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Wikipedia is wide open. Why is it growing so fast? Why isn't it full of nonsense?

By Larry Sanger in Op-Ed
Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 09:00:44 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

After the July 25 K5 article I wrote about Wikipedia was Slashdotted, the free encyclopedia project has broken the 10,000 article barrier, and it has been the focus of stories in MIT's Technology Review as well as in The New York Times. The most recent development is that free software guru Richard Stallman has endorsed the Wikipedia project alongside his endorsement of Nupedia. Stallman described Wikipedia's successes to me as "really exciting news."

This growth and attention is paradoxical. Why should anyone care about it? After all, Wikipedia is a wide-open project--anyone can write for it. Moreover, the wiki software that runs the project allows anyone to edit any page, instantly. So, it must be full of a bunch of crank submissions, vandalism, and plain old sophomoric stupidity. But it's not. It's not half bad. In places, and increasingly, it's of very high quality. And that's even more paradoxical.


(Full disclosure: I am, with Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia and its only full-time paid participant. I feel very uncomfortable calling myself its "editor-in-chief." The participants would rebel at that title, and it would be "anti-wiki"--"anti-wiki" is bad, in case you didn't know.)

Among Wikipedia's active contributors are Axel Boldt, mathematics professor at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota; Michael Tinkler, a professor of art history; a female professor in both ESL and mathematics at Columbia U. and CUNY; and well over a dozen other Ph.D.'s, M.D.'s, and highly-educated people from around the world. In addition, there are many extremely bright, articulate graduate students and undergraduates involved. There are also dozens of computer programmers who are constantly displaying their knowledge both within and outside the bounds of computer science. Everyone is welcome and their work is judged on its own merits.

But--why all this activity and interest? Isn't it puzzling? Surely it is. Wiki software must be the most promiscuous form of publishing there is--Wikipedia will take anything from anybody. So how is it possible that so many otherwise upstanding intellectuals love Wikipedia (some, secretly) and spend so much time on it? Why aren't we writing for academic journals, or something?

It's fun, first of all. But it can be fun for intellectually serious people only if we know that we're creating something of quality. And how do we know that? The basic outlines of the answer ought to be fairly obvious to anyone who has read Eric S. Raymond's famous essay on the open source movement, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar." Remember, if we can edit any page, then we can edit each other's work. Given enough eyeballs, all errors are shallow. We catch each other's mistakes and enjoy correcting them.

So, we're are constantly monitoring Wikipedia's Recent Changes page. When--as happens rarely--some eedjit shows up and vandalizes a page, it's fixed nearly instantly. (We save back copies of all pages, and these are very easily accessible.) We (that is, we participants) work on a lot of different pages, and I think most of us feel some collective responsibility for how the whole thing looks. We're constantly cleaning up after each other and new people.

In the process, a camaraderie--a politeness and congeniality not found on many online discussion forums--has developed. We've got to respect each other, because we are each other's editors, and we all have more or less the same goal: to create a huge, high-quality free encyclopedia.

The way I see it, we're having fun creating a thing of beauty.

Perhaps this doesn't explain something, though. Why should highly-qualified people get involved with Wikipedia? It's not peer-reviewed. So, isn't it lightweight? Why should any serious researcher care about it? Why should anyone rely on it?

This is a common first reaction. The attitude appeared--gently expressed--in both the Technology Review article

Walter Bender, executive director of MIT's Media Laboratory, believes that what makes Britannica a valuable resource is the scope and depth of its editing, and free Web-based encyclopedias such as Wikipedia will probably never be able to compete with that.
and the New York Times article:
But even if Wikipedia doesn't become a popular resource it may survive, even thrive, because of what it offers to those working on it.

That is the view of James J. O'Donnell, a professor of classical studies and vice provost for information systems at the University of Pennsylvania...

"The thing and the experience may be much more valuable for those who are creating it than it is for somebody who just walks in saying, `So when is the Second Punic War and which one was that?' " Mr. O'Donnell said. "A community that finds a way to talk in this way is creating education and online discourse at a higher level."

The implication is that Wikipedia has a nice community, but it doesn't have much breadth, depth, or reliability; so if you want serious information, go to Britannica.

If Wikipedians believed that, we'd bag the whole thing. We think we are--gradually, and sometimes from very rough first drafts--developing a reliable resource. So what answer can I offer to the above concerns?

Part of the answer is already given above: Wikipedia's self-correction process (Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales calls it "self-healing") is very robust. There is considerable value created by the public review process that is continually ongoing on Wikipedia--value that is very easy to underestimate, for those who have not experienced it adequately.

Another part of the answer is that, of course, we've been around since just last January, 2001. (Britannica's had a few centuries' head start.) Significantly, Wikipedia's rate of growth has been steadily increasing--in terms of article numbers and quality, traffic to the website, and attracting more highly-qualified contributors. So it seems very reasonable to think that within a few years the project will surpass Britannica in both breadth and depth. At our current rate of growth, we will have over 100,000 articles by 2005; articles begun this year will be, in all likelihood, fleshed out to great detail. Not a few articles already have been.

But what about reliability? That's a third part of the answer. It seems very likely that, in coming months, Wikipedia will set up some sort of approval process, whereby certain versions of articles receive the stamp of approval of some body of Wikipedia reviewers. There have been two main proposals about how to set up a review process. Whatever the shape of the process, it would act entirely independently of article generation. (We certainly do not want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.) But after it's in place, we will be able to present a set of genuine expert-approved articles that can favorably compare with articles from any general encyclopedia--Britannica included.

Admittedly, Wikipedia isn't on the verge of world domination--yet. But it's growing beyond anyone's expectations. The rate of growth continues to increase. Once an approval process is installed, in short order Wikipedia will--I think--be able to boast a breadth, depth, and reliability to compare to any general encyclopedia you please.

Then we'll try to get to the depth and reliability of a whole reference library full of specialized encyclopedia--something no general encyclopedia has ever done.

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Wikipedia is wide open. Why is it growing so fast? Why isn't it full of nonsense? | 117 comments (116 topical, 1 editorial, 1 hidden)
I like the long-term plans... (3.77 / 9) (#2)
by rusty on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 05:18:16 AM EST

I like your focus on long-term development, sustainable development. I think the web has sorely lacked that, and I hope when you say "by 2005" you fully intend to be still alive and growing in 2005. I think the open content license is a good way to ensure that, too.

Good work, and don't let the nattering nabobs of corporate-media negativism get you down. Keep focusing on improving your quality, and eventually it'll be "Britannica who?" :-)

____
Not the real rusty

Thanks (none / 0) (#25)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:40:22 PM EST

Thanks, Rusty!

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Limited by the markup language (4.25 / 8) (#3)
by LQ on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 05:22:47 AM EST

The trouble with all wikis that I've seen is that they are all limited by their markup language. Encyclopedia need a more flexible, visual mechanism than just an ascii psuedo HTML. There is an upper bound on how useful a wiki can be without the ability to diagram, annotate, upload images etc.

The openness of a freely editable wiki is a double edged sword. Can you really trust the quality of the content? But, by comparision, Everything2 has a rating system a bit like the other place. You really have to put in some effort to get started there. That might explain why they have some really dedicated contributers and some excellent content.

Wiki is open source (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:49:51 PM EST

There are a lot of feature requests that would improve the wiki software we're running. Currently, a Wikipedia member (Magnus Manske) is rewriting UseModWiki so that it's custom-tailored for Wikipedia. Among other things, we'll be installing a file uploader. All of this software is open source--so, ultimately, if it is for the best, what you suggest will happen.

As to your second point, I agree! The reliability of Wikipedia needs to be guaranteed; so, among other things, plans are in place to set up a review system.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

You should be careful with statements like... (4.50 / 2) (#55)
by Sunir on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 03:21:39 PM EST

Wiki is open source.

Wiki, that is WikiWiki, is open sourced, but not free (full copyright is retained by Ward Cunningham). On the other hand, wikis in general are either open sourced or not, free or not.

I just wanted to maintain the distinction between each wiki on the Internet, much like there is a distinction between each weblog on the Internet.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

Markup (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by Dlugar on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:02:35 PM EST

Well, first of all "ASCII psuedo HTML" isn't the only thing around. I used Wikipedia and was gratified to learn that my normal tags such as <b>, <table> and so forth all function properly. In addition, images can be uploaded, although it does take human interaction.

The biggest whining in this area has been in the mathematical section of the site, which indeed is limited, not I think by pseudo-HTML, but by HTML itself, which was never meant to display mathematical formulas. However, as Larry says, people are working actively on the problems.

Additionally, I think the ability for some nobody to go through the site on a whim and make some grammatical/spelling/content corrections is one of the reasons Wikipedia is growing so fast. The only thing regarding "ratings" that I would see as beneficial is that "questionable" contributors or even "questionable" articles get placed in a separate pool where people spend more time looking for errors.

Dlugar

[ Parent ]
The presentation of mathematical formulas (none / 0) (#77)
by Prominairy on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 04:05:50 AM EST

    W3C has developed MathML, a specification for describing mathematics and support for it in Mozilla is currently under development. Hopefully it won't be too long until we see it as something a bit more common than a future possibility.


-~-~-~-~--~-~-~-~--~-~-~-~--~-~-~-~-
"Work like you don't need the money.
Love like you've never been hurt.
Dance like nobody's watching."

[ Parent ]
Nonsense in Wikipedia (4.07 / 13) (#4)
by streetlawyer on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 09:23:14 AM EST

A quick turn to the only area I am familiar with reveals an awful lot of crap. Going down the page:
  • Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" was not the first major work of economics, except for English-speaking undergraduates who have never heard of Cantillon and Quesnay. The ommission of Quesnay is very bad indeed.
  • The discipline of economics does not discuss non-commodity societies "chiefly in terms of their transition to societies based on the exchange of commodities". This is a peculiarity of Marxist economics; indeed of historical materialism.
  • The statement that "Virtually everything is scarce; there are not enough resources around the world to satisfy humanity" is extraordinarily imprecise in almost every word used. Particularly, the failure to define "scarcity" and "satisfy" makes the sentence more or less meaningless.
  • Economic history is not mentioned at all, and development economics is treated as a third branch, separate from micro- and macro-economics. This might be the way in which the subject is treated in some textbooks, but it does not reflect any real distinction.
  • Economics is not "primarily concerned with interactions between buyer and seller".
Apart from these errors, the treatment is extremely partial and sketchy compared to Britannica's treatment. It also links to an article on the Austrian School which seems to imply that the Austrians and neoclassicals were on opposite sides of the calculation question and claims that the transformation problem is an Austrian critique of Marxism (the opposite is true)>

The labour theory of value article claims in its first sentence that market prices "tend toward" labour values; this is no part of the LTV. It also seems to imply that David Ricardo presented a reductio ad absurdum of Marx's labour theory of value; a quick glance at the date of Ricardo's death might have helped to avoid this error ("superseded" is also misspelled on this page)

The page on Keynesian economics is less outright bad, but very undergraduate (and not a bright undergraduate, either). It concentrates entirely on "vulgar Keynesianism" (deficit spending). It actually commits the howler of writing "This view opens the possibility of regulating the economy through changes in the money supply, but Keynes did not pursue that approach", which would be news to Keynesians! Anyone who thinks that Keynesian economics have "lost influence to other ideas such as monetarism" needs to get out of their Austin Powers-like 1970s time warp.

