Wickedpedia: The dark side of Wikipedia

Wickedpedia: The dark side of Wikipedia

Summary: Behind the Web site, Wikipedia stories are being manipulated for cash and written and edited by insiders without a clue while outside experts are ignored.

Wikipedia looks less trustworthy by the day.

Do a Web search on any popular product, event, company, person, whatever. What's the first site that shows up? Chances are it's Wikipedia. For better or for worse, people assume that anything they find in Wikipedia is Gospel truth. That's very foolish. It now seems that some of Wikipedia's writers and editors have sold out the truth for their own gains.

As reported by Violet Blue, two Wikipedia insiders, Roger Bamkin and Max Klein, have allegedly written, edited, and placed Wikipedia articles for paying clients.

The facts appear damning. Klein's consulting business untrikiwiki comes right out and states: “A positive Wikipedia article is invaluable SEO: it's almost guaranteed to be a top three Google hit. Surprisingly this benefit of writing for Wikipedia is underutilized, but relates exactly the lack of true expertise in the field. ... WE HAVE THE EXPERTISE NEEDED to navigate the complex maze surrounding 'conflict of interest' editing on Wikipedia. With more than eight years of experience, over 10,000 edits, and countless community connections we offer holistic Wikipedia services.”

Oh yeah, that sure sounds like a Wikipedia editor and not a shill. Since the scandal broke, Klein has tried to spin his business, “We’ve never made a single edit for which we had a conflict of interest on Wikipedia – ever. Although we have advertised such a service, we’ve not aggressively pursued it – and we have not accepted any clients interested in on-Wikipedia work.” So, Klein advertises a service in ALL CAPS in true spammish fashion, but he's never done it? Interesting.

He went on, “We believe – strongly – that there’s nothing inherently wrong with accepting for-profit engagements that involve contributing to Wikipedia, as long as it’s approached in a transparent and ethical fashion.” Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder would appear to disagree: Wales wrote in 2009  that “It is not ok with me that anyone ever set up a service selling their services as a Wikipedia editor, administrator, bureaucrat, etc. I will personally block any cases that I am shown.”

Bamkin has since resigned as a Wikimedia UK trustee . Klein is still listed as a Wikpedian in Residence for OCLC Research. The Wikipedia internal conflict over whether their actions should be condemned or whether the accusations are unfair attacks from outsiders continues in the site's discussions forums. The mere fact that many Wikipedia insiders are unable to see the problems speaks volumes.

For years, Wikipedia has danced around scandals about its reliability and transparency. The worst example of this, before this current scandal, was when a major Wikipedia site administrator and employee called Essjay, who claimed to be “a tenured professor of religion at a private university” with “a Ph. D. in theology and a degree in canon law,” was proven to be a high-school dropout. Wales first defended him but then distanced himself.

Aside from the scandals, Wikipedia's unique combination of self-righteousness and know-it-allism has long led it to deny experts from outside its closed circle from writing and editing stories. The most egregious recent example was when Wikipedia's editors wouldn't correct an entry about a novel by famous American author Philip Roth when the writer himself reported the error.

In a New Yorker article Roth explained, that he had asked for a serious misstatement about his novel “The Human Stain.” be removed. I'll let Mr. Roth explain what happened next:

Yet when, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the “English Wikipedia Administrator”—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” writes the Wikipedia Administrator—“but we require secondary sources.”

So there you have Wikipedia in all its glory: Touched with corruption, employing fakes, and so sure of its own correctness that it won't listen to the real experts. Have fun faking up your reports from Wikipedia articles kids!

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  • Pot, kettle, kettle, meet pot

    "unique combination of self-righteousness and know-it-allism" - Sounds like Steven's unuque brand of hypocrisy.

    Sadly, he's finally hit a good article. Wikipedia is as unreliable as the day is long. Funny how Steven picked this one up considering his own limitations and attitude to all things supposedly open
    • Wikipedia - where free gets you...

