Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The disinformation highway

The disinformation highway

Is the internet a haven for chancers, spoofers and liars, as a new book claims? Or is it a truly democratic work-in-progress? Damian Corless reports

Tuesday July 31 2007

Last month I got a phone call from my bank. They'd spotted an "irregular" transaction on my credit card and they wanted to check if I'd splurged €4,500 on a diamond from an online jewellery store.

I assured them I hadn't and they told me not to worry, as the bank (meaning their customers) would absorb the cost of the internet fraud.

Last week the sinister side of the internet resurfaced again when a new form of extortion reached Ireland from cyberspace.

A number of people reported to gardai that they'd received emails from a man claiming to be a “sniper” demanding their money or their life.

The “assassin” claimed that he'd been hired to kill the recipient of the email.

However, having tailed the intended victim, he'd satisfied himself that they didn't deserve to die, and he'd call off the hit in return for a large pay-off.

The scam sounds so preposterous as to be comical, but the capacity to inflict terror on a gullible recipient is clear.

A host of related episodes are gathered in The Cult Of The Amateur, a new book by English author Andrew Keen which makes a sweeping attack on the culture of the internet.

Keen, who is based in California, hits the usual soft targets from pornography to online poker, but his main thrust is that the web is dumbing itself down by replacing the authorative knowledge of experts with the flawed “wisdom of the crowd”.

He selects as a prime culprit the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which relies upon volunteer editors and contributors. Wikipedia gets far more traffic than the website run by Encyclopedia Britannica, which relies upon experts and scholars.

The problem is that the interactive format employed by Wikipedia opens it to postings that are inaccurate, unverified and even downright fraudulent. It recently emerged that a contributor using the name Essjay, who had edited thousands of Wikipedia articles and had been given the authority to arbitrate disputes between writers, was a 24-year-old chancer named Ryan Jordan, and not the eminent professor he claimed to be.

So, on balance, is the internet to be embraced warts and all, or treated with the greatest suspicion?


Any information gleaned from the internet must be treated with suspicion. Wikipedia is simply the best-known knowledge bank but it's open to abuse, distortion, disinformation and the input of idiots.

The distinguished White House aide, John Seigenthaler, was infamously slandered in a malicious Wikipedia biography which named him as a Kremlin spy and implicated him in the murders of both JFK and Bobby Kennedy. In The Cult Of The Amateur, Andrew Keen points out that the most popular search engine, Google, answers “search queries not with what is most true or most reliable, but merely what is most popular”.

Search results can be manipulated by “Google bombing” which “involves simply linking a large number of sites to a certain page to raise the ranking of any given site in Google's search results”. The Irish have proved very adept at warping the web.

In 1999 Time magazine conducted an internet poll to find the Person Of The Century. A lobby group from Ireland got to work with the result that footballer Ronnie O'Brien, a former supermarket shelf-stacker from Bray, shot to the top of the ratings, overtaking such luminaries as Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King.

When the magazine bumped O'Brien off the list, he was swiftly replaced by Dustin The Turkey who polled over 1,000 votes more than Adolf Hitler.

The same distorting effect came into play in 2002 when a version of A Nation Once Again by the Wolfe Tones beat John Lennon's Imagine when it was named “the world's most popular song” in an online poll run by the BBC World Service.

Back in 1968, when the internet was in its infancy and still in the hands of the US military, Senator Ted Kennedy heard that a local Massachusetts company had won the contract for an ”interface message processor”.

He sent off a telegram congratulating the firm for their ecumenical spirit in developing their “interfaith message processor”.

Four decades on, ecumenical is possibly the last word we'd use about an invention which has become synonymous with Islamofacist beheadings and bomb-making sites, Christian fundamentalist intolerance and hatred, Nazi memorabilia stores, child porn exchanges, and mindless idiots filming themselves doing mindlessly idiotic things for posting on YouTube.

It is the rise of YouTube, MySpace, Wikipedia and the other do-it-yourself newcomers that remain the cause of perhaps the most concern, as they steal ad revenue away from the conventional media which pays journalists, scholars and researchers to ensure that the information they impart is based on fact, and is more than the hodge-podge of half-baked opinions, prejudices and half-grasped factoids that increasingly pass for knowledge on the web.

Be careful out there.


Andrew Keen rails against a future where knowledge has become a debased currency and where we will “live to see the bulk of our music coming from amateur garage bands, our movies and television from glorified YouTubes, and our news made up of hyperactive celebrity gossip, served up as mere dressing for advertising”.

This is what happens, he insists, “when ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule”.

Well I've got news for Andrew Keen. That world is already here without switching on your computer. Turn on your TV or radio and you'll find that Bruce Springsteen's prediction of 20 years ago has come to pass where there's “57 channels and nothing on”.

Keen argues that “what the web revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgement”.

He's absolutely correct. The information we download from the web is not to be taken as Gospel truth. It's worth remembering that the four Gospels were carefully selected by the early Church from a raft of conflicting stories in order to convey a certain slant. Nothing much has changed.

The internet is a wondrous resource which has revolutionised how we work, how we communicate, how we shop and how we tap into ideas which were previously closed off to us because of distance, culture or censorship.

The internet is a work in progress and it is challenging existing standards, in numerous ways barely imaginable 15 or 20 years ago. At its worst, it is indeed a place “where ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule”.

It's also the miracle of the age, the uncorked genie that can't be put back. It's a great boon, but handle with care.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Wikipedia - Can Teenagers Write An Encyclopedia?

Wikipedia - Can Teenagers Write An Encyclopedia?
Sam Vaknin, Ph.D. - 7/22/2007
The vast majority of Wikipedia contributors and editors are under the age of 25. Many of the administrators (senior editors) are in their teens. This has been established by a survey conducted in 2003 and in various interviews with Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of the enterprise.

The truth is that teenagers cannot do the referencing and research that are the prerequisite to serious scholarship - unless you stretch these words to an absurd limit. Research is not about hoarding facts. It is about identifying and applying context and about possessing a synoptic view of ostensibly unrelated data.

Moreover, teenagers can't tell hype from fact and fad from fixture. They lack the perspectives that life and learning -structured, frontal, hierarchical learning - bring with them.

Knowledge is not another democratic institution. It is hierarchical for good reason and the hierarchy is built on merit and the merit is founded on learning.

It is not surprising that the Wikipedia emerged in the USA whose "culture" consists of truncated attention spans, snippets and soundbites, shortcuts and cliff notes. The Wikipedia is a pernicious counter-cultural phenomenon. It does not elevate or celebrate knowledge. The Wikipedia degrades knowledge by commoditizing it and by removing the filters and the barriers to entry that have proven so essential hitherto.

Wikipdians boast that the articles in their "encyclopedia" are replete with citations and references. But citations from which sources and references to which works and authors? Absent the relevant credentials and education, how can an editor tell the difference between information and disinformation, fact and hearsay, truth and confabulation?

Knowledge is not comprised of lists of facts, "facts", factoids, and rumors, the bread and butter of the Wikipedia. Real facts have to be verified, classified, and arranged within a historical and cultural context. Wikipedia articles read like laundry lists of information gleaned from secondary sources and invariably lack context and deep, true understanding of their subject matter.

A recent (late 2006) study by Heather Hopkins from Hitwise demonstrates the existence of a pernicious feedback loop between Google, Wikipedia, MySpace, and Blogspot. Wikipedia gets 54% of its traffic from Google search results. The majority of Wikipedia visitors then proceed to MySpace or Blogspot, both of which use Google as their search service and serve Google-generated advertisements.

Google has changed its search algorithm in late 2005-early 2006. I have been monitoring 154 keywords on Google since 1999. Of these, the number one (#1) search result in 128 keywords is now a Wikipedia article. More than a quarter (38 out of 128) of these "articles" are what the Wikipedia calls "stubs" (one or two sentences to be expanded by Wikipedians in the future). Between 7 and 10 of the articles that made it to the much-coveted number one spot are ... empty pages, placeholders, yet to be written! (These results were obtained in early 2007).

This is Google's policy now: Wikipedia articles regardless of their length or quality or even mere existence are placed by Google's algorithm high up in the search results. Google even makes a Wikipedia search engine available to Webmasters for their Websites. The relationship between Google and Wikipedia is clearly intimate and mutually-reinforcing.

Google's new algorithm, codenamed Big Daddy, still calculates the popularity of Websites by counting incoming links. An incoming link is a link to a given Website placed on an unrelated page somewhere on the Web. The more numerous such links - the higher the placement in Google's search results pages. To avoid spamming and link farms, Google now rates the quality of "good and bad Internet neighborhoods". Not all incoming links are treated equally. Some Internet properties are shunned. Links from such "bad" Websites actually contribute negatively to the overall score.

The top results in all 154 keywords I have been diligently monitoring since 1999 have changed dramatically since April 2006. The only common thread in all these upheavals is one: the more incoming links from MySpace, Digg, Tehnorati and similar Internet properties a Website has - the higher it is placed in the search results.

In other words: if Website A has 700 incoming links from 700 different Websites and website B has 700 incoming links, all of them from various pages on MySpace, Website B is ranked (much) higher in the search results. This holds true even when both Websites A and B sport the same PageRank. This holds true even if the bulk of Website A's incoming links come from "good properties" in "good Internet neighborhoods". Incoming links from MySpace trump every other category of incoming links.