Before you ask, no, I do not propose to make any changes, although I am sure I could. I don't have enough time to turn the economics section into something worth reading (for no money) and I don't care to be associated with something that isn't good enough.

No real conclusion, just to say that the hysterical claims made above for the quality of WIkipedia really shouldn't be taken at face value.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

Somewhat selective too (4.33 / 3) (#5)
by TheophileEscargot on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:17:16 AM EST

I looked up Relational Databases and found the following:

Database in which data is described as set of tables (sets of records of the same type) and relations between tables. Most popular relational databases are based on SQL query (and management) language.

Some popular relational databases: MySQL, PostgreSQL

There's nothing wrong with this information. But there appear to be no references or articles on closed-source relational databases such as Oracle, Informix, Sybase, Access (*groan*) etc; in spite of the fact that these are currently widely used.

I get the impression that Wikipedia is propagating a view of the universe as seen by a certain group of people. I suspect that the information in Wikipedia is going to be systematically slanted in certain ways.

I love wikis, and I do contribute to them sometimes, but I don't have the time to add to this one. I suspect that wikis work best for more specialised subjects. It could be that it takes a critical mass of experts in a subject to overcome biasses, and with such a wide-ranging wiki this could be difficult to achieve.
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

No different (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by marx on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:31:13 AM EST

I get the impression that Wikipedia is propagating a view of the universe as seen by a certain group of people. I suspect that the information in Wikipedia is going to be systematically slanted in certain ways.

And this is different from the current encyclopedias and authoritative literature how? "Only winners write the history books", etc. etc.

I guess it will be interesting to see what happens in a real conflict though, to see if it really is unmoderated. For example, I'm sure there are a lot of different opinions on what should be under Jerusalem. Who wins? The one with the most persistence or what?

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Energy, inclination towards compromise? (none / 0) (#11)
by slaytanic killer on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:50:04 AM EST

At some point, there may be "composite" pages which are filled up with different views, in different sections. The whole boldness thing will work in their favor, when people will have to understand that boldness can border on sensationalism.

But could you imagine how they'd have to deal with pages on things like the WTC bombing..? A lot of literature will result from the war of the words, making it more honest than a normal encyclopedia's accounts, but in the thick of it will be a very turbulent time.

[ Parent ]
Wikipedia's "neutral point of view" poli (none / 0) (#39)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:34:25 PM EST

Please see our Neutral Point of View page.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

What happens in case of controversy... (5.00 / 2) (#13)
by TheophileEscargot on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:00:44 PM EST

...seems to be that the page ends up taking the form of a dialogue, where people answer each other's points. Blatant bias does not seem to survive the wiki way. For instance, see this page on another (excellent) wiki on on Anti-Americal Terrorist Motifation

The problem is, controversial pages become very long, and the structure tends to deteriorate. So, the page becomes hard to read. The more extreme the controversy, the harder it is for an outsider to make sense of the page.

You make a good point about conventional encyclopaedias also having bias (see Encarta on Microsoft, for example). But in my experience, conventional encyclopaedias do not just omit important factual information, though they may slant the writing. I feel that Wikipaedia is likely to omit large chunks of information that challenge the opinions of the writers.
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

Controversial topics in Wikipedia (none / 0) (#27)
by AxelBoldt on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:46:01 PM EST

The problem is, controversial pages become very long, and the structure tends to deteriorate. [...] I feel that Wikipaedia is likely to omit large chunks of information that challenge the opinions of the writers.

Yes, the initial author often omits crucial information, either because of ignorance or because of malice. But that is usually fixed quickly. Check out



[ Parent ]
in fairness (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by streetlawyer on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:19:57 PM EST

I would have to say that the page on capitalism is very good, and touches most of the important issues without visible slant. It gives Ayn Rand more prominence than she should have, but then that's the Internet for you. Interestingly, the author of the capitalism page has clearly heard of the mercantilists and physiocrats, while the author of the economics page clearly hasn't. So maybe I was too hasty and things will come right in the end after all. Though I still have my doubts; "capitalism" is a sexy subject but "economics" isn't.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Relational databases (none / 0) (#24)
by AxelBoldt on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:40:03 PM EST

Thanks for pointing out this bug. I tried to fix it. If it's still incomplete, maybe it would be better for you to correct it directly.

[ Parent ]
As the Rolling Stones once said... (none / 0) (#32)
by TheophileEscargot on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:07:34 PM EST

...Ti-i-i-i-me is not on my side

The other thing is, as with most people, I find it vastly easier and quicker to rant than to provide accurate, fair information. I could write 2000 words on exactly why the developers of Microsoft Access should be eaten alive by pack rats, in less time than I could write 100 words of fair analysis of small databases.
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

So you're saying (3.80 / 5) (#6)
by jacob on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:20:44 AM EST

it's more worth your time to write down complaints on kuro5hin than to write the same things down as corrections on wikipedia? I fail to see the logic.

--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]
Re: So you're saying (3.00 / 4) (#9)
by DarkZero on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:43:39 AM EST

The topic is about whether or not we should trust Wikipedia and its supposedly very fast and accurate human-driven process or editing and maintaining quality in the articles. They, as well as I, are finding a lot of problems in just a quick glance at Wikipedia, which is certainly a bad sign.

And with that tone, I wouldn't be surprised if you're a frequent visitor of Wikipedia, because your post is full of bias and a complete lack of logic. Wikipedia is the topic and we are talking about it. We're not just going to shut up, help them out, and pretend we're not finding anything bad.

[ Parent ]
temper temper (4.00 / 3) (#26)
by jacob on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:40:57 PM EST

Saying 'boy howdy, that wikipedia sure has bad articles' is one (useful) thing, saying 'article x has flaw q, article y has flaw r,' etc., is another. Obviously I wasn't criticizing his pointing out flaws in wikipedia; I've never even visited the site, so I have no idea whether it's any good or not except that his post seems to indicate that the economics section has some problems.

It seemed to me that if you're willing to actually detail all the flaws with an article on a wiki, it's just as easy and more productive to actually fix those flaws yourself than to post a complaint that actually lists and corrects those flaws. You've already put in the work, you might as well put it in a constructive place. If you then want to go here and say, 'the economics section had some major problems, and that reflects on the quality of the endeavor,' that's probably a good idea too.



--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]
I don't blame 'em (none / 0) (#38)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:29:35 PM EST

I don't blame anyone for not wanting to contribute to Wikipedia. No one is obligated to contribute, of course, and, as I have posted this commentary to K5, it is open season on Wikipedia! Criticism of articles is fair play! :-) (We'll just use the criticisms to improve the articles.)

But, you'll notice, the commentary I wrote conceded essentially that a lot of articles need a lot of work, and I go on to explain why Wikipedia is becoming increasingly reliable. We started just last January; the Wikipedia article creation process is very robust and effective over the period of many months; and we'll be setting up an approval process.

It is by no means certain that Wikipedia will achieve the reliability and depth of Britannica. What's remarkable is that this is even possible!

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

that's just a few minutes' work (4.66 / 3) (#10)
by streetlawyer on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:46:06 AM EST

To do it properly would involve sitting down and writing the whole thing to an acceptable standard. That would take too long.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
That IS just a few minutes' work (4.50 / 2) (#14)
by yooden on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:04:21 PM EST

To do it properly would involve sitting down and writing the whole thing to an acceptable standard. That would take too long.

All you have to do is to delete what's wrong and to mention what's right and where more information can be found. Not that much work.



[ Parent ]
but who would you get to write it? (3.66 / 3) (#16)
by streetlawyer on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:15:06 PM EST

Almost certainly someone just as bad. And then the substandard product created would have my name on it. That's my problem with the whole project.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Whoever comes along (5.00 / 2) (#23)
by yooden on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:37:08 PM EST

And then the substandard product created would have my name on it.

Your name would be only on the stuff you contribute, and then only if you choose an alias before you do it, and then only to the visitors who are interested in the authors. I saw more than one article growing from one line to multiple paragraphs in a few days, including discussion and research. This is not guaranteed, but very possible.



[ Parent ]
intellectual/ivory tower bias (2.58 / 12) (#20)
by infinitera on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:22:12 PM EST

All the points you raise are valid, but I think they are very understandable; economics is a pseudoscience that supports dominant structures, and as such, many intellectuals internalize its irrational tenets. Real thought & substance is limited to critics of a statist capitalist system.

[ Parent ]
How about contributing bit by bit anonymously? (4.25 / 4) (#22)
by AxelBoldt on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:34:32 PM EST

Before you ask, no, I do not propose to make any changes, although I am sure I could. I don't have enough time to turn the economics section into something worth reading (for no money) and I don't care to be associated with something that isn't good enough.

It's a pitty that you won't contribute because it's clear that you would be a great asset. But I know your feeling very well: initially it all looks like a deep morass, and article by article, bit by bit, you try to establish dry ground, but it seems too overwhelming. It is fun though; if initially you don't want to be associated with it, you can always choose an anonymous handle. The whole concept of authorship is not germane to wikis anyway.

[ Parent ]

Come back next year, please (4.00 / 2) (#33)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:10:14 PM EST

I totally understand and sympathize with your reaction. I certainly don't expect everyone to want to jump on board. But if the main thing that's stopping you at this point is that some articles in one area of Wikipedia are of substandard quality, I'd ask you to come back next year, or the year after. By that time, it seems pretty likely that the mistakes in those articles will be corrected, and a lot more details will have been supplied. In short, time alone will--it's reasonable to think--render the project something with which you'll want to be associated.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Attacks (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by slaytanic killer on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:39:31 AM EST

Wow, nice. A lot of these things are actually worth reading, and pointing to. I just started making warplans on attacking the Wikipedia, but it was clear that these attacks would just speed up measures by you to block them, that you would've implemented eventually anyway. Attack on the content would just take too much energy if I were working strictly through the Wikipedia system... and the rewards aren't that interesting.

The main difficulty is that there are too many sources of external knowledge. Sure, I can fool someone about something obscure, it is just a matter of time when someone reads something external and finds the error. After all, for my information to be credible, it had to point to something true and useful, as well as the lies. Those true things will point externally to other sources which will contradict my lies, as long as I don't control all information.

The information doesn't have to be perfectly reliable. People live their lives in a haze of wrong and incomplete information they hear from the guy down the block, or the closed-minded professor. The standards Wikipedia has to fulfill are actually pretty low.

I quit (4.33 / 9) (#12)
by yooden on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:57:43 AM EST

I was pointed to the Wikipedia by Slashdot and immediately loved it. I started mucking around with a few articles, checked Recent Changes each day and generally tried to make myself useful.

