Wikipedia OTR entries

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Wikipedia OTR entries

Postby Bhob » Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:28 am

Martin Grams and others are critical of info on Wikipedia because of errors and vandalism. To prove his point, Grams inserted this error:

>>I went on to THE LONE RANGER entry on Wikipedia and changed
the Lone Ranger's orgin to the following: The hero is a Texas Ranger named Reid, who, as the series begins, was living it high on Al Jolson's farm<<

Of course, it cuts both ways: If a team of OTR experts were to insert CORRECT information into Wikipedia pages, then it would become a more reliable source for OTR reference.

The change about "Jolson's farm" was corrected within a matter of hours, as is usually the case with vandalism on Wikipedia. A statistical study of Wikipedia indicates that "the active Wikipedia community rapidly and effectively repairs most damage," in some cases as fast as two minutes: ... y_flow.pdf This is possible because of (a) an archived "page history" displaying any and all changes, (b) a "watchlist" which alerts users instantly to any change, (c) color highlights of changes and (d) the ability of Wikipedia regulars to easily identify and distinguish between authoritative contributors and newcomers who vandalize. There is also the "rv" or "revert" tool in which a single click can turn an entire page back to the way it was before it was vandalized. Thus, there is no permanent harm. Unsourced articles are continually tagged, and many articles have dozens of references, both online and print.

True, a print encyclopedia is more stable, but any information in print can soon become outdated. In 2005, a study by the scientific journal NATURE made a comparison of 42 science articles in Wikipedia and the ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA, discovering 123 mistakes in BRITANNICA and 162 mistakes in Wikipedia.

Continually revised since 1933, BRITANNICA now has more than 500,000 articles. Launched in 2001, Wikipedia now has more than 10,000,000 articles in 253 languages with more than 2,000,000 articles in English. Of this, more than 300 are profiles of OTR people. More than 400 articles (many illustrated) detail OTR programs: ... o_programs Red links in that list indicate OTR articles which are not yet written. Blue links indicate completed or partially completed articles. Blue links indicate articles which could benefit from the expertise and peer review by authoritative OTR contributors.

Bhob @

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Postby MartinGrams » Fri Jun 06, 2008 12:27 am

I personally made the change on the Wikipedia entry to prove a point - the same point NBC National Evening News even did coverage on. While I salute the few that spend their time making sure that entries on Wikipedia are accurate, Wikipedia should not be consulted if one is looking for a reference guide to turn to. I have seen correct info be replaced with wrong info on entries repeatedly and when you check the history of the revisions, some person has usually dedicated themselves to being the moderator of that entry and without being open to the correct facts, continues to replace incorrect facts.

New information is always being discovered and unearthed so facts that appear in dozens of reference books are always subject to correction. Even the greatest authorities on specific subjects of OTR are corrected by "little people" who stumbled upon an archive or contract or letter, press release, script, or other material that sheds new light on history.

Since the posting above suggests I created an act of vandalism, I would like to point out that when I made the silly Al Jolson reference, it was to prove a point on Charlie Summer's OTR Digest, which has about 2,000 readers, that entries on Wikipedia can be revised by [u]anyone[/u]. I had stated very clearly on the OTR Digest that I was going to personally go back on the Wikipedia site and correct the change a few days later, and I was sincere in making that statement. Not everyone gets to read the issues of the OTR Digest every day, so I figured the few days would buy enough time for most of the readers to venture to Wikipedia and see the example for themselves. Anyone who gets the idea or notion after reading the posting above that I was doing this on purpose to many Wikipedia entries need to know that it was a one-time alteration to prove a point.

The subject at hand, explaining why Wikipedia should not be considered a definitive reference guide for research, was a legit reason for the Wikipedia nonsense. Even though two people e-mailed me personally after the issue expressing their dislike for my opinion about Wikipedia, I did receive over 50 e-mails from people congradulating me for standing up on the matter. Many of those e-mails are considered respectable "names" in the hobby, and scholars in their own right. Even though most people would not have been able to go to Wikipedia and see the actual example because someone made the correction quickly, the point was made and understood by most who read the posting on the Digest.

