Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism

By lsanger in Op-Ed
Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 12:42:24 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

Wikipedia has started to hit the big time. Accordingly, several critical articles have come out, including "The Faith-Based Encyclopedia" by a former editor-in-chief of Britannica and a very widely-syndicated AP article that was given such titles as "When Information Access Is So Easy, Truth Can Be Elusive".

These articles are written by people who appear not to appreciate the merits of Wikipedia fully. I do, however; I co-founded Wikipedia. (I have since left the project.)

Wikipedia does have two big problems, and attention to them is long overdue. These problems could be eliminated by eliminating a single root problem. If the project's managers are not willing to solve it, I fear a fork (a new edition under new management, for the non-techies reading this) will probably be necessary.


Let me preface this by saying that I know Wikipedia is very cool. A lot of people do not think so, but of course they are wrong. So the following must be taken in the spirit of someone who knows and supports the mission and broad policy outlines of Wikipedia very well.

First problem: lack of public perception of credibility, particularly in areas of detail. The problem I would like to point out is not that Wikipedia is unreliable. The alleged unreliability of Wikipedia is something that the above (TechCentralStation and AP) articles make much of, but that is not my point, and I am not interested in discussing that point per se.

My point is that, regardless of whether Wikipedia actually is more or less reliable than the average encyclopedia, it is not perceived as adequately reliable by many librarians, teachers, and academics. The reason for this is not far to seek: those librarians etc. note that anybody can contribute and that there are no traditional review processes. You might hasten to reply that it does work nonetheless, and I would agree with you to a large extent, but your assurances will not put this concern to rest.

You might maintain that people are already using Wikipedia a lot, and that that implies a great deal of trust. This is true, as far as it goes; but people use many sources that they themselves believe to be unreliable, via Google searches, for example. (I do so all the time, though perhaps I shouldn't.) Perhaps Wikipedia is better described as one of those sources regarded as unreliable which people read anyway. And in this case, one might say, there's no problem: Wikipedia is being read, and it is of minimally adequate and increasing reliability. What more could you ask? In other words, why does a perception of unreliability matter?

I am willing to grant much of this reply. I think merely that there are a great many benefits that accrue from robust credibility to the public. One benefit, but only one, is support and participation by academia. I am on the academic job market now and I felt it was necessary to explain my views about Wikipedia's credibility for potential employers. A great many of my colleagues are not at all impressed with the project; but more about that in a bit.

Another benefit accruing from robust public credibility is even more widespread use and support by teachers, schools, libraries, and the general public--precisely the people who want to use what they believe to be a credible encyclopedia. To the extent that the project is not reaching, and being supported by, these people, it is not succeeding as well as it might.

Perhaps you might also maintain that, while Wikipedia does not now have a reputation for reliability, it will eventually, once enough studies proving its reliability are done, and once people are more familiar with the concept behind the project. This is hard to argue with; but it is also hard to support, because it involves predicting the future, and the future, when it comes to public opinion, is extremely unpredictable. It would be better to do something to help guarantee a reputation for reliability.

Wikipedia has another sort of credibility problem, mentioned in passing above, and I fear that time is not a solution to this problem, the way it might be to the foregoing one. Namely, one can make a good case that, when it comes to relatively specialized topics (outside of the interests of most of the contributors), the project's credibility is very uneven. If the project was lucky enough to have a writer or two well-informed about some specialized subject, and if their work was not degraded in quality by the majority of people, whose knowledge of the subject is based on paragraphs in books and mere mentions in college classes, then there might be a good, credible article on that specialized subject. Otherwise, there will be no article at all, a very amateurish-sounding article, or an article that looks like it might once have been pretty good, but which has been hacked to bits by hoi polloi. (Am I sounding elitist enough for you yet? Just wait.) One has only to compare the excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy or The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy to Wikipedia's Philosophy section. From the point of view of a specialist, let's just say that Wikipedia needs a lot of work.

Second problem: the dominance of difficult people, trolls, and their enablers. I stopped participating in Wikipedia when funding for my position ran out. That does not mean that I am merely mercenary; I might have continued to participate, were it not for a certain poisonous social or political atmosphere in the project.

There are many ways to explain this problem, and I will start with just one. Far too much credence and respect accorded to people who in other Internet contexts would be labelled "trolls." There is a certain mindset associated with unmoderated Usenet groups and mailing lists that infects the collectively-managed Wikipedia project: if you react strongly to trolling, that reflects poorly on you, not (necessarily) on the troll. If you attempt to take trolls to task or demand that something be done about constant disruption by trollish behavior, the other listmembers will cry "censorship," attack you, and even come to the defense of the troll. This drama has played out thousands of times over the years on unmoderated Internet groups, and since about the fall of 2001 on the unmoderated Wikipedia.

Wikipedia has, to its credit, done something about the most serious trolling and other kinds of abuse: there is an Arbitration Committee that provides a process whereby the most disruptive users of Wikipedia can be ejected from the project.

But there are myriad abuses and problems that never make it to mediation, let alone arbitration. A few of the project's participants can be, not to put a nice word on it, pretty nasty. And this is tolerated. So, for any person who can and wants to work politely with well-meaning, rational, reasonably well-informed people--which is to say, to be sure, most people working on Wikipedia--the constant fighting can be so off-putting as to drive them away from the project. This explains why I am gone; it also explains why many others, including some extremely knowledgeable and helpful people, have left the project.

The root problem: anti-elitism, or lack of respect for expertise. There is a deeper problem--or I, at least, regard it as a problem--which explains both of the above-elaborated problems. Namely, as a community, Wikipedia lacks the habit or tradition of respect for expertise. As a community, far from being elitist (which would, in this context, mean excluding the unwashed masses), it is anti-elitist (which, in this context, means that expertise is not accorded any special respect, and snubs and disrespect of expertise is tolerated). This is one of my failures: a policy that I attempted to institute in Wikipedia's first year, but for which I did not muster adequate support, was the policy of respecting and deferring politely to experts. (Those who were there will, I hope, remember that I tried very hard.)

I need not recount the history of how this nascent policy eventually withered and died. Ultimately, it became very clear that the most active and influential members of the project--beginning with Jimmy Wales, who hired me to start a free encyclopedia project and who now manages Wikipedia and Wikimedia--were decidedly anti-elitist in the above-described sense.

Consequently, nearly everyone with much expertise but little patience will avoid editing Wikipedia, because they will--at least if they are editing articles on articles that are subject to any sort of controversy--be forced to defend their edits on article discussion pages against attacks by nonexperts. This is not perhaps so bad in itself. But if the expert should have the gall to complain to the community about the problem, he or she will be shouted down (at worst) or politely asked to "work with" persons who have proven themselves to be unreasonable (at best).

This lack of respect for expertise explains the first problem, because if the project participants had greater respect for expertise, they would have long since invited a board of academics and researchers to manage a culled version of Wikipedia (one that, I think, would not directly affect the way the main project is run). But because project participants have such a horror of the traditional deference to expertise, this sort of proposal has never been taken very seriously by most Wikipedians leading the project now. And so much the worse for Wikipedia and its reputation.

This lack of respect for expertise and authority also explains the second problem, because again if the project participants had greater respect for expertise, there would necessarily be very little patience for those who deliberately disrupt the project. This is perhaps not obvious, so let me explain. To attact and retain the participation of experts, there would have to be little patience for those who do not understand or agree with Wikipedia's mission, or even for those pretentious mediocrities who are not able to work with others constructively and recognize when there are holes in their knowledge (collectively, probably the most disruptive group of all). A less tolerant attitude toward disruption would make the project more polite, welcoming, and indeed open to the vast majority of intelligent, well-meaning people on the Internet. As it is, there are far fewer genuine experts involved in the project (though there are some, of course) than there could and should be.

It will probably be objected by some that, since I am not 100% committed to the most radical sort of openness, I do not understand why the project that I founded works: it works, I will be told, precisely because it is radically open--even anarchical.

