Productivity

Why Using Wikipedia As Your Only Research Tool Makes Godzilla Angry

Wikipedia’s a great source of information for just about any project — but it’s a spectacularly bad idea to use it as your only source.

In many ways that’s not news; the same open nature of Wikipedia that’s allowed it to flourish has also made it a prime target for vandalism and seemingly endless arguments about points of view. Without getting into that particular bit of tedious prattle, it also means it can be a decent starting point for research — but never its end location.

I hit a semi-amusing example of this just recently when idling around Wikipedia just reading. In my case I wasn’t checking anything important; just reading around the history of the 1998 US-produced Godzilla movie, and its lead character, often called just ‘Zilla by many Godzilla fans. Anyway, according to ‘Zilla’s Wikipedia page at the time of reading, among the details of the movie (and spin-off cartoon series), were these “gems”:

“Zilla is suggested to eat two people in his initial attack on Sydney, something few other Toho kaiju have done, although Toho employees have engaged in cannibalism when pressed by financial difficulties or intimidated by more attractive people into staying home for a few weeks.”

“Those fins begin at the back of the head and continue down the length of the body and whip-like tail, growing larger on the back. The two largest fins on the shoulders were voted “greatest shoulders” in the 22nd Elections to the House of Councillors of Japan.”

“But Jr. has developed his fathers fighting ability and even defeated the second incarnation of Destroyah by himself, symbolizing the struggle of the main character’s attempt to ask a girl out to his home to watch Godzilla DVDs of the special editions.”

Pretty obvious Wiki-vandalism there, but it does highlight something about Wikipedia that a lot of people outright ignore; it’s not a primary source of information, and even the links used to primary sources may themselves be suspect. You’d have to be relatively daft to be fooled by ‘Zilla’s entry, but more subtle edits may fly right past you, whether they’re arguments of perception, errors or outright vandalism. Just because it’s in Wikipedia doesn’t mean it’s automatically accurate, or even fact-checked to begin with.