back to article Why you should care that Jimmy Wales ignores reality

Even if the colonel were disobeying a Twenty-seventh Air Force order by making you fly more missions, you'd still have to fly them, or you'd be guilty of disobeying an order of his. And then the Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters would really jump on you. - Catch-22 Late last year, in the wake of our story on Wikipedia, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Wiki-Whacky Land?

    Maybe the Wiki-Whackies could meet up with the Sadlifers and form a new cult, on Mars!

  2. Gregory Kohs
    Thumb Up

    Flat out lie

    I have an e-mail from Jimmy Wales that says, "You did flatly lie." I've asked him three or four times to demonstrate what he's even talking about, and although he's had enough time to respond to me three times that he's "looking into it" and that he'll "hope to respond soon" (not to mention enough time to exert himself for 24 hours in a Washington DC Doubletree), I've still not received any explanation of this statement of his. I must therefore conclude that his statement is a lie. Ironic, isn't it?

    Another good article, Mr. Metz.. but you're preaching to the choir now.

  3. Daniel

    anyone who believes ...

    ... anything they read on the net (or anywhere else) without at least checking a couple of other sources needs their head read.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is not too bad for computer stuff

    but yes it is a bit like a toilet stall door.

    The problem was its google rankings, and people using it as a billboard stop. But, really do we need the wikipedia anymore, it is better to have a rich source of websites from which to gather knowledge rather than the constant bickering of the wikipedia.

    The system is too abused, on many levels and from all sides, even the self appointed protectors are really just trying to push their own agenda - and if agenda pushing is what it is all about then just register a domain get some space and push it openly.

    Google already appears to have moved wikipedia down which is a good thing. Wikipedia; nice experiment but not really what we all want. I would prefer proper encyclopedias to produce excellent sites which I subscribed to. And, I prefer information from many sources, so if you do want to publish then publish, but do it in your own space.

    The web as a whole is a better encyclopedia than wikipedia, and paid for encyclopedias are also better. A domain name is so cheap nowadays, and hosting comes with most ISPs, there is no excuse to not J Arthur rather than Orgy around.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Not the toilet door...

    ... more like the proverbial talking dog. Amazing not because of what it says, it's the fact that it talks at all.

    Wikipedia practices a sort of information marxism, really. It is so aggressively "democratic" that it treats everyone as equally incompetent (unless you're one of those self-appointed people who make up the WikiRules -- the sort who'd be hugging a clipboard back at party HQ). You can be a Nobel Prize winner for your work in quantum chromo-dynamics and Wikipedia will treat your edits to the page on that topic equally to whatver self-appointed page watcher decides needs changing. Most likely they'd be over-written by poorly expressed tosh because you can't provide a source or reference other than your own experience.

    Paris because... even she could get a good rap on Wikipedia if she worked at it.

  6. Geoff Mackenzie


    I don't believe you. I'm going to cross check with a couple of other sources. :)

  7. Mike Powers

    Why not just use Google?

    Oh right, because Google exists to sell advertising. Type anything into Google these days and you get six advertising links and a Wikipedia page. Wikipedia is basically Google's bail-out; thanks to Wikipedia, Google no longer has to return relevant results. Instead they can just push ads at you--and rake in the dough.

    It's really funny how everything old is new again. Remember when you could always tell a Geocities page because it had the same fonts and clip-art and layout? Now it's even more so; instead of having to write a whole web page, you can just go to Wikipedia and write a little bit into a page that will look just like every other Wikipedia page. Then go to MySpace and update your page which looks just like every other MySpace page, except that you have a background of a picture scanned from Maxim Magazine. Then go to Flickr and upload your photos into a viewer that looks just like every other viewer.

    The guys who invented Geocities must be slapping their heads right now; it turns out that what users wanted all along was not MORE options, but FEWER. They don't want to think about complicated stuff like layouts and colors and sizes and linking; they want to Pres Butan To Go.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Don't Panic

    Where things fall down is the assumptions about Wikipedia being an encyclopedia. We're talking about something more like The Hitch Hiker's Guide than Encyclopedia Galactica. This reminds me of early assumptions that the phone system would be used to distribute concerts. Proper encyclopedias do provide subscription sites, they will never be able to match a "live" publication in terms of currency or biographies about Star Trek characters.