I know, of course, that Wikipedia works because it is radically open. I recognized that as soon as anyone; indeed, it was part of the original plan. But I firmly disagree with the notion that that Wikipedia-fertilizing openness requires disrespect toward expertise. The project can both prize and praise its most knowledgeable contributors, and permit contribution by persons with no credentials whatsoever. That, in fact, was my original conception of the project. It is sad that the project did not go in that direction.

One thing that Wikipedia could do now, although I doubt that it is possible in the current atmosphere and with the current management, is to adopt an official policy of respect of and deference to expertise. Wikipedia's "key policies" have not changed since I was associated with the project; but if a policy of respect of and deference to expertise were adopted at that level, and if it were enforced somehow, perhaps the project would solve the problems described above.

But don't hold your breath. Unless there is the equivalent of a revolution in the ranks of Wikipedia, the project will not adopt this sort of policy and make it a "key policy"; or if it does, the policy will probably be not be enforced. I certainly do not expect Jimmy Wales to change his mind. I have known him since 1994 and he is a smart and thoughtful guy; I am sure he has thought through his support of radical openness and his (what I call) anti-elitism. I doubt he will change his mind about these things. And unless he does change his mind, the project itself will probably not change.

Nevertheless, everyone familiar with Wikipedia can now see the power of the basic Wikipedia idea and the crying need to get more experts on board and a publicly credible review process in place (so that there is a subset of "approved" articles--not a heavy-handed, complicated process, of course). The only way Wikipedia can achieve these things is to jettison its anti-elitism and to moderate its openness to trolls and fools; but it will almost certainly not do these things. Consequently, as Wikipedia increases in popularity and strength, I do not see how there can not be a more academic fork of the project in the future.

I hope that a university, academic consortium, or thinktank can be found to pursue a project to release vetted versions of Wikipedia articles, and I hope that the new project's managers will understand very well what has made Wikipedia work as well as it has, before they adopt any policies.

--Larry Sanger

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Related Links
o Google
o Wikipedia
o "The Faith-Based Encyclopedia"
o "When Information Access Is So Easy, Truth Can Be Elusive"
o my views about Wikipedia's credibility for potential employers
o Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
o The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
o Philosophy section
o Arbitratio n Committee
o mediation
o Wikimedia
o article discussion pages
o "key policies"
o Also by lsanger


Display: Sort:
Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism | 408 comments (381 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
+1 FP (2.00 / 8) (#5)
by Nosf3ratu on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 03:00:07 PM EST

And solely for this gem:

Let me preface this by saying that I know Wikipedia is very cool. A lot of people do not think so, but of course they are wrong.

Truer words have not been spoken in a while.


Woo!

LOL I'm sorry (2.65 / 20) (#7)
by Dr Gonzo on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 03:08:12 PM EST

After reading your article it turns out that it is very thoughtful, well-written and pretty much lines up with what I have seen on Wikipedia.

The radical nature of the openness and acceptance there has led to total chaos in several spots. One needs look no further than the talk section of the GNAA article for an exemplar of this attitude. People like the GNAA and I sit back and laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all as "serious" Wikipedians argue on both sides of the matter about something which is clearly a turd and doesn't belong in any serious academic work. The arguments drag on and on not only because the GNAA helps it along but because people on Wikipedia are so blindly committed to "NPoV", objectivity and other related ideology that they fail to recognize truly worthless content for what it is.

Similarly, I read Slashdot a lot and notice an awful lot of the kookier users who come out of the woodwork there using Wikipedia as a resource to back up their ludicrous arguments or theories or whathaveyou. I can only surmise that these same people (or other people of the same mind) also contribute to Wikipedia. The truism that 50% of all people are of below-average intelligence rings true on Wikipedia, and the brighter minds who are experts in particular fields don't have the time to waste on constantly revising their articles every time some crackpot takes a crap on them.

While some may look at the real trolling that goes on there, the type perpetuated by the GNAA, as the destructive force attacking Wikipedia, it is only a symptom. People like that come in and mock the system because the system is so ludicrously broken in the first place.

Wikipedia seemed like such a good idea when I first heard about it because I got the idea into my head that it was mostly academics contributing to it and most people didn't bother writing on things they knew little to nothing about. In retrospect, that seems laughable and naive, because the truth of the matter is that any idiot can and does contribute to articles in subjects they they know nothing about and the fact that it's been designed to be as easy as possible to do this just lowers the bar further. I would like to see something like an academic consortium take up the cause and create a closed-contribution version of the whole thing, but with the size the collection of articles has grown to now, it's probably a model that wouldn't scale.

"I felt the warmth spread across my lap as her bladder let loose." - MichaelCrawford

I don't know (2.33 / 3) (#13)
by trane on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 04:10:03 PM EST

People like the GNAA and I sit back and laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all as "serious" Wikipedians argue on both sides of the matter about something which is clearly a turd and doesn't belong in any serious academic work.

I learned something from that article. And it made me laugh. That's gotta count for something?

[ Parent ]

Oh, there's no question that it's funny (2.66 / 3) (#26)
by Dr Gonzo on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 06:04:11 PM EST

Independent of how Wikipedians react to it, too. But it doesn't belong in an encyclopedia.

"I felt the warmth spread across my lap as her bladder let loose." - MichaelCrawford
[ Parent ]

awfully presumptious of you, (2.00 / 3) (#28)
by trane on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 06:21:57 PM EST

to decide what does or does not belong in an encyclopedia...

[ Parent ]
And that's the Wikipedia mentality (2.75 / 8) (#31)
by Dr Gonzo on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 07:04:00 PM EST

which basically makes it next to worthless as a source of serious, credible information. People have to be able to look at a particular topic and make the decision as to whether or not it really belongs in a serious academic work. Such accusations of presumptiousness are just another outgassing from the legions of yammerheads that compose much of Wikipedia's user body.

"I felt the warmth spread across my lap as her bladder let loose." - MichaelCrawford
[ Parent ]

...so don't use it. (none / 1) (#34)
by trane on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 08:14:35 PM EST

Aa a quick reference, I've found it useful.

But I did try to add something to the Internet Troll page a long time ago, and the powers that be deleted it, and my talk page comments too.

[ Parent ]

jumping in too fast, perhaps? (none / 1) (#61)
by Jel on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 06:44:36 AM EST

The "powers that be" were probably folks just like you, except that the read the articles on how to write a good piece :)

[ Parent ]
Why not? (2.33 / 3) (#37)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 10:47:34 PM EST

Is hard drive space so scarce that they have to take out a GNAA article so that they can put in an article on string theory? If not why not let people learn about both things?

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Close, but not exactly. (2.50 / 4) (#47)
by grendelkhan on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:39:55 AM EST

Well, I think you're close, but what I'd say is that willingness to include large references on obscure topics means that Wikipedia is next to worthless as an open version of Britannica. Or as a "serious academic work"---which I don't think Wikipedia ever claimed or wanted to be. Would a "serious academic work" have an article for every "Babylon 5" and "Twilight Zone" episode? They're mostly stubs at the moment, sadly---but they can at least point the user to a really good offsite episode guide. Which, to me, is valuable: when I look something up in Wikipedia, it will be useful to me.

Then again, I think the GNAA article fails an important test for includability, which you didn't mention: If you have to argue for your own notability, you're not notable. But then again, they've set up a no-win situation: if the GNAA stay in Wikipedia, the GNAA wins. If the GNAA is booted, then somehow Wikipedia compromises its principles.

Interesting note: Jimbo Wales the Benevolent Dictator has voted against the GNAA article. Yet there it sits, and, frankly, it's not hurting anyone.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

GNAA highlights Wikipedia's strengths/weaknesses (2.50 / 2) (#163)
by RaD Man on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 08:35:20 PM EST

Using your own logic, all of these Babylon 5 (and Star Trek, and The Simpsons, etc) articles fail the very same "important test for includability": these articles are nominated for deletion on a daily basis.  Constantly.

Right away I detect a note of bias in your response because you believe that because these stubs on the minutiae about a single episode of a certain sci-fi television show that you may enjoy might be useful to you in the future, even if its a stub, should remain on Wikipedia.  Not surprisingly, you are not alone, you share this bias with a large demographic of other Wikipedia editors and casual visitors.

