October 22, 2014

Another Wikipedia Hoax Comes to an End After Nearly Four Years

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At the beginning of this year we shared news about a fake Wikipedia entry (100% fabricated) that had been removed after five years online.

Last week word of another hoax entry was taken down after three years and seven months. Worth noting that some of the fabricated data was also in IMDB.

From The Daily Dot Article, The greatest movie that never was”:

Imagine a documentary about events you’ve never heard of—that no one’sever heard of—but that are meticulously chronicled in online sources many people trust implicitly. Imagine the confusion. Imagine the buzz. Imagine the publicity.

It’s almost sad that Wikipedians discovered the Yuri Gadyukin hoax on March 5 and ripped it from the encyclopedia like a noxious weed. The piece was not a work of trolldom. It was not a hoax for hoax’s sake, born of boredom and a passing interest in fucking things up on the Internet.

[Clip]

The hoax that fooled the largest encyclopedia and Internet movie database on the planet for nearly four years began when Gavin Boyter and Guy Ducker stumbled into a Belgian restaurant in London in 2002.

Read the Complete Entry

What Can We Learn From This?

Here are a few thoughts:

  • Kudos to the authors of the hoax for their creativity and attention to detail. Wikipedia might not be the best place for this type of work (others might feel differently). 
  • Hoaxes are not only an issue for Wikipedia but a weakness with crowdsourced reference in general (in this case IMDB also got played). However, if/when discovered they also provide teachable moments to help demonstrate that while Wikipedia can be a very useful resource for it to be used to its fullest potential a SOLID understanding of Wikipedia’s strengths and weaknesses are along with how it works in theory versus reality are essential. They also illustrate that no reference resource is always 100% accurate.
  • Some argue that the use of Wikipedia should not be allowed in an educational setting. I used to think this way but I’ve changed my thinking. It’s impractical to say “just don’t use it” but doing this can miss educational opportunities and thought provoking discussions about information and digital literacy with students that will be useful long after their formal education ends.
  • None of this means that Wikipedia/Wikimedia is off the hook. The organization must do more to not only eliminate hoaxes as quickly as possible but to keep all factual information as current and accurate. This is much easier said than done but as much effort as possible needs to be put forward and it gets more challenging as Wikipedia grows larger. While popular articles and topics are watched closely but what about everything else. In other words, a person researching what we’ll call long-tail entries is no less deserving of accurate and current information about the topic, person. etc. as the researcher who is using Wikipedia to learn more about a popular topic, well-known person, etc.
  • Finally, discussion also allows info pros to share information about other online reference tools (some accessible online with a library card), specialty databases, etc.

See Also: Wikipedia’s Own List of Wikipedia Hoaxes

See Also: The 10 Biggest Hoaxes in Wikipedia’s First 10 Years (via Network World)

See Also: Important Read: Archivist Jason Scott Has A Lot to Say About Wikipedia (December 12, 2012)

On a Related Note

Interesting! Google Engineer Releases Wikipedia Live Monitor App for Breaking News Coverage

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.