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posted by martyb on Friday May 23 2014, @12:47PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the circular-reasoning dept.

I was amused by a recent story in The New Yorker about the power of Wikipedia and the laziness of newspaper reporters. In a nutshell, a kid visited Brazil in 2008 and saw a species of raccoon that resembled an aardvark. Looking it up on Wikipedia he edited the page about that species of raccoon and added "also known as the Brazilian aardvark." Several British newspapers published something about the "aardvark", which someone else used as a citation on the bogus entry.

So now that species of raccoon is known world-wide as a "Brazilian aardvark" not by biologists, but by everyone else. I found it amusing. Remember, kids, Wikipedia is not a valid citation!

See also: circular reporting, malamanteau, and wikiality. What other examples of this have you encountered? Have you authored any? Which one(s)?

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by weeds on Friday May 23 2014, @12:59PM

    by weeds (611) on Friday May 23 2014, @12:59PM (#46733) Journal

    http://xkcd.com/978/ [xkcd.com]
    enjoy!

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Buck Feta on Friday May 23 2014, @01:15PM

    by Buck Feta (958) on Friday May 23 2014, @01:15PM (#46735) Journal

    >> Dylan Breves, then a seventeen-year-old student from New York City

    It sounds like Dylan needs his own Wikipedia entry, so we can all know what he's been up to lately.

    --
    - fractious political commentary goes here -
    • (Score: 2) by Sir Garlon on Friday May 23 2014, @02:07PM

      by Sir Garlon (1264) on Friday May 23 2014, @02:07PM (#46745)

      I found a good start for the "early life" and "education" [kettering.edu] sections! :-)

      --
      [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28 2014, @07:46PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28 2014, @07:46PM (#48429)

        It still throws me every time I see a reference to my professor's webpage....

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by GlennC on Friday May 23 2014, @01:34PM

    by GlennC (3656) on Friday May 23 2014, @01:34PM (#46739)

    I recall watching the ESPN2 morning show "Mike and Mike" one morning, and host Mike Greenberg mentioned that his Wikipdeia page was incorrect. The error that he pointed out was that his middle name was incorrect.

    Mr. Greenberg knew about this error for years, but did nothing to correct it. He did this so that he could give a concrete example of Wikipedia's faults to his children.

    The page has since been corrected, or at least his middle name is (allegedly) correct.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Greenberg [wikipedia.org]

    --
    Sorry folks...the world is bigger and more varied than you want it to be. Deal with it.
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23 2014, @10:18PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23 2014, @10:18PM (#46925)

      The NPR quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! [wikipedia.org] had a question that referred to the suit for Gram Parsons [westword.com] made by Nudie [wikipedia.org] and claimed that it had pill *boxes* on it.
      I checked Wikipedia and, sure enough, that's where they had gotten their bogus information.
      Those aren't *boxes*, as anyone who has seen the suit knows; they were pills [staticflickr.com] (together with opium poppies, cannabis leaves, and naked women.

      -- gewg_

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23 2014, @11:32PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23 2014, @11:32PM (#46946)

        So... what are the box looking things on the sleeve there?

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by sjames on Friday May 23 2014, @01:38PM

    by sjames (2882) on Friday May 23 2014, @01:38PM (#46740) Journal

    To be fair, now it really is also known as the Brazilian Aardvark. The question is, since the Wikipedia entry started it, it will legitimately cite itself as the authoritative source for that.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by Horse With Stripes on Friday May 23 2014, @02:00PM

      by Horse With Stripes (577) on Friday May 23 2014, @02:00PM (#46744)

      I'm not sure that "Wikipedia" and "authoritative" belong in the same sentence, unless it's something along the lines of "Wikipedia cannot be used as an authoritative source".

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by sjames on Friday May 23 2014, @06:07PM

        by sjames (2882) on Friday May 23 2014, @06:07PM (#46834) Journal

        Normally not, but since the Wikipedia article is the actual cause of the new common name, cited as authoritative by other respected publications, that makes it the source (and cause).

