Wikipedia -- the controversial online user-supported encyclopedia -- faces many challenges in its pursuit of quality
BY DAVID HO
Cox News Service
http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/bu ... d_business
Posted on Tue, Aug. 22, 2006
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - When Jimmy Wales used a comedy clip to kick off a conference this month for Wikipedia, the popular online reference site he founded, there was laughter and a lesson.
Only days before, Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's political news satire The Colbert Report, had taken the user-edited Internet encyclopedia for a mischievous spin. On his show, Colbert apparently changed an entry about himself and rewrote history in a George Washington entry by saying the first president never owned slaves.
''Any user can change any entry, and if enough other users agree with them, it becomes true,'' Colbert joked. ``If only the entire body of human knowledge worked this way.''
Colbert also encouraged viewers to change Wikipedia entries to say the elephant population had tripled in the last six months.
His satirical suggestions soon appeared online, acts Wikipedia considers vandalism. Site administrators, watchful for inaccuracies, quickly removed the pranks and temporarily locked the entries to prevent more misinformation. An online history recorded the back-and-forth.
The incident highlighted Wikipedia's growing prominence in popular culture and showed off the strengths and weaknesses of its collaborative approach, which allows everyone from scientific experts to high school students to contribute.
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