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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Using Wikipedia to Make... er, Change History

On my way to work this morning, I heard a report that Wikipedia has become the most widely used resource of students today. My first thought was "duh, its the easiest source to use and has information on virtually everything.

Then the radio host, who is more of a comedian than a news person said that he thought this was terrible because wikipedia was often wrong. Being naive, I didn't understand how this could happen. I knew wikipedia by definition was a source of information that was continually edited by everyone in the world. If I want to add information, I can go add the information and state whatever I held to be the truth. If you don't like what I add, you can go change it and the end result, in theory, is that the world will shape the truth to be accurate.

My personality is generally a little mischievous, but I honestly, and somewhat ashamedly, can say I never thought of what this individual did. Essentially they planted intentional errors in wikipedia and watched to see if they were ever edited out. Hmmm, that gives me a few good ideas. Holding the "Wikipower" to essentially change history, or at least some 13 year old's report on it, I could, for instance make it so that Osama Bin Laden enjoys long walks on the beach while humming show tunes. Or perhaps, John Kerry, as a result of a swift boat accident in Viet Nam, had to have a steel plate put in his forehead, but because he was so far away from the hospital they did an emergency procedure where they cut off a section of the boat's hull and used this to surgically repair his head wound. Yes, it made his forehead look ridiculously large, but it saved his life.

This all brings me to my points.
Point 1 - If you can't make history, at least now you can change it.
Point 2 - Students shouldn't use Wikipedia for reports.