« Work and the Wonky Wiki | Main | The Geek Squad »

Wikiality

So even I love wikis because of their usefulness, I have to agree with Steven Colbert in the Colbert Report regarding these little web miracles. Watch this video featuring "The Word" and you can easily see how opinions can be blown out of proportion and facts can be distorted. I love random facts and being able to learn them in wikis, but how can one even know whether something is indeed a fact or just a distortion of a fact? Sometimes, even news stories and sites with reportedly "good" sources have been known to have skewed facts. And sometimes, sites have presented opinions or non-facts in a fact-based manner. And in reality, when we are simply browsing the web, how are supposed to tell fact from fact-ish or fiction? I realize I may have drifted and brought down the morale of the blog, but I feel that today, with our use of the web for factual information, we need to be able to know whether the information we are reading is indeed fact or fiction...

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/72347/july-31-2006/the-word---wikiality

Comments

I agree with your comments about the accuracy of wikis. (I also happen to love Steven Colbert's wikiality talk.) It seems that Wikis are SO useful and efficient and such a great tool, that people overlook the fact that they can be just as inaccurate as any other source of information. The structure and organization of a wiki gives it a great appearance and great first impression, making users feel like they are reliable sources of information. But as Colbert showed us, the Elephant population in Africa could have tripled in the past years....(or not at all.)

No, you didn’t bring down the blog. I’m totally skeptical of wikis in some instances as well. Like how I mentioned in my blog post, you don’t know the person who added or updated information in Wikipedia; so how can you trust it? I suppose this leads into an even deeper revelation of how can you really trust anything that is on the web. Say you started a blog and one person always commented on your post. You began communicating with her and felt like you really got to know her. Then you found out that everything she told you about herself wasn’t true. You spent time back and forth communicating with her and began to trust her, but then found out it was all a lie. Working on the web in this way takes a lot of the trust out of relationships I think. Meeting someone and communicating with them face-to-face is always better, in my opinion. You can read their body language and get a sense of whether they are lying or telling the truth; whether you can’t trust them or you can.

I do not think you brought down the moral of the blog because I am sure we all have learned from any early age not to believe in everything you read.

I am not for censorship and its really impossible due to the massiveness of the internet, but I wonder if someone will come up with a stamp that states "This page is completely fact." and once you click on the stamp you are lead to a bibliography page of where they got their information and a very easy to see link that lets you e-mail them if you have an issue with any of the sources. (Better yet there could be a shout box so people can see what others write publicly.)

Most shopping sites have an 'authenticity' stamp and a guarantee that they're not going to take your money and not give you anything so my idea of a "fact" stamp is part of that.

(Note to Nicole- sorry I submitted twice but the earlier one didn't have my name as the poster. Can you just not publish that one and delete this note? Thank you!)

I do not think you brought down the moral of the blog because I am sure we all have learned from any early age not to believe in everything you read.

I am not for censorship and its really impossible due to the massiveness of the internet, but I wonder if someone will come up with a stamp that states "This page is completely fact." and once you click on the stamp you are lead to a bibliography page of where they got their information and a very easy to see link that lets you e-mail them if you have an issue with any of the sources. (Better yet there could be a shout box so people can see what others write publicly.)

Most shopping sites have an 'authenticity' stamp and a guarantee that they're not going to take your money and not give you anything so my idea of a "fact" stamp is part of that.

I agree with you that wiki's can be inaccurate but then again so can every information source. That's what leads me to believe that citing sources is even more important in wiki's than elsewhere. Wiki sites such as Wikipedia utilize citation features very well. All sources are cited on the bottom of the page and if there is no citation for a certain fact Wikipedia alerts you that the information may be questionable.

EDIT: That last anonymous comment was mine by the way.

Nicole:

Good post and references. I am in the same boat and don't know how much of the information can be trusted on these wiki postings. The idea that you presented about people adding their opinion is something that we need to take into consideration and need to be aware of as we build our site.

I tend to get a little defensive when people talk about how you can't trust the information in a wiki to be true or accurate. In the case of Wikipedia, the site is cited better than most news articles. If you think about how we gain knowledge in life - through parents, friends, mentors, etc; how much of that knowledge was properly cited? Did your mom and dad tell you something would cause an owie? Or did they tell you that according to the surgeon general, the risk of accidents in the home is XX and XX% of those accidents happen in the kitchen (or something)? This is the problem of the new orality that is textual conversation. You aren't expected to have citations for your real-life conversations, but when those conversations become print, citations are a must have for credibility and to ensure credit is granted where it is due. It's too bad these two aren't separable, I bet there's a lot of knowledge out there owned by people who can't afford to publish it in a peer reviewed journal.

In response to your comment Liz, I see your point about how people don't cite things in general conversation. But I think for me its the fact that in general conversation I am interacting with that person who is telling me something. I am reading his/her body language to determine if what he/she said is true or just a bunch of crock. That element is missing in Wikipedia. While there are references at the bottom of the page, things can still be edited after the fact and be incorrect.