Why You Shouldn’t Trust Content on Wikipedia

by James Bailey on August 21, 2020

Articles on Wikipedia are unreliable at best and potentially fake!

Fake New Wikipedia

This has been an interesting blog post to write, though not one that I intended to write, in fact, quite the opposite.

I simply love beekeeping and having done this since childhood I wanted to find a new media to share my knowledge and experience. Having just nearly bought a lookalike Wikipedia site, I decided that it would be better to contribute directly to the original source of information, Wikipedia.org. Having signed up for an account earlier this year and have already made a few minor edits, I thought now was the time to really start contributing. This was going to be fun, beekeeping 201 here I come!

Now, I know that there is no SEO or traffic benefit to contributing to Wikipedia, so writing promotional is not going against the Wiki rules, it also won’t help any traffic or search engine rankings. But this was not my reason for wanting to be an editor. I simply wanted to help ensure that the information posted about beekeeping and the environment was in line with today’s up to date thinking and current best practices, all supported and referenced by the third party published literature. This was going to be great.

How wrong could I be?

I named my account NaturalApiary (in full disclosure of who I was). My biggest mistake, naming your account after yourself or company is not permitted, yet this didn’t stop my first edits being published. In fact, my first edit of changing some factually incorrect information was approved with no corrections or comments, happy days 😊.

Then came my second mistake. With the honest intention of preventing fraudulent copycat websites of Natural Apiary deceiving the honest public, I created a Natural Apiary page based on the content and form other company pages already published on Wikipedia.

The content was factual and very non-promotional and extremely brief. This was my first-page creation on Wikipedia.org.

Now I take full responsibility for the information that I create or edit… yet this was a rookie mistake. The page was submitted for review and I fully expected comments that required me to make changes or simply be told that this page could not be published, because I was connected to it… this would understand as I’m just learning.

What happened shocked me!

I was given a sitewide ban with no expiry date. “Your account has been blocked indefinitely” In short, a lifetime ban unless it could get it overturned.

“Your account has been blocked indefinitely from editing because of the following problems: the account has been used for advertising or promotion, which is contrary to the purpose of Wikipedia, and your username indicates that the account represents a business or other organisation or group or a web site, which is against the username policy.”  (Wiki - Salvio)

OK… rookie error, writing about yourself in the third person. I really wanted to have this block overturned, so I explained why creates this page.

“I am trying to publish our genuine company information, with some personal history. This page created was to help prevent fraud… Our approach was to look at many other company profiles on this site and use them as a template. I don’t what to promote products, so as you can see there is no product or sales copy. If you need us to make edits the page or change our username, I will be obliged. Please me with some provide steer.”

“No, we aren't interested in having you do this. If this is your only goal, this is the end of the line. If you wish to write about subject areas for which you have no conflict of interest, follow the instructions above.” (Wiki  - Yamla)

Now, this got to me, “to write about subject areas for which you have no conflict of interest”. My main interest is beekeeping, this has been my interest and works for a very long time, this is what I know a breath. I like writing about beekeeping.

“… you won't be unblocked to edit beekeeping... at least for six months if not a year… edit other topics areas, demonstrating you understand how things work here, then, you might later be permitted to indirectly contribute to beekeeping.”  (Wiki - 331dot)

I personally think that if you write on other subjects that you have limited knowledge, that would be misleading and wrong.

If Wikipedia does permit those with experience and knowledge to write on comment on their professional subjects due to conflict of interest, then who is writing on those subjects?

Question? Who fact checks the content if all professionals would violate this term and have a conflict of interest? Or is it only hobbyist that can write about subjects on Wikipedia?

In truth Yes, unless you hide your identity!

I love this one, this came from Wiki’s, ‘Boing! said Zebedee’… nothing like a jack-in-the-box to bounce around the point “that's not actually an unblock request” – yes it is, if you read the previous discussion on the block you have chosen to comment on because it is framing the justification for the unblock!

“Wikipedia's coverage of topics is well respected… mostly not written by specialists, but by people with general knowledge. Medical professionals who provide contributions to developing medical articles... Such, start off rough. But there are big potential pitfalls when it comes to expert contributions because it is easy for experts to fall foul of Wikipedia's Conflict of Interest policy”(Wiki - Boing! said, Zebedee’)

My point exactly, professional views are not permitted due to this policy, not written by professionals only by people with general knowledge.

Wikipedia has no structure with which to determine whether an editor is a subject-matter expert. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Expert_editors)

This clause makes it impossible to know if the information posted is factual or fictional. “What matters in Wikipedia is what you do, not who you are.” It would stand to reason that a surgeon performs surgery. Yet this clause makes a student’s high school essay equal to that of a resident surgeon or consultant. I personally would only want to read the contribution from the surgeon or consultant.

As this is the case, content on Wikipedia should be considered weak at best.

This now makes me very sceptical of the quality and correctness of the content that is published on Wikipedia.org  And it is very clear that if you wish to make a meaningful impact in your specialism, it is not permitted Wikipedia if you are a professional.

… And that's my problem arose, by writing about beekeeping.

I also used NaturalApiary as the username in Full Disclosure or the source, give credence to any edit, and not to hide behind a fictional name.

“…many users use a pseudonym for a good reason, such as privacy issues, fear of government surveillance.” (Wiki - 331dot). The use of a pseudonym for fear of government surveillance is really stretching. Keeping this thread to a topic, that is my ban in on the topic of beekeeping. I can assure you that the government is not interested in my view of beekeeping.

