How to Beat Wikipedia at Their Own Game


Wikipedia’s standard of proof dictates that all information must be sourced, and not from blogs. Nor can original research be used. Interestingly enough, Wikipedia becomes an incredibly valuable resource because so many pages ignore this rule by supplying original research and local knowledge. For example, this table listing the world’s mountains by prominence was produced by a bunch of mountaineering nerds who sat down and calculated out most of these values. There’s simply no other source out there for such information. Thank you, Wikipedia.

And yet on many other pages, you have editors who will deleted every edit that does not provide a “valid source.” This detracts from Wikipedia’s value. The temptation to be too strict (for non-controversial topics) means that common knowledge and common sense are thrown out the window in the name of verification. Wikipedia is an invaluable source of information in large part because much of the information is original research and local knowledge that cannot be found anywhere else on the internet.

Their policy of not allowing blog posts as valid references falls apart when we consider the fact that this blog post is actually true while this government source is clearly wrong.

Rigidly following the rules means that anyone can find an error in the “official sources,” and permanently insert errors into the Wikipedia pages. And nothing but the use of common sense will be able to reverse the falsehood.

It’s much like how you might have a Math textbook that shows the answers in the back. You swear the answer to 2×5 should be 10, not 100 as the back shows. A good teacher is going to side with you because the “official answer” is clearly not right. A dogmatically rigid teacher will still insist the answer is 100.

You might be thinking that no such teacher exists, and hopefully you’d be right, but the same cannot be said about the editors on Wikipedia. For example, Canada has this completely meaningless variable called the Humidex, which is supposed to tell you what the humidity feels like — it doesn’t.

Those who use common sense like Environment Canada’s chief climatologist will look at the data, and know that 53.4°C (128°F) humidex in Castlegar, BC, is an error. They know that British Columbia has very dry air, so you never get humidex values like that. Plus, looking at other places in the area from that day shows that this was indeed an error that made it into the database. So instead, they will refer to the places with the highest humidex values in Canada as those in Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba.

But not Wikipedia. All that you have to do is source the Environment Canada data for Castlegar, and voilà!  You have just re-written history with a source that can’t be refuted. On Wikipedia, Castlegar is listed as the place with the highest humidex.

When the editors demanding proper sources look at the humidex record on Wikipedia, they conclude that it must be true . Anyone with a little local knowledge or some common sense knows it’s wrong intuitively, but those are not qualities they bestow upon Wikipedia editors, or at least not all of them.

There’s really no way to scrub the false humidex value off the Wikipedia site. They can’t link to this blog because it’s a blog, and thus not reliable, and they can’t point to the articles listing Windsor, Ontario, or Carman, Manitoba, as the record holders because the Environment Canada value for Castlegar is considered a more reliable source. Heck, I’ve even seen instances where someone tried to add a note that the Castlegar record is suspect and unreliable, and within minutes, a Wikipedia editor goes in and reverses the change such as this bogus record remains unchallenged.

This is but one example of Wikipedia kiboshing truth in favour of fiction where the who of the source trumps reason. Wikipedia is a great website, but they could be even better if common sense were more common.

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