Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…


WikiGnomes Win The Day

Stephen Colbert encouraged his viewers to demonstrate the wikiality – if enough people believe that something is true, then it is true – of Wikipedia. He asked everyone to edit every article on that mentions elephants and add the fact that the number of elephants has tripled in the last ten years.

I confess that I did not think the WikiGnomes would be able to withstand the challenge. But withstand it they did – with flying colours!

The discussion at the specially created Talk: page is hilarious. The discussion is about equal parts

  • Colbert fans complaining that they are not allowed to add the unquestionable fact that the number of elephants have tripled
    • The Number of elephant in Africa has Tripled in the last two months.-Fact
  • WikiGnomes claiming that Colbert fans are idiotic automatons who do whatever their master tells them
    • Colbert is a comedian. We don’t use comedians as sources for anything other than their own jokes
  • WikiGnomes who claim to be Colbert fans saying that they understand that it is a joke but that Colberrorism of this kind is irresponsible because it gives Wikipedia a bad name
    • Not how it works. Just leave it alone, the joke is over. Colbert is funny, you don’t need to do everything he tells you to do.
    • To the media: you are doing Wikipedia a disservice by irresponsibly hyping the vandalism of “Elephants”, so please cut it out
    • I love the Colbert Report, but come on people. It was funny for about 10 minutes. Then it just became stupid.
    • the way I think about it, he probably wanted to warn wikipedia that it’s easy for a user to add false information and no one to analyze to correct it.
  • Colbert fans claiming that the WikiGnomes response proves Colbert’s point about wikiality – that all truthiness is relative
    • It is a fact that: many people in the wikipedia community believe that the population of elephants may have tripled in the last few months.
    • Are you claiming that many people don’t hold the belief that the elephant population has tripled?
  • WikiGnomes claiming that the successful resistance to the attack proves Colbert wrong
    • That’s where you and Colbert are wrong. Facts are never established by the community, they are established by citations and verifiability.
    • Colbert was wrong in that he thought Wikipedia was based on the community’s opinion when it is based on verifiable, cited facts.
  • WikiGnomes who really are Colbert fans claiming that the successful resistance proves that Colbert is a genius of satirical comedy and that the whole point of the exercise was to demonstrate that the people who dismiss wikipedia because it is subject to wikiality are idiots – including the satirical character that Stephen Colbert plays on The Colbert Report.

I should have had more faith in the WikiGnomes – they are true heroes, even the humourless ones – and Stephen Colbert proves once again that you can use power of comedy for the good.

Of course, the irony in all of this is that the number of elephants has tripled in the last ten years.


2 responses to WikiGnomes Win The Day

Aaron Rhodes August 9, 2006

The sad truth is, Wikipedia is no more or less factual than the avarage school textbook. We all have this ingrained belief that schoolroom textbooks are irrifutable fact which in turn influences what most people believe is true. Wikipedia may even be more factual than a textbook as it is moderated globally (limited of course by people who speak english, ha ha!) and is not governed by the political or financial buying decisions of a particular school. I have heard teachers regard Wikipedia with scorn, mostly because a bibliography containing a wikipedia link is not concrete, but also (ignorantly!) because it is not “fact”. We should be skeptical of all literary resources equally and respect that the popular opinion is always what is recorded in all mediums.

Kevin August 9, 2006

Wikipedia – in common with much of the American media – has this bias that there is an objective truth out there and that their role is to simply document it. If you just follow the rules of NPOV, all will be well. But there is no such thing as NPOV when you leave the narrow domains of science. Even such dry ‘facts’ as geography are subjective. Maybe they should strive for a multi-POV standard?

I am willing to bet that the majority of WikiGnomes share a very distinctive political outlook and that one of the coming tests for Wikipedia, as it enters the mainstream, will be whether it can accommodate Gnomes with different political a outlook.

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