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It's literally possible to change history (the danger of unintended consequences)

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by soulgeezer, Aug 7, 2017.

  1. soulgeezer

    soulgeezer Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    52
    Nov 5, 2006
    Sinatra's World
    Back in 2007, there was a lot of argument and debate about the efficacy of information found on Wikipedia (there still is, but it's less of a controversial topic today than it was then). As a librarian, I ran up against others in my profession who wanted to discuss and argue about using Wikipedia in the context of library reference. This discussion continues today, but to a far lesser degree than it existed ten years ago.

    Now, back then, I was participating in these conversation and arguing that Wikipedia should not be considered a reliable source, because of the ability of anybody to edit the information there. But, others replied, "There are so many people on Wikipedia that bad information is swept away before it has a chance to do any harm or mislead anybody. The shear size of the Wikipedia userbase and the integrity of its users are its greatest strength and the exact reasons it should be considered reliable!"

    Well, in the face of this, I decided to do an experiment. So, on February 26, 2007 (the date is recorded in the "Edits" page of the article I'll discuss in a minute), I changed a small bit of information in the Wikipedia article about a relatively obscure, but certainly not unknown, actress named Diana Lynn. She had been the girlfriend of Ronald Reagan's character in Bedtime for Bonzo as well as having appeared in a number of great comedies of the 1940s.

    Basically, I added one small tidbit of information that was completely, patently false and 100% made up by me: I edited the article to say that her birth name had been "Dolores Marie Loehr," rather than simply "Dolores Loehr," which is both correct and what the article said before I changed it.

    Well, here we are ten years later and - guess what? - Everywhere you look online, it now says that this actress' birth name includes the middle name "Marie." This is wrong in every conceivable way and I know it, because I'm the one who changed it!

    Every couple of years, I go back and try to remove the middle name, but within minutes someone reverses the edit and adds it back again. This is a case of the original bad edit taking hold and attempts to correct it by editing it out of the article fail, because people are cross referencing other sources that cite the original bad Wikipedia article as their source!

    As much as it pains me to admit it, I have literally changed history, although that was never my intention in doing this little experiment. I thought I'd be able to reverse it, but as happens too often, inertia now makes that impossible.

    So, since I can't change it, I just thought I'd tell my story. Maybe, somebody whose interested in Ms. Lynn will happen across this page and learn that my misinformation is both incorrect and unintentional. I can hope, anyway.

    Has something like this ever happened to you? Have you ever done something that resulted in untended consequences over which you had no control?

    (ETA: I just looked at the article I mentioned above, and somebody has changed her birth middle name to "Eartha," while moving the "Marie" to the stage name she'd been assigned by Paramount Studios. Well, I can guarantee the studio didn't give her a middle name, so somehow the false name I created migrated from her birth name to her stage name, although it doesn't belong in either. I don't know how that happened, but it's certainly weird... <scratching head>)
     
    MickM, faulp, 6stringcowboy and 9 others like this.

  2. notmyusualuserid

    notmyusualuserid Tele-Meister

    241
    May 3, 2016
    Scotland

  3. soulgeezer

    soulgeezer Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    52
    Nov 5, 2006
    Sinatra's World
    I mentioned this above. But, they've added the "Marie" to her stage name. So, my bad edit still lives on.
     

  4. Jupiter

    Jupiter Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jun 22, 2010
    Osaka, Japan
    Pardon me for pecking at a smaller detail in the context of an interesting story, but I bet that if you contacted big-time editors at WP you could get that changed, especially given that there is obviously no legitimate source for the info.

    Another thing that just occurred to me is that you might have accidentally supplied the correct middle name...

    Edit: just saw your post above. Too bad; that would've been a nice twist...
     

  5. soulgeezer

    soulgeezer Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    52
    Nov 5, 2006
    Sinatra's World
    There are LOTS of sources for it now, but every single one of them is repeating what I posted on Wikipedia ten years ago:

    https://www.google.com/search?client=opera&q=dolores+marie+loehr&sourceid=opera&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0528658/bio

    http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp135855/diana-lynn-dolores-marie-loehr

    http://projects.latimes.com/hollywood/star-walk/diana-lynn/

    And lots, LOTS more!
     

  6. lucidspoon

    lucidspoon TDPRI Member

    76
    Apr 5, 2013
    Avon, IN
    Did you consider the "butterfly effect" at all? Maybe in the universe where you didn't change it, I'm a millionaire! You owe me my millions!
     
    wayloncash likes this.

  7. soulgeezer

    soulgeezer Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    52
    Nov 5, 2006
    Sinatra's World
    Is your name Rick? Am I a Morty?????
     
    wayloncash likes this.

  8. BartS

    BartS Friend of Leo's

    Feb 18, 2013
    St. louis MO
    Wikipedia is full of false stuff like this.
     