An unsettling pattern emerges:

Wikipedia, the "encyclopedia" whose "editors" are mostly unqualified teenagers and young adults is touted by Google as an authoritative source of information. In search results, it is placed well ahead of sources of veritable information such as universities, government institutions, the home pages of recognized experts, the online full-text content of peer-reviewed professional and scholarly publications, real encyclopedias (such as the Encarta), and so on.

MySpace whose 110 million users are predominantly prepubescent and adolescents now dictates what Websites will occupy the first search results in Google's search results pages. It is very easy to spam MySpace. It is considered by some experts to be a vast storehouse of link farms masquerading as "social networks".

Google has vested, though unofficial and unannounced and, therefore, undisclosed interests in both Wikipedia and MySpace. Wikipedia visitors end up on various properties whose search and ad placement technologies are Google's and Wikipedia would have shriveled into insignificance had it not been to Google's relentless promotion of its content.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wikipedia disrespects experts says co-founder

Wikipedia disrespects experts says co-founder

16.07.2007 - Larry Sanger, who founded Wikipedia in 2001 with Jimmy Wales only to leave shortly afterwards, said that even as far back as 2001 the Wikipedia community “had no respect for experts”.

Sanger said he told Jimmy Wales that unless he did something about the fact that no special role was provided for experts to reign in the various abusive elements like vandalism of articles, he was going to distance himself from the project permanently.

Years later Sanger went on to launch his own collaborative, community-based online encyclopedia called Citizendium.

As far back as 2001 Sanger noted that complaints were beginning to pour into the online community encyclopedia about the authenticity of contributions and edits.

The difference, he says, is that Citizendium has expert editors that nominate articles for approval and constables that essentially police the site, and make sure it runs well.

He hopes that Citizendium will become a credible competitor to Wikipedia but with the same expert reliability as a traditional print encyclopedia.

“Wikipedia, to put it plainly, lacks the sort of credibility and reliability that traditionally edited resources have.

“Experts are needed in the approval process, not necessarily in the process of creating the content. They are needed to make an efficient judgment that the article captures what is known about a subject, “ he said.

Although Wikipedia is not for profit and is now very anti-advertising, Sanger pointed out that before the dotcom crash, Wikipedia did have advertising income, but following the drying up of money from that source it then became what it is today.

Sanger believes that such portals can be monetised while maintaining a professional presence as a resource tool. He is currently in the process of looking at ways to incorporate advertising in a non-intrusive way into Citizendium.

Apart from advertising, Sanger and co-founder Wales also disagree about who actually founded Wikipedia in the first place. Wales has previously claimed to be the sole founder of the online collaborative encyclopedia.

Maybe he should check his facts on Wikipedia which says that both men were identified as co-founders in 2001.

By Marie Boran

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wikipedia censors want to kill Fudzilla

Wikipedia censors want to kill Fudzilla
To be banished to join the Everywhere Girl
By Nick Farrell: Tuesday 10 July 2007, 15:54
THE CENSORS at Wikipedia apparently continue their witchhunt against the INQUIRER, even pursuing our writers long after they have left us.

You might remember that long-term INQ hack Fuad Abazovic had gone off to form an online magazine called Fudzilla based in Midge Ure's favourite hang out, Vienna.

The magazine has done quite well for its first few months, with Fudo getting a fair number of hits and a bit of advertising on his site. And so one of his fans in the Far East stuck up a fairly dull entry in Wikipedia.

But then Wikipedia assassins started to grind their axes.

First, they replaced a lot of the text with some fairly nasty bile that they had clearly been storing up since the days when Fudo wrote for us.

And now the whole entry is up for deletion, the main reason being, it seems, because the Wiki experts "think" Fudo put the entry up for advertising purposes. No evidence is offered, but that must certainly be what Fudo did, if the Wikipedia experts "think" he must have done.

The fonts of all knowledge "think" that means they can now claim his magazine does not exist.

Fudo tells us he didn't write the entry but points out that the person nominating his magazine for Wiki-deletion is "an adamant Dailytech reader" who seems to have been a bit upset by the Rydermark series of stories wot he penned. Fudo has had a few problems with some Daily Tech readers who he told to get a life.
Obviously these readers took up Wikipedia censorship as a hobby and have ignored his sage advice completely.

Of course if "Dailytech reader's" logic was applied throughout Wikipedia then no magazines or newspapers would have an entry, other than Dailytech of course. Neither would Wikipedia allow entries relating to companies such as Microsoft and Intel which could also be seen as advertising.

Logic seems to escape the Wikipedia experts particularly when they have a grudge on. An encyclopaedia written by the people is all very well so long as the people aren't a lynch mob grinding axes.

More here.

See Also
I got whacked by Wikipedia twice
Wikipedia deletes Vole as Microsoft term
Wikipedia "broken beyond repair", co-founder says
Everywhere Girl: You're deleted

Friday, June 29, 2007

What Do You Know? - Another Bogus Wikipedia Flack

What Do You Know? - Another Bogus Wikipedia Flack
Posted by Ken Hardin on June 29, 2007 at 12:02 pm

First off, let me clarify that this a blog, not an “encyclopedia.” What follows is simply anecdote and speculation, not deeply researched or certifiably true information.

OK, that said …

I chuckled to myself this morning when Ann All, an editor with us here at IT Business Edge, suggested that there might be something fishy about this statement from a Wikipedia poster about a really creepy incident/coincidence.

The poster, whose IP-based identity was confirmed in this Wikinews article, posted that the wife of pro wrestler Chris Benoit was dead, about a half-day before the grisly and highly publicized details of a double murder/suicide came to full public light. The poster’s explanation — he had just heard some rumors on the ‘Net and decided to put them up at an “encyclopedia.” Quote:
That night I found out that what I posted, ended up actually happening, a 1 in 10,000 chance of happening, or so I thought. I was beyond wrong for posting wrongful information, and I am sorry to everyone for this. I just want everyone to know it was stupid of me, and I will never do anything like this again. I just posted something that was at that time a piece of wrong unsourced information that is typical on Wikipedia, as it is done all the time.

Ann’s comment to me, via IM:
“… the quote sounds like it was made up, as it so obviously encapsulates what is scary about Wikipedia.”
Really, I have little to add there. I’m NOT saying that the quote WAS made up. But it provides a perfect snapshot of what a growing number of folks agree is the downside to Wikipedia. It does seem to me that at least Wikipedia could take it upon itself to ensure that the poster’s IP address be blocked from the site. That seems at odds with the general culture of the site; hence perpetual grumblings from folks like me.

I actually use Wikipedia from time to time — this week, it was the second step (Google being the first, of course) in my research of the Pligg open source CMS. But I certainly don’t trust it as a terminus of info. Stuff like this fracas only serves to make me more distrustful of what can be a useful, overview resource.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Wikipedia banned from UCSC class

Wikipedia banned from UCSC class
By ROGER SIDEMAN/MediaNews Group
Article Launched: 06/17/2007 08:17:11 AM PDT

SANTA CRUZ - UC Santa Cruz professor Dan Wirls adopted a policy banning students in his American government class from citing Wikipedia in research papers.
It's not that the collaborative online encyclopedia is bad or wrong - though inaccurate information is always a risk, says Wirls and other UCSC faculty who are noticing a growing number of students using Wikipedia. The main gripe from Wirls, chairman of the politics department, is that students "are entering college with almost no research skills beyond their rudimentary use of the Internet.

"They do not know how to use a library," he said.

For students who often start their research with Google, a Wikipedia entry will be the first item to pop up on just about any search of a concept, event or major figure.

And Wirls worries about students looking no further, explaining that reliance on the site has become, for some, a lazy man's substitute for more rigorous forms of research and investigation.

"You have to understand that we're dealing with a few students who will take the easiest way out," he said. "I've had students quoting Marx from the online entry instead of the course text."

Wirls' frustrations are by no means unique. Faculty across a wide range of departments at UCSC, and across the country, have either banned Wikipedia in citations, or at least warn students not to use the site as a primary source. Most say they don't object to its easily accessible online nature, but rather its freewheeling nature, which allows articles to be edited by nearly anyone with access to the Web.
In February, the history department at Middlebury College in Vermont banned the use of Wikipedia in citations, the first department at any college to do so. And many professors from around the country have posted caveats about its use atop their course syllabi.

Without the warnings, papers can start to look very similar.

In UCSC professor Noriko Aso's class on Japanese popular culture, the Web site seems, at times, to have become more influential in research papers than the assigned books or other course materials.

Since the point of going to college is to engage with the readings, Aso said, the number of papers with generic answers pulled straight off the Web site "is counterproductive, if not problematic."

Wikipedia officials agree, in part, and don't consider the bans to be all that negative.

"Wikipedia is the ideal place to start your research and get a global picture of a topic. However, it is not an authoritative source," said Sandra Ordonez, a Wikipedia spokeswoman. "We recommend that students check the facts they find in Wikipedia against other sources. It's usually not advisable, particularly at the university level, to cite an encyclopedia."

Because of the nature of Wikipedia, vandalism and unintentional errors can be added to articles, she said.

Since taking some heat for publishing inaccurate information, the online encyclopedia has tightened its rules, requiring users to register before they can create an article and limiting who can modify certain entries to a select group of experts.

"I think students are being blamed for laziness when the course readings or the lectures may just be hard to understand," said Sefira Fialkoff, a sophomore majoring in economics.

Although some UCSC professors have barred Wikipedia in citations, they have not banned it altogether, saying a total ban would be impractical. The site is simply too handy to expect students never to consult it, they say.

Since students today face an ocean of information, much of it poor quality, UCSC politics professor Ronnie Lipschutz said a better approach would be to teach students to "triangulate" a source like Wikipedia with other sources to determine whether a given entry can be trusted.