I think the fact that the GNAA discussion on Wikipedia made its way over to kuro5hin speaks volumes in and of itself.  Its healthy to debate something once, but 4-5 times in a row is simply beating a dead horse.  In a way, that very article and its surrounding controversy exemplify some of the many strengths and weaknesses of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia presents an opportunity to share knowledge, down to the most granular detail about, say, your favorite TV show.  At the same time, it also documents the nature of an internet troll group.  For different reasons, as indicated on Wikipedia, people think this should be eradicated, merged, or simply kept and maintained alongside any other article.  Due to its offensive-to-some (on various levels) like nature, it will continue to be a target of vandalism.  As will any other article where there is a multitude of varying points of view.  

Pick any politically controversial topic and you'll quickly find the same sorts of related issues.

If changes aren't made swiftly, the open-like nature of Wikipedia will eventually lead to its own demise.  Perhaps in the form of a fork to a new Wikipedia-like community, burn-out of POV and revert warriors, growing distrust within the community, et cetera.  I'm no clairvoyant, but at this point I think that a fork in the Wikipedia community is inevitable.  Any needed drastic change at this point will be diluted or prevented by its own bureaucracy.

-R
ACiD: ANSI Creators in Demand :: www.acid.org
[ Parent ]

B5 articles for deletion? Where? (none / 0) (#189)
by grendelkhan on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 03:16:27 PM EST

Huh. Really? A cursory scan of VfD doesn't show any TV show articles up there. What did I miss?

I will agree that articles like this can be of really questionable value.

Did you even read my post? The "test for includability" that I wrote about was an article being nominated by the people it describes. J. Michael Straczynski doesn't write the B5 articles; Matt Groening doesn't write the Simpsons articles.

There are plenty of forks that have already been made, with varying (usually miniscule) success. The proof of Wikipedia's worth, as one might say, is in the pudding. It's GFDL, dude. You're free to make RaDMaNoPeDiA if you want. Of course, whether or not anyone shows up is beyond your control.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Oh please. (2.00 / 3) (#135)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:06:07 AM EST

We regularly delete articles that are vanity, patent nonsense or just not notable enough to keep. We have a system called Votes for deletion, and it works. Evidently you are either trolling K5 (I can't say, I haven't been active here for a while) or you are ill-informed. I'd say the later.

The votes for deletion page works by listing an article to be deleted, along with a reason: be it notablity, inherintly the point of view of something that can't be resolved, or just a plain rant (etc, etc). Wikipedia editors then read the article, and then decide on whether they support the article being deleted. If about 70% of people agree, then the article gets deleted. If not, the article gets kept. (That 70% figure is because it stops, say, 48% of editors from voting to keep and getting overruled by a majority of people who disagree based on less than sound reasons. Deletions must be consensus based.) The system, so far, has worked pretty well. There might be a few articles that stay around, but that's no biggy. After all, you can just read another article :-)

So the VfD process works pretty well. If you edited Wikipedia, you'd know this.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]

Average vs median intelligence. (1.25 / 4) (#42)
by grendelkhan on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:24:30 AM EST

You know, for someone so hung up on being smarter than everyone else, on would think that you'd say "half of all people are below median intelligence", which is axiomatically true, instead of the "average intelligence" line, which is only true in certain cases. (For instance, if intelligence is normally distributed. Which it seems to be, anyway.)

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

I fail it, I think. (1.00 / 3) (#43)
by grendelkhan on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:26:02 AM EST

And one would think I wouldn't make the on/one typo in a post nitpicking someone else for their inaccuracies.

I suppose I fail it.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Or just (1.50 / 4) (#48)
by Gluke on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:41:22 AM EST

that one's intelligence is a) not necessarily correlated with one's propensity for syntactical and grammatic errors and b) not a static, if measurable, property. ;-)

[ Parent ]
Intelligence! And grammar! (1.66 / 3) (#114)
by grendelkhan on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 08:39:05 PM EST

... or at least not a scalar. Then again, for a static, multidimensional but bounded and metrizable space, a distance metric can be derived, both for distance from zero (magnitude) and distance between two points. Why'd I choose all of a sudden to remember that point-set stuff they taught me? It's not even relevant here.

What? Is this thing still on?

...

I still read some writing on the internet and want to shake some grammar into them, then I find some user info somewhere stating that they're "4teen lol!!", and I remember to cut them some slack---it's entirely possible that they'll turn into lucid and witty writers by the time they reach majority. Then again, I never wrote that way, ever. Do people grow out of that?

Then again, I read some writing, think of the author as being my age, or at least an adult, and then find some user info somewhere stating that they're fourteen. And I feel like a huge frickin' creep.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

The scale matters (none / 0) (#398)
by Sam Hughes on Fri Jan 28, 2005 at 02:30:01 PM EST

This depends on the way numerical values are assigned to intelligence levels anyway. Some intelligence scales are designed so that the median must be the average.

[ Parent ]
Re: GNAA (2.20 / 5) (#54)
by fluxrad on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 04:03:39 AM EST

To be quite frank, I still haven't come to a conclusion as to whether or not that particular subject belongs on Wikipedia or not. While I'd generally agree that you shouldn't be looking for the GNAA in, for example, Encyclopedia Britannica, one does have to wonder if a source with a theorhetically infinite amount of data should contain entries regarding entities like the GNAA.

In fact, one could easily argue that the GNAA meme has become big enough to warrant inclusion. I would point to similar (albeit less controversial or slightly more famous) entries such as the Cult of the Dead Cow, Kuro5hin, or even [H]ardOCP.

Either way, I don't agree that the question of inclusion is necessarily as ridiculous as it might seem. To me at least, it shows that people are bandying about the question of where, exactly, you draw the line for permissible content in an encyclopedia that isn't limited to 50 volumes sitting on a shelf.

--
"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
For the future's sake (2.75 / 4) (#77)
by dasunt on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 11:29:49 AM EST

Assuming the data in Wikipedia lasts, the GNAA article may be a valid future reference.

A lot of the time, what a culture finds meaningless has great meaning to researchers. Five years from now, what happens if someone is researching trolls? It sounds silly, but I can think of a few commercial fields where the motivation behind troll behavior and how trolls organize would be valuable today.



[ Parent ]
How interesting (2.75 / 4) (#134)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 09:55:44 AM EST

As one of the most vocal participants in keeping that page, here's my reasoning:
  1. The GNAA is a notable organisation. Yes, strange I know, but they have caused quite a bit of disruption on various sites. Just ask 4chan about how disruptive they were. They listed them as one (and I emphasise one) of the reasons they shut down the site at one point. Talk to the Slashdot crew about it also: they've had to deal with their crap floods for a while now. Heck, jsut surf at -1 and you'll most likely see their handiwork.
  2. The GNAA deserves to have an article due to that notability. Note that doesn't mean that they should be praised for their efforts, I believe they should just have them noted.
  3. I dispute that the article is "useless". Many people would like to know who the GNAA are. Many of them have been crap-flooded by the GNAA and may not know who they are. Rather than get their information from the GNAA website, which is chock-full of trolling goodness, they can instead read an article about them on Wikipedia, and they get a chance to find a reasonable article that is NOT from the trolls site.
  4. The GNAA article has been placed onto votes for deletion 4 times (possibly five times). Each time it has been voted to keep it. Each time accusations of sock puppets have abounded. The last one that only just finished today, was more orderly and many admins and anti-GNAA authors went through the votes looking for sock-puppets. All potential sock-puppets were weeded out, and yet a majority of editors wanted to keep the page. The controversy wasn't caused by the trolls, it was caused by the contributors! However, if you've ever dealt with the votes for deletion page, you'll know that this really isn't much different to the way things are normally done - though in this case having it listed 4 times (IMO) is going too far.
  5. There were major issues with original research on the page. Wikipedia doesn't want that. Some pretty good editors noted that none of the information had a source and this has since been sorted. However, the GNAA article is still in flux as we sort out what should and shouldn't go onto the page. Editing can be fierce, and the discussion page on this controversial group is pretty forceful. But that's no different to any other article.
I'm sure I have more points, but it's a day after NYE for me and it's getting late. But I figured I'd just add some reasoning behind why that GNAA page exists and the reason behind why its in the state it's in.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
Two Problems (2.69 / 13) (#9)
by joecool12321 on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 03:11:50 PM EST

The article by Robert McHenry misses the point in a phenominal way. In order to demonstrate the flaws of the system, one would need to show where an earlier edition said something to the effect of, "There is a lack of clarity regarding the birth date of Hamilton. While we know his birth month and day, there is some debate over the exact year. Dates vary between 1755 and 1757, but as Hamilton himself used 1757, that will be the date of reference used in this article." was deleted. Had he submitted such a change himself, the article would have been somewhat better.

