Article: 'Wikipedia is worthless and damaging'

You only need to read a few climate entries on Wikipedia to know this Spiked Online article rings true

We have watched how people like Wikipedia climate fiddler William Connolley rides shotgun on just about any climate related article on that website. As of a year ago Mr. Connolley has edited 5428 Wikipedia articles, almost all on climate and his zealotry earned him a suspension and banning for certain types of articles.  So, this Spiked-Online article, aptly titled, isn’t much of a surprise to WUWT readers.

Wikipedia: where truth dies online

Run by cliquish, censorious editors and open to pranks and vandalism, Wikipedia is worthless and damaging. 29 April 2014

A man knocks at your door. You answer and he tells you he is an encyclopaedia salesman.

‘I have the largest and most comprehensive encyclopaedia the world has ever seen’, he says.

‘Tell me about it!’

‘It has more editors and more entries than any other encyclopaedia ever. Most of the contributors are anonymous and no entry is ever finished. It is constantly changing. Any entry may be different each time you go back to it. Celebrities and companies pay PR agencies to edit entries. Controversial topics are often the subject of edit wars that can go on for years and involve scores of editors. Pranksters and jokers may change entries and insert bogus facts. Whole entries about events that never happened may be created. Other entries will disappear without notice. Experts may be banned from editing subjects that they are leading authorities on, because they are cited as primary sources. University academics and teachers warn their students to exercise extreme caution when using it. Nothing in it can be relied on. You will never know whether anything you read in it is true or not. Are you interested?’

‘I’ll think about it’, you say, and close the door.

News that civil servants in Whitehall hacked the Wikipedia entry for the Hillsborough disaster and inserted gratuitous insults about the men and women who died in the worst football-ground disaster in British history was greeted with predictable anger last week. This anger was directed at the anonymous vandals who posted the edits, rather than the organisation and website that facilitated the defamation. But, it must be said, Wikipedia is not blameless in this. It allows misinformation to flourish and provides it with a cloak of respectability. It is under-resourced and is unable to police itself adequately.

Wikipedia was launched in January 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger but was predated by an earlier Wales/Sanger project, Nupedia, also a free online encyclopaedia, but one that was written and peer-reviewed by experts. In its three-year life, Nupedia only produced 25 articles, with a further 74 in progress when it was shut down. The lesson learned from the Nupedia experiment was that this protracted process with meagre output would never produce a comprehensive and up-to-date online encyclopaedia. The experts and peer reviews would have to go.

Wikipedia has been a massive success but has always had immense flaws, the greatest one being that nothing it publishes can be trusted. This, you might think, is a pretty big flaw. There are over 21million editors with varying degrees of competence and honesty. Rogue editors abound and do not restrict themselves to supposedly controversial topics, as the recently discovered Hillsborough example demonstrates.

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But to be fair, Connelley only did it to save our planet. Just like Greenpeace, when it lied about the Brent Spar.


Over the top. I find Wikipedia an almost entirely reliable source of info. True, it can be temporarily hi-jacked by people with agendas, but in my view equilibrium is almost always restored.


I suppose it has to do with the topic, but I agree with Andrew that most topics tend to return to a factual basis over time. Certainly, the ones I have had any participation in were heavily reviewed in a reliable fashion. Those topics were mostly in history, so not much controversy there. Sadly, as is pointed out, other topics tend to take grief at times.


Wikipedia: where truth goes to die


There are subjects where i will use Wikipedia as a casual source. I’ve even edited a few articles for which I had some valuable information. However, environmental, energy and other ‘controversial’ subjects, including almost any large business, is the sandbox of misanthropes, tinhatters and other folks with emotional immaturities that largely serve to dilute any potential value the entity may bring. Their supposed rules are borderline pointless; an incorrect free magazine article by a ‘journalist’ is given more credence than a 1st person expert simply because it was ‘published’!
I have seen several posts/replies lately here on WUWT using links to Wiki, regardless of the tone of the particular article linked should be automatically removed. Wiki is worse than useless, it is active malfeasance. It has 0 credibility.

This coming from a wordpress blog? I dunno if I really want to put in the time and spend the libraries money to bring in other sources just to read something that is theory anyway…so the question is does it matter? I would say yes if you can prove their citations are intentionally in error..but would not go as far to attack and belittle people…if it is wrong you can fix it.

Believe nothing – NOTHING – read or heard without verifying it oneself unless it Weltanschauung Congruent. Weltanschauung building begins in elementary school and every brick is laid on that foundation, course by course, and a half-baked course will crumble under weighty ideas like AGW or EMP or ID.

