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Stephen Colbert Wikipedia Prank Backfires 701

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."
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Stephen Colbert Wikipedia Prank Backfires

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  • Always Hilarious (Score:5, Informative)

    by telbij ( 465356 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:13PM (#15833647)
    The Colbert report is always hilarious, and this is no exception.
    • Re:Always Hilarious (Score:5, Informative)

      by mozumder ( 178398 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:38PM (#15833890)
      Unfortunately, he did get the idea from last week's Onion: "Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:13PM (#15833648)
    Who in their right mind would use Wiki as a 'source' document?

    It is a great tool and it works as a starting point. You still have to verify data.

    Then again, there are people that still try to go whale watching in Lake Michigan.

    • by 'nother poster ( 700681 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:17PM (#15833697)
      Then again, there are people that still try to go whale watching in Lake Michigan.

      Considering how many whales I've seen on that little beach across from the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago I can see why.
    • Agreed. Its a starting point for me for looking quick technical things. e.g. DVI pin layouts or lookup SHA or MD5 hash. When it comes to areas where one's opinion/politics/theology can be inserted I take Wikipedia more with a grain of salt.

      Sam Vaknin had an interesting article The Six Sins of the Wikipedia [americanchronicle.com] pointing out the problems with the Wikipedia system. I enjoy using Wikipedia but I am wary of using it has some sort of gospel or authority. The contributers are anonymous and that lack of transparency
      • by Hentai ( 165906 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:57PM (#15834088) Homepage Journal
        Finally, my name as well as references to my work were removed from a few articles (for instance, from the entries about the Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Narcissism (Psychology)). At least one of the "editors" who were responsible for what appears to be a vindictive act ("Danny") claims to be somehow associated with the Wikimedia's grants commission.

        Oh, sweet, sweet irony.
      • by nuzak ( 959558 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:58PM (#15834102) Journal
        > It is a question of time before the Wikipedia self-destructs and implodes. ... wank wank wank wank ...
        > I was also banned from posting to the Wikipedia

        Wikipedia is infested with irrelevancies, self-serving weasel-worded agendas, opinions, and outright falsehoods. Given all this, why should you even care if you were banned? Get off your cross, no one nailed you up there. If this were an article, it'd get the "helphelpimbeingrepressed" tag.

        At any rate, the same aspersions are true of usenet, and it never imploded. Serious scholars long ago stopped posting there the same way serious researchers stopped discussing on usenet. Wikipedia's reputation already imploded, though I still find it a valuable resource whenever I want a comprehensive list of unique vehicles in The Simpsons, for example.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:38PM (#15834406)

          Wikipedia is infested with irrelevancies, self-serving weasel-worded agendas, opinions, and outright falsehoods.

          Until two weeks ago, I'd been a Wikipedia editor for over 3 years. I'd put up with all the shit, idiots and vandals because, I quite enjoyed the thought of creating something.

          Then I was watching an article... when someone started adding the usual weasel worded outrageous claims, with links to blogs/web forums etc (in other words, not reliable sources). I removed it... as per the Biographies of Living People guideline, and it (predictably) got added back in a slightly modified form by an obvious sock-puppet.

          I'd been through this before, and having seen this before (several times), I knew what was coming... an officious and tedious "process", some self-important editor putting himself forward as a moderator, pious intonations of how important "consensus" is... having to treat idiots and obviously malicious editors as if they were serious (and listening to lectures on how all points of view mus tbe represented etc etc)... basically, weeks of shit-eating crap.

          And I couldn't be bothered anymore. I logged out, and I haven't been back since. Wikipedia treats its responsible users the same as idiots and vandals. It burns through responsible, constructive, editors in the name of some insane idea of being completely and totally open. Fucking up Wikipedia is a trivial matter (as is dodging around blocks and sock-puppeting), correcting it and getting abuse stopped is a tiresome endless battle with petty admins and labyrinthine processes. Madness.

