How Truthiness And Wikiality Helped Colbert Take Down Wikipedia

from the the-revolution-will-not-be-verified dept

Since The Daily Show has been getting so much love from the tech crowd lately, with their recent discussions on net neutrality, spinoff show The Colbert Report had to really step things up to top its parent show. They did so by going after a topic that would get even more attention among techies: Wikipedia. As plenty of folks have been emailing and submitting, Stephen Colbert decided to take on Wikipedia tonight, and discuss his vision for a new “Wikiality,” where the masses create the facts they want to believe in. And did they ever. At the conclusion of the amusing segment, Colbert instructs his audience to find the Wikipedia entry on elephants, and edit it to say that “the number of elephants has tripled in the last six months.” Not surprisingly, plenty of people went to either make the edit, or to see if had been made. Sean Feeney quickly wrote in to note that the rush from the Colbert Nation apparently took down the site, giving visitors a message about technical difficulties. Of course, it didn’t take long for the folks at Wikipedia to leap into action and lock down 20 elephant related Wikipedia pages (they also claim that the technical problem was unrelated to Colbert-driven traffic, but Colbert is likely to claim otherwise). Of course, for those who are both fans of Stephen Colbert and Wikipedia… who gets the tip of the hat and who gets the wag of the finger?


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Comments on “How Truthiness And Wikiality Helped Colbert Take Down Wikipedia”

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99 Comments
Ravedigital (user link) says:

Wikipedia

Wikipedia needs some kind of self-moderating function granted to authenticated users with more abilities granted as their karma score increases. Letting ANYONE even without a username is a little bit ridiculous. A lot of people are using the internet, for good and evil, and it’s time for wikipedia to also move with the times.

Ravedigital (user link) says:

ALso..

Also may I add, it’s only time until spammers start using wikipedia to spam. already there a lot of commercial links that look somewhat like real pages from wikipedia entries but the only job is to simply redirect to link farms.

Spam will KILL wikipedia. In about 2-3 years I predict the onslaught of automated bots looking for topics on wikipedia to link to link farms with keyword analysis, followed quickly by a full user system with captcha and everything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bahahahaha

Yeah, funny. But the fact is that this kind of comedy could really hurt what is a great source of information. Sure it’s a wiki – entries must be taken with a grain of salt (it’s for intelligent people…you must think for yourself), but it’s still a great resource.

Yes, Wikipedia needs to move with the times and innovate better security while maintaining open source. However, I still think it’s out of line for Colbert (or anyone else) to mass-promote site vandalism the way he did. It would be too bad to see a site like Wikipedia die out due to mass-vandalism as a result of celebrity promotion of such acts.

Kat says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think we should be blaming Colbert, but rather his overestimation of the intelligence of the average TV viewer. There is a huge contingent of mouth-breathing, Rush-Limbaugh-parroting troglodytes that take everything Colbert says as gospel, simply because he is saying stuff that they want to hear. They don’t realize that the show is an ongoing satire on punditry and he is actually making fun of the Sean Hannity’s of the world.

Tyshaun says:

lemmings...

It’s amazing how people, for all of our sophistication still basically listen to people on the TV without thinking. Whether it was right or wrong for Colbert to do what he did, it was really bad that so many people just listened.

As for wikipedia, I think it’s best defense against spam is the same one that exists against erroneous information, user feedback. The more users it has the more quickly spam gets taken down when it occurs. About the only thing maybe they should do is improve protection against bots to make the task of making spam links more difficult to produce.

Mark says:

Wiki

Just because you read something, does it make it true? Get a clue people Creeps like Colbert will always be around, and every site may not have as much time devoted to them as should be. MOST of the thing I have looked up in Wikipedia has been at least close to what it should be. besides if you are researching something, do YOU only look at one sorce? If so don’t complain when your facts are wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wiki

Colbert is not a creep. Grow up.

Yes. That was out of line. But that doesn’t make him any less funny. For all the comedic genius in his body the guy should get a little credit for attacking the wrong thing – I think he should apologize for underestimating the impact his joke would have in reality – that would square things up as far as I’m concerned.

Tosshin says:

the "Wiki" principle

I for one hope that wikipedia DOESNT change their model of open editting. The principle behind a wiki site is that it allows for the community to contribute openly to the site. By even adding user registration you change the open feel of the website. I think the only thing that wiki needs to do is to continue to rely on the community that takes pride in the site to monitor and report erroneous information.

