Read & Respond – Week 7

Welcome to Wiki Week! This week we’ll be applying the collaborative skills we’ve learned in the past few classes and apply them to a different kind of crowdsourced project. There’s a bit of reading here, so make sure your post addresses the complicated nature of this discussion.

First, we’re going to deviate from the syllabus and hold off on Briggs’ chapter 9 until next week (but feel free to read it now). Instead, we’ll check out some words on wikis. We’ve talked a lot about “The Wisdom of Crowds,” but sometimes those crowds can seem kind of, well, dumb. In his essay “Digital Maoism,” Lanier, writes about how the Wikipedia crowd has (inaccurately) represented him. He provides a useful skeptic’s perspective on the “hive mind,” as he calls it (he also calls it “The Wikipedia,” but we’ll permit him this eccentricity). How do Lanier’s ideas compare to the other ideas we’ve discussed.

After all that heavy thinking, have a look at this article on wikigroaning from venerable humor site Something Awful (there are later installments here and here) – if you like your information more traditional, there’s also a story on the phenomenon in the Wall Street Journal). The argument is that collaborative works like Wikipedia tend to emphasize trivia and pop culture over substantive information. Consider, for example, that the entry for television program Grey’s Anatomy is almost seven times the length of the entry for seminal health handbook Gray’s Anatomy. (If you’re not easily offended, you can also have a look at this informative but characteristically profane entry from Encyclopedia Dramatica).

As a follow-up to the chaos of Internet humor, Philosopher Martin Cohen writes about who edits Wikipedia, what they edit, and why. With the above perspectives in mind, let’s consider the concepts of “wikiality” and “wikilobbying” (below; the last 30 seconds are an ignorable user-added rant on Fox News):

Finally, have a look at the Wikipedia page for our own P.I. Reed School of Journalism. Pay particular attention to those three little windows at the top of the page. These are Wikipedia standards alerts that indicate our entry isn’t up to snuff. How can we improve it?

What is your take on the function of wikis and wiki-like processes in communication and journalism today? Just how wise are those crowds we keep talking about? How do concepts like wikiality and wikigroaning impact on the positive qualities made available by this new way of communicating? If you see it as a problem, how could the process be improved? And just what can we do about that J-school page? (hint hint …)

Respond by commenting on this post noon Tuesday, Feb. 22 (I’m giving you an extra day since I’m a day late posting this).

30 Responses to Read & Respond – Week 7

  1. deepafadnis says:

    Judge me all you want but not a day goes by without me referring to Wikipedia. And it’s not because I have some sort of loyalty towards this portal, but since it is the first search result that pops up whenever you Google (used as a verb) something. Although it is universally known that the information is not reliable, more than half of the times it does give you a basic idea of whatever it is you’re looking for. Unless of course you have to write a paper on the topic or use the information for a top secret mission, Wikipedia does fulfill its purpose.
    Coming back to the readings, I think at the basis of Wikipedia is the concept of citizen journalist. Journalism by the people was invented to increase readership of newspapers and which slowly translated into people voicing their opinions or sharing the knowledge or their expertise. On these lines, I looked up ‘Wikipedia’ itself. While it was listed fifth on the list of search results, it clearly stated: ‘When changes to an article are made, they usually become available immediately before undergoing any review, no matter if they contain an error, are somehow misguided, or even patent nonsense’.
    Lanier’s ‘Digital Maoism’ and the idea of online collectivism are a little overwhelming. While his concerns are valid, I think he is way too harsh. It is true that a lot of inaccurate information can be passed on through websites and portals like Wikipedia, but one has to realize that we came from an era where knowledge belonged to only a privileged few, but today it’s available to everybody and that to free of cost. The concept of wikigroaning and wikiality are products of different patterns formed over the years and I have no doubt that there will be multiple versions of these concepts floating around the internet, waiting to be discovered.
    Martin Cohen’s article ‘Encyclopaedia Idiotica’ is both funny and sarcastic. And it does state a fact that experts do take a longtime to produce a document and the fast paced world that we live in today cannot afford to wait. So what are the odds of people falling back upon Wikipedia! As far as the Wikipedia search for our school goes, I don’t see a link to the schools official website anywhere. That would be a good start and it could also list all the major media houses and publications our alumni is placed with.

