Thursday, April 12, 2007

"The Office" and Wikipedia

The Associated Press reports that fans of the NBC show "The Office" are logging on to Wikipedia to modify its entries on negotiations. This is in the wake of a recent episode when the boss, Michael Scott, "turned to Wikipedia for tips on fending off an employee's request for a pay raise." Because of the volume of activity, Wikipedia administrators had to cut off editing of the entry. "In the case of the 'negotiation' entry, viewers quicky added phony tips in response to clueless advice from Scott, played by Steve Carell, in last week's episode." More than 100 changes to the entry were made before Wikipedia imposed its restrictions. Apparently the same thing happened when Stephen Colbert on "The Colbert Report" said that "all we need to do is convince a majority of people that some factoid is true--for instance, that Africa has more elephants today than it did 10 years ago." Fans then altered Wikipedia's articles on elephants. These episodes make it abundantly clear why we should be very careful about relying on Wikipedia to back up assertions made in scholarly writing.


Betsy McKenzie said...

Dear Marie,
Especially as most of us dip into a Wikipedia article once and drop the info and reference into whatever we are writing -- then never visit again. So, if I popped in on the entry on elephants or negotiation during one of the phony editing spasms, I would not see the quick corrections or the result of shutdowns. I'd see the fake stuff and carry it away.

Jacqueline Cantwell said...

I may be the odd man out here, but Wikipedia never was supposed to be authoritative. I like the idea of cheeky comments and disruptive humor.