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10 controversial Wikipedia topics

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 1 2011 7:10 a.m. MST

Associated Press
What makes for a controversial topic on Wikipedia.org, the online encyclopedia that anybody can edit? As people try to make an article conform to their own views, they justify their edits with citations in the footnotes. A controversial topic will see footnotes and citations multiply as people fight for every word and phrase. The more footnotes there are, the more the controversy. Here are ten of the most controversial topics on Wikipedia as measured by footnote numbers gathered in Nov. 2010. See a more in-depth article: Wiki Wars: In battle to define beliefs, Mormons and foes wage battle on Wikipedia
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Church member
North Salt Lake, UT

Can't wait to see all the people who get on here and say "this proves our church is true look how persecuted we are. It always said he would be known for good and evil throughtout the world".

Belching Cow
Sandy, UT

This proves our church is true look how persecuted we are. It always said he would be known for good and evil through out the world.

Joe Moe
Logan, UT

@Church member 8:05

Of course, "persecution" and/or "being known for good and evil throughout the world" does not prove the LDS church is true. Nor does it mean it is NOT true. Anyone basing any belief on those criteria is irrational, whether for or against.

Zed
Orem, UT

"He called me by aname, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people."

Joseph Smith History

christoph
Brigham City, UT

How many people in the past ten thousand years can say they have brought forth new scripture and then had the $$$$ to publish it and have millions believe it???? We quickly see he is a singular person in the history of this planet, (not to mention being shot in jail at age 38 in the land of the free.) Quite a story!

splitme2
West Jordan, UT

I see Wikipedia can predict the future too? They have gathered information from Nov 2011? No wonder the site is no good.

George
Bronx, NY

so because something has a footnote it makes controversial? According to the dictionary definition a footnote is an explanatory or documenting note or comment at the bottom of a page, referring to a specific part of the text on the page. Footnotes do not necessarily mean controversy. They may indicate a lot of busy bodies that want to add to the information in the text however.

Waaandy
Bountiful, UT

I agree. A footnote does not a controversy make. I don't see how Constantine would be considered controversial. If there were a large number of edits back and forth, that may be considered controversial.

Michael De Groote

Articles on Wikipedia are written by volunteers. When volunteer editors disagree, they justify their edits/interpretations by footnotes. The more fighting, the more footnotes as each editor tries to justify their changes. So although it is not a perfect measurement, it is quantifiable. Another measurement would be the number of citations within each footnote. The "Joseph Smith, Jr." article is off the chart on this.

Constantine is an interesting one. I didn't look at the article's discussion page to see what the controversies were, but somebody must be fighting over him -- or somebody is really footnote happy.

Sorry Charlie!
SLC, UT

@Michael De Groote
so you did not look at the article and you are assuming that all or even most of the footnotes have to do with controversy among the editors? then how could you possibly claim this is a quantifiable measurement? what was your bases for such a claim?

cactusflats
American Fork, UT

Ok, a little homework here on other controversial figures
Julian Assange - 157
Glenn Beck - 164
L. Ron Hubbard - 217
JFK - 227
John Lennon - 259
Obama - 263
Richard Nixon - 264
Reagan - 337
Elvis - 357
Hitler - 374

dricha65
Provo, UT

give the author a break. These are very interesting articles and based on facts. Its not an opinion blog, there is no biased agenda and I have found this story and the Wikipedia Wars a very interesting read.

Michael De Groote

Notwithstanding the format of this article (top ten list), this is not a precise list of the top ten MOST controversial topics on Wikipedia, but ten articles from the most controversial topics we could find -- a sampling of what we came up with. The graphic that accompanied the main Wiki Wars story had a different list. To really give a conclusive list would require creating software to analyze all the articles.

I got the idea of footnotes as a measure of controversy from other blogs and articles on the Internet (one of which mentioned the controversy surrounding Constantine. I never would have thought of Constantine on my own). So with the help of other people at the DNews, I tried to find any article that had more footnotes than "Joseph Smith, Jr." and was surprised that I couldn't. Commenter cactusflats looked at a lot of the same articles we did.

Except for list-like Wikipedia articles, footnotes are a good a way of determining controversy -- it's just natural for edit wars to produce footnotes.

Apparently, from looking at its discussion and edit pages, some people really care about Constantine.

Any other measurement would probably be subjective.

Mukkake
Salt Lake City, UT

"Any other measurement would probably be subjective."

Really? While I do admit footnotes may indicate a more heavily edited page, they don't necessarily. Go look at most of the "featured" article pages. Many have well over 100 footnotes.

A more accurate measurement might be to look at the number of average edits per day/week/month/year, number of reverts, and average number of reverts per day/week/month/year.

Also I would look at the overall average quality of the average edit, are people adding substantial amounts of information with each edit, or just making minor changes to the semantics of a sentence, so called "Weasel Words" in wiki terms.

My assumption would be that the more tedious and superficial the edits back and forth, the more controversial. I'm assuming that in the thousands of edits a controversial page, such as Joseph Smith Jr., receives, very rarely is it substantially new information, but just the rewording of existing sentences people are tired of having revert wars over. This could be measure by counting the number of characters added/changed by each edit. Might sound tedious, but a good programmer could build a program.

ks5
South Jordan, Utah

I've read several articles on Wikipedia in the last week. Wikipedia is NOT a factual site. Anybody can edit anything on it. My past college professors wouldn't even let their students use it as a credible source for citations. It's a great site if you want to know everybody's opinion. I really wish people would do their own investigating instead of believing everything they read on, obviously, questionable sites - like wikipedia.

ks5
South Jordan, Utah

Just another note- this article isn't about what's true and what's not. It's just a list of the author's thoughts and what research was done regarding footnotes etc....

hollyman
Cedar, UT

There will never be complete agreement on this or any religion as long as we live in this world. It seems futile to try and prove or disprove religious truths by debate. Since religion is spiritually discerned, perhaps we would do better if we allowed people to believe what they believe and not to spend hours, weeks or lifetimes attempting to discredit someone who does not share our views.

Snoop Dogg
Salt lake city, Utah

What exactly is the correlation between Controversy and number of footnotes? Doesn't more footnotes just mean more sources to back up the information on the page.

Ethan Smith
Highland, UT

@ks5, No, wikipedia isn't controlled enough for college papers, but it is factual enough to trust for general information. They have moderators who look for trolls and lock out controversial pages. If you can't trust the majority of people to not be trying to intentionally deceive everyone else, how do you live? Wikipedia remains my go-to source for initial information about unknown topics for the sole reason that it is almost always one of the best sources.

@Christoph, singularity doesn't relieve Joseph Smith's claims from the burden of proof. Individuals making extraordinary claims without substantial evidence must necessarily be disbelieved until concrete proof (in the form of verified scientific data or valid A Priori arguments) can be found for those claims.

@Belching Cow, persecution proves nothing other than that the foundational period of the LDS church was incredibly controversial. Even if you could prove that a true religion will arise from a persecuted state (which you cannot), it is still not logically valid to claim that the existence of the latter is solely correlated to the truth of the former. Even if it was, what about other religions arising from persecuted states?

skeptic
Phoenix, AZ

@Belching Cow, I am not sure what it means, or why it is; but evil gets much more notice in the world than good. Maybe it is because the world is trying to over come evil, and good is taken for granted as a given. However, it might help if people (including Mormons) would do more actual good than talk and preach.

NWCL INDP
Murray, UT

Thank you Belching Cow ... for your humor ... and your name.

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