I quit when I disagreed about one thing with Larry Sanger, no less. He didn't want to discuss the issue ("Frankly, I don't give a rat's patoot whether you think [the Issue]"), instead decreeing what was the Right Thing and what was merely opinion. ("Yooden and [another contributor] continue to maintain, puzzlingly, that their position is fact. I think it is obviously not only opinion, but false opinion." This without ever answering my arguments.)

(The Issue doesn't really matter. I'm only avoiding it because it's loosely related to the WTC attacks.)

I thought an editing match with Larry was pointless, so I tried for a time to simply avoid him. I finally quit (after Larry messed up another article which I contributed to) because this is just the thing the Wikipedia should not be.

I still think the Wikipedia is a great idea, but it's current implementation is tainted by its creator.

Yes, I'm still pissed.



Sorry to hear this (4.66 / 3) (#36)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:18:05 PM EST

I'm very sorry to hear this, Yooden. I agree that I handled that situation badly; mainly, I was trying to get us focused back on writing articles.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Interesting (5.00 / 2) (#45)
by Danse on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:05:46 PM EST

If such situations arise, would it not make more sense to have some sort of procedure for handling it that doesn't come down to whether or not you happen to think it's right based on what you alone know at the time? That seems like a terribly bad way of handling conflicts for a project such as Wikipedia. I've checked out Wikipedia a few times and I'm impressed with its growth. After reading this, I'd be very hesitant about contributing until there was a satisfactory means of conflict resolution in place.






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Interesting (5.00 / 2) (#47)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:16:53 PM EST

This is a very interesting proposal. I wouldn't mind seeing more discussion of it. A good place for such discussion would be on Wikipedia-L. I think you'd find a lot of people saying, "But this is a wiki! Conflicts can be handled on /Talk pages." But I think you have a point. In order to achieve some sense of fairness, in extreme cases, perhaps some sort of independent arbitration process would be useful.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Conflict Resolution (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by yooden on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:54:21 PM EST

"But this is a wiki! Conflicts can be handled on /Talk pages."

That's what I did on numerous other pages and what works 99.9% of the time and what make Wikipedia great. In this case however, "your mind was made when you redirected the page", to quote another contributor, and you never even entered the discussion.

The problem is probably that the effort you put into starting Wikipedia is now overpowering anyone in my situation.



[ Parent ]
OK (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 04:27:05 PM EST

I fully realize now that it was a mistake not to enter the discussion. If I had known that my remark would be interpreted as it was, and thereby consider grounds for quitting (and misunderstanding my role in Wikipedia), I certainly would have engaged the dialectic more fully.

You wrote: "The problem is probably that the effort you put into starting Wikipedia is now overpowering anyone in my situation."

I'd like to understand better--what exactly does that mean? I want to avoid overpowering anybody, or seeming to, or seeming to want to.

Larry

[ Parent ]

Huh? (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by yooden on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 06:19:13 PM EST

If I had known that my remark would be interpreted as it was

I repeat: "Frankly, I don't give a rat's patoot whether you think [the Issue]"

How would you interpret this?

I also made my view quite clear on the very page where this all happened. I wonder why you waited until now to answer my complaints, when I voice it in a public forum outside of Wikipedia.

You wrote: "The problem is probably that the effort you put into starting Wikipedia is now overpowering anyone in my situation."

I'd like to understand better--what exactly does that mean? I want to avoid overpowering anybody, or seeming to, or seeming to want to.

I won't discuss this in any length, partly because this is not the right forum (I couldn't find your email address), partly because I'm still not sure whether it would be a waste of time.

When you made the redirection and made it very clear that you wouldn't discuss the issue, I had the coice to either let it rest or start an edit brawl. I might have done that with any other contributor, but your omnipresence promised that it would cost more effort than I was willing to pay.

What you say on Wikipedia has more impact than it inherently deserves. Get used to the fact that people regard you as an authority on matters you don't know jack about.



[ Parent ]
Explanation (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 07:19:08 PM EST

I also made my view quite clear on the very page where this all happened. I wonder why you waited until now to answer my complaints, when I voice it in a public forum outside of Wikipedia.

I recall (dimly) that I thought you were just confused, that you sounded very shrill, and I didn't want to take the time--which your public statement is finally now forcing me to do--to try to explain what was going on and to engage you in a passionate argument. Probably I had what I thought were higher priorities.

The basic issue--where the article about the Civil War should live--did not and does not deserve all this hyperventilation. I think that on that we agree. You thought that I was simply "decreeing" that the page should be on one page, period. That is incorrect. I was "decreeing" my opinion on the grammatical issue over which the dispute revolved.

Frankly, I just don't care that much where the article lives. I never did! I just wanted a quick resolution of what looked to me like a silly, pointless dispute.

Yooden, I would appreciate it if you would not insult me. I have not insulted you.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Email (none / 0) (#76)
by yooden on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 03:34:08 AM EST

Put your address somewhere, will you?

[ Parent ]
Uh, yeah.... (3.80 / 5) (#15)
by Otter on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:07:52 PM EST

Not to rain on your parade (this is an interesting, ambitious project and I wish you the best of luck) a quick look through your current content suggests it's a little early for you to be bragging as much as you are. And including a page trashing Brittanica, to boot.

Picking three random topics, and yes, they're the three I looked at, not a selection tailored to make a point, and yes, I'm hungry, looking forward to winter and planning a vacation:

Szechuan Cuisine
Szechuan? cuisine uses a lot of chili peppers.

I could have gone to Google and gotten far more information -- plus a link to the real CIA Factbook. Some famous Szechuan dishes include: * Ma Yi Sheng Shu - (lit. ants climbing up the tree,) probably describes the tinkling feeling after eating too much pepper. See also: cooking

Ice Hockey
Hockey is a team sport played on an ice surface. The area of play is called a rink. The rink is 200ft long and 100ft wide. The corners of the rink are rounded with a radius of 28ft. The rink is enclosed by boards that are between 3ft 4in and 4ft high. The surface of the ice is broken up into different sections by lines painted beneath the ice surface. Goal lines are located 10 ft from each end of the rink. Goal lines extend across the width of the rink, are 2" wide and are painted red. Blue lines are located 60 ft from each end of the rink. The Blue lines extend across the width of the rink and continue up the boards. They are 12" wide and, obviously, are painted blue. The Centre Red line is a 12" wide red line located in the centre of the rink and extending across the width of the rink and up the boards.

Laos
This one (I'm not going to bother quoting it) impressed me at first with its thoroughness. Then I noticed it's lifted directly from the CIA World Factbook entry.

Oh yeah! (none / 0) (#18)
by yooden on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:16:17 PM EST

What's your point? Wikipedia is not as useful as the Britannica, but the Britannica is <wild guess>about a hundred years older</wild guess> and a lot more expensive. There is very useful content right now, in five years it may be sufficiently advanced to make (maybe together with Nupedia) other encyclopedias obsolete.

[ Parent ]
Errr, yeah... (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by Otter on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:56:27 PM EST

First, some corrections to my original post. The line "I could have gone to Google and gotten far more information -- plus a link to the real CIA Factbook." migrated into the middle from the end, where it should be. Also, I forgot to point out that not only does the "Ice Hockey" entry focus entirely on the dimensions of the rink, it neglects the fact that the numbers are for the wider European rinks and don't apply to those used in the sport's motherland and in its premier professional league. Anyway...

What's your point? Wikipedia is not as useful as the Britannica, but the Britannica is <wild guess>about a hundred years older</wild guess> and a lot more expensive. There is very useful content right now, in five years it may be sufficiently advanced to make (maybe together with Nupedia) other encyclopedias obsolete.

My point is that however useful Wikipedia will be in five years, the author is talking about the substantial body of high quality articles it supposedly has today. I looked at more than ten entries before posting and saw nothing but schlocky filler.

I'd have been more impressed with a handful of well-written pieces with the promise of more to come than by a process with no evidence of editors.

[ Parent ]

Alternative (3.50 / 2) (#31)
by yooden on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:03:49 PM EST

I'd have been more impressed with a handful of well-written pieces with the promise of more to come than by a process with no evidence of editors.

That's what Nupedia is for



[ Parent ]
I could find lots more bad stuff... (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:45:58 PM EST

...that I and others are constantly publicly deploring. More commonly, we just go ahead and fix the problems we see. Yes, there is a lot of mediocre stuff added. Think of Wikipedia as one giant rough draft of an encyclopedia, written by a bunch of different people. Having admitted that, I stand by what I said when I said that a lot of it is isn't half-bad, and some of it is quite good.

I don't mean to get defensive here, I don't think I overstated the quality of what you'd find at Wikipedia right now. If you'll have a look at the commentary again, you'll see that I didn't say very much about that; mainly I was talking about the people and the process, and about future quality. I focused on that because that is what I think is important. Because of the process and the new, highly-qualified people constantly arriving, our best quality articles now will, I think, be average-quality articles in a few years.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Continuous releases (4.00 / 3) (#19)
by slaytanic killer on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:18:24 PM EST

I think something that people miss is that when online, you see a lot of first drafts. People are normally used to finished products, since changes (for any product you can imagine) were so costly that it only made economic sense to release something published and carefully controlled. However, this economic reality no longer applies.

That said, I'm happy people are pointing out Wikipedia's shortcomings. Larry Sanger apparently needs to be excited with his project. Readers need to know shortcomings and criticisms, even ones that cut deep. It is a sensible tradeoff.

[ Parent ]
Laos (4.50 / 2) (#49)
by Dlugar on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:33:19 PM EST

Slightly misleading to say, "Then I noticed it's lifted directly from the CIA World Factbook entry." Wikipedia tries to take Public Domain resources (such as the CIA World Factbook) from all different places and turn them into one informative source for information. The Laos page, for those of you who went to look, says explicitly in italics that it's from the CIA World Factbook, and therefore needs quite a bit of work to get up to par. Just trying to clear up any confusion for any who thought, because of your post, that Wikipedia was taking copyrighted information and passing it off as its own. In fact, it's not even taking public domain information and passing it off as its own--it specifically notes the source, and that will likely remain until significant changes have been made to the text.

Dlugar

[ Parent ]
Sorry if that's how it sounded (none / 0) (#63)
by Otter on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 05:28:52 PM EST

Just trying to clear up any confusion for any who thought, because of your post, that Wikipedia was taking copyrighted information and passing it off as its own.

I didn't mean to suggest that and I apologize if it came off that way. I was just commenting that the only substantive content I saw was a cut-n-paste job.

[ Parent ]

Votes? (2.90 / 10) (#17)
by DarkZero on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:15:51 PM EST

How the Hell did this commercial get past the voting process? This absolutely worthless article is nothing but a blatant advertisement for Wikipedia, and it's obviously not objective at all. It's written by one of the people that runs the damn thing, and it makes no mention of the blatant problems in its structure (check out the listing for Big O under Television - Japanese Animation. A bit of a basic structural problem, eh?), and just waves off the other structural problems such as the ability to overwrite other people's articles (something Everything2 has fixed, while adding the ability for multiple perspectives on debatable or non-factual issues at the same time) and the obviously poor editing process that has left tons of little bits of information which the K5ers are very rightfully tearing apart. Not to mention the fact that the majority of the articles I've read so far are uninformed and include a request for more information in them.

