Little Green Footballs

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Wiki 101

1. Wikipedia is a fantastic resource, but it's not necessarily reliable -- because anyone, no matter how stupid or biased or insane, can edit it.

"PJM in Sydney" (a.k.a. Richard Fernandez, a.k.a. "Wretchard" of the Belmont Club,) noticed overnight that what he refers to as "Wikipedia's official entry" (?!) on Benjamin Netanyahu had been edited to include the following:

After the mishandling of the current conflict against Hezbollah by Prime Minister Olmert, it is widely anticipated that a no-confidence vote will lead to new elections with Netanyahu becoming the next Prime Minister of Israel.

2. Every Wikipedia page has a "history" section, where you can see when and by whom each page was edited, along with a summary of the changes made.

The passage excerpted above was added at 20.09 GMT yesterday. However, it was detected and removed seven hours later by a vigilant Wikipedia user.

3. Everyone who edits pages at Wikipedia has his or her IP address recorded, which enables users to view a history of his or her edits.

Whoever used the IP address to edit the Netanyahu article has a bit of a history of adding what other Wikipedians rightly call "nonsense" to Wikipedia articles. Here is one stellar example.

The IP address resolves to an AT&T server in Elmhurst, New York. As Fernandez apparently added the bogus Netanyahu piece to PJM sometime after 19.20 PDT yesterday (02.20 GMT), he's probably not the one who vandalized the Wikipedia article.

So we can only speculate about who might have done it -- there's plenty of Olmert-bashing going on in Pajamaland at the moment, but there's no indication that the vandalism was perpetrated by a Pajamastani. All we can do is wait for Fernandez to retract the quote, which was deleted from the Netanyahu page three hours (or so) after he mentioned it.

Which brings us to point 4: Never cite Wikipedia as a source of authoritative information. Especially if you're trying to sell your site as the place to go for "cutting-edge" and "ground-breaking" news coverage.

This last point, incidentally, seem to have escaped the commenters on Fernandez' own blog, at least thus far, who are treating the now-deleted Wikipedia information about Netanyahu's future career as gospel truth.

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