October 2007


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In addition to “spoof editing” (see the Wiki 101 entry), the advent of WikiScanner helps careful researchers to uncover “conflict of interest editing” in Wikipedia . Most recently, AP journalists are suing over the right to find out which government officials have been altering entries on local government programs and officials, but this is the most recent in a number of stories that indicate companies and other organizations are changing their wikipedia entries to make themselves look better. (Click here for WikiScanner FAQs)

Although such entries are in conflict with Wikipedia’s suggested guidelines on neutral point of view, and verifiability, it is difficult to enforce such guidelines.

[Update: Video link and Wikiality entry updated December 18, 2008]

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Picture of Colbert delivering Segment on Wikiality, click to view the video

A wiki is a type of webpage that various contributors can quickly update from their respective remote locations. An encyclopedia is a handy reference tool, consulted for an overview of a topic, and for gathering names, places, events and dates as a basis for conducting further research in reliable scholarly sources. Put these tools together and you have a great opportunity to have a timely reference tool…but not all encyclopedic wikis are the same. Stephen Colbert points out — in his “The Word” segment on Wikiality– some of the drawbacks of using Wikipedia as a sole source of information for successful research. There is also an entry for Stephen Colbert in Wikiality, The Truthfulness Encyclopedia.

The collaborative powers that wikis hold are much better harnessed by wiki-sites like Encyclopedia of Earth, developed by a Community of Scholars, where contributors are recognized as experts in their field.

Colbert, S. (2006). Wikiality [Colbert Report segment. The Word: Wikiality] . New York: Comedy Central. Retrieved October 10, 2007, from http://www.comedycentral.com/motherload/index.jhtml?ml_video=72347 This image of Stephen Colbert, and the Colbert Report are copyrighted by Comedy Central. They are posted here under the Fair Use clause, for educational purposes. [Update: the video link was updated on December 18, 2008]

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