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Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence
August 5, 2006 6:50 PM   Subscribe

Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence. Founding Fathers, Patriots, Mr. T. Honored.
posted by Afroblanco (60 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I usually don't bother with The Onion's longer pieces, but this one made me laugh out loud.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:50 PM on August 5, 2006


"Little did such founding fathers as George Washington, George Jefferson, and ***ERIC IS A FAG*** know that their small, querulous republic would later become the most powerful and prosperous nation in history, the Unified States Of America."
posted by Zozo at 6:51 PM on August 5, 2006


Yea I saw this earlier this week - pretty funny.
posted by SirOmega at 6:51 PM on August 5, 2006


Ha ha ha!!! It's funny because Wikipedia is so inaccurate. Except... not really.

But hey, Wikipedia's critics have never let little things like "reality" get in their way before.
posted by magodesky at 7:04 PM on August 5, 2006


magodesky - you have a wikichip on your shoulder
posted by jonson at 7:09 PM on August 5, 2006


As an aside, someone in a downtown bar had an extra copy of The Onion. I forgot that it's actually a print newspaper. So funny.
posted by Balisong at 7:09 PM on August 5, 2006


Also, magodesky, it's bad form to link to a study that "proves" a point when there exist widely publicized follow up studies that savage the biased methodologies of the initial research.
posted by jonson at 7:12 PM on August 5, 2006


"The Revolution's main adversaries were the patriots and the people from Braveheart," said speaker Tim Capodice, who has edited hundreds of Wikipedia entries on subjects as diverse as Euclidian geometry and Ratfucking. "The patriots, being a rag-tag group of misfits, almost lost on several occasions. But after a string of military antics and a convoluted scheme involving chicken feathers and an inflatable woman, the British were eventually defeated despite a last-minute surge, by a score of 89-87."
Somewhere in the heavens, Clio weeps ... but also snickers.
posted by rob511 at 7:12 PM on August 5, 2006


Two week old Onion article. It was funny when I read it, but I guess not all people read the paper, so the post gets the benefit of the doubt.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 7:15 PM on August 5, 2006


Also, magodesky, it's bad form to link to a study that "proves" a point when there exist widely publicized follow up studies that savage the biased methodologies of the initial research.
Criticism from Encyclopaedia Britannica hardly constitutes "savaging." Especially considering that they're not exactly a neutral third party. What did you expect them to say? "Yes, our product is obsolete?"
posted by magodesky at 7:18 PM on August 5, 2006


cute--hey, is it true Colbert was banned?
posted by amberglow at 7:18 PM on August 5, 2006


This piece got some play on Digg last week. An article on the king of Wikipedia ---a young man who needs some additional interests---is also enjoying strong support there.

Separately, MeFites recently debated the merits of Wikipedia when I asked their opinion of the best Web-based encyclopedia.
posted by NYCinephile at 7:25 PM on August 5, 2006


Single link onion article? Lame.

Plus I'm sick of wikipedia bashing.
posted by delmoi at 7:30 PM on August 5, 2006


magodesky : humor, dude. humor.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:31 PM on August 5, 2006


cute--hey, is it true Colbert was banned?

All of the pages relating to Steven Colbert were locked after he mentioned the site on his show, along with the entry on elephants.
posted by delmoi at 7:35 PM on August 5, 2006


The Onion wouldn't know funny if it read one of it's articles from the 1990s.
posted by delmoi at 7:37 PM on August 5, 2006


Criticism from Encyclopaedia Britannica hardly constitutes "savaging." Especially considering that they're not exactly a neutral third party. What did you expect them to say? "Yes, our product is obsolete?"

Except Nature admits (PDF) to most of the allegations Britannica made and basically said "That's how we designed our study". For one thing, they openly admit to not giving their experts raw copies of articles, which in my mind is the only thing that counts (and they didn't tell the experts what they were looking at).
posted by cillit bang at 7:38 PM on August 5, 2006


cute--hey, is it true Colbert was banned?

Yes, StephenColbert was blocked.
posted by SirOmega at 7:39 PM on August 5, 2006


From the article magodesky linked:

...former Britannica editor Robert McHenry declared one Wikipedia entry — on US founding father Alexander Hamilton — as "what might be expected of a high-school student"...