Leo Morgan

A quote I read: “Teachers say not to rely on Wikipedia because they’re jealous it didn’t exist when they were at school”.
I’ve found it highly useful despite it’s faults, far more so than Britannica ever was.


Sure, it’s successful, but as entertainment.
Wikipedia is to truth as American Idol is to singing.


But Wikipedia says that the science is settled re: CAGW. So Connolley is just doing his best to help all of us.


I have found some of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen on there….
If you want what the majority believes…that’s the place to go


I wouldn’t describe Wikipedia as worthless, but I would never use it as a reference and I rapidly begin to lose trust in anyone who does use a Wikipedia page as a reference during a discussion, presentation or such like.
The references linked at the bottom of the articles are often reliable enough though, so as a ‘first pass’ Wikipedia has it’s use.
True enough though anything written about gullible warming is generally useful as a cat flap in an elephant farm; I edited an article once (including references) and within a day it was back to sky is falling form.


“if it is wrong you can fix it.”
Guess again.
What do you think all those little padlocks mean?
You’ll find them on almost anything related to Irritable Climate Syndrome.

Eustace Cranch

I agree that “worthless” is over the top. Wikipedia is a great, fast starting point. I always cross-reference and verify elsewhere after that.

I had an editor status on Wikipedia at one time. Mostly I just made grammatical corrections, thinking it would be appreciated. Once in a while I added a pertinent fact.
Then I found out that a guy was doing like Connolley – trolling certain articles and changing them, as soon as someone posted anything. It was on what is now called a “controversial subject.” He was making sure that only one side of the controversy was being depicted.
I posted a correction to some complete falsehood, complete with footnotes to peer reviewed papers. Peer reviewed papers? Peer reviewed papers? We don’t need no stinkin’ peer reviewed papers!! He edited it ALL out and put the original lie back in. Others in my circle kept trying to get the OTHER side of the story into it, and he kept wiping out entire sections and putting his side back in.
Sound familiar?
Someone found out his name – beyond the user name.
Then here is what happened:
I wrote to the editorial staff and complained about him, referring to his name. Nothing more, just his name. It was a name shared by probably 40,000 other people on the planet, if not more.
I was immediately advised that I was henceforth and forever BANNED from EVER editing on Wikipedia again. No explanation, no nada.
They were not INTERESTED in what HIS actions had been. As soon as I used his name, their minds went blank on what I had actually SAID.
I requested some explanation. It took a while, but it turned out that I had broken some UNSPOKEN RULE to not reveal other people’s “personal information.”
Someone’s NAME – alone – is personal information?????????
No. Personal information is what is attached to that name, not the name itself.
No warnings. No fixed-length bans like Connolley got. This was instant and FOREVER. As in NEVER. No avenues of appeal were presented to me. I had to search far and wide to find those.
Anyway, long story short, Ifinally was allowed to argue my case with a higher editor, and over a period of three weeks or so, of increasing frustration with their obtuseness, they said they would basically suspend me for a period of time and then have me on probation for some longer period of time.
I chose to tell them to go to hell.
I am a GOOD man to have contributing to Wikipedia. I didn’t need that f-ing abuse from them, and I have never contributed again – even though my suspension and probation are now long since over.
I will NEVER contribute again. I know a LOT about a LOT. And I never edited anything in without vetting it myself first. They don’t deserve me.
Screw ’em!

Joe Public

WikiP’s contentious stuff is but a small proportion of its content.
Even peer-reviewed papers cannot necessarily be trusted.


Tell me about it. I must have posted twenty items about renewable intermittence on Wiki, many years ago, only for them to be whittled down to nothing or deleted completely.
According to Wiki, wind power is not intermittent, and I was eventually banned as a site ‘vandal’ for claiming that it was.


To be honest when it comes to climate science I have always found it to reflect the most current up to date thinking in the field. I wouldn’t have thought that was a bad thing.

So what this is telling me is that Wikipedia seems to emply the same methodology of authoring as did The Bible.

Patrick B

In my experience, Wikipedia ranges from good to extraordinarily good on most technical topics and topics not involved in the culture/PC wars. But a topic like climate change is not going to get good treatment – it will be slanted heavily in the leftist/socialist direction in Wikipedia.