          Good luck to it, but good riddance from me. It is a certainty that it will descend into chaos and end up a huge bag of trivia and libel once it has exhausted the patience of enough good editors. It's a shame... without the ridiculous belief that a completely open wiki somehow has magical emergent properties... it could work. It would certainly be less unpleasant to edit and maintain.

          • by dubl-u ( 51156 ) * <2523987012@NOSpaM.pota.to> on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @05:50PM (#15835348)
            intonations of how important "consensus" is... having to treat idiots and obviously malicious editors as if they were serious [...]

            The reason people do this is that it often works. Most people are very reactive. If you treat them like a problem, they'll be a problem. If you treat them like a contributor, they'll act like a contributor. And for people who come looking for conflict, not giving it to them means they go elsewhere.

            The only real alternative to being insistently nice is unending war with conflict-hungry fuckwads [penny-arcade.com]. For Wikipedia's size, traffic, and number of contributors, there are dumbfoundingly few problems.

            And I couldn't be bothered anymore. I logged out, and I haven't been back since.

            Is this a problem with Wikipedia, or a problem with your use of Wikipedia?

            If you do a frustrating thing too much, you will get fed up with it. Early I ended up hating and quitting a few different jobs because I took them too seriously and burnt out on them. Now I carefully limit my frustration levels to what I can handle. It's the same way with Wikipedia: I do as much as I can where I still enjoy it.
      • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:24PM (#15834306)
        6. The Wikipedia is rife with libel

        I wonder how much money Britannica paid him to say that.

      • by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:25PM (#15834315) Homepage Journal
        It was hard to read that article over the sound of the grinding axe.
      • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @04:00PM (#15834571) Homepage

        Sam Vaknin has been posting this rant in a lot of places. I actually agree with a lot of what he says in points 1-4. However, although I think #5 has a grain of truth in it (about how WP's culture doesn't have enough respect for actual expertise on a particular topic), he's way off-base in saying that there are other, existing models that are better. Actually, WP arose through a process of trial and error, starting with Nupedia, which was much more elitist. Nupedia never got off the ground, because the barrier to entry was too high. If Vaknin thinks there are other, similar projects that have better designs, I have to wonder why he doesn't just put his effort into contributing to them? I think it would be more accurate to say the WP's initial design was great for getting it off the ground, but it's now starting to become less and less appropriate for maintaining a more mature encyclopedia. And finally, when you finish reading the rant, it becomes clear that Vaknin's issues with WP have a very personal angle to them. He seems to spend a lot of time promoting his books, and, reading between the lines, it sounds like he might have tried to do that on WP, and maybe wasn't sufficiently sensitive to WP's culture and standards to handle that correctly on WP. Actually, if my perception is correct about his behavior, then he's part of the problem on WP, not part of the solution; normal, good editors don't enjoy spending year after year tracking their watchlists to protect their favorite articles from decay, but people who are intent on self-promotion may have a lot more stamina.

        Personally, after many years of putting a huge amount of time into WP, I've decided to cut my participation back to pretty close to zero, and see if its structure ever gets updated to something more appropriate for a mature encyclopedia. But it's still a great resource, and I still can't resist fixing a punctuation mistake when I find one in an article --- God, it drives me nuts now when I find a puntuation mistake on a web page, and I realize it's not WP, so I can't fix it :-)

    • by Runefox ( 905204 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:54PM (#15834062) Homepage
      You're forgetting where you are. This is Slashdot [wikipedia.org].
    • by slash-tard ( 689130 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:03PM (#15834150)
      The point of the whole story was 2 things:

      1) Point of a slight flaw in wikipedia.
      2) Relate this flaw to a point about the Bush administration convincing americans, via half truths and out right lies, that Irag has WMD. He pointed out 2 different surveys on what americans think and it showed a significant rise (currently 50%) in the number of people that think Iraq has WMDs.