Another professor, Quentin Williams of the earth sciences department, agreed.

"I just tell students to use it with a very critical eye," he said, "and not to confuse it with primary sources where an author's name, credibility and, possibly, paycheck are up front and on the line."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Sopranos" Fans Whack Creator's Wiki Entry

"Sopranos" Fans Whack Creator's Wiki Entry
Posted Jun 12th 2007 1:55PM by TMZ Staff
Filed under: TV, Wacky and Weird

We all know that a lot of "Sopranos" fans thought that the series ended on a terrible note -- but taking a hit out on creator David Chase's Wikipedia entry? Oh marone!

TMZ was checking out Chase's Wiki page this morning, and noticed that the first line read, "David Chase ... is a homosexual American television writer." Now we're all for the gays, but the sexual-orientation thing seemed odd, since Chase has been married to the same woman for over twenty years.

Well, it turns out that the entry was "vandalized" by some Wiki thugs, which then caused the Wikipedia folks to clamp down immediately, disallowing any changes to the page. Wikipedia didn't comment on the changes in Chase's entry, but it won't be available again for editing until next Monday.

Yesterday, in an interview with a New Jersey paper, Chase said that he wasn't trying to "[mess] with" fans, just trying to entertain them with the provocative ending, which concluded the series in nearly ten seconds of black screen.

Angry Fans Trash Sopranos Creator's Wikipedia Page

Angry Fans Trash Sopranos Creator's Wikipedia Page
Posted June 12th, 2007 by cjs in News

Wikipedia has revoked public editing privileges to the wiki page for Sopranos creator David Chase due to vandalism by individuals unhappy with the conclusion to the popular HBO television drama.

2Snaps readers, ever on the pulse of the entertainment community, tipped us to the developing situation over at Wikipedia. Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia which functions as an open forum where users can freely create or edit entires, closed down their entry for David Chase to prevent further inappropriate edits to it's content.

Various reports (many unconfirmed) suggested that the content of Chase's entry was edited to include a myriad of insults to the television writer, including suggestions that Chase was gay, suffered from mental retardation, and other things you wouldn't say in front of your mother.

The folks at TMZ captured Google search results displaying a portion of the vandalized text (shown below).

Wikipedia is keeping the David Chase entry closed until June 18th, which means disgruntled Sopranos fans will have to wait a week before they can vandalize the entry again.

Read more about the flop finale in our earlier feature, Audience Gets Whacked in Sopranos Finale.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Privacy? I Pay The Bills, I Want The Grades

Privacy? I Pay The Bills, I Want The Grades
By Ann Baldelli
Published on 6/10/2007

It's prudent to be leery of information from Wikipedia, the free, online encyclopedia, because contributors from around the world write this resource collaboratively.

Anyone can edit or add to an article, so users must always be careful and realize the source might not be factual. But anyone who is computer savvy will also tell you that Wikipedia is a great place to get a quick understanding of many issues. Say, something like the subject of privacy.

Here's Wikipedia's take on privacy: “Privacy has no definite boundaries and it has different meanings for different people. It is the ability of an individual or group to keep their lives and personal affairs out of public view, or to control the flow of information about themselves.”

It goes on to say, “the right against unsanctioned invasion of privacy by the government, corporations or individuals is part of many countries' laws, and in some cases, constitutions.”

Privacy is an implied but not a guaranteed right in the U.S. Constitution. We expect our right of privacy, but we don't always value it. And quite frankly, sometimes we overstep the boundaries.

But lately, I've been wondering if this whole question of privacy isn't getting totally out of control. Here's the latest rub for me.

My firstborn is heading off to college, and I've recently learned that the institution he'll be attending — like all schools that accept federal funds — is bound by the regulations of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) not to release information pertaining to his academic record to me without first obtaining the express permission of said son in writing.

In other words, he has to sign a waiver for his grades to be sent home to me.

It should have been clear that my perceived rights were changing when his tuition bill arrived in our mailbox addressed to him. He's not paying the bill.

When I called the college about his proposed student loan, I was told he needed to make the call, not me.

According to FERPA, which is also known as the Buckley Amendment, college students, regardless of age, are considered responsible adults and are allowed to determine who will receive information about them. Under the law, parents who want to receive a copy of their student's academic or financial records can do so only if their student signs a release.

Certainly there are many students who pay their own tuition and have every right to have their grades and bills sent directly to them. But it seems screwy to me that a person, or a parent, who is paying a college bill, is denied access to financial information and grades, simply because their child is no longer in high school.

In most cases, students sign the waiver to allow their parents to receive their grades, and in extreme cases, parents could stop paying the tuition if the student didn't agree to sign.

It just seems an odd interpretation of privacy for young adults who in many cases are still dependent on their parents, financially, and otherwise. And a bit, contradictory, too.

We're just back from a parent/student orientation at my son's chosen school, and it was made abundantly clear that overindulgence of alcohol and/or drugs will not be tolerated there. In fact, the head of security and judicial affairs told the assembled parents that if their student is transported to the hospital for drug or alcohol abuse, we'll get a call.

Apparently the college is not subject to the hospital privacy laws.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Wikipedia, Web 2.0 create oceans of mediocrity

Wikipedia, Web 2.0 create oceans of mediocrity

"Dictatorship of Idiots" triumphs over experience

By INQUIRER staff: Sunday 03 June 2007, 10:46

VAST ARRAYS OF typewriter wielding monkeys are failing to produce masterpieces and instead are destroying culture, talent, experience and expertise, according to the author of a book called Cult of the Amateur.

Andrew Keen, interviewed in The Sunday Times, said that sites like Wikipedia are promoting a "dictatorship of idiots" over a "dictatorship of experts", with the whole project displaying clear signs of totalitarianism.

He told the newspaper that many bogs and so called news sites are fronts for PR spinners and others who conceal their real agendas.

He said that sites like Citizendium offer more hope than Wikipedia. The so-called "democratisation" of the web undermines truth while boggers do not have the resources or the skills to launch real investigations as great newspapers have done in the past.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wiki-vandals hit small town posts

Wiki-vandals hit small town posts

Chinchilla sighting a hoax, Paisley mayor says

May 22, 2007 04:30 AM
Tamara Cherry
toronto star

The mayor of Paisley, Ont., says despite what was posted on Wikipedia, the men in that town are clever and the local girls are pretty.

And Ron Oswald adds there's not a chinchilla in sight.

Oswald's clarification came after the recent version of the Paisley page on Wikipedia was brought to his attention.

Earlier this month, Wiki-vandals posted a rather unflattering review of the folks who live in the southwestern Ontario village of 1,100.

"The men are not exactly smart and the women are not exactly good looking but that does not stop them from procreating at an alarming rate. In recent years, the only population decline was when they were handing out free cheques in Walkerton," the article read.

That same day a second Wiki-vandal added, "A large chinchilla infestation has lead to diminishing returns on many local crops. Experts are at a loss as to how this happened, but suspect a `rogue chinchilla terrorist' may be the root cause."

The women in Paisley "certainly are" good looking, Oswald countered. And not only are Paisley men smart, but "there are a lot of good-looking farm boys," he added.

The picked-on Paisley residents aren't the only victims of Wiki-vandals, who roam free on the online encyclopedia, where most articles can be edited by anyone with Internet access.

Port Colborne has two of the "lamest high schools around," one Wiki-vandal said.

On the Acton page, "Actonite or Actonian?" was changed to "Actonite, Actonian or Crackhead?"

The Georgetown page read "Jesus Christ was born in this town," where "Illegal Mexican Wrestling" was also said to take place. That entry went on to say that, "Usually every match ends up with one of the opponents dieing. 2004 was the bloodiest year in the events [sic] history, 546 were killed due to grandstands collapsing."

And it's not just small towns getting Wiki-vandalized. "tHE [sic] SENATORS KICK LEAF ASS," one of many declarations Wiki-vandals posted on the city of Toronto's page.

Oswald, who is officiallly mayor of the Municipality of Arran-Elderslie, which includes Paisley, takes the vandalism with a grain of salt – "A bag full of salt," actually.

"I sometimes think things are pretty serious nowadays and we really don't laugh enough. But there's nothing wrong with good fun."

Monday, May 21, 2007

Wikipedia wrong about Bocking

Wikipedia wrong about Bocking
By Phil Melnychuk
Staff Reporter
May 19 2007

Federal New Democrat candidate Mike Bocking is fuming over a description about him on the Wikipedia website that describes him as "having a history of failure" and someone who has "control over local media, in particular the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News."

"My only comment is this kind of dirty tricks stuff has no place in Canadian politics," Bocking said.

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia written collaboratively by volunteers. The articles can be edited by anyone with Internet access.

The entry on the Wikipedia website was originally posted May 8 and says it's "very abnormal" for the same failed candidate to run in three consecutive elections.

The entry also says that as a result of his full-time job as president of Local 2000 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which represents workers at The News, Bocking "has been asked to respond to comments by incumbent Randy Kamp on an issue before they are published.

"This essentially gives Bocking a voice within the community," although he's currently not an MP and "is entitled to no more say than the average citizen."

But just as quickly as it appeared, the page was deleted May 16. An explanation from Wikipedia said the article appeared to have been created as an attack page, "with negative and controversial statements without reference to reliable published sources."

Bocking has won the NDP nomination three times, each time defeating a rival in a nomination vote. He's been the New Democrat candidate in federal elections in June 2004 and January 2006 and recently won the party's nomination a third time.