MikeJ says:

I think the point Colbert was trying to make is that it’s so easy for a person in a position of influence to distort the facts that it can crush a good-intentioned project such as Wikipedia with a mere wag of a finger. Today it’s elephants, but what happens when Pat Robertson and the 700 club catch on to Wikipedia and start editing entries about homosexuality and non-Christian religions?

spoon says:

Re: coment 12

The respective communities get really mad and re-edit it and Wikipedia locks the article and reverts it due to opinion-war.

I mean, isn’t this a self-propelling problem? They very problem he’s complaining about, he’s propagating! Most of the articles on Wikipedia try to stay void of opinion and just keep to the facts as they are known. Why are these people in such a rush to vandalise anything that smacks of progress? Are they afraid of it? Did it say something nasty about them? Or are they still just acting like children, messing it up because they can? There are communities that monitor most of the stuff, ad the admins can close anything down that becomes an opinion war. Look at Bush Jr’s article – it survived the war and it mostly lists the facts and timeline of his presidency with little, if any, opinion.

To people that vandalise it just because it can be, I say GROW UP! Wiki’s just trying to help, what’s your problem with that?! In my opinion, anyone that contributes should have to register, prove their intentions are neutral, and have to prove, in conversation, that they are just adding information. It is, I’ll admit, naive for Wikipedia to trust anybody to any capacity, and believe in nothing but the worst in people; I also believe the people who did this are worthless fuckers, and proves even more that mandatory registration and presentation of evidence into the group or admins controlling the article should be mandatory.

Nathan says:

Accept Wikipedia for what it is

Do I expect Wikipedia to be the OED? or Brittanica? Or Grollier’s? Or the NYTimes, LATimes, or WashPost? No, because it’s Wikipedia. It’s fast. It’s current. It’s fluid. It’s alive. It’s not a dead, centrally controlled, out of date information source. It can abused. AND it can be corrected. Can you correct Brittanica when it’s wrong? Can you correct the NYTimes when they’re wrong? No. You might be able to bring it to someone’s attention, but after that all bets are off. This is not a weakness of Wikipedia. It is it’s strength, but you need to understand what Wikipedia is and stop bitching that it isn’t something that it isn’t supposed to be.

Kevin says:

Re: Accept Wikipedia for what it is

Any wealthy organization that wishes to control Wikipedia can hire a team of individuals to monitor a specific list of articles and prevent any edits that are contrary to what they want published. It is also true what Colberg suggests — that Wikipedia shows the facts that the majority wishes to believe. Imagine 95% of the people had an incorrect view on a topic. Do you think the 5% while get an equal say? There are many more arguments beyond these two that discredit Wikipedia. Unfortunately, Wikipedia is trusted by far too many people as definitive. It needs to more publicized that wikipedia is not to be used as an end of search resource for information. It is good as a starting point, but that is all you can garantee.

Don Gray says:

Thank You Colbert!

Although I think it’s sad that so many of Colbert’s audience decided to participate in intentionally putting incorrect informatin on Wikipedia, I don’t think you can blame Colbert for that.

The fact that Wikipedia shrugged off this challenge fairly easily is a testament to its robustness.

The real issue is that a BUNCH of people who probably had never heard of wikipedia just did. Wikipedia can’t buy that kind of advertising.

In fact, perhaps the wiki foundation should start a Hollywood campaign to get some “product placements” into movies and television shows so even more people can join in.

chris (profile) says:

pat robertson et. al.

mikej wrote:

‘what happens when Pat Robertson and the 700 club catch on to Wikipedia and start editing entries about homosexuality and non-Christian religions?”

read the wikipedia article on part robertson, or paul wolfowitz, or any other conservative. at least half the time the neutrality of the article is being disputed.

colbert’s whole running gag has been that we should blindly accept the whitehouse’s version of everything and to not think for ourselves, telling people to vandalize wikipedia is part and parcel with his schtick.

George Glass says:

Compromise

Maybe it would work best if anyone could make changes, but the changes wouldn’t be published until they were approved by registered users. There could also be a way to enter your email address without registering – just to receive notification when the changes were approved or denied. Registered users could make immediate changes.

