Not Everything on the Internet is True?!

OK, as most people know, not every little bit of information that comes across the internet can be trusted as completely factual.  So where can we, not only as contributors, but also as seekers, go to find what we believe to be the unquestionable truth on the internet?

Wikipedia, the website that describes itself as the “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit”, would appear to be that hallowed promised land.  “Encyclopedia” sounds official enough, doesn’t it?  They require verification and source citation before any information can be defined as factual, but that doesn’t stop the uninformed, the pranksters, or the just plain dumb from sneaking in little bits of falsified information.  That is the problem with User Generated Content.  The “ability” rests in the hands of anyone with access to the internet.  Someone with a question searches the web for a “response”, but the “responsability” is shared by the website and the public alike.  The fact is, there is simply far too much information out there to feel comforted that a certain team is fact-checking it, while a far greater multitude is contributing to it.

A great example of this hits close to home with me on Wikipedia’s website.  Anyone who wishes to search the “impossible wheel” on Wikipedia, will become familiarized with a rather obscure unicycling-type sport in which a person rides a wheel with nothing more than pegs attached to balance on.  Another name for this contraption?  How about a “death machine” . . . a term coined by the late, great ME.  Arriving at a friend’s after work one day, I was quickly ushered into the computer room to see that I had instantly become a pioneer in a sport that I had never heard of.  There have been multiple attempts by friends and family to add to my historical prowess on the impossible wheel, but all have been thwarted by Wikipedia.  All except the original addition of course.

So, see: there was no Jason Carter of the free-ride BC wheel team in Tempe, Arizona.  Someone may have called it a “death machine” at some point in time, but it wasn’t me, and that is the danger with trusting such User Generated Content on the internet, regardless of the source.

I wouldn’t want to tell these guys that they have falsified information on the Impossible Wheel: NationMaster Encyclopedia, Cycles of All Sorts.

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1 Comment

  1. I know we talked about this in class, but I found this really interesting because it’s one of the reason Profs don’t approve of Wikipedia as a source, especially when reporting for a news article. It’s a great idea for general knowledge, but when you get into such obscure things, Wikipedia might be a detriment for those who seem to trust it.


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