Jar’Edo Wens is an Australian aboriginal deity, the god of “physical might” and “earthly knowledge.” He’s been name-dropped in books. Carved into rocks.
And, as of March,conclusively debunked.
There is no such figure, it turns out, in aboriginal mythology; instead, Jar’Edo Wens was a blatant prank, a bald invention, dropped into Wikipedia nine years ago by some unknown and anonymous Australian. By the time editors found Jar’Edo Wens, he had leaked off Wikipedia and onto the wider Internet.
He had also broken every other Wikipedia hoaxing record. At nine years, nine months and three long days, Jar’Edo Wens is the longest-lived hoax found on the free encyclopedia yet.
Wikipedia helps us make sense of the world. In 277 languages from Ukrainian to Urdu, its 36 million articles deepen our understanding of the people, places and ideas that matter to us. While it can feel like a static resource, Wikipedia’s articles are born and nurtured through a thoroughly human process. Behind the scenes, thousands of Wikipedians craft policy that guides decisions about whether an article reflects a neutral point of view, a source should be considered reliable, or a subject is notable enough to warrant an article.
Geographic differences underlie many differences in editor perspectives. Each editor lives in a particular place in the world, reads specific languages, and represents some national culture. These geographic differences translate to differences between language Wikipedias…
Our research studies where information in Wikipedia comes from, a characteristic we call geoprovenance. We focus on the four million Wikipedia articles about places that, along with information such as TripAdvisor reviews and geotagged flickr images, constitutes the rising class of information renowned geographer Michael Goodchild calls volunteered geographic information (VGI)
Wikipedia is the encyclopedia “anyone can edit,” and as of this writing it’s had nearly 700 million edits — not all of them well-meaning. Sometimes the mischief is directed […] Mostly, though, it’s predictably uninteresting — shout-outs, profane opinions, keyboard-mashed gibberish — happening thousands of times a day over more than 4 million articles.
But you’ll likely never see any of it. Within minutes if not seconds, bad edits are “reverted,” banished to a seldom-seen revision history. As Wikipedia has grown in size and complexity, so has the task of quality control; today that responsibility falls to a cadre of cleverly programmed robots and “cyborgs” — software-assisted volunteers who spend hours patrolling recent edits. Beneath its calm exterior, Wikipedia is a battlezone, and these are its front lines.
The sixth most widely used website in the world is not run anything like the others in the top 10. It is not operated by a sophisticated corporation but by a leaderless collection of volunteers who generally work under pseudonyms and habitually bicker with each other.
Because there is no other free information source like it, many online services rely on Wikipedia. Look something up on Google or ask Siri a question on your iPhone, and you’ll often get back tidbits of information pulled from the encyclopedia and delivered as straight-up facts.
Yet Wikipedia and its stated ambition to “compile the sum of all human knowledge” are in trouble. The volunteer workforce that built the project’s flagship, the English-language Wikipedia—and must defend it against vandalism, hoaxes, and manipulation—has shrunk by more than a third since 2007 and is still shrinking.
“Wikipedia does not want to risk some rogue editor inventing history. It relies instead on the passion of thousands of people who constantly check on each other and cite books or articles in their footnotes. It’s a fairly sophisticated version of crowd-sourcing, many people providing bits information.
And that process really bothered labor historian Timothy Messer-Kruse. He believed he had the truth, primary documents, right in his hands, but couldn’t shove it past the crowd.”