As for statements of opinion, shall we reject "The New Encyclopedia Britannica" because it says, "Korean artists were generally inferior to the Chinese and Japanese in technical perfection and precision"? I won't even bother to list the host of other errors in that edition on a single topic: Korea.

Anyway, the point is that until one demonstrates that good information is regularly being destroyed by bad information, one has not built a case for the need for change.

The second problem is one of authentication. What stops me from signing the name of one of my professors to an article, or claiming credentials I do not have?

How we gain respect. (1.83 / 6) (#50)
by grendelkhan on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 03:10:19 AM EST

What stops me from signing the name of one of my professors to an article, or claiming credentials I do not have?

Exactly. As Clay Shirky has put it, the best identity device is a simple username. Your reputation goes with your name. So, for instance, Angela or Arpingstone on Wikipedia are known and trusted. But if you blow in there and say, "I'm Stephen Hawking, pay attention to me!", it doesn't count for anything. The proof must be in the edits.

Academics have fragile egos. They're not used to being argued with, really argued with. I believe that an evolutionary process, where you have your ideas duke it out with the other guy's, must be better than handing down Books of Know-How from On High. And I'm amazed at how Larry has pretended to take a position of Wikipedia advocacy and used it to say, in essence, "WAAAH! Nobody respects me!". If you're not willing to rumble when you have to, Wikipedia isn't the place for you. (Though real rumbles are pretty rare in my experience. Perhaps I'm not arrogant enough.)

However, I still think a distributed trust metric could go a long way to producing a realtime "this is not vandalized crap" version of Wikipedia, where a user could hit a "press this to validate another page" button and choose to validate or not validate a certain article.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Arguing (2.60 / 10) (#67)
by ZorbaTHut on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 07:59:49 AM EST

A lot of the experts I know don't have fragile egos - but they hate arguing with people just because it's so pointless. They know they're experts. They know they're right. This isn't "well, I've gone to school for a year, I must be right" - this is "I'm one of the best people around in this subject and I know it".

And the reason they hate to argue, in most situations, is because they are right, and debating facts that they know inside and out - facts, note, not opinions - just doesn't hold any interest.

I say "in most situations" because they will *cheerfully* argue, debate, and discuss, with people who are equal in knowledge to them. They usually enjoy nothing more than trying to expand their bounds of knowledge, working out kinks in things they're not sure about, etc etc. But arguing with the 173rd newbie about whether Floyd's is O(n^3) or O(n^4) is just plain boring.

And so if they're going to run into arguments on factual grounds with people who plain and simple aren't correct, they're not going to be interested in contributing.

Sometimes On High is right.

[ Parent ]

As I try to come around to your viewpoint... (1.75 / 4) (#113)
by grendelkhan on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 08:33:30 PM EST

You have a really good point there. I agree that explaining Algorithm Foo for the millionth time is pointless. I'd like to pretend that once an argument's been had on a talk page, it can just be referred back to.

I'd be more willing to accept your explanation for why experts don't generally involve themselves in Wikipedia if I hadn't smelled such strong elitism in Larry's story post. You know, there was an encyclopedia project for experts; it was called Nupedia. You may remember its failure.

All of Larry's bellyaching sounds like sour grapes from someone who found he couldn't bend Wikipedia to his viewpoint. We get it there all the time. It doesn't make it special just because Larry got paid to work there, once upon a time.

But, you know, you probably have a really good point. I wonder how many highly trained people get bored with the project because they're smarter or better-educated than almost everyone else there.

Anecdotal evidence: My father, who is one of those highly-qualified doctorate-holding people Larry has such a hard-on for, has written a few short medical articles for it. He hasn't had any real arguments or fights or edit wars in his work there, and hasn't had to explain something a half-dozen times.

I suppose I'd understand better if I saw it happening.

Say, I think I know someone who knows someone who knows you. You're some kinda TopCoder genius, right?

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Heh (1.50 / 2) (#117)
by ZorbaTHut on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 09:16:49 PM EST

Well, I don't know if this actually happens on Wikipedia or not - so far my sole contribution to Wikipedia has been fixing a typo. (And it was kind of cool that I could fix it, but I haven't gone back to see if anyone's arguing about it. It seems unlikely.)

Mostly I was just objecting to the parent post's assumptions - I don't really know Wikipedia or Larry Sanger well enough to make any broader statements. However, I have had similar encounters on IRC, and so it actually *would* surprise me if it wasn't at least a minor problem.

And yeah, I think we both know a chunk of the Oberlin crowd. I have this vague feeling that you went to Oberlin, which I could be wrong about - I did (for approximately two years) and that's where the people we know in common are all from, so.

I do pretty well on Topcoder. I haven't competed for a while, I've kind of gotten bored. And a lot of it's practice. :P

[ Parent ]

"They know they're experts" (1.33 / 3) (#137)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:13:09 AM EST

Gee. So we shouldn't question them because they're "experts"? Who made them this I wonder?

Yes, I am aware that there really are many experts. However, think about this for a moment. They have done hard research and lots of work on their field. Does this make the infallible? I don't think so. And why shouldn't they justify what they have to say? It shouldn't be hard if they know plenty about their subject matter.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]

Because (3.00 / 2) (#162)
by ZorbaTHut on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 07:43:54 PM EST

their time is valuable, and they have no interest in justifying every small point.

I agree that from a position of "we are the biggest encyclopaedia and everyone wants to spend hours contributing" it makes sense to verify all information. On the other hand, from a position of "I have many things to be doing with my time and don't want to spend hours explaining basic complexity theory over and over" that would probably lead to people no longer contributing.

[ Parent ]

Well, is that our problem? (1.25 / 4) (#167)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:36:55 PM EST

Seriously, if they don't have the time to contribute, then they shouldn't! If they've written a paper then someone can summarise it and add it to the database.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
Yes, it is (3.00 / 2) (#222)
by ZorbaTHut on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 06:43:29 AM EST

From the position of "people who want the best encyclopaedia in the world", losing *any* source of good input is a very serious problem.

Might not be serious enough to be worth the solution, but it does, at least, deserve thinking about.

[ Parent ]

Here's the problem: (1.00 / 5) (#227)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 08:22:20 AM EST

If we implement what Larry wants us to, then we lose far more good input than we will gain good input. And Wikipedia changes into something none of us want: an forum for an elitist peer-group of academics. This, I predict, would lead to dense text full of information that is above the level of the common man, and full of assumptions that the reader would understand prior concepts. So while I agree that in some ways you're right: it's not good to lose potential input I also think that gaining that input will be a bit of a phyrric victory.

Let's face it. Wikipedia is not an academic journal for specialist knowledge (though we have that potential in some articles). We've never claimed to be. We're a general encyclopedia that attempts to convery information in an accessible way to non-experts. Those non-experts become our best peer-review specialists because they aren't experts. By that I mean that they will keep asking for clarifications and improvements until the article becomes understandable by the vast majority of readers. Try doing that with a bunch of academics!

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]

Your First point (none / 1) (#383)
by I Hate Yanks on Wed Jan 12, 2005 at 09:21:17 AM EST

The first point you make; Data (good or bad) being superseeded by other data is very important; and indeed McHenry misses the full impact.

If Wikipedia is to be a reliable source that can be used in place of any other trusted encylopedia then the information in it needs to be consistent over time.

