Someone has set up a bot on Twitter that does nothing but tweet out Wikipedia titles that could be sung to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song.
Today I learned that Wikipedia has an entry devoted to nothing but animal-related conspiracy theories centering around Israel.
For example, the entry notes that in 2010 a series of shark attacks off the coast of the South Sinai were alleged to be Israeli acts of aggression,
Following the attacks, in an interview on Tawfik Okasha’s popular but controversial Egypt Today television show, a Captain Mustafa Ismail, introduced as “a famous diver,” alleged that the GPS tracking device found on one of the sharks was in fact a “guiding device” planted by Israeli agents. Prompted in a television interview for comments, the governor of South Sinai, Mohammad Abdul Fadhil Shousha, initially said: “What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark [in the sea] to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question. But it needs time to confirm.” The Israeli foreign ministry, in response, suggested that Shousha had seen “Jaws one time too many.” The governor later dismissed the event as being connected to Israel.
Okay, some crazy guy with a TV show spouts conspiracy theories. In America, we call that Glenn Beck. But in 2008, the official Palestinian news agency accused Israel of employing “supernatural rats” to drive Arab residents from the Old City of Jerusalem,
In July 2008, the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, accused Israel of using “supernatural rats” that “can even chase away Arab cats” to encourage Arab residents of the Old City of Jerusalem to flee in panic. “Over the past two months, dozens of settlers come to the alleyways and streets of the Old City carrying iron cages full of rats,” Wafa claimed. “They release the rats, which find shelter in open sewage systems.” Jerusalem Municipality spokesman Gidi Schmerling rejected the report as “pure fiction.”
Okay, then. In America we would never believe this sort of nonsense. Rather, in this country it is Bill Belichick who uses the supernatural rats to spy on visiting teams.
Personally, I think it is awesome that Wikipedia has an entry that simply lists fictional diseases. But it is a bit odd given other things that Wikipedians decide are not noteworthy enough to have their own page, that a list of fictional diseases makes the cut.
The entirety of the English version of Wikipedia is in there, minus the images. There are also parental controls built-in to shield children from adult-oriented content.
I was skeptical even after reading various positive reviews, but after playing around with mine for a couple weeks I’m very impressed. The main drawback to the device is that in order for it to last as long as possible on just the AAA batteries as well as (I assume) to hold down costs, there’s no backlight. This is not something you’re going to be using in a room that isn’t already well-lit.
But beyond that limitation, the touchscreen keyboard works great for searching and navigating through Wikipedia. In fact, I really had to make a conscious effort to put the thing away rather than spend hours lost in exploring different topics.
The only other limitation is the frequency of updates to the WikiReader database. The database itself is stored on a MicroSD card, and is updated quarterly. You can either download the database for free from Wikireader and then copy the update to the MicroSD card, or order a subscription for $29/2 updates and receive a new MicroSD card in the mail that just needs to be popped in to the device.
That does mean that the WikiReader is at times going to be up to 3 months out-of-date, but at least for me that’s also an acceptable tradeoff to have that much information always at your fingertips.
But the real test was handing this to my 7-year-old son and having him use it. It took him about 5 minutes before he was reading aloud entries on dinosaurs and sharks to me. Very cool.
The controversial anti-cult activist Rick Ross has an overview of The Register’s article profiling how Wikipedia editor Jossi Fresco has allegedly used his position to shape the treatment of Maharaji/Prem Rawat on Wikipedia. As Ross write,
Jossi Fresco has worked for Prem Rewat, though he is rather vague about his current job, which seems to include using Wikipedia to promote his guru.
Jossi not only has used his editor’ position to stiffle criticism of Prem Rawat, but has also more generally manipulated Wikipedia entries on the subject of cults and related topics. Jossi’s efforts have at times included the Wikipedia page about me (Rick Ross), creator of CultNews.
But here is the real kicker.
If anyone thinks that Jossi Fresco’s actions at Wikipedia represent a “conflict of interest” what can be done?
Well, complaints would likely go to Wikipedia’s “Conflict of Interest Noticeboard.”
But don’t be shocked if you receive something less than a “fair shake” at this Internet location.
After all, Jossi Fresco created this board.
What is interesting about Wikipedia is that on the one hand it is roundly criticized on the one hand for being an encyclopedia that pretty much anyone can edit. But on the other hand, the reality is that only a very small number of users contribute most of Wikipedia’s edits, and those users collectively appear to form a group that is every bit as subject to capture by special interests as any other media outlet.
WikiDumper is a blog that collects the best Wikipedia entries that are on the verge of being deleted from Wikipedia, typically because the topics are obscure or pointless (such as a list of animal sounds).
The blog is worth following if only for highlighting the bizarre corners of human thought. For example, if I hadn’t been reading WikiDumper, I’d have probably never heard about 9/11 uber-conspiracy theory, the Hologram Theory.
The Hologram Theory claims,
…that south tower (WTC2) was not hit by a large Boeing 767-200 (flight UA175) but by a USAF cruise missile or drone with a large holographic cloak around it that made it look like a flight UA175, i.e. a flying deception.
The proponents of the theory go to great lengths to imagine some secret, as-yet-unknown holographic technology that could accomplish this, though if it really were a missile camouflaged by holography, I’m betting its the fault of our reptilian alien overlords.
The amusing thing is that more “respectable” conspiracy theorists are upset that “fringe” conspiracy theories like the Hologram Theory make the run-of-the-mill Bush/The Jews/Trilateral Commission/Fill-In-The-Blank conspiracies look even nuttier than normal.