Yet, more problems with Wikipedia

This is not particularly surprising:

In a blink, the wisdom of the crowd became the fury of the crowd. In the last few days, contributors to Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia, have turned against one of their own who was found to have created an elaborate false identity.

Under the name Essjay, the contributor edited thousands of Wikipedia articles and was once one of the few people with the authority to deal with vandalism and to arbitrate disputes between authors.

To the Wikipedia world, Essjay was a tenured professor of religion at a private university with expertise in canon law, according to his user profile. But in fact, Essjay is a 24-year-old named Ryan Jordan, who attended a number of colleges in Kentucky and lives outside Louisville.

Mr. Jordan contended that he resorted to a fictional persona to protect himself from bad actors who might be angered by his administrative role at Wikipedia. (He did not respond to an e-mail message, nor to messages conveyed by the Wikipedia office.)

The Essjay episode underlines some of the perils of collaborative efforts like Wikipedia that rely on many contributors acting in good faith, often anonymously and through self-designated user names. But it also shows how the transparency of the Wikipedia process — all editing of entries is marked and saved — allows readers to react to suspected fraud. . . . .

Freerepublic has more information on Mr. Jordan:
This Essjay character is VERY typical of the Wikipedia administrator elite. The NYT has the basics, but they also leave out a lot about him.
Specifically - Essjay claimed to be a homosexual theologian and frequently espoused far left versions of Christianity in his article edits. He basically used his phony Ph.D. to browbeat his leftist point of view into articles on Christianity by citing himself as an expert.

He is also one of dozens of radical gays who CURRENTLY populate the upper tiers of wikipedia's administration. This guy is just the tip of the iceburg at Wikipedia.

Some people are trying to set up an alternative to Wikipedia. Given the liberal bias of Wikipedia, they claim that "Wikipedia is "anti-American", "anti-Christian" and "anti-capitalism" according to US fundamentalist Christians who have set up their own online reference site, Conservapedia, to protect themselves from the evils of the world."



Anonymous tom Wright said...

Prof. Lott,

Wikipedia is and will likely remain a good source for initial research. It is not authoritative, as its founder Wales has himself said, and will probably never be. But as a source that points to authoritative sources, it is very good. The only entries that one needs to be particularly careful of are those dealing with politically controversial subjects. But that is true no matter what your starting point is.

So far as Conservapedia goes, I think any reference source that starts out with an initial political and religious bias is immediately suspect. I would trust Conservapedia no more than I would the Peoples Weekly World or any other deliberately biased source.

The strong point of Wikipedia is that dissenting views can be, and are included, in their entries. They are also getting better at policing entries begun specifically to target people, as happened to John Seigenthaler for example.

Look up any controversial topic in Wikipedia, and you will find information presented in a more balanced format than anywhere else I have found. Far from perfect, but show me a source that is.

3/05/2007 8:03 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Unfortunately, that is simply not true in multiple cases. Things are not presented in a balanced way and any attempt to correct things is immediately removed. It is not a reliable source.

3/05/2007 12:56 PM  
Blogger Nathaniel said...

Dr. Lott,

I am conservative and pro-gun (currently reading More Guns, Less Crime) and am a Wikipedia administrator and contributor. Obviously Wikipedia has many problems, and is often not a reliable source for balanced information, but there are many people who are working to correct the various types of bias that plague Wikipedia.

Don't write the project off yet; I've written articles on conservative topics that pass through the content review methods in Wikipedia without getting rewritten into propaganda.

Part of the problem is the emphasis on using published sources, and when the majority of published sources are biased in one direction (as is the case with guns), this spread is (or should be, according to Wikipedia policy) carried over to amount of coverage in the articles.

You say that "any attempt to correct things is immediately removed." If this happens to you, please let me know. Besides being biased against conservatives, Wikipedia tends to biased against experts as well, making your ability to contribute less than what it should be. I'd love to help out where I can.

3/05/2007 2:53 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear Nathaniel:

I have seen too many really biased and damaging discussions. Well, if you want to contact me, I would be extremely interested in discussing this further with you.

3/06/2007 1:03 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Wikipedia led me to read your books, which led me to get a concealed carry permit.

Wikipedia also led me to this blog.

Hey Nathaniel, if you get Dr. Lott to warm up to wikipedia, ask him for a photo for his article. (I realize the article is painfully bad at the moment, but we're working on it...)

3/10/2007 5:29 PM  

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