When academics are quoting from a source they need to be sure that the source they are quoting from will be theoretically available for anyone who reads their work. If I quote a paragraph from Wikipedia in my thesis and that paragraph is changed after the publication of my thesis then the validity of my research can be cast into doubt; as the evidence of my research has been destroyed.

If I quote from a book then I list the Title, author and edition in the bibliography. I know that anyone following my work can find the exact text I used as long as they can find a copy of that edition.

How do I indicate which edition of a Wikipedia article I used?

As an academic I will be wary of using a source where the texts that I use to substantiate the points I make in my publications can change overnight without any trace of the original content.

What Wikipedia needs is a versioning system where all revisions of an article (no matter how poor or inferior) are kept and can be referenced at any point in the future.

Only then will it be considered as a valid source for academic research.


Reasons to hate Americans (No. 812): Circletimessquare lives there.
[ Parent ]

Versioning (none / 1) (#384)
by jrincayc on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 08:36:55 AM EST

Wikipedia keeps nearly every version.  For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Economics&oldid=9333511
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Economics&oldid=8053275

[ Parent ]
Cool (none / 1) (#385)
by I Hate Yanks on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 09:19:10 AM EST

I did not know that.

Well, it seems that the only remaining arguement against Wikipedia is the trustworthyness of the information.


Reasons to hate Americans (No. 812): Circletimessquare lives there.
[ Parent ]

Elistism (1.81 / 11) (#12)
by Uber Banker on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 04:03:40 PM EST

Excellent point. +oo FP. The reason democracy fails so hard is because we all have an equal vote.

Yes but (2.00 / 4) (#22)
by levesque on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 05:52:19 PM EST

like libertarians say: "it has never been tried so we don't know"

I do agree if you mean that all ideologies fail hard. What we have is a soup and to idealize one ingredient is kind of weird (even the ingredients, in reality, are not -they're simply the result of momentary perspectives of infinite continuums.

[ Parent ]

Wikipedia (1.30 / 10) (#18)
by mikepence on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 05:11:33 PM EST

Wikipedia was nothing less than the web story of the year. If there were a K5 Best Technology of 2004, it would get my vote.

Not technology, really. (1.75 / 4) (#49)
by grendelkhan on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:58:49 AM EST

You could, I suppose, declare the Wiki to be the technology of the year, and Wikipedia its star implementation. The two have, to some degree, become intertwined---Wikipedia has driven the development and refinement of MediaWiki software, to the point where it hardly resembles the old CamelCase crap that the technology started out with.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Bad choice of words (1.50 / 2) (#53)
by mikepence on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 03:52:25 AM EST

It is more the Wikipedia movement that I was thinking of. The sheer audicity of the task, and the fact that it is succeeding.

Let's build a web site about everything.

That kind of thing. I would love to talk to lsanger  about how  it all got started.

[ Parent ]

Wikipedia wasn't the first or only one, of course (none / 1) (#132)
by gidds on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 07:40:27 AM EST

Everything2 and H2G2 are the first two that spring to mind, but I'm sure there are many other collaborative web sites with similar scope. Wikipedia certainly seems to have the most ambitious aims, though -- and it's great to see it getting so far down that road.

Andy/
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia is just the first that didn't fail it.NT (none / 1) (#218)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 02:40:25 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Even I have to say (2.00 / 3) (#89)
by rusty on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:34:12 PM EST

The MediaWiki platform is pretty good. It still features a lot of the retarded "wiki formatting" codes (half the power of html, with twice the randomness in syntax!) but doesn't force you to use it. If nothing else, wikipedia has certainly pushed the development of the wiki platform a lot further along.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Wiki-code. (2.33 / 3) (#112)
by grendelkhan on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 08:22:27 PM EST

I think the markup is the right tool for the job. It's language-neutral, first of all. (The code is all ''emphasis'', [[links]] and {{templates}}---oh, and =sections=. I think that's everything.)

It's also content-based. Sort of. There are still a lot of DIVs and TABLEs around, but at least the latter are deprecated. Section headers and such are defined not by their font size and whatnot, but by simply being headers. I suppose HTML provides this with H1 and H2 and so forth, but no one ever frickin' uses it. HTML is (a) split into way many dialects, and (b) not initially as user-friendly as wiki-code.

Also, some of the code, like the image formatting tags, are quite helpful. Inlining an image is [[Image:Hugewang.jpg]], but making it a right-floating thumbnail with a caption in a little box that the text flows around is [[Image:Hugewang.jpg|thumb|This is a Huge Wang.]]. MediaWiki rescales Hugewang.jpg to the right size so that (a) it doesn't send a large image when only a small one will be displayed, and (b) multiple versions of images aren't necessary.

I suppose that may not be the greatest innovation in all the land, but damn, it's useful.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Actually... HTML tables are depreciated (none / 0) (#139)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:18:07 AM EST

There's a wiki syntax for them also. It works well. I've used it quite a few times!

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
I said that. (none / 0) (#158)
by grendelkhan on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 05:58:57 PM EST

I said that TABLEs are depreciated. (I didn't mention the {| |- |} and whatnot syntax, but that was what I meant.) DIVs, on the other hand, you still need to use to make multiple floated images stack top to bottom. I wish they'd have some way to make a standard right-float and left-float box, to put a sidebar in, or a stack of images. Having everyone roll their own DIV style, with the various margin values... it just isn't good.

Hmm. Maybe I'll toss in a bug report.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

couple of quibbles (none / 1) (#221)
by oska on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 04:00:57 AM EST

diff between depreciated/deprecated

gk, you contradict your statement about the mark-up being language-neutral by mentioning [[Image:~~~|thumb]].

[ Parent ]

You're right. (none / 0) (#333)
by grendelkhan on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 05:07:05 AM EST

Crap, I meant to say 'deprecated', not 'depreciated'. I used to have properly meticulous spelling, then it all went to shit. I wonder why.

You're absolutely right. The |thumb markup is English-specific. (Each language has its own namespace tags, though, so [[Image:Goatse.jpg]] on en.wikipedia.org is [[Bild:Goatse.jpg]] on de.wikipedia.org.)

It could be internationalized, though. Maybe someone should drop a bug report on the Wikipedia bugzilla.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Agreed (2.55 / 20) (#23)
by dharma on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 05:54:08 PM EST

This is the first article I've read on this site actually worth reading.

I once considered submitting some articles to Wikipedia on the topics I am an expert on (graduate degrees in physics and electrical engineering with research experience in both field) but after I looked through the site I realized I didn't have the time or patience to deal with the fools that inhabit the project. Most of the technical articles read as if they were written by a pretentious undergraduate that just finished freshmen physics or some high school kid with too much time on his hand and too little education.

No one I know in academia (at least in the technical fields) bother contributing and I know many people in academia (including Jackson from E&M fame and van Trees from signal processing). Why would an expert bother contributing his valuable time to a project that can be ruined any random idiot on the 'net? People love to compare Wikipedia to Open Source but guess what: bad, incorrect code doesn't compile. Bad, incorrect information on the 'net lives on and non-experts hardly ever notice the mistake.

I like this. (2.45 / 11) (#36)
by bakuretsu on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 10:10:23 PM EST

You make a good point at the end likening open source information to open source code. However, I would rephrase it a little bit.

It is true that bad, incorrect code doesn't compile. That is a very good qualifier for source code; at least you are sure that all of the code compiles. So why is it that open source projects (all of which, for the sake of argument, compile, and a few of which have no significant bugs) can continue to get better without some "fools" rolling back the work by submitting poorer code into the CVS trees?

I think it comes down to the fact that when someone submits streamlining code, even the original author of the procedure (who did the best job they could) can recognize that the new code is better.

In Wikipedia, however, and in any situation where the information is difficult to validate, there can't be a universal recognition of "bad" information. Even a bad programmer recognizes good code, but an undergraduate idiot may not know accurate information when he or she sees it.

