Difference between revisions of "978: Citogenesis"

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(Trivia for the missing title text.)
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The comic is discussing citogenesis occurring on Wikipedia. {{w|Wikipedia}} is a free and freely editable encyclopedia that aims to become the most complete and correct knowledge base available, in all languages, to all people. Wikipedia is managed by the {{w|Wikimedia Foundation}} who publish {{w|MediaWiki}}, a web-based {{w|wiki}} engine written in {{w|PHP}}. The explain xkcd wiki is run on a MediaWiki server.
 
The comic is discussing citogenesis occurring on Wikipedia. {{w|Wikipedia}} is a free and freely editable encyclopedia that aims to become the most complete and correct knowledge base available, in all languages, to all people. Wikipedia is managed by the {{w|Wikimedia Foundation}} who publish {{w|MediaWiki}}, a web-based {{w|wiki}} engine written in {{w|PHP}}. The explain xkcd wiki is run on a MediaWiki server.
  
Following this comic, the actual {{w|Scroll lock}} and {{w|Steven Chu}} articles {{w|Talk:Scroll_lock#Thanks_Randall|were both}} {{w|Talk:Steven_Chu#Scroll_lock_key|wiki-bombed}} by "helpful" editors trying to enforce Randall's reality on the Internets.
+
Following this comic, the actual {{w|Scroll lock}} and {{w|Steven Chu}} articles {{w|Talk:Scroll_lock#Thanks_Randall|were both}} {{w|Talk:Steven_Chu#Scroll_lock_key|wiki-bombed}} by "helpful" editors trying to enforce Randall's reality on the Internets. The wikipedia article on {{w|Citogenesis&redirect=no|Citogensis}} redirects to the {{w|Reliability of Wikipedia#Information loop|information loop}} section on the article "Reliability of Wikipedia".
 +
 
 +
==Trivia==
 +
*We probably never will know the book or author Randall mentions in the title text, but there is a nice similar story about the former German minister {{w|Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg}}. His complete name contains fifteen! names/words and reads: '''Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg'''. An anonymous user did add one more ('''Wilhelm''') to the German Wikipedia, just in the evening before Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was presented as the new Federal Minister of Economics and Technology on February 10, 2009. The next day many major German newspapers did publish this wrong name ([http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=de&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bildblog.de%2F5704%2Fwie-ich-freiherr-von-guttenberg-zu-wilhelm-machte%2F translation of bildblog.de]). But the joke doesn't stop here, because that minister was taken guilty on plagiarism, getting revoked his doctoral status, and finally it has led to his resignation as Minister of Defence on March 1, 2011.
  
 
==Transcript==
 
==Transcript==
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:References proliferate, completing the citogenesis process.
 
:References proliferate, completing the citogenesis process.
  
==Trivia==
 
*We probably never will know the book or author Randall mentions in the title text, but there is a nice similar story about the former German minister {{w|Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg}}. His complete name contains fifteen! names/words and reads: '''Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg'''. An anonymous user did add one more ('''Wilhelm''') to the German Wikipedia, just in the evening before Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was presented as the new Federal Minister of Economics and Technology on February 10, 2009. The next day many major German newspapers did publish this wrong name ([http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=de&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bildblog.de%2F5704%2Fwie-ich-freiherr-von-guttenberg-zu-wilhelm-machte%2F translation of bildblog.de]). But the joke doesn't stop here, because that minister was taken guilty on plagiarism, getting revoked his doctoral status, and finally it has led to his resignation as Minister of Defence on March 1, 2011.
 
  
 
{{comic discussion}}
 
{{comic discussion}}

Revision as of 00:34, 9 October 2013

Citogenesis
I just read a pop-science book by a respected author. One chapter, and much of the thesis, was based around wildly inaccurate data which traced back to ... Wikipedia. To encourage people to be on their toes, I'm not going to say what book or author.
Title text: I just read a pop-science book by a respected author. One chapter, and much of the thesis, was based around wildly inaccurate data which traced back to ... Wikipedia. To encourage people to be on their toes, I'm not going to say what book or author.

Explanation

This comic is calling into question the accuracy of Wikipedia. This is a favorite past-time of librarians and professional researchers, and not usually one of Randall's. But, to take it seriously for a moment: People, Wikipedia is editable by anyone. If you are doing serious work, follow through the citations, and decide which are from upstanding sources, and which are just people writing on their blog, and which are people writing on their blog who know what they are talking about.

The title of the comic is a play on the word cytogenesis. Cytogenesis is the formation of cells and their development. Citogenesis, on the other hand is a portmanteau of 'Citation' and 'Genesis'. Citation meaning quoting a source. Genesis being the origin of something. So, citogenesis would be the creation of a quote that can be used to back-up a fact or statement.

The comic is discussing citogenesis occurring on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a free and freely editable encyclopedia that aims to become the most complete and correct knowledge base available, in all languages, to all people. Wikipedia is managed by the Wikimedia Foundation who publish MediaWiki, a web-based wiki engine written in PHP. The explain xkcd wiki is run on a MediaWiki server.

Following this comic, the actual Scroll lock and Steven Chu articles were both wiki-bombed by "helpful" editors trying to enforce Randall's reality on the Internets. The wikipedia article on Citogensis redirects to the information loop section on the article "Reliability of Wikipedia".

