Watching the Detectives

Thoughts By 8 years ago

I frequently contend that humanity itself has become smarter since the invention of Wikipedia. While that may be debatable, there can be no doubt of Wikipedia’s impact. In the dark days before Wikipedia it used to take me entire minutes, perhaps half an hour, to convince someone that a third of the Netherlands is below sea level. Now, they’re likely to check it on Wikipedia, and agree with me.

As ubiquitous as Wikipedia has become, so to has the sardonic catchcry of “it must be true, it was on Wikipedia.” The accuracy of the information is constantly under fire. Indeed there have been many studies into Wikipedia’s accuracy.

I’m not concerned with the accuracy of what is on Wikipedia, I feel it serves its purpose well, and frequently direct students there. What I am concerned with, is who wrote it. As Wikipedia is editable by everyone, there is massive potential to sway the opinion and information given.

This is where WikiScanner comes in. It can tell you who edits what. For instance, here is a list of what the famously fascist and controlling ‘Church’ of Scientology is editing (no guesses there). Or here you can see what’s been edited by the US Department of Defence.

Wikipedia logs the IP of everyone who edits, large organisations have organisation-wide IPs, WikiScanner combines this information to show you who’s editing what. Sometimes is benign (the Australian Defence Force edits a lot of entries on AFL in the 70s), sometimes its positive (NASA edits a lot of physics entries), but frequently its highly informative, and vital for critical reading – such as Walmart editing the section on employee treatment, or Microsoft editing the section on XP’s limitations.

  • emily

    While studying I was very wary about using Wikipedia in my research. I realise I may be in the minority here, but I could not bring myself to use a source with even a small amount of doubt over its authenticity. Call me old fashioned, but I would rather source an essay, thesis or journal article in an academic publication and be sure that the information I am getting is legitimate. I would leave Wikiscanner to the Scientologists.

  • Its amazing how such an unreliable source of information is visited by so many millions of people.

    Putting my conspiracy hat on, I am sure the CIA and the Scientologists have the same sort of influence over the content of a print encyclopedia, as they would any other source of public information. Wikipedia makes it really simple for them.