Wikipedia tends to be quite good for obscure, non-controversial subjects. But even here you have to be careful, as there is no quality control. When at High School I remember that Encyclopaedia Britannica had biases of it’s own, especially when dealing with subjects outside of the mainstream. The best way to really learn about a subject is to read the original articles, or at least a summary by somebody sympathetic to the subject
One inconsistency of Wikipedia I found recently. The article on “Climatology” is listed under The following is quite a fair description of the subject:-

This modern field of study is regarded as a branch of the atmospheric sciences and a subfield of physical geography.

Whether an “ology” or a “science”, it is very much an applied subject that draws on many other subjects.

Ed Brown

ShrNfr says:
April 29, 2014 at 11:20 am
“Those topics were mostly in history, so not much controversy there…”
“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

Tom G(ologist)

It’s an acceptable place to start some basic research on casual topics, but should not be relied on under any circumstances for technical (science or engineering) issues. I have been in court cases in which my opposition experts cited Wikipedia as the source of information which supported their expert opinions. Our counsel tore them new orifices and the judge agreed – not a source of reliable information.

@Joe Public at 12:00 pm:
“Even peer-reviewed papers cannot necessarily be trusted.”
Point taken. However, if they ARE peer-reviewed, they should have every right to at least be presented.

It is not a “pretty big” flaw, it is fatal! Sadly, the first hit on a search is usually them which indicates that a lot of people are using them. Or they are buying the place in line from Google.
I may go to Wiki for a quick peak. But I do not cite them except on very rare occasions.


“It is under-resourced and is unable to police itself adequately.”
That’s not the reason.
Connelley should have been jumped on from a great height and had his admin rights removed FOR LIFE, a 6m ban from any editing of any subject and been kept a close eye on afterwards.
Our Jimmy is complicit with the zealotry that goes on. He probably thinks aiding and abetting it is just ‘doing his bit for the cause’.
Misguided nobel [sic] cause corruption, like the rest.

@Mike at 12:07 pm:
“So what this is telling me is that Wikipedia seems to emply the same methodology of authoring as did The Bible.”
This got a laugh out of me.
You must have heard how many Connolleys they had at the Council of Nicea.
St. Valentine Connolley is even reputed to have thrown a haymaker at Arius. (Yeah, THAT St. Valentine… same guy. He later had a good PR manager.) Arius’ party got none of its amendments through… Which is why we’ve had the form of Christianity that we’ve had.


At my kids’ high school, the students are warned repeatedly that Wikipedia is not a valid reference source for any papers. Despite this, one boy in my daughter’s class repeatedly used Wikipedia because it was so easy. Knowing this and annoyed by this, one of my daughter’s friends set the boy up. Because he also did things last minute, the day before a paper was due, she edited all the Wikipedia entries relevant to his paper, putting in ridiculous falsehoods. Sure enough, that night, he did his research for the paper…


ShrNfr says:
April 29, 2014 at 11:20 am
I suppose it has to do with the topic, but I agree with Andrew that most topics tend to return to a factual basis over time. Certainly, the ones I have had any participation in were heavily reviewed in a reliable fashion. Those topics were mostly in history, so not much controversy there. Sadly, as is pointed out, other topics tend to take grief at times.
Those who control history control the present. Try reading Wikipedia articles to do with Islamic history, Balkans history, the Crusades, European colonialism, Chinese history etc. I haven’t checked the Armenian Genocide but no doubt that one is highly contentious as well.
For many history articles, including some in the history of science, it is hard to find articles untainted, if not completely warped, by the biases of supposedly NPOV editors. I’ve only edited three articles, but in two cases, it was to correct egregious errors, one concerning the history of the Turbot War on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks (1995, Canada vs. Spain and Portugal) and one about a female botanist and entomologist. Just checked back and noted that the turbot war article apparently has ‘multiple issues”. I doubt I’ll bother with it again.


Simon says:
April 29, 2014 at 12:06 pm
To be honest when it comes to climate science I have always found it to reflect the most current up to date thinking in the field. I wouldn’t have thought that was a bad thing.
No. It’s ONE SIDE of the most current up to date thinking in the field.


dont confuse being up to date with being unbiased or accurate.

It’s not only climate where Wiki causes damage; their articles on fluoridation and much of science and history are ignorant nonsense. Hopefully there will be a challenge to Wiki.

Frederick Michael

No disagreement. However, my experience with Wikipedia on purely mathematical subjects has been uniformly positive. Of course, this could change. That’s the problem.

Read what those Wikipedia fools have to say about Industrial Wind Turbines, talk about one-sided. They are an opinion blog only….


