. If you don't know who or where something came from, you have no basis on which to judge its integrity.

Posted by: ComfortablyDumb | January 21, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I heard that Byrd had collapsed on the radio - I believe WTOP. That story was wrong by sources other than Wikipedia.

I love the comment posted "Washington Post can only dream of being as accurate as Wikipedia." Nice!

Posted by: Reader1000 | January 21, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Are you guys going to change the headline to something more accurate, or will we have to keep pointing out how stupid it is? "Washpost flubs again"

Posted by: whatthe2 | January 21, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Wikipedia is not an authoritative source on anything. It is a great tool for both the layman and the expert to get some background knowledge on a topic that they may know nothing about, but nobody has ever suggested that Wikipedia is the only source of information.

For what it is, Wikipedia works quite well. If the average guy attempts to contribute to an article about mitochondria and completely gets their facts wrong, there is a great chance that an expert in the field will correct the gaffe. The beauty of this is that there will always be constant discussion from all interested parties regarding the veracity of the information supplied. Can this happen with traditional media?

Wikipedia, while not peer-reviewed, is still heavily moderated by volunteers who spend countless hours of their time to make sure that all forms of vandalism are removed. The only people "suffering" due to Wikipedia are the manufacturers of Encyclopedias, who now cannot sell their overpriced, outdated books to the masses.

For the most part, most huge omissions or errors on Wikipedia are fixed within a matter of minutes. If you look hard enough, as with ANYTHING, you may find mistakes that have been overlooked. That's life.

Posted by: ClandestineBlaze | January 21, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Im laughing at all the basement dwellers running to the defence of wikipedia.

nothing free in this world is good, and wikipedia is free for a reason.

Remind yourselves whenever you come across a poorly written article or a factually incorrect piece, that wikipedia didn't just occur this way on its own.

Its the vapid users that treat the website like an online game, competing for influence and illusory power.

They probably think that they're the futures version of Alexandria, the Civilian Library of Congress.

Time will show that any real person with an IQ of more than 100 will compare Wikipedia to the collective wisdom of truck stop bathroom wall scribbling.

Posted by: Luc111oneone | January 21, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Pershing flubs again.

Posted by: barbnc | January 21, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

It is very obvious that the Washington Post is extremely jealous of Wikipedia. To the Washington Post: NOW IS THE TIME TO STOP BEING CHILDISH!

Posted by: vision48 | January 21, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

To Luc111oneone who says "nothing free in this world is good."

I say to you "The best things in life are free."

Posted by: vision48 | January 21, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

IT'S TIME FOR TED KENNEDY TO PAY FOR THE DEATH OF MARY JO KOPECHNE. HE NEVER GOES TO JAIL FOR THAT CRIME. YES, HE CAN ...STAND ABOVE THE LAW BECAUSE OF HIS WEALTH AND POWER, BUT HE CAN ESCAPE PUNISHMENT FROM GOD!!!

The Chappaquiddick incident refers to the circumstances surrounding the 1969 death of Mary Jo Kopechne, a former staff member in Senator Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign. Edward Kennedy was driving a car with Kopechne as his passenger when Kennedy drove off Dike Bridge into Poucha Pond between Chappaquiddick Island and Cape Poge barrier beach. Kennedy swam to safety, but Kopechne died in the car. Kennedy left the scene and did not call authorities until after Kopechne's body was discovered the following day. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and was sentenced to two months in jail, suspended.
In January 1970, an inquest into Kopechne's death took place in Edgartown, Massachusetts. At the request of Kennedy's lawyers, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered the inquest be conducted in secret. Judge James A. Boyle presided over the inquest and his conclusion was that "negligent driving appears to have contributed to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne."
Under Massachusetts law, Boyle could have ordered Kennedy's arrest, but he chose not to do so. District Attorney Dinis chose not to pursue Kennedy for manslaughter.

Posted by: TIMNGUYEN1 | January 21, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Ben, what's with the agenda here? We at Wikipedia continually tell people to check all sources on our articles and validate their information. Unlike The Washington Post, we don't ask people to trust us, but to question us, yet here you are admitting yourself that the veracity of "reliable" mainstream news sources are creating "victims" of people by reporting their deaths. But open-source editing is creating the real victims? Even when it the information is up for a miniscule amount of time?

You don't even say there were any consequences - so how is this news? Is this seriously the choicest story you could have written about post-Inauguration? Is this what they taught you in journalism school is hard news?