Trivia

  • We probably never will know the book or author Randall mentions in the title text, but there is a nice similar story about the former German minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. His complete name contains fifteen! names/words and reads: Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg. An anonymous user did add one more (Wilhelm) to the German Wikipedia, just in the evening before Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was presented as the new Federal Minister of Economics and Technology on February 10, 2009. The next day many major German newspapers did publish this wrong name (translation of bildblog.de). But the joke doesn't stop here, because that minister was taken guilty on plagiarism, getting revoked his doctoral status, and finally it has led to his resignation as Minister of Defence on March 1, 2011.

Transcript

Where Citations Come From:
Citogenesis Step #1
Through a convoluted process, a user's brain generates facts. These are typed into Wikipedia.
[A guy with short hair sits at a desk, typing on a laptop.]
Guy: (typing) The "scroll lock" key was designed by future Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a college project.
A rushed writer checks Wikipedia for a summary of their subject.
[Ponytail sits at a desk, typing on a desktop.]
Ponytail: (typing) US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, (Nobel Prizewinner and creator of the ubiquitous "scroll lock" key) testified before Congress today...
Step #2
Surprised readers check Wikipedia, see the claim, and flag it for review. A passing editor finds the piece and adds it as a citation.
[Cueball sits on a couch with a laptop in his lap, typing.]
Cueball: Google is your friend, people. (typing) <ref>{{cite web|url=
Step #3
Step #4
Now that other writers have a real source, they repeat the fact.
[A flow chart, with "Wikipedia citation" in the center. The word "Wikipedia" is in black, the word "citations" is white with a red background.
A black arrow leads from "brain" to "Wikipedia."
A black arrow labeled "words" leads from "Wikipedia" to "careless writers," and a red arrow labeled "citations" leads back to "Wikipedia citations."
A black & red arrow leads from "Wikipedia" to "cited facts" which leads to "slightly more careful writers," which leads to "more citations," which leads back to :"Wikipedia" (all black & red arrows).]
References proliferate, completing the citogenesis process.


comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!

Discussion

Bonus points if the editor citing the work is also the person who created the fake source!Davidy22[talk] 06:59, 2 February 2013 (UTC)

The title text is not addressed in the explanation. I've read some popular science books, but they do not seem to suffer the problem cited there. Maybe there's a particular brand of pop science that is very susceptible to that sort of problem? --Quicksilver (talk) 17:48, 17 August 2013 (UTC)

We probably never will know, but as the comic itself says: Google is your friend! I found a nice story at the xkcd forum belonging to the German minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. I have added this to the trivia section.--Dgbrt (talk) 12:00, 18 August 2013 (UTC)

On a more amusing note, it is impossible to actually verify half of the obscure references on Wikipedia, as they are often magazines or books unlikely to be kept by typical libraries. One could easily fake an obscure reference if you know of a book with a title that seemingly pertains to the subject matter, but you know that the book had a printing run of less then 10,000 copies. 108.162.215.63 18:09, 14 May 2014 (UTC)

Note however, that this would only work if the information is so obscure that there are no conflicting sources. Benjaminikuta (talk) 21:26, 10 February 2017 (UTC)

On a less amusing note it costs 30 dollars/pounds/euros to get a copy of a scientific article that may or may not be useful for journalists that may or may not have free access to said data. Or you could get a pirated copy of it from a suicidal source and have the FBI come after you instead. I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 13:24, 22 January 2015 (UTC)

This article doesn't actually explain the self-sustaining cycle that is the point of the article. It references citogenesis and where the word was derived, and references wikipedia. None of that explains the "fake article" -> "news writer references article" -> "wiki editor adds citation of news writer" -> "fake article referenced in other news". Cflare (talk) 18:56, 9 September 2014 (UTC)

Actually in the comic, citogenesis looks very similar to cyclogenesis. I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 13:24, 22 January 2015 (UTC)

What happened to the "portmanteau" in paragraph 2? SilverMagpie (talk) 22:41, 3 January 2017 (UTC)

Never mind, I fixed it. SilverMagpie (talk) 22:42, 3 January 2017 (UTC)

I'm curious if the doubled "was" in the first panel was an intentional "easter egg" of the kind of carelessness that may be typical of somebody vandalizing Wikipedia with fake information, or if it was unintentional on Randall's part. Perhaps we'll never know. 172.69.63.123 19:47, 12 October 2020 (UTC)

I had that exact same thought when I read it. I believe it's highly possile it was intended. -- The Cat Lady (talk) 21:56, 23 August 2021 (UTC)

An example I once encountered of a much sloppier attempt at citogenesis: the article for a small, unincorporated community, near where I grew up claimed that [place] "is home to the art of cheddar winking." It cited a book that did not exist, whose ISBN number was for the Book of Mormon. 172.69.48.150 13:40, 26 February 2021 (UTC)

Another, slightly more prominent example was that a German politician Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg who carries 10 given names. An unknown editor managed to slip an 11th given name into the list: Wilhelm. At first it was reverted, because there was no source. The unknown editor reverted it back. A slightly careful writer checked Wikipedia just in time to see the "Wilhelm" and took it at face value. Many other careless writers followed, some even claimed that Guttenberg would give his full name in interviews and include Wilhelm in the list (obviously those interviews never happened and were just fabricted). Which in turn then was used as a reference ("Google is your friend, people!") for the Wikipedia article. Took some time to get the false name out of the article. 162.158.203.15 10:11, 4 June 2021 (UTC)

Related and interesting... 172.70.86.12 14:04, 19 November 2022 (UTC)