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5 Tips for Stealing Ideas from Wikipedia

February 7, 2010

Wikipedia is the most misunderstood resource on the web.  The two big complaints are (A) we don’t know who wrote the entries and (B) too many people  just assume that what they read there is true.  Both criticisms are valid, but it’s immensely useful if used correctly.  Here are some tips for effective idea robbing:

  1. Copying from an anonymous author is still plagiarism, so don’t get caught lifting passages.  It’s too easy to copy-paste a line of your writing into Google and bust you for it.  Chris Anderson landed himself in a scandal over his new book, Free. I like Chris Anderson, and The Long Tail remains one of my favorite books of the last decade, but come on.  Paraphrasing is the #1 skill you need to be an effective idea robber.
  2. Steal sources, not content.  The beauty of Wikipedia is that most articles are extensively cited and footnoted.  Use the copy to gain a general overview and then scroll down to the footnotes and steal those.  Your readers have no way of knowing where you found them.
  3. Never admit to getting your information from Wikipedia, and don’t cite it as a source.  There is a stigma about it, so hide your tracks well.
  4. Understand Wikipedia for what it is – popular consensus, not fact.  This is why longer articles tend to have better accuracy than shorter articles.  The article on China has been reworked more than the article on the Nambu-Jona-Lasinio Model from quantum field theory.
  5. Once you’ve stolen an idea, edit the Wikipedia entry so it’s wrong for the next person.  Wikipedia has a way of self-correcting, but it takes time, especially for more obscure entries.  They may ban you for this, as they did with Stephen Colbert, so keep it subtle and use this tactic sparingly.
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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 8, 2010 2:45 pm

    Stephen Colbert is my hero.

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