12 May 2009

Wikipedia Gets a Bad Rap

Whenever I'm doing research, find myself bored of playing Donkey Kong, or simply want to know more about a particular subject, I turn to Wikipedia for my answers. Chock full of information and covering almost every pertinent subject known to man, the Wiki is a one stop shop for expanding the mind and wasting away valuable hours. A lot of people say Wikipedia is a veritable fountain of misinformation, but I'm here to say: I think Wikipedia gets a bad rap!

Where else could I readily learn that Disney threatened to sue some day care centers for using Mickey Mouse pictures on their walls?

Or that Zincam Gluconium is the active ingredient in popular cold remedy Zicam?

Or that sunglasses can "improve visual comfort and visual clarity by protecting the eye from glare."

All right, I might not have needed Wikipedia's help on that last one, but let's face it, I wouldn't have been able to put it quite so succinctly, either. Kudos, writer of that particular Wiki article!

Now consider my 1986 set of Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedias. Supposedly, these encyclopedias have been through all of the fact checking and rigorous copyediting that these Wikipedia articles are criticized for lacking. Hmm, could have fooled me. If anything, a quick glance through these encyclopedias shows that either someone was sleeping at the wheel at the old publishing house, or these books were put together by complete morons.

Here are some things I found that are just completely inaccurate and/or bizarre in their absence:

*The World Trade Center is apparently still standing and is the second tallest structure in the world. Um, I guess you guys never heard of a little thing called 9/11?

*Not a single mention of the World Wide Web, the Internet, Google, or Wikipedia. Gee, you think Funk and Wagnalls is a little afraid of the competition?

*Direct quote, under entry labeled Ronald Reagan: "40th and current President of the United States". Riii-ight.

As you can see, mistakes can occur in even the most celebrated and respected publications. I think it's time to give Wikipedia its fair due. I'm going back there right now to finish reading the fascinating George Washington entry. Did you know he was once arrested for smoking crack with your mom on "Dancing With the Stars"? The things they don't teach you in school.

38 comments:

Thinkinfyou said...

I will admit to writing some fictitious wikipedia entries. Not that they stayed up for more than a couple of days ,but I tell you it was fun while it lasted.

NotAProudMonkeyOwner said...

Yeah! I love Wikipedia. Did you know that after 9/11, information was available on Wikipedia quicker than in the news?!

People slag off the old Wikipedia but where do they go first when searching for something? Google. And what comes up first in the results that these losers probably click on? Wikipedia.

That's right. Think about it. :)

Day said...

...You mean Reagan's NOT the current president?

ReformingGeek said...

Between Wiki and Urban Dictionary, I'm all set!

I thought Clinton was the president.

DouglasDyer said...

I guess it's obvoius now that you put it that way, but I have been using my sunglasses all wrong. Dude, this way is MUCH better.

Shawn said...

Thinkin: I once wrote a real Wikipedia entry about an online business I had, but it got taken down as spam.

NotAProudMonkeyOwner: Exactly. Although I did read an interesting article yesterday about a kid who put a deliberately false quote into a singer's article and then watched as the quote was reproduced in newspapers and blogs everywhere (the singer had just died).

Day: Well, um, you see...

Reforming: Yes, Urban Dictionary is the perfect gap-filler for those questions Wikipedia won't answer.

Douglas: Wikipedia helps another lost soul! Praise the maker.

Winky Twinky said...

Dude...how can you get tired of playing Donkey Kong??

hindleyite said...

Yeah, book suck. I mean, where's the refresh button?

bearmancartoons said...

Yes but I can make a cool fort out of my Funky Wagnalls. I can't do that with Wiki.

Heather Cherry said...

I read an article a couple of years ago that analyzed the information contained within the 'Pedia and it concluded that it's 90-something % accurate, which was more than the Encyclopedia Brittanica. The current one!

That said, I once read that "so-and-so is the gayest Jehoveh's Witness ever." Apparently writing stuff on bathroom walls has fallen out of fashion.

Jeff Tompkins said...

Unfortunately, I cannot afford Wikipedia, so I get most of my reliable information from chat rooms.

Shawn said...

Winky: There was a time when I really thought it would be impossible, but it happened.

Hindleyite: I know, and where's the bookmarks? Oh wait.

Bearman: You must have a different Wikipedia, then.

Heather: It certainly hasn't fallen out of fashion in this house.

Jeff: Well, that's just as good. More flavorful.

Maureen said...

I will admit I have updated Wiki as well... when our city once again won the World's Slurpee title.

The advent of the Internet itself was the death knell of door to door encyclopedia salesmen.

