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Appendix 5

The Times
December 09, 2005

Unreliable (adj): log on and see

By Rosemary Righter

THE LOGO of Wikipedia, the online “free encyclopedia” visited daily by millions of students who innocently imagine that what they are getting is reliable factual information, is a globe composed of jigsaw pieces decorated with letters from many alphabets. Just above the omega, at the point where, on human heads, they used to perform frontal lobotomies, bits of the jigsaw are missing.

In the wacky world of Wikipedia, the missing bits are these: accountability, authority, scholarly credentials, accuracy and scrupulousness.

You think I exaggerate? Visit and, instead of heading straight to the “search” slot, read its opening page. After the proud claim that Wikipedia is “regularly cited by the mass media and academia, who generally praise it for its free distribution, editing and diverse range of coverage”, you find that the wackipaeds who created this intellectual lunatic asylum plead guilty to all the above charges. They even ask for the following intellectual crimes to be taken into account: “vandalism” and “systemic bias”. In the small print, a “general disclaimer” specifically states: “All information read here is without any implied warranty of fitness for any purpose or use whatever.”

Anyone, but anyone, can insert an entry; anyone else can edit it — and anyone can insert, anonymously and with impunity, such toxic lies as the assertion that the distinguished American editor John Seigenthaler had been directly involved in the assassination of both Kennedy brothers.

Wikipedia says its volunteer editors operate a code of “Wikiquette”, correcting mistakes within minutes. The editor who “checked” that item found one spelling mistake. It was spiked only when Mr Seigenthaler discovered it, months later, and complained to Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales.

Contributions from unregistered users are now to be banned. Fine: it took me 12 seconds to register as mickmouse, giving no email address. There is no Trade Descriptions Act in cyberspace. Its unregulated nature is in many ways its glory. If this site were called the Wikiblog, visitors would know it could contain anything, including malicious untruths. But to claim that this is an encyclopaedia (and, further, to declare its aim to be “Britannica or better” quality) is to hold learning in contempt. Wiki is Hawaian for “quick”. I suggest a new and accurate name: “Wikicon.”

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