Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wikipedia robs Houdini of his first Australian flight

It appears partisans in the ongoing pissing match over which region in Australia can celebrate the first airplane flight have struck the Houdini Wikipedia page and erased Houdini's status as the first man to fly on the continent, despite Australia's own historical record.

The aviation section, which I originally wrote for Wiki, now has Houdini's aviation career whittled down to a single small paragraph, eliminating Houdini's historic flight (and the fact that it was certified by the Aerial League of Australia as the first), and have instead devoted five rambling paragraphs to Colin Defries career and claim that he was first under the heading [Houdini] "Falsely reported as pioneer."

I went in and rewrote the section again, and included a reference to Defries claim because I do think that part of the story. But it was reverted by the same Defries-fixated user who added that my blog on Houdini's flight (sourced from the Houdini biographies by Ken Silverman and Bill Kalush) was "such an epic fail I wouldn't bother using it for anything."

Amazingly, Wikipedia -- which is usually very good about deleting bias and agenda driven edits -- is so far allowing these changes to stand, despite my repeated objections in the article's discussion area and two editors agreeing with me. At this point, all I can do is throw up my hands.

As I said, I wrote large sections of the Wiki Houdini page years back when it badly needed to be fleshed out by someone with some knowledge of Houdini. But over the years I've seen it modified by nuts, mischief makers, and people with agendas and/or bad information. The result is an unbalanced page that is now riddled with inaccuracies and weirdness. Certainly not what we want for our Harry.

Sorry for the negative post. I just needed to vent.

You can read my "epic fail" blog about Houdini's first Australian flight here. You can also read original newspaper stories, watch video, and see affidavits verifying Houdini's first and subsequent flights in Australia at Harry Houdini: Aviation Pioneer.

11 comments:

  1. I have a feeling history and the truth will eventually end up on your side. Wiki drives me nuts as well.

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    1. This same Wiki bully has pretty much taken over the Houdini page. Recent edits say Houdini was billed as "Handcuff Harry" (no he wasn't) and that he escaped from straitjackets underwater (no he didn't).

      What kills me is the Houdini Wiki page is what comes up #1 in any Google search. It is the main reference source for Houdini, and it is filled with errors.

      Delete
  2. I used to get frustrated with making updates to Wikipedia too, which is why I switched over to MagicPedia. :)

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    1. I now regret adding to Wikipedia. From now on, it's MagicPedia for me! :)

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  3. The fact is that Houdini gets the credit for this one. It's been settled.

    Some people are like a dog with a bone and they can't stand the fact that "the American entertainer" got the gong over an Australian. They need to get over it.

    The fact that they can only get the edge by firing a cheap shot at a blog they clearly haven't read speaks volumes.

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    Replies
    1. Even if it is somehow proven that he didn't actually make the first flight, it shouldn't be erased from his history that AT THE TIME he was recognized and awarded for the accomplishment. Just one of the points I was trying to make that was dismissed.

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    2. It's not like the topic wasn't open for discussion. They've looked at these other contenders and the possibility that they may have been first but Houdini's flight met the technical criteria for "sustained and controlled" and had independent witness verification. He ticked all the boxes in this case.

      Delete
  4. Sounds like you're up against a classic case of 'Wiki Madness' - A person who rewrites articles when they think their version is better, and then stubbornly re-edits them every time the information is corrected or even altered in any way. Just watch that you don't get sucked in to that never ending black whirlpool yourself (I know your version is actually the right one - or at least certainly better researched - but judging by the other person's pretty pathetic response to you, you're battling against a nut who has too much time on their hands. They'll watch that article obsessively to make sure nobody touches their precious edit.)

    Glad you also noticed the 'underwater straightjacket' error. I read that too, and thought it was odd that Wikipedia was just letting it sit there (After all, the main article doesn't talk about an underwater straightjacket escape once.)

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    1. Good advice, Jessika. I'm staying clear of it.

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  5. Also ticks me off that the section now says he only flew 3 times at Diggers Rest. Not correct. He went on to do several flights at Rosehill in Sydney. Of course, I had that in there, but was reverted.

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  6. Well, Wikipedia sure has its flaws. How sad! Hope Wikipedia resolves that...eventually. I'm kind of glad Wikipedia didn't exist when I started looking up on Houdini stuff---although there was plenty of other bunkum about him on other misc. sites at the time.

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