By Andreas Kolbe
A factoid regularly cited in the press to this day is that a 2005 study by Nature found Wikipedia to be almost as reliable as Britannica. While the study’s (if that is the right word – it wasn’t a peer-reviewed study, but a news story) methodology and conclusions were disputed by Britannica, the result of the Nature comparison has become part of received knowledge for much of the media. As the saying goes, a lie told often enough becomes the truth.
A meme is born
The problems really began as soon as the Nature piece was published. Many news outlets failed to mention that in its survey, Nature looked at hard science topics only – subjects like physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and paleontology – despite the fact that Nature clearly said
…continue reading Wikipedia: as accurate as Britannica?
By Andreas Kolbe
For more than six years, Wikipedia named an innocent man, Joe Streater, as a key culprit in the 1978–79 Boston College basketball point shaving scandal. Thanks to the detective work of Ben Koo at sports blog Awful Announcing, the world now knows (again!) that Joe Streater had no involvement in the affair. He couldn’t have, because he didn’t even play for the team in the 1978–79 season.
Entering the Wikipedia wormhole
In his article, Guilt by Wikipedia: How Joe Streater Became Falsely Attached To The Boston College Point Shaving Scandal, Ben Koo describes how he fell “down this wormhole” that ended at an anonymous Wikipedia edit made over six years ago.
It began like this: Koo had reviewed a 30 for 30 documentary on the Boston College point shaving scandal for Awful
…continue reading Wikipedia: re-writing history
By Adrian Riskin Department of Mathematics Whittier College Whittier, CA 90608 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask any college professor about the accuracy of Wikipedia and they will tell you … well, if they’re a mathematician they may actually tell you that it’s quite accurate. I often recommend that my students look up definitions in Wikipedia and I know that many of my colleagues do as well. In fact I look up definitions on Wikipedia myself. If you want to know, e.g., what a Halin graph is, you could do much worse than the linked article. Yes, it’s semi-literate at best, but it’s informative and not wrong. Furthermore, my colleagues in the humanities and the social sciences are so dead set against Wikipedia that I find myself unable to resist teasing them by remarking on how useful I find it in my professional work.
But you know, I’ve also edited Wikipedia, although very rarely mathematics articles, and
…continue reading Elementary Mathematics on Wikipedia