      The point ( a satirical one ) was that you can make the "truth" want you want if enough people believe it, or edit a document.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFT4OfdnVpU&search= colbert%20wiki [youtube.com] for the sketch in question.
    • But Wikipedia itself has million sources (contributors)!
  • I for one (Score:5, Funny)

    by gentimjs ( 930934 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:14PM (#15833654) Journal
    plan on voting for the Stewart/Colbert ticket in '08 !
  • Backfired? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:15PM (#15833659)
    I thought the goal was to be funny. Considering it was hilarious, I think it worked out perfectly.

    Somebody better head over to Wikipedia and proofread the entries for 'irony' and 'satire'.
    • by bugnuts ( 94678 )
      I heard the amount of "irony" and "satire" have tripled on television in the past 6 months.

      Let's check wikipedia and see if it's true.

                      (It isn't)
    • Re:Backfired? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:34PM (#15833843)

      Funny it was, yes.

      What happens when the saboteur's objective is sabotage alone, and not simply humor? I've planted plenty of "facts" that are either dubious or patently false; I check on them often, ensuring the longevity of my fallacious implants. After a while, they've become so cannonized that the wonderful bots patrolling these articles actually revert truthful corrections to my false data.

      Maybe I'm a sick bastard, but I think that's funny.

    • by The Mad Debugger ( 952795 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:40PM (#15833915)
      Yes, but they sure demonstrated "some hard truths about Wikipedia's strength in resisting vandalism."

      All vandals who go onto national TV and announce their intent beforehand will be stopped!
    • by mrbooze ( 49713 )
      If I look up "Humorless" in the Wiktionary, does it say "See Wikipedia Community"?

      Dear GOD IN HEAVEN there was a brief period of time when a page claimed there were TOO MANY ELEPHANTS in the world!

  • by Kuj0317 ( 856656 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:15PM (#15833668)
    I went to the elephant listing on wiki that night. Apparently the population of elephants has tripled in the last three months. That is quite impressive, as each female elephant gives birth to one child at a time (twins and beyond are very rare) and there is a 22 month pregnancy period.
    • by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:44PM (#15833948) Homepage
      Apparently the population of elephants has tripled in the last three months. That is quite impressive, as each female elephant gives birth to one child at a time (twins and beyond are very rare) and there is a 22 month pregnancy period.

      I believe I read that same article. I learned that unique among mammals. elephants' legs are actually hollow, affording the opportunity for small creatures, such as mice, to hide inside without detection.
    • by Bazman ( 4849 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:17PM (#15834257) Journal
      Wow. And do you know what, I was just going to add to the elephant page the fact that the elephant is the only animal that has four knees, and wikipedia has locked the page so that amazing fact wont be on wikipedia, so if you want to reference this you'll have to put up with a fuddy duddy old journal-style reference instead:

      Weissengruber, G. E, F. Fuss K, G. Egger, G. Stanek, K. Hittmair M, and G. Forstenpointner (2006). The elephant knee joint: morphological and biomechanical considerations. Journal of Anatomy 208(1): 59-72.

  • Please... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Orthodork ( 975038 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:15PM (#15833671)
    All it did was demonstrate that Wikipedia is capable of defending itself from obvious vandalism. It does nothing to further the argument that Wikipedia is anything more than a big bag of trivia, edited by people who argue endlessly about whether captain Kirk wore a yellow or marigold shirt.
    • by TheOtherChimeraTwin ( 697085 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:22PM (#15833737)
    • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:52PM (#15834519)
      There's an argument for some sort of flagging system in wikipedia that would differentiate between fact, fiction, speculation, opinion, etc. For instance, look up something like "Jedi".

      First, there's no disambiguation - since JEDI is also an acronym for the Joint Expeditionary Digital Information system and for the Joint Enterprise DoDIIS Infrastructure you would think that there's be mention of something besides the fiction. According to Wikipedia, the only Jedi is the fake one.

