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.