Wikipedia may have some disadvantages, but it is one-of-a-kind. Other sources of information may be more reliable in some ways, but they have their own disadvantages. Despite its flaws, Wikipedia is a great resource and I believe it will change with the times – after all, that’s what it’s designed to do!

A. Lloyd Flanagan (profile) says:

Lighten up people

1) The segment on the Colbert Report was hilarious.

2) Nobody is going to believe that the population of elephants has tripled in six months.

3) Wikipedia is great, but it’s not Holy Writ. It’s an experiment in collaborative information-sharing. It’s vulnerable to this sort of thing, more or less by design. This is not a problem.

4) Once they’re through cleaning up the entry on elephants, it’ll probably be way better than it was.

Kilroy says:

Wikipedia is generally good...

Wikipedia is a community resource. Much like Ebay and Myspace, Wikipedia is generally a good tool if you understand the ‘dangers’ associated with it as well. Also, like Myspace and Ebay, Wikipedia relies on the community that it serves to police it as well. In extreme cases, the handle full of staff will intervene where necessary.

What Colbert did was point out one of these ‘dangers’ to the normally uninterested public. I believe this is a good thing because, like similar situations with Myspace and Ebay, it allows the public to become more aware of what the tool can and cannot provide and the ‘dangers’ associated with its use. Informed users are always better than blind ones.

As long as the Wikipedia community continues to police itself (by disputing facts, erasing incorrect information, etc) it will keep getting better and better and the malicious efforts of a few will be washed away by the noble efforts of the many.

As it turns out, if you give the public a chance they are indeed capable of doing the right thing and more often than not, prefer to.

jsnbase says:

Don't be ridiculous

“It’s amazing how people, for all of our sophistication still basically listen to people on the TV without thinking. Whether it was right or wrong for Colbert to do what he did, it was really bad that so many people just listened. ”

They were thinking; there’s nothing lemming-like about it.

It’s like Nathan said, Wikipedia doesn’t NEED anything, it is what it is.

Mike Lewis (user link) says:

I can’t believe that I’m seeing posts vilifying Colbert. Might those commenters not be aware that his show is pure satire of self-righteous, loose-with-the-facts, so-called conservative, TV opinion show hosts?

Someone even wrote that a “good prosecutor” could “make a case” against Colbert for inciting violations of cybercrime laws. Which law is it that prohibits a person from posting inaccurate information on Wikipedia?

This all exposes the vulnerability of Wikipedia and other Internet resources to inaccurate information yet also confirms the ability of the community to safeguard Wikipedia’s content. These seem to be positive points, but at the very least, they represent reality.

If you’re upset about this, you probably crave an Internet and broadcast media that are much more restricted by the government. Fortunately, you can find this in China, so I’d recommend a visit.

Mike Lewis (user link) says:

And another thing: the whole point about the “weakness” of Colbert’s audience is ridiculous.

They played into the joke to confirm his point while having some fun, curious about where the joke could lead.

To fully understanding Colbert’s meaning is the opposite of being weak. Watch the show, and if you miss any of the biting social and political commentary, made through satire, post here and I’ll explain it to you.

JustMe says:

Why is everyone so upset?

I believe that Techdirt had an article just a few weeks ago about students citing WikiPedia in term papers because they didn’t understand it should not be trated as an authoritative source. I’m guessing that their parents were just as clueless.

Well guess what, this is a great way to use the Wiki system to demonstrate that it is different than an encyclopedia.

There’s no harm done to Sean, and no harm to Wiki, so chill.

And yes, I am a WIki contributor. I look after my little article every month.

relativismstinks says:

the public will do the right thing?

Kilroy wrote: “…and the malicious efforts of a few will be washed away by the noble efforts of the many.

As it turns out, if you give the public a chance they are indeed capable of doing the right thing and more often than not, prefer to.”

I guess the “public” doesn’t watch Colbert, then eh? Which “public” are you referring to? I think what happened with the Colbert show indicates more clearly than ever that given the temptation, the “public” will do the wrong thing, not the right thing. As it has turned out this time, if you give the public a chance to do the wrong thing, the malicious efforts of the many (Colbert viewers) have to be cleaned up by the noble efforts of the few (wiki staff).

Brad Eleven (profile) says:

What Would O'Reilly Do?