      Second, sometime after the first reference to fictional characters, the article goes into full authoritative mode with passages like "The Force is an incorporeal energy field that is generated by all living organisms and permeates the universe and all things within." If you skimmed over that whole fictional reference, you're in trouble. That section ends with "This life-force is known in China as qi or chi; in India, prana and in Japan as Ki. A belief in a life-force is most commonly seen in the East, practised by Buddhists, Taoists, Confucianists, and Hindus." Terrific. A billion or so people just got told that their beliefs are equated with George Lucas' fantasies.

      This is also part of a larger problem with the inability of a (larger than you'd hope) portion of the general public to distinguish between fact and fiction. I teach science. For nearly a school year, back in 1986, nearly every lesson on biology that mentioned the brain brought up a question about this brain transplant that they saw on TV and it was so cool - how did they do that? This all came from one fictional made-for-tv movie about a brain transplant called "Who Is Julia?" I got more questions about that than I did about the real events that same year at Chernobyl.

      Third, as a reflection of our culture, it's way out of whack with what we hold important.
      The Jedi entry prints out at 17 pages.
      Stephen Hawking's is 6.

  • by Quaoar ( 614366 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:16PM (#15833673)
    ...not the ones that are obvious vandalism.
    • by SoCalChris ( 573049 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:49PM (#15834496) Journal
      Yep, here's a good example.

      Conrad Burns, senator for Montana. [wikipedia.org]

      Over the last several months, quotes of his which are extremely offensive to many people have been slowly dissapearing from his Wikipedia page. They're still on WikiQuote though.
      In 1994, Burns told the editorial board of the Bozeman Chronicle that when asked by a constituent, "How can you live back there in Washington, DC with all those niggers?" he replied, "[It's] a hell of a challenge." When he was asked about the use of the racial slur, he said: "I don't know. I never gave it much thought."

      On February 17, 1999, while at a meeting of the Montana Implement Dealers Association in Billings, Montana, Burns referred to Arabs as "ragheads". Burns later apologized.

      In 2000, he offended a Billings woman when he pointed to her nose ring and asked her what tribe she was from.

      On December 21, 2005, Burns stated that "We've got to remember that the people who first hit us in 9/11 entered this country through Canada." This claim, which is false and is directly contradicted by the findings of the 9-11 Commission, drew criticism from those questioning Burns' grasp of domestic security. Canadian ambassador Frank McKenna demanded an apology from Burns.

      Recently, Burns ran into a group of firefighters in an airport, who had just finished fighting a 92,000 acre fire, and were getting ready to return home. He walked up to them and said "See that guy over there? He hasn't done a God-damned thing. They sit around. I saw it up on the Wedge fire and in northwestern Montana some years ago. It's wasteful. You probably paid that guy $10,000 to sit around. It's gotta change." That section is still in there, but I bet it'll be gone within a week.

      I would change the wiki entry so that those are back in there, because I feel that they are important topics for someone who is running for reelction in a few months. I'm just not familiar enough with how to edit Wikipedia.
  • Backfires? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by edremy ( 36408 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:19PM (#15833711) Journal
    Umm, I'm not so sure about that. The Elephant page *was* vandalized before it was locked down. So were multiple other pages having to do with Oregon, Colbert, other elephant-related stuff and the like. Every one of these pages is going to have to be either locked or watched continuously by editors for months if not years to prevent additional vandalism. I'm sure other talk show hosts will pick up on this somewhere along the line: can you imagine the edits if Rush or Hannity tells their followers to start changing stuff?

    If that's a joke backfiring, what's success? Having America celebrate it's 750th birthday? [theonion.com]

    • Re:Backfires? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Ignorant Aardvark ( 632408 ) <cydeweys&gmail,com> on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:32PM (#15833826) Homepage Journal
      So what if a few pages displayed vandalized entries for a little while? Two nights ago we were on such high alert that the Stephen Colbert vandalism was reverted on average in under 30 seconds. And that was before I started locking down pages. Considering the vandalism was spurred on by a television show with an audience of over one million people, it only took about half a dozen admins to quelch all of the vandalism.
      • Re:Backfires? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by edremy ( 36408 )
        It took half a dozen admins a few minutes to find the obvious changes on a couple of targeted pages. I'll bet there are quite a few random pages on Wikipedia right now that say the elephant population has tripled. For example, I just edited George Takai's page to mention this, and it worked fine. (Don't worry, I removed the change) Have you had to write an edit scanner that looks for every change that mentions elephants, Oregon or the rest?