  2. bostonkid124 says:

    This whole Wikipedia section was more interesting than I thought (though the Lanier piece seemed to drag on) as both Lanier and Johnny Titanium opened my eyes. Like most students I’ve heard the whole don’t use Wikipedia speech, so I assumed this was going to be an extended version of that. Wrong… Well kind of.
    One of the problems that Lanier brought up was how you can change a Wikipedia page but the information can be changed back to something that may not be right. I could see this issue potentially becoming a problem for site like Twitter or Facebook. Ok let me explain this better. I feel like somebody could tweet some false information and like wildfire it would spread all over twitter and could potentially cause a problem. Wikipedia is the similar in the aspect that one could edit a page but one of the perks about Wiki is the filters they have to try to screen out any false information. Twitter doesn’t have that protection, so I could tweet the sky is pink in Morgantown and all my friends back in Boston might actually believe it.
    He was also right when he pointed out that people copy and paste text from reputable sources on Wiki and that takes away from the author’s voice. That made me think about my stories (I work at the DA covering the volleyball and gymnastics teams) and how some of the meaning would be taken away from my “voice” if somebody simply pasted it into a Wiki page.
    The Art of Wikigroaning was a good read. It was clearly shorter than the Lanier piece but touched on a similar point. When you use wiki for information, the information is diluted, it usually isn’t the same writer so the “voice” is off. I feel like I hold the same opinion as “Mr. Titanium” on Wikipedia. I hate on certain parts of it but overall it is a great source of information. Sometimes the information is too much, clustered, and the writers are too verbose.
    In terms of the schools Wikipedia page, it could definitely start with a link to the school. They could also insert an image of Martin Hall and maybe some of the statistics from the schools. Such as how many students are enrolled, have graduated, maybe something along the lines of how the SOJ at WVU stacks up against other schools and universities.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      That’s an interesting linkage between Wikipedia and Twitter. They’re both crowdsourced information, but where one has safeguards (to a point) and lacks voice, the other has voice with possibly diminished safeguards.

  3. rdlwvufan says:

    Wow, that was a long column. I feel like I would have to read it again to fully understand his whole argument, but I at least get the gist of what he’s saying. Whether that’s my fault or his, I’m not completely sure.

    I use Wikipedia quite a bit. I know it’s not necessarily the most reliable source out there, but when I’m wondering about something, it’s usually the first place I look. Even though most articles have references cited, I don’t usually bother looking at them. I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but perhaps this is a flaw in the whole setup. Sometimes, when I have looked at a reference, the link is dead or the article is outdated.

    From time to time, I have encountered the hacked article, where something that is blatantly fabricated makes it way onto the page. This can be quite humorous at times, but it does demonstrate the real problem that exists. Something I like to do sometimes is to check Wikipedia after a major event to see how long it takes for an article to be updated. I made sure to look up Lanier on Wikipedia after reading his column. He is no longer listed as a director, and one of the references is the very article I just read. It all comes full circle.

    I have said many times that I think society as a whole is getting dumber over time, much like in Idiocracy. If this is true, then the “wisdom of the crowds” is only foolish wisdom. We tend to blindly accept whatever is said or written, without bothering to question its veracity or importance. Maybe that’s why Wikipedia is so popular. It’s a pop culture vault, and therein lies the greater part of the so called wisdom. No one knows anything about Lady Bird Johnson, but we all know Lady Gaga’s life history. Are we all missing something here? In fact, Lady Gaga’s article is listed as a “good article,” but that is not the case for Lady Bird Johnson. Bottom line: nobody gives a RIP about Lady Bird Johnson.

    One thing Lanier said that stuck out to me was his remark about society’s view of the internet:

    “The beauty of the Internet is that it connects people. The value is in the other people. If we start to believe that the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we’re devaluing those people and making ourselves into idiots.”

    The internet does have that sort of feel, whether or not anyone would consciously think of the internet as a sentient being. I guess all we’re good for is counting jellybeans.

    Moving along to a more somber note, it saddens me that the P.I. Reed SOJ article is considered an orphan by Wikipedian standards. To improve the article, a photo of Martin Hall would be a good start, along with perhaps some pictures of the building’s interior.

    When compared to the article on the University of Missouri Journalism School, it falls short. There is no information given about faculty or students, very little information about its history and degree programs, and it has a bland look to it.

    I am not completely comfortable with the concept of wikis because there will always be people abusing the service. The people who edit these sites are a small, dedicated number who I imagine take the job seriously. However, since there is also a sector that only wants to cause havoc by intentionally screwing up these pages, the work of the dedicated editors becomes greater and the overall product becomes less reputable. For journalistic purposes, this is clearly a big problem. It’s not a good idea to use a fringe source for an article when one can’t be certain of its authority. That being said, these services are being used more all the time to share bits of news with others.

    In everyday communicating, I have cited Wikipedia as a source, and I imagine many others have done so as well. We all know the risks, but we do it anyway, because it’s easier that way. The thing about Wikipedia is the articles are written in a way that’s pretty convincing. It sounds like whoever wrote them knows what he is talking about. Does he? I don’t know, and most of the time, I don’t care. From what I’ve seen, a good deal of the crowd’s wisdom emanates from a group of wise guys, not wise men.

    I don’t think that wikiality and wikigroaning affect Wikipedia’s efforts much. These concepts were introduced four or five years ago, but this was the first time I’d heard of them. Maybe I’m an exception, but I doubt it is something people care much about, since nothing has really (negatively) changed with its use and popularity during that time. It would be good to have some form of checks and balances to make it better, though. Would it remain free in this setup? If a horde of editors is required, probably not. The problem is we want the best, but we don’t want to pay for it. Is that asking too much?

