Who Do You Trust, The Wiki Or The Reporter?

from the questions,-questions... dept

On Wednesday I posted a story linking to an article suggesting Wikipedia was somehow untrustworthy. While I can understand why, at first, the concept of Wikipedia seemed a little scary to those who hadn't seen it in action, I figured the reporter in question might want to know a few more details about it, and perhaps correct some of his misperceptions. My main problem was that he seemed to write off Wikipedia based solely on how it was created and maintained, and not at all on the actual content. Along with my post, I sent an email to the writer, Al Fasoldt, giving him some additional information about Wikipedia, and wondering why, after telling us how you can't trust any random info online, he trusted the email from a random librarian claiming Wikipedia was somehow untrustworthy. The ongoing discussion with Mr. Fasoldt has been quite a lesson in watching how a journalist (a) continues to make unsubstantiated allegations (b) seems to prefer insulting me and putting words in my mouth to actually responding to my points or questions and (c) sticks steadfastly to his belief that only "experts" can be trusted with information -- and, in his case, only experts that he chooses. Yet, somehow, we're supposed to find him more trustworthy than a self-correcting community. Figuring he might appreciate the views of others in his profession (you know, "experts"), I sent him links to Dan Gillmor's article on Wikipedia and Steve Yelvington's recent realization of the power of Wikipedia. However, rather than actually look at that information, Mr. Fasoldt accused me of wanting "students to trust a source that's not trustworthy." After some back and forth of this nature, where Mr. Fasoldt responded to my request that he do a little more research by saying: "I'm glad you're not the publisher of a newspaper" (apparently, his publisher lets him do no research at all) and then telling me that anyone who wrote for Wikipedia obviously knew nothing (his phrase was: "100 times zero is still zero"), I suggested an experiment. I pointed to the Wikipedia page on Syracuse, NY where he apparently lives, and suggested he change something on the page, to make it provably, factually incorrect -- and see how long it lasted. Rather than take me up on the experiment, or suggest an alternative, he complained simply that the whole idea of Wikipedia was "outrageous," "repugnant" and finally (in another email) "dangerous," and therefore he refused to take part in my experiment. He told me that asking him to take part of an experiment that would show how Wikipedia corrected errors "wouldn't change the danger" of Wikipedia -- and mentioned how important it was that teachers everywhere knew what a dangerous tool this was. After this email exchange, he came to Techdirt himself, and commented that, based on what he read here, he was disappointed in our educational system -- and proceeded to misquote a poem. Apparently, he was unwilling to trust information displayed in Wikipedia, but finds random comments on a blog as a representative sample of our education system. Thankfully, someone else corrected his misquote, pointing out that a group editing system might have helped out in such a situation. It's true that you shouldn't trust anything you read online, by itself. However, most of us know how to look at information, find other, supporting information to back it up or disprove it before writing it off, and not to judge a wiki by its disclaimer. However, by refusing to back up his claims, by mis-stating or ignoring nearly everything I said to him and by resorting to misdirection in his arguments, personally, I find Mr. Fasoldt to be untrustworthy -- but I suggest you make your own judgment call on that one.

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  1. identicon
    Emperorhasnoclothes, 29 Sep 2004 @ 7:38pm

    Re: Wiki Or The Reporter?

    Imagine. We are all on a plane - far above the ground. Suddenly the Pilot has a heart attack. I wonder whether they would ask on the loud speaker for everyone to develop a consensus on the best way to deal with this condition? Or just might they ask for all doctors, yes, maybe even medical professionals with expertise and experience of dealing with heart attacks? Oh, and now guess what, the Co-Pilot just had a heart attack and the autopilot is down. Do we hear a voice on the loud speaker asking for a consensus (maybe even a Stearing Committee) to decide how to fly the plane. Or maybe just maybe do you think that we would hear a voice asking for someone with flight training and perhaps even a specialist in flying 747's to come quickly to the cabin. Oh yes, and at the current trajectory and the current speed the plane will hit the ground in 5.3 minutes. Or is that subject to the uncertainty principle - maybe we should build some consensus. Maybe if we get our heads together mathematical and physical laws could just bend to suit the whim all the passengers. Or maybe we should just all consult Wikipedia! Oh! Oh!,would you risk your life like that. Did you know Emperorhasnoclothes that Psychologist reaserchers have foun on well done doble blind studies that two people having a conversation for 30 minutes, 30% of what they say to each other can be categorized as lies? Three types or ways of lying they mentioned are omissions, commissions and distortions. The most common are distortions. Imagine in 24 hours, imagine distortions versus distorsions in wikipedia, consensus over distortions over consensus on the consensus over distortions and omissions, almost impossible. I think the whole concept of wikipedia is a distortion, wikipedia is a fractal, not a mergint point, so it can not be used as a model, or a source. With a wikipedia model, sience is not possible, nor inventions. If a wikipedia model would have been the source of knowledge to build the “first computer” , today this first computer still would have not been invented yet, nor anything else. Even more wikipedia exist on the base of inventions and discoveries of authoritative people, softwere, hardwere, computers, internet, mathematics, well all authoritative…and like games, is based upon that, I consider that project a computer game, nothing more than that, here everybody may play, some moderators made the rules. Aren’t they authority?

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