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Deletion report

The lore of Kalloor

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By Svampesky

The writer is a long-term reader of Wikipedia and decided to finally bite the bullet to improve the project. He is starting off by working on fixup projects whilst easing into writing article content.

Kalloor — purportedly a location in Tamil Nadu in India, linked to the death of Thomas the Apostle — became the centre of scrutiny. Nominated for deletion on 5 May 2024, the article was criticised for lacking verifiable sources and potentially being a hoax. Because the article was insignificant, this process presents an opportunity to highlight the consequences that original information on Wikipedia has on knowledge, without the risk of causing a heated debate.

Kalloor

A village.
Chetput (a village in Tamil Nadu that has multiple sources to back up its existence) in 1905.

Editor TenPoundHammer initially brought the issue to the discussion page for possible hoaxes. They highlighted that the article had remained relatively unchanged since its creation on 31 August 2005. Despite a sparse web footprint, the article claimed Kalloor as the site where Thomas the Apostle was killed. Even more concerning was that Piotrus' investigation revealed that the article's primary contributor, an anonymous IP address, had also created a similarly questionable entry on Thrikkannamangal, a village which has sources to back up its existence. This pattern raised further suspicions about the legitimacy of the Kalloor article.

Piotrus and Malerisch debated whether the article might be a hoax or an urban legend. Another peculiarity is that Malerisch found a brief mention of Kalloor in the 2005 book First International Conference on the History of Early Christianity in India, suggesting the name might have some historical basis. The quote read "Apostle Thomas was martyred in Mylapore near Madras (Tradition calls this place Kalloor – the place of rock) in Tamilnadu State, India". This conference took place in early August 2005, and predated the article's creation by around two weeks. Viewed from a Wikipedian perspective, this single reference may have been insufficient to establish notability or credibility.

Kalloor was initially tagged for speedy deletion, but upon review, it underwent a full Articles for Deletion (AfD) process. This allowed a thorough examination by the Wikipedia editorial community. If it was speedily deleted, it could open up the possibility of a deletion review. The discussion, initiated by Piotrus, highlighted concerns over the article's authenticity. It was noted that the claim of Kalloor being the "place in Tamil Nadu, India, where the Apostle Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, is believed to have been killed" was a significant claim that may fail to meet Wikipedia's verification standards, according to Piotrus. He noted the absence of credible sources, and the article's dubious nature, as reasons for its nomination for deletion. Editors such as Gawaon and SparklessPlug supported deletion due to the absence of reliable sources and the high probability of the article being a hoax.

Other editors largely agreed on the article's lack of verifiability. JBW, another editor, pointed out the historical inconsistencies and the difficulty in finding reliable references to support the claims made about Kalloor. The discussion revealed that the original text, with minimal changes over time, remained unsubstantiated and potentially fabricated. Despite initial consensus leaning towards deletion, further examination by editor Malerisch suggested that while parts of the article might be dubious, the entire entry could not be entirely dismissed as a hoax, as "Kalloor" was confirmed to be an Indian surname, citing Yoohanon Chrysostom Kalloor as an example. The discussion ran for the seven days and closed with the article being deleted.

Wikipedia, a platform reliant on community contributions, faces the constant challenge of verifying the vast amount of information it hosts. Kalloor serves as a fleeting reminder of the necessity for thorough verification processes to prevent the spread of misinformation. Although the village may exist, as there are sources that predate the article, there is not enough evidence to support its inclusion in the encyclopedia.

Brazilian aardvark problem

TKTK
An aardvark in South Africa (I couldn't find a picture of a Brazilian one)

Wikipedia has become an important fact-checking website, meaning false information on it can cause knowledge to become distorted. The New York Times has called Wikipedia a "factual netting that holds the digital world together", so being an encyclopedia that anyone can edit, it is uniquely paradoxical by being trustworthy and untrustworthy at the same time. Whilst the notion of "don't trust Wikipedia, anyone can edit it" has taken a new meaning, highlighting political bias, it originally focused on incorrect purported factual information. The most obvious way to identify original information on Wikipedia is to see if it existed before it was in the encyclopedia.

If original information were to exist long enough in the encyclopedia, other places may reuse this information and then other places will cite it from them with infinite regress. This happened in 2008 when a 17-year-old student included the nickname "Brazilian aardvark" in the article about the coati. This nickname was on Wikipedia for six years which led it to be cited by other publications. With the newspapers The Independent, the Daily Express, Metro, The Daily Telegraph, and works published by the University of Chicago and the University of Cambridge using the nickname, it became reliably sourced through circular reporting. Between November 2007 and April 2014, an anonymous editor added what translated to "hairy bush fruit" to a list of Chinese names for kiwifruit. This term was then used by The Guardian and cited by the article to source the name.

TKTK
Coati in Brazil

The examples section in the Wikipedia article on circular reporting lists other times this has happened. Most of these are no longer part of the respective articles. Every time a Brazilian aardvark appears, it sometimes sparks a discussion about whether information should be included in the article as it becomes reliably sourced:

As I was writing this piece, I stumbled upon a fascinating discovery: an entire page on Wikipedia dedicated to the phenomenon. Wikipedia:List of citogenesis incidents meticulously keeps a record of the widespread occurrences of this problem.

