back to article Prime Minister out-nonsensed by Conservative Wikifiddler

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales still hopes to equip his free online encyclopedia with its very own nonsense filter. But at the moment, the Wikinonsense is alive and well. Earlier today, the BBC reports, the UK Conservative party admitted that a member of its staff had changed a Wikipedia entry in an apparent attempt …


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  1. Chris Bidmead

    It's not "an encyclopaedia"

    I guess if you start by assuming the Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia, all sorts of nonsensical reporting could follow. The clue is in the name. It's a Wiki.



  2. M Bancroft

    @Chris Bidmead

    wikipedia does itself claim to be an encyclopedia... I know this because I looked it up on wikipedia and therefore it MUST be true*.

    "Welcome to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit."

    or has "" been circlejerked by our very own el Reg?

    (* for certain values of True)

  3. Tony Hoyle

    It doesn't know what it is

    If you complain that perfectly valid stuff has been deleted, wikinerds claim that it's because 'it doesn't belong in an encyclopedia'. They claim to have better editorial policies than 'other encyclopedias'.. however if you complain that the stuff that is there is innacurate (often wildly so) wikinerds clam that wikipedia is not an encyclopedia.

    They need to sort out what it is once and for all and stick to it, not change every day to what suits their current argument.

  4. Chris Bidmead

    Real Encyclopaedia

    If you want real facts, go to a real encyclopaedia. Here's a sample:

    "...In office Nixon celebrated family life, showed an avid interest in sports, established a quiet and dignified tone for his presidency."

    The conclusion of the entry for "Richard Milhous Nixon", Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1972.

    The Wikipedia's entry on the same subject. however, has some spurious nonsense about "likely impeachement" and "scandal". That's the sort of vandalism you can never avoid in a Wiki that everyone's allowed to edit.



  5. Ian Ferguson
    Paris Hilton

    The German fella

    Please can somebody link to the actual Wikipedia article? I read this on Slashdot and here, but neither article links to it. I've tried searching Wikipedia for several variations on his name, and can't find the entry. I find this... suspicious. Considering the type of story, I'd be interested to see the source, rather than 'an anonymous reader' on Slashdot.

  6. Graham Marsden

    Prime Minister's Questions...

    ... a weekly session where the PM spends a half hour weaseling, evading and utterly failing to reply to anything substantive put to him by the Opposition whilst his own benches sycophantically ask "questions" such as "does my Right Honourable Friend agree that we're absolutely wonderful?"

    Just corrected it for you.

    Oh, sorry, isn't this WikiRegister...?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    EU fiddles Phorm & Tory fiddles Wiki.

    What a good day for decency. A bad one for the scum.

    I think 'Dave' may find out just what internet tracking means. Just using publicly available data. No need to even pimp your ISP. Pipex, don't worry!

    I only think this.

    (A life-time Tory voter, believe it or not).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    BTW, just to clarify.

    You left an IP number, you daft Tory tits.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down



  10. Adam White

    Flagged Revisions

    If Der Spiegel can't find a way to verify a German government Minister's full name, how are Wikipedia's team of "trusted editors" supposed to do any better?

  11. Geoffrey W

    @Chris Bidmead + Encyclopedia Brittanica

    I guess the only things not tainted by human fallibility and bias are those written by beings OUTSIDE the human race. If your research doesn't reference intergalactic sources than I fart in your general direction you no good uni-cephalic pea brains.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    @ Ian Fergusson

    If you really can't find the German fella try:

  13. Anonymous Coward


    "He was promptly chastised by Cameron, who said that Titian died at 86."

    Don't you Brits have ANYTHING better to do than argue over when an old artist died? (Note: Sheep-bothering doesn't count)

  14. Chris Bidmead

    Bottom Line

    We all now know that Titian's age at death was somewhere around 90 years but is otherwise undetermined because of uncertainty about his birthdate. (It's a "known unknown", thank you D. Rumsfeld).

    Gordon Brown now knows this too, and little Davie Cameron has discovered the price of being a smart-arse.