Except that high-school students copy everything out of encyclopedias, so that's actually a compliment! ;^)

But in all seriousness, I read the EB response and I have to agree with jonson that Nature was savaged, nay indeed trounced.
posted by XMLicious at 7:46 PM on August 5, 2006


That said, I'm a huge wikipedia fan/evangelist, have edited & contributed what little I know whenever possible & financially support them via quarterly donations for the past two years. Still, I recognize a joke when I see one.
posted by jonson at 7:48 PM on August 5, 2006


I like wikipedia, because, many of its contributors, use lots of commas and there's a Simpsons, or Star Trek reference on nearly every entry. :-)
posted by hyperizer at 7:57 PM on August 5, 2006


Wikipedia to Strive for Higher Quality Content.
posted by ericb at 8:00 PM on August 5, 2006


Know It All: Can Wikipedia Conquer Expertise? [New Yorker | July 31, 2006].
posted by ericb at 8:02 PM on August 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


magodesky : humor, dude. humor.
I understand that it's supposed to be humorous. But it's hard to laugh at something that demonstrates such a complete misunderstanding of the subject. Pretty much the same reason why Colbert's speech about Wikipedia earlier this week wasn't funny.
All of the pages relating to Steven Colbert were locked after he mentioned the site on his show, along with the entry on elephants.
Which is pretty much the response I expected. Should be a clue, huh? ;-)
Except Nature admits (PDF) to most of the allegations Britannica made and basically said "That's how we designed our study".
That's just a blatant misrepresentation of Nature's defense. Their point is that Britannica is taking issue with points that aren't significant to the validity of the study.
But in all seriousness, I read the EB response and I have to agree with jonson that Nature was savaged, nay indeed trounced.
Really? Because as far as I can tell, most of Britannica's criticisms are nitpicks at best and outright distortions at worst. I'm not saying that Nature's study is perfect. No study is. That's why we have replication. But trounced? I'm just not seeing it.

At best, it's Britannica's word against Nature's. Both are reputable organizations. The only difference is that Nature doesn't have a vested interest in the outcome.
posted by magodesky at 8:02 PM on August 5, 2006


Wikipedia celebrates the 750th one link onion ffp in the past three weeks.
posted by subaruwrx at 8:03 PM on August 5, 2006


***ERIC IS A FAG***

I know I am, and what are you? ; )
posted by ericb at 8:03 PM on August 5, 2006


magodesky, have you seen Nature's rebuttal of this point in the Brittanica critique [pdf]?

One Nature reviewer was sent only the 350-word introduction to Encyclopædia Britannica’s 6,000-word article on lipids. For Nature to have represented Britannica’s extensive coverage of the subject with this short squib was absurd, and it invalidated the findings of omissions alleged by the reviewer, since those matters were covered in sections of the article he or she never saw.

Other reviewers were sent only sections taken from longer articles. For example, what the Nature editors referred to as Britannica’s “articles” on “kin selection” and “punctuated equilibrium” are actually separate sections of our article on the theory of evolution, written by one of the foremost experts on evolution in the world. What they claimed to be an “article” on field effect transistors was actually only one section of our article on integrated circuits. For Nature to have excerpted our articles in this way was irresponsible.


Can you point me to a rebuttal of that specific point? Because Nature's response [pdf] to the Brittanica critique doesn't address that point at all. That's pretty fucking damning of some pretty fucking sloppy methodology on Nature's part.
posted by mediareport at 8:05 PM on August 5, 2006


ericb : Thanks for finding that! I read it in the New Yorker a couple of weeks ago, and would have included it in the post had I been able to find it on their site.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:06 PM on August 5, 2006


XMLicious: I read the response, too. A few things they said seemed valid. But their takes on specific criticisms of their articles were childish -- yes, in most cases arguments could be made that those weren't mistakes. But if they appear to be, to expert reviewers, then there has to be a better way to say what you're going for. (Within a few weeks, all the wikipedia errors the study found were corrected.)

Then, too, Nature flat-out denied some of the most serious allegations -- and it pointed out that because the methodologies were identical, any over-harshness toward britannica would also have be shown toward wikipedia.
In one instance Britannica alleges that we provided a reviewer with material that was not from the Britannica website. We have checked and are confident that this was not the case.

Britannica objects that Nature did not check the assertions of its reviewers. This is true; nor did we claim to. We realised that in some cases our reviewers’ criticisms would be open to debate, and in some cases might be wrong. But this applied as much to criticisms of Wikipedia as of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Because the reviewers were blind to the source of the material they were evaluating, and material from both sources was treated the same way, there is absolutely no reason to think that any errors they made would have systematically altered the results of our inquiry.

