Thursday, August 09, 2012

Stephen Colbert's latest 'wikiality' attempt derailed by Wikipedia lock

Stephen Colbert's latest attempt to influence reality with what he calls "wikiality" has failed.

Those who have watched Stephen Colbert for some time probably know of his love of Wikipedia and his invented word, wikiality. The premise of wikiality is that reality is what Wkipedia says it is, assuming enough users agree with an entry.

His first attempt at changing reality to wikiality, by having his viewers go into the elephant article on Wikipedia and edit it so that it would say "the elephant population in Africa has tripled over the past six months" failed when Wikipedia locked the article. His latest attempt (embedded), an attempt to influence the GOP vice-presidential nomination, has failed as well.

On Tuesday's show, Colbert cited a Fox News report that said Sarah Palin's Wikipedia page had been updated 68 times on the day before 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain's announcement of her as his VP choice. If edits to a page were an indicator of the likelihood of becoming the VP nominee, he then said, "We could be looking at Vice President 'season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.'

"So, Nation, let your voice be heard in this historic decision,. Go on Wikipedia, and make as many edits as possible to your favorite VP contender."

Since Colbert said that he liked "friend of the show" Tim Pawlenty, he went onto Wikipedia while on the air and edited Pawlenty's article. For example, he made the following edits:
  • "The Minnesota town of St. Paul is where born Tim Pawlenty was."
  • "He was the son of Eugene Joseph Pawlenty and Mrs. Butterworth."
  • "Intending to become a dentist, Pawlenty started his career in Santa's Workship."
Remembering his own rule about wikiality, Colbert modified Pawlenty's article to say that on Aug. 10, 2012, he was named Mitt Romney's running mate.

It was a good attempt, but on Wednesday, Wikipedia, who must have a designated Colbert show viewer by now, put a halt to the "festivities" by locking the pages of those politicians that have been mentioned as Romney VP possibilities.

[If a page is locked, a user must be logged in to edit it (you can test this by logging out and seeing if the "edit" option is available on a page). This means that anonymous edits are disallowed.]

According to Tech President, prior to the lockdown, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman had his page edited 112 times, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had his page edited 52 times and Tim Pawlenty 18 (of which one, we assume, was Colbert).

In addition, Wikipedia placed locks on the pages of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Gen. David Petraeus.

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