    The world is one whit the wiser. The Wikipedia has done its job.



  15. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Economy in a nosedive,

    unemployment rocketing,

    surveillance culture spreading by the day,

    bankers living up to their rhyming slang,

    infrastructure collapsing through underinvestment

    ... and the best that those snouts-in-the-trough scumbags in Westminster can do is argue about Titian's birthdate and then get their office juniors to edit Weakipedia.

    The British parliamentarty process in a nutshell. Arguing about the correct shade of material to use to reupholster the deckchairs they are rearranging on the deck of the Titanic.

  16. Greg Trocchia

    @Chris Bidmead (Encyclopedia Brittanica)

    Since the Watergate break in, which would eventually lead to the downfall of Richard Nixon, happened in June of 1972 ( read the original Washington Post account here: ) it is highly likely that the Richard Nixon article you cited was written prior to the burglary. Had there been a Wikipedia in 1972, it would also probably not have mentioned Watergate even after June of that year, the scandal took a long time to ramp up to the point where it threatened the Nixon presidency. I remind you that Nixon won a landslide victory November of 1972 as a quick way to verify this. A 1974 or 1975 (I am not sure what kind of lead times Britannica has) version of Encyclopedia Britannica, like our hypothetical Wikipedia of the same vintage, would likely have had a significantly different take on Nixon.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    @Real Encyclopaedia

    Richard Milhous Nixon is not a meme!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't read wikipedia (honest)

    the discussion (in German) is here

    They seem to be arguing the toss over the Freiherr bit too.

  19. Gregor
    Paris Hilton

    @ Ian Ferguson

    That wasn't too difficult now was it? :P

    Went to then to see the full list of ministers, picked the one I want.

  20. Whitter

    @Chris Bidmead

    Too true Chris! I mean, Nixon isn't even in the 1924 edition at all! Bloomin' rubbish it is!

  21. Alex
    Paris Hilton

    Mob rule encyclopedia

    Never trust an information source controlled by the mob. As Jung said 'to find out the IQ of a mob, take the average intelligence of its individual members then divide that by the number of people present'

    Paris - cos even she's not dumb enough to believe what she reads in a wiki

  22. The BigYin
    Thumb Down

    Wikipedia is a launch point

    Nothing more. Everything on there must be treated with total distrust and any information only used as a launch point to access more learned (and accurate) sources.

    This still leaves the problem of Wiki citing incorrect information from outside source which were only citing its original (incorrect) information. There is, of course, and easy answer. Editors (and I include El Reg by the way) should simply not accept the Wiki as a source for any fact whatsoever. Simple.

    Wiki should also not accept as a source anything that was merely quoting it. Not so simple.

    A bit like sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, using Wikipedia is the lowest form of research.

  23. Eddie Edwards

    Myth creators

    So this is how myths begin.

    What I "love" about Wikipedia is that, if you prove Fermat's Last Theorem yourself, you can't post it (original research is not allowed, unlike a real encyclopedia). But if you read something somewhere - anywhere - it is adjudged to be true.

    Wikipedia basically institutionalizes the idea that we should trust authority, believe everything we read, and do no thinking for ourselves.

    The sad thing is that many clever people have written very good authoritative articles. They really only need to remove all political subject matter and they'd have a good website. (And by political I include anything related to the GPL or Stallman).

  24. John

    ++Graham Marsden

    the questions planted by the government whips and those asked by MPs keen to impress the government whips so they can be junior ministers are a disgrace. Some people don't like our 'punch and judy' politics, but they probably haven't watched a whole PMQs. The grandstanding of the party leaders is far preferable to anyone greasily congratulating their right honourable friend on some minor policy initiative. Ugh, I typed 'policy iniative', I must cleanse my hands and keyboard immediately.

    Wasn't the German guy in Monty Python sketch?

  25. Anonymous Coward

    @Chris Bidmead

    Is this the Christopher H Bidmead of classic Doctor Who script-jockey fame??

    If so, then hats off to you sir!

