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Stephen Colbert Gives Wikipedia a C*ck-Punch

Posted in Humour, Stephen-Colbert, Wikipedia on August 2nd 2006 by Randy Reichardt

.: On Monday night, Stephen Colbert nailed Wikipedia on “The Word” segment of The Colbert Report. The “word” on the 31 July 2006 episode was wikiality, the antidote to reality. As Colbert noted, “All we need to do is convince a majority of people that some factoid is true, for instance, uh, I don’t know, that Africa has more elephants today than it did ten years ago”, and it will be considered true, even if it isn’t true (it isn’t) – an example of wikiality in action. (Wikiality is related to truthiness, which “refers to the quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.”) On the show, Colbert encouraged his viewers to find the Wikipedia article on elephants and edit it to suggest that the population has tripled in the past six months.

Well, enough viewers began working on the Wikipedia site that at least 20 elephant-related entries were temporarily locked down by the Wikipedia moderator(s), as well as the Colbert Report entry. Read: I Blocked Stephen Colbert on Wikipedia, by Andrew (Talkerblog), the moderator in question. Andrew wants Colbert to put him “on notice” for blocking him, but Colbert appears to be ignoring him so far. Extensive coverage appeared quickly on sites like Techdirt, Newsvine, CNET News, and John Q chronicled the gritty details here. Much discussion is ensuing on the Wikipedia discuss page, Talk: The Colbert Report, about the show and the fallout on the Wikipedia site.

Nicely timed, The Onion nailed Wikipedia as well this week, with its headline, “Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years of American Independence.” My favorite line from the article: “While other news and information websites chose to mark the anniversary in a muted fashion, if at all, Wikipedia gave it prominent emphasis over other important historical events from the same day, including the independence of the nation of Africa in 1847, the 1984 ascension of Constantine to Emperor of the Holy Roman Emperor, and the 1998 birth of Smokey, a calico cat belonging to Mark and Becky Rousch of Erie, PA.” (The Onion’s take on the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup victory is hilariously funny.)

Stressed Out Truthiness

Posted in Stephen-Colbert, stress, The-Colbert-Report, truthiness on January 12th 2006 by Randy Reichardt

.: I don’t remember working harder or feeling more stressed at work than the past few weeks. Apparently things are worse for my colleagues in the UK, where a new study “suggests that being a librarian induces more stress than working for the emergency services, driving a 125mph express, or teaching a class of ill-behaved children.” Or is it really? The author of the study, Saqib Saddiq is a consultant with a recruitment company. He notes: “It seems they are sick of being stuck between the same shelves of books all day. They also found their work repetitive and unchallenging, and overall had very little job satisfaction. Although police officers and firefighters find themselves in stressful situations, they are at least able to get out and about, and there is much more variety in their work.”

My educated guess is that he interviewed circulation and shelving staff, and considered every employee in the library to be a librarian – just like everyone in a lab coat in a hospital is a doctor. I’ve spent half a day shelving books myself from time to time, and am aware that done full time, it would be excrutiatingly boring. I remember my cataloguing professor in library school telling our class that the Library of Congress had full-time card filers working there for decades. I’ve worked as a librarian for 27 years, and while the stress level is high, the work is never boring nor repetitive. As for being stuck between the same shelves of books all day, I’d be surprised if I’m in the book stacks more than once or twice a month.

.: Congrats to Stephen Colbert, who in “The Wørd” segment of the first episode of his brilliant show, The Colbert Report, returned the word “truthiness” into the mainstream – watch the video segment here. Truthiness, a word dating back as far as 1824, was voted the 2005 Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society. The best coverage of the path of truthiness from its appearance on the debut Oct 17 2005 episode of The Colbert Report to the 2005 Word of the Year is at Language Log. Start with Truthiness or Trustiness?, and follow through to Colbert Fights for Truthiness.

The Wikipedia entry for truthiness provides some background and history, yet opens with the line, “”Truthiness” is a term invented by Stephen Colbert as the subject of a feature called The Wørd…”, which is incorrect, as noted above.