[Wikipedia-l] in response to your article "Librarian: Don't use Wikipedia as source" in the Post-Standard

Andrew Lih andrew.lih at gmail.com
Sat Aug 28 04:59:59 UTC 2004

FYI, the latest chapter of this exchange, from Techdirt...

-Andrew (User:Fuzheado)


Who Do You Trust, The Wiki Or The Reporter?
Ramblings Contributed by Mike on Friday, August 27th, 2004 @ 01:36AM
from the questions,-questions... dept.

On Wednesday I posted a story linking to an article suggesting
Wikipedia was somehow untrustworthy. While I can understand why, at
first, the concept of Wikipedia seemed a little scary to those who
hadn't seen it in action, I figured the reporter in question might
want to know a few more details about it, and perhaps correct some of
his misperceptions. My main problem was that he seemed to write off
Wikipedia based solely on how it was created and maintained, and not
at all on the actual content. Along with my post, I sent an email to
the writer, Al Fasoldt, giving him some additional information about
Wikipedia, and wondering why, after telling us how you can't trust any
random info online, he trusted the email from a random librarian
claiming Wikipedia was somehow untrustworthy. The ongoing discussion
with Mr. Fasoldt has been quite a lesson in watching how a journalist
(a) continues to make unsubstantiated allegations (b) seems to prefer
insulting me and putting words in my mouth to actually responding to
my points or questions and (c) sticks steadfastly to his belief that
only "experts" can be trusted with information -- and, in his case,
only experts that he chooses. Yet, somehow, we're supposed to find him
more trustworthy than a self-correcting community. Figuring he might
appreciate the views of others in his profession (you know,
"experts"), I sent him links to Dan Gillmor's article on Wikipedia and
Steve Yelvington's recent realization of the power of Wikipedia.
However, rather than actually look at that information, Mr. Fasoldt
accused me of wanting "students to trust a source that's not
trustworthy." After some back and forth of this nature, where Mr.
Fasoldt responded to my request that he do a little more research by
saying: "I'm glad you're not the publisher of a newspaper"
(apparently, his publisher lets him do no research at all) and then
telling me that anyone who wrote for Wikipedia obviously knew nothing
(his phrase was: "100 times zero is still zero"), I suggested an
experiment. I pointed to the Wikipedia page on Syracuse, NY where he
apparently lives, and suggested he change something on the page, to
make it provably, factually incorrect -- and see how long it lasted.
Rather than take me up on the experiment, or suggest an alternative,
he complained simply that the whole idea of Wikipedia was
"outrageous," "repugnant" and finally (in another email) "dangerous,"
and therefore he refused to take part in my experiment. He told me
that asking him to take part of an experiment that would show how
Wikipedia corrected errors "wouldn't change the danger" of Wikipedia
-- and mentioned how important it was that teachers everywhere knew
what a dangerous tool this was. After this email exchange, he came to
Techdirt himself, and commented that, based on what he read here, he
was disappointed in our educational system -- and proceeded to
misquote a poem. Apparently, he was unwilling to trust information
displayed in Wikipedia, but finds random comments on a blog as a
representative sample of our education system. Thankfully, someone
else corrected his misquote, pointing out that a group editing system
might have helped out in such a situation. It's true that you
shouldn't trust anything you read online, by itself. However, most of
us know how to look at information, find other, supporting information
to back it up or disprove it before writing it off, and not to judge a
wiki by its disclaimer. However, by refusing to back up his claims, by
mis-stating or ignoring nearly everything I said to him and by
resorting to misdirection in his arguments, personally, I find Mr.
Fasoldt to be untrustworthy -- but I suggest you make your own
judgment call on that one.

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