    Maybe we could edit the J-school page for an in class assignment? After all, we are wiser as a group than on our own. I read that on Wikipedia.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      We might take a shot at the SOJ page a little down the line. I debated doing that for this week, but decided that right now I want you all to get into the group blog mindset.

  4. lindsaycobb says:

    This wiki week assignment was surprisingly interesting and entertaining. I learned a lot about things I didn’t know and realized how much I have learned in this class and how I can apply it.

    I have to say, I think Lanier sounds like he’s about to lose it. Some of the points he tries to make are understandable- wikipedia isn’t always reliable, people are relying on ‘the internet’ instead of actual authors, and that a hive mind mentality is dangerous. However, he acts like the world is going to come to an end because of things like wikipedia and the Google algorithm. This is just ridiculous! Since I have known about Wikipedia I have never been allowed to use it as a reliable source in a school paper… ever! I would bet that none of my classmates were allowed to cite wikipedia either (in high school or college). I think Lanier got started off on this whole rant because wikipedia mentioned a film he made that he knows was terrible. He goes on and on about how wrong Wikipedia is about so many things and even mentions that he is not a filmmaker as proof that wikipedia is wrong…. he made a film, he is a filmmaker. Wikipedia wasn’t wrong.
    Now I don’t think that Wikipedia is the end all be all by any means, like I said I’ve never used it as a reliable source in my life. However, I do use it as a starting point. I can go to Wikipedia and brush up on a topic and then start searching under keywords that I learned in my wiki search.
    Lanier goes completely against what we’ve been advocating in class- we love blogging, we think crowd sourcing is very effective- he calls it stupid and idiotic. Aside from the fact that dismissing something as stupid is the worst possible attempt at a debate that he could possibly make, Lanier fails to admit that we can learn a lot from crowd sourcing and a ‘hive mind’. We don’t have to take it as the absolute truth, but we can appreciate the information and build from it. If I was in the room with that jellybean jar and I heard that the average of 300 guesses was 642 jellybeans I wouldn’t bet my house that that was the right answer, but I might bet a chunk of change that the answer was between 635 and 650. Lanier would probably agree with this too, so why is he so against the wisdom of the crowds in a technological sense. I think it is because he is weary of the unknown. Yes, it is a little weird that many people will go to a publicly edited encyclopedia to find facts, but I don’t think that is any reason to think that eventually Google will put all newsmen and women out of business (like Lanier suggests in his rant).

    I think wikigroaning is hilarious! I found myself “groaning”, but my groan is more of a stifled laugh in the middle of the library. I was not surprised at all to see that the John Locke had a smaller wiki page than John Locke from Lost. Think about it- like the one article says, most of wikipedias editors are nerdy teenage boys. What do they want to write about more, the umpteenth episode of Lost, or John Locke the dead philosopher. One is just more interesting to the editors than the other. Also, most of the wikigroans are unavoidable. Of course Bella Swan is going to have a longer wikipage than swan. *spoiler alert!* Bella fell in love with a werewolf and a vampire, she gets in several altercations with bad vampires, she kisses the werewolf then marries the vampire, then she gets knocked up with a vampire baby which later rips its way out of her body. To save her, her vampire husband changes her in to a vampire at the last minute. And! that isn’t even the end of the story. I’m not saying I think Twilight is the best book ever (trust me, I don’t) but I do think that there is more to write about when you have a four book saga, an author, corresponding movies, and a real-life actress who has taken on the character. Of course you have more to write about on Bella Swan than you do on ‘swan’. With ‘swan’ you have types, their habits, regions they live, what they eat, and what eats them. There isn’t an interesting story line that can be expanded on.
    I’m not worried about what wikigroans called to my attention, I think it’s simply a product of the times and our emphasis on popular culture. Also, I typed in John Locke, and the historical man of the Enlightenment came up first in my Google search and in my Wikipedia search. When the fictional character starts popping up first, then I’ll think about getting worried.

    I do think wikiality and wikilobbying are something to be on the look out for, but again, I don’t see them causing a problem for the population as a whole. Microsoft might make themselves look bad or a student might get an F on a paper for their involvement with Wikipedia, but they’re not going to change the world. Also I don’t see wikiegroaning, -ality, or -lobbying as a problem that needs to be fixed. If anything, these processes get Wikipedia attention- and in this case I think any attention is good attention. No one is learning anything we didn’t already know, but wikipedia is getting talked about. With these things all over the internet, people will start interacting with Wikipedia more, which is exactly what the creators wanted.

    We could improve the PI Reed SOJ page by adding more text and pictures. We could use our new map skills! Also adding links and citations would improve the page. And I have a feeling we might be doing this soon too!

