What’s the Wikipedia Entry for “Quality?”

Yesterday Law.com (subscription required) had an article titled The Patent Office: Getting Wiki With It about the Patent & Trademark Office’s decision last August to remove Wikipedia as an acceptable research source for prior art searches. The article notes that “the surprise was not that the Web site had been banished, but that examiners had been using it at all.” Since banishing Wikipedia the PTO has been criticized for leaving on its list of acceptable research sources other websites that also can be easily modified. What could the PTO have been thinking when it allowed examiners to use Wikipedia in the first place? I refrain from taking constant whacks at Wikipedia’s flaws because it’s too easy. One can’t rely on it for anything remotely important. It is probably quite good for researching Dungeons and Dragons, but even there I wouldn’t cite it as my only source. Apparently not everyone has gotten the message.

For instance, last week I searched for articles on “Internet Crime.” Google returned Wikipedia on the first page of search results. I looked at the Wikipedia entry, wondering if it pointed in directions I had not considered. It certainly did. I learned:

Internet crime is crime committed on the Internet, using the Internet and by means of the Internet.

Hey man did you know that you smell . “Knock knock” whos there? “Me” me who? “Meow”.. Computer crime is a general term that embraces such crimes as phishing, credit card frauds, bank robbery, illegal downloading, Industrial espionage, child porn, kidnapping children via chat rooms, scams, cyberterrorism, creation and/or distribution of viruses, spam and so on. All such crimes are computer related and facilitated crimes.

Why keep reading after this gibberish? For the same reason our eyes are drawn to accidents on the highway. The entry continued:

With the evolution of the Internet, along came another revolution of crime where the perpetrators commit acts of crime and wrongdoing on the World Wide Web. Internet crime takes many faces and is committed in diverse fashions. The number of users and their diversity in their makeup has exposed the Internet to everyone. Some criminals in the Internet have grown up understanding this superhighway of information, unlike the older generation of users. This is why Internet crime has now become a growing problem in the United States. Some crimes committed on the Internet have been exposed to the world and some remain a mystery up until they are perpetrated against someone or some company.

After listing new Internet crimes such as phishing and “virus immistion” the entry’s language soared briefly to biblical heights and returned to the prosaic:

Then the light rained down on the innocent and the sinners were smeared across this paghe of hell alsothe expansion of already existing crimes on the Internet starts with credit card fraud. The crimes go on from there to cyber terrorism, illegal pornography, and copyright infringements. All of these crimes have mostly been in the spotlight because of the socially repulsive crimes committed by child molesters and the events of companies like Napster which were involved in copyright infringement law suits a couple of years ago.

One hopes that even a dull middle-school student would immediately see this to be illiterate slap-dash crap.

A die-hard Wikipedian would say “instead of taking cheap shots, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and rewrite the article to your standards?” I’d take the time to put this article out of its misery, far from innocent web browsers (particularly among the “older generation of users”) if were confident it wouldn’t come back to life. I’m not, so I won’t. Thanks, but I’ll take my research with a super-sized order of actual substantive knowledge.

Wikipedia gets a free pass from too many people who should know better.

5 thoughts on “What’s the Wikipedia Entry for “Quality?””

  1. As a die hard Wikipedia supporter, I am mildly insulted (in a joking, not serious manner). I’ve always wanted to ask a Professor whether or not citing Wikipedia is acceptable. For example, in my WR 150 course last year, I wrote my term paper on Communism in South Africa. I forget specifically what I was writing about, but I used Wikipedia as a source for a list of countries that are currently under some form of Communist rule. Do you believe that’s acceptable? I guess you’d say no, especially after reading your post! But I believe there is purely factual information or data that is extremely difficult to find in scholarly articles and can be supplemented by Wikipedia. Perhaps I’m being lazy. Let me know your thoughts.

  2. Ha! That was a funny post. You say,
    “One can’t rely on it for anything remotely important.”

    I used it as a constant resource for every one of the papers I wrote in my law classes. I received mostly A’s. I must have had a chump of a professor;

    Wait a minute, you were my professor…

  3. On a serious note, I think your post is a little too cynical. True, it would be foolish to use Wikipedia as a main source on a major research paper, but it’s a terriffic starting point. Suppose, to use your example, I wanted information on “internet crime,” I could use the “see also: internet fraud” at the bottom of the page which takes me to a well organized page that outlines the different types of cyber crime: Romance Scams, Identity theft schemes, Purchase Scams, Website Scams, Click Frauds, Inernational Modem Dialing, Phishing, Pharming, etc. etc.

    From there I can look up definitions of each of these, and now I have a starting point for what could be a well researched paper because I now know what to research, and I have a basic understanding of some of the different types of internet crimes and what they generally entail.

    It answers the hardest part of writing a paper/doing research, “WHERE THE HELL DO I START?!” Not half bad for “slap-dash crap.” I think wikipedia is a wonderful knowledge management tool.

  4. Wikipedia is a playground for people with too much free time on their hands. Some use it to convey useful information about a certain subject, others use it for smear campaigns against people and businesses, and many others use it for general tomfoolery.
    Wiki will not be a reliable source for information until it is turned into a journal with a credible panel of editors.
    It can be used as a quick resource for many subjects (Obviously “Internet Crime” is not one of them), but that’s all. Even articles that use citations cannot be trusted because they are not reviewed by scholars. The citations can be helpful for finding books on the subject, but the writers on Wikipedia can not be trusted to interpret the meaning of someone’s work.
    One thing working in Wiki’s favor is that it does contain some very hard to find information. If you’ve ever needed clarification on the game Rock, Paper, Scissors, Wikipedia might be the place to find it. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_paper_scissors )

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