Which, when you think about it, is THE GREATEST benefit of the Internet, bar none.

freetheunicorns said...

I wouldn't know anything if it weren't for Google and Wikipedia. So, apparently, I don't know much.

George said...

I still like my enyclopedias. They make great doorstops and table legs.

Dave said...

If "ignorance=bliss", what is Wikipedia in the equation?

Margo said...

during family dinners everyone whips out their sidekicks and blackberries anytime anyone has a question. Whoever gets an answer first is the smartest. It doesn't have to be correct.

Shawn said...

Maureen: The World's Slurpee title? I may have to visit...

FTU: Yeah, they are the great intelligence equalizers. Well, when people are smart enough to know how to use them.

George: I find they give my room a nice "old book" smell, which counteracts that other smell.

Dave: I don't know, you should look it up on Wikipedia.

Margo: What's a "family dinner"?

derek bowles said...

In highschool we were doing a research project and every one had the same topic. I changed the wikipedia page and everyone in the class used my information. I was the only one who got an A.

Marissa said...

So that explains why Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder wear sunglasses!

um, Blue Balls the Clown... said...

I'm pretty sure all those Funk and Wagnall facts are true. You just need to go back in time. You'll see. You do have a time machine, yes?

Side note, did you ever see that great 1970's comedy duo "Funky and Lyle Waggoner"? It was great. Funky was black and hip and Lyle was made of wood. Read all about it in wikipedia.

Shawn said...

Derek: That. Is. Awesome. Seriously, that may be the greatest thing I've ever heard.

Marissa: But does it explain Billy Joel?

Alan: All right, you seem decidedly uncomfortable with your hilarious nickname, so you may drop it. As for the Waggoners, I found them funny, but the racial slurs wore on me after a while.

Candy's daily Dandy said...

George Washington is a HUGE fan of Keeping up With the Kardashians too.

shopgirl101 said...

I think I'm going to make a Wikipedia page on myself. Is that bad?

dizzblnd said...

I get my answers from Yahoo answers or Urban Dictionary. THOSE people ALWAYS know what they're talking about

Shawn said...

Candy: Who would have thought?

Brooke: Not at all, please send me the link when you're done. Quickly, since I imagine it will be gone in a matter of minutes.

Dizz: That's where I learned how babby was formed. How girl gets pragnent.

Vivienne said...

Oh the twisted journey Wiki can send you down... Just found you via LLOL and must immediately 1) follow you and 2) pass on a silly award to a new blog that I like. That would be you. Please come and get.

Shawn said...

Vivienne: Now that's making an introduction! Haha.

Nate Fakes said...

I think there was a type-o. It was smoking crack with your mom from 'Joey' - and 'Joey' is still on the air.

Jenn Thorson said...

Are you going to take those Funk and Wagnalls back to the supermarket, where my set came from originally? Yes, I got discount volumes with our grocery orders at Pathmark Supermarkets.

See what they have to say about the Green Party and the Holocaust Museum and...

Shawn said...

Nate: You remember "Joey"? That's impressive all by itself.

Jenn: Yes, I believe mine came from Food Lion. The Meat Bleachers!

Professor Chaos said...

This blog is awesome! I'm actually laughing out loud! Not quite ROF, but definitely LOL! God, I'm such a hip young kid! Seriously, though this does make me laugh out loud, and there aren't many sites I can say that about.

Stephanie M said...

I can't tell you how much I appreciate you bringing to light the inaccuracies of old encyclopedias!!! Awesome post.

Blue Balls The Clown -- And Damn Proud said...

Hey Shawn,

Hah! Actually, no, not all, truth be told, I’m very comfortable with Blue Balls. (As scary as that sounds.)

I'm just working on a series of variations on the name. Like the old saying goes: "It ain't over the Blue Balled Clown Sings."

Blue Balls the Clown: The Typo! said...

"It ain't over UNTIL the Blue Balled Clown Sings." That is…

Was my typo deliberate just so I could try another Blue Balls moniker...? Nah!

Shawn said...

Professor: Thanks a lot! Really, that's always great to hear.

Stephanie: It was really pretty discouraging. Just think about all the schoolchildren who used to use those cyclos for their research.

Blue Balls: Excellent! Between you and Chris, who has fully embraced his "notproudmonkeyowner" name, you have done honor to the world. I think everyone who comments here should have their own special nickname, just for The Tank.

Funnyrunner said...

I've always wanted to go on Wikipedia and add some bogus information....

Shawn said...

Funnyrunner: Do it! It's an amazing feeling, even if it doesn't stay up very long.