  5. K.Wish. says:

    Lanier sure does have some pent up aggression, and that hair makes me want to stay away. But what he has to say makes sense. He mentions disliking how “the Wikipedia” became so important so quickly, but what’s wrong with that? For years, my high school teachers and college professors have been lecturing on the evils of Wikipedia and why not to use it as a source in any papers. While this may be a good bit of advice, you can find some cool stuff on Wikipedia (and other aggregator websites) that can’t be denounced as collectivist fluff. I don’t think Wikipedia is touted to know all of the small details (like who the hell this Lanier guy is) but they get a lot of large, historical facts correct. And for some, that matters.
    The bottleneck of collectivist information that is being used in social media and the Internet today isn’t always suggesting they are “all-wise.” In fact, haven’t we found the stupidest bits of videos, pictures and stories on these web sites? Sometimes the stupid overrides the intelligent in the Internet world, but does that have negative implications? Maybe I’m biased from growing up in this collectivist, Internet world. I’m just used to it. But this essay does open my eyes to other opinions on the matter of sharing, taking the human out of conversation, collectivism and the Internet.

    As for the wikigroaning and wikiality readings, I think the moral of this entire conversation should be to not take Wikipedia (or aggregated information of the like) too seriously. I would never use Wikipedia to search for information on colleges (such as our lovely SoJ page), nor would I use Wikipedia as a source for an article unless it directly pertained to the topic. If I found myself using Wikipedia for journalistic writing, I would verify the facts I use before assuming they are sound. The crowd can only be so wise and there is a level of personal responsibility in what you trust to be true and what you decide to explore further.

    I think we should all contribute to the SoJ’s wikipage to update and make it more accurate. Linking to our social media pages, internal web sites, news stories and general press features would add credibility to the page. I see it is linked somewhat to outside sources like the DA and U92, but we are featured on a variety of web pages.

  6. capnwinters says:

    First, I just want to say that I cannot believe how different is from EDGE Magazine ( Jaron Lanier’s work came off as alarmist/elitist to me, but it did have a few good ideas. Wikipedia does have select areas of strength, and the majority of its entries do not fall in that category.

    That said, the point he made about authorship and identity flies directly in the face of nearly all Internet institutions. Sorry Lanier, but the Web doesn’t run if we can’t be anonymous sometimes.

    And as for why more factual Wikipedia subjects have less coverage than pop culture ones, well that doesn’t seem particularly shocking when you think about it. People don’t edit Wikipedia as a chore, they do it, generally speaking, for fun. These topics are more fun. Adding information about them is more fun. Unless it is your job to research and add things about ancient history, or medieval kings, you probably are not going to do it.

    Wikipedia itself is best used to find original sources; the site itself isn’t permitted to be used as a source by any teacher I know. That said, topic-specific wikis can actually be the among the most accurate information sources about the topic (especially video game Wikis!)

    Wikiality and Wikigroaning just seem like people throwing bombs from the peanut gallery as far as I’m concerned. Any savvy internet user knows that Wikipedia can’t and shouldn’t be taken at face value, and it’s not really been an issue in my experience. Nobody I know has ever read something on Wikipedia and then claimed it to be set in stone. It’s a quick, easy way to learn more about things without needing to dig around the net. Wikipedia and other wikis, keep up the good work.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Good points on the significance of having fun and throwing bombs – there’s a game aspect that seems fundamental to the wiki (Sites like Lostpedia, for example, almost read like a kind of ARG in how they’re a perpetually unfolding narrative).

  7. Jazz says:

    The idea of wikigroaning looks trivial at first glance, and comedic in the second. But think of the impact. If the internet is consumed by a need to categorize trivia and popular culture over actual factual events and stories, this says something about society as a whole. I can see that culture and various nerdities like Star Trek are easier to verify than facts about the happenings at Roanoke, Va, but why is it more important? If the reality of easily obtainable information is determined by the vast majority of non-scholars, that opens a whole new can of worms.

    I know of reporters and interviewers who primarily do their prep work by visiting the Wikipedia. 95% of the time, this could be a good move considering the love of trivia over hard truth on Wikipedia, and this could lead well to interviews. Yet few take fact-checking seriously, and wikilobbying makes truth subjective for the richest(as Colbert points out). Google runs the market thanks to the “fallacy of the infallible collective.”

    I see little problems with the current PI Reed school page. It has plenty of information and a large collection of links and references. The robots behind the wiki-scenes are not nearly clever enough to tell if an article is up to standards, and we can rarely trust the instinct of the average flagger. The wisdom of the crowds is only wise with limited power and a specific angle.

  8. coreypreece says:

    Let’s tackle Lanier first. After sifting through his rather heady and intellectual article, I found myself agreeing with a lot of things, in particular his notions about how aggregating outlets are destroying the little guys (who actually development the content or report the news) and how the rise of the collective is putting the value of the individual in second place.

