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Prime Minister out-nonsensed by Conservative Wikifiddler

German econ czar in Walesian circlejerk

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Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales still hopes to equip his free online encyclopedia with its very own nonsense filter. But at the moment, the Wikinonsense is alive and well.

Earlier today, the BBC reports, the UK Conservative party admitted that a member of its staff had changed a Wikipedia entry in an apparent attempt to prove that Conservative Leader David Cameron knows more about Titian than does Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

At one point during Wednesday's "Prime Minister's Questions" - a weekly session where the PM spends a half hour taking abuse from members of Parliament - Cameron chastised Brown for a recent anecdote he spun about Titian. Brown had claimed that Titian lived to be 90 years old. But Cameron insisted he died at 86.

Shortly thereafter, a Tory staff member logged on to the encyclopedia anyone can edit and subtracted four years from Titian's Wikideathdate.

When the PM made his Titian claim, Wikipedia had the painter dying at around 90. But after that intervention from Conservative Campaign Headquarters, the site put him in the grave at around 86. Or at least it would have if another unknown Wikifiddler hadn't just added four years to Titian's Wikibirthdate. In the wake of the PMQs, Titian's Wikideath somehow slipped to age 82.

The truth is that Titian's birthdate is unknown. Outside of Wikiland, it's unclear whether he reached 90 or not.

Meanwhile, Slashdot brings word of a classic Wikinonsense circlejerk.

Germany's new economic minister has an amusing name: Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg. And it seems that an unknown Wikifiddler thought it would be even more amusing if he added an extra Wilhelm.

Naturally, when Mr. von und zu Guttenberg was appointed to his new post, several news reporters went to Wikiland for his biography. And that means several newspapers and news sites - including Der Spiegel - incorrectly listed his name as Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Wilhelm Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg.

The extra Wilhelm was soon removed from Wikipedia. But then it was reinstated - with Der Spiegel cited as a source.

We've heard this story before. And we'll hear it again.

Last month, after Wikifiddlers murdered US Senators Edward Kennedy and Robert Byrd, Jimbo Wales ordered the site's IT staff to roll out a new Wikitool designed to mask encyclopedia "vandalism." With so-called "Flagged Revisions," certain edits wouldn't be shown to the public unless they're approved by "trusted editors."

But before the IT staff could act, there was a mini-revolt from the Wikirankandfile, and Wales has since backed off. Many Wikicult members believe that Flagged Revisions will only increase errors by putting control in the hands of fewer (anonymous) editors bent on gaming the system.

So, one way or another, the Wikinonsense is here to stay. Flagged revisions are in place on the German version of Wikipedia. ®

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