Wikipedia taking it in the teeth today

By reeset / On / In General Computing

Ouch — on slashdot today, two not so flattering articles surrounding wikipedia.  In the first, there are reports of the German version of wikipedia being used as a platform for speading a virus.  An interesting idea.  Given that folks trust wikipedia, noone seems to think twice about clicking on links that go outside of the tool. 

And then the second article — this goes to the trust issue.  As wikipedia pushes itself into the mainstream, questions a plagiarism are sure to come up — and they have.  Testing 12,000 articles, a researcher found a number of instances (128) of plagiarism within the encyclopedia.  See this article here.



4 thoughts on “Wikipedia taking it in the teeth today

  1. I’m actually astounded that the numbers they found were so low. Given how much cut-and-paste “writing” goes on on the Internet in general, I would have expected to find a much higher percentage than that on a site like Wikipedia. I assume that they are not counting attributed quotations, even when they are more extensive than we would accept in a published document normally, as plaigiarism. I still think this says something about the culture that has developed at Wikipedia being fairly anti-plagiarism already, but I’m not sure exactly what it says about that.

  2. Actually, it could be quite a bit higher. The analysis was done at what I would consider to be a lowest denominator check — i.e., Google. As we all know — Google doesn’t index a lot of published content — so there could be much that isn’t attributed. Moreover, this was over a small portion of the Wikipedia index. If we take this number over just the 1.5 million English articles, that gives what I would estimate to be a low number of: 17,750 problem articles.

    The problem here is that it undermines the work that rest of the project does — particularly as it strives to be taken seriously as an authorative source.


  3. And it would seem that there is more news on the wikipedia front. From slashdot (, apparently an article given Wikipedia’s Good Article designation (I guess only 0.2-0.5% the article says gets these designations) was exposed today as a hoax page. Again, its these bad apples — even if few and far between, that will continue to keep the resource from being taken seriously as an authoritative source. Unfortunately, given the nature of the publishing model–I’m not sure how this type of vandalism could always be caught.


  4. Yeah, I saw that too – it is more interesting and disturbing than the normal Wikipedia vandalism stories b/c of that good article designation – because it gets at the community’s ability to set standards and norms for itself – because that’s where I think any discussion of Wikipedia’s authority has to start and end. The question shouldn’t be “can Wikipedia be an authoritative source” (though I get that for a lot of people that is a goal) but instead “how does our understanding of authority have to stretch to deal with sources that are the product of dynamic, collaborative processes of knowledge-building.”

    Striving to be taken seriously as an authoritative resource just seems to me to be an insane goal for Wikipedia. Even leaving aside bad apples and vandalism – traditional measures of authority can’t be neatly separated from authorship, which is one issue with collaborative-knowledge production.

    The ephemeral and constantly changing nature of the text itself on a wiki is another barrier – you can’t backtrack, check up on, replicate research based on text that isn’t the same the next time you go there. The rhetorical and epistemological assumptions that underlie concepts like “authority” are inherently challenged by Wikipedia – and would be even if there was a way to purge all of the plagiarism and vandalism permanently.