    Google and Yahoo and certainly Bing! practice a hyper-form of information and “knowledge” aggregation in which key words and search terms help populate a list of items that may or may not suit your original search for data. However, one way that this is having a negative effect on journalism is that a story written by your local paper or television station, gets picked up and republished by some station or paper out in California. Now let’s say the station or paper in California has a much larger amount of readers, listeners, and/or viewers which in turn bumps the story (republished from your local paper) up to the top of the Google search list. Thus, if someone tries to search for their local story from their local station, they get a link to the republished version from a station 1,000 miles away…essentially taking readers and viewers away from your local paper even though they reported the story first and actually wrote the article or produced the package….this in turn creates less advertising dollars for the paper or station because viewers and readers are reading their original content on another site or site(s)…without ever getting the credit or financial kickbacks that they deserve.

    I thought the notion of Wikigroaning was pretty entertaining and believe it or not a friend of mine in high school used to play all sorts of little games pertaining to Wikipedia. One of them was he would write down 2 different names of objects, places, or events. Let’s Abraham Lincoln and the Atomic Bomb will be our two objects. Then he would give himself a limit on the amount of links it would take for him to connect the two items together, so he would start out on Lincoln, read through the article or the references and then follow the more promising links that would hopefully lead him to the Atomic Bomb in say 5 links or less. It was pretty interesting and most of the time he “passed the test” or won the game.

    Anyways, I thought the Wikiality notion was excellent and match perfectly with what Lanier was talking about. The idea of Wikilobbying also plays in with this as companies really do pay people or employees to “set the record straight” in regards to their Wikipedia pages. Yet one thing that I have thought about for a long time (and actually considered researching for graduate school) was the idea that if companies are Wikilobbying, who’s to say they aren’t doing the same thing on sites like in regards to “user reviews” for products. Typically items or products that have the best reviews are more popular amongst buyers, but what if those reviews were purposefully biased in favor or against a particular product…of which the review was either glorified or disgraced by the products creator or competitor? Effectively hijacking the citizen buyer’s decision making process by flooding the review section with “5-Stars” or no stars. An interesting thought that probably deserves more space than I have here.

    And in response to how we can improve our P.I. Reed School of Journalism Wikipedia page…for one it needs updated SEVERELY. There are a handful of clubs and organizations that have been started in the school that are not listed on the website. There is close to no information actually highlighting the achievements by faculty and staff, ditto info regarding cutting-edge classes or research. Hell, there isn’t even a picture of the building! All in all, I believe the wiki page should be something that this class TAKES OVER and completely rebuilds from the ground up with a complete set of accurate links and detailed information pertaining to the real time happenings of our beloved journalism school.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      You note that aggregators threaten to destroy the “little guys”. Not only that, the argument has been made that the aggregation approach is a threat to ALL “guys,” in the sense that voice is overlooked in favor of immediacy and quantity. What do you think?

  9. tonicekada says:

    As far as wikipedia goes, I have honestly not used it for research or any kind of serious information (such as for book reports, research papers, etc.)since high school. My highschool didn’t allow us to use wikipedia as a source for anything. Instead, we were taught to only use .org, .edu, or .gov sites as they would be reliable sources for information. After four years of gaining information from accuate texts, I just never saw a need for wikipedia, especially for college use. Don’t get me wrong, I still look things up on it, but only because it’s the first searh that comes up when you type something into google.
    Anywho, what I have been taught in the past explains why I agree with Lanier, even though his essay seemed a bit…well, repetitive. Lanier uses Wikipedia as an example to point out that collective isn’t always wise. But Wikipedia is popular, so it is known and widely used, but that doesn’t mean it is trustworthy.Besides twitter, this kind of makes me think about Foursquare. Anybody can post a tip or fact about a place, but that doesn’t make it true. or tabloids, Who knows where (or how) those people get thier information. Do you believe everything you read? There are many eithics involved with journalism, on of which is credibility. As journalists we have to remember to find true and honest stories, and most of the time that means work. We can’t be lazy and sit around getting facts off of wikipedia. Besides, there are two sides to every story.
    The phrase I took out of the wikigroaning article was “free-lunch.” In economics (such a dreaded class) I learned that nothign is free, even if it seems like it. wikipedia isn’t free either. You are getting free information, but it is “costing you accuracy and credibility.”
    I also thought the wikigraoning article made a good point about how wikipedia emphasizes pop culture. Martin Cohen said that half of 200 million entries on wikipedia are about entertainment! Really? Now what do you think about a collective audience?
    I thought the concept of wikiality was hilarious first of all. But there is some seriousness in it…the fact that we are creating a reality. Sounds deep, but it’s true. If one entry on wikipedia gets edited a lot, then obviously no one agrees on it. But, once that entry doesn’t get anymore edits, the majority must have agreed with the entry, no matter what was said. Crazyyyyyy. You can’t do that with real, reliable sources!
    Anyway, like I said, I’m not hating on wikipedia, I think it;s interesting to look at from a societal perspective, but it should never be anyone’s main source of information.
    As for our J-school’s entry, I didn’t see any links to anything anywhere! Maybe if some links were added, the entry could be circulated so to speak so that it could be referred to by other entries.