      Steven - I hate to admit this but I agree with you here. There are certain areas where majority rule is really the worst way to do things - I would list creating an encyclopedia as tops among this list. As your example well illustrates, Wikipedia, ironically, pushes out the very people who should be the only ones contributing to encyclopedic articles - the experts in their fields.

      I've seen cases where paragraphs citing press releases and other advertising material has been accepted over contributions from published experts (the former is a citation, albeit a dubious one, and the latter is original research which is a complete no-no). While I understand the overall general reason behind these rules, this type of things should *never* happen in an encyclopedia.

      There is also a real problematic side-effect to Wikipedia's dominance - there has been significant damage done to more traditional (I'll even dare to say more legitimate) encyclopedias. Now we're left with little choice but to reference a sketchy "encyclopedia" when trying to find information.

      A couple of years ago, Wikipedia was new enough that the schools in my area would refuse to allow students to even visit the site when doing research, let alone actually include references from it. I'm hoping that the "general acceptance" of it by the blind masses hasn't caused administrators to reverse that stance.
      • Sorry Cynical...

        ..I didn't mean this as a reply to your comment - I meant it as an overall comment to the article.
        • No issues, good comment though

          General acceptance is a good way to re-write history to match the desires of the masses to build up or reject the truth.

          Point well taken.
      • Although there is a point to be made here...

        Although you have a point, an expert doing original research should probably publish said research (assuming it is valuable), then cite the publication. This would be perfectly acceptable. The idea that even a credible expert could anonymously post facts without a reference is ludicrous.

        You should also know that I've had many college professors (here at the University of Texas) who have written for "traditoinal encyclopedias" specifically tell us that Wikipedia usually contains a greater depth of more up to date information and fewer errors than traditional encyclopedias. Some of there policies seem ridiculous at times (ex. Professor Brands tried to change a fact on his own Wikipedia page relating to his supposed nickname, but it kept getting changed back), but you can't argue with the results.
        Patrick Aupperle
      • Poor thinking

        Do you think paying money guarantees veracity? Experts?
    • please fail already

      Oops. Now what? What's Google to do since they rank the articles as gospel. Ah, I see, Google will buy them out or create their "own" wikipedia from our articles, put it on a website, and then rank that at #1 or #2 for any search known to mankind. I hope it dies an ugly death or the credibility falters to the point that webmaster websites can take those rankings back. Let the experts take that #1 or #2 ranking in Google. Fail please already.
  • A week late

    A week late with this "news" story. And I see no added value or additional information compared to the source. So why this was written in the first place?
    • why?

      This is the first I had heard of it, that is maybe why. Not everyone hears of everything! I know it is not totally reliable, but on the whole it probably has more truth than not. You cannot trust what is on TV or the radio or in print elsewhere either, so what is the difference? Who is to say that encylopedia Britannica or anyother formerly in print reference material (Funk and Wagnalls, e.g.) was not written with a political slant or prejudice toward something? The general populace does not have the knowledge or wherewithal to prove it one way or another, maybe a story here or there. We all know that many countries rewrite history to their liking, it could be done here as well. You can't trust implicitly what you read on the internet either.
      If you have to write a book/report/essay, the point is to do as much research as possible.
    • Wikipedia is imperfect like rest of our world's written and orated word

      Any fool who believes all that is written anywhere is just that: just any fool.

      Wikipedia serves up an incredible slice of knowledge on most any subject and those who read it naively will read and listen naively elsewhere as well.

      We have a president who forced that terrorist act not be mentioned as such in a formal report on the murder of 13 brave American soldiers by a cowardly Muslim assasin and who yesterday still felt that the time and evidence was insufficient to accept terrorism and assasination of his ambassador and subordinate without no known American defenders as the two former Navy Seals were at the safe house and not at or assigned to protect the consulate or the ambassador staff. The militia hired by the state department all disappeared prior to the attack. We are a country run by fools and cover-up artists who ignore warnings and get away with it.

