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March 07, 2007

Wikipedia Scandal Makes Fox News Front Page

By Li Evans

Foxnewswikipedia Today I pop out to FoxNews.com, and what's the second story?  "Contributor Scandal Rocks Wikipedia".  Yesterday while I was out reading the news in the industry, I came across this same story about Wikipedia's editor scandal, via Threadwatch. The entry on Threadwatch pointed to an article on The Independent about the editor scandal at Wikipedia.

If you didn't know, apparently this scandal came to light last week and has been set on simmer to cook and stew since that time.  Now, the story is just starting to pick up steam.  At the heart of the matter, a 24 year old editor at Wikipedia, known as EssJay on the site, passed himself off as a tenured professor of religion at a private university .  He (who's real name is Ryan Jordan, from Kentucky) even played the part pretty well on a recent Wikipedia podcast (hat tip to Carsten Cumbrowski!).

Jimbo Wales, of course is doing his best to downplay the controversy and say it doesn't expose any inherent weaknesses in Wikipedia, in a quote from the FoxNews.com article.

"I don't think this incident exposes any inherent weakness in Wikipedia, but it does expose a weakness that we will be working to address," Mr. Wales said. "The only thing inherent in the Wikipedia model is a volunteer effort to create the highest possible quality encyclopedia."

I think the contrary to Wales, in that it does expose some big inherent flaws in who you put trust in to "authenticate" information on the "encyclopedia".

Britannica Once again, (I know you've read this before from me) there is site for information when you research articles or need "definition" that is trusted by educational institutions as a true reference for information, it's called Britannica.  Perhaps, one of these days Google and Yahoo will stop discounting all those links as "authority" for Wikipedia, and give Britannica the "authority" presence it should have.


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In a recent blog post - http://blog.xodp.org/2007/03/putting-essjays-fraud-into-perspective.html - I gathered together commentary on this topic from the blogosphere that I think puts Essjay's fraud into proper perspective. Simply put, Essjay's fraud is not all that remarkable in the grand scheme of things, and those who put their trust in the puffed up credentials of Brittanica are just as likely to be misled.

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