Some Brazilian aardvarks do eventually become real. The name of the Pringles mascot, Julius Pringle, originated in 2006 when an editor inserted the name "Julius Pringles" into Wikipedia. This was then used by publications and subsequently adopted by Pringles. The alias "Patrick Parker" for the comic book supervillain, the Riddler, originated in 2013 when an anonymous editor inserted the nickname to Wikipedia. It was in the article for nine years and eventually used in the 2022 film The Batman.

The aim of Wikipedia is not to seek truth, it is to seek verifiability. Sources that are considered reliable or unreliable are decided by Wikipedians through discussions. If incorrect information comes from sources that are deemed reliable, it can be included until reliable sources correct it. However, the instance of information originating from Wikipedia makes "the Brazilian aardvark problem" a special case which both inflicts harm on knowledge and challenges some of Wikipedia's core principles.

Kalloor has sources which predated the article, so it wasn't a Brazilian aardvark. However, it would be insightful to know if there has ever been information, that didn't eventually become real, which originally came from Wikipedia and was reused by reliable sources. How did editors handle it, knowing the information came from Wikipedia? Have publishers ever been notified that the information came from Wikipedia?

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We do seek the truth, and will remove incorrect, inaccurate and outdated information even when it appears in reliable sources. The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is "verifiability, not truth". Hawkeye7 (discuss) 20:59, 8 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]

"But should we not seek the truth? Yes, of course. Nonetheless, as Maher said, like the volunteer writers of Wikipedia, we also must focus on "the best of what we can know right now." That is a statement of intellectual humility, not of relativism. Complex topics and problems do not lend themselves to easy assessments of truth in real time. Through broad sourcing, the Wikipedia model in theory moves us to closer approximations of what is true." Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 09:05, 9 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Just wondering why I did not get the ping about my mention in this... In either case, interesting to see this tiny AfD led to a piece in TS. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 02:13, 9 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]

@Piotrus: I believe pings only take place if they're published at the same time someone signs their name. Presumably, that didn't happen here. Aza24 (talk) 02:29, 9 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Fair. Perhaps there should be a best practice rule (and maybe even a bot) to notify people whose usernames appear in TS? Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 02:42, 9 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I have never been so sure about how that worked. My main clue here is that prior to a couple years ago users were mentioned in Signpost articles with {{noping}}, which seemed to imply that linking their pages directly did ping them. I think it is good for people to get a ping when we are writing an article that mentions them, so if this doesn't do it maybe I will have to figure out something else. jp×g🗯️ 07:57, 9 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I believe that's just a common misconception. Check out Template:Reply to#Usage (which is what {{Ping}} redirects too), under "Single recipient" is says "The comment must be signed and belong to a named section of a "Talk" or "Wikipedia" namespace page in order for the notification to work". Presumably they stopped using {{noping}} because it didn't matter (or maybe they used to sign articles?).
In any case, it would make sense to me that people mentioned in articles are notified; perhaps they are all just separately pinged (with a signature) on the corresponding talk pages. Aza24 (talk) 18:49, 9 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Could create a template "this Signtpost article mentions user x, y and z"? Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 00:50, 10 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I pondered this for a bit today, but I don't know what a good solution would look like. The thing is that in some articles we're mentioning dozens of people, so it'd be very difficult to ping all of them without a bot or script or something. I have a hypothesis for something that might work though, testing it out right now -- basically just do one edit that blanks a page, then a second edit that restores all the content with a tetratilde at the end, then a third edit reverting the previous two -- this should be possible to do with a script, and it would automatically ping everyone who was mentioned on the page without needing to go through and use the ping template for each one. jp×g🗯️ 06:50, 10 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Unless 51 usernames are linked on the page, of course. jlwoodwa (talk) 08:24, 10 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I still think that Wikipedia's implementation of a periodization of video game "console generations" has had a huge impact on the video game culture. The way we talk about the history of video game hardware and imagine its future is hard to separate from that lense, it's proven an extremely sticky idea. Citogenesis is an interesting source of new information and ideas: it has an air of officiality around it while having no real quality. Patrick Parker is not a very good name for the Riddler, Julius Pringles is fine I guess, Brazilian aardvark is quite boring; these names are sticky in part because they don't feel very lively. I think Pringles should make my 50,000 word Julius Pringles romantic fanfic canon instead ;p ~Maplestrip/Mable (chat) 07:41, 10 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]

The reason you could not find a picture of a Brazilian aardvark, User:Svampesky, is that aardvarks are native to Africa (at least according to our article on aardvarks ...). Another fun fact is that the "Brazilian aardvark" moniker made it into a Cambridge University Press book, where it occurred in a section about copying other people's errors: [1] Someone up there really has a sense of humour. --Andreas JN466 19:32, 10 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]




       

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