There’s a lesson here, but I’m not sure what it is

You probably always suspected that Wikipedia wasn’t the unbiased, authoritative reference work that it aspires to be.

Now you can has proof.

A grad student at Caltech has written the Wikipedia Scanner, which looks at the IP addresses attached to each edit of a Wikipedia article, and links them back to the companies that own those IP addresses. So you can catch, say, Diebold deleting criticism of their voting machines, or Microsoft’s PR company Waggener Edstrom claiming that MSN Search is a “major competitor to Google”.

MySpace, AstraZeneca, Disney, the Scientologists, and ExxonMobil have all been busted for similar vandalism.

Wired Magazine’s excellent Threat Level blog is collecting the most egregious examples of whitewashing, vandalism, spin jobs, and any other little indiscretions. Have a browse, or hit the Wikipedia Scanner and find some of your own.

The moral of the story: “many hands make light work”. Or is it “cheaters never prosper”? Or maybe “a mob is only as smart as its dumbest member”? Ehh.

(Side note: For all its faults, think back to 2000, before Wikipedia was founded; who could’ve imagined that just seven years later we’d have a resource as valuable as this available to anyone with a computer?)

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2 Responses to There’s a lesson here, but I’m not sure what it is

  1. Zac says:

    That’s interesting stuff.
    I did know that Wikipedia is a bit dodgy some of the time. This scanner thing will probably help, but I’m sure there are (fairly easy) ways to get around the scanner…
    It’s a bit of fun seeing business PR machines being busted for abusing the wiki.

  2. Josh says:

    Yeah – if a PR guy is that desperate to screw with Wikipedia, they could dodge the scanner by doing it from their home cable connection instead of their work address. It’s just amusing to see that they’re not even smart enough to think of that.

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