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Why I (mostly) trust Wikipedia

April 23, 2008

I’ve been trying to figure out how I can contribute to Wikipedia to fulfill our class assignment.  I finally decided on clearing up my high school’s entry, which is flagged as being written like an advertisement.  While that flag seems innocent, I really appreciate the warning.  It doesn’t mean the information in there is inaccurate, it just means that it’s not coming from a neutral point of view.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see the same warning whenever you receive information?  

Imagine you’re talking to someone who’s speaking on a subject that you know nothing about it.  How helpful would it be to have a flag that says “Warning, these statements are unsubstantiated.  Believe them at your own risk.”  Okay, that scenario is kinda silly but imagine any situation where the information presented to you is through is coming through a particular filter.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know what that filter is?

A good example is the journalistic filter.  How about a flag that says “Warning, this reporter is overworked, underpaid and lacks proper fact checking time/resources.”  Or how about an innocent flag that says, “This journalist has donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”  

The flags I’ve proposed probably do more harm than good because they presuppose that the understaffed newsroom and its reporters aren’t capable of producing quality work.  Or that a reporter is unable to push aside their personal opinions to produce a neutral story.  Even if my ‘life’ flags are useless filler for this blog, the Wikipedia flags work and are critical to site’s reputation.  And the people who edit these entry are serious about what they do.  

Not so funny story: while editing the Duke Ellington School of the Arts entry, I stumbled about some interesting past revisions.  One contributor jumped out at me — it was my boyfriend’s oft-used username!  Turns out, about a year and a half ago, he added my name to the list of ‘Famous Alum’ from Ellington School of the Arts.  

Me famous?  Word?  That’s news to me.  Apparently it was news to some other people too.  Four minutes after B added me as a famous alum, someone removed me citing, “nothing shows up via Google showing that this person is ‘famous'”.  

Fabulous.  I rest easy knowing that even though none of the dozen or so contributers was capable of editing the ‘advertising elements’ out the entry, at least one person had the wit (and ingenuity?) to use the all-knowing Google to swiftly out me as a nobody.

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One comment

  1. Google!? Wikipedia!?

    Hmpf. All the cool kids are getting their news from Twitter. Get with the program.



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