    KyAnne likes this.

  9. jimbo735

    jimbo735 Tele-Holic

    560
    Sep 19, 2011
    michigan
    The guilt has been lifted!You bad Boy!
    I feel so free now Knowing you confessed.
    Im sure everyone comes here before they search for her,,you did good.
    Everything is OK now,and Gosh Darn it,I like myself.
     
    nojazzhere likes this.

  10. RLee77

    RLee77 Friend of Leo's

    May 15, 2016
    Silicon Valley
    Interesting, but it seems to me that the detail you changed was so inconsequential to begin with (adding a middle name where none existed before) that it would have been surprising if it was quickly corrected. Most people would have assumed that the reference with the middle name is more complete/accurate than references without it, unless several of them stated that she was given no middle name to begin with.
    If you had done a more dramatic change, something that could have been checked easily and found false, it may have had a different outcome.
    Still, it's an interesting experiment!
     

  11. soulgeezer

    soulgeezer Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    52
    Nov 5, 2006
    Sinatra's World
    The "inconsequentialness" of the change was the whole point. But, it's also why the change stuck. Oh, well -- What'cha gonna do?

    But, it did prove my point that everything on Wikipedia is questionable. Of course, it's only ten years too late for me to win the argument! ;) :D
     
    John Nicholas likes this.

  12. RLee77

    RLee77 Friend of Leo's

    May 15, 2016
    Silicon Valley
    Now what's next... what historical event shall we rewrite? :D
     

  13. william tele

    william tele Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 7, 2009
    Kansas City, MO
    Don't be so shocked. You, as a librarian, know that many, many, MANY details of history are incorrect in the exact same way your example is.

    Internet or book, when you repeat a lie enough times it becomes the truth.

    Shame on you as a custodian of the written word (history) for willfully participating in the act of disinformation...:D
     

  14. tery

    tery Friend of Leo's

    Sep 21, 2012
    Tennessee
    That is not rewriting History ... That is writing Fiction .
    Sadly so many of us believe that if we read it on the internet that it must be true .
     
    Minimalist518 and Obsessed like this.

  15. notmyusualuserid

    notmyusualuserid Tele-Meister

    241
    May 3, 2016
    Scotland

    Nooooooooooooooooooooo! If it's on the internets it must be true :)
     
    nojazzhere, waparker4 and tery like this.

  16. BartS

    BartS Friend of Leo's

    Feb 18, 2013
    St. louis MO
    I got a question. How do you know her middle name wasn't Marie in the first place and you didn't just luck out?
     
    nojazzhere likes this.

  17. rad1

    rad1 Tele-Meister

    349
    Aug 5, 2015
    Santa Cruz CA
    Soulgeezer

    I now must question everything you have ever written here. :eek:
     

  18. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

    Jun 21, 2011
    Bakersfield
    Damn you Soulgeezer, Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn about some poor, obscure actress's name who's probably long gone. Having said that; How could you? there never was a pony for me was there? It was just your twisted since of humor and attempting to change history that kept me looking for him all these years. (That and the evidence you presented that he'd been there)

    upload_2017-8-7_15-28-45.jpeg
     
    Lake Placid Blue likes this.

  19. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

    Jun 21, 2011
    Bakersfield
    We took a tour once that proves your point at least to me. The tour had one set of comments about a historical figure in Tennessee, but when we took the tour again several years later, the related comments were changed 180 degrees having a totally different meaning and impact on history. My wife noticed it right away, and questioned the guide about it. The guide said, hey ese, I don't know history from cowsh*t, I just say what they tell me. Which I guess also proves soulgeezers point, in a twisted sort of way. Toto, pass me that cool wash cloth, all this thinking about time and history has made my head hurt.
     

  20. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    42
    Mar 17, 2003
    albany, ny [not chicago]
    When I was an English teacher, I'd tell my students that Wikipedia was not a valid source for research. They'd throw tantrums and even get parents to lobby for them, but my belief was that the only valid sources for research exercises were those that had a review process to ensure that the information was accurate. Books, peer reviewed journals, and many other websites fell into this category. I engaged in Wikipedian subterfuge with some of the classes to demonstrate the issue.

    One day I found myself in a conversation with an Economics professor who had been asked to contribute to some kind of encyclopedic textbook and function as the chief editor of a section. He wanted to feel the same way I did, but he told me that his book had no review process at all; the contributors were considered to be the subject matter experts, and he knew it was the same at a lot of publishers. Later I found that many journals that were supposed to be "peer reviewed" weren't actually doing the review process, so the foundation of the argument about validity of sources was quickly crumbling.

    Now I use Wikipedia a lot and figure it's probably as accurate as any other source readily available to me. I also don't have to teach lessons on the validity of sources.
     
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