May 12, 2009

Wikipedia is smarter than you

1. At least if you're one of an embarrassed batch of J-school grads:
When Dublin university student Shane Fitzgerald posted a poetic but phony quote on Wikipedia, he said he was testing how our globalized, increasingly Internet-dependent media was upholding accuracy and accountability in an age of instant news.

His report card: Wikipedia passed. Journalism flunked.

The sociology major's made-up quote - which he added to the Wikipedia page of Maurice Jarre hours after the French composer's death March 28 - flew straight on to dozens of U.S. blogs and newspaper Web sites in Britain, Australia and India.

They used the fabricated material, Fitzgerald said, even though administrators at the free online encyclopedia quickly caught the quote's lack of attribution and removed it, but not quickly enough to keep some journalists from cutting and pasting it first.
Read it all to find out what happened.

2. That Wikipedia has transformed from a hobbyhorse to an Encarta-toppling information powerhouse is a testament to its utility, as well as the power of wiki-addiction over its selfless editors. One of them is Ira Matetsky, who goes under Wikipedia's hood in what promises to be a fascinating series of blog posts.

3. I had three junior classes each create a wiki study guide for The Death of Artemio Cruz, a fantastically complex book. Overall, the experiment was a success, but I think I failed to adequately explain the nature and purpose of the wiki, by the number of students who, in their self-evaluations, noted that they wouldn't dare edit someone else's entry because "that would be rude."

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