Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Wikiality"

Although we often consider WOM to be one of the most credible sources of information in our daily lives, there are still going to be plenty of instances in which we'll have to tread carefully and really consider the truthfulness of WOM episodes.

A few days ago I was reading the 04-09-07 issue of US Weekly (yes, I really enjoy celebrity gossip) and saw a brief item called "Stars' Death Hoaxes." The item read: "Forget R.I.P.: Winona Ryder, 35, Sinbad, 50, and Todd Bridges, 41, are all still alive - despite recent reports. On March 8, blogs buzzed with "news" that Ryder died from a drug overdose. Two days later, Wikipedia.com listed a date of death for Sinbad." Wikipedia has since included an "Erroneous Death Report" section to its listing for Sinbad, and the listing for the site has been disabled from editing for new or unregistered users. Whether the incorrect report was listed as a result of false WOM or was just the cause of a lot of false WOM (and grief) is unclear to me, but the point remains the same.

This reminded me of a time in the fall when I read about Stephen Colbert encouraging viewers to go to Wikipedia make ridiculous changes. He suggested they edit entries for elephants to state that the elephant population had tripled in the past six months--he didn't know if this was true, but thanks to "wikiality," if you make something up and get people to agree with or believe you, it becomes true. And a lot of people did it. He went on to claim that he didn't believe George Washington had slaves, and changed the George Washington Wikipedia article to make it a "fact" (Colbert's account has since been blocked).

I know we've all been taught that Wikipedia is not a credible source to use for research, especially academic in nature, and it's unfortunate that it has to be that way. I do sometimes use Wikipedia to look things up quickly, it often shows up at the top of the returns of my Google searches, and I know it can only become more influential. It can be a great source of information and it's cool to think that the information is fluid and can be easily changed--but that's also it's biggest downfall. Changing the format and making it more difficult to change the listings would sort of ruin the entire idea. It will be interesting to see how CGM and WOM will have to evolve to combat errors like these.


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6 comments:

Holly said...

I am still on the fence about Wikipedia. It is almost impossible to find a middle ground between making it harder to post to ensure accuracy and keeping it open for the public to share knowledge.
I did, however, find an interesting study that compares the accuracy of Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica that suggests that the two sources are similar in terms of accuracy and that, in some cases, Wikipedia is actually more accurate.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4530930.stm

If this is the case, then should we really be so concerned?

Psomas said...

I think that, despite its inaccuracies, Wikipedia can still be an excellent tool. You should certainly fact check information that you find on the site, but it's a great way to find out some basic information about a topic you're uninformed about. Many of the inaccuracies can easily be checked out, so as long as you're careful, Wikipedia can be a great jumping-off point to start your research on a topic and to familiarize yourself with it.

Pik Ting said...

I am always profound by Wikipedia’s effectiveness in updating information. I also heard that Wikipedia is even more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica and has more updated information than Encyclopedia Britannica does. I do agree that sometimes Wikipedia provides information that might not be accurate and a lot of its “fact” is “made up” by people, but we could not exclude the fact that a lot of the information is just as accurate as other sources. And the fact that it provides footnotes and links at the bottom for references seems to prove that it is, to some extent, credible. And I think viewer could tell that whether the thing that they search is “fully developed” by looking at the numbers of references and footnotes (perhaps the length of the page too…) that Wikipedia provides at the end of the page.

Ryan said...

for me, wikis are still the best source of information.

With regards to viral marketing, this is one example of it:

Has anyone out there heard about WideCircles.com. It seems like a way better service then wasting money on PPC. Apparently they are using refering websites ( forums, blogs, wiki, etc. ) and have a viral word of mouth distributed approach to it. My friend told me he got around 100 visits from single post which cost him $0.40c. I am going to give them a try today . In case you are intrested here is it. http://widecircles.com?s=imt1

Anonymous said...

I also heard that Wikipedia is even more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica and has more updated information than Encyclopedia Britannica does.

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