Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wikipedia: Magnet for Online Hoaxers?

When the site’s user editable feature became a high-profile debacle when David Beckham was said to have been an 18th Century Chinese goalkeeper, has Wikipedia recently become a magnet for online hoaxers?

By: Ringo Bones

Since that almost unforgettable debacle over the rework of David Beckham’s Wikipedia fact-file about the soccer superstar being an 18th Century Chinese goalkeeper, it seems that the user-editable non-profit online fact resource has lost its infallibility? Reducing Wiki instead to mere editorial opinion status? But has this high-profile online intellectual vandalism really made Wikipedia the prime target for online hoaxers?

As a regular – but relatively recent user – Wikipedia can be more than just an online factual information depot. It can also be a very up-to-date online spellchecker for newly approved words, which your personal computer’s operating system’s built-in spellchecker has not yet adapted to.

Intentionally posting “fraudulent” facts on Wikipedia – like David Beckham being an 18th Century Chinese goalkeeper or that Slash of the rock outfit Guns N’ Roses was the inventor of the single-coil electric guitar pickups – can maybe be just passed off as high-brow-intellectual vandalism. But is there a danger for anyone – especially for hardcore hoaxers – for using Wikipedia as a platform to advance their pet causes?

There has been a recent revamp of Wikipedia’s user-editable feature to make the website more “hoax-resistant” when it comes to user-editing of more “controversial” subject matter that are prone to hoaxing by not-so-special-interest-groups, like Scientology for example. Other controversial topics on Wikipedia are no longer seen as a factual article, rather more than an editorial of prevailing social and political sentiment of some special interest groups, like the special interest group Birthers and the current status of Pluto as a member of our Solar System.

Wikipedia hoaxers are not readily revealed as such since only a comparatively small number of people have any real knowledge of what is going on in any particular field. Wikipedia’s higher mathematics used in there more esoteric topics that had recently become topical discussions – like credit derivatives and the Higgs Field Theory – has fortunately always been spot on. But people who are experts on credit derivatives and the Higgs Field Theory who are also well-versed on the current goings on of European football leagues and the rock band Guns N’ Roses are unfortunately few and far between. Thus faulty Wikipedia entries tend to last for awhile and can become “intellectual curio” for those in the know before appropriate correction measures are taken. But unfortunately can be a nuisance for those working on their school research online using online resources such as Wikipedia, especially when concerning topics outside of their purview.

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