This is nothing but the makers of a faulty creation trying to pass a commercial off as journalism. It's both disgusting and stupid.



Structural problems (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by AxelBoldt on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:11:22 PM EST

How the Hell did this commercial get past the voting process?

Well, there are lots of us :-)

What you describe as "structural problem" is simply bad article naming; we should have labeled them "Big O -- Anime" and "Big O -- Landau symbol". It could be easily fixed, but for now I have added a mentioning of the Anime show to the Big O article.

Oh, BTW, Britannica elegantly avoids the above problem by ignoring the Anime show and successfully hiding the Big O notation.

[ Parent ]

Wikipedia is open content (3.66 / 3) (#41)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:55:27 PM EST

Kuro5hin does, I thought, generally support and have an active interest in open content (free/"libre") projects like Wikipedia. It's obviously not objective, which is why I decided to move it to the "op-ed" section. (What, I'm not allowed to be biased in the "op-ed" section? :-) )

The reason I didn't mention "the ability to overwrite other people's articles" because there is really no such ability. First, there is no single authorship. Second, we save copies of previous edits, which makes it downright easy to restore old versions of articles. Third, in fact, the problem you mention happens very seldom--we actually generally respect each other!

I would suggest that you simply do not understand what you describe as "the obviously poor editing process." Wikipedia is a wiki--the vector is from mediocre or worse to polished perfection. In other words, you are judging Wikipedia as a final product--well, it's not one yet. It's in progress.

The more people who get involved--maybe even you--and write seriously about what they know, the fewer the mistakes there will be.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Op-Ed it ain't (1.00 / 1) (#54)
by /dev/niall on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 03:14:07 PM EST

It's obviously not objective, which is why I decided to move it to the "op-ed" section. (What, I'm not allowed to be biased in the "op-ed" section? :-) )

This reads more like "Op-Ad", as do most of your replies to those who don't think your story has any editorial content that backs up an opinion.

I guess writing about wiki is somewhat tricky.

--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

Op-ad (none / 0) (#60)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 04:17:53 PM EST

This reads more like "Op-Ad", as do most of your replies to those who don't think your story has any editorial content that backs up an opinion.

I'm not sure what mean, frankly.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

re: Op-ad (1.00 / 1) (#71)
by /dev/niall on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 09:19:46 PM EST

I'm not sure what mean, frankly.

Op-Ad: Opinion advertisment. The entire story is one boring plug for your site. Also seems like every response you make to every post that is in any way critical of you or your site also mentions what a wonderful place it is, or will be, or can be...

I hope your write-ups stick to the point at hand, because this meandering "opinion" piece is little more than "Hey! Come check out my site!" which makes it MLP in my book.


--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

Reply (none / 0) (#72)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:17:55 PM EST

Your assumption appears to be that if I describe my own project in glowing terms (in defense of common objections), I am therefore engaging in "opinion advertisement" which is "boring." I don't think that follows. Simply because I point out the virtues of my own project, it doesn't follow that I am engaging in what can fairly be characterized as "advertisement." Suppose Stallman were to show up and write about the successes of the FSF and to reply to some objections people have raised to it. That would not necessarily count as advertisement.

I think that what I wrote has considerable general interest--obviously not for you, but for a lot of other people. This includes interest in how the founder of the project might defend it (in glowing terms) against common objections. This interest is not due to because people might want to buy what I have to sell. So, I disagree with your characterization. I think we probably have a semantic dispute on our hands.

Moreover, you seem to take issue with my defending Wikipedia in these replies. Obviously, if, in order to defend my thesis that Wikipedia is doing well in spite of (and perhaps because of) being wide open, I am going to be asserting that Wikipedia is doing well.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

re: Reply (1.00 / 1) (#74)
by /dev/niall on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:44:24 PM EST

I'm not taking issue with you defending anything. I am pointing out that your "Editorial" is nothing of the kind -- it's a wandering pimp-fest for your site. Whether the site is interesting or not is immaterial. I can see at LEAST five advertising "tricks of the trade" in your original article alone.

Suppose Stallman were to show up and write about the successes of the FSF and to reply to some objections people have raised to it. That would not necessarily count as advertisement.

Since he has not done so, I will not comment on suppositions.

Your assumption appears to be that if I describe my own project in glowing terms (in defense of common objections), I am therefore engaging in "opinion advertisement" which is "boring."

I am of the opinion that this article has nothing new since the last time I heard of your site. It has no point. It wanders.

I think we probably have a semantic dispute on our hands.

Nah, you have a semantic dispute on your hands. ;)
--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

Whatever (none / 0) (#75)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:51:00 PM EST

I'm not taking issue with you defending anything. I am pointing out that your "Editorial" is nothing of the kind -- it's a wandering pimp-fest for your site.

Huh? Look, I've never written advertising copy. I'm just writing about my project. If I'm good at writing advertising tricks of the trade, does that mean that I'm advertising?

I am of the opinion that this article has nothing new since the last time I heard of your site. It has no point. It wanders.

No news, no point, no structure? I'm not sure you read the article at all. If so, try reading it again.

I'll let you have the last word here, if you wish.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Re: Wikipedia is open content (1.00 / 1) (#92)
by DarkZero on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 04:07:03 PM EST

I would suggest that you simply do not understand what you describe as "the obviously poor editing process." Wikipedia is a wiki--the vector is from mediocre or worse to polished perfection. In other words, you are judging Wikipedia as a final product--well, it's not one yet. It's in progress.

So in other words, no one may judge your project because it isn't good enough to be judged. Maybe you should have waited until you felt that your project was ready for review before passing an advertisement for it off as journalism at K5. Either way, by submitting this article, you practically ASKED for jdugement of it, and that's what you have received. We have judged it, it sucks both in its current form and its structure, and the fact that you brought this blatant advertisement to us just increases our disgust with you and your project.

Oh, and finally...

Simply because I point out the virtues of my own project, it doesn't follow that I am engaging in what can fairly be characterized as "advertisement.

From Dictionary.com - Advertisement: "A notice, such as a poster or a paid announcement in the print, broadcast, or electronic media, designed to attract public attention or patronage."

You created this article to attract public attention and patronage for YOUR OWN PROJECT. That is advertisement, and making an article to point out the virtues of your own project IS advertisement. What's worse is that you passed it off as a legitimate article.

You disgust me.



[ Parent ]
I don't understand the objection (4.00 / 1) (#65)
by yesterdays children on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 05:44:08 PM EST

Why can't we as readers get heads up on cool stuff like this? Sure, maybe it should go to MLP, but in any case, its good to see actual informative articles here, gosh knows its a nice change.

It was voted on, wasn't it?

[ Parent ]

Umm, not to be mean, but... (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by Kasreyn on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:22:39 PM EST

...Either you lost your train of thought somewhere along your way, or else your article is a rather thinly disguised plug for your project. =P

I wish you all the best, but is K5 really the place to come in and post an article that does little but too your own horn(s)? Seeing as how you answer your own main question (answer being, we back up pages and replace them when some 1337 14 year old overwrites someone's hard work with rubbish). So since you have no question, I guess I have no answer.

Good luck anyway, though. If Wikipedia ever comes close to being "complete" (in the sense of about as complete as commercial offerings, or more), I'd even buy a copy! Or, well, get a free copy and donate. =P


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Of course! (4.66 / 3) (#42)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:02:02 PM EST

Of course it's a plug for the project! I want people to participate! But I think that in plugging for it, I managed to (1) report the news about the project and (2) reply to some of the most common reactions to the bare-bones description of the project. I think both things are of interest to Kuro5hin readers. I imagine the folks who voted to put it on the front page agreed with me. (Sorry, that was bad--a blatant example of argumentum ad populum. Anyway, thanks, folks!)

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Cathedral, not Bazaar (2.60 / 5) (#30)
by bugmaster on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:03:44 PM EST

From reading the story, it seems to me that Wiki is a Cathedral, not a Bazaar. Multiple (and sometimes anonymous) users submit stories and edits, but, ultimately, it is the founders who decide what gets published. From what I understand, the situation is similar with Linux (though, not being a Linux hacker myself, I shouldn't talk :-) .

It seems to me that not-for-profit Cathedrals, in general, do much better than Bazaars. Slashdot teeters on the edge - while its stories, which are selected Cathedral-style are generally good (with the exception of a few JonKatz ramblings now and then), anarchy periodically swallows up the comments. Internet usegroups and IRC are usually a complete bazaar, and thus an unquenchable pyre of flames. Linux is a Cathedral, and it's doing quite well; while Windows is actually a bazaar (built by committee), and it can barely hold together.

Why do so many open-source affectionados cringe at the first mention of a hierarchy ? Bringing order into chaos is a good idea.


>|<*:=

Puzzling (none / 0) (#35)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:15:00 PM EST

I find this comment puzzling. Why do you think "ultimately, it is the founders who decide what gets published"? This strikes me as just simply false (I make no such decisions, e.g.) but I suppose I'm not understanding what you mean.

Of course, I think Wikipedia is a bazaar and that it does show the power of that model.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Could be.. (none / 0) (#48)
by Danse on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:27:55 PM EST

He may have been referring to this post.






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Aha (none / 0) (#51)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:43:27 PM EST

Well, if that's the case, for the record, let me note that the dispute Yooden commented about was about an topic that's come up on Kuro5hin--whether "America" and "American" can be used in a way restricted to the United States and its citizens. It had nothing to do with the approving of an article.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

You are wrong (none / 0) (#53)
by yooden on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 03:02:33 PM EST

[T]he dispute Yooden commented about was about an topic that's come up on Kuro5hin--whether "America" and "American" can be used in a way restricted to the United States and its citizens.

I did not. I even explicitly unmentioned it. Please don't tell people what I'm talking about until you are absolutely, positively sure about it.

I was referring to the fact that you ended the matter at hand by decree, not by entering the discussion and trying to convince the other party.



[ Parent ]
Decree? (none / 0) (#59)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 04:13:15 PM EST

In fairness, Yooden--you happened upon a debate that existed before you arrived, and I was characterizing that debate.

I didn't ''decree'' anything. Wikipedia is a wiki! I opined that the matter had been settled. Obviously, given your reaction, it hadn't been settled. I also (very mistakenly, I now admit) tried to keep my comments very short, in order to encourage people to get back to writing articles and not focus on minor grammatical issues like how to use "American." That struck me, and still strikes me, as a just a way for people to waste time and bolster their own egos and make political statements. That's not what Wikipedia should be about, I think.

Yooden, I think that due to your newness on the website you simply failed to understand the dynamic--what was going on, and my (non-dictatorial!) role in the project. Next time, we should both try to debate more calmly, with a view to trying to resolving the dispute amicably.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Yup (none / 0) (#66)
by yooden on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 06:18:04 PM EST

[Y]ou happened upon a debate that existed before you arrived

I don't really care in which century the debate started, and don't know why I should.

