The Trouble With Wikipedia!

Categories: Advice

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Howard Huang

Wikipedia is invaluable as a research tool, but while it contains a lot of great stuff, it's basically reporting by committee and suffers as a result.

There are things in there that might be just a little true or maybe not true at all, but they become your signature achievements the same way something said in a childhood game of Telephone can stay with you for life.

Thanks to my Wiki page, almost every interview I've given in the last several years has started with the same two questions:

(1) "So, you coined the word celebutard?"

(2) "You were in Cyndi Lauper's 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' video, right?"

Well, let me clarify.

I think I said "celebutard" once on TV, and I'm not that proud of it, but did I actually coin the word? I don't think so -- and if I did, I doubt it's one of my top two achievements.

Furthermore, I was in the video for the remake of the Lauper song, done in the '90s (as it actually explains in the Wikipedia thing). I appear in the video for a total of five seconds. I was thrilled to do it, but one of my top two credits of all time? Not sure.

Of course I can just dive in there and edit these things out or soften them into a more realistic proportion, but I've decided to just leave them.

After all, they obviously pique a lot of writers' interest in me, so my bio stays as is.

But the worst thing will be when I cure cancer and the first question is, "Mr. Musto, Mr. Musto! How did you coin celebutard?"


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13 comments
Senzo
Senzo

Tim please answer why Wikipedia lands atop so many Google search results.  Is it because the articles in it are so much better than anything else available?  Is Wikipedia really the best source for information?  Is it even the best free online encyclopedia?  There is inherently nothing special about Wikipedia.  It is just another internet site.  There is no reason why a blog—even your blog—cannot contain superior information.  But if one wants a better online encyclopedic source why there's also encyclopedia.com.  But it doesn't land on the top of Google searches.  Now you can explain that anyway you want but objectively it shows how poor Google search results really are.

Guest
Guest

You should read Jaron Lanier's take on Wikipedia. It's one of the best and most incisive I've seen.

Senzo
Senzo

Wikipedia is a sham. It encourages people to add stuff to it but then disrespects those people.  People who do nothing but remove stuff from articles are actually accorded more respect!  It will be said the stuff added doesn't conform to their guidelines etc. but in fact it is because Wikipedia wishes to maintain its bias for mediocrity.  Theoretically the only advantage of Wikipedia is that it can be updated quickly, but their own policies undercut this.  Sounds good enough until you notice only conventional wisdom is allowed. Forget cutting edge research.  One is better off with a standard encyclopedia at least one isn't misled into thinking because it is the internet and open platform that info is up-to-date or more open to other perspectives.   Wikipedia takes up valuable space from sources that explore topics in more depth. My suggestion to anyone who is thinking of contributing to it is to write your own article on your own blog.  That way you control your content and you won't be a victim of Wikipedia. The number of people who have helped build it but have ended up feeling betrayed by it is legion.

Tim in SF
Tim in SF

This is the stupidest thing I've read in weeks.

alaker
alaker

The thing that kills me about Wiki is that pretty much instaneously after a death, it is posted there.  Who does that?  Do celebs have have assistants whose first job it is to post that?  You would think that there are more important things to do.

Tim in SF
Tim in SF

Wikipedia employs no editors or assistants.

You can easily find out who made any particular edit to any particular page by going to the View History tab, which is in the upper right corner of every page. 

Ron Bruguiere
Ron Bruguiere

When a TV director friend of mine died, the estate's executors weren't going to have an obit for him anywhere, so I posted about his death on his Wikipedia page.  An obituary eventually appeared after the executors were verbally attacked.

Tim in SF
Tim in SF

Technically, you aren't supposed to post a new fact to a wikipedia page unless you can reference that fact. In your case, that would be linking to a newspaper article or teevee news link or some other reference. That said, Wikipedia works because people like you (and me) contribute to articles. Other people like to edit articles for better language. Other people like to fact check, verify links, and cite better references. Still other people edit out unreferenced information. The point is, Wikipedia is a community of people who are interested in creating the ultimate reference guide to everything on earth. 

Paca
Paca

Well, the celebutard thing must not have very good sourcing if he says he's not sure if he coined it. And it's been  in there a long time

Tim in SF
Tim in SF

"​Wikipedia is invaluable as a research tool, but while it contains a lot of great stuff, it's basically reporting by committee and suffers as a result."

With respect, Musto, there is no original research allowed in Wikipedia. All facts must be referenced (see the bottom of every page). Any facts that are not referenced are flagged ("citation needed") and eventually removed.

If you think a Wikipedia article is broken in some way, then fix it. Just be sure you are using sources of information published in an established source.

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