from the beware-the-man-with-the-lantern dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Simson Garfinkel has an interesting essay on MIT Technology Review in which he examines the way that Wikipedia has redefined the commonly accepted use of the word 'truth.' While many academic experts have argued that Wikipedia's articles can't be trusted because they are written and edited by volunteers who have never been vetted, studies have found that the articles are remarkably accurate. 'But wikitruth isn't based on principles such as consistency or observability. It's not even based on common sense or firsthand experience,' says Garfinkel. What makes a fact or statement fit for inclusion is verifiability — that it appeared in some other publication, but there is a problem with appealing to the authority of other people's written words: many publications don't do any fact checking at all, and many of those that do simply call up the subject of the article and ask if the writer got the facts wrong or right. Wikipedia's policy of 'No Original Research' also leads to situations like Jaron Lanier's frustrated attempts to correct his own Wikipedia entry based on firsthand knowledge of his own career. So what is Wikipedia's truth? 'Since Wikipedia is the most widely read online reference on the planet, it's the standard of truth that most people are implicitly using when they type a search term into Google or Yahoo. On Wikipedia, truth is received truth: the consensus view of a subject.'"
Vicissidude writes "The champion of 'truthiness' couldn't resist making fun of a website where facts, it seems, are endlessly malleable. But after making fun of Wikipedia on Monday night's "Colbert Report," Colbert learned some hard truths about Wikipedia's strength in resisting vandalism. Here's how the segment started: 'Colbert logs on to the Wikipedia article about his show to find out whether he usually refers to Oregon as "California's Canada or Washington's Mexico." Upon learning that he has referred to Oregon as both, he demonstrates how easy it is to disregard both references and put in a completely new one (Oregon is Idaho's Portugal), declaring it "the opinion I've always held, you can look it up."' Colbert then called on users to go to the site and falsify the entry on elephants. But Wikipedia's volunteer administrators were among those watching Colbert, and they responded swiftly to correct the entry, block further mischievous editing, and ban user StephenColbert from the website."