We note that Britannica has taken issue with less than half the points our reviewers raised. Both encyclopaedias have made corrections to some of the relevant entries since our article was published.

We do not intend to retract our article.
posted by Tlogmer at 8:06 PM on August 5, 2006


mediareport: Yeah, that part was unfair. But it wasn't that unfair, because they were doing article-to-article comparisons and britannica doesn't even have independent articles on some of those topics.
posted by Tlogmer at 8:10 PM on August 5, 2006


mediareport: This point is covered in the response linked to by cillit bang:

Britannica's online statement says the we sometimes sent reviewers only opening summaries of an entry, and ignored the rest of the article. This was not an oversight, but a deliberate response to the structure of the information available. Both encyclopaedias often have a single entry that serves as a summary of a subject and which includes numerous links out to entries on specific aspects of that subject. In these cases, we felt it made sense to compare the summaries, which are themselves several hundred words long. We were careful in these cases not to cite as omissions details that could not have been expected in a summary.
Basically, the problem is that Britannica isn't arranged exactly the same as Wikipedia. So Nature sent its judges only the relevant information from both for comparison. True, this may have caused some problems in the validity of Nature's study. But since the articles were being judged on factual accuracy and not on style, it's unlikely that the discrepancy would be that significant. And even if it was, since the same methodology was applied to both encyclopedias, the number of mistakes made in judging Britannica shouldn't be significantly lesser or greater than the number of mistakes made in judging Wikipedia.
posted by magodesky at 8:43 PM on August 5, 2006


Crap FPP (single link to the Onion, obviously in response to the earlier (and still open) Colbert FPP). As fans of wikipedia have argued, it's actually surprisingly accurate. Because for every high-profile article that people want to fuck around with, there are 100 random, obscure articles that no one would ever think to search for, and that are guarded by their obsessive-compulsive authors with a fervor usually reserved for religiously inspired and motivated homicides.
posted by Eideteker at 9:00 PM on August 5, 2006


The Onion + Wikipedia + YouTube = Metafilter Trifeca to the MAX!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:25 PM on August 5, 2006


obviously in response to the earlier (and still open) Colbert FPP

ummmm, no.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:43 PM on August 5, 2006


True, this may have caused some problems in the validity of Nature's study. But since the articles were being judged on factual accuracy and not on style, it's unlikely that the discrepancy would be that significant.

Oh, please. Not providing full articles "may" have caused some problems? And was "unlikely" to create a significant discrepancy? Yeah, whatever. Get a grip on your Wiki-philia, would you? I like the site enough, and have contributed revisions myself, but your kneejerk defense of that very problematic Nature study is absurd.
posted by mediareport at 10:34 PM on August 5, 2006


ummmm, no.

Ok! I retract my smart-ass remark with full apologies, then. I was pretty sure I saw this article referenced (if not actually linked) in that thread, so I'm sorry I made an incorrect assumption.
posted by Eideteker at 11:33 PM on August 5, 2006


Oh, please. Not providing full articles "may" have caused some problems? And was "unlikely" to create a significant discrepancy? Yeah, whatever. Get a grip on your Wiki-philia, would you? I like the site enough, and have contributed revisions myself, but your kneejerk defense of that very problematic Nature study is absurd.
Well, I hope you won't be offended if I go with Nature on this one, but I think they know how to conduct a scientific study just a little bit better than some random person on the internet. But thank you for your opinion anyway.

And the fact that the people here who are criticizing the study can't seem to come up with a rebuttal to Nature's response other than merely repeating the initial claim that it's bad over and over again is very telling.
posted by magodesky at 6:16 AM on August 6, 2006


At least this post proves that caret notation^ is dead.
posted by delmoi at 6:33 AM on August 6, 2006


It's always good to see Wikipedia insulted. It just drives home the point that in fifty years most people will think the 'Encyclopedia Britannica' is some arcane Greek study of Roman-occupied Britannia. As for Nature's study which so many are desparate to refute and "savage," the results don't even matter. It's not a question of which one is 'better' or more accurate or more comprehensive. It's a question of economics. Wikipedia effectively demonstrates that paying a bunch of experts to get together and write stuff down is inefficient. You can get comparable results with literally a million monkeys banging away at a million keyboards. Paper encyclopedias are obsolete. It's up to the market to decide how true it wants its facts and, frankly, the market has spoken.
posted by nixerman at 8:01 AM on August 6, 2006


...the market has spoken.

