Democracy is not chicken nuggets

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Kyle Gorman stumbled upon something strange happening to the Wikipedia article on "List of blacklisted keywords in China".  The first item under "General concepts" is mínzhǔ 民主 , which means "democracy".  However, what Kyle saw there as the definition yesterday was "chicken nuggets".  After he told me about it, I went there and saw the same thing:  "chicken nuggets".

I alerted a friend who is a Wikipedia editor and he wrote back to me:

Thanks for pointing this out. It happened twice yesterday. The first was reverted and I've done it a second time.

The anonymous user who is doing this is this individual.

They are located here.

I thanked the editor for fixing it twice in one day and asked him what kind of person would do this, and why?

The editor's reply:  "Most likely (from England) just a vandal troll looking for fun."

What kind of fun is that?  What a way to get your kicks!

[Thanks to Anne Henochowicz and MC]


  1. Terry Hunt said,

    May 13, 2016 @ 11:17 am

    FWIW, this sort of minor vandalism (the term of art on Wikipedia) happens dozens if not hundreds of times a day. Most active pages are on the Watch List of one or more (sometimes hundreds) of Wikipedia Registered Users with some interest in the Article in question, who therefore get an alert when any change is made to the page in question. Typically one of them checks the edit, and reverts it if appropriate. (Many changes are, of course, appropriate and beneficial.)

    Vandalism is thus typically reverted or otherwise eliminated within minutes: however, as this monitoring, like everything else on Wikipedia, is 100% voluntary activity, sometimes there's a longer delay, and alerts such as Prof Mair's are always welcome, on the Help Desk Talk Page if nowhere else.

    Of course, one does not have to be a Registered User to make such corrections on most pages: anyone is allowed to do so (or make any other appropriate contributions), and thereby becomes a Wikipedia Editor.

    I often see experts in some subject complaining about errors in a Wikipedia Article, and wish they'd just make the necessary corrections (with appropriate citations as necessary) themselves. Isn't it in their own interest to avoid misinformation being promulgated about their discipline?

  2. More Cowbell said,

    May 13, 2016 @ 4:06 pm

    Here's some information about Wikipedia's Counter-Vandalism Unit.

  3. peterv said,

    May 13, 2016 @ 6:02 pm

    @Terry Hunt:

    One factor inhibiting experts from editing Wikipedia pages in their area of expertise is the rule prohibiting anyone from quoting him- or herself. Kyle Gann, for example, the world's foremost authority on minimalist music, is not permitted to cite his own books for statements he might write on Wikipedia, and he has thus given up trying to correct (and repeatedly re-correct) the many errors and omissions on the pages concerned with minimalism.

    Despite what many enthusiasts for crowd-sourced websites believe, the Wikipedia model is fundamentally flawed when it comes to its treatment of expert contributions. And for myself, I would never willingly be a passenger on an airplane in which Twitch Plays Pokemon was the pilot.

  4. More Cowbell said,

    May 13, 2016 @ 9:10 pm

    Sorry, but that's a misunderstanding. Although there are exceptions for Writing an autobiography (as happened here) and Conflict of interest, the WP convention for Citing yourself says, "You may cite your own publications just as you would cite anyone else's, but make sure your material is relevant and that you are regarded as a reliable source for the purposes of Wikipedia. Be cautious about excessive citation of your own work, which may be seen as promotional or a conflict of interest; when in doubt, check on the talk page."

  5. chris said,

    May 14, 2016 @ 7:51 am

    I am not any kind of authority on minimalist music, but ISTM that the foremost authority on just about any subject ought to know where to find the second, third and fourth foremost authorities to quote if he can't quote himself. Unless, of course, all those others disagree with him, in which case his "foremost" status is somewhat suspect.

    I think that's the point of the suspicion of self-citation; if you can't cite anyone *else* who agrees with you, then you may be outside the mainstream of your field.

  6. Rodger C said,

    May 14, 2016 @ 12:06 pm

    I know an author who complains of repeatedly trying to clear her Wikipedia page of common misconceptions, only to see them continually reverted.