I was characterizing that debate.

I repeat: "Frankly, I don't give a rat's patoot whether you think [the Issue]". In what way is that a characterization of the ongoing debate?

Yooden, I think that due to your newness on the website you simply failed to understand the dynamic--what was going on, and my (non-dictatorial!) role in the project.

In fact, I get the suspicion that due to your oldness on Wikipedia, you may have failed to understand Wikipedia's dynamics. Readiness, if not outright eagerness to discuss things, again and again, is the most basic requirement for contributors. Your singular position as founder and most active contributor may have stifled any headwind coming your way. Before me, that is.



[ Parent ]
Further clarifications (none / 0) (#68)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 07:08:02 PM EST

I repeat: "Frankly, I don't give a rat's patoot whether you think [the Issue]". In what way is that a characterization of the ongoing debate?

The characterization of the debate I was referring to was that the matter was "settled," not that I didn't give a rat's patoot.

By my saying I didn't give a rat's patoot, I did not mean to be declaring that the matter was beyond debate--just that I wasn't really interested in lay opinion of questions of grammar. If I want to resolve a question of grammar or usage, I consult an authoritative reference. That's it!

I'd like to suggest that if you had paid attention to the debate up to that point, you might have understood this.

In fact, I get the suspicion that due to your oldness on Wikipedia, you may have failed to understand Wikipedia's dynamics. Readiness, if not outright eagerness to discuss things, again and again, is the most basic requirement for contributors.

I disagree. The most basic requirement for being a good Wikipedia contributor is being a knowledgeable, articulate person with a desire to write encyclopedia articles. Wikipedia is not a discussion forum. We discuss things only in order to resolve disputes about articles. Some of our most prolific contributors seem to go out of their way to avoid discussing things, because it's such a distraction from our main purpose (creating an encyclopedia). I am (usually) one of these people.

Your singular position as founder and most active contributor may have stifled any headwind coming your way. Before me, that is.

This is not quite right. Any Wikipedia old hand knows that you are very far from being the first person to have objected strongly to something I said. From the beginning, people have made great sport of calling me to the mat. Some people do it regularly and evidently with great pleasure. And, as now, I usually try to respond to them respectfully--and in depth, depending on how important I think the issue is. (In this case, I think it's important that Kuro5hin does not get the wrong idea about Wikipedia--and I think it's important that you rejoin us!) On unimportant issues or issues that I think others have adequately addressed, I tend to shut up. (I have to prioritize my time.) In the end, I like to think that I have no more of a say in how things go than anyone else--except, perhaps, on a few very basic issues that define what the project is about--that's part of my job.

Yooden, I hope you'll rejoin us!

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Well, yeah (none / 0) (#56)
by bugmaster on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 04:00:54 PM EST

Yeah, I was partially referring to the post that Danse mentioned in his reply to this comment. The main article also seems to support my claim:
So, we're are constantly monitoring Wikipedia's Recent Changes page. When--as happens rarely--some eedjit shows up and vandalizes a page, it's fixed nearly instantly. (We save back copies of all pages, and these are very easily accessible.)
In other words, the articles are submitted by bazaar, and the Cathedral runs quality control. This makes sense to me - otherwise, how can a rule such as
The use of copyrighted articles is strictly forbidden. This could place Wikipedia at some legal risk, which it cannot afford.
ever get enforced with sufficient accuracy ?


>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

[[Recent Changes]] ain't a cathedral (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 04:34:33 PM EST

But, in fact, to put it concisely, Recent Changes is anything if not a bazaar--certainly it isn't a cathedral.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Bazaar monitors the bazaar (none / 0) (#64)
by AxelBoldt on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 05:34:56 PM EST

The main article also seems to support my claim:
So, we're are constantly monitoring Wikipedia's Recent Changes page.

I think you misunderstand the "we" in the quote. It does not just refer to Larry and Jimbo, it refers to the whole bazaar. Everybody monitors what everyone else does, and whoever spots vandalism or copyright infringements fixes it.

[ Parent ]

Agreed - blatant plug (3.33 / 3) (#43)
by nstenz on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:02:17 PM EST

Does it bother anyone else that the link entitled July 25 K5 Article is a link to add the story to your hotlist instead of just a link to the story?

Check it out yourself:
http://www.kuro5hin.org/hotlist/add/2001/7/25/103136/121/displaystory
I'd much prefer a normal link, thank-you-very-much:
http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/7/25/103136/121

Just one of those things that makes you wonder if someone has a hidden agenda... but obviously not... It's quite clear what's on the agenda.

Eeek! (4.00 / 1) (#46)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:10:38 PM EST

"Does it bother anyone else that the link entitled July 25 K5 Article is a link to add the story to your hotlist instead of just a link to the story?"

I had no idea that the link did that! Frankly, I didn't even know that the article lived at more than one URL.

Sorry about that. Editors, if this can be changed, I'm all in favor of having it changed.

As for having a hidden agenda, you'll notice the "full disclosure" statement that is the first paragraph after the intro...my agenda was not at all hidden, or was it intended to be. I want people to participate in Wikipedia! Larry

[ Parent ]

Yep. (none / 0) (#50)
by nstenz on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:34:45 PM EST

It's gonna do that if you use the link from the little + sign instead of the 'comments' link.

As for having a hidden agenda, you'll notice the "full disclosure" statement that is the first paragraph after the intro...my agenda was not at all hidden, or was it intended to be. I want people to participate in Wikipedia! Larry
Yes, I saw the disclosure statement. I didn't mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist... Well, ok; maybe a little. I have no problem with shameless plugs if they're good. =) I went through the trouble of registering with Nupedia and all that... maybe I'll help contribute something useful on the Wiki as well. Keep up the good work.

[ Parent ]
Re: Eeek! (none / 0) (#91)
by DarkZero on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 03:52:25 PM EST

As for having a hidden agenda, you'll notice the "full disclosure" statement that is the first paragraph after the intro...my agenda was not at all hidden, or was it intended to be. I want people to participate in Wikipedia! Larry

So in other words, you intended it to be a BLATANT commercial with an up-front agenda, not a fake article with a hidden agenda. Well, at least it's nice to know that you're very open about your blatant abuse of this site.



[ Parent ]
Abuse? (none / 0) (#94)
by Larry Sanger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 04:13:33 PM EST

I am not a K5 regular, and of course I would like to know if posting an article defending my project constitutes abuse. Rusty, apparently, doesn't think so, nor do the people who put the article on the front page. Moreover--having re-read my own article today--the idea that it is abuse is just totally implausible. The structure--in case you couldn't understand this--is as follows. First, report four significant bits of news about a project of intrinsic interest to K5ers; then set up a paradox (how can something open avoid being garbage?); then attempt a resolution of the paradox. The discourse demonstrates common open source principles that we all know, love, and love to see demonstrated. How this constitutes an "op-ad" or abuse I really fail to see.

Anyway, if it is abuse, merely for the sake of publicity, why then, thanks for the continuing publicity (any of which is, proverbially, good!) by continuing this very enlightening conversation.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

My advice? (1.40 / 5) (#57)
by core10k on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 04:01:33 PM EST

Give up. Everything2 , and even the hideous h2g2 (or whatever they're calling it now) are both more populous with articles and more feature-filled. Wikiwiki *was* Cool; it isn't now.

Everything2 and h2g2 aren't encyclopedias (none / 0) (#58)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 04:05:38 PM EST

Everything2 and h2g2 aren't encyclopedias. Honestly, I don't think they even present themselves that way. Wikipedia is not just another Everything2 or h2g2--it is something new.

It's also not a typical WikiWikiWeb, as other wiki users who happen upon Wikipedia often say.

Wikipedia is something new. If you visit the website and look around for a bit, you will see this.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

walking a line (4.00 / 2) (#70)
by brownpaperkittens on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 07:27:48 PM EST

It seems to me that you're walking a fine line here in terms of popularity. Not enough people and your project doesn't get started (I don't think this is a problem in your case though). Too many people and you start to attract the attention of more malicious elements. You won't just be able to rely on the goodwill of the (relatively few) contributors any more.

OK, so you have Recent Changes and backups to correct the occasional piece of vandalism - but what do you do if people start running scripts to repost their own bit of vandalism or spam? Every second, say? And from different locations so you can't just block their IP address? Won't it suffer the same problems usenet did with disappearing under a weight of spam (alright, so I'm overstating the case on that - usenet is far from dead, but you see what I mean)?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding something about the Wiki system. I've been dipping in and out of Wikipedia for a few months (though I haven't contributed, apart from correcting the odd bit of spelling/grammar), and I've not really seen this answered - though I can't believe it hasn't been discussed. What measures do you have to stop this sort of thing from happening? Otherwise, I can see that, just at the point the project achieves widespread popularity, it could be destroyed.

Anyway, I hope I'm worrying about nothing. Wikipedia looks like a great project - a real community thing that people contribute to be cause they want to, and that could benefit everyone. I hope it continues to grow, with the best articles forming the basis of new Nupedia entries so that can build up as well. Good luck.

Malicious elements (none / 0) (#73)
by Larry Sanger on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:22:35 PM EST

Well, we've been Slashdotted before and had huge amounts of traffic, and while there were a few "malicious elements," they soon find out that it's just not worth their while.

Re: what are called "wiki wipes" (sure, someone could write a script to do it), if that ever happens, we'll just revert to the daily server backup. This really isn't a problem; none of the sysops are worried about it.

Unlike Usenet, Wikipedia is editable by the community. Spam and nonsense is summarily deleted (and good riddance to it!). The more people there are to abuse it, the more people there are to ward off the abuse.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

I'm speechless with laughter (2.20 / 5) (#78)
by streetlawyer on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 06:07:21 AM EST

The entry for "Atlas Shrugged" consists of over fifty linked HTML files, summarising each chapter, section by section, with characters, symbolism explained, plot, everything.

The entry for "Sense and Sensibility" reads:

Novel by Jane Austen. It was the first of Austen's novels to be published, under the pseudonym "A Lady".

This sort of thing is going to get you laughed at. It may already be too late ... I feel the giggles welling up ...

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

What is the criticsm (3.00 / 1) (#79)
by AxelBoldt on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 09:18:07 AM EST

What exactly is the criticism here? That only some but not all of our articles have more information than the corresponding Encyclopedia Britannica entries?

EB has only a single paragraph about "Sense and Sensibility" and doesn't even mention the movie; I am sure that in no time we will have a better article there as well.

[ Parent ]

It's a credibility issue (5.00 / 1) (#106)
by streetlawyer on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 04:10:45 AM EST

The fact is that this points up a very serious problem with this kind of open content product; that people write about what they care about, and lots of people who care about things enough to write huge amounts of content about them are ... a little bit weird.

Let's be extremely optimistic and assume that tomorrow, a professor of literature decides to contribute an article on Austen. What's his article going to be like? It's going to be a scholarly assessment of Jane Austen, her significance and her work, with a few critical insights and an attempt to locate her in the development of the novel. Whereas the Ayn Rand entry is always going to be either a fan letter or a hate letter, because the only people who care about Ayn Rand are fans and haters.

