Better here than Wikipedia
Big sites can have fake facts—thank goodness there are places where real car enthusiasts can go, like Drivetribe
One great thing about Drivetribe is that motorheads who frequent this site tend to get their details right. In the past year, I haven’t seen any social media battles between enthusiasts that are akin to dick-measuring contests, and if a member (pun unintended) says that car X has a 135 kW output, a quick check of another reference will prove them right.
Which is why this place is the best place to address why I can’t trust Wikipedia. In fact, it’s partly why Autocade exists.
One case in point (though there are others): there’s a page that’s been on there since 2005, by someone called ApolloBoy, a contributor who’s been awarded a ‘WikiMedal’, on the ‘Ford CE14 platform’. It is an entire work of fiction.
ApolloBoy wrote in his original post that CE14 includes the US Ford Escort of 1981–90, the Ford EXP, and the Ford Tempo, and their Mercury equivalents.
Now, I don’t mind that ApolloBoy thinks this, and I don’t even mind that he has committed it to a website. It’s his right to think what he likes and to exercise his free speech. What bugs me, in my “get off my lawn you damned kids” mode, is that this Wikiality (a reality that originates in Wikipedia) is repeated all over the web, and in some cases by people who should know better (e.g. a Ford Tempo specialist website). And there are very few places that have put this right.
Autocade, of course, is one where CE14 is used correctly, and the Internet Movie Cars Database has taken my note to them to heart and made corrections. Steve Harper’s SHADO website also has CE14 used correctly—and he should know, he worked on the design.
And it’s so very simple. Ford changed to its alphanumeric system around 1983, with the first vehicle the Aerostar (VN1). It couldn’t possibly have been around when the US Escort, EXP and Tempo were being developed. Again, as anyone who knows cars knows, the Escort was codenamed Erika and the Tempo codenamed Topaz (it just so happened that the Mercury version wore this nameplate).
CE14 isn’t for a car platform, either: it’s not how Ford’s product programmes worked. It’s also incredibly easy to decipher: C is the segment (Golf-class, if you like; it’s why the current Ford Focus has a C code, too); E is for Europe; and 14 is the sequential number assigned to that project. Logically (though this doesn’t always hold true), if the Aerostar launched for the 1986 model year, it would be safe to assume that project no. 14 would be around that time or later—not 1981.
Find me a period reference, say from the Escort’s or Topaz’s launch, that refers to CE14. You won’t be able to, because it doesn’t exist.
There’s one person on Wikipedia, a former Ford insider called Pmeisel, who put up a page to talk about all of this in February 2005, but so far he’s alone. No one wanted to engage him. ApolloBoy entered his work of fiction that December.
Why don’t I go and correct it? They asked for advice before from a professional about another topic, I stepped in, and let’s just say the inmates run the asylum. Studies show that Wikipedia’s “power editors” are unlikely to have their changes altered. When the late Aaron Swartz found it too insular, and when Larry Sanger, the guy who co-founded the site, left because he found it having a ‘lack of respect for expertise,’ and called it ‘anti-elitist (which, in this context, means that expertise is not accorded any special respect, and snubs and disrespect of expertise is tolerated),’ then you wonder why any of us should bother.
Larry continued, ‘Consequently, nearly everyone with much expertise but little patience will avoid editing Wikipedia, because they will—at least if they are editing articles on articles that are subject to any sort of controversy—be forced to defend their edits on article discussion pages against attacks by nonexperts.’ Exactly what I discovered first-hand.
Then there was another time when I blogged something critical about Wikipedia, and one of its senior editors decided she’d stop by to send abuse for the next several days. Classy. Not sure if she knew she was proving my point.
So there you have it: there’s just simply more value being on sites like Drivetribe if you love cars, and thanks to Wikipedia being the way it is, I have Autocade to lavish my spare time on—a place where, if an expert calls me out on an error, I’m happy to fix it. Hopefully I’ve made it as accurate as I can, and I certainly don’t have the gall to fabricate things to earn medals. And if you’re a car nut whose instincts are saying, ‘The CE14 couldn’t possibly have been the US Escort,’ then listen to that, rather than, ‘But it’s all over the internet, so it must be true.’ Sometimes, the truth lies in independent sites, away from the big players like Google, Facebook, and Wikipedia.
PS.: The error was sort of corrected after this piece ran on Drivetribe (although it has been pointed out many times before), thanks to a long-time Wikipedia contributor, Nick. I say ‘sort of’, and explain why in my blog here: jackyan.com/blog/2017/11/wikipedia-corrects-serious-error-after-12-years/ . Still, I’m grateful to Nick for doing something that should have been done over a decade ago.