He lost to Kamp, the Conservative MP in Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, in the past two elections.

Local NDP members wouldn't like to hear that party brass OK'd his candidacy, Bocking said.

His campaign manager, Dave McPherson, said the webpage was the work of a political person, adding that it was "preposterous" that Bocking could influence the media.

He learned of the reference through a Google alert, set up to notify him of references to Bocking on the Internet.

Who posted the comments, however, is impossible to ascertain as the log just shows the Internet provider name of Nick8670.

Michael Hall, editor of The News, says the newspaper's relationship with Bocking is limited to his role as an NDP candidate.

Neither Kamp nor his office had any part in the Wikipedia writeup, said Kamp's constituency assistant, Mark Strahl.

"Wikipedia, unfortunately, is open to this sort of thing. Nothing to do with our office," Strahl said.

He pointed out that people have changed Kamp's entry on Wikipedia as well, adding mischievous comments, which he later deleted.

Strahl said he also made one change to Bocking's page, correcting the name of the riding. Because Bocking is the NDP candidate in the riding, Kamp's office monitors Bocking's media coverage, Strahl said.

"Anyone can edit these things, which makes it open to misuse," Strahl said of the Wikipedia website.

"I'm glad it's been removed."

Is Wikipedia Polluting the Web?

Is Wikipedia Polluting the Web?

Anyone using the net will surely have come across Wikipedia - the online interactive encyclopedia. It has been hailed for being the biggest multilingual free-content encyclopedia on the Internet with over four million articles and still growing. It is also 12th ranked Website in the world.
But the big question is how reliable or credible is wikipedia?

The bone of contention against Wiki is the very foundation of its “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” concept. A defining characteristic of wiki technology is the ease with which pages can be created and updated. There is no review before modifications are accepted. Wikis generally practice the philosophy of making it easy to correct mistakes, rather than making it difficult to make them.

Wiki in the News: For all the wrong reasons -
There was recently a scandal surrounding the academic qualifications of one of the editors at Wiki. Wikipedia administrator who stated that he was a professor of religion with advanced degrees in theology and canon law, was exposed as a 24-year-old community college drop-out. However Jimmy Wales the Founder of Wikipedia went on record to say of Wikipedia editor and Wikia employee Ryan Jordan (nee “Essjay”): ““I accepted his apology, because he is now, and has always been, an excellent editor with an exemplary track record.”

“I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.”
- Wikipedia CEO Jimmy Wales stating that lying on Wikipedia is OK.

But rest of the world don’t seem to agree don’t seem to agree with Wales.

Wikipedia has been banned as a citation source by all major American Universities, as the source is anonymous and totally un-credible.

Wikipedia has also been accused of supporting terrorism

The author goes on to state - “Wikipedia’s Achilles heel is that it is open to any 8-year-old child or perverted mind to edit matters from nuclear physics to Islamic terrorism.”

True, when everyone can write, some write crap. While no one can dispute or challenge the knowledge aggregator that Wiki has come to represent the debate over the legitimacy over the sources of information rages on.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

George Washington Did What According To Wikipedia???

George Washington Did What According To Wikipedia???

Many have joked about how Wikipedia seems to rank at the top of practically any Google search that you do. Often, that's a good thing, as Wikipedia has lots of great information. But a search on george washington today shows a downside. Someone edited the start of the Wikipedia entry about the first US president to be less than flattering. Google spidered the entry, and that material was used to form the description of Washington's Wikipedia page, as shown below. Look at the second listing:

It's embarrassing for Google, but the fault really lies with Wikipedia, since this text stayed on Washington's page long enough for Google to catch it. Indeed, it looks to have been on the page for at least a day. It's gone now, but when I looked about a half hour ago, the text was still there. It will probably take about another day for the description to fall out of Google itself, once the page is recrawled.

FYI, the description does not show at Yahoo or Ask.com because Wikipedia is not in the top result for a search on George Washington there. At Live.com, the Wikipedia page shows but was last visited on May 13, before the insulting text was added.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Beware the Internet!

Beware the Internet!
Posted: May 11, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

For 10 years now, I've been championing the Internet.

As a pioneer in the New Media, I believe it has provided a leveling of the playing field for entrepreneurs like me to provide good content to millions efficiently and inexpensively.

But, I've got to tell you, you can't believe everything you read on the Internet.

You've got to use common sense and discernment in sorting out the good from the bad.

Today, I'm going to give you two illustrations of "the bad."

They are, in alphabetical order, Snopes and Wikipedia.

I know. I know. Some of you are shocked to hear that Snopes is not the last word on truth – that it is not the bible of rumors and urban legends.

Let me give you a recent example of the twisted sense of reality that exists in the land of Snopes.

I wrote a story a few weeks ago on the mania to phase out incandescent light bulbs, replacing them with compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs. The story was so good, if I do say so myself, it was picked up internationally.

Everything in the story is 100 percent accurate and truthful – and not a word of the original story has been altered.

So, why, you may be wondering, is the story used as an "example" of a fallacious charge on Snopes?

Good question. I have to assume that the all-knowing, all-seeing, rumor-busting gurus at Snopes simply can't tell the difference between a straight news account reporting what some people say and believe and an actual assertion.

Snopes reports my story is an "example" of this ludicrous assertion: "An environmental clean-up crew needs to be called in to deal with the mercury dispersed by one broken CFL bulb."

Now, I dare you. Go read my story and tell me where I, the reporter in this case, suggested any such nonsense.

It seems to me, in cases like this, Snopes is not busting rumors, it is perpetuating them.

And, while we're at it, notice the sources Snopes relies upon to conclude beyond any doubt CFLs don't pose a serious health threat to anyone – the same government agency pushing CFLs. Where I come from (nearly 30 years of solid journalism experience), this is not considered good reporting. This is not considered the best way to seek truth and enlightenment or even objective facts.

I would dare say we spend quite a bit more time and energy and resources putting together our reports for WND than the inexperienced and unprofessional researchers at Snopes do theirs. Does that express my opinion clearly enough?

And now for Wikipedia.

Please don't ever send me a link to Wikipedia as evidence of anything. It has zero credibility with me.


Because anyone can post anything they wish at Wikipedia. There are so many lies posted there, the whole site would have to be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch to deal with them in any systematic way.

If you doubt what I am saying, test it for yourself.

Is there a subject you know quite a bit about?

Is there an area of real expertise in your life?

Are you famous enough to have a bio up at Wikipedia?

If the answer to any of thee questions is yes, then go and test Wikipedia. See what it says about a subject you know well. See what it says about you.

Please don't bother seeing what it says about me because none of it is true. And, for the life of me, no matter how many times I correct the record, some Wikipedia jokers decide they know me better than me.

Now, if I can't trust Wikipedia to report accurately about me – and I can't – how can I trust it to report on any other topic with veracity?

Long story short: Learn to trust those with track records of honesty, integrity and standards. WND has those traits. Snopes and Wikipedia do not.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Why Wikipedia decided to lock up Gerry Adams

Why Wikipedia decided to lock up Gerry Adams
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
By Noel McAdam

The world's best-known online encylopedia has electronically disabled its biography of Gerry Adams over the question of whether he was ever a member of the Provisional IRA.

The Sinn Fein president has consistently denied ever being a member of the terrorist organisation.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia website, yesterday said material of any kind on living persons which could be libellous had to be removed.

A spokesman for Sinn Fein said the party had no comment to make.

The Gerry Adams page, which is now 'locked', meaning no changes can be made, says: "Senior political, security and media figures, including the Minister for Justice in the Republic of Ireland (Michael McDowell) assert that, from the 1970s until mid-2005, Adams is alleged to have been a member of the IRA's governing army council.

"He has also been accused of being the IRA commander in Belfast during the 1970s."

The page can be viewed here.

Explaining its decision, Wikipedia said: "This article must adhere to the policy on biographies of living persons. Controversial material of any kind that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately, especially if potentially libellous.

"If such material is repeatedly inserted or there are other concerns relative to this policy, report it on the living persons biographies noticeboard.

"This (specific) page is about an active politician who is running for office, is in office and campaigning for re-election, or is involved in some political conflict or controversy.

"Because of this, this article is at risk of biased editing, talk-page trolling, and simple vandalism."

A spokesperson for Wikipedia was not available for comment.

Wikipedia's Wales gets pranked Down Under

Wikipedia's Wales gets pranked Down Under
April 30, 2007 5:54 AM PDT
Posted by Caroline McCarthy

Looks like Wikipedia and its founder, Jimmy Wales, have turned into legitimately global icons--they're getting pranked overseas in addition to domestically. Wales was the keynote speaker at the Australian "Education.au" conference last week, as reported by the Brisbane Times (linked via TechCrunch), and in the question-and-answer session that followed his address, he was subject to the antics of a well-known Aussie prankster.

One of the inquisitive attendees happened to be Andrew Hansen, a cast member from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's sketch comedy show The Chaser's War On Everything, which features a recurring segment called "Mr. Ten Questions." In the style of the show, Hansen stood up and asked Wales ten questions in a row without giving the Wikipedia founder the opportunity to answer. They started off mildly, with "First, how are you enjoying Australia?" but grew rapidly more absurd, including "Why does everyone in IT look so nerdy, yet you look like a daytime soap star?" and "There are 1.7 million articles on Wikipedia; how long did it take you to write them all?" Hansen's final question for Wales was,"How do you feel about the fact that when I looked you up on Wikipedia this morning I changed your page to say that you were a teenage drug lord from Malaysia?