Aside from the “go to your windows right now and start yelling” effect, Colbert’s stunt is merely a prime example of something that a boneheaded, egomaniacal host of a political talk show would pull. Notice how Colbert extends the satirical analogy by doing actual damage in the real world.

O’Reilly’s true style is way below this; if anything, he (and other would-be disinformatives) would perpetrate something like this in secret. Something tells me he’d go for something a little more relevant to his own ends than the elephant population.

Recall that the staffs of certain Federal representatives–both elected and appointed–modified their masters’ Wikipedia entries about a year ago–and were caught. I like to think that there are plenty of volunteers who monitor changes to Wikipedia pages, but I doubt that there are enough to survive an orchestrated attack.

And I cling naively to the hope that such attacks will continue to require masses of human beings (as opposed to botnets) in order to vandalize freely available resources–at least for the foreseeable future.

David says:

Colbert Report

I can’t believe so many people listen to what Colbert said. That just shows the intelligence and maturity level of his audience. Don’t get me wrong, I love the show, but it’s stupid humor. In addition, Wikipedia is open to the community. There is no “flaw”. Anyone can edit the articles. Of course, users will put in wrong information, but other users can correct this error. This is the beauty of Wikipedia.

Pope Ratzo says:

wikipedia cannot sustain it’s policy of letting anyone edit its pages, any more than a bank can have a “honor-system” policy of letting anyone help themselves to withdrawals.

A certain segment of the population will always be so poorly socialized or simply sociopathic, and will make a mess of things given the chance.

I don’t see any problem with requiring logins and some sort of karma-authorization system to keep the screwups from spoiling Wikipedia for us all.

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Many Colbert Watchers?

I don’t know what all you people are talking about with “it was really bad that so many people just listened.” and Although I think it’s sad that so many of Colbert’s audience decided to participate”. I watched the show last night. After he announced what he was going to do, I immediately opened my laptop and loaded up wikipedia, to see if he was actually going to change the entry. When he apparently (it’s still not proven that the username “Stephencolbert” is really his) changed his entry regarding Oregon, I was impressed. I noticed then it was changed back almost immediately. After he made the suggestion about elephants, I want to watch that. And some people did change it. But, the number of people who were actually trying to change these pages according to Colbert’s instructions were less than a dozen people. Most of the editing done was removing vandalism, replacing lost info, and correcting typographical errors. I’m not sure how many people watched the show last night, but a dozen out of a few tens of thousands is not what I’d call “many”.

Danno says:

There’s nothing wrong with Colbert telling people to go onto Wikipedia and make edits, I just think that encouraging non-factual edits is a dick move.

If he had told his audience to go on and state edit in their opinions on some topic they had some particular knowledge on, that wouldn’t be so bad because there would probablly be roughly an equal amount of good and bad edits and once (most of) the bad edits got corrected, Wikipedia would be left with a net positive gain.

Telling the audience to go and mess up the Elephants page is just mean.

casey kochmer (user link) says:

checks and balances

Many people are missing the point. Wikipedia does have a very solid check and balance system. Its us. Everyone of its users is a check and balance for the information that flows in.

Granted this system is only as good as its users. However thats true of all information systems. Over time automated checks and balances will have to be added to fight spammers using automated tools against wikipedia. But any and all good software design is a process of evolution. Wikipedia is the same, and over time will have to evolve or become defunct. But the designers have done a great job to date, hopefully they will continue to do so for the future. It shouldn’t be a process of debate or arm chair quarter backing but rather it’s us working as community together to keep Wikipedia what it is 🙂 a Great shared resource.

peace

Mark says:

I I love both Wikipedia and Colbert, and I wasn’t very comfortable with seeing him encouraging its vandalism. At the same time, when he put the plan out in public like that, he pretty much gauranteed that it would not do any damage to the site. It sucks that he caused a headache for whoever had to deal with the misinformation, but still… the nature of Wikipedia allows for misinformation to be accepted as truth. If it wasn’t for the public nature of the prank, a valid entry could have been tainted. The Wikipedia relies on responsible use and for now has been an extremely valuable source of information. It reminds me alot of how the web was when I first got started using it. The fact that there are individual entries that can be disputed and worked on collectively makes it much better than the old internet, but it still relies on the good nature of the people using it and unfortunately alot of people will not honor the site’s intentions.

Alex Hagen says:

Why the fuss?

