I love Wikipedia. I probably use it every day. It’s become an indispensable part of the modern information landscape.

But.

A few months ago, I was doing a session in our lab with a bunch of high school students. When I do these sessions I try and illuminate how the modern information landscape is a bit more complicated than they think — I try and instill a little doubt and humbleness into their mostly quite confident attitudes. I talk about Facebook and privacy and Wikipedia and a whole bunch of things. Anyways, I’m talking about Wikipedia and demoing how easy it is to randomly change. And this young man pipes up and mentions that he’s just made himself commissioner of the NHL. Hilarity ensued. Fortunately, Wikipedia corrected itself within 30 minutes or so and Gary Bettman was restored to his rightful place in the world.

But. It was a good demonstration of both the strengths and weaknesses of Wikipedia.

Which brings me to today’s Friday Fun. I just love this one from The Onion: Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence. Somehow it seems to me that the more important you think Wikipedia is, the greater an accomplishment of the human impulse to learn, the funnier you will think it is.

And, boy oh boy, is it funny. Definitely read the whole thing. An excerpt:

NEW YORK–Wikipedia, the online, reader-edited encyclopedia, honored the 750th anniversary of American independence on July 25 with a special featured section on its main page Tuesday.

“It would have been a major oversight to ignore this portentous anniversary,” said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, whose site now boasts over 4,300,000 articles in multiple languages, over one-quarter of which are in English, including 11,000 concerning popular toys of the 1980s alone. “At 750 years, the U.S. is by far the world’s oldest surviving democracy, and is certainly deserving of our recognition,” Wales said. “According to our database, that’s 212 years older than the Eiffel Tower, 347 years older than the earliest-known woolly-mammoth fossil, and a full 493 years older than the microwave oven.”

*snip*

“The Revolution’s main adversaries were the patriots and the people from Braveheart,” said speaker Tim Capodice, who has edited hundreds of Wikipedia entries on subjects as diverse as Euclidian geometry and Ratfucking. “The patriots, being a rag-tag group of misfits, almost lost on several occasions. But after a string of military antics and a convoluted scheme involving chicken feathers and an inflatable woman, the British were eventually defeated despite a last-minute surge, by a score of 89-87.”

Despite spirited discussions bloggers present later described as “eluminating” and “sweet,” the symposium was cut short when differences of opinion among the panelists degenerated into personal insults and name-calling.

While Wikipedia’s “American Inderpendance” page remains available to all site visitors, administrators have suspended additions and further edits to its content due to vandalism.

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