-- Airborne
    aka Bakuretsu
    The Bailiwick -- DESIGNHUB 2004
[ Parent ]

bad, incorrect code often compiles (2.80 / 5) (#78)
by russ on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 12:07:12 PM EST

"bad, incorrect code doesn't compile" Checking if code compiles is certainly useful and necessary, but it's an awfully low bar for measuring quality. Most of the subtle and difficult and time-wasting problems with code have nothing to do with it compiling (which is usually pretty easy to achieve) but with its behavior when it was run. And that takes a lot more human time and effort to address.

[ Parent ]
Better distinction (2.87 / 8) (#82)
by damiam on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 01:24:31 PM EST

I can't just go and edit the official source to the Linux kernel. Any patches submitted to major open source projects, especially from untrusted contributors, are usually heavily reviewed before being added.

The same is not true of Wikipedia.

[ Parent ]

Re: Agreed (2.33 / 3) (#90)
by FattMattP on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:41:37 PM EST

Bad, incorrect information on the 'net lives on and non-experts hardly ever notice the mistake.
Yet when experts do notice the mistake, will they take the time to help everyone and correct it? You've already said that you won't.

[ Parent ]
Why bother? (3.00 / 4) (#125)
by Entendre Entendre on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 02:01:11 AM EST

Corrections need to be defended in order to stay, lest the clueless undo them.  

The correctness of a page thus depends on who puts the most energy into maintaining the page.  When enthusiasm does correlates with cluefulness, that's good.  When it doesn't, that's bad.  

I do think Wikipedia is a neat idea.  I really wish there were a better solution to the problem of maintaining correctness.  IMO that would take it from "neat idea" to "wonderful resource."  That's a very hard problem though.

--
Reduce firearm violence: aim carefully.
[ Parent ]

No (3.00 / 2) (#239)
by dharma on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 11:22:50 AM EST

Because there is no way to keep uninformed people from altering it. There is no peer review system for Wikipedia where changes must be approved by at least 1 person of reasonable expertise. I could waste an hour of my time making the correction only to see it erased in a few minutes. I have more important requirements on my time.

[ Parent ]
I don't get it (1.66 / 6) (#95)
by maniac1860 on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:57:39 PM EST

How did you come to this conclusion just by looking at the site? Did you really go through the edits or did you just not feel that the articles were of high enough technical quality? Also, when someone looks up something on wikipedia they usually know nothing about the topic. Some lengthy and technical discourse on the topic is not appropriate. If I looked up regular expressions I wouldn't expect any more than a passing reference to the pumping lemma, all I would want was a basic and nontechnical description of a RE.

[ Parent ]
Er... (2.66 / 3) (#140)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:20:43 AM EST

"Bad, incorrect code doesn't compile". I'm sorry, but how wrong can you get? Bad and incorrect code is often compiled without syntax errors. How do you think we get security exploits and GPFs?

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
True (none / 1) (#238)
by dharma on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 11:20:41 AM EST

Someone else gave a better analogy for what I was trying to articulate.

[ Parent ]
good criticism of wikipedia recognizes this: (1.69 / 13) (#27)
by circletimessquare on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 06:11:21 PM EST

it is here to stay

and that's a good thing

wikipedia is democratic in its derivation way before it is elitist in any aspect, and that democratic heart of the project is its source of greatest power and promise

in fact, any problem wikipedia has can probably be traced to some sort of residual elitism somewhere: amongst a contributor, or what a questionable rule promotes in contributor behavior

and i would assert that those who doubt the very ability of wikipedia to survive and prove very useful, in fact, useful in a way that has much to do with the promise of the internet itself, are elitists themselves

there is never a silver bullet, there is only a set of rules which minimizes elitism and mischief, no set of rules will remove it completely, as we are talking about human beings being the engine here, you can't remove the human being from the equation

but that doesn't mean a good set of rules shouldn't be fine tuned until it reaches a sweet spot that minimizes mischief and elitism the most effectively

i think the biggest detractors of wikipedia are in the end only the usual sort of negative types who confuse themselves just being overly critical as somehow being useful or wise

of course criticism is important, but it shouldn't prove caustic to the very promise of something like wikipedia in the end, or it fails to be valuable criticism


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

more whining from useless academics (2.08 / 24) (#30)
by Delirium on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 06:35:49 PM EST

I've read Larry Sanger's Wikipedia articles: they're mostly crap. Even his philosophy articles—the field in which he has a PhD—are remarkably poor, consisting essentially of cobbled-together lecture notes that are incredibly biased to his particular pet views. This is the reason they've mostly been deleted.

The simple fact of the matter is that credentials are no guarantee of competence. A huge percentage of academia is filled with professional bullshitters, and they seem to be pissed off that Wikipedia is doing an end-run around their nonsense.

Premise is false (2.85 / 7) (#55)
by meaningless pseudonym on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 05:39:31 AM EST

I'm English and I'm male. That doesn't lead to the statement that all the English are male or all males are English.

Larry's articles may well be crap - I don't know, I've never knowingly read one and know almost nothing about philosophy from which to judge. You seem to be suggesting, though, that (your view of) Larry is sufficiently typical of academia's competence that they should be awarded no credibility whatsoever through occupation. I strongly disagree and would suggest that most are competent and well-meaning.

In any case, who is better? How can we make a coherent argument that says those who are paid to spend their working lives studying a field are inherently biased and possibly bluffing while those who merely have a recreational interest in the subject are not?

Many wikipedia articles are great - many are not. We should learn to recognise its limitations and how to best benefit from experts in the field. Let's get the debates between the experts, not between one expert and 100 interested amateurs and trolls.


[ Parent ]

Tackling half your question. (none / 1) (#57)
by ubernostrum on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 05:45:32 AM EST

How can we make a coherent argument that says those who are paid to spend their working lives studying a field are inherently biased and possibly bluffing

Get a degree in the field you're curious about.




--
You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]
Pretty unfair (2.50 / 4) (#63)
by meaningless pseudonym on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 06:57:12 AM EST

I have a CS degree, thanks, got it 4.5 years ago. Some of my lecturers I liked, some I didn't. Most could write on their subjects pretty well though, even if I thought they sometimes oversold their significance.

I still don't see, though, how they're inherently _worse_ than unqualified amateurs - indeed, sufficiently so that we should support a system that effectively encourages their being shouted down by such people. And by attacking that half of the question while leaving the other unanswered, you're not really holding the unqualified to account at all.


[ Parent ]

The problem with academic credentials: (2.33 / 3) (#71)
by ubernostrum on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 09:14:53 AM EST

Specialization.

For example, I have a degree in philosophy; this should entitle me to a little more respect and deference in discussions of philosophy, right? Well, so long as you're talking about a couple of particular fields (e.g., interactions of philosophy and science) where I've really put in some time. There are large branches of philosophy about which I know almost nothing, yet I could conceivably shout down a better-informed amateur simply on the basis of my degree. That's a potentially serious problem.




--
You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]
depends on the field, and a less strong claim (2.50 / 4) (#97)
by Delirium on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 03:00:17 PM EST

I do have concerns with academia as a whole, despite being in it myself, but here I'm more particularly questioning the assumption that holding a PhD in a field makes one more qualified to write an encyclopedia article about it, not whether it makes one more qualified to do research in that field. An "outsider", IMO, is generally better able to contextualize things and write them for a general audience, and less likely to try to insert biased descriptions of battles within the field. There are exceptions, of course.

What I think of academics also varies by field. I do think most academics in science are much more knowledgeable in their field than others are. I would give some deference to a biology PhD on matters of biology. However, scientists also tend to try to overreach, casting non-scientific problems as scientific ones in an attempt to "claim" them for the field. Probably the most egregious examples are in psychiatry, which until the 1970s claimed it was a matter of scientific fact that homosexuality was a mental disorder. There are also periodic attempts in bioethics though, where well-credentialed biologists who have no particular background in moral philosophy try to bully people into accepting their moral arguments on the basis of their having PhDs in biology.

In non-scientific fields, I am mostly saddened by the lack of quality research, because I do very much like the humanities. Philosophy I think still does good work, but much of the rest has descended into a morass of "critical theory" based on Continental European philosophy (postmodernism, poststructuralism, deconstruction, etc.). I'm not sure if you've read anything in a feminist theory journal lately, but it's pretty crazy.