Apparently, Wales took it pretty well, and even managed to answer four of them. The full list of questions (warning: some profane language) can be found in the Brisbane Times' article. The Chaser segment featuring Wales has yet to air, but TechCrunch commenters hinted that it will likely wind up (legally) online.

You may recall The Chaser as the TV show that was temporarily pulled from YouTube when the video-sharing site (somewhat gullibly) obeyed the terms of a fake cease-and-desist letter from an Australian teenager pretending to be from the ABC. It also gained some viral video momentum in the States when it planted fake "terrorists" near Sydney landmarks in an attempt to see how long it took for security officers to respond to their "suspicious activities."

I don't think we'll see Jimmy Wales as a target on Jackass or on Ashton Kutcher's Punk'd any time soon, but the influential Web figure does have a history of getting pranked here in the U.S. (albeit indirectly). Perhaps the most famous instance of this was when when late-night comedian Stephen Colbert exhorted his viewers to log onto Wikipedia and alter certain entries, a gag that crashed the encyclopedia's servers and resulted in Mr. Colbert's account being banned.

Wikipedia's Double Standard On Nofollow Rule

Wikipedia's Double Standard On Nofollow Rule
Apr. 30, 2007 at 10:04am Eastern by Barry Schwartz

Techcrunch discovered that Wikipedia was giving special treatment to their own properties, in terms of using standard, non-nofollowed, links to Wikia, "Wikipedia’s for-profit spin off."

Back in January, Wikipedia nofollowed all external links from the site, in an effort to reduce Wikipedia spam. If you visit the Wikipedia page on Wikia, you may notice some external links do not contain the rel="nofollow" attribute. Techcrunch calls them out for it.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chaser's war on Wikipedia founder

Chaser's war on Wikipedia founder
Asher Moses
April 26, 2007 - 2:48PM

It was always just a matter of time before Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales had a run-in with The Chaser.

Andrew Hansen, one of five stars of the hit satirical ABC television program, ambushed Wales's question-and-answer session at the education.au conference in Sydney this morning.

Wales had just finished giving his keynote speech at the Hilton hotel, during which he brought the audience of about 150 educators up to speed on the ins and outs of Wikipedia and his newer for-profit venture, Wikia.

He explained how his collaborative online encyclopedia, which has copped significant flack of late over the apparent ease at which anyone can add erroneous and libellous information, was best used by teachers and students - as a source of background information, rather than a quoteable reference.

Given Wales's widely publicised goal of giving "every single person on the planet free access to the sum of all human knowledge", Hansen evidently thought Wales would be a prime candidate for The Chaser's "Mr Ten Questions" segment.

"Ah, Jimmy, um, look I just have 10 questions," Hansen said when he was handed the microphone during the question-and-answer session.

"First, how are you enjoying Australia?

"Second, how do our computers compare to the ones in America?

"Third, why does everyone in IT look so nerdy, yet you look like a daytime soap star?

"Fourth, Mac or PC - do you really give a shit?

"Fifth, there are 1.7 million articles on Wikipedia; how long did it take you to write them all?

"Sixth, Craig Reucassel's a bit unhappy with the photo on his page. Could you upload a better one maybe for him?

"Seventh, my dog is getting some scabs under his chin. I don't know if you can bring him in the number of a local vet?

"Eighth, Jessica Rowe and Peter Overton - will it last?

"Ninth, cracked pepper?

"Tenth, how do you feel about the fact that when I looked you up on Wikipedia this morning I changed your page to say that you were a teenage drug lord from Malaysia?"

In his usual style, Hansen asked each question in rapid succession, pausing to let Wales respond only when he had finished asking all 10.

Wales's nervous, confused facial expressions were a stark contrast to his typically dauntless demeanour, but he attempted to answer some.

His responses were not delivered into the microphone and so could be heard only by those sitting at the front of the room.

"Not such a nerd as I thought - oh well, you got four out of 10. I'll add that to your Wikipedia page thank you," Hansen said before leaving the room.

It was a relatively mild stunt given The Chaser's history; last year, member Chas Licciardello was arrested for attempting to sell fake weapons as official Bulldogs merchandise to fans prior to a game in Kogarah.

He was cleared of the offensive behaviour charge this year by magistrate Joanne Keogh, who said it was obvious the stunt was a joke.

The Mr Ten Questions segment has yet to appear in the current season of The Chaser, but it was a mainstay of the program last year.

Previous subjects include Anthony LaPaglia and Kerri-Anne Kennerly; LaPaglia is the only one so far to answer all 10 questions successfully.

Following Hansen's departure, the question-and-answer session continued as if nothing had happened.

On Monday and Tuesday respectively, Wales spoke at similar education.au seminars in Adelaide and Perth.

Following his stop in Sydney today, Wales will depart for Melbourne where he is scheduled to speak tomorrow at ZINC at Federation Square.

Facts and friction: Wikipedia's quest for credibility

Facts and friction: Wikipedia's quest for credibility
Tuesday, 24 April 2007

In the galaxy of A-list dotcom entrepreneurs, Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales is one of the brightest stars. He's become to the web what Bob Geldof was to famine relief: an almost saintly guru, a visionary who has pooled the talents of many for the greater good.

Last year Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

And that makes him the odd man out among his well-heeled peers. The organisation he co-founded is a registered charity and befitting that status, he eschews the trappings of conspicuous wealth. He's not sitting on a pile of stock options. When he sets off on one of his many proselytising sorties, he reportedly prefers to fly economy. And although he once owned a Ferrari, he now drives a Hyundai.

He's a derring-do do-gooder with a simple if ambitious mission statement.

My goal," he said last month, "is to give a free encyclopedia to every single person on this planet."

That's part of the pitch he'll be making when he arrives in Australia this week on a speaking tour.

The freebie he speaks of is not one of those weighty tomes of knowledge that was the standard reference tool before search engines came along. He's talking, of course, about Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia written and edited by its users.

From its start in January 2001, the site has grown exponentially to encompass about 7 million articles in 251 languages. Every second of the day, Wikipedia's servers are bombarded with between 10,000 and 30,000 page requests.

The US rating agency comScore World Metrix calculates that the combined Wikipedia sites received more than 192 million unique visitors in February, making it the world's sixth most visited website - behind those run by giants such as Microsoft, Google and Yahoo.

Its collaborative structure and its altruistic ideals have won the website many plaudits and awards and - importantly - the financial backing that keeps it going. With more than 75,000 active volunteer contributors ranging from scholars to knowledgeable nobodies, Wikipedia is often held up as a stellar example of how to tap the wisdom of the masses.

But all is not well in the house that Wales co-founded. Wikipedia is going through some painful times. It relies on the whim of donors to stay afloat, the ranks of its critics are swelling and it is facing more competition from other online encyclopedias, which may pull away volunteers, eyeballs and kudos.

Wikipedia is suffering from a credibility crisis. Some - such as the Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger, who left the organisation in 2002 - say the malaise goes even deeper. He describes the organisation as "completely dysfunctional" and is heading for a reckoning.

Buffeted by a string of recent acts of vandalism, sabotage and deceit, Wales seems to be spending more and more time defending Wikipedia and patching the cracks.

Wales, a 40-year-old former futures trader who grew up in Alabama, says he is not unduly worried about the petty acts of vandalism, most of which are quickly fixed by the Wikipedia community.

"I remember several years ago when the story of the week, every week, was some outrageous thing going on at eBay - someone selling their head, someone selling their baby, someone selling their soul," he says.

"And then after a while I think people got used to the idea of people [who] post goofy things and then they take it down. And the stories didn't seem so interesting anymore and so they stopped appearing in the media."

The problem Wales alludes to is not that vandalism happens, but that the press reports what he sees in many cases as nothing more than a scrawl on a wall.

"As long as we've got this massive, public collaborative project to build an encyclopedia there are gonna be weird things that happen. That's basically the cost of doing business."

In a case last month, the biography page of an American comedian called Sinbad was altered to include the "news" that he had died of a heart attack that morning. Word of his demise quickly spread around the net before the hoax was discovered and the entry fixed.

"Well, it was on our site for less than 30 minutes and yet there's been at least 50 news stories about it coming in from all over the world," Wales says, sounding frustrated. "Somebody vandalises Wikipedia and it's not really a news story, right? It just happens and then we fix it and it's not that exciting."

But if you ask Sanger, the man credited with putting the "wiki" in Wikipedia, the root of the problem lies with the unswerving attachment to the principle of anonymity.

Sanger has just launched Citizendium, an online collaborative encyclopedia based on the same wiki structure but with greater editorial control and no anonymous contributions. "The reason I started Citizendium is because something I helped bring into the world [Wikipedia] had a real potential for abuse that bothered me greatly," he says. "Ultimately, I think I owe it to people - if I can - to do something better."

Sanger, who parted company with Wales after what he describes as a "primordial struggle" with elements of the volunteer hierarchy, says Wikipedia's problem is its unflinching commitment to anonymous contributions - "a kind of radical egalitarianism about knowledge".

"As long [as] they hold those two policies as firmly as they do - and I don't see how they can change - they are never going to be able to produce a really credible encyclopedia," he says. "They are always going to have behavioural problems and they are always going to have articles that tend not towards the most authoritative view on the subject but towards the opinion of the most active Wikipedia contributors."

Wales disagrees. He maintains that anonymity underpins the structure of the Wikipedia community. "I think there's basically zero problems that can be solved by eliminating anonymity," he says.