  10. jonvickers says:

    What is your take on the function of wikis and wiki-like processes in communication and journalism today?

    As someone who uses wikipedia very little, I don’t see it as a bad thing. If I want to start learning about something for personal reasons I may use it is a source, but it is like asking a bunch of my friends and getting some consensus. I don’t ever use it as a primary source and would only use it to become familiar with a topic before doing real research if it was beyond my personal curiosity. I think some people forget that it may be our culture that is screwed up and lazy and that Wikipedia is just a great way to organize and present information. As for its slant toward pop culture, it seems to me that is a topic that other encyclopedias lack in and I am glad the information is out there for me to search because if I need info on Justin Biber, I doubt anyone else is going to have it.

    Just how wise are those crowds we keep talking about?

    They are the crowds you see at WalMart, World of Warcraft conventions and sitting next to you in class. It is a variety of people from different walks of life with different amounts of education and different opinions. Of course things don’t run smooth. They never have and they never will with such varied cultures and individuals. That’s why we have war and Black Friday kills shoppers.

    How do concepts like wikiality and wikigroaning impact on the positive qualities made available by this new way of communicating?

    I think it points out the weeknesses and restrictions of wikipedia which is a good thing. Maybe if people realize what its capabilities including its limitations they will see it for what it is and perhaps even choose to use it responsibly.

    If you see it as a problem, how could the process be improved?

    Unfortunately this will be a group effort that includes everyone to keep their standards high. Both journalists and media consumers must do adn expect more. If we choose to fact check and follow up then we set the bar high. The minute we get lazy we take one step closer to the inevitable future of Luke Wilson’s idiocracy.

    And just what can we do about that J-school page?

    I would work on it, but I have to blog.

  11. Shannon Teets says:

    I remember when I first discovered Wikipedia; I was working on project in middle school researching what it would be like to be a florist living in Colorado Springs, Colorado (this was the career randomly assigned to me, at the time I was an aspiring baker of great cakes, yeah that’s right I had the idea before Ace of Cakes was a reality-show phenomena). At the time I thought it was a great resource, a one stop shop providing all kinds of information and links to other relevant pages. Of course I did not realize that it wasn’t reliable and anyone could contribute information to the page, which resulted in my taking Colorado Springs as being the magical “health healing capital of the world” for fact. My point is that Wikipedia can be great for getting acquainted with a certain subject, gaining a basic idea of something or a general feeling for a place; however, to the unconscious user it can be a devious device and make them appear rather ignorant in some instances as they reiterate inaccurate knowledge written by some unreliable source. Lanier’s Article, while a little over critical, brought up some good points. Wikipedia and other similar entities can take away from the original sources “voice” and change the original objective of their work, however, this in turn has the potential to increase the value the original information or article and transform it into something that will be useful for and reach a large audience.
    “The Art of Wikigroaning” made me aware of this funny happening, but after trying to think of a good one of my own for a minute or two, it became apparent that I will not be a player of this so called “internet sport” anytime soon. It does reflect how society today values certain things over others, and how people are perhaps more knowledgeable and opinionated over elements of pop culture rather than philosophical and scientific topics.
    As far as improvements for the SOJ Wiki-page, I think it would be beneficial to provide a link to the official J-school website. I would also add a student profile section that could summarize different characteristics (academic and other) of current students. Some pictures and description of the different edit labs and technologies available at the school could be beneficial as well.

  12. aarongeiger says:

    I’m really glad you posted the link to “Digital Maoism”; it got my cogs cranking again. I have to completely agree, to some extent, on Lanier’s referral to “bottlenecking” in thought. I was reading Deepa’s comment, and while I do appreciate her sentiments, and at the same time I concur with her, I have always thought that crowdsourced editing was a case study in duality. I say this meaning that it’s an amazing feat to have millions of donated hours of writing, reading, and editing in one convenient location; but at the same time we do run the risk of becoming a common hive mind.

    How smart is the collective? It doesn’t matter, per se, since an intelligent thought or post might be underminded by a concerted effort of others. If one person has a scientifically valid point on evolution, but the belief system of ten creationists overrule that scientist, then the post can reflect the creationist vision. Scary!

    But then again, here’s a link to one of the most debated topics on Wikipedia:

    Even if you don’t look at the forums, you’ll see that the reference section is pretty dense. The article has been modified dozens, if not hundreds, of times. This means two things: that the material isn’t simply “casual data,” and there is probably an issue with the first “post” on Homo florensiensis, so if I had used that as a reference, I’d probably want to update it now.