Why all the fuss about this. This is such not the big deal. The amount of vandalism done on Wikipedia on any given day makes any amount that Colbert or Colbert’s fans did seem trivial. The reverting, and locking, of pages is done all the time all over Wikipedia. Maybe the subject matter of the vandalism was odd (Elephants?) but the methods used to deal with it have been honed to a razor sharp skill over there. For example, I hope everyone does realize that the things that Colbert on the show did were changed back by the normal processes within 10 minutes, well before the episode even aired. It just shows how good Wikipedia has become. Not perfect, but it will take a lot more than this to show flaws in their system.

Checker says:

WikiWar

This Jagoff and his website have major issues with Wiki.—————————————————————————

http://factcheck.gullible.info/discussion/145/no-more-links-to-wikipedia-articles/#Item_0———————————————————

“If you post a link to Wikipedia your post will be hidden, or your thread moved to the garbage chute. Thank you for your cooperation and patience.”

jsnbase says:

Yeesh.

To Checker:

Gullible.info is a website devoted to made-up facts. They are trying to distance themselves from Wikipedia because (amongst other things) in the past back-and-forth link has required them to debunk their own fake facts in Wiki articles. It’s a unique case. Ease up, tiger.

To Brad Eleven:

The speaker at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner has always been an entertainer, and has become more and more ‘roastish’ as the years have gone by. Even if he didn’t wow the crowd, bringing Colbert in is exactly what they’ve always done. Nothing idiotic about it.

Lay Person says:

I read some research

I read some research regarding the accuracy of Wikipedia content.

They concluded that as far as science is concerned, it is as accurate as Encyclopedia Brtannica.

It was slightly less accurate concerning contemporary events and culture.

Overall the researchers concluded that it is as accurate as anything else in print.

Anonymous Coward says:

Spam won’t kill Wikipedia, it’ll just force them to increasingly step-up restrictions on who can and can’t edit as spamming becomes more automated and organised, rather than the individual vandalism that exists today (which isn’t anything like as under control as the Wikipedia fanboys would have us believe anyway).

What could “kill” Wikipedia are its fundamental flaws in structure and philosophy. We can already see that the hype Wikipedia has been receiving from the mainstream media is dying down now, and being gradually replaced with cynicism and ridicule as people realise that, in actual fact, Wikipedia is not an encyclopaedia, but rather an often-innacurate repository of trivia and a place for nerds to participate in flamewars with each other.

Fire Star says:

Wikipedia

The pre-Colbert versions aren’t lost, they are in the page history that anyone can look up.

I am a volunteer Wikipedia administrator, and I thought Colbert’s bit was hilarious.

What drew me to Wikipedia (WP) was the desire to make sure that the articles on my and related professions weren’t being spammed, and I spend about half my time there removing spam and banning spammers as well as other vandals. Due to the increased traffic, a lot gets by, but it is usually caught fairly soon.

Even so, WP is a better place to start researching a subject than it is to use as a reliable source…

Feynmann says:

The Wikipedia...

look up any physics related term on the wikipedia and it will be 99% accurate… but even that’s beside the point, in what other encyclopedia can you find information on any video game you desire? hell, the subject of “video games” probably isn’t even a 1 page entry in most encyclopedias, never mind the detail some of wikipedia’s pages have on individual games (final fantasy series)… and even that’s beside the point… anything that people can obsess about (video games, science, philosophy) will be 99% accurate on the wikipedia because people take their obsessions to the extreme… and 99% accurate is just as good if not better than the encyclopedia britannica

Dr. MoFo says:

Robust?

: “The fact that Wikipedia shrugged off this challenge fairly easily is a testament to its robustness.”

Unless you were one of the 2 billion or so people with internet access outside the USA, or not watching Colbert, who happened to consult Wikipedia’s entry for African Elephants last night – and got wrong information.

Click … Boom!

Admit your Wikipedia dreams are over, guys.

You can’t vote for the truth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Contradictions everywhere

Wikipedia can be corrected, but how will you know its correct?

Sure the masses can decide what they want to believe, until a minority committee of Wikipedia admins disagrees.

I think this Elephant deal was perfect. The masses decided to believe something different, and a minority population disagreed. Then the minority population used tools and influence such as locking the page to ensure that only their opinion mattered and won.

That’s not open.