The "fan problem" is really serious in literature, because it means that you're going to build minor authors with a small but rabid following into bigger literary figures than they are. For example, you've currently got a huge entry on Chuck Pahaliniuk, but nothing on VS Naipaul. Since VS Naipaul doesn't have a whole bunch of sexually confused fratboys hanging on his every word, the Naipaul entry is always going to be smaller than the Pahaliniuk entry.

Or to put it another way, everyone who likes "A House for Mr Biswas" will like lots of other novels, and will regard Naipaul as "one of their favourites". Lots of people who like Ayn Rand or Chuck Pahaliniuk won't read any other novels from one year to the next. It's a problem of any democratic system -- loud single issue groups are over-represented. Which is why, IMO, encylopedias shouldn't be democracies.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

...and? (3.50 / 2) (#80)
by linus nielsen on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 09:29:36 AM EST

Guess what? This is exactly the reason for using Wiki. Everyone who finds errors, or think anything is missing, can change or add information.

Since you discovered that the entry for "Sense and Sensibility" contains too little information, why don't you fill in the information yourself? That's the whole idea!

[ Parent ]

well duh (2.66 / 3) (#83)
by streetlawyer on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 10:19:04 AM EST

Since you discovered that the entry for "Sense and Sensibility" contains too little information, why don't you fill in the information yourself?

Because I don't care to be associated with people who write exhaustive summaries of Ayn Rand novels. Because I don't think that anyone who gives that much credibility to Ayn Rand is ever going to be credible themselves. If I look and find that the article on numerology is fifty times as long as the one on meteorology, the same considerations will come into play.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

You must be a lonely guy... (4.50 / 2) (#86)
by Licquia on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 12:44:14 PM EST

...to not associate with anything that contains something you don't agree with.

You did realize that it's an encyclopedia, and that encyclopedias are supposed to cover lots of subjects as well as possible, including subjects you find laughable, right?

Lighting candles, cursing darkness, yada yada.

[ Parent ]

One more thing (none / 0) (#95)
by Larry Sanger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 04:19:43 PM EST

The three replies to this remark so far are right on target, but I have one more thing to add. In fact, we have plenty of leftists on board. I won't name any names, but suffice it to say that we have more than enough to serve as a check to the libertarians on board. You, yourself, would no doubt feel at home among them. (We also have a number of typical social democrats and even, I think, a few conservatives.) If you do join us, I would recommend leaving your abusive attitude behind--it might be acceptable on K5, but it really wouldn't be appreciated on Wikipedia.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

bang, nail, hit, head (5.00 / 2) (#104)
by streetlawyer on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 02:12:13 AM EST

That's it exactly -- my objections to Ayn Rand have nothing to do with "leftism", and the fact that you have immediately assumed that only a leftist could think that Jane Austen was superior to Ayn Rand confirms all my worst suspicions.

If you do join us, I would recommend leaving your abusive attitude behind--it might be acceptable on K5, but it really wouldn't be appreciated on Wikipedia.

Hmmmm .... abusive attitude ... Wikipedia ...abusive attitude ... Wikipedia ... well, that was a difficult choice, wasn't it?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Not just acceptable... (none / 0) (#109)
by slaytanic killer on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 07:42:13 AM EST

If you do join us, I would recommend leaving your abusive attitude behind--it might be acceptable on K5, but it really wouldn't be appreciated on Wikipedia.
...I sometimes think it's necessary. ;)

Of course, that means some of us have to be vigilant in countering it lest article writers feel cheated for all their hard work.

[ Parent ]

I shrug too (none / 0) (#89)
by Stephen Gilbert on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 02:25:29 PM EST

The only reason that we have so much on "Atlas Shrugged" is that one of the people at Bomis (the company that supports Wikipedia) had quite a bit of material ready to import. That level of depth is currently the exception; not even Linux has that much coverage. :) It's important to keep in mind that the project was started in January of this year and it's still in the alpha stages. No one slags off alpha software because its not ready for users yet. Right now, Wikipedia is developers only.

[ Parent ]
vapourware (none / 0) (#105)
by streetlawyer on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 03:48:57 AM EST

No one slags off alpha software because its not ready for users yet

No-one promotes alpha software by writing breathless articles about how it "isn't full of bugs" either. Make up your mind. If this is a half-baked product, promote it as such.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Full of bugs or buggy sections (none / 0) (#111)
by iwnbap on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 11:09:13 AM EST


Full of bugs is overstatement - I'm amazed at the maths section for instance, but cringe at a number of them. Perhaps a better point is that the bugs are disappearing - they don't (seem to) get introduced into already well written articles.

[ Parent ]
Wikipedia is currenlty a joke (3.00 / 2) (#81)
by greggman on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 09:37:39 AM EST

Maybe it will turn into something and maybe it won't but currently it's pretty lame. Trying looking up *Nebraska*. Other than having the word *Nebraska* there's not one single entry.

Next we come to this editing business. Sure, they're able to keep out the crap currently because it's a small project. But, if the thing was actually working it would actually be the entire net would it not? Minus a few weblogs. In otherwords, all the arguments you see on slashdot or usenet or kuro5hin about what's true and what's not. Or all the noise etc will eventually be larger than any group of editors can handle.

Why not just go to DMOZ.org or Google.com and search the net for your topic of interest. You more likely to find alot more stuff, alot more interesting stuff and alot more current stuff.

Finally, and maybe this is just a difference of opinion. I was never a Britannica fan. I was a World Book fan. Maybe they serve different purposes but go to the library, grab a copy of the latest World Book Encyclopedia, look up Space or Space Shuttle or any state in the union or nearly any country in the world for example and those articles are the kind of articles that as a kid, and sometimes even as an adult, inspire me to want to read them in detail and/or find out more about the topic. Going to Wikipieda I get a page of text and as is usual for most encyclopedias it's brief. In other words it's not detailed enough for somebody really looking for something and it's not interesting enough for somebody that is looking to find something interesting.


Reply (none / 0) (#96)
by Larry Sanger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 04:37:21 PM EST

Maybe it will turn into something and maybe it won't but currently it's pretty lame. Trying looking up *Nebraska*. Other than having the word *Nebraska* there's not one single entry.

There are indeed a lot of "stub" entries (you seem to have found a particularly egregious example :-) ), and I share your opinion of their lameness. I do not understand why, however, you would judge the entire project on the basis of the lameness of the stubs. There are a lot of excellent articles on Wikipedia, too. The majority, at present, are just OK--not spectacular by anyone's measure. But that's all changing because we're constantly working on them. So, you seem to want to judge a work in progress on the basis of the worst of its rough drafts. That's your prerogative, but it doesn't make much sense to me.

Next we come to this editing business. Sure, they're able to keep out the crap currently because it's a small project. But, if the thing was actually working it would actually be the entire net would it not? Minus a few weblogs. In otherwords, all the arguments you see on slashdot or usenet or kuro5hin about what's true and what's not. Or all the noise etc will eventually be larger than any group of editors can handle.

That's an interesting objection. There's a lot that can be said in reply. First, as traffic increases, so does the number of people who work on and care about the project. We do not have a static number of "editors" who are responsible for editing everything; the number of people who do editing-type work increases directly in proportion to the number of people working on the encyclopedia.

Second--and this is something that you might not be able to understand very well because you haven't actually experienced what I'm about to describe--there is a fair bit of (mostly friendly) peer pressure, and community standards that are constantly being reinforced. One such standard is that partisan talk that is not aimed at improving articles is just not helpful. There's no good reason, that I can see, to think that such standards cannot scale to a larger project; if they can't, though, we'll evidently have to deal with that problem.

Why not just go to DMOZ.org or Google.com and search the net for your topic of interest. You more likely to find alot more stuff, alot more interesting stuff and alot more current stuff.

Another good question. Isn't it interesting that, in fact, thousands of people per day arrive at Wikipedia via Google? That's a glib answer, and I think your question deserves a longer answer. I think I'll add it to my list of "Wikipedia essays to write." Maybe I'll even post the essay to K5... :-)

Going to Wikipieda I get a page of text and as is usual for most encyclopedias it's brief. In other words it's not detailed enough for somebody really looking for something and it's not interesting enough for somebody that is looking to find something interesting.

There's excellent reason to believe that this will change--mainly, because it is constantly changing. People are expanding articles all the time. I also think that there is going to come a time when we have exhausted most of the most common subjects, and we've got at least "stubs" about almost everything. Then we have no choice but to get into things more deeply. Personally, I look forward to that. I'd like to be writing more in-depth about philosophy (my field), for example. All in good time!

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

How do you cover unpopular topics? (none / 0) (#82)
by rsidd on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 10:18:12 AM EST

The contributors to this thing are "geeks" of various descriptions: hackers, scientists/academics, and so on. Such people tend to have tastes along certain lines (an earlier post compared the entry for Atlas Shrugged with that for Jane Austen, for example). Similarly, in music you'd probably have good entries for J S Bach, or Dave Brubeck, or the Grateful Dead, but not for Johann Strauss, Glenn Miller or Michael Jackson. (OK, I hate Michael Jackson myself, but he was and is an important figure, surely.)

So I see this as a possible future shortcoming of the project. How do you achieve "balance" when you have pages and pages devoted to the Dead or to Bob Dylan, and hardly anything about, say, George Gershwin (who was arguably the single biggest influence on 20th century music, and responsible for a huge number of jazz standards, but somehow hasn't made it among the geek crowd)? Or if the project does take off to the extent that people from all over and with all kinds of tastes do start contributing, will the quality then go for a toss? I have no answers but it will be interesting to watch.

Re: Such people /tend to/ have certain tastes (none / 0) (#87)
by miller on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 01:52:37 PM EST

See title (my emphasis). It's not a hard and fast rule. While I read K5 and a few wikis and am aware of Wikipædia, I could write a little on Gershwin, and more on Duke Ellington. I only don't currently contribute because on first inspection it seemed over complex (but then most things do after WikiWiki), and I simply don't have the time to invest to seek out, let alone fix the sort of discrepancies you mention.

But like you I suspect it will take a hike in popularity to gather enough people expert in such fields to effectively peer review and extend such content. I'd suggest that at that point such a wiki would be big enough to support relatively distinct communities. Experience with (now) smaller wikis has shown that kiddies with perl scripts able to reach the full extent of the wiki can be countered effectively by a surge protector.

--
It's too bad I don't take drugs, I think it would be even better. -- Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#97)
by Larry Sanger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 04:44:47 PM EST

This is something I've thought about some, and it worries me. Basically, most of the people writing for Wikipedia right now are techie types, and others who for whatever reason are Internet addicts. Among those people are (apparently) not many people who like to write bunches about Jane Austen (literature), Michelangelo (visual arts), gardening, architecture, dance, and theater. (Those are some of the weaker areas of Wikipedia right now. Come help us expand them!)