Unfortunately the work of anonymous vandals is not confined to petty pranks. In 2005 Brian Chase, a manager at a delivery service in Nashville, played a trick on a co-worker by posting a fabrication on Wikipedia.

The entry linked John Seigenthaler, a respected retired journalist, free speech advocate and political adviser, to the Kennedy assassinations.
The entry stayed unchallenged for 132 days, even after it had been checked by a Wikipedia volunteer who edited the entry three days after it was posted to correct a spelling mistake.

"I am interested in letting many people know that Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible research tool," Seigenthaler wrote in an article after discovering the slur.

In February this year Wikipedia was hit by another scandal facilitated in large part by the cloak of anonymity.

One of its most prolific contributors, who purported to be a theology professor, turned out to be a 24-year-old uni drop-out. Writing under the screen name Essjay, Ryan Jordan contributed over 20,000 Wikipedia entries, some of which were based on information culled from books such as Catholicism for Dummies. Worse still, he was also a member of a high-ranking Wikipedia committee responsible for vetting other people's work.

After both incidents, changes were made to Wikipedia's rules of engagement to reduce the risk of these types of issues cropping up again.
Wales says his team is also working on ways to reduce the number of these incidents in part by giving Wikipedians better tools to deal with these incidents.

"I think the thing that's foremost is the forthcoming feature of the software, what we called stable versions which will allow the community to flag particular versions of articles as being non-vandalised," he says.

Those new measures came too late for history department faculty members at Middlebury College in the US. In January, they passed a resolution forbidding students from using the online encyclopedia for academic assignments.

It might have been one faculty in a small university but it generated a lot of coverage and debate about the academic quality of Wikipedia's entries and the checks and balances used to weed out the errors.

Wales says the Middlebury experience is an isolated case. For the most part, he says, educators are positive towards Wikipedia.

"If you say 'well we're going to tell our students not to use Wikipedia', that is like telling them not to listen to rock'n'roll music. You're just kidding yourselves. It's an incredibly valuable resource," he says.

"The right approach is to teach students about the strengths, the limitations and why you shouldn't cite Wikipedia as a source in a paper. To teach them what is the role of an encyclopedia in the research process."


Jimmy Wales's life reads like a Hollywood script - which is probably why there's said to be a couple of books and a documentary in the works.

Born in 1966 in Huntsville, Alabama, where his father worked in a grocery store, Wales began his education in a small private school which he later described as "an Abe Lincoln type of thing".

Called the House of Learning, the school was run by his mother and grandmother and it's where the Wikipedia thing started. "I just spent many, many hours just poring over the World Book Encyclopedia," he told a C-Span interviewer in 2005.

Wales studied finance at university before going to work in Chicago as a futures and options trader. He quit after he had "made enough money".

"I'm not a wealthy person but I'm a person who lives within my means," he said.

That's the potted history of a boy from the Deep South who made good, much of which can be found on Wales's Wikipedia entry. You'll also find on the entry a reference to his attempt in 2005 to airbrush his biography.

Under the subtitle "Controversy" there's reference to what his erstwhile partner Larry Sanger described as an attempt "to rewrite history". In particular, references to Sanger as "co-founder" were removed. Even today, Wales refers to himself as the "founder" of the online encyclopedia.

Wales was also accused of modifying reference to a company called Bomis which he started about 1998 and of downplaying the observations that it carried soft-core porn content.

Sanger says Bomis began as a primitive form of online collaboration where users organised so-called "webrings", a collection of websites based on a particular theme.<

He says in 2000, the Bomis Babe Report, which he described as being like an early blog, was launched. "And it gave news about naked ladies - a little bit about porn stars, a little bit about celebrities who took their clothes off, that sort of thing."

Sanger, who was hired by Wales as an employee of Bomis, says he had nothing to do with this side of the business. "I was just the encyclopedia guy."

Later on, Bomis launched a pay product called Bomis Premium which Sanger says was a "softcore porn website" which "didn't actually feature depictions of sex - except between girls - but it did have anatomical displays".

Wales says that although he still holds shares in Bomis, "it's pretty much dead". He describes the Bomis phase as "a dotcom boom era fun time to be in the business because there were all kinds of crazy ideas going on".
Those "fun times" probably included the occasion Wales posed on a yacht wearing a peaked naval captain's hat, flanked by two female models dressed in what looks like undies and Bomis-branded T-shirts.

"In fact [Bomis] was a pretty much general search engine with everything from Thomas Jefferson to pop culture," Wales says.

While Wales admits to the fine-tuning, he says there was no controversy about it in the Wikipedia community until "the media caught wind of it and thought it was a big deal".

"In my biography there were just errors and they needed to be fixed," he says.

Jimmy Wales will speak at in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne this week. For more details visit: educationau.edu.au

Why You Shouldn't Trust Wikipedia: Senator Chuck Norris

Why You Shouldn't Trust Wikipedia: Senator Chuck Norris
Monday April 23, 2007

Norris is famous for many reasons. His unbeatable karate certainly tops the list, highlighted in his extensive movie career, and his popular TV show is yet another reason to know the man's name. But his political career...well, let's just say it hasn't taken off.

Nevertheless, search Wikipedia for information on Nebraska (it's the 16th biggest state in the union!) and you'll learn that Chuck is the state's Republican senator. Don't tell long-time senator and possible 2008 presidential candidate Chuck Hagel that, however. I hear his karate is renowned.

Most Web 2.0 Users Are Really Just Couch Potatoes

Most Web 2.0 Users Are Really Just Couch Potatoes
April 22, 2007
Bruce Nussbaum

A study by Bill Tancer, an analyst with Hitwise, which measures Web 2.0 audiences, shows that only a tiny fraction of people using social media actively participate. A miniscule 0.16 percent of visits to YouTube actually involve people putting a video up on it, according to his online surfing data. All the rest are visits by people watching the videos of that tiny fraction.

Only two tenths of one percent of visits to Flickr are to upload new photos. Again, everyone else is watching. Just how many users are doing user-generated content?

Wikipedia shows much higher active partipation--4.6% of all visits are for editing. But think a moment--that is still a very small fraction of the total number of people using Wikipedia.

Tancer presented his data to the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Visits to Web 2.0 sites constitute 12% of all web activity, according to Tancer, up from 2% two years ago. It's soaring.

So, the question is--who is shaping the conversation? These numbers suggest that only a very, very small number of people actively create content in social media. Nearly everyone watches.

So are we really just reinventing TV, with folks pretty much sitting back passively (like couch potatoes)? Is YouTube just another NBC or Fox TV network?

Could be. These YouTube and Flickr numbers are even worse than the 1% Rule--for every 100 users of social media, only ten actively participate, and only 1 actually creates something. Back in July, 2006, the ratio of creators to consumers on YouTube was 0.5%. Now it is 0.16%. Many more people are drawn to YouTube to watch than to create.

Mark Vanderbeeken, over at Experientia, links to a vnunet story that quotes Barry Parr, an analyst at Jupiter Research, saying: "Consumer created content is now the big leagues, but we still don't understand it all that well. It's a reasonable (and old school) rule of thumb that only one per cent of any site's readers will post content on it, but that's plenty."

And Ted Shelton, vice president of business development at Technorati, says that "a small percentage of a huge number of users can still amount to a significant impact.Two per cent of a billion people online is still 20 million people writing blogs on a regular basis."

Shelton has another point. "Very few of those 20 million people actually worry about getting paid for what they do. People under 25 are much more likely to blog, and contribute content of other kinds, so this may be a phenomenon that is increasing."

Another point: These huge social media sites may no longer define what people are doing in social networking. I'm guessing that people are shifting their own conversations toward more direct,intimate social media, such as blogging. Numbers already show that young people are beginning to move away from MySpace as it grows bigger and more commercial for smaller, closer social networking sites.

The conversation economy is still iterating.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fisk on Wikipedia and Web hate campaigns

Fisk on Wikipedia and Web hate campaigns
Internet, posted: 22-APR-2007 11:01

"There is no end to the Internet's circle of hate," writes Robert Fisk in his article, Caught in the Deadly Web of the Internet, published in the Independent. Fisk, in case you've missed it, is a well-known British journalist whose critical pieces on Western policies the Middle East especially are seen, to put mildly, as controversial.

Even if you don't agree with Fisk, read that Independent story. In it, Fisk recounts the experience of Taner Akçam, a Turkish historian and writer. Akçam faces prosecution in Turkey for writing about the Armenian Genocide at the beginning of the century in that country - yes, the Turks are that sensitive about it still.

However, due to vandalising of Akçam's Wikipedia entry, which accused him of being a member of a terrorist group, he was detained by Canadian border police on February 17 this year. This is acknowledged in the Wikipedia entry, which can now only be edited by registered users.

Based on the detention and what US Homeland Security officials told him, Akçam now believes he can't travel overseas anymore because of the Internet hate campaign against him.

If you think about it, would you take your chances with border police after YouTube videos labelling you a "former terrorist"?

That's serious enough, but the Fisk also mentions Wikipedia's role in the the case of Hrant Dink, an Armenian-Turkish journalist who was murdered in January this year. Apparently a false quote attributed to Dink spurred his murder.

Fisk's own Wikipedia entry carries this notice on top:
Editing of this article by unregistered or newly registered users is currently disabled to prevent sock puppets of currently blocked or banned users from editing it. If you are prevented from editing this article, and you wish to make a change, please discuss changes on the talk page, request unprotection, log in, or create an account.