I'm intrigued by your comment, nixerman. Can you cite a college or university that has formally stated to its students and/or faculty that it regards Wikipedia as authorative and reliable?

I ask partly because of the link that mattbucher posted in a related thread.
posted by NYCinephile at 8:33 AM on August 6, 2006


I think they know how to conduct a scientific study just a little bit better than some random person on the internet.

...and scene.
posted by mediareport at 9:17 AM on August 6, 2006


I'm intrigued by your comment, nixerman. Can you cite a college or university that has formally stated to its students and/or faculty that it regards Wikipedia as authorative and reliable?



Of course, colleges and universities do not allow encyclopedias as references either. Whether you use EB or Wiki, it should only be as a guide to other information.

posted by anansi at 9:51 AM on August 6, 2006


Of course, colleges and universities do not allow encyclopedias as references either.

Anansi, I think the University of Wisconsin would disagree.
posted by NYCinephile at 10:06 AM on August 6, 2006


But since the articles were being judged on factual accuracy and not on style, it's unlikely that the discrepancy would be that significant

But that's not true. The experts were also looking for omissions and whether the articles provided a good overview of the topic. Trying to do that with excerpts chosen by a third party is just absurd.

I think they know how to conduct a scientific study just a little bit better than some random person on the internet.

Also, no matter how rigorously carried out the study was, that doesn't mean it proves what you think it prove. And also ^.
posted by cillit bang at 10:30 AM on August 6, 2006


The commemorative page is one of the most detailed on the site, rivaling entries for Firefly and the Treaty Of Algeron for sheer length.

Currently:

Entry on Lutherans: 8 pages

Entry on Stephen Colbert: 11 pages.
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 11:17 AM on August 6, 2006


Star trek: 16 pages.
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 11:27 AM on August 6, 2006


Anansi, I think the University of Wisconsin would disagree.
Actually, he's right. While the University of Wisconsin may provide guidelines for citing encyclopedia entries, it's true that just about any college-level course will expect you to use sources other than encyclopedias. Hell, my teachers stopped letting the class use encyclopedias as sources back in grade school. It's just sloppy research. Encyclopedias, whether you're talking about Wikipedia or EB, are only supposed to be used as a starting point.
But that's not true. The experts were also looking for omissions and whether the articles provided a good overview of the topic. Trying to do that with excerpts chosen by a third party is just absurd.
And Nature did not count as omissions anything that couldn't have been expected from the excerpts given. What's absurd is this expectation that you can get valid results by comparing completely dissimilar information. Going by some of the comments in this thread, you might as well compare EB's entry on aldol to Wikipedia's entry on the Millennium Falcon. The reality is that a lot of the complaints being made about Nature's methodology are simply based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how research is conducted.
Also, no matter how rigorously carried out the study was, that doesn't mean it proves what you think it prove.
That's what we call "validity." That's what we've been discussing all this time.
And also ^.
And also ^.
Currently:

Entry on Lutherans: 8 pages

Entry on Stephen Colbert: 11 pages.
My God. If this continues, people might actually learn things that are not... IMPORTANT™. And we certainly wouldn't want people to have any knowledge that hasn't been approved by Britannica.
posted by magodesky at 11:57 AM on August 6, 2006


What's absurd is this expectation that you can get valid results by comparing completely dissimilar information.

No. Nature's conclusion was there wasn't much difference between Wikipedia and EB. What they didn't make clear is that Nature edited the articles so there wasn't much difference between Wikipedia and EB. That totally removed any validity from their research.

I'm not disagreeing that directly comparing the articles is easy or even possible. What I'm complaining about is Nature (and you) presenting their results as if that's what they did.

And also ^.

Do I have to spell it out? "I think [EB] know how to [create an encyclopedia] just a little bit better than some random person on the internet."
posted by cillit bang at 12:21 PM on August 6, 2006


Entry on Lutherans: 8 pages

Entry on Stephen Colbert: 11 pages.


Funny, that seems just about right. However, still not bigger than Jesus.
posted by boaz at 12:22 PM on August 6, 2006


still not bigger than Jesus.