    Mine's the one with the book on Block Transfer Computation in the pocket... :-D

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Cade Metz

    Do you write about anything you don't hate? Just curious.

  27. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    Sarcasm the lowest form of wit?

    Quite right - you rarely see sarcasm on American TV, which is probably why their sitcoms are so darn funny.

    Joke alert? Seems appropriate.

  28. TeeCee Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    I dunno what's worse.

    Sweaty Gordon choosing a "fact" that nobody in reality knows the truth of or correct value for as a demonstration of his erudition*, Dangerous Dave deciding to argue about it or some unnamed tit playing the wikifiddle as if it were a "get out of jail free" card.

    Fail, Fail and thrice Fail, I say.

    *At least that one has irony going for it. The other two parts of this sorry public pig's ear are just sad.

    I look forward to tomorrow and the surprising news that Titian is still with us and has been tipped as the next Batman........

  29. Steven Jones

    Trouble coming to terms with the new world

    Isn't it about time that The Register hacks actually attempted to understand how Wikipedia and the like work in a social context? I just love the touching faith that they appear to all share that there is such thing as an authoritative source and that traditional encyclopedias are somehow unimpeachably correct. Wake up - they are also written be people. Maybe they are written by qualified ones, but those same individuals also express prejudices, make decisions on what they include and what they leave out. Go through any traditional encyclopedia and you will find it full of such biases, omissions and articles which are just plain out-of-date as time moves on. What you will not have is access to the discussions, debates and editorial principles involved.

    Yes, Wikipedia is vulnerable to interest parties. However, one of the beauties of the whole thing is that this is traceable and that the abusers are rooted out. I would never, in a million years, suggest that anybody uses Wikipedia as a sole, authourative source for anything that really matters. It's the starting point of a journey - the discussion pages are as revealing to the nature of knowledge and truth as the final pages. Very probably more so. If it matter there are references to follow up.

    Use a traditional encyclopedia and you are very likely to find one very learned article which eloquently expresses the frozen-in-time view of a single person lightly reworked by an editor.

    I would also add that the standard of information on Wikipedia is often far better than the junk science perpetrated by some of the journalists on this online rag, which are often not much more than selective quotes to support their pre-determined positions. I think the low point is over the coverage of electric cars ('leccy tech in the favoursed juvenile language). It appears that virtually anybody who can put up a swoopy-looking body which excites the journalist gets an uncritical write-up.

  30. Andy Livingstone

    See, I told you!

    There really is a Ministry of Disinformation.

  31. Rob

    Classic case of Wikisalting...

    The BOFH would be proud

  32. Chris Bidmead

    @Greg Trocchia

    The point to take away from the 1972 Nixon entry is that traditional encyclopaedias are written in a tone of timeless omniscience, and seem to insist on being read in a similar spirit. That tone demands "...established a quiet and dignified tone for his presidency", and won't brook, for example, "at the time of writing has established... " Your timeline explains how the error -- perpetuated in that edition now for more than 35 years -- comes about, but doesn't excuse it or fix it.

    Readers who understand the Wikipedia (as Steven Jones above evidently does) escape this pitfall. Although errors of the same kind will occur there, they won't endure. And the nature of the Wikipedia emphasises the transience of any contemporary information (as often do too the cautionary notes attached to articles).



  33. Greg Trocchia

    My follow-on Responce

    I would argue that, for any dead-tree venue for writing, the "at the time of this writing" part is implied (it is certainly something I infer) regardless of how much"timeless omniscience" there is in the tone of the writing. The possibility of being invalidated by later events/information just goes with the territory of being hard copy nor would I find it helpful to require that all writing in hard copy be hedged, tentative, and full of caveats to reflect this possibility- I don't think this would add much that I could not infer already.

    Understand that I am not trying to badmouth Wikipedia, I use it all the time. I just think that hard copy reference works also have their place despite the limitations of being fixed in time. I would also point out again that the advantage of being capable of later update is one of the online world in general rather than being unique to Wikipedia per se (presumably an online version of Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, would also reflect a post-Watergate take on Nixon).

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