If you what to discuss culture, then you have the right under freedom of speech, but for that, you have any impact you would need context, which would only come if the person hiding by a pseudonym had proof, as said information on this site is a simple view of general knowledge which can be edited by anyone. This is would not contribute to a pollical stand, but a vanilla view of the topic and unlikely to be published by the approving editors. No need for the government to step in hear. But of this, I have no interest. I’m an environmentalist and a beekeeper by profession.

“How would you feel if the page about Walmart could be written by Walmart” (Wiki - CaptainEek)

Well, I would love it if Walmart pages were written by Walmart, at least we would read the true nature of Walmart’s message, rather than that of a fictional character that’s unhappy with a purchase from one of their stores. Likewise, I would prefer Christian Bale to write about him, rather than some teenager that watched the American Psycho and didn’t understand the 1990’s corporate culture and feared Patrick Bateman.

However, “Wikipedia actually prefers that editors have little if any connection to what they are editing about” (Wiki - 331dot). “we prefer that people do not write about things closely related to them.” (Wiki - CaptainEek)

What?! “Wikipedia actually prefers that editors have little if any connection to what they are editing about”, this makes the information on this site very questionable. If this is the preferred practice, then maybe I should write about the rise and fall the Japanese Emperor based on my experience of The Man In The High Castle.

In not going to lie to you or hide behind and fictional name. I am James Bailey and I will only write on topics that I would consider myself to be informed, i.e. beekeeping.

“We are very strict about that kind of thing because it reflects on how reliable and trustworthy, we are”.  (Wiki - CaptainEek). So Wikipedia is very strict about writing to the topic you know little about, so how does this make the content trustworthy?

Every comment, edit or article needs to be reliable and trustworthy and should be backed by evidence, no matter who writes it. Any article written by someone with knowledge of the topic would be more credible than if it were written by someone with only a tangential understanding.

Bringing this back to the topic, my page on beekeeping was based on references, information, and style from of other pages on this site, and by someone with knowledge of the topic. Yet instead of editing it or providing any useful feedback to a newbie, I was given a site-wide block with “no expiry set”.

This was simply because my username indicated that the account represented me, which is against the username policy. So I asked on two accounts for my user name to be changed, but these were rejected too and I was reminded of Wikipedia agenda that content should only be written by amateurs with fake names, and that are scared the government will find out that they don’t know what they are talking about.

“We want to help you, but you have to meet us halfway. You had criticized people using pseudonyms” (Wiki - 331dot)

So, here is my solution:

“I mean no disrespect all those that write on Wikipedia that has something to hide, nor to those that don’t but simply enjoy the anonymity of fictional names. With the need to actually do some beekeeping this week, I propose I will go with the username “Spike the Bee”, based on the “Disney animated shorts released during the 1950s”. I will write and edit on all subjects excluding “beekeeping”, “myself” or any topics that “I have any professional or personal interest, fictional or nonfictional”. All comments by myself AKA Spike the Bee, will be supported and referenced by independent articles already published, peer viewed or not. I will not hold any direct responsibility or accountability for the content of those supporting articles, but “Spike the Bee” will be the named persona to be contacted regarding any and all articles written commented on by me on Wikipedia. Should anyone write, comment, edit anything about me, my companies, profession or topics that I may or may not loosely or subjectively be associated with, myself nor Spike the Bee will be not held accountable or responsible for but will hold the right to objectively challenge and change non-factual information. I will adhere to all T&Cs of Wikipedia editing” (James Bailey)

The result, my disclaimer worked

“I have renamed your account from NaturalApiary, and someone else will review your request.” (Wiki - 331dot)

“Accept reason: With the change in username, and this appeal, I have decided to accept your request… strictly forbidden from including links to your own website and promotional editing will result in a more permanent block. But otherwise, glad to have you here to help improve our encyclopedia! Sorry your introduction to Wikipedia was so rough :) (CaptainEek)”

Yes, my page about Natural Apiary had two links, one to the company page, and one to Modern Living TV, nothing compared to other company pages. And I only mention that Natural Apiary was beekeeping supply business and not about natural beekeeping.

A result is a result, I can edit with a fake name if it is not beekeeping.

Is does Wikipedia have any value?

Yes, Wikipedia does have a great value and has a massive contribution to online information of a large range of topics. The fact that content on the site is referenced and reviewed before it is published gives is this site value.

But the information is still 101 for beginners because it is difficult for professionals to edit on their qualified topics because they will always violate the conflict of ‘conflict of interest’ clause.

“Content cannot be edited by professionals due to the ‘conflict of interest’ cause”. (Wikipedia 2020).

Nor is anyone truly accountable for the content they write or the edit, as they are all required to use pseudonyms, “as some editors are in countries like Russia, Iran, and China (just as examples) that fear what their governments will do to them if they see their edits”. (Wiki - 331dot)

But it is a big No, if you want an informed view on a topic created by an expert of that topic and from a source that can be trusted, traced, and has an open agenda.

So, if you want to learn about a subject or talk about a subject with professional authority, you have no choice but to use peer-reviewed articles, accredited books, specialist forums or scientific research from universities. 

For me, Wikipedia is great if you want a quick overview of a topic, however, to gain a more accurate understanding of that topic, further research and checking their references is strongly recommended. Just remember that the information on Wikipedia is not theirs and the editor of the content is always unknown, which is why Wikipedia can’t legally charge for it.

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