    My question, then, is how do we find some comfortable alternative? I equate this to “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” or whatever it was called: I think of Wiki technology as that lifeline that allowed the contestant to poll the audience. Sometimes the audience is wrong, but at least they generally know more than the lone contestant. Does that make the system better? Yes. Does that make the system perfect? Absolutely not. I think, though the real strength in the Wiki system is by looking at their sources (endnotes); but why not form some sort of system where paying or donating users have an option to participate in a Wiki-based system that works with peer-reviewed journals? That would probably start a new renaissance in academia, and wiki articles would have a much tighter reign of “control” and discourse. I guess it all boils down to money.

    As far as the J-School page, I think it would help to identify previously published or acknowledged professionals and journalists that might already have an entry in Wikipedia, and attach their biography or credentials to the J-school page, thereby rendering the page no longer an “orphan.”

  13. aarongeiger says:

    As a side note, as I work on my thesis, I have to make note of the use of the word “wiki” in “WikiLeaks.” The actual definition of “wiki” has to do with a collaborative function where people can examine, edit, and otherwise collectively work towards an openly editable source object. WikiLeaks has nothing to do with “wiki” technology or ethical processes. In fact, the only person that allows what is published and what is not is Julian Assange. There is no “collective” process. Yet the WikiLeaks page has commonly emulated that of a wiki page of sorts. Is this to make people think they are collaborating on a common goal, even when there is no collaboration?

    • aaaaaargh says:

      I may be wrong, but I believe the original incarnation of WikiLeaks was far more user-driven. Part of the reason they went the route they did was that many users were “leaking” their petty grievances from work, etc. Also, as with Nupedia, the originally conceived rigorous vetting process simply couldn’t keep up with the information pouring in.

      • aarongeiger says:

        I’ve only been able to find about four incarnations of WikiLeaks as it has been mirrored. Do you have any other ideas as how to find older mirrored “copies?” Thanks for the info!

  14. In high school when we are learning about reliable sources, one of the parameters is that a reliable site is anything “.org” so this meant that “the” wikipedia was up for grabs. Then all of a sudden, teachers givith and takith away. Magically, this .org site was no longer reliable. This was extremely frustrating to me because everything I ever found on there was correct (or I felt it had to be correct because I never checked any other site, but wiki sounded good). However, I have been to many workshops since then and it has been proven to me that it may not be the best source. I think that wiki is a good site to go in a pinch to get that really quick answer. For example, let’s say you have no idea who Justin Bieber is. Plug it in and read the first sentence. You can get an idea, but do not go any further than that.
    However, Lanier shows that this may not even be good enough. Apparently, he is described as a director, which is not what he considers himself at all. As many times as he corrects it, there is always that guy that is there to change it back for him. This must be extremely frustrating. (So frustrating he wrote an epic novel about it, but he does prove his point).
    The people changing that info and writing those pages can be anyone! This is the what everyone needs to understand and see. The thing I always told myself was that hopefully those people writing those pages are experts. If I wanted to know what Ramadan was, I would hope someone who writes for an arabic site would be the one to write that page. But on the other hand, anyone who knows nothing, could go on and change it. That is who is writing them.
    Wikiality and wikigroaning are feeble attempts to show people how wiki should not be such a crutch to people. It will never stop anything. I mean, people love the idea of making any opinion a fact (ex. The number of African elephants now is greater than ten years ago, thanks Colbert!). A person can compare knights and Jedi Knights and Gray’s Anatomy and Grey’s Anatomy, but nothing will change. Wiki is growing and soaring and expanding. It really does not look like it is going anywhere. It is always the first thing to show up in a google search and the easiest thing to do.
    The only thing to do to improve the process is to hire millions of researchers to check every bit info on the page and change it. However, as soon as it is corrected, it can be changed.
    The J-school page should be corrected today in class! Let’s do it!

    • aaaaaargh says:

      In fact, as we saw in class, Wikipedia actually started with that crack team of researchers checking and testing every bit of info. Also as we saw, it didn’t work … which is why we have Wikipedia.

  15. devanneallover says:

    I feel like wikipedia can be a reliable site, not for it’s information, but at the bottom of the page are always links to outside sites, where you can check that information against other information you’ve gathered.
    I don’t use make wikipedia the staple in my online researching, but it’s absolutely a useful tool in acquiring some good information and finding sites you wouldn’t have found with a simple Google search.

