Monday, September 13, 2010

free encyclopedia (you get what you pay for)

Wikipedia is a decent starting point if you're mildly curious about a topic and just want a general overview, but any reference librarian will tell you that it is not acceptable material for real research. This is due to the unreliable, and possibly untrustworthy, source of the information. Wikipedia can be edited by anyone and so might be biased, have errors, or even be completely (and intentionally) untrue.

A glaring example of this was discovered over the weekend when a reader happened to do a wikisearch for the title of one of my recent posts.

We'll need a little demonstration. Please play along.

1. Go to wikipedia's homepage.

2. Type "lan astaslem" in the search box.

3. Your first and second results will contain links. Click on either.

4. Now read the very first line.

See? If you search wikipedia for "I will never submit" in Arabic, it will send you to an untargeted redirect - the top of the page for "accept Islam and you will be saved."

I'm sure it's also a coincidence that just last year someone had to go in and edit out all the PBUHs.


Alan said...

Reputation matters.

Of course the disreputable think otherwise.

Jeff the Baptist said...

Currently Lan astaslem takes you to a targeted redirect for Aslim Taslam. "Accept Islam and you will be saved."

Bubblehead Les. said...

1) Wiki is good place to start if you want to know about the History of the Small Block Chevy Engine, but even the Commies in my History Department at my University won't accept it when one has to write a paper.

2) If I accept Islam, what'll I'll be saved from? Being beheaded? Having my wife flogged in the Mall because her veil slipped? Watching a statue of a Roman Catholic Saint (not Catholic, by the way) be blown up in the same way the Taliban blew up the Statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan? Really starting to think about Islam as a whole along the same lines as Og.

3) Hey Barry, you keep speechifyn' about how the U.S. is not at War with the Religion of Islam. Ever stop and think that Islam is at War with all the other Religions, including those in the U.S.? Frackin' Appeaser.

Mike W. said...

but even the Commies in my History Department at my University won't accept it when one has to write a paper.

That doesn't stop idiots from citing it as a source. I wrote and/or edited some papers on the side in college. (hey, easy beer money) You wouldn't believe how often I saw wikipedia cited.

Personally if I were grading papers and saw Wikipedia cited at the college level I'd throw the paper right in the trash.

jdege said...

Use the cites, Luke!

Wikipedia, in its better articles, is a good source of citations to source material.

You'd never read a book, as a part of a research project, without chasing down the most important citations, so you can judge how well they support the author's arguments.

Wikipedia is no different.

Reputo said...

And for some reason I thought PBUH was reserved for John Moses Browning (PBUH).

Regolith said...

Go to and read today's comic.

Then go to wikipedia and look up 1997, then go to the section about events in March.

I laughed.

Regolith said...

Actually, never mind. They already undid it. :(

Rob Carlson said...

It seems like the original article lasted all of two days in its non-redirect form, but a revision history is available for anyone who wants to see any of the edits prior to the redirect, and revert them if they choose:

Why not do it?

Derek Simonds said...

I thought the comic was referencing hale bopp and the goofballs who wacked themselves. What did we miss.

TisDone said...

I of course agree that one should scrutinize wikipedia as a source, just as, if not slightly more so than, one should scrutinize any other source of information.

However - I would submit for consideration that this is not a good example of wikipedia's flaws - rather - it is part of wikipedia's success. At the end of the article, there is a section titled "Critical Responses" which explains use of the term "lan astaslem" as a response, both by the original author and Ms. Malkin's use.

Why does it redirect? Well, one has to dig just a bit ... when using wikipedia - it is important to check both an articles history page (all edits are saved) and discussion/talk page (for discussion about why edits were made. On the talk page - it says that back in October of 2006, somebody suggested merging the two articles. There had been one for the original Islam phrase Aslim Taslam, and a separate page for Lan Astaslem. Since the later phrase is most meaningful in its context as a response to the former - this merger made sense to the folks talking about it in 2006, and makes sense to me now.

Surely - if one is lazy enough to just look one for the first possible meaning on the "Aslim Taslam" page ... well, then one is likely to be duped by all sorts of sources that may or may not have someone else's spin.

One can take Wikipedia slightly more seriously if one is willing to place the effort in reviewing the talk and history pages - since they can reveal much about the accuracy and veracity of the information being presented. I have learned much over the years by viewing those pages and attempting to trace down the reasons why various edits, merges, and deletions have been made. Those pages are an extraordinary resource that are not easily accessible when using more conventional sources.

Ed Rasimus said...