While it's easy to say "don't trust anything you see or hear on the Internet", reading Fisk's story, it appears that the Canadian and US authorities did just that. And why shouldn't they? Wikipedia styles itself as an encyclopaedia, not a libel and defamation publisher.

In the past, attacks on people tended to be contained to Usenet postings and later on, websites. Now however we have "the wisdom of the crowds" on sites like Wikipedia and the ability to easily assemble images, audio and video that appear very believable - and, Google finds it all.

Countries, corporations and individuals alike can be targeted on the Internet, and it doesn't take much effort either. Just pander to people's prejudices, and they'll believe you.

It's the Internet Samizdat cutting both ways. You will find the truth but also falsehoods, sometimes very damaging ones. That's the core of the issue Fisk's article points to: how do you know which is which any more?

By Juha Saarinen

Wayne Crookes sues Google, Wikipedia

Wayne Crookes sues Google, Wikipedia

p2pnet.net news:- Wayne Crookes, the Green Party of Canada's ex-financier, is in effect trying to sue the Net.

He's going after the Wikiedia, Google and openpolitics.ca, a Toronto site, claiming he's, "suffered an immense amount of frustration and emotional distress" over postings on Google's Blogspot.com, within an entry under his name in Wikipedia, and on openpolitics.ca, run up by Michael Pilling [right], an Ontario and federal Green Party activist.

Some 15 others may also have been targeted by Crookes, I understand.

"Mr Crookes seems to be trying to unwrite history and I don't think that's fair for the people of this country," Pilling told p2pnet. "He was a central figure in the growth of the Green Party. His actions were highly controversial and if we have freedom of speech in this country, people should be allowed to talk about them."

The lawsuit against Google was filed in British Columbia Supreme Court on April 16, says the Globe and Mail, going on:
It states that last summer, six anonymous defendants put libellous comments on Blogspot's The Green Compost Heap under passages labelled 'Wayne Crookes' and the 'Gang of Crookes.' Wayne Crookes, a Vancouver businessman and Green organizer, is suing three Internet sites for libel.

The suit against Wikipedia was filed on April 17. In this case, an article on Mr. Crookes written under the pseudonym of 'Indyperson' repeated some of the comments that appeared on The Green Compost Heap. The lawsuit against openpolitics.ca was made in May, 2006, and stems from postings in early 2005.

"I resent very much irresponsible statements made very recklessly. I'm determined that the people who have acted so irresponsibly will find that there are consequences," The Globe and Mail has Crookes saying. "I hope that the outcome is that people will realize they have obligations and that they will be forced to accept responsibility for their actions. The larger the organization, the greater the expectation that they will be held accountable for their actions."

Pilling found himself on the receiving end of a libel suit after a contributor posted an article on openpolitics.ca about then Green Party financier Crookes, who later claimed parts of the posting disparaged him and were untrue.

Pilling edited it, only to have the reader repost the content shortly afterwards and when Crookes objected again, Pilling explained how Crookes could use the site to contribute his own point of view.

"Democracy requires open debate. The purpose of my site is to give everyone an opportunity to express their position, and hope people start listening to each other," said Pilling at the time. "Instead, I was served with a lawsuit."

According to the Globe and Mail, Dermod Travis, a former communications director for the Green Party who's Crookes' spokesman, said the defendants "chose not to respond appropriately when put on notice that they [had] crossed a line".

"The American headquarters of both Google and Wikipedia declined to comment as they had not yet been served with the writ," says the story.

"Until 2003 the Party had little capacity to organize itself between elections, and as late as 2000 the party had no persistent infrastructure, and was based out of the same office as the Green Party of Ontario," says the Wikipedia.

"It received substantial loans from Wayne Crookes, a BC businessman who had previously also made large donations to the Green Party of British Columbia. Crookes has launched a lawsuit against Google, Wikipedia and the Canadian political blog site Openpolitics.ca for allowing supposedly libelous statements to be made about him."

Stay tuned.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Local man sues Wikipedia

Local man sues Wikipedia
Apr, 19 2007 - 12:20 AM

VANCOUVER/CKNW(AM980) - Anyone who has looked up a word on the internet has likely been directed to the site Wikipedia. But a Vancouver businessman is suing the company that runs the site for libel.

Wayne Crookes have filed a suit in BC Supreme Court alleging the Wikimedia Foundation which runs Wikipedia, and several web writers who uses aliases online, have libeled him. Crookes claims articles that appeared on the website were dishonest and abused power and were intended to hurt his reputation.

Crookes runs a title search company base in Vancouver and also has strong ties to the Green Party of Canada.

In the lawsuit, Crookes says he was never given the apology he asked for, and libelous writing continued to appear on the website. He is seeking unspecified damages.

Binns page on Wikipedia battle ground of guerrilla editing

Binns page on Wikipedia battle ground of guerrilla editing
CanWest News Service

Political forces on Prince Edward Island have been waging a propaganda war on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, by hijacking the website's biography of P.E.I. Premier Pat Binns.

Wikipedia.org, the self-styled "free encyclopedia" that anyone with an Internet connection can make contributions to or edit, purports to offer factual, impartial accounts of its subjects.

But in recent months the Wikipedia entry for Binns has turned into a battleground between Conservatives, Liberals and special interests on the island in advance of a looming provincial election.

Since January, the biography for Canada's longest serving current premier has been written and rewritten dozens of times, mostly by anonymous users, alternately painting Binns as either the saviour of P.E.I., or the source of its ills.
At the height of the Wiki-editing war this month, one anonymous opponent even posted a libelous allegation. This followed months of guerrilla editing in which Binns was hailed, without factual substantiation, as having presided over "record economic growth," and "record investments in health care, education and community development."

At one point, the biography also stated that Binns was "a friendly and approachable premier." Yet, no sooner were nice words written about him than nasty ones were edited into their place.

The only participant in the war of words to sign his name to any of the edits has been Stephen Pate, a disability activist, who weighed in with a critique of the P.E.I. government's treatment of disabled people.

Internet: the problem with Wikipedia

Internet: the problem with Wikipedia
by nbleven
Tuesday 17 April 2007

Wikipedia is today’s number 1 online encyclopedia, and everybody on the internet can get free access to it. Registering an account is free, publishing an article is free, Wikipedia users are not bothored by ads, because the online encyclopedia decided not to put any ads. But Wikipedia is also a leading source in information. Even if sometimes some informations are not correct, everyone can post whatever they know and Wikipedia is a great way to get to meet other people and build an entire network of online friends.
Wikipedia’s staff is quite important in matter of size, but no one is paid for the time they sacrifice to Wikipedia. Usually, companies starting on the internet do hire volonteer staff but, once they make a considerable amount of money, it usually starts paying some of its staff. At some point, the entire staff is paid. However, that is not how it goes on Wikipedia. As I said, all staff volonteers to work, but that is simply because Wikipedia cannot afford paying their workers.

The only source of income Wikipedia has is donations. Indeed, users on Wikipedia are encouraged to donate some money. The money goes to Wikipedia’s foundation, in which money mainly goes to the site. Donations can go up to a million dollars within a few weeks, but the online encyclopedia cannot ask too much money from its users. Wikipedia also has important donors, who donate quite a good amount of money to the site. Wikipedia must always stay in touch with those donors, in order to make sure that they still keep giving them money.

With 1 million dollars, Wikipedia can only last a few months. If Wikipedia finds itself financially into trouble, their website is at stake. Which means the online encyclopedia can shut down at any moments. 1 million dollars is lavished quickly at Wikipedia; they must pay trials,pay for the maintenance, etc.

Wikipedia has entered the top 10 most visited websites in the world, and its traffic is huge. There is no doubt Wikipedia could make tonsof money if they were willing to make that money. For example, Wikipedia could set up features/advantages to members who pay a certain amount of money on monthly basis. This could make Wikipedia win millions of dollars every month. Though Wikipedia does not want ads on its site, it should resort to ads; they would make a lot of money by setting up some ads.

Wikipedia is a great online encyclopedia; we can share informations, we can learn, we can search for many different subjects, and we can also contribute work to Wikipedia. Its only drawback — and it is a major drawback — is that it is not financially stabled, at its site is permanently at stake if money is not raised on time.

Wikipedia Co-Founder Continues Attack On Wales

Wikipedia Co-Founder Continues Attack On Wales
Monday, April 16, 2007
Adario Strange

It turns out that Larry Sanger’s statements weeks ago were just the first salvo in what is shaping up to be a concentrated campaign against Wikipedia. In a new interview, Sanger lays into UK Education Secretary Alan Johnson who sang the praises of Wikipedia at the recent conference of the National Association of Schoolteachers and Union of Women Teachers in Belfast.

Big mistake Mr. Johnson. Now the wiki-gloves are off!

After learning of Johnson’s comments, Sanger (pictured right) said, “I’m afraid that Mr Johnson does not realize the many problems afflicting Wikipedia, from serious management problems, to an often dysfunctional community, to frequently unreliable content, and to a whole series of scandals. While Wikipedia is still quite useful and an amazing phenomenon, I have come to the view that it is also broken beyond repair.” Scandal? Dysfunctional? Broken beyond repair?! Hey Jimbo, are you really going to take all that? Where are the wiki-cojones? In the name of Shatner vs. Montalban, let’s see some nerd-on-nerd action!

Consider the source

Consider the source
As a matter of fact, Wikipedia isn't always right on LI
April 17, 2007

There's a new kid in Online Encyclopedia Town.

Citizendium is thefirst serious contender to the throne currently occupied by Wikipedia, the historic site that offers a knowledge base of just about anything and everything.