  16. ewadd986 says:

    I think as far as the internet goes, the invention of Google and Wikipedia have to be the two most influential sites ever created. Google first redefined the way in which we searched for answers, bringing us millions of sites of relevant information to our search. Then Wikipedia came along and came up with an ingenious idea to take the basis of those searches and define them in a simplistic way for people to understand. Wikipedia is the online dictionary for society. Anything you could ever want to know about is most likely on Wikipedia. The problem is however, the way that information is gathered and formed. I think Wikipedia cannot be taken seriously from a journalistic or educational standpoint because of the way groups have the power to edit. Groups create ideologies and ideologies are not always right. We have to be careful where we get our information from and do proper research.
    The article on Wiki-Groaning pretty much sums up my previously stated sentiments. Wikipedia is a site that collects information in a dumb downed way and presents it as factual. The groups are the ones in control and this is proved by wiki-groaning when you see that there is more to do with light-saber warfare rather than something realistic like modern warfare. I think this proves that the dominant groups or users are the ones controlling the information. Obviously there are millions of Star Wars fan boys online who are dedicated to light-saber warfare and their passion is clearly shown in comparison to modern warfare. But does that make it any more relevant or factual?
    I don’t recall ever seeing a Wikipedia page referred to as an orphan but obviously there are some improvement that could be make to the j-school page. I think if someone were to add links to the journalism schools website and provide pictures and articles documenting the success of the j-school than the high and mighty Wiki editors might actually deem us normal rather than an “orphan”.

  17. k_schwarz says:

    I use Wikipedia, and I like Wikipedia, but I don’t think that makes me a bad person. Lanier’s stance on Wikipedia is understandable, and I love how he relates it to himself at the beginning (though that might be the most interesting part of the article). My favorite line that really spoke to me was “Reading a Wikipedia entry is like reading the bible closely. There are faint traces of the voices of various anonymous authors and editors, though it is impossible to be sure.” That’s why I love Wikipedia. I don’t use it for research papers or citing facts, but it’s great when you’re just curious about something and want to look it up. Aggregators are definitely destroying the little guys, Lanier was right about that. But people are lazy. And aggregators help lazy people. It’s hard to fight with that perspective.

    Wikigroaning is literally hilarious and so true. It’s something people realize, I think, when searching for things on Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a lot of information on popular-culture-related topics. Or how about the irony that this page, which rips Wikipedia to shit, is on Wikipedia? The video shown above is a sneak peak at why people love Colbert. In the “Art of Wikigroaning ” I love the writer’s use of playing “games” with Wikipedia. I love even more that in these games there aren’t any clear winners. His article was incredible informational (especially because I haven’t heard of Wikigroaning before this), and it was really funny. It’s really no surprise that swan has less words than Bella Swan or anything like that, but when pointed out like that, it makes you wonder what our society has come to.

    Wikilobbying is also really interesting – can I please have a job setting the record straight on Wikipedia? That ties into what an important role Wikipedia plays in society – people actually have jobs to correct things on there.

    As for our journalism school’s Wikipedia page, it’s absolutely pathetic. Everything is so out of date, and no awards have been updated. It’s really sad because we all know Wikipedia is so popular, and it makes our J-school look truly pathetic. The amount of recruitment loss they have because of that must be incredible. Now, here’s the question, whose job is it to update it?

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Very good points on the dissolution of voice. In a way, it’s a necessary trade-off of crowdsourcing: The more we involve all of us, the more we sound like none of us. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in terms of consensus and knowledge; ideally, it might even make us appreciate the stronger voice present in good journalism.

      Also, I need to remind myself that you are Melanie.

  18. Shay Maunz says:

    God, Lanier is bitter, isn’t he? And while he maintains that he is not really concerned with Wikipedia itself, but instead with wikis in general, his venom for Wikipedia almost made it hard to take him seriously. I was also thrown by how quickly he dismisses the idea of the “Wisdom of the Crowds”. Even though I know it’s not too difficult to find some problems with that notion, it’s still at least a bit valid, and can be used to justify wikis on some level.

    Of course, it’s hard to deny that he has a point. Reading what he said about how the crowd can sometimes be stupider than individuals, I was reminded of this story from a couple months ago – you all may remember seeing it somewhere, I heard it on All Things Considered. A bunch of students from nine universities took on this project to put together quality articles on public policy for wikipedia, because there weren’t enough on there. These students went on wikipedia and read through articles line by line, correcting mistakes and clarifying things. But then, within 48 hours after some of them were posted, people had changed the entry back to what it had been before, even adding mistakes back into the mix. So it’s true, there’s no way to ensure whether the crowd is wise, or just dumb. (Here’s the link for that story – I don’t trust myself to try the coding: )

    The wikigroaning trend is a bit depressing, yeah. Both because wikipedia has come to that, and because popular culture has come to the point where we care more about a Civil War comic book than the actual Civil War. But does this mean wikipedia is totally useless?

    Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s useful, at least in some ways. And maybe with some honing it could be a really useful tool for the public, and maybe us as journalists. I’m not completely sure where wikipedia should go, but I think the concept behind it is at least a little bit noble, and that it could be a really good thing.

    The J-School page needs links! We love links! We need links! And photos! And better writing! We’re journalists, so why don’t we have these things exactly?

  19. aaaaaargh says:

    Neat article – thanks! (try to do an in-text link next time – it’s always good to exercise those muscles).

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