        Again, what happens when Rush tells his millions of listeners to

  • Backfired? Hardly. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by technomom ( 444378 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:20PM (#15833719)
    On the contrary, it proved exactly what Colbert's point was. Wikipedia's very nature makes it prone to misttatements and error. Wikipedia practically had to shut itself down after Colbert proved his point.

    Seems like the submitter couldn't see the beauty of the satire. Just like Dave Barry's "Dog Ate My Toes" poetry project, it gave us all a good laugh, which is the entire point of humor and satire.

    Backfired? No way. We all got a great laugh from this.

    • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:33PM (#15833830) Homepage
      Wikipedia had to limit editing to pages that got vandalized. That doesn't mean any of this "truth by mob" will actually stay in... Wikipedia requires information to be cited by reliable sources, so there's no way that the statements will stick for longer than a few minutes.
    • by Tyir ( 622669 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:37PM (#15833874) Journal
      I'm not sure how putting the 'elephant' page and a couple other pages under semi-protection means that "Wikipedia practically had to shut itself down".

      Wikipedia is a bit larger than that, and is quite a bit hardier than you imagine.

      • by Stalyn ( 662 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:31PM (#15834346) Homepage Journal
        Yet the article on Lutheranism [wikipedia.org] is still shorter than the article on Truthiness [wikipedia.org]. The Lutheran movement had a much larger impact on world history than the word 'truthiness'. That was Colbert's overall point; Wikipedia does not represent reality but a subset of reality which he coined Wikiality.

        Wikipedia represents the state of human knowledge at some point in time which is vastly different than the Truth. In 50 years an article about Truthiness might be just one line while the article about Lutheranism will still be the same length, if not longer. Wikipedia only has the "truth of the moment" while the Truth is something timeless.

    • On the contrary, it proved exactly what Colbert's point was. Wikipedia's very nature makes it prone to misttatements and error. Wikipedia practically had to shut itself down after Colbert proved his point.

      Wikipedia isn't really the target here. I'll bet the majority of "Report" viewers didn't even know what Wikipedia was before Colbert explained it. The target of the satire is the echo chamber of widespread opinion that becomes "fact" when repeated enough. Wikipedia is merely being used as a foil to illu
  • by inviolet ( 797804 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMideasmatter.org> on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:20PM (#15833721) Journal
    The tribe's process for dealing with newcomers, change, or upheaval:
    1. fear it
    2. hate and persecute it
    3. shun and ridicule it
    4. make fun of it
    5. get bored of it
    6. accept it
    7. eventually stop caring altogether

    You can see this process most clearly, in the evolution of society's treatment of homosexuals over the past 50 years.

    Funny how academia is now going through this process with Wikipedia.

  • by Zebra_X ( 13249 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:20PM (#15833722)
    This shows nothing about Wikipedia's strength in resisting vandalism. It is like calling the cops and saying "i'm going to rob a bank now", "look i'm in the bank on Maple and Main stealing money", "Oh now i'm leaving, I'm headed home to 123 Main St."
  • by hhr ( 909621 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:21PM (#15833736)
    and you need to repeatedly sample an article in order to determine it's average and standard deviation-- slowly converging on the truth.

    Maybe wikipedia should include that information in addtion to the the "This article is contested" warning.

    Frankly, wikipedia has a lot of information that you just can't get anwhere else and I will always treasure it for that. But trusting wikipedia for current information-- or opinion, is very dangerous.
    • Wikipedia contains statistical samples and you need to repeatedly sample an article in order to determine it's average and standard deviation-- slowly converging on the truth.