Facts will be disputed…until the admins decide they should not be. Yet they have no credentials to argue their facts are better than yours. Meanwhile experts and academics are vilified for claiming to be authorities. The only expert authority in Wikipedia is admin apparently.

So who is right about Elephants? Who is to say Colbert wasn’t right about the population? Wikipedia doesn’t respect expert authorities that aren’t open, so what WWF says doesn’t count. WWF doesn’t just let anyone dispute and change the information they publish, so they can’t be trusted.

Wikipedia is an array of contradictions, and that was the point Colbert made beautifully.

mandy (user link) says:

Re: Contradictions everywhere

Anonymous (#84.), Let’s talk about the Wikipedia Administrative team:

Then the minority population [i.e., Wikipedia admin] used tools and influence such as locking the page to ensure that only their opinion mattered and won.

I’m inclined to agree except you’re forgetting something. Admin locked Wikipedia because it became very apparent that “vandals”, or folks who thought it would be funny to take Colbert’s suggestions to heart, were about to completely skew the collected data of people who were serious and concerned and diligent enough to contribute to the African elephant and other elephant entries. So the administrative staff did not lock those entries to ensure their opinions were the main source of info to be delivered to the masses, but rather to protect the efforts made by countless elephant enthusiasts as it were who made those entries in the first place — a group maybe far outnumbering those who were ready to sabotage those entries. So in fact, the Wiki administration was looking out for the minority trying to report factual information.

At any rate, I agree that Colbert made a good point, however rebelliously it may have been executed.

mandy (user link) says:

The revolution will not be verified

Mike: In reference to your comment on my post, I’m sorry I didn’t quite pick up on your sarcasm, but it certainly wasn’t clear. Surprisingly enough, I think a lot of people might not realize that Colbert and Stewart are very much a team.

And who gets a Tip of the Hat or a Wag of the Finger? I think both Colbert and Wikipedia get the former. Colbert for pointing Wiki out and Wikipedia for the quick response.

Flameviper (user link) says:

Oh, by the gods.

There are hundreds of people who constantly watch the recent changes. No vandalism gets by them. People have a skewed opinion of Wikipedia; everyone talks about the “edit this page” button but nobody talks about “IP block list” or “page protected” or “recent changes”. I agree that it would be naive to assume everyone edits in good faith. That’s not how Wikipedia works.

Have any of you actually observed how Wikipedia works? Or are you all just flaming Wikipedia when in fact you have no clue how it works? I suspect the latter.

Chewy (user link) says:

Is EVERYONE completely ignorant?

Am I the only one who thinks that Colbert pointed out the weakness of Wikipedia? Why is everyone so quick to defend it? This illustrates the ignorance of the masses perfectly. As Colbert said, if a majority of people agree that information is right, it is. I mean, 1984 anyone? Jeez.

I’m not saying that other systems of information need not be questioned, but Wikipedia is garbage, and no comments about close-mindedness or not understanding the checks that are in place will change this. The information is not reliable, and until there are stronger checks in place, it never will be. And banning IP addresses is not enough. Anyone can mask that easily enough.

And even if someone does revert any false changes, for the time that the information was incorrect, it could have been accessed by any number of people. What do you say to them?

Different people have different priorities. That is the flat out truth. Weather you know it or not, you have your own, no matter how neutral you might try and be. And it has been recorded that people with priorities have systematically changed “facts” to suit their own priorities, whatever they may be. And this includes the “altruistic” admins that run that site. Not all of them are as benevolent as they claim.

At least when you watch the CBC you know it is going to have more of a Liberal slant, or when you read the Sun or the Post, it’ll be Conservative. Wikipedia is anyone guess, and as such it is mostly useless, system of checks notwithstanding.

Bob says:

He's a comedian.

(paraphrased) “Steven Colbert was altruistically pointing out a flaw in wikipedia so it could be fixed.”

No he wasn’t. Steven Colbert is a comedian. He is funny. He did something that he thought was funny. It kind of was. Steven Colbert deserves a wag of the finger for recommending that his viewers sabotage a good thing.

When I saw that episode, I immediately went to the African elephants page, not to sabotage, but to see if it was locked down. It was. Good for wikipedia.

