This Just In: Wikipedia Wrong!

Yet another case of Wikipedia providing bad information:

 

MIAMI (AP) — Actor-comedian Sinbad had the last laugh after his Wikipedia entry announced he was dead, the performer said Thursday.

Rumors began circulating Saturday regarding the posting, said Sinbad, who first got a telephone call from his daughter. The gossip quieted, but a few days later the 50-year-old entertainer said the phone calls, text messages and e-mails started pouring in by the hundreds.

“Saturday I rose from the dead and then died again,” the Los Angeles-based entertainer told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

 

I love Wikipedia. It’s a great way to get a quick overview of virtually any topic. Good articles also refer to you to helpful, reliable references. In some areas, it’s far and away the best resource I’ve found – for example, comic book characters, software comparisons, and, maybe unexpectedly, theology. With topics that a) many people with b) divergent perspectives c) care strongly about, then Wikipedia works quite well. Bad information is quickly squelched.

The problems arise when people don’t realize that literally anyone can edit Wikipedia. I think this is partly Wikipedia’s fault. It’s easy to miss. The home page only calls itself “the free encyclopedia.” The English main page goes further, calling itself “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” but this important statement disappears when you actually view an article. I would wager that most people stumble upon Wikipedia entries through Google searches and never even seen the “anyone can edit” statement.

The term “encyclopedia,” for most people, connotes authority. Further, most people don’t know what a “wiki” is, so they miss the important element of Wikipedia’s name. If Wikipedia’s tagline was “the free community resource” or “the free user-created encyclopedia,” then I bet less confusion and litigation would occur.

At least Sinbad has a sense of humor about it.

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