My hope is that, when Wikipedia really hits the big time, while the percentages of people working on unpopular topics might remain the same, the sheer numbers of those people will be higher than they are now. The idea is that we'll be getting more content in those areas then.

Another thing that we can do is target the weak areas and try to get contributors for those areas in various ways.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Playtime over (4.50 / 2) (#84)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 10:36:41 AM EST

I do not get all the criticisms levelled at the Wikipedia's veracity and completenes. From the Wikipedia site:
Q. When did the Wikipedia start?

A. January 15, 2001. An earlier version of the wiki (including original versions of some of these pages) was briefly hosted on Nupedia.com (first posted January 10). The idea of a Nupedia-sponsored wiki originated out of a conversation Larry Sanger had with Ben Kovitz on the evening of January 2.

A fucking college courseguide takes longer to start from scratch, coordinating all those professors and correcting their woefully inept English. (People would show me how bad their raw course descriptions were -- make friends with these people to get the inside scoop on your profs.) And there are charges levelled aganist a Wikipedia that didn't include more than a blurb about Jane Austen?

TANSTAAFL. I think that's from Milton Friedman, There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. You still have to pay for an encyclopedia you deride for being free. And the way to pay is to improve it. It's a progressive tax -- the more you know, the more you can pay. Of course you don't have to, and criticisms are always good, but at some point, we all know why the criticisms are there -- it comes from people who are far better destroyers than creators, whose creative ability is limited to creative destruction, and they just happened to need releasing a little steam in the beginning of the week.

BTW, do this: Find errors in the math section. That's what I happened to read first, and if you can find mistakes, then you'll impress me. I'm sure there's little easter errors to find. Otherwise, continue releasing steam because you had a bad week. No one cares.

TANSTAAFL (none / 0) (#103)
by stpeter on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 12:07:40 AM EST

Well, the acronym TANSTAAFL comes from Heinlein's novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. But "no free lunch" is a common libertarian sentiment, so the idea if not the acronym might have come to Heinlein from Milton Friedman.

[ Parent ]
We can have our cake & eat it (none / 0) (#110)
by slaytanic killer on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 08:47:12 AM EST

In that link to Milton Friedman in my post (here's the link again), if you look for Google's highlighted terms, you'll find a brief blurb of TANSTAAFL's roots.

I wanted to check out if Friedman had indeed said that, and ended up finding a lot of Heinlein instead. Fortunately, it seems Milton popularized the saying and Heinlein came up with the acronym, as you speculated.

[ Parent ]

What is Wikipedia good for? (none / 0) (#107)
by greggman on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 05:39:20 AM EST

In the past we needed an encyclopedia. It was an easy way to get lots of info about lots of topics. But, now we have the internet? For which topics would you be more likely to go to Wikipedia for vs says Yahoo.com, DMOZ.org or Google? If you were going to travel to a foreign country would you for look it up in Wikipedia our would you be better of going to Yahoo.com and then following the links? If you wanted to know about comuputers do you think you'd be better off a Wikipedia or going to Yahoo and following the links to places like Tom's Hardware or perl.org or whatever your specific interest is.

I guess I'm just sure where Wikipedia fits in. Plus, like other open source projects, people generally only want to fill in the *sexy* parts. People want to fill in "Space Shuttle", they don't want to fill in "Constantinople". The reason the Brintannica has "Constantinople" is because somebody that didn't want to do it was paid to do it.

So again, where does Wikipedia fit in? I don't really see the point. On top of which is whole editing notion. It works not because the submissions are small but I think it would fail badly once the submission picked up past the point volunteers could deal with them.

I'd argue that About.com is already doing a better job with it's system anyway and it's more likely up to date since it's pretty much links to other sites.

[ Parent ]
Hmm... (none / 0) (#108)
by slaytanic killer on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 07:29:57 AM EST

Well, I see the Wikipedia as one big CVS system, for human text instead of sourcecode. I think that the internet is still so new that there are huge regions of unexplored territory, that don't necessarily show their worth until it's impossible to deny.

Is the Wikipedia such a powerful thing? That's for time to show. I can only give analysis that it has the advantages it needs. Whether is succeeds is up to the implementors, since I think the idea is sound. Of course, I'm applying my brain to a complex system, so my analysis comes from a naturally faulty source.

However, sites like Tom's Hardware are too conventional. If that's all we believe in, then we deny that the net can have strange information structures of its own that defy conventional thinking. But I don't think that sites have to be newspapers with hyperlinks. Wikis seem to be one logical conclusion to the distributed and cyborg nature of the net, where clients and servers are ill-defined entities whose roles can change through intention.

[ Parent ]
What about stuff like scientology? (4.00 / 1) (#85)
by Rainy on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 11:53:43 AM EST

Or Waco, KKK, Microsoft, neo-nazism, etc? Some guy writes up a page on 'em, they come and change it, then someone comes and changes it again, so if I go there and try to look it up it will be a matter of who changed it last?

This is a minor issue, though, otherwise it's very interesting.

I gotta say though it irked me that this was a self-promotion article. I'm reading k5 for a year or so and I've never seen anything as self-promoting as this one. It just don't belong here. What if every author of a project on freshmeat or wherever starts posting an article about how his project is awesome? This turns people off who could otherwise have really liked the idea.
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day

That's a good point (none / 0) (#88)
by Stephen Gilbert on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 02:15:42 PM EST

And one that has been under a lot of discussion at Wikipedia. We're currently working on an approval mechanism that would eliminate such a problem. If we can put it into place, Wikipedia, like many software projects, would a stable and a developer version. The stable version would be static, and ready for use as a reference work. The developer version would be under a constant addition and revision process.

[ Parent ]
Neutral point of view (none / 0) (#101)
by Larry Sanger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 06:56:53 PM EST

Generally, partisans of all sorts are kept under the gun. Wikipedians feel pretty strongly about enforcing our nonbias policy. We've managed to work our way to rough consensus on a number of different topics. People who stubbornly insist on an article's reflecting their personal biases are rare, and then they generally receive a drubbing. (From me, especially. :-) )

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Perhaps an article about trend projection? (5.00 / 1) (#90)
by crank42 on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 03:08:57 PM EST

Significantly, Wikipedia's rate of growth has been steadily increasing--in terms of article numbers and quality, traffic to the website, and attracting more highly-qualified contributors. So it seems very reasonable to think that within a few years the project will surpass Britannica in both breadth and depth.

It does not seem reasonable at all, let alone "very reasonable", to understand a trend report this way. Only a fool would suppose that the growth rate of 100% in Linux use which was instantiated the second time someone installed the kernel means that Linux use will grow 100% per day forever. If this is the sort of slack-minded thought behind Wikipedia, I have my doubts that there is anything of value there.

Brittanica is not only good because it is big. If that were the case, there's be no reason not to be satisfied with World Book or something of that sort. When it is good, Brittanica is so partly because it is authoritative; and, it got that way by being selective.

It is true that one can, perhaps, get good, useful and complete encyclopedia-type entries from a fairly small but interested population: Usenet in its early years was a treasure trove of good stuff, and even as late as 1995 (well, maybe that's too late, but insert your favourite date here), groups like alt.folklore.urban were worth reading on a regular basis only for the richness in the topic drift. But many Usenet groups are all but unreadable now, because every thread is crowded with a bunch of half-knowledgeable posts which are as frustrating as they are misleading. (I'll not discuss the flame-wars, which are just a special case of the described phenomenon anyway.)

There is simply no reason to suppose that more is automatically better. With enough participants, it is at least plausible that the Wikipedia contributors will end up spending all their time in editing one another, and none in learning anything that they'll be able to contribute. (That is to say, Wikipedia will, with enough participants, face the problems that Usenet and, later, forums like Slashdot faced.) It's too bad; but, that's why peer review was invented. I think Wikipedia might provide a good first airing for draft copies of Nupedia articles. For much else, I can't see that it will be useful.

Very big reply (5.00 / 3) (#99)
by Larry Sanger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 05:53:09 PM EST

In response to my claim that it is reasonable to think that within a few years Wikipedia will surpass Britannica in breadth and depth, crank42 writes:

It does not seem reasonable at all, let alone "very reasonable", to understand a trend report this way. Only a fool would suppose that the growth rate of 100% in Linux use which was instantiated the second time someone installed the kernel means that Linux use will grow 100% per day forever. If this is the sort of slack-minded thought behind Wikipedia, I have my doubts that there is anything of value there.

It seems to me that you have misunderstood the thinking behind the claim. You seem to think that my argument is as follows: "The number of Wikipedia articles has been growing at rate R for the past nine months; therefore, it will continue to grow at the rate of R for the indefinite future." If that's all there were to it, that indeed would be foolish to say; but that's not all there is to it.

The claim, first of all, is that it is reasonable to believe this--not that it is certainly true and that you all ought to believe it. Please bear that in mind.

Now, what makes it reasonable to think that Wikipedia will continue growing at a rapid clip is not simple extrapolation, but observation of the factors that have made it grow at the rapid clip so far. Google has been sending us lots of traffic (thousands of visitors a day from Google alone; it used to be just in the hundreds). The more traffic Google sends us, the more people get on board and create content; and then Google sends us even more traffic. Moreover, more and more people are linking to Wikipedia. This raises Wikipedia's Google rankings. (Thus more traffic, thus more content.) Already, plenty of Wikipedia pages are listed on the first few pages of Google results.

Now, that's only part of the argument. The other part is that, while there is attrition (some old contributors don't write so much anymore), there's an overall increase in active population. There's a lot more active Wikipedians now that there was, say, three months ago.

Another part of the argument is that the overall quality of Wikipedia has been increasing, and our experience so far indicates that it will, probably, continue to increase. This makes it more likely that people will take notice of the project, link to it, use its contents (properly sourcing Wikipedia), etc.

In short, "the rich get richer." Please note, this is reportage, not speculation: it's an explanation of how Wikipedia's growth has occurred in the last nine months.

You're right about one thing. Of course, we'll run out of topics sooner or later--the number of encyclopedia topics is not infinite. But it is really huge. A lot bigger than 100,000, and a heck of a lot bigger than the number of topics contained in Britannica.

Brittanica is not only good because it is big. If that were the case, there's be no reason not to be satisfied with World Book or something of that sort. When it is good, Brittanica is so partly because it is authoritative; and, it got that way by being selective.

Correct, it's good not only because it's big; the high quality of its articles is very important. It got that way by having high standards. What reason have you to believe that only "by being selective" (i.e., presumably, choosing who is going to write about what) is the only way to support and achieve high standards? Maybe there's another, more open way. Wikipedia is so far an excellent test of that proposition.

It is true that one can, perhaps, get good, useful and complete encyclopedia-type entries from a fairly small but interested population:

I suspect the number of Wikipedia's writers isn't going to be "fairly small" forever. If we stuck with the present group and found no new contributors, we could still make a very interesting, useful reference, a lot better than the present one; but it's very unlikely that we will not find any new contributors, as I've explained.