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by jcross on Friday May 23 2014, @02:18PM

    by jcross (4009) on Friday May 23 2014, @02:18PM (#46750)

    Isn't this basically how nicknames or common names always start? The irony of the story rests entirely on other common names being seen as authoritative, but they're seen that way precisely because we can't identify the source! The source may be buried in history, but I'm guessing in almost every case it's someone saying "this looks kind of like a..." and someone else agreeing, and so on. I doubt this would have worked as well if the coati didn't look kind of like an aardvark.

  • (Score: 1) by NeoNormal on Friday May 23 2014, @02:36PM

    by NeoNormal (2516) on Friday May 23 2014, @02:36PM (#46754)

    I was doing a lot of family history research back in the late '90s and this circular citation phenomenon was rampant. I suppose it still is.

    The internet was quite a boon for this type of research, but it quickly became so polluted with bad data that one could spend so much time trying to validate information that the benefits of the internet were basically lost.

  • (Score: 1) by datapharmer on Friday May 23 2014, @02:57PM

    by datapharmer (2702) on Friday May 23 2014, @02:57PM (#46765)

    Isn't the easy fix for this to create a bot to crawl citations and remove any that were published after the date the edit was originally added? Simply put, you can't use something as a source if it was created after the original work. This might not catch 100% of the cases but it would definitely cut down on the problem of poor citations.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23 2014, @03:20PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23 2014, @03:20PM (#46769)

    Roy Fielding, the inventor of REST (an architecture used in software) always screams that people get REST wrong, and that wikipedia has never gotten it right so people need to stop reading wikipedia and read the ACTUAL documentation (mostly his Ph.D. thesis) to understand REST applications so they can start using the term correctly. For example (among many):
    http://roy.gbiv.com/untangled/2008/rest-apis-must- be-hypertext-driven [gbiv.com]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23 2014, @07:07PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23 2014, @07:07PM (#46862)

      I feel his pain. Nobody has really read my Ph.D. thesis either.

  • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Friday May 23 2014, @06:22PM

    by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Friday May 23 2014, @06:22PM (#46836) Homepage Journal

    What is posted as the summary is much better than the version I submitted. Very good job, guys, I'm impressed.

    --
    Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
    • (Score: 4, Funny) by Tork on Friday May 23 2014, @06:45PM

      by Tork (3914) on Friday May 23 2014, @06:45PM (#46847)
      "What is posted as the summary is much better than the version I submitted. Very good job, guys, I'm impressed."

      I looked up the definition of 'good summary" on Wikipedia and it turns out that you're right, it is a good summary!
      --
      Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23 2014, @07:14PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23 2014, @07:14PM (#46869)

    The go-to response for all the people who get pointed out to them that, no, it really doesn't beg the question, or no, they aren't loosing something, etc., is that language evolves! It is OK that a raccoon is an aardvark, or a beaver is a platypus, because language evolves, but not over time scales of years, but from the point where someone has their malapropisms pointed out to them.

    • (Score: 2) by Bartman12345 on Friday May 23 2014, @09:57PM

      by Bartman12345 (1317) on Friday May 23 2014, @09:57PM (#46916)

      I could care less about your theory of language evolution... :)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23 2014, @10:37PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23 2014, @10:37PM (#46928)

      language evolves
      ...especially in the hands of poorly-educated people who don't read and who get their "information" from the bubble-headed bleach blonde who comes on at 5.

      -- gewg_

  • (Score: 2) by evilviper on Friday May 23 2014, @10:45PM

    by evilviper (1760) on Friday May 23 2014, @10:45PM (#46933) Homepage Journal

    And now the New Yorker article serves as a citation to counter all the others, and support removal of that fake factoid from WP.

    IMHO, a search for "brazillan aardvark" should be a good start in determining which authors/writers/editors should be summarily fired. Really no excuse for that.

    This was a minor error in a non-important factoid, but there are articles on WP controlled with an iron-fist by corporate interests, who heavily slant and distort entire articles to their own benefit.

    --
    Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.