What’s wrong with Wiki

In my last post I wrote of George Ernest Morrison and if you care to go to Wiki this is what you read:


Wiki entry for George Ernest Morrison

Just in case this entry does ever get cleaned up, here is an example of what I mean from it:

Financed by The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, Morrison was sent on an exploration journey to New Guinea. He sailed from Cooktown, Queensland in a small lugger, arriving at Port Moresby after a stormy passage. On 24 July 1883 Morrison with a small party started with the intention of crossing to Dyke Acland Bay 100 miles (160 km) away. Much high mountain country barred the way, and it took 38 days to cover 50 miles. The natives became hostile, and about a month later Morrison was struck by two spears and almost killed. Retracing their steps, with Morrison strapped to a horse, Port Moresby was reached in days. Here Morrison received medical attention but it was more than a month before he reached the hospital at Cooktown. In spite of his misfortune Morrison had penetrated farther into New Guinea than any previous white man. Much the better for a week in hospital Morrison went on to Melbourne, but he still carried the head of a spear in his body and no local surgeon was anxious to probe for it in the condition of surgery in that day.

How long did it take you before warning bells began to sound?

If you do no more than scroll through it, you will think it is a carefully researched piece on Morrison. It has all these links and references, after all.

But read the text and you will see that it is extremely odd. Perhaps it might be written by somebody who does not have a good familiarity with English, but it is more than that. Look at that lack of political correctness. What has actually happened is that this article is cut and pasted from some other source or sources. I can’t spend the rest of my life on this, but some of it has been cut and pasted from the 1949 edition of the Australian Dictionary of Biography. You can find it here.

I get really angry about the way in which the whole world is becoming noting but a mirror of Wiki. We have to be utterly discriminating about it, if not refuse to be part of it. Look again at the Wiki link for this page. See how ‘professional’ it looks. It LOOKS superficially like it is reliable. Nicely laid out. Detailed. LOTS and lots of links. References. But although it claims to have taken text from an Encyclopedia Britannica article which is out of copyright and therefore apparently can be plundered without making clear where it has been used, it completely fails to mention the source I note above from which is has stolen wholesale without any admission whatsoever. The stealing may be legal theft, but the point is that the person reading this has no idea it is reading out of date material which reflects the social and cultural mores of a period which has nothing to do with ours – or Morrison’s, if it comes to that. This is terribly important to how one interprets the information.

This wiki article is actually hilarious, full of statements like ‘The natives became hostile’, expressions that simply don’t belong in the twenty-first century.

There is no sensible way, as far as I can see, to do anything about this. It hasn’t done anything illegal. I could spent a week or two rewriting the whole thing, that seems to be the only option. But then the other person could delete everything I’d changed and put it right back the way it was. The whole ‘anybody can edit’ philosophy is side-splittingly funny. And, of course, utterly appalling.

Meanwhile, somebody has cleaned up my criticisms of the entry so that now it reads only “This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards. No cleanup reason has been specified. Please help improve this article if you can; the talk page may contain suggestions.” In fact I did explain why when I made my notes there. Unfortunately this example of copy and pasting from old out of date sources and pretending it is up-to-the-minute latest research is commonplace on wiki. Beware!

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One thought on “What’s wrong with Wiki

  1. Heart sinks when we drive past the closed bookstore in our neighborhood. Seems a day is coming when kids won’t get to know the smell of books new and old or to feel the excitement of turning real pages in their fingers. Lost will be the satisfaction that comes from closing a cover after the final chapter or from the soft glow of a reading light rather than the blue zombie-stare of an electronic screen. Things not indexed to Wikipedia will be lost, diluted, forgotten.

    Found your site randomly on WordPress and have enjoyed perusing Keep up your work.

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