      That's the theory - but as usual, reality is considerably divergent. the 'truthfulness' of an article can be reduced in an instant, and persist in that state for months.

      But trusting wikipedia for current information-- or opinion, is very dangerous.

      That's the airy handwave that Wikipedia supporters indulge in when

    • Frankly, wikipedia has a lot of information that you just can't get anwhere else
      Yes but so does my crazy uncle Henry, and any value contained in knowing up front that you can bet your life on half of what he says is more than negated by not knowing which half.
  • No backfire here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:22PM (#15833742) Homepage Journal
    Backfired [answers.com]? Quite the opposite. This proves his point. If it's left open you can end up with any facts people choose to insert. The other option is to limit edit rights, which goes against the basic idea behind the site.

    I'm sure he didn't go to bed crying because he's been blocked from editing wikipedia.
  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:25PM (#15833767)
    Taking what Colbert did as some deliberate act to sabotage Wikipedia is about as ridiculous as the Bush administration inviting him to the Whitehouse Correspondents Dinner [google.com] and expecting him to shower the President with praise. Colbert was trying to make the point that the majority opinion isn't necessarily the right opinion. One of the tenets of our government is to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. So, when you hear politicians crying for straight up-and-down votes when our republican (little 'r') government empowers the minority party to fight against it (via the filibuster), you should remember that we don't live in a democracy. That whole skit was also a clever take on how those in power love to rewrite history to put themselves in a better light.
  • by Zzanath ( 920280 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:25PM (#15833768)
    I think Colbert's point was that Wikipedia and other vote based knowledge bases ultimately conform to the beliefs of the majority, and not actual fact. The truth isn't democratic in nature (although truthiness might be). If a bunch of skinheads get together and vote that the Holocaust never happened, that doesn't make it true. Just because a moderator was watching and locked down the entry isn't a display of Wikipedia's power. The moderator can't handle everything in that fashion. If the power of Wikipedia is in the breadth and good will of it's contributors, then unlock the entry and let's see what happens.
  • He's not banned (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThePolkapunk ( 826529 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:27PM (#15833784) Homepage
    Take a look at Colbert's block log: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special: Log&type=block&page=User:Stephencolbert [wikipedia.org] and his talk page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Stephencolb ert [wikipedia.org]. He's not banned, and although he was blocked at one point, that's since been removed.

    Furthermore, all the blocks put on his account were due to the inability to confirm that this account actually belonged to Stephen Colbert since creating an account with a public figure's name if you are not the public figure is against wikipedia policy. His account was not blocked for vandalism.
  • Hooray, look at us (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nuzak ( 959558 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:30PM (#15833813) Journal
    "Look at how our system actually works: by protecting two whole articles from vandalism, because they were mentioned a nationally televised show. Ergo we are STILL the sum total of human knowledge, and bigger than the Apollo Program and Jesus."

    Wikipedia is the greatest collection of random-third-party factoids the world has ever known, and a great resource, but hardly some grand visionary society of mind. I think Colbert proved his point quite nicely.

    • I think Colbert proved his point quite nicely.

      Then the joke may be on you.

      Colbert's schtick is to demonstrate the stupidity of right wing, nationalistic, religious statists by acting like one. Has it ever occurred to you that he may well have been smart enough to predict that Wikipedia would respond in this way and that this "point" might be part of his schtick?
  • by Ignorant Aardvark ( 632408 ) <cydeweys&gmail,com> on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:30PM (#15833815) Homepage Journal
    There's only one way to fight vandalism, and it's the good old-fashioned way ... get some troops on the ground. I spent two nights ago protecting over a dozen elephant-related articles (Elephant the album, Dumbo the Elephant, Elephant Seal, etc.) and blocked a few dozen people I caught inserting false numbers about elephant populations. As Wikipedia administrators we really have all the tools that we could possibly need. I just looked at the live stream of all edits on the English Wikipedia and reviewed the ones being made to all pages related to Stephen Colbert, Elephants, or northwestern states.