  7. Rodger C said,

    May 14, 2016 @ 12:07 pm

    And am I the only one who thinks that "Democracy is not chicken nuggets" has the flavor of a Mao Zedong saying?

  8. peterv said,

    May 14, 2016 @ 4:56 pm


    The problem is not foremost, and second foremost, etc, but first in time, second in time, etc. If you are the first person to write about some phenomenon, you cannot quote the second or third or whatever person who wrote about it to support a claim about when that phenomenon was first written about.

  9. Terry Hunt said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 11:06 am

    @ Rodger C

    This is a common occurrence, due to a misunderstanding of the basic Wikipedia principles that all information on Wikipedia needs to be citable to a Reliable Source, which means (amongst other things) that it should be checkable by a third party, and that Wikipedia itself is a tertiary source, and is never supposed to rely on Original Research, which a statement from the horse's mouth, so to speak, would be.

    Such sources can be, but need not be, accessible on line, or can be paper publications which someone with access to library or archive services could request and consult in person. However, they need to be published by some reliable agent which can be presumed to have fact checked, such as a broadsheet (but not tabloid) newspaper, reputable journal, or non-self-published book.

    Online websites can be used if they are official; e.g. those of government or sporting administrators, but personal blogs are generally not (especially for biographical articles) since people have a regrettable tendency to spin or lie about themselves.

    In the case of an expert in some field: as More Cowbell said, published works are fine provided they comply with the Reliable Source criteria touched on above. However, direct edits to Wikipedia Talk pages, Reference Desk pages or the Help Desk by the person concerned are rarely sufficient because Wikipedia can't know that the person making the request is really who they say they are: in those circumstances they are just an IP on the internet, and could be the real subject's worst enemy spreading disinformation – such malicious "corrections" do happen!

    For this reason, someone like an author wanting to correct (or add) information needs to advise Wikipedia of published citations for the correct information.

    Note also that primary sources are usually not appropriate. For example, if in a novel "X" happens but the Wikipedia Article Plot Summary says "Y" happens, strictly Wikipedia doesn't change "X" to "Y" unless a Reliable Source such as a reviewer has published something referring to "Y". What it will do is remove the reference to "X" as contested, until a Reliable Source can be found to confirm "Y" (or indeed "X").

    Similarly, Wikipedia typically does not change something like an Article Subject's birth date on the basis of being shown their birth certificate (a primary source), but will do so if it is published in a reputable newspaper (a secondary source) or other encyclopedia (a tertiary source) which can be presumed to have checked.

  10. Evan Harper said,

    May 18, 2016 @ 11:18 pm if you want a laugh

    "Inserts random images of ceiling fans into any articles, and even links to videos of them"

    "Inserts vandalism regarding government conspiracies. Despite the wide range of articles vandalized, most of them are related to Harland Sanders"

    "claims they are part of a group of over 50 whose purpose is to spread (mostly false) anti-soy bean propeganda"

  11. Rodger C said,

    May 19, 2016 @ 11:53 am

    "Inserts vandalism regarding government conspiracies. Despite the wide range of articles vandalized, most of them are related to Harland Sanders"

  12. Kevin McCready said,

    May 21, 2016 @ 1:34 am

    I was hoping someone might get the discussion onto democracy, there's little of if on wikipedia on which I long ago gave up serious editing. So for starters, real democracy is about collaboration: groups of people getting together and making decisions that work for everyone. It’s not about forcing your will on other people by outvoting them 51%. That only leaves 49% of people unhappy.

  13. Ogress said,

    May 24, 2016 @ 1:19 am

    I myself just found a "scholar" who has been for three years using throwaway IPs to add his own vanity-published works. It's some 700 pages (seemingly random) at current count.

    I said some EXTREMELY RUDE WORDS when I realised what I'd discovered, then I went into shock, then I forwarded it to sysops because I was not capable of handling that level of Special Asshole.

    (I believe we're now putting in a special editing filter that disallows his name.)

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