Andrew says:
April 29, 2014 at 11:15 am
Over the top. I find Wikipedia an almost entirely reliable source of info. True, it can be temporarily hi-jacked by people with agendas, but in my view equilibrium is almost always restored.
No, it has been PERMANENTLY hi-jacked by people with agendas. That will only change when those people change their agendas, since the head honcho shares that agenda.
For non controversial stuff like standard chemistry it is a useful quick reference.
I generally use it as source for external references and virtually never link to it.

Jim S

Wiki is not that bad. It’s like a news story. You don’t just read a news story written by one news organization, do you? No. You read several, and form your own opinion. No single-source for anything should be seen as authoritative. It’s pretty easy to tell when a subject is controversial. You can’t child-proof the world.


as a repository of DEFINITIVE knowledge – Wiki is pretty poor! But as a general collection of knowledge it’s not too bad. It has to be read the same way as any media item/article – i.e. with complete scepticism and followed by judicial checking and cross referencing before use of any contents by the reader!


Latitude says:
I have found some of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen on there….
If you want what the majority believes…that’s the place to go
Wikipedia is more of an opinion poll than an academic reference.


Google used to artificially place Wikipedia results on top as a quick and reliable way of dealing with page fraud. Now their algorithms do a much better job of finding and presenting topic-specific specialty sources so I don’t waste time reading Wikipedia and trying to figure out how reliable the content is.

Bob Rogers

I like Wikipedia as a source of sources when starting research.
It’s important to realize that the goal of Wikipedia is to present what people write about a subject, not present facts about a subject.


Come on now. Everyone knows Wikipedia is the place where you find track listings for your favorite old record albums. It’s a great resource to look up capital cities, check for celeb birth dates, learn the scientific name for honey badgers, etc. But only an idiot would look for anything more than that. I once did an experiment. I’d noticed that the entry for “Fascism” seemed to look different every time I looked at it. So I started checking it every Monday morning for a couple months. It was shocking how often that page was completely rewritten. The mumbo-jumbo that those yahoos continued to come up with was simply staggering. Wikipedia is often nothing more than a bunch of self-indulgent twits with way too much time on their hands, and way too much worthless education.

Ed Brown

I find Wikipedia quite valuable…for crossword puzzles…but often not as helpful as my fifty-three year old Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary.


So what is a reliable source of information, NYT, Guardian, Media Matters, peer-reviewed journals, local gossip? I’m not sure there are any truly reliable sources of information out there, at least ones that are easy to access. Everyone has some bias or hidden agendas. That’s why we should maintain a healthy level of skepticism and fact check all sources of information before swallowing it wholesale.


Isn’t part of Wikipedia’s problem is the anonymity of editing the materials? should would be editors provide their real names and verified before being accepted as an editor? And that they should use their real names anytime they edit?


Wikipedia is perfectly fine…
as long as there is no need for accuracy


Wikipedia is useful to learn the NPOV worldview.
After finding new information, I check back on the wikipedia to see what the NPOV says about it. Often, I find silence. Like on the private life of Karl Marx. And that’s interesting.

Adam Smith

Maybe Wikipedia should get a massive injection of funding from the Koch brothers, along with editorial control over the content. If they don’t do it, a guy like George Soros eventually will.

Gary says: April 29, 2014 at 12:53 pm “[ … ] and way too much worthless education.”
LOL, did you learn that on the Wikipedia, and how much worthwhile education have you?


Steve Garcia – I wasn’t an editor, but what you say sounds familiar. I grew up in the same town as Jon Stewart. (I was older, didn’t know him.) Stewart’s wikipedia entry said that Stewart faced strong anti-semitism in town and at school because it was a WASP-y area. Balderdash, I thought, the town had a 10% Jewish population, many of my friends at school and in my neighborhood were Jewish, and anti-semitism was rarely seen or spoken. So I corrected the entry. But someone immediately reverted it, claiming their citation proved it. I looked at the citation, an interview, it just had Stewart making some jokey comments about his childhood, no mention of anti-semitism. I corrected the article again, it immediately got reverted by someone else. I didn’t care that much, so I let it go.
I do find Wikipedia useful for many things, but any topic that touches on our Secular Religion – feminism, climate change, racism, ‘income inequality’ – is probably going to be useless. Except perhaps as a window on such thinking, though I see enough of that elsewhere.


Most on-line stuff, be it Wiki or Fly Base or Climate sites, are okay if you have some judgement and a BS detector. Students usually have neither, which is why we really discourage the Web as a source for their work and projects.
But I can’t tell you how many of my power point slides grabbed just before a lecture are from the web.