In today's junior colleges we see Wikipedia NOT cited more often. Quoted, but not cited! Students never seem to give the prof credit for recognizing language on the page which is well above their demonstrated capability.

Wikipedia can be a good start place if someone follows the links in items to original sources--but Google or Bing will do just as well.

Sigivald said...

It redirects there for two reasons:

1) No more specific article exists for "lan astaslem" to actually point to.

2) That page includes "In response to the aslim taslam invitation to submit to Islam, the Italian author and journalist Oriana Fallaci asserted the rejoinder "lan astaslem" (Arabic: لن استسلم‎) meaning "I will never surrender/I will never submit/I will never be a Muslim"".

Given #2, #1 is perfectly reasonable, since "lan astaslem" was coined specifically as a rejoinder.

I ain't seein' a problem here.

Divemedic said...

I also submit to you that Wikipedia is no less accurate than your local library.

For example: Go to your local library's history department and look up Michael Bellesiles' excellent treatise on gun ownership in early America.

You could cite Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"

You could also cite any one of the three books that Michael Moore has written.

According to most history books, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves.

Rob Carlson said...

@Sigivald, at the risk of sounding like (or being) a Wiki-pedant, a redirect IS an article in it's own right, it's just an article that (at that moment) contains only the meta-code for a redirect.

If you click on the "Redirected from" link you can go back to the title you were redirected from, although its not intuitively obvious unless you've played on WP long enough.

Silver the Evil Chao said...

Wikipedia is pretty good as a repository for sources, since the good scientific articles generally have a bunch of sources cited at the bottom that you can look at and click on yourself...

That said, a public library isn't foolproof, either. You can have awesome books, outdated books, excellent books, extremely biased and outdated books...

CircuitGizmo said...

"You could also cite any one of the three books that Michael Moore has written."

Diet Cookbooks?

*snorty snort*

Matt said...

"Wikipedia can be edited by anyone and so might be biased, have errors, or even be completely (and intentionally) untrue."

Any source might be biased, erroneous, or dishonest. The problem with Wikipedia is that, at least with more conventional media, there is an author whose sources of potential bias and reputation for truth-telling (or for the lack thereof) can be investigated and factored in. On Wikipedia? Not so much.

It can sometimes be a good source of links to more proper source material, though.

Citing wikipedia is, _at best_ equivalent to citing the chat you had with the reference librarian, in lieu of actually doing any research yourself.

bwaites said...

I ALWAYS laugh when I hear people complain that Wikipedia is biased, as if Encyclopaedia Brittanica or World Book, or any other reference of similar history is not biased.

I also laugh when people state it should not be used as a resource in college papers, since ANY resource should be quoted appropriately.

There are differing opinions about everything, and you may quote them in any college paper, so long as it is clear where the opinions came from. So it should be with Wikipedia; understand the source, use it appropriately, and accept the knowledge there for what it is.

If you can quote the Brady Campaign on gun control, why can't you use Wikipedia for the same? the Brady Campaign is obviously wrong on many levels, yet they can be exhaustively quoted without creating anywhere near the firestorm that Wiki creates!

Regolith said...

"I thought the comic was referencing hale bopp and the goofballs who wacked themselves. What did we miss."

At the end of the list of events in March, someone put "An event occurs after which black hat guy doesn't really believe in anything."

It was "fixed" pretty quickly.

markofafreeman said...

Regolith - ROFLMAO

That was brilliant. Just brilliant.

John B said...

First off John Moses Browning is May His Tribe Increase! 1911 carriers, the LDS will increase or not depending on Gods will. Peace had better be upon you already when you're carrying the sanctified .45acp.

That's it we all could engrave "lan astaslem" in roman and arabic script on the sides of our slides. It works so wonderfully on both the muslim and Obama fronts.

WV:bomica bend over man islam comes again?

John B said...

well Breda, they've already altered the page to separately reference lan astaslem. Only time I got a citation thrown out was when I cited "The Complete Joy of Home Brewing in a class related to Chemical Dependency issues. That was a setup in response to the instructors claim of being non-biased when she was totally prejudiced.

Laci the Chinese Crested said...

But, darling, isn't this why one develops skills in critical reasoning? In other words, one uses any encyclopedia as a starting point in research (as with any other basic reference work).

Another reason to write is to tell you that I meant the word "bint" in the neutral Arabic.

I reckon that you are intelligent enough to have figured that out for yourself, but wanted to reaffirm that since I feel a bit like a ____ for playing with you. Although, I also reckon that word play intrigues you.

I am still hoping to learn that the Breda Fallacy is some esoteric logical or rhetorical device.


P.S. showercams do not interest me.