A little off topic, but since we are talking about the strengths and weaknesses of wikipedia, has anyone noticed how snooty the staff are? I make several changes every month, usually spelling and/or grammar, sometimes filling in blanks. About three times so far, I got their “Your submission is not approved and has been reverted” page. Ok, fine. I’m not perfect, maybe I made a mistake. But the problem is, that page is uninformative and condescending. It doesn’t say what edit was not approved. I make several. It also doesn’t say why it wasn’t approved. It is also condescending. “Thank you for experimenting with wikipedia. In the future, please experiment in the sandbox.” Wikipedia needs to get off their high horse and recognize that they would be less complete without user contribution. In fact, they would be almost nothing without it.

Flameviper (user link) says:

Jeebus, they are all idiots...

Almost all of the posts on this topic are by ignorant fools who have no idea what they speak of.
People do not “vote on” articles. Unsourced statements are marked as uncited and deleted. The only actual “voting” process occurs when an article is nominated for deletion. Even then, it is not the number of users on each side as much as the consensus. Three users with correct and valid arguments to keep an article will outweigh fifteen users who give no sound argument to delete.
There is no opinion involved in publishing cited facts.

Sylocat (user link) says:

Not clear

Forgive me for spouting a naïve, ridiculous, uninformed opinion here, but I can’t help but think that if Wikipedia were going to get overrun by spammers, it would have happened a long, long time before now.

I’m not sure why Wikipedia works. It shouldn’t. It’s a terrible idea, and a recipe for disaster. But for some reason it does, even in an age where any moron can use the internet, for some reason they’ve managed to keep their database reasonably stable, even one that everyone on the internet has the power to edit. And yes, there have always been vandals, but overall they haven’t overrun the pages. Don’t ask me WHY it’s worked, I have no idea, and certainly I wouldn’t advise anyone to “assume good intentions” of everyone online, but they did, and for the most part they got what they wanted.

I think the actions on the part of Colbert’s fans were a clear-cut case of “finding what you’re looking for.” They created a problem, namely mass vandalism, and now they’re claiming it’s always been a major problem.

Flameviper (user link) says:

Not really.

You don’t “control” Wikipedia by watching certain articles and reverting all edits to them. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:OWN.

You cannot use multiple accounts to influence consensus. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:SOCK.

You cannot push your own point of view on an article, this gets you banned. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:NPOV.

There is a large group of editors that pass a rigorous process and examination so that they have exculsive rights. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:ADMIN.

I’m sick of all these people who have absolutely no experience on the site saying “WELL IF ANY1 CAN EDIT THEN IT CANT B ACCURATE!!!111”

There are literally hundreds of thousands of malicious edits made every day on Wikipedia. Even if Colbert could get 100,000 people to vandalise the site (which I seriously doubt, the number was more like 10), it would make no difference. Wikipedia IS ALREADY UNDER ATTACK. Everyone keeps saying “well, people can screw up the database”. Dead wrong. They’ve been reverting and blocking since January 2001. They’re not going to be overrun.

You have no clue what you’re talking about. Honestly, you don’t.

BAHHH says:

I hate wikimorons (I.E. people who use wikipedia and are… morons)

Flameviper is a perfect example.

Little anecdote, I vandalized several articles and my vandalisms stayed for weeks (people even SPELLCHECKED my vandalisms)… then someone took it down as being “unreferenced”. So I left the page, created a Geocities account… and self referenced myself, that was up for months before people noticed my little addition.

And I wasn’t “subtle” like Colbert was planning on being, I posted blatant lies that most people could see through but were worded in such a manner that it seemed true.

Simple matter of distorting information without being too stupid. (Like claiming sulfur is yellow, but turns bright red under High Spectrum UV Light, this effect is caused by the electron ionization shells increasing due to the UV Radition.) [I don’t think any of that really makes much sense]

A simple claim that “the number of Elephants has tripled in the last six months” is quite likely to be left unnoticed… expecially if worded into an existing paragraph. (But most wikimorons probally remember the attack and will take it down…)

Remember the number one rule of Wikipedia, if don’t read the ARTICLE, read the EDITS. Which means if your edit can survive for a few days, most Wikipedians won’t notice it.

Nother anecdote. I have several wikipedia accounts… and just to test my theory I made a blatant vandalism to an article and with one of my wikiaccounts followed up with an edit. Several edits actually. No one touched the blatant error for days… I think it was me vandalizing another article to see if I could do it again that brought the vandalism to wikipedias attention (although to the cred, it was some article about some stupid person that no one knows).

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