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Saturday, August 22, 2020


All right, this is now really strange. This morning early I post a short comment about Margot Mayo, whose bio on Wikipedia is fairly lengthy, gives no date of death, and among other things has several quotes about her from my autobiography. Then David Zimmerman comments that Wikipedia lists her death as being 1974. So I go back and check Wikipedia where, instead of a lengthy entry, there is a brief entry with that date of death. And when I look more closely, I see that the entry has last been revised today (!) at 1410 hrs. That new information on her death certainly sounds a great deal more plausible but how on earth did someone who knew the true date of death find my comment so quickly and revise Wikipedia? I think I am beginning to believe in Big Brother.


David Zimmerman said...

Oh dear, Professor Wolff..... What have I stumbled into?

Is an apology due from me?

Oh dear, oh dear.

LFC said...

David Zimmerman
Your comment can't have had anything to do w triggering the changes since you saw the entry after the changes were made. And anyway you wouldn't owe an apology in any case.

s. wallerstein said...

The plots thickens. I google her (I have google in Spanish) and it turns out that in Spanish she is 110 years old.

Eric C said...

OK, lemme take a stab at this. If RPW is in North Carolina now, and posted the comments about Mayo at 09:19 EST local time, that would have been at 13:19 UTC. The Wikipedia edit timestamp was at 14:10 UTC. So anyone who just randomly happened to read the blog during that 50-minute window, or who read the blog after receiving an automated alert from Google or another source that a new blog entry had been made, would have had time to make the edit. It's also possible, far less likely I would imagine (in fact, implausibly so), that someone else might have just randomly been interested in Margot Mayo and noticed the error and just decided to make that edit at that time by coincidence. (Incidentally, the edit merely changed the word "on" to "in," meaning that even before the edit, at 1AM RPW's time, Wikipedia was already indicating that Mayo died almost 50 years ago.)

@SWallerstein, I see the same info displayed by Google when searching on a laptop.

Perhaps RPW did a search for "Margot Mayo" on Google, or using a search service that incorporates results from Google, and in the results was presented the little bio blurb that reads, "Margot Mayo was an American dance instructor and collector of folk music. Margot Mayo was born Margaret Melba Mayo on May 30, 1910 in Commerce, Texas, one of eight children of William Leonidas Mayo, the founding president of East Texas Normal College," alongside a photo of Mayo. Right below those is an attribution to Wikipedia. And right below that, it says she was born "May 30, 1910 (110 years old), Commerce, TX." It would be easy from all of that to confuse the somewhat misleading bio info in the Google search result as being the latest info from Mayo's full English-language-Wikipedia entry.

Anonymous said...

Might there be more than one woman named "Margot Mayo"?

s. wallerstein said...

In Spanish the same person appears and just so no one imagines that there is some evil demon reading this blog, I just googled her again and in Spanish it still says that she is 110 years old. By the way, the Spanish information cites the Wikipedia article in English as its source, so it apparently takes some time for the new information in English to be up-dated to other languages.

LFC said...

@ Eric C
The edit at issue has to have changed more than "on" to "in". I don't have time to do this right now but it is nec. to look at the entire recent edit history, not just the very last edit, to figure this out (assuming it can be figured out).

Anonymous said...

If I'm remembering correctly, the Wikipedia article on RPW several years back listed him as dead. I knew better at the time. I don't know how long the error was up there, or when it was corrected. --Fritz Poebel

Eric C said...

Perhaps I was misunderstood.
@SWallerstein, the fact that you are looking at Google in Spanish is probably immaterial to this particular situation. Whether I search (or with Google set to display content in Spanish, or I search with Google set to display content in English, I see essentially the same thing: Margot Mayo ... age 110 years (ie edad 110 años), with a linked attribution, implying that the info was drawn from English-language Wikipedia (or Wikipedia [Inglés]).

What seems more likely to be the relevant factor is that the full Wikipedia page does not provide a precise date of death, just a year and a month. For comparison, do a Google search for "Anne Belle Stone." Google provides a bio blurb that says she was born 1874 (age 146 years). Right above the birth info is a linked attribution to Wikipedia. Someone who is not Internet-literate, or who is only skimming over this info, might take this to mean that Wikipedia says this woman could be 146 years old. But if you go to the full Wikipedia page, which was last updated 7 months ago, you will see that it says she died in 1949, no day or month provided. That year of death was included in the article on the same day that the Wikipedia article was created. Similar with Irene Mary Browne. Google claims she is 138 years old. The full Wikipedia entry says she died in 1977, no day or month provided. That year of death was included in the Wikipedia article on the date the article was originally created, so a delay in Google's updating the info is unlikely to be the reason for the error.

@LFC, the only change was "on" to "in." The edit metadata show that the article's length prior to the edit was 1,974 bytes and after the edit was 1,974 bytes, with 0 bytes added or removed. You can see the specific change that was made by clicking on the linked "prev" which appears toward the beginning of the edit data line for 14:10, 22 August 2020 by editor Redound.

LFC said...

Eric C
Ok. I think you've now explained the date of death thing.

Still doesn't explain what RPW says is the shift from a long to a short entry. It's possible I suppose that there are some edits that don't show up in the edit history...

s. wallerstein said...

Eric C.,

You are correct. I tried English, Spanish and French and they all say the same, 110 years old.

Michael Llenos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric C said...

@LFC, I can't account for RPW's recollection of having seen in Mayo's Wikipedia article quotes about her from his autobiography. The Wikipedia edit history for Mayo's article does not show removal of such quotes. Wikipedia administrators do have the ability to suppress certain kinds of edits from public view, but this would not ordinarily be done on a non-controversial article about a minor figure who died so long ago.

I suggested there could have been confusion between Google search results vs the content of the Wikipedia article itself. I don't know for sure what RPW or anyone else might have seen from a Google search for Mayo, as Google often tailors search results based on the search requester's history.