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Wikipedia in British schools, Hitler's Downfall meme, and more

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By Sage Ross

American English tips British teachers off to Wikipedia plagiarists

In "Schoolchildren told to avoid Wikipedia", by Graeme Paton, The Daily Telegraph reports that British schoolteachers have been warned to watch students' written work for tell-tale differences between American and British English as signs that pupils may have copied material from Wikipedia and other online sources.

Despite the headline (and a similar one from The Daily Mail, "[Pupils should use Google and Yahoo! for coursework but not Wikipedia, says exams watchdog]"), the recent students' guide to plagiarism produced by England's Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator gives what Wikimedia UK president Mike Peel describes as "some really good advice on using Wikipedia as a starting point for research - essentially the same advice as Wikipedia gives."

Hitler's Downfall, FAC edition

A Wikipedia-themed Hitler's Downfall parody video, "World War Wiki" drew the attention of some Wikipedians recently. It is one of many similar videos in a relatively enduring meme that uses humorous subtitles for a pivotal scene in the German film Der Untergang. In this version, Hitler expresses frustration with his failed attempt to put an article through the Featured Article Candidates (FAC) process; Wikipedians have been discussing it on the FAC talk page.

Patent citations of Wikipedia still rising

On his blog The Patent Librarian's Notebook, Michael White reports that citations of Wikipedia in U.S. patents numbered 809 in 2009, a 59% increase over the previous year (see previous Signpost coverage). Patent examiners have been barred from citing Wikipedia since 2006.

WorldNetDaily founder criticizes Wales, Wikipedia

In response to a recent Wall Street Journal editorial about online civility by Jimmy Wales and Andrew Weckerle, Joseph Farah [ criticizes Wales] for "[presiding] over what may be the biggest and most blatant example of systematic, carefree and reckless defamation in the history of the world": Wikipedia. Farah, editor-in-chief of conservative news website WorldNetDaily, has been subject to insulting vandalism on Wikipedia; WorldNetDaily has frequently been critical of Wikipedia as well.


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  • Regarding the plagiarism article, it could work in some cases, but in others the article is written in British English, or another form of it, so could be less difficult to spot. Majorly talk 12:37, 12 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • When I was in high school all of my friends would copy and paste from wikipedia. The teachers could tell immediately but did nothing except give them failing grades even though in some cases the content was right. The teachers could tell that sentences were copied by simply searching for the content on wikipedia. It was effective. NarSakSasLee (talk) 13:41, 12 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Interesting! it was same here, when I was in high school. --Saqib talk 13:20, 15 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • If WND reports on it, you can be fairly sure it's not true. So, congratulations Jimbo, for presiding over the most neutral source of information available! (Opinions are not necessarily those of the Wikimedia foundation)
  • It's hilarious to me how many people apparently still aren't aware that Wikipedia is edited by a bunch of people, almost none of whom are under the employ of the Foundation. Note the tagline- "The encyclopedia that anyone can edit". Mr. Farah, the people adding the libelous comments to pages related to WND are called 'vandals', and they are routinely blocked and reverted. Controversial figures are common targets. --King Öomie 14:04, 12 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • "Schoolchildren told to avoid Wikipedia" - a typically misleading headline. Here's what the Ofqual advice actually says:

Using Wikipedia as a starting point

‘The free encyclopedia [sic] that anyone can edit.’ (Wikipedia, 2009)

Wikipedia can be an excellent starting point for research. However, unlike traditional encyclopaedias anyone can add information on any topic, even you! It may not necessarily be authoritative or accurate. In some cases information may be completely untrue.

You must always check the facts in a wiki article

■ check the reference list for the article.

■ carry out further research to find the referenced articles.

■ use the history and discussion pages accompanying an entry to help evaluate whether you can trust the information.

■ you can find a pre-checked Wikipedia collection of 5,500 articles targeted around the national curriculum at

■ never use Wikipedia as your only source.

which I think is fair enough, apart from the "[sic]" which implies criticism of the use of American spelling on a US-based website and may confuse some students. (As an aside, I was also somewhat amused by the unintended ambiguity of the statement "anyone can add information on any topic, even you!") The document also offers this advice on using the internet in general for research:

Points to remember

■ anyone can publish online

■ sources may be untrue

■ sources may be inaccurate

■ always check the relevance

■ always check the reliability

■ be critical of all content.

Ask your teacher or school librarian for help if you’re not sure.

As for Joseph Farah's article in which he apparently holds Jimmy Wales personally responsible for all vandalism, defamation and incivility on Wikipedia, I'm sorry I wasted minutes of my life reading it, but I have to admit I did laugh at his spectacular non-sequitur when he decided to take the opportunity to criticise Wikipedia's non-censorship of sexually explicit images. Contains Mild Peril (talk) 15:41, 12 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]

The [sic] tag is appropriate in more ways than one.--Dodo bird (talk) 01:25, 13 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
I recently came across a journal article where the author had used "[sic]" whenever material that he quoted from used non-gender-neutral language, e.g., "one man [sic] one vote". — Cheers, JackLee talk 03:55, 13 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]


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