So what's your agenda, Ben? I think at one point some random person or another has written on every living human's article that they are gay. Maybe Larry Craig will be upset about that, but this blurb you've written shows how base the MSM is getting with their blogs.

Judy Miller, Jayson Blair, WMD, releasing news reports that people are dead, and making it difficult for the subjects of your articles to get you to correct your own errors - that is the real story.

David Shankbone

Posted by: DavidShankbone | January 21, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Nothing new. Wikipedia continually allows unaccountable, anonymous "editors" to defame others, often leaving the defamation in place long enough to be viewed thousands of times. The problem is perpetuated by the complacent attitude of Wikipedian fanatics seen here.

See also: http://wikipediareview.com/blog/20081005/wikipedia-vandalism-study-us-senators/

Posted by: geoff6 | January 21, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Wikipedia was corrected in five minutes. The mainstream media gets facts wrong, and often doesn't even retract them.

The fact is that Wikipedia may be single most useful information tool ever made. That's WHY it gets so much traffic.

They are leaving you guys in the dust.

Posted by: gormley14412 | January 21, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

All the crap in these comments is being published by the Washington Post. From whcih we conclude.....nada

Posted by: DrG3 | January 21, 2009 7:37 PM | Report abuse

big news! Wiki is no more impervious to error than the WP!

Posted by: dubya19391 | January 21, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

A more detailed analysis of the vandalism of articles about U.S. senators was conducted recently, and it's a bit of a shame that the Washington Post did not reference it.

The 100 articles about the U.S. senators were assessed over the course of one calendar quarter. The study...

http://www.mywikibiz.com/Wikipedia_Vandalism_Study

...found that these articles were stocked with abusive misinformation about 6.8% of the time, and that the average time an error lasted was 1,440 minutes.

Not very impressive. But the pro-Wikipedia cultists who comment here will patently refuse to address these truths. They prefer the rampant mythology that Wikipedia is practically perfectly correct, almost every moment of the day.

* For over 72 hours, the Wikipedia article about Senator John McCain of Arizona said that he was "born in Florida in the then American-controlled Panama Canal Zone". The page was viewed about 93,758 times in this condition before it was corrected.

* For nearly 11 hours, the Wikipedia article about McCain said that he "is also know to have sucked a few cocks in his life as well". The page was viewed about 14,115 times in this condition before it was corrected.

* For more than 75 days, the Wikipedia article about Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon said that "political pandering [has] been cited as possible reasons for his unusual positions". The page was viewed about 10,029 times in this condition before it was corrected.

* For more than 46 days, the Wikipedia article about Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington said that she "was voted most attractive United States Senator, among current and former members". The page was viewed about 7,806 times in this condition before it was corrected.

* For over 135 hours, the Wikipedia article about Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska said that he "attended Redondo Union High School, participating in kinky sex adventures.". The page was viewed about 3,132 times in this condition before it was corrected.

* For over 70 hours, the Wikipedia article about Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas said that she "is the only member of the [[Texas Super Justice League]] capable of feeling human emotions.". The page was viewed about 677 times in this condition before it was corrected.

* For over 56 hours, the Wikipedia article about Senator Harry Reid of Nevada said that he was "married to his right hand". The page was viewed about 1,383 times in this condition before it was corrected.

* For nearly 11 hours, the Wikipedia article about Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut described him as "a hideous, coffee-drinking Jew". The page was viewed about 446 times in this condition before it was corrected.

Posted by: thekohser | January 21, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Wikipedia is a wonderful online service. It is not perfect because mistakes are made. Better still, they are rectified quickly. What's wrong with that?

Posted by: robertjames1 | January 21, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

"Let's see, is this error as bad as the erroneous AP report a few years ago that Bob Hope had died, or the huge headline on washpost.com that stated John Edwards had dropped out of the presidential primaries because of his wife's health, when in fact he had just announced he was staying in the primaries."

Speaking of John Edwards, what about the various "oversights" on the part of the WP? ;)

Posted by: dubya19391 | January 21, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Articles on Wikipedia are written and maintained by volunteers. Over time, articles become more complete and more accurate - it's an iterative process. The volunteer writers and editors have different roles: writing initial text, adding substantive edits, doing minor fixes, etc. For any one article, there's a basic core of people who maintain it over time, and who will have the article on a "Watch List" which automatically informs them of recent edits, with the result that vandalism and disruptive edits can usually be caught quickly - almost like an "immune system", as it were. When you read Wikipedia articles, keep in mind that they are the results of a social process, and exercise some skepticism and critical thinking, with a bit of cross-checking here and there.