The Beatles: 21 pages. (minus notes)

Jesus: 21 pages. (minus notes)
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 12:30 PM on August 6, 2006


What they didn't make clear is that Nature edited the articles...
Right. Because no one would ever be able to deduce that from when they said (.DOC), "Sometimes the lengths were balanced by amalgamating two or three Britannica entries into one coherent piece – for example, 'ethanol' was done this way. We felt this represented 'everything Britannica had to say on the subject' – at least, everything we could find by a quick search of Britannica online, exactly the way a user would approach it."
That totally removed any validity from their research.
How so? People keep saying that, yet nowhere in this thread do I see any connection between that complaint and the issue of validity. It should be an easy explanation if the study is really the travesty you're making it out to be.
I'm not disagreeing that directly comparing the articles is easy or even possible. What I'm complaining about is Nature (and you) presenting their results as if that's what they did.
That IS what they did.
Do I have to spell it out? "I think [EB] know how to [create an encyclopedia] just a little bit better than some random person on the internet."
I'm sure they do. But that's not what Wikipedia is. Wikipedia has thousands of contributors. And for every article, readers can see for themselves the entire history of what went into it.

That's a very different thing from mediareport asking me to accept merely on faith his claim that the study is flawed without any sort of evidence or explanation. Without that, I have nothing to go on other than reputation. It's mediareport's word against Nature's. In that case, I'm even less inclined to accept his word than I am to accept Britannica's. And Nature, at least, provides a thorough explanation of their arguments.

I'm sure that to you it seemed quite ironic. But as I said before, I find very little humor in jokes that are based primarily on displays of ignorance and/or misinformation.
posted by magodesky at 1:01 PM on August 6, 2006


OK, you win. You're smarter than everyone else. Wikipedia is better than Britannica. The Nature study is completely valid.
posted by cillit bang at 1:18 PM on August 6, 2006


Entry on X-men: 14 pages

Entry on Civil Rights: 7 pages.
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 1:21 PM on August 6, 2006


"Anansi, I think the University of Wisconsin would disagree."

What magodesky said.

those are just citation guidleines for APA style writing. Writing styles have rules for everything, even internet sites. However, no college class in the country is going to let you use internet sites (with some exceptions) or encyclopedias. This whole thing IMHO is moot. No scholars beyond junior high school use encyclopedias for references. The only use that EB or wikipedia has is to point you in the direction of information. After that, it is your responsibility to check sources and info.

Example:

If I were doing a paper on evolutionary theory, I might check an encyclopedia (actually, I wouldn't, but I guess that you could) or wikipedia. Both of these resources might point me in the direction of useful information, where i would eventually end up checking, Gould's "Structure of Evolutionary Theory". This, I could then use as a reference, not wiki and not EB. In practice, wiki is easier and cheaper to use. It also yields similar results. Therefore, IMO, it wins.
posted by anansi at 3:56 PM on August 6, 2006


I appreciate your comments, anansi.

I didn't mean to imply that a post-secondary institution would regard an encyclopedia as a sufficient source for research. It would, of course, require its students to cite a variety of primary and secondary sources.

I still wonder, though, if there is an example of a well-regarded institution that has stated publicly that Wiki is as legitimate & authoritative as EB or any of the other "traditional" encyclopedias.
posted by NYCinephile at 6:08 PM on August 6, 2006


I still wonder, though, if there is an example of a well-regarded institution that has stated publicly that Wiki is as legitimate & authoritative as EB or any of the other "traditional" encyclopedias.

I doubt it. EB has tradition and the fact that it is a printed medium on its side. Academia has an almost phobic abhorrence of internet sources. My advisor complained about my use of texts found on Project Guttenberg, despite the fact that these are just online versions of the actual books.
posted by anansi at 8:34 PM on August 6, 2006


Academia has an almost phobic abhorrence of internet sources.

There's a good reason for that. It's not that internet sources are inherently less reliable than published sources, its the problems created by url's that become dead, material removed from websites, and material that is changed (eg. Wikipedia). DOI's are a step in addressing some of these issues. I reject any student's citation of a url (at most, it has the status of a "pers. com."), but am ok with a doi.
posted by bumpkin at 8:47 AM on August 7, 2006


What is a DOI, bumpkin?
posted by NYCinephile at 9:18 AM on August 7, 2006


So, Colbert jumps on this and the onion has to as well?
posted by Smedleyman at 10:08 AM on August 7, 2006


Hey look, Jimbo sez "[it] is not as good as [Encylopaedia] Britannica yet" .... or so the post says; you have to pay $45 to read the actual article. Which, let's face it, is also why most people have no actual idea how good Britannica is compared to Wikipedia.
posted by boaz at 11:14 AM on August 7, 2006


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