Tag Archives: Wikipedia

You can’t make this stuff up

Sometimes I don’t know why I bother! – Charles Stross:

Ignaz Trebitsch-Lincoln (Wikipedia biography here) … was (variously) a Jewish, Presbyterian, Buddhist, spy, British MP, Nazi, propagandist, and would-be Balkan oil cartel mogul. Oh, I forgot to mention: claimed reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and Japanese-backed candidate for the Emperor of China. (Not bad for a poor shtetl boy who started out as a Hungarian orthodox Jewish yeshiva student.) Nothing about this man makes any sense whatsoever unless he’s a character from a movie script written by Thomas Pynchon for Woody Allen.

Wikipedia entry for Sunnydale, the fictional location for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” 

Sunnydale’s size and surroundings are implausible but justified given its origins — to sustain a human population for supernatural evils to prey upon. The town’s founder spared no expense to attract a populace, and Sunnydale thus contains many elements of a large city — which the show’s writers utilized fully for comic effect and narrative convenience. During the first three seasons, Sunnydale is shown to have 38,500 inhabitants,[2] very few high schools,[3] forty-three churches,[4] a small private college,[5] a zoo,[6] a museum,[7] and one modest main street. Even so, it has twelve gothic cemeteries.[8] These cemeteries are so heavily used that services are sometimes held at night.[9] Sunnydale is divided into five neighborhoods. The first is the entertainment district which contains Bronze. The second is the alleys directly behind Bronze which contain the town’s excess supply of pallets and cardboard. The high school makes the third neighborhood. The fourth neighborhood is filled in its entirety by the large graveyard, and lastly the suburban residential sprawl is the final neighborhood. The abundance of very nice homes is made possible by low property values caused by frequent murder.[10]

Yet another copyright extension

Wikimedia Statement on Copyright Changes in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Wikimedia says the latest TPP treaty extends copyright from life + 50 years to life + 70. Because people who have been dead 51 years are apparently very creative.

Although proponents of copyright term extension commonly argue that such restrictive monopoly rights provide an incentive for creators to generate material, economists and legal scholars have found that the benefits of such term extensions accrue overwhelmingly to copyright holding companies rather than to the artists themselves.

The law would also require ISPs to become copyright cops.

A Wikipedia hoax page survived five years, earned prestigious quality award

“Wikipedia has been a massive success but has always had immense flaws, the greatest one being that nothing it publishes can be trusted. This, you might think, is a pretty big flaw….”

Another embarrassment for Wikipedia was the recent revelation that a hoax page had survived for five years and had won several awards. The ‘Bicholim conflict’ entry was a detailed but fictitious account of a war in Indian Goa that never took place. It was rated as one of Wikipedia’s top pages and received a quality award that only one per cent of all Wikipedia articles achieve.

Also, the page for the Amanda Knox trial has been taken over by a group convinced of her guilt; they edit out references to information critical of her trial, or cast those references in disparaging light.

One major problem is that journalists often go to Wikipedia as their first research stop. Thus Wikipedia shapes the official record.

The author of this article argues Wikipedia must be destroyed. I agree Wikipedia has troubling flaws. But it’s also a great source of free information. And what’s the alternative? Professionally edited journals are also subject to bias and groupthink; just look at the run-up to the Iraq war in 2002 and the way the national news media accepted the Bush Administration’s story uncritically.

I like to think I use Wikipedia intelligently. It’s often my first stop for research. It’s often my last stop too, if I’m just looking up something for casual knowledge. If I’m doing research for professional or other important reasons, I follow the footnotes on Wikipedia to the original sources.

Wikipedia: where truth dies online