DYK, or proudly displaying incorrect information on the Main Page with alarming regularity
"Did You Know", or WP:DYK for short, is the spot on the main page below the Featured Article, where new or newly improved articles can be shown. At the moment, 16 articles are highlighted every day on the Main Page with a one-sentence hook each, which gives some 500 articles per month a short but highly visible stay in the spotlights. During the twelve hours a hook is normally on the Main Page, the MP is viewed some 5 million times, and the articles bolded in the hooks typically get a few thousand views each: the number of readers per hook will obviously be somewhere between those two figures.
DYK hooks are normally checked by at least four people before they reach the Main Page: the article nominator (often the person who created or expanded the article), the reviewer and promoter (two editors who check the article and hook on the individual DYK nomination page, transcluded on Template talk:Did you know), and the person (an administrator) who creates the DYK sections for the main page (Template:Did you know/Queue).
That's four people for every hook, and at the moment 16 hooks per day. Shouldn't be too hard?
I have written a few DYKs, so I know that part of the equation. It isn't always easy to expand an article sufficiently to make it long enough for a DYK, and many articles have no interesting hooks to highlight them with. My first DYKs, back in 2007, were for Happy Hooligan and Winnie Winkle (which later became a GA as well), and more than twenty followed over the next years, on topics like Cromwell Dixon or Achilles on Skyros. I started to look more at other DYKs at the same time, and noticed some errors and problems.
My first comments were in Wikipedia talk:Did you know/Archive 87#Template:Did you know nominations/Gibraltar Rock, Porongurups. Earlier archives contain many complaints from other editors about accuracy and errors. Over the next two years, I removed many hooks from the preparation area and from the main page for having (sometimes blatant) errors.
Many suggestions to improve DYK were proposed: not showing nearly every proposed article but only the best or most interesting ones, limiting the number of DYKs per person (to get more variety instead of dozens of hooks on very similar topics), adding more reviewers, banning people with many problematic (incorrect) DYKs from nominating more pages, even abolishing DYK altogether. Some things, like the suggestion that one shouldn't only look for a source confirming the hook, but also for sources contradicting the hook, were seen as a good idea, but (as the below examples will show) have not been implemented.
A few days' worth of DYK
Just look at what we have had on the Main Page over the last few days:
... that the partnership between model aircraft company Airtronics and transmitter manufacturer Sanwa helped increase the former's annual profit from less than $1 million in 1983 to $8 million in 1989?
— September 2, 12-24h, Sanwa Electronic
The article says the same, sadly the source says something different: "Airtronics has 18 full-time employees and had sales of about $8 million in 1989" and "After Airtronics teamed with Sanwa, sales more than tripled – from less than $1 million in 1983 to $3 million in 1985 – and have climbed steadily since" (emphasis mine). The difference between sales and profit seems quite basic and essential ...
This, like many other DYKs from this series of "Province of Italy" articles, is very dubious, and easily refuted when one looks a bit further. E.g. in Catignano (in the Province of Pescara), there lived people certainly as early as 4000 BCE. It is even the namesake of a whole "culture", the Culture of Catignano, which has an article on the French Wikipedia () but isn't even mentioned in the Province of Pescara article. The idea that no people permanently lived in a fertile Italian region before 1500 BCE is highly dubious for anyone with some knowledge of the subject. But then again, on 30 August we also proudly claimed for twelve hours “that the Province of Lodi was first inhabited during the fifth century BCE” (from Template:Did you know nominations/Province of Lodi), which is equally nonsense (e.g. in Guado di Gugnano, part of Casaletto Lodigiano, bronze age remains of about 1300 BCE had already been found in the 19th century). The reason for his hook: again editors and reviewers not knowing the difference between a city and a province of the same name, apparently (source for the hook:  clearly discusses the origin of the city of Lodi, not the province, just like the origin of Pescara in that book is about the city, not the region ...)
The hook for the Province of Pavia in the next queue should equally be taken with a grain of salt, as that article again seems incapable of making the distinction between the current province and the ancient city of the same name. Oh, and in the very next queue, the hook about the Province of Savona (did I mention the lack of variety?): Genoa only destroyed the city once ...
Is this claim true? Hard to tell, as no definition of what does or doesn't constitute a "cryptography chart" is given. Not surprisingly, since the only books that mention this concept are the source for the claim, and parrots of it. Instead of using a lightweight "first of X" record book, an actual book on the history of cryptography may be more interesting and relevant. Something like "A Brief History of Cryptology and Cryptographic Algorithms", published by Springer, seems to indicate that cryptography charts have been published in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, so the one from the hook is not even the first published one, let alone the first ever made.
But that isn't the worst hook in that queue:
This features a Good Article (another “quality” project on Wikipedia with many deep-rooted problems). The hook is sourced to the local Western Gazette – Yeovil , but the hook should have rung some alarm bells for everyone with, well, some general knowledge and a critical mind. As expected, the local banknotes issued in Exeter are not, I repeat not, legal tender, which is the exact opposite of what Wikipedia claims on the Main Page and in a Good Article ... , section "What can I do with Exeter Pounds", states quite clearly and unequivocally: "* Exeter Pounds are not legal tender, therefore customers do not have to accept Exeter Pounds in change."
So that's on a total of 40 "hooks", 40 sentences on the main page, at least 4 factual errors (6 if you include the Province of Pavia and Savona ones). An encyclopedia where one in ten sentences, fact-checked by at least four editors, is wrong, should not be called an encyclopedia.
Going back in time
What appeared on the main page in the hours and days before I composed this complaint (2–3 September 2015)? Well, looking at Wikipedia:Recent additions, I see that the previous Main Page DYK section informed us:
The source for this erroneous statement gives the correct year for the earthquake, not 874 but 847, as does the article on Isernia (the city) and all other sources: no sources for 874 could be found. A simple (though quite important) typo, yes, but missed by at least four people who essentially had to check one sentence before it came on the main page.
A few days further back, we learn:
This will be news to e.g. Mahabalipuram lighthouse and Alappuzha lighthouse (also known as Alleppey lighthouse, should have a redirect or a move), which got a stamp and FDC in 2012. Finding this takes the absolute minimum of effort: searching for India stamp lighthouse on Google.
I have now stayed away from Wikipedia for 8 months, not editing anything at all, for a variety of reasons. The highly unreliable information we present day in day out on our main page in the DYK section, which is not time-critical (it often takes a month between article nomination and front page appearance) and gets what should in theory be sufficient scrutiny, is probably the most visible aspect of the many failings of Wikipedia. If four people, usually all experienced editors and one of them an admin, can't get one sentence thoroughly fact-checked, then crowd-sourcing as we practice and preach it doesn't work. The system is much too reliant on individuals doing one or two critical tasks. WT:DYK has become a much quieter place since I left, not because the error rate has dropped (on the contrary), but because no one seems to really care, even though this is a significant part of the face we present to the world.
Basically, DYK is too often an endless supply of dubious "facts" to grace the Main Page, mainly created by experienced editors, always checked by experienced editors. If this is the best we can present, just imagine what nonsense gets inserted and kept day in day out in countless other articles.
- Fram has been an editor since 2005 and an administrator since 2007. Fram is the author of 20+ WP:DYK articles and was active between 2012 and 2014 on the main DYK talk page. Fram has been on a long wikibreak since late December 2014.
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