[ Parent ]

That doesn't seem to be what he said. (2.50 / 2) (#99)
by mcc on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 03:03:32 PM EST

I'm English and I'm male. That doesn't lead to the statement that all the English are male or all males are English. You seem to be suggesting, though, that (your view of) Larry is sufficiently typical of academia's competence that they should be awarded no credibility whatsoever through occupation.

But that wasn't what he said.

What he said was that credentials are not a guarantee of competence. I am not sure but I do not think the "huge percentage" comment was meant to follow from the previous one.

Demonstrating a person with credentials but not competence would seem to be sufficient for to show credentials are insufficient as a guarantee of competence, wouldn't it?

[ Parent ]

Hey. (2.00 / 2) (#56)
by ubernostrum on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 05:44:12 AM EST

I'm lazy. Tell me how I find some of his articles so I can read up.




--
You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]
Why would he do that? (1.40 / 5) (#81)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 01:04:37 PM EST

Evidence might detract from the name-calling!

RUN !! IT?S AN ATTACK OF THE ?WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS? NAZIS!!!! - Brian Crouch
[ Parent ]
Well don't you feel embarrassed. (none / 1) (#142)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:25:45 AM EST

Nice try mate. Better luck next time!

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
Nah. I have no shame, so it's not a problem. (none / 1) (#150)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 11:55:58 AM EST

No Timing.

RUN !! IT?S AN ATTACK OF THE ?WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS? NAZIS!!!! - Brian Crouch
[ Parent ]
here is one (2.00 / 4) (#91)
by Delirium on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:50:11 PM EST

Physicalism/Larry's text (old version, moved but not deleted in case it can be mined for anything).

Apart from not being a very readable encyclopedia article, despite considerable effort to wikify and paragraph-y it by subsequent editors, it is written entirely from a reductive physicalist point of view, and indeed equates reductive physicalism with physicalism in general. This completely ignores the fact that nonreductive physicalism is a position held by a large number of those active in philosophy of mind research.

I don't have a PhD in philosophy, and I seem to be better informed about that than Mr. Sanger.

[ Parent ]

and a link to the better article (none / 1) (#100)
by Delirium on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 03:04:07 PM EST

Forgot to link the current version: Physicalism. This version is much sparser, and could use with a lot more exposition, description of current disputes, and so on, but it is much more careful about its definitions, and at least briefly defines all the major positions people take. So, in at least this one example, the unwashed masses have beaten the PhD at his own game.

[ Parent ]
Hey Larry, how about this: (1.04 / 23) (#32)
by JChen on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 07:16:34 PM EST

How about you damn elites, you creme de la academia, stop being such snobs? I want to learn, yes, but I don't want to listen to your highly decorated speech patterns. I want to get to point A to point B without taking a detour into bookworm-land. Make it fun, make it exciting, and stop jerking your intellectual sperm all over what otherwise could have been a fine article for those ignorant of your field to begin with. Quid pro quo, Larry: don't expect us to respect you when you spit at us from the ivory towers of your own imagination.

Let us do as we say.
Hey man, (2.66 / 6) (#38)
by Spendocrat on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 01:52:41 AM EST

It's not his problem that you didn't get along with your profs.

[ Parent ]
I agree, Larry is an academia snob (none / 1) (#318)
by dgrant on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 02:17:33 PM EST

I have to agree with JChen here. Sanger helped start Nupedia which was a disaster. He is an elitist snob and thinks that you need a Ph.D to write an excellent encyclopedia article. In fact, it's the opposite. It's kind of like teaching. Getting a Ph.D doesn't make you a great teacher or a great writer of encylopedia articles.

[ Parent ]
participation (2.83 / 12) (#33)
by minerboy on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 07:49:02 PM EST

I agree with most of your assertions. One other issue about Academicians is that they will not receive any recognition for contributing to wikipedia. This is mostly because their stodgy peers will pay no attention to this kind of work. This means that contributing to wikipedia is essentially charity work for them, and they can't afford to spend inordinate amounts of time on it. So, if someone insists on posting nonsense, there is just not worth it to argue with people who seem to have almost unlimited amounts of time.



if you don't know who larry sanger is (2.50 / 8) (#35)
by Fredo Gombachul on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 09:29:26 PM EST

here's the wikipedia article on larry sanger.

Hehe :-) (nt) (1.50 / 2) (#143)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:26:52 AM EST



---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
maybe there's no problem (2.38 / 13) (#40)
by circletimessquare on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:16:05 AM EST

as anyone who has actually been to an institution of higher learning can easily attest to, just because you are very knowledgable on a subject just doesn't mean you are also a very good communicator

a good encyclopedia entry in any subject demands a level of brevity and directness that is actually more important than anything a superspecialist in a given subject matter can bring to the dinner table

additionally, anyone who goes to an encyclopedia is usually looking for something between a dictionary and a textbook: a rough overview of a subject

therefore, your average college kid could cover the majority of such needs rather effectively, and can fact-check the majority of such needs rather effectively, as they aren't scaling the peaks of the subject matter, they are just describing to us the landscape

why try to redefine the purpose of an encyclopedia with wikipedia then?

so it would seem the lack of academia input is not really a problem for wikipedia in the end

and if the subject is really esoteric? or contentious?

well there you go again: you are asking wikipedia to serve something that is not it's function

i am certain that if i were investigating the higgs boson, there is plenty that i cannot find on wikipedia

but if i was actually interested in some of those esoteric things about a higgs boson, you have to admit that my knowledge would be beyond the encyclopedic sampling-the-subject-matter level of interest, and therefore i wouldn't even being using wikipedia in the first place... again, don't ask wikipedia to be something it's not

same with contentious issues

take the subject of abortion

does anyone actually believe you are going to find an impartial treatment on the subject matter of abortion ANYWHERE, nevermind an online democratic encyclopedia? would wikipedia's handling of the subject of abortion be worse than say, the encyclopedia britannica?

by asking wikipedia to be impartial and authoritative on a contentious subject matter, you are asking wikipedia to do something no book or human can actually do, so why the impossibly standards?

so maybe all this hoopla over wikipedia's "problem" isn't really a problem after all


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Excellent points. (2.50 / 2) (#144)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:31:36 AM EST

Now here's the thing: those people who rely on encyclopedias to gather all their information find they fail. It just wouldn't matter if it's the Encyclopedia Britannica, Encarta, or Wikipedia. They just wouldn't get a pass because they just haven't put in the hard yards in research! Really, the best an encyclopedia can do is point you to more sources and give you a general overview of the subject.

I really think some people are expecting a bit too much from Wikipedia. I don't see academians (spelling?) clamoring to crap all over other encyclopedias: and why would that be? Because they just don't expect their students and peers to use one to present papers!

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]

Scaling (none / 1) (#256)
by Mudlock on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 02:04:11 PM EST

I tend to agree, but not completely, with your statements. Yes, encyclopedias don't generally attempt to "scale the peaks" of a topic; but is that just because of the cost of dead trees? If we CAN climb those peaks, why shouldn't we? On the other hand, if I'm looking for an article on "physics", I probably don't want a paragraph about the Higgs Boson in there, however, I would certainly like to be able — by following a link or three — be able to get to an article on it.

This is one of my pet peeves about WP; minutia and trivia crufting up what should be an overview article, sometimes getting added in when there's already a well-written article about the specific topic of minutia they're writing about. At some point it becomes a terrible drag to be constantly deleting factually correct information.
--
But everybody wants a rock to wind a piece of string around.
[ Parent ]

Average (1.75 / 8) (#41)
by vera on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:17:04 AM EST

That wikipedia is in such a state should come as no surprise given the mediocrity democracy breeds in everything it touches. If it's to ever be of any real use, it does need to discriminate heavily in favor of elitism. Good luck getting the ball rolling on that.