      Now Wikipedia should keep a vigilant eye out for their miscreants, but the media has failed to call the Administration, the security apparatus for the Department of State and most importantly the President for this betrayal of the folks who died in the Libya "video protest" (per the impression BHO leaves every time it is discussed through yesterday). For shame. No, I do not expect Wikipedia to allow discussion of it either but hopefully this will not be deleted here.

      I vote Wikipedia for all time (perhaps with a caveat for the fools and idiots) and the big lie (and all the little lies) to be exposed each and every time, starting here!
      • It should be deleted

        An off-topic political rant of dubious credibility has no place on a comment thread relating to a technical subject. This is spam, and has been flagged.
        Han Rasmussen
  • Wickedpedia: The dark side of Wikipedia

    This has always been a problem with wikipedia, not sure why it made news this time. I don't put much trust in that site to begin with when anyone is available to freely edit it.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • hmmmm

      didn't they like your edits to the entries on Linux?
  • Self-righteous retards at the helm: Wikipedia.

    "... and with the surrender of Japan, WWII ended (citation needed)."

    How many times have you seen something like that, a simple and self-evident fact that everyone realizes is true, challenged by some idiot with a Wiki account and an internet connection? And hasn't EVERYONE found information on Wikipedia that was clearly not true?

    Why would it be surprising that people are taking payment for 'spinning' a Wiki page? Were you expecting them to be altruistic? Really?
    • In fairness

      Beyond outright challenges, "(citation needed)" also serves the purpose of ensuring that articles provide at least a baseline of source verifications by way of footnotes. I do agree with you, though, that sometimes they are overdone, and can border on the ridiculous.
    • The problem with Wikis is and always has been...

      ...that the process assumes that all contributors are both honest and humble. Sorry to say, this condition rarely holds, which is why editors are useful people to have around; they're not guaranteed to be both honest and humble either, but at least they can be held accountable for the content, and therefore have some incentive to insure both accuracy and objectivity.
      John L. Ries
      • You're wrong

        Wikis don't assume all contributors are honest and humble. What they assume is that some of the editors are and will correct the ones who aren't. For the majority of pages, this holds true.
        Patrick Aupperle
  • Wikipedia The failure of "Crowd Sourcing"

    The scandal of Wikipedia is the false assumption of good of "Wisdom of the Crowd" which leads to Wikipedia being anti profit and anti professional and eventually anti knowledge*.

    Wikipedia lack reliability is result of shunning professional peer review for unpaid volunteers and assumption the wisdom the crowd would bring in experts to freely give of the time and knowledge for the mass of non-contributing users. but instead we only get the most ignorant who ether the loudest or most connected.

    *the idea knowledge is not valid if its paid for.
    • Wikipedia Unreliable?

      If Wikipedia is too unreliable, you better shun all text books and encyclopedias. They usually have far more errors than Wikipedia.
      Patrick Aupperle
  • Excellent summary -- now on to Phase II

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols may have sort of reprocessed the news items found in this story, but it still bears repeating, over and over, until the "in crowd" that lords over Wikipedia is finally made to see the light -- that a crowd-sourced encyclopedia that cherishes the anonymity of its contributors is really not an encyclopedia, it's an online defamation and hidden agenda platform.

    Once that is realized by 90% of Wikipedia users, then we can move on to the next step in the process -- exposing the Wikimedia Foundation for the money racket that it has become. The Wikipedia site needs about $3 million per year for servers, bandwidth, and software maintenance to run efficiently and reliably. Why, then, is the Wikimedia Foundation budgeting $30 million for the organization? The "staff" are simply overseeing all of the work that volunteers would be accomplishing anyway without the staff, and the bank account simply keeps growing and growing each year, to accomodate the next year's inevitable staffing increase. Sue Gardner is getting paid about $240,000 annually to make sure Wikipedia DOESN'T CHANGE, that users are perpetually duped into thinking more money is needed. Think about that. It's a money machine whose primary purpose is to keep the money machine in motion.