But many Usenet groups are all but unreadable now, because every thread is crowded with a bunch of half-knowledgeable posts which are as frustrating as they are misleading. (I'll not discuss the flame-wars, which are just a special case of the described phenomenon anyway.)

This is a weak analogy. Usenet lacks at least two features that are absolutely essential to Wikipedia's success: (1) on Usenet, you can't edit other people's work, thereby encouraging creative and collegial collaboration (sorry for the alliteration :-) ); (2) Usenet does not have the possibility of peer pressure and community-agreed and -enforced standards, which Wikipedia does have. Moreover, Usenet is a debate forum. Wikipedia is, very self-consciously, an encyclopedia project!

There is simply no reason to suppose that more is automatically better.

Actually, there is! :-) At least three reasons. First, the more people are participating, the sooner we fill up all the easy topics, thereby making the project of more interest to specialists who are turned off by the obvious omission of basic information on easy topics. Second, the more eyes, the more transparent the errors (over the long haul).

Third, statistically, the more people are participating, the greater the sheer numbers of experts. Now, as a matter of fact, people usually tend not to touch articles they know nothing about, particularly when the article is well-developed or when they know that some resident expert will pounce on their mistakes. (There are exceptions, of course.) So, the greater the number of participating experts, the higher the overall quality of the content produced under their general guidance. It is not mere hype to say that Wikipedia caters to the highest common denominator--it's actually an observation we've made!

With enough participants, it is at least plausible that the Wikipedia contributors will end up spending all their time in editing one another, and none in learning anything that they'll be able to contribute. (That is to say, Wikipedia will, with enough participants, face the problems that Usenet and, later, forums like Slashdot faced.)

This seems pretty obviously implausible to anyone with experience on Wikipedia. It's evident that you are speaking from a position of ignorance, frankly. We could be all just editing each other's work, and there is a lot of that going on (which is a good thing!). Most of this tends to be done in a collegial, as opposed to acrimonious, fashion. (Not always, yes--but usually.) But very often people are starting new topics; we're teaching each other stuff all the time. In short, it's not like Usenet, or Slashdot, or a typical wiki for that matter. It's new.

It's too bad; but, that's why peer review was invented. I think Wikipedia might provide a good first airing for draft copies of Nupedia articles. For much else, I can't see that it will be useful.

Interesting that you should say so. As Nupedia's editor-in-chief, I have encouraged just that. But I have found Wikipedia's "review" process in many ways just as robust, and in some ways superior to, Nupedia's. What makes Nupedia articles so great are two things: they start with well-qualified authors, and they are thoroughly vetted by experts. Now, Wikipedia has been steadily gaining more and more experts--and there will be, therefore, well-qualified authors writing articles that are thoroughly vetted by experts.

In addition to all this, if and when we set up an independent review process for Wikipedia, as I and others have mentioned, I expect the project will become more attractive to experts who can see more easily that their expertise is valued. In the meantime, I'm very grateful to the many highly-qualified people who have joined us.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Yet more examples (5.00 / 1) (#114)
by crank42 on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 12:45:48 AM EST

Another part of the argument is that the overall quality of Wikipedia has been increasing, and our experience so far indicates that it will, probably, continue to increase.

"Probably" on what basis? It was precisely this sort of Panglossian view that I was arguing against, by pointing out that the overall quality of other 'communities of discussion' (for want of a less awkward phrase) has not always improved, or even remained high, when the population got bigger. Your experience so far, therefore, is not an obviously reliable guide to the future.

It is true that Usenet and other such forums are not perfectly analogous to Wikipedia; but they do offer a similar sort of interaction (one of argument and justification for a view), and early in their lives each attracted a significant population of experts in various fields. Yet conversations in these forums has not always remained of high quality; and I am suggesting that the same is as likely to happen to Wikipedia as anything else.

Third, statistically, the more people are participating, the greater the sheer numbers of experts.

Balderdash. The size of a population is, in itself, irrelevant to the size of any of its sub-populations, save that the sub-population cannot be larger than the population. An example might help: the population of China is larger than the population of the Canadian arctic. I'll bet there are more experts (in absolute terms) on the cooking of Caribou in the Canadian arctic than there are in China.

Of course, maybe the claim is that a larger population is more likely to have a larger number of experts on something. Maybe; but you leave open the question of whether they are experts on anything anyone would want to know about.

This seems pretty obviously implausible to anyone with experience on Wikipedia. It's evident that you are speaking from a position of ignorance, frankly.

Of course, I have nothing to say about what Wikipedia is like now. I don't know, and don't particularly care. But I find it troubling that someone who proposes to educate others with online encyclopedias should offer such poor arguments for his positions. What I was saying is that it is at least an open question whether the current experience of those working on the Wikipedia project will be very like the experience of futre workers. Other than, "No, it's not an open question," you don't offer a rebuttal.

Note that the phenomenon I'm discussing is not limited to online groups. There is a long-standing tension between populism and learning. In some happy cases, the two are complementary; not always. And someone who shows up claiming to have found the magic solution to that tension makes me wonder what sort of oil is really in the bottle.

[ Parent ]

OK, that's enough (3.00 / 1) (#115)
by Larry Sanger on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 03:41:58 AM EST

I could offer another set of replies, but I don't know what the point would be. I think we all have seen enough of both sides of this debate. On the one side we have myself, who has tried to present the case for the possibility that Wikipedia might succeed and become something really spiffy (and also the many people who have pretty much ignored you naysayers, and are willing to give the idea a go).

On the other side we have a lot of people who seem to want Wikipedia to fail, who try to find as much wrong with it (and my defense of it) as they can without making any serious to understand it.

Frankly, I have much better things to do with my time; I'm getting bored.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Straw people (3.00 / 2) (#116)
by crank42 on Sat Sep 29, 2001 at 12:37:37 PM EST

If you are going to present yourself as somehow having enough worthy to say that you are going to participate in the compilation of an encyclopedia, then you ought at least to have some minimal tools of rationality. Larry Sanger's responses to the objections to his post have been a series of carefully-written, wounded sounding sophistries that do not actually respond to the objections others present.

I cannot speak for others, but I don't want Wikipedia to fail. I just can't stand the strange new techno-optimism that appears to have taken hold of so many people: "the bazaar" is used like a stick to beat anyone who doesn't think that a brave, happy new world is upon us. Such a total lack of appreciation of nuance is not to be welcomed or encouraged in those who hold themselves up as sources for anything worth reading. Instead, it should be opposed. If Mr Sanger wishes to take such opposition as opposition to the project in which he participates, that is up to him. I suggest he instead cool the utopian blather. Wikipedia's a nifty project, and it's nice that it has worked so far. But that is no ground for any kind of conclusion about what will happen in the future: no matter what Mr Sanger says, it is not at all reasonable to believe the projections he is offering. That was all I was saying.

[ Parent ]

More Advertisement Disgust (1.00 / 1) (#93)
by DarkZero on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 04:13:10 PM EST

http://www.kuro5hin.org/user/Larry%20Sanger/stories

Look at that. Two articles, and both of them are blatant advertisements for his own projects, as well as an insult to his perceived competition, The Encyclopedia Britannica. And this is in addition to the posts below about making some of the links into additions to your Hot List, instead of regular links.

This person is obviously a troll that is just here to shamelessly advertise his own projects, and in rather unscrupulous ways, at that. Personally, I will be voting down any future articles of this nature, whoever they may be written by, and I suggest that the rest of you do the same. Do not allow K5 to be used as a forum for people that want to cheaply advertise their site.



Again? (none / 0) (#98)
by Larry Sanger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 04:56:37 PM EST

Well, you've made this point in response to the article (how many times now?) before, and I've offered some replies.

Anyway, though, I would be very interested to learn how other people feel about this--particularly people who aren't hostile to Wikipedia. If indeed this article does constitute abuse of the system, I do apologize. I just find it difficult to believe that most people consider it abuse, given that it was posted to the front page within hours of being posted for approval.

If it's not abuse, I do not apologize. Evidently, a lot of people have found my articles interesting; the first one was Slashdotted and actually temporarily crashed the K5 server. :-)

And, in any case, given the many accusations of self-promotion here, I will not post any further reports on Wikipedia's progress to K5. (Unless, e.g., Rusty were to ask me, which of course I wouldn't expect.) I'll try not to write anything that smacks of self-promotion.

Larry Sanger

[ Parent ]

Self-promotion fine. Britannica. (none / 0) (#113)
by eean on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 05:38:32 PM EST

I agree with some of the messages that it is self-promotion. However, I enjoyed reading the artical. I just don't see why self-promotion is so bad, especially after if it is good enough (and I think it is) for front page. I agree with the author of the parent of this thread that bringing up Britannica is kind of silly. I wrote response to the last artical on why I think wikipedia does not really compete againist Britannica - in short I said that two Encyclopedias are better then one.

[ Parent ]
Thank you all very much! (none / 0) (#100)
by Larry Sanger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 06:13:37 PM EST

I want to say thanks very much to everyone who has been writing about Wikipedia here. Until recently, I hadn't been thinking very much about how the public is likely to react to the very notion of Wikipedia. This discussion has really helped me to understand particularly the criticisms that many intelligent people are likely to have. This will help us to explain better what the project is all about and why it has worked (well, insofar as it has worked :-) --evidently there are differences of opinion on that).

Larry Sanger

Ad? Maybe... (none / 0) (#102)
by Canar on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 11:13:06 PM EST

But I really enjoyed it. If I had seen it in the queue, I would have +1 FPed it. I admire what they're trying to accomplish.

The criticisms tend to be:

  • The articles are wrong. - So, fix them! It doesn't take much time, maybe 30 minutes. Even if you just post a quick little list of what's wrong and what's right, I'm sure someone who's more in tune with the language aspect of things will take that and evolve it into prose.
  • The articles are biased. - Duh. But they're trying.
  • The articles are incomplete/other - It's a work in progress. A lot of Free Software has bugs. So be it.
  • This story was nothing more than an ad. - Yeah, so? See my earlier comments. IMHO, it was an interesting and informative ad that I would have voted up myself.

Analogize the site to a piece of Free Software, and you won't be far off, only with this one, anyone who can type can contribute, as opposed to anyone who can code.

In short, remember that it's BETA documentation people. Treat it as such. Give feed back. Add stuff. Fix stuff.

I guess that's my little rant for the night. Sorry if I seem off-kilter, but a lot of the criticisms are answered if you read (actually read and understood, not just skimmed) the article. I can't remember another Open project that's gotten me interested like this. Maybe I'll post something there, if I find an area of expertise where my knowledge outclasses that which is there already, or an area that needs clarifying, etc. Check it out, maybe you might gain some stimulus to do so too.

-=Canar=-

On a related note (none / 0) (#112)
by Eloquence on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 12:41:50 PM EST

I should point out that I've posted a proposal for integrating wiki-like technology into Scoop (K5's site engine), albeit with more access control: Wikis for Scoop. Please comment.
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Wikipedia is wide open. Why is it growing so fast? Why isn't it full of nonsense? | 117 comments (116 topical, 1 editorial, 1 hidden)
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