    While Jimbo's love life might be newsworthy, I'm not learning anything new except El Reg seems to pursue Wikipedia to the max at every mis-step. Editorial bias need to be heard, but I begin to wonder if it's more prevalent than we suspect and El Reg only tells us about the editorial biases El Reg wants us to hear about. Just who is watching the watchers?

    That and sometimes you need to know that alcohol is more than a colourless volatile liquid known for its intoxicating effects on carbon based life forms.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Don't Panic

    "El Reg seems to pursue Wikipedia to the max at every mis-step"

    And that's good enough for me. Democracy is fine for running countries and the like, but information/knowledge should be objectively presented, and repositories of such maintained by people who know what they are doing.

    Not a bunch of agenda-set dolts with more free time than braincells.

  10. Andy Worth

    Re:Don't Panic

    Actually that's an interesting comparison to make, as "the guide" and wiki seem to share many comparable features. A claim to know everything about everything would be the first, and main comparison - you put almost anything into Wiki and get a result, regardless of accuracy.

    I do also wonder sometimes if there is any alternate motive as wiki-bashing seems to be a daily (if not twice-daily) subject at the moment. Not that I'm defending Wiki or indeed Jimbo, but we already know Wiki is like a cult - user comments on many previous stories said exactly the same thing - so this is hardly "new" information. I think we're all pretty much in agreement that Jimbo Wales is a nobhead.

    I'm just saying that further stories explaining "Why Wiki is bad" are kind of flogging a horse that is long dead and beginning to decompose.

  11. Neil Hoskins

    Rewriting History

    This has fascinated me ever since I studied the American West for O-level history. That was a period of history that had to be taken with a pinch of salt even as it was happening, due to the tendency of writers from the east to 'sex things up', as we would now say. Like it or not, the idea that Wales was the sole founder will probably stick. Other things that have stuck in the past that aren't really true:

    - Florence Nightingale went to the Crimea and revolutionised nursing. (She never went to the Crimea and the reforms she advocated were already happening.)

    - TE Lawrence led the Arab revolt single-handed.

    - Apple invented the smartphone and MP3 player.

    I wonder if we need to accept that this is going to happen, and rely on things like Snopes and the BBC's 'Timewatch' to maintain a balance.

  12. Andy

    Two Words...

    'Power'; 'Vaccuum'.

    Wikipedia clearly is one, and it's no surprise to me that the people that filled that vaccuum are the creators. Or, put another way, it would have been a power vaccuum if it was being run the way it appears to be run, except that the people that started it are actually running it. ...oh hell; know what I mean.

    I'm still convinced that it is a valuable resource. I refer to it all the time. But not for anything that could conceivably be controversial. And you have to check the 'discussion' tab to find out if a topic is controversial, because sometimes the damndest things are.

  13. jai


    Is Citizendium any good then?

    Because, wikipedia, despite it's faults, as long as you're aware that it's contents aren't the gospel truth, is useful for some things.

    but if Citizendium has a similar breadth of infomation then i'll happily switch over to using that when looking up info

  14. John


    "We're talking about something more like The Hitch Hiker's Guide than Encyclopedia Galactica"

    Indeed - as the great man put it: "in cases of major discrepancy, it's always reality that's got it wrong."

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    The only serious argument I have heard in favour of anonymous edits is that it allows people to manipulate articles on controversial topics - Palestine, Armenia, Serbia etc - without being harassed by psychopaths. Of course that's not so much of a problem in Britain, because most Wikipedia editors are based in North America, and probably aren't old enough to own a passport. I suspect that, if your life was in danger, it would be best to not edit Wikipedia at all, rather than chance fate.