Posted by: John_D | January 21, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

I also see right now that Caroline Kennedy has withdrawn her name from consideration for appointment to the Senate seat from NY. This is on "Breaking News" on the home page of washpost.com right now. It's a report from "unnamed sources".

NBC now reports that this is not true.

So, what about it, washpost.com? Will you follow this up?

Posted by: dcc1968 | January 21, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

I hope that the Washington Post and its editors and comments page and Wikipedia and its reviewers and users begin a syncopated loop of mutual referencing that becomes a new, consolidated publication called The Washipedia Pikist in which the content is exhaustively devoid of reference to events in the world save corrections by the writers of what was previously said amongst them.

Posted by: jstenarclark | January 21, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Dewey Wins!

Posted by: vision48 | January 21, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

It was only wishful thinking regarding Byrd and Kennedy. Unfortunately, it was not to be, yet.....

Posted by: surfer-joe | January 21, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

99% of Wikipedia doesn't involve biographies of any living person. It's only the politically contentious stuff that's likely to get messed with maliciously. The same kind of stuff that's often reported unreliably by all other sources.

Super-contentious stuff like, say, Palestine-Israeli history is also carefully moderated because both sides police each other's facts.

There will always be a few mistakes and even lies on a few pages for a little while, but can anyone seriously deny that Wikipedia has informed vastly more people than it's misled?

Wikipedia is free and completely open-access, you can even reproduce its pictures without asking permission or paying a penny. It has no ads. I think it's a rather noble project and it baffles me that people would attack such a free gift. But then, some people would launch a SAM missile at Santa's sleigh if they got the chance.

Posted by: Bud0 | January 21, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

What is the word or phrase for when this kind of thing happens? When a media giant who got their reporting repeatedly and spectacularly wrong during the entire runup to an unnecessary war - resulting in hundreds of thousands of people dying - and then took over two years to issue a mea culpa, mocks an online encyclopedia for being incorrect for five minutes?

Is it "unfathomably immense irony"? Or is the phrase I'm looking for "disgraceful hypocrisy"? I was kind of searching for something that captures the unselfconscious gall of it however. Someone help me out here.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 21, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

"Why it's Snake Pliskin! Snake, I heard you were dead!"

Posted by: vision48 | January 21, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

I meant to add that Wikipedia has become one of the most phenomenally successful and CONSISTENTLY RELIABLE institutions available to modern man. The Washington Post would consider itself fortunate to one day approach in reputation the position wikipedia now enjoys.

Sounds like we have ourselves a little case of institutional jealousy here.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 21, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

"Washington Post Flops Again" with this non-news article.

Posted by: hisroc | January 21, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

You know, it's true. For the last thirty or forty seconds, simply because of my lack of departure from the lower half of this comments page, I have had doubt sown. Yes, dear editors or, really, random archivist, websearcher, stalker, or even person whom I could not resist to tell of my repeated wits upon herewith pages, I, at this continuing moment, wonder if the renamed Dutch colony's inheritor as the state of New York still entertains in the mind of its accidental governor the possibility of the daughter of a former leader of the country I was coincidentally born in might take a temporary seat in a body named from the Latin word for "old," or if he may no longer have the luxury of considering the Boston Regina--and only by a doubt and wonder invested in me by these vexing accounts stamped and dated about my own, however close or thousands of miles away, with social and personal ministrations that I can imagine only by conjure or speculation, but what's consequences are as removed from each important incident of my life as how much I happen to like peanut butter has to do with the price of bolts in Norway (nothing against Norway). And yet I still sojourn through the gray scroll on my screen, blue-pill cursor close behind to see what the banner above might hold, however much it may overturn my preconceptions and prejudices, so deeply installed by the missives of my peers. Oh truth! oh pixels! oh, Post, my Post, what shall I do?

Posted by: jstenarclark | January 21, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Kennedy and Byrd, though they don't look a day over a thousand, are happily still with us and, although they really ought to consider stepping down, are wished many days of happiness and joy in their retirement. And Wikipedia, shame on you for not being perfect like the Washington Post.

Posted by: vision48 | January 21, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

I guess I'm one of the "pro-Wikipedia cultists" referred to above by the poster "thekosher". For what it's worth, I've never posted, edited or otherwise contributed to wikipedia in any way - a point of no small guilt to me as I use the thing all the time and owe them a huge debt of gratitude. However I'd like to point out a few fallacies and downright misleading things in that post by "thekosher".