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Re: Wikipedia OTR entries

Postby HankGutstop » Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:49 am

An interesting, but unintentional error, repeated in Wikipedia for a new generation to read & believe, based on something of an OTR urban legend, concerns the British author Jan (Mrs. Miniver) Struther. She was a frequent guest on Information Please. The legend goes that she either quit the show or was kicked off and banned because the used the British publishing title of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" when answering a question, and the British title contained a racial epithet offensive to Americans but, at the time, I guess not to the English. If you've heard the story, you know what I mean. However, I've heard that broadcast and have a copy of it. I just don't remember the date, so I can't go back & listen to it without a lot of searching. The error is that Jan Struther continued to appear on Information Please quite frequently there after, so the whole story of her being "banned" is completely false. Also, when you listen to the notorious broadcast, there is no shocked reaction from either panel or audience when she utters the "bad" word—though with radio, you can't really tell. The reactions might have been raised eyebrows. After hearing her on many broadcasts, it's hard to imagine Jan Struther saying anything offensive, as she was so dainty and ladylike in a very British sort of way, just like her character Mrs. Miniver.

I've wanted to correct this error on Wikipedia, but I have to get all the facts together, including the date of the "offending" broadcast, and then the dates of the shows she appeared on afterwards. It will just take some searching on my part and I've been too lazy to do it.

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Re: Wikipedia OTR entries

Postby Dragon Chaser » Wed Oct 07, 2009 7:58 pm

I know wikipedia shouldn't be considered as all true or definitive but it is an amazing internet site and utility for information and I support it whole heartedly.

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Re: Wikipedia OTR entries

Postby Monsterwax » Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:35 pm

Okay, now you have us all wondering, what was the UK "offensive" title for ten little Indians? Was it "redskins"? Or something worse? (We're all adults here, we can handle it.) Some activists claim "red skins" is racists, but it's still used for a football team, so perhaps the verdict is still out. But that attack on "red skins" is pretty recent. I have a hard time thinking an old time radio show audience, during the time of Eisenhower (or earlier) would have reacted badly to it.

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Re: Wikipedia OTR entries

Postby Lou » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:37 pm

This article describes the original name, as well as the changes.
Note the original name was supposedly based on a location (a fictional island) rather than an ethnic group:

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Re: Wikipedia OTR entries

Postby WaltP » Sat Feb 27, 2010 4:30 pm

I'm not sure what the hubbub is about Wikipedia. Martin's error "was corrected in a matter of hours." If a well researched book somehow had that same error, when would it have been corrected? We all know research books contain some errors. That's how many errors are spread -- original erroneous statements are printed, which makes them true somehow. At least with Wikipedia the errors known errors are corrected quickly. In the case of vandalism, there seems to be a small window of time for erroneous information to be seen.

As an example, in Jay Hickerson's "Ultimate History", how many entries have been corrected over time from erroneous information? How long was that incorrect information circulated? And if you didn't update your copy with the incremental updates or get the "new Revised" edition, isn't that error still being propagated?

Wiki also allows new information to be disseminated quickly. I had new information for the War of the Worlds entry and was able to add it. Who knows when, or even if, some book gets published with that information? If we waited for "the book", did the author even ran across some obscure piece of info because he just didn't ask the right question? And when is the book going to be published? And how many copies are sold/read?

I'm not saying Wiki should be seen as the last word by any means, but I'm not sure it deserves the bad rap just because it's open source. After all, Windows is closed source and is always being corrected because of design flaws, attacked by viruses, etc. If a vandal inside the company adds bad code on purpose, there's a good chance it will get shipped. Linux on the other hand is open source. What's the Linux/Windows virus ratio? Why does Linux seem to be more stable? Because bad code is weeded out much more quickly because of many eyes watching the process.

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