Hey Larry! (1.63 / 19) (#44)
by grendelkhan on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:29:15 AM EST

Hey, Larry---why are you writing about Wikipedia when you yourself proved incapable of sticking with the project? Since your departure, it's grown tremendously, the power structure has changed (Board, Arbitration Committee), the category system has been implemented, providing a totally different kind of structural organization... it's not really the same place that you left. I take issue with the idea that your understanding of Wikipedia carries some kind of added weight because you were a contributor two and a half years ago.

Hell, I take issue with the idea that there even is a governing structure. Pretty much everything is done by consensus. Almost all of the structure has been put in place by whoever got there first, a sort of House that Everyone Built At Once. It certainly ain't the House that Larry Built.

Either go back and contribute, or stop talking smack about a project you're no longer involved with.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca

Mate, calm down... (none / 1) (#145)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:34:13 AM EST

... it's not such a big deal. Some of his points are good. Some of them not so good. Remember that crticism is actually a good thing, because then we can clearly see where flaws are and take steps to correct them.

Larry is always welcome to help us edit articles. Even to just help with spelling errors. From an anonymous IP if he likes :)

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]

Maybe an example. (none / 1) (#197)
by grendelkhan on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 06:53:57 PM EST

I was, of course, being a bit hot-headed.

Did you ever read The Authority? Originally written by Warren Ellis of Transmet fame, later by others. It concerns vastly overpowered superheroes who fight large-scale threates and injustices, frequently angering the powerful.

The last storyline involves the team being replaced by characters who are are copies of themselves (The Midnighter is replaced by "Last Call", and so forth), only they work for The Man, not against him. A small, subtle change, played off publically as no big thing, but in reality, it means everything.

I suppose I see Larry trying to do that with Wikipedia.

Perhaps I should cut down on the comics.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

What Wikipedia needs, (2.75 / 12) (#45)
by gyan on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:35:23 AM EST

 among other things, is an audit.

 Pick

 1)10 most popular articles.
 2)10 randomly selected moderate-to-high traffic articles.
 3)10 randomly selected low traffic articles.

 Compare against 'reputable' encyclopedias. Then compare all references against primary sources.

 Judge on accuracy, comprehensiveness, lucidity, and presentation.

 Present results.

 Repeat every couple of months.

 A German magazine did something of the sort.

********************************

Right Now. Right Later? (2.00 / 2) (#76)
by SEWilco on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 11:01:23 AM EST

An audit would only show how "right" an article is now. Not what the article is like after the next anonymous edit.

[ Parent ]
Shouldn't matter (2.50 / 2) (#102)
by gyan on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 03:39:24 PM EST

To be accurate, this is an audit of the article-writing process rather than the articles themselves. After all, there could have been anon edits before the audit. If the audit shows an article is good/bad, then the anon edit was corrected/not. Same should be true after the audit.

********************************

[ Parent ]
Random? (3.00 / 2) (#146)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:36:48 AM EST

Why random? We have a process of picking good articles. We call those articles featured articles. You should check them out. Most of them have had the most thorough checks you'll find: the featured article candidates page, where articles get torn to bits in order to find out ways of making them better. If it's gone through FAC, then it's usually pretty good.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
It's Obvious. (none / 1) (#156)
by gyan on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 03:33:14 PM EST

Why random?

 There are in excess of 400,000 articles at Wikipedia. By selectively picking only FAs, you're biasing the audit in WP's favour.

********************************

[ Parent ]

Most ARE crap (3.00 / 2) (#166)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:34:06 PM EST

I personally wouldn't trust an article that hasn't become featured. Just my $0.02.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
well (2.25 / 4) (#46)
by reklaw on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:37:03 AM EST

I love Wikipedia, but I'd also like to have a reviewed-by-academics version. Why? So I can finally cite it in my damn essays without getting "is this source reliable?" written there, that's why.
-
Follow the sources. (2.50 / 2) (#51)
by mcc on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 03:41:33 AM EST

So I can finally cite it in my damn essays without getting "is this source reliable?"

Why not just cite the source Wikipedia used?

[ Parent ]

Elitism not required. (2.50 / 2) (#59)
by Jel on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 06:18:38 AM EST

I don't believe Wikipedia is half as bad as some people would have us believe. I find many flaws in "expert" opinions: you only have to listen to the computer experts giving advice on TV, or reporting on the reasons for Microsoft's latest project to know they have no insight for all their credentials. But yes, citations are one of the things Wikipedia needs most. It would be great to click a link and get a version of a page with each sentence/paragraph shaded according to level of citation and validation of those citations. Rolling over a paragraph with your mouse to bring up a tooltip-like display of where the information comes from and exactly how many people have validated it, would be great. Finally, as others have mentioned, the idea of authenticating "experts" is useles especially since even the best expert might not be willing to contribute as much research time and effort to wikipedia as someone else. Individual usernames should be automatically tracked according to contributions and the subsequent (lack of) correction of those contributions by others. Editing wars could be made to count negatively, at least if no discussion is done in-between. In summary, there are plenty of ways that Wikipedia can grow even better than it is now. None of them require dismissing the validity of other's knowledge based on their level of traditional social recognition. Who's to say that a hermit living in a cave with some books doesn't know more about philosophy than a doctor flying between universities?

[ Parent ]
bad formatting, sorry (none / 1) (#60)
by Jel on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 06:24:44 AM EST

nggh. Sorry about the run-on paragraph; been a while since I posted here, and I forgot to select the right formatting mode ;(

[ Parent ]
Minor nitpick. (2.75 / 4) (#62)
by ubernostrum on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 06:47:15 AM EST

When you talk about "computer experts on TV" what you're really talking about is usually a journalist who somehow got dubbed "the computer guy" in the office, and so is given all the tech stories to handle.

Compare that, for example, to a tenured philosophy professor who has spent around nine or ten years on on undergraduate and graduate degrees (typically four years for the BA, then five or six more to to the Ph.D.), and plenty more time as an adjunct/postdoc various places publishing peer-reviewed articles to build up a reputation.




--
You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]
yep, I think we're on the same page (2.50 / 2) (#96)
by Jel on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 03:00:07 PM EST

Granted. I don't mean to belittle real experts, and certainly some people who've studied a subject for many years can be both very knowledgeable and very insightful, beyond the average interested layperson. But equally, people in academia can simply be the ones who know how to pass exams, how to get research funding, etc. What I'm saying is that we need something a little more accurate than "expert" by which to measure the quality of writing. I mean, even Einstein had to back up his opinions with data (most of the time). At the very least, I think wikipedia needs citations too.

[ Parent ]
The unexperts (2.66 / 3) (#65)
by zecg on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 07:50:09 AM EST

I find many flaws in "expert" opinions: you only have to listen to the computer experts giving advice on TV, or reporting on the reasons for Microsoft's latest project to know they have no insight for all their credentials.
Journalists in IT magazines and PR spin doctors can hardly be labelled "experts", I agree. You'll find actual experts' opinions in peer-reviewed journals.

[ Parent ]
Unconvinced. (2.50 / 2) (#94)
by Jel on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:55:31 PM EST

Well, I'm not sure there's such an easy line there between experts and true experts. What matters is whether they can cite studies, the majority of the scientific community's opinions, statistics, etc. In the mean time, peer review by a number of authors interested in the subject and checking the facts is as useful as any other way, imho.

[ Parent ]
Erm.. (none / 1) (#79)
by mcc on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 12:16:37 PM EST

Why are you telling me this?

[ Parent ]
related (none / 1) (#92)
by Jel on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:51:55 PM EST

Well, it's related to the citations you're talking about. I'm agreeing with you, and expanding on that. Though, yea, I didn't do a good job of explaining that -- I guess it must've got edited out. Sorry ;)

[ Parent ]
Oh (none / 1) (#101)
by mcc on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 03:08:03 PM EST

OK

[ Parent ]
if you use the wikipedia article (none / 0) (#149)
by skelter on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:45:38 AM EST

and cite something else, that is called plagiarism

[ Parent ]
No, not really. (none / 1) (#152)
by mcc on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 01:46:44 PM EST

You could provide the source of the [i]information[/i] for the actual cite and then still list wikipedia as a source used to find other sources. I can't imagine a professor would find this