    It would be great if the cloak of anonymity could be stripped away. But think about it - the only way to prove that you are who you say you are would be to send your personal details to Wikipedia. Given the shoddy, amateurish, borderline-criminal types that seem to work there, that would probably be a very bad idea.

    The alternative is some kind of identity escrow system, but again I have a vision of Wikipedia's bigwigs putting a "this user is verified" sticker on their userpage, and continuing to edit anonymously, because of course it would be wrong for the hoi polloi to know too much.

    So Danny Wool earned $40,000. That's not bad.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Not the toilet door...

    Which is, of course, the ultimate expression of democracy. If everyone is equal than everyone is only worth the worst person.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    H2G2 was around before wikipedia I think, infact Wales came and talked to the beeb back in, um, '02 when I was there. It's still got a bickering community though and fights about edits and all that

  18. Ferry Boat

    What they missed

    I had a look at that email. Interesting point in it:

    'If a wiki article got to a high level it could be put into the regular Nupedia

    editorial process.'

    That's what's missing from WP.

  19. Steven Dalton
    Thumb Down

    Wikipedia Inner Circle

    I recently experienced the 'inner' circle on Wikipedia after adding information about the excessive flights by training aircraft (every 30 seconds), from 8:30pm till 11pm, 5 nights a week from Parafield Airport over the suburb of Mawson Lakes in South Australia.

    I had to put up with these self appointed, self righteous cretins continuously removing the content I added, which was free from opinion and stated only facts about the level of air traffic and its noise.

    One was the creator of the Parafield Airport page. Once I referred him to his conflict of interest, the very next day I had one claiming to be the Australian editor. Finally they realised I wasn’t going to be silenced and put a single line mention 'summarising' my content, something akin to 'Mostly Harmless'

    And now we see the standard of behavior from their illustrious leader.

  20. Bill

    At least has "Don't Panic" on the front page...

    It also predates and is slightly more reliable than wikipedia if less comprehensive. That's why I always despair when some bigwig from the beeb rambles on about having their own wikipedia...

  21. Max Watson
    Thumb Down


    Not really because it lacks content. It is going about things the hard way - and while it does produce some good content - it'll be forever behind other sites doing similar activities unless they change their article creation strategy.

  22. James

    Sounds like ...

    Jimbo Wales is highly narcissistic. Rewriting the past is one of the things they do best so that they get all they glory.

    Strangely, there's a reasonably accurate description of this on Wikipedia.

    but then Narcissists don't recognise descriptions of themselves!

  23. Gav

    This is how Wikipedia works

    @Steven Dalton

    Your problem is the same one many new Wikipedia editors have. Wikipedia doesn't care what you say are "facts", because you could be anyone and could be making it all up. Essentially these "facts" could simply be your personal opinion. Wikipedia requires cites to reliable sources. So if other "self righteous cretins" removed your addition they were entirely in the right and you are entirely in the wrong.

    And it's not likely they were any "inner circle", just editors who know Wikipedia policy.

    This is the standard of behaviour on Wikipedia, otherwise anyone could declare anything "fact" and demand its inclusion.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Amusing as bashing Wikipedia is there is a lot worse out there such as:

    As it says: The truth shall set you free. I suppose this needs clarifying as the Republican Fundamentalist Christian view of truth of course.

    As everyone knows Wikipedia is a decent repository of knowledge when used along with other sources (as can be said for any source). Just because Wikipedia believes (or pretends) that it is decent, reasonable, NPOV etc. etc. is only about as believable that the People's Democratic Republic of <wherever> is democratic, a republic or for the people.

    Though Wikipedia bashing is good fun, I agree.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Protesting too much

    >> I'm not learning anything new except El Reg seems to pursue Wikipedia to the max at every mis-step

    Yeah. Just why is the Reg so obsessed with Wikipedia? It used to just be Andrew Orlowski, but now they're all getting in on it.

  26. david gomm

    it is perhaps revealing that...

    the Wikipedia entry for El-Reg makes no mention of it's views on Wikipedia, with the editors making in clear on the talk page that they don't consider this information 'noteworthy' or 'relevant'.