First of all, as another poster has pointed out, the vast majority of pages at wikipedia are noncontroversial and hence draw little to no vandalism, ever. I've personally never, in fact, come across ANY vandalism in all the many many times I have used it. I don't know what their agenda is/was, but the "study" cited by thekosher seems to have deliberately chosen political figures for its "test of accuracy" for wikipedia. Picking such a knowingly charged topic area is an example of what a decent statistician would call introducing a "sample bias". If you have it out for wikipedia, look a priori for a weak point, and then pretend that it is representative of the whole body. Very classy indeed.

The second point is the misleading use of descriptive statistics. Thekosher's post cherrypicked the finding of that "study" that the "average time an error lasted was 1,440 minutes". Thekosher neglected to note that the MEDIAN time was only 6 minutes. Why is this distinction important? Well, consider how the two statistics work. A mean can be skewed by a single value that is an outlier way off from the rest of the data. Think of a room with ten people in it: Bill Gates, a pediatrician, a school teacher, an engineer, a WalMart employee, and five others of moderate or low income. The mean income in that room is likely to be in the millions of dollars simply because of Bill's presence. But is that representative of the room? Of course not. A better statistic for non-normally distributed variables (you can look that up at wikipedia if you don't know what it means) such as these is the median. What it means in terms of the senators' online pages is that a small handful of the errors persisted for days or weeks, while the VAST MAJORITY were fixed within five minutes. Guess which ones sat uncorrected? Probably the ones of more obscure senators who were not getting the traffic. I am extremely skeptical of the linear interpolation method blithely used to try to get the "errant dwell" times cited in that "study".

Posted by: B2O2 | January 21, 2009 10:58 PM | Report abuse

I see that the link to this breathless blog post has been taken off the WaPo's main webpage (where it had sat amongst the top stories of this most historic of days for who knows how long).

Kudos to the Post for correcting their online error almost as fast as Wikipedia corrected theirs.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 21, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse

B202, you seem to have a lot of time. Who is "thekosher"? Are you dyslexic?

Bravo, for catching me on my median/mean trick. Not many pick up on that, but typically those who do are also capable of understanding other facts about Wikipedia that float around our interesting world of spin, myth, and hype. You seem to have missed out on that latter skill.

You state:

"The vast majority of pages at wikipedia are noncontroversial and hence draw little to no vandalism, ever. I've personally never, in fact, come across ANY vandalism in all the many many times I have used it."

Wow, B202. That's an impressive set of data that you've compiled there. I should be rushing to believe you, on the sound, scientific basis of YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND INTUITION.

In the meantime, you may want to check into a University of Minnesota study that was conducted a couple of years ago. It found that the chance of obtaining "damaged views" on Wikipedia is increasing, geometrically, over time. It's not getting better, it is getting worse.

As for your personal experience of NEVER coming across vandalism in any Wikipedia article, here's a non-controversial article on Wikipedia with a grossly non-factual lie inserted into it, which lasted for 601 days. Please find it, and get back to us, explaining how this is "different" or "an exception to the rule" or "not really that important". The vandalism is in one of the first 8 paragraphs, and it involves the 16th president of the United States (not exactly a "controversial" figure here in the early 21st century).

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jackson,_Michigan&oldid=262550036

Good luck on your assignment, B202.

Posted by: thekohser | January 21, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

By the way, there are about 334,900 biographies of living people on the English Wikipedia. There are a total of 2,709,000 articles. So the reputations of living people are managed by about 12.3% of Wikipedia.

An earlier Wikipedia cultist (the esteemed "Bud0") suggested that living people constitute about 1% of Wikipedia's subject matter.

Folks are welcome to trust his statement, unsupported by any statistics, or they may trust me, providing a source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Living_people

Posted by: thekohser | January 21, 2009 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy died at Obama's inauguration....


Now the Washington Post website includes the same misinformation that Wikipedia did! Are you going to write an article about that too?

Posted by: bwwww | January 22, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

DigiMark, you're worried that the impression will be that Wikipedia is "unreliable in general?" Wikipedia, by its very nature, is fundamentally unreliable in principle! If you rely on collective information over authoritative knowledge, you are asking for trouble.

Posted by: mickey_dougal | January 22, 2009 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Ben, I apologize - in my comment above I questioned what you learned in journalism school. You only have a B.A. in political science. That's the beginning and end of your academic credentials. So, it was an unfair and erroneous comment on my part.

David Shankbone

Posted by: DavidShankbone | January 25, 2009 12:26 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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