Founded by Larry Sanger, who was instrumental in the construction of Wikipedia, the new service will seek to improve on the Wiki model by requiring contributors to sign their work, add expert editorial supervision and ensure the service's credibility.

Credibility, in fact, is the issue at the nub of the Wiki open-source, free-form phenomenon. As one observer pointed out in an ongoing blog rant on Wiki, "The great advantage of the Wikipedia, which allows everybody to add/edit everything, is also its greatest disadvantage."

Wikipedia has been at the center of a storm of controversy for some months and a subject of debate among journalists, academics and scholars about Wiki's place in serious research. Editors at The New York Times have warned reporters about trusting information contained in Wikipedia; at Newsday, reporters are expected to double-check on information they may glean from Wikipedia.

Supporters of the service admit it's not foolproof, it can be subject to vandalism and it's not necessarily the last word. When Middlebury College in Vermont this month restricted the use of Wikipedia citations, Wiki founder Jimmy Wales concurred, saying, "Students shouldn't be citing encyclopedias. I would hope they wouldn't be citing Encyclopedia Britannica, either."

The most sensational mistake to lie at the feet of Wikipedia was an article suggesting that John Seigenthaler Sr., a former aide to Robert Kennedy, was involved in the assassinations of both Robert and John F. Kennedy. The entry was eventually corrected by the subject, but that didn't stop an aggrieved Seigenthaler from airing his displeasure with the site in a piece in USA Today. It later was learned that the item was posted as a practical joke.

The contentions have forced Wales to implement a policy change for the site, requiring credential verifications in some cases; in other cases, contributors can remain anonymous. But he said they should only be allowed to cite some professional expertise in a subject if those credentials have been verified. More than 1.7 million articles are currently archived in Wikipedia so far, and that's just the English-language entries.

By comparison, Citizendium, the "citizens' compendium of everything," as the founders call it, is in baby-step mode, with 1,330 entries compiled as of Friday.

Sanger's guide for contributors emphasizes that authors "take responsibility for our own work, and we like to think we're a lot morecivil than your average Internet community. If you didn't take our real names policy seriously ... we will permanently ban you from the Web site." "Citizens" will also berequired to maintain biographies on their user pages.

Because we're paid in part to be skeptical, we decided to compare the information provided in Wikipedia on five topics close to the hearts of most Long Islanders with research done by the paper. For a look at how right (or wrong) Wiki got the data, click on the gallery at right.

Internet hosts should be made to pay for libellous statements, suit contends

Internet hosts should be made to pay for libellous statements, suit contends

Special to The Globe and Mail

The hosts of the speed-of-light world of Internet blogs and interactive websites that publish anonymous commentary should be forced to pay when reputations are damaged, says a former Green Party staff member who is suing three such sites.

Google, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and openpolitics.ca, a Canadian political website based in Toronto, are being sued in Vancouver in a libel case that could change the way Internet opinion is monitored and published.

Wayne Crookes, a former campaign manager of the Green Party of Canada, said he “suffered an immense amount of frustration and emotional distress” over postings on Google's Blogspot.com, a free blog-hosting website, within an entry under his name in Wikipedia, and on openpolitics.ca, an interactive political forum set up by Michael Pilling, an Ontario and federal Green Party activist.

The lawsuit against Google was filed in British Columbia Supreme Court on April 16. It states that last summer, six anonymous defendants put libellous comments on Blogspot's The Green Compost Heap under passages labelled “Wayne Crookes” and the “Gang of Crookes.”

The suit against Wikipedia was filed on April 17. In this case, an article on Mr. Crookes written under the pseudonym of “Indyperson” repeated some of the comments that appeared on The Green Compost Heap.

The lawsuit against openpolitics.ca was made in May, 2006, and stems from postings in early 2005.

“I resent very much irresponsible statements made very recklessly. I'm determined that the people who have acted so irresponsibly will find that there are consequences,” Mr. Crookes said.

“I hope that the outcome is that people will realize they have obligations and that they will be forced to accept responsibility for their actions. The larger the organization, the greater the expectation that they will be held accountable for their actions.”

Mr. Pilling, a former research head for the Green Party of Canada, confirmed that he was preparing to defend himself vigorously.

He said he understood why Mr. Crookes was upset, but that the case had wider implications.

“It is a case that could potentially go all the way to the Supreme Court because there is very little on the books in Canadian case law with respect to libel and Internet defamation,” he said.

“As the operator of the site, I'm being held responsible for edits that were made by others either as registered users or anonymous users.

“[Mr.] Crookes seems to contend that even though pages were removed from public view or potentially defamatory words were removed from the page that [as moderator of the site], I'm still liable.”

Dermod Travis, a former communications director for the Green Party who is acting as Mr. Crookes's spokesman, said that the defendants “chose not to respond appropriately when put on notice that they [had] crossed a line.''

The American headquarters of both Google and Wikipedia declined to comment as they had not yet been served with the writ.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wikipedia Seeks to Bar Office Contributions

Wikipedia Seeks to Bar Office Contributions
by Joal Ryan
Thu, 12 Apr 2007 04:06:01 PM PDT

Yes, Michael Scott has some interesting theories on how to gain the edge in salary talks. No, Wikipedia's not really interested in them.

The online encyclopedia has put its entry on negotiations in semilockdown after users spurred by NBC's The Office began peppering the page with tips that Steve Carell's less-than-sharp pencil-pusher supposedly read there.

"It's definitely the result of that episode," Wikipedia spokeswoman Sandra Ordonez said Thursday.

That episode, titled "The Negotiation," debuted Apr. 5. In it, Carell's Scott confides that everything he knows about the art of negotiation he learned on, um, Wikipedia.

"Wikipedia is the best thing ever," the irony-deficient character declares. "Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information."

According to the episode, Wikipedia-offered negotiation advice includes talking very, very softly, moving a meeting to another location and letting the other party speak first, no matter how long a staring contest ensues.

None of these tactics were actually found on the site's "Negotiation (process)" page—until, that is, after the episode aired, and after mischievous contributors began adding them, and more.

As first reported by the Associated Press, newly registered and unregistered users have since been barred from making posts.

"It's just a way to prevent people who may have gone to the article because of the show who may not have the best intentions," Ordonez said.

Wikipedia imposed even stricter controls on Sinbad's page last month after a prankster noted on it that the very much alive comedian had died of a heart attack.

At the home office for The Office, meanwhile, the show's powers-that-be did not sound encouraging of any tampering on it or its regional manager's behalf.

"I love going to Wikipedia and finding jokes from Michael Scott," executive producer Greg Daniels said Thursday, "but it would be more helpful if fans could post them before we write the shows."

Take Wikipedia with pinch of salt

Take Wikipedia with pinch of salt
11/ 4/2007

THE online encyclopaedia Wikipedia should be taken with a pinch of salt, a spokesman insisted today.

Wikipedia founder Larry Sanger told The Times it contains "frequently unreliable content" and is "broken beyond repair".

But Wikipedia's UK spokesman David Gerard said critics take it too seriously.

He said: "The problem is that sometimes people take us to be more reliable than we are. If you read it with critical thinking you'll get value out of it. It's not reliable in that you can trust every word."

Wikipedia bills itself as the "free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit". It is an internet phenomenon, publishing information in more than 100 languages and has more than 1.7 million English-language articles.

Its egalitarian nature is the secret of its appeal. Contributors are less likely to be tweedy academics than the office know-it-all who has found an outlet for his obscure passions. Anyone can write about anything.

Famous gaffes, as reported in the UK press, include reports that ex-Wet Wet Wet frontman Marti Pellow had died and the ridiculous story that the Irish town of Mayo had acquired a militia to fight off werewolves.

There have also been cases of "vandalism" where bogus or abusive information has been posted, although errors are removed.


Mr Gerard said: "Every single objection you can think of actually happens and we deal with it.

"Wikipedia is more reliable than it ever was but you can't get away with not thinking. Anyone can edit it."

David Bawden, a senior lecturer at the School of Informatics at London's City University said: "It's not something that you should rely on, certainly, but you shouldn't rely on any single information source.

"It's one of a number of internet resources like Google, MySpace and YouTube which gets seen by people and somehow a momentum builds up.

"It has got more people thinking about information and knowledge and how you get it.

"My approach is, 'it's good but...."'

Mr Gerard said the secret of Wikipedia's success is being "painfully open".

He said: "Instead of controlling stuff we tend to let stuff in and then fix it when it's wrong. You get bad stuff but you get a lot of good stuff you wouldn't get otherwise."


The German Wikipedia site is considered to be far more reliable as more fact-checking goes on, he revealed. He said: "The English site has occasional hiccups in quality but its strengths are its incredible breadth of coverage and it is reasonably up to date."

Mr Bawden said: "Some bits are kept up to date by world experts, others are written by people with a personal view. You should take it as a very useful first resource."

Mr Sanger has launched a similar venture called Citizendium.org which promises greater accuracy, according to The Times.

Mr Gerard wishes Larry Sanger luck. He said: "If he thinks he can do it better then that's fine. There's got to be more than one way to do this. It validates the model. We want Citizendium to be successful. We don't want to be the only one."

He sees a bright future for Wikipedia. Mr Gerard said: "We'll probably get more and more popular and wonder how we're going to store this data."

Mr Bawden said: "The Wikipedia idea where everyone contributes to it will be around a lot more. It's something that will stay and retain its importance but I don't think we'll have one single Wikipedia. I think it will split and I think we're seeing that now, with this new offshoot."