  27. duncan campbell

    The science of navel lint

    That Wikipedia lacks "authority" I'm pretty sure is intentional. One cut thru and

    it's all economics: I guess most of Wiki's contributors are professionals who would

    have to ju$tify their contribution if they were to put their names to it. As long as

    it is non-authoritative it cannot be sued too easily, either, I expect.

    There is an uncertain trade-off between authority and useful/accurate info I s'pose,

    and Wiki seems to want to keep its cupcake and eat it too.


  28. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    @Mike Powers

    You just described The McInternet!

    Scary idea...

    The yellow one with the red and white stripes please.

  29. Chris Cheale


    I just checked on Wikipedia's entry for "earth" and nowhere does it say "mostly harmless" - any wikipedians out there who can be bothered to do an edit?

  30. Scott
    Paris Hilton

    Buy bye,

    As the internet becomes completely irrelevent as a useful tool i.e. search engines? ya, sure they are, it pleases me to see the Emperor,Great Wizard, etc.etc. standing behind the curtain is some self serving snippet of what filled the Moors ditch. Before the word "content" was transformed into meaning "bells and whistles" web sites apoligised for adverstisements or GFB the popup! Soon the Internet will be Televison.

    Paris=the sixth word above

  31. DR


    "El Reg seems to pursue Wikipedia to the max at every mis-step"

    who is watching the watchers? I don't care. the fact that people read Wikipedia and treat it as fact is proof that it more than deserves the bashing that the Reg gives it. it's not about unfair and unbiased journalism, the reg does seem to be blatently biased against it. though anyone that uses the reg as their sole source of opinion on life the universe and everything is as stupid as those who rely on wikiperdia for the same.

    Personally, I use Wikipedia, it's a fairly good source for relativly easy information, but i'd never totally trust it.

    but it's good that it provides links at the bottom for reference, so I can check the facts etc.

    I have never donated to Wikipedia and given Mr Wales dodgy expense claims I'm rather glad that I haven't...

    I'd never trust Wikipedia for facts, and on a forum i moderate if any argument or disagreement is tried to be solved by wikipedia links those links are immediatly questioned...

    Wikipedia is exactly as it says...

    What i know is this...

    trouble is what I know might not be right, I've been wrong before and I'll be wrong again, that's just human nature.

  32. Steven Dalton

    re:This is how Wikipedia works

    I understand your point, but I unfortunately live in Mawson Lakes and once again tonight experienced "my own opinion" every 30 seconds for 3 straight hours. It’s now 11pm and I can go to bed.

    I referenced a submission to a body that will do SFA about this problem. Also many residents have expressed their views on the Mawson Lakes Community Site. Some defending the noise - go figure. Hmm lots of opinion but even the ones defending it admit to the noise!

    How can these editors (who wrote in very official terms like they own the page & site in a vane attempt to scare me off) claim that what I have written is not fact when they do not even live here? If they have done some research they would find that my so called opinions are in deed facts! (spending any night of the week here would be enough)

    Also the original article contains content which I could quite easily argue is opinion, which not backed up with references.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Protesting too much

    Because it's good press.


    Where's the DrXym? We need a "Fair and Balanced"(TM) view on this stuff.'s the one with the popcorn...

  34. Anonymous Coward

    to all the anon posters descrying Wiki coverage

    ID cards is an ongoing thing in the UK - plenty of coverage there. Is that an editorial agenda? Too right it is. It is something that affects us, mainly over here, so newsworthy.

    Same for wikipedia. It affects perception of the web, and when it claims to be a font of human knowledge yet is known to use a little creative license then that is also an issue and newsworthy. If that is what you are referring to as an 'agenda' then the Reg have one.

    I can't help but note that your comments are strangely reminiscent of the comment:

    "They deny the facts. They attack the attacker."

  35. Graham Bartlett

    How's it like a toilet door?

    How's it like a toilet door? Since when could you go cottaging on Wikipedia...?