    (User:Cyde on en-wiki)
  • by grumpyman ( 849537 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:37PM (#15833884)
    To all potential Wiki vandals... the ceiling cat is watching.
  • by dzfoo ( 772245 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:39PM (#15833904)
    What "strength in resisting vandalism"? Some editors were watching the show on TV, so they were able to revert the changes. What about the myriad other instances where vandalism is not announced and showcased on TV worldwide?

  • by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:45PM (#15833970)
    If you use a Wikipedia article for information, you should validate that information. Just as you should take reasonable measures to confirm a fact from a book. One way to start with Wikipedia might be to look at the history of changes. You might see evolution of the disputed information.
    Sometimes you can read two newspapers with different points of view on a subject and start to see the 'real picture'. The more sources hear about an event from, the more effective your intelligence can be at filtering out noise. The human mind decides on a stopping point where it is safe to assume something is true to a degree of certainty. This is what makes us fairly sure that when we walk, we will not fall through the ground during some subsequent step.
    Looking at the history might give insight into how the entry took shape. We will have a larger pool of beliefs from which to harvest the most accurate picture. It's work, but that's what research is.
  • help me out here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pike ( 52876 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:46PM (#15833980) Homepage Journal
    This raises a number of questions in my mind.

    Do the wiki admins make a point of collectively watching all television shows to make sure no one is vandalising their site?

    What if someone were to announce their wiki vandalism on, say, local radio -- that is, to an audience of only 80,000 as opposed to 8 million -- would they still be caught?

    If Steve alters a part of a wiki entry regarding remarks he himself has made about Oregon, would he not then be making a remark about Oregon, thus making whatever new content he entered technically correct?

    If Steve had not publicly announced his vandalism regarding whether or not he had compared Oregon to Portugal, would anyone besides Barry Lopez have cared?
  • Backfired? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stalyn ( 662 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @02:55PM (#15834068) Homepage Journal
    Somebody is living in Wikiality.
  • by rbarreira ( 836272 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:20PM (#15834279) Homepage
  • by c41rn ( 880778 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:26PM (#15834319)
    If I recall correctly, Steven Colbert's Word for that skit was "wikiality", a new word that would mean something like, "a reality that may or may not exist but is accepted as true because a majority of people believe it to be true."

    This is kind of like his word "truthiness". I, for one, like the word "wikiality" as a way to describe that concept and I think I'll start using it!

  • by Heembo ( 916647 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:34PM (#15834373) Journal
    There is no way in hades that Colbert thinks this comedic-stunt backfired. He nailed front-page-top-story press in a large number of press sources that target his key demographic. Plus, this was absolutely hilarious (at least to me and most in the kingdom on geekdom). PS: Colbert loves Dungeons and Dragons; the man can do no wrong in my eyes!
  • Backfires? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by d_jedi ( 773213 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:36PM (#15834391)
    How so? I think Colbert proved the point he wanted to make quite nicely. The fact that many entries contained the false statistics for at least some portion of time shows the inherent flaws with the wiki system. (Sure, it was only a short period of time - but imagine you're writing a paper on elephants.. and just happen to come upon the entry at that point in time.)
  • by damburger ( 981828 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @03:38PM (#15834403)
    Whatever has caused you to have an irrational phobia of this project, I'm sick of hearing you all bitch about it. I don't care if you lost an edit war. I don't care if someone thought your prayer group wasn't notable enough for an entry. And I certainly don't care that wikipedia doesn't agree with your favourite news channel/conspiracy nut.

    Its a good project that does what it sets out to do, and does it well. The fact its resisted what is effectively a DDoS attack from a major celebrity with millions of "zombies" at his disposal should testify to that.

    No, it isn't perfectly accurate. But if people were to fact check the news as anally as wikipedia is checked, they would find it much, much worse. People find one or two inaccurate articles and hold them up as examples of why wikipedia "doesn't work" whilst failing to mention the thousands of articles that are accurate.
  • The problem with Wikipedia is the it only works in practice, not in theory.

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