  36. Niall


    Don't knock Conservapedia. It's my first stop whenever I need a good laugh. Especially the talk section associated with breaking news. Breaking news being what the owners mother said on her blog.

    Having said that it does sometimes leave me feeling very depressed to think these people believe what they say.

  37. Nick Palmer

    @Andy Worth

    "Not that I'm defending Wiki or indeed Jimbo...decompose."

    The problem is that regular readers of sites like this know that; we are aware of the ongoing problems with Wikipedia, its editorial policy, its cult-ish behaviour, its almost absolute disregard for truth, but others don't. As an example, my wife regularly has to knock back essays (she's a lecturer in law) which have culled swathes of inaccurate and/or utterly irrelevant content from Wikipedia, inserted by students who HAVE been conned into thinking that it is a reliable source. It's dangerous, and it needs to be smacked down hard at every opportunity.

  38. Ferry Boat

    @Gav (This is how Wikipedia works)

    errr.... reliable sources eh? Circular references anyone?

  39. John Benson

    I don't want to know how sausage is made... I plan to consult only official information sources.

    (Please don't complicate my life, just update me on the enemy du jour and the bling de rigeur.)

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ "Wikipedia practices a sort of information marxism"

    A sort of, but with a crucial difference - marxism never needed to revise or falsify history, because that is what justifed its existence! Google (not wiki) about and you will find an Ism that doesn't need to be qualified by "a sort of".

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Crimes and Misdemeanors

    I'm reminded of "Crimes and Misdemeanors" and the documentary that Cliff (Woody Allen) makes about Lester (Alan Alda). The documentary splices together scenes from Lester's past (being honored by a university and the like) and clips of Benito Mussolini giving a speech.

    Here's the scene:

  42. Cambrasa

    Here we go again...

    More Wikipedia-bashing. How dull. How predictable of The Register. Yes, we all know that Wikipedia has its flaws. But it also has its uses. Why not just leave it at that?

    As for compulsory identification, it simply wouldn't work. Because of privacy issues alone. I mean, who wants a prospective employer who googles their name knowing that they've edited articles on Marxism, BDSM, and Star Trek at 1:22am on the 23rd of January?

  43. Daniel B.
    Thumb Down

    Online encyclopedias

    Hm... Wikipedia made me lazy... but that was because I was already fed up with doing online searches and finding tons of crap on whatever search engine I used. My personal favorite from my first Internet contact, Altavista, is not the good thing it used to be. Yahoo ... well, lost to Google some years ago. And Google? Been some time since their links have gone downhill too.

    I remember that 1996-ish I found out that using search engines was a time-consuming task, as I had to filter out those geocities "fake info" pages. I remember once searching info on marijuana medical uses, and finding what was basically an anti-pot propaganda site which said "Marijuana has no medical uses, only THC." Ok, even taking out the obvious lack of citations there, its like saying "Coffee doesn't keep you away, only caffeine." Yeah, right.

    Now its about getting loads of forum babble postage as top results, displacing useful info in lots of cases. Wikipedia made it easier to search stuff. Too bad it's gone basically sour with all this.

    So? I think I'll have to revert to using ProQuest and other similar pay-for information sources, you know, those that actually are based on scientific research and stuff. That's where I first heard about "Captain Cyborg" Warwick, for example.

    But just google-searching won't cut it anymore, search engines are on the fritz, even more when some "results" send you down to ... another search engine!!!

  44. Herby

    Power Corrupts...

    Absolute power (the inner circle) corrupts absolutely!

    Can't say it much better than that!

  45. Alex

    Cracked it

    Cade Metz is clearly jealous of Andrew Orlowski for having his own Wikipedia article.

    The "criticism of Wikipedia" section on that page makes up half the text because that's the stuff that will most interest the Wikipedia editor who wrote it (and also because he's pretty quiet when it comes to other tech issues like the ISP industry and filesharing...r-right?).

    Metz is blatanly trying to game Wikipedia by criticising it enough to come up on their radar. ;-)

    Seriously, I don't think I'll ever really get bored of watching the antics of Wikipedia and Jimbo. The ridiculously lofty claims about his site that he takes very seriously (publically at least) are a classic comedy set-up for all the times it fails. Still, after the glorious farce of Essjay and Gary Weissgate, it'll take a lot to actually make me think less of it.

    In the meantime, I'll continue to be horrified that anyone still considers it credible when it's so obviously broken. Though it's still good for:

    . Trivia that doesn't matter if it's wrong,

    . A very basic starting point for finding something else,

    . Massive lolz from so many discussion pages (my favourite).

    Finally, here's my favourite quote from Wikipedia ever:

    "The Register is a tabloid blog with a tiny audience and of virtually no importance outside a certain subculture" - Jimmy Wales

  46. Alex

    Aww, man!

    My last comment got nuked before making it here? But it was excellent! Surely the best conspiracy theory ever.

  47. tedw

    good article

    I like your honest and unbiased reporting on the Wikipedia scam. Where can I send donations and offerings? What forms of payment do you accept?

  48. John Stirling

    waki wiki


    When I'm searching for how to do BDSM RIGHT I want an expert, not some sort of marxist trecky with insomnia, so anything that slows their editing has to be welcomed. I also think that if bosses google for a name then they should accept that folk do stuff in their own time that is private, and not relevant to their employer. For example, my real name is referenced here, and will presumably end up indexed, and my boss is a twat.

    Did you get that David?

    You twatty boss.

    @Graham Bartlett

    If you check the cottaging page on wiki it does indeed give you some locations, so you can go cottaging on wiki; and I'm telling you now, after reading that I shall never go for a wee in the British Library again. I am traumatised. There was I thinking the worst I'd find was that wonderful article on pearl necklaces that El Reg discussed many years ago...

    Icon - well it looks sort of cottagy. To me anyway. Though having read that article everything looks cottagy at the moment.

  49. Cade Metz (Written by Reg staff)

    Alex, there is no conspiracy...

    Your comment has been accepted...


  50. tedw

    I wasn't kidding

    I know El Reg gets money from ads, but don't you accept donations from happy readers as well?

  51. Mike

    Re: Citizendium


    I'm not sure what you're referring to re: our article creation policy: it's totally open. We (Citizendium) are actually ahead of where Wikipedia was after its first year in terms of amount of content. Something tells me we're ahead on quality, too.


  52. Anonymous Coward

    The best thing that can be done with Wikipedia

    Create Wikipedia 2, Wikipedia 3, etc. (of course with other names and organization). The problem with Wikipedia is that it lacks competition (Britannica is not competitive because you have to pay for it and almost anything else you find in the net is a mirror of Wikipedia, not any competence).

    So every secret agent, public relations, political flamer, copyright purity watcher, etc. can fully concentrate in a single site without fear of damaging its credibility/competitivity nor alienating its mostly volunteer unpayed editors, who have nowhere else to go. Would there be a handful of English-language Wikipedias, maybe even copying one each other for the bulk of the stuff, but with some differences, it would be good for each of them.

    It's lack of competence what is harming Wikipedia.

    I want to create a Wiki2 focused based in intolerance for fascists and zionists all alike, favoritism for anything minoritary and Peters projection maps, with administrators elected and not appointed and so on. A loose copyright policy and no bots allowed at all. Anyone?

    I mean, it doesn't seem so difficult. Less criticism, more positive action.

  53. David

    @John Stirling

    You're fired.


  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: I wasn't kidding

    Thanks for the offer, Ted.

    You could always buy a Reg t-shirt at cash'n'carrion, I suppose.

  55. andy
    Thumb Up

    Which sort of -ism?

    @"Wikipedia practices a sort of information marxism"

    By Anonymous Coward

    Posted Thursday 6th March 2008 16:49 GMT

    A sort of, but with a crucial difference - marxism never needed to revise or falsify history, because that is what justifed its existence! Google (not wiki) about and you will find an Ism that doesn't need to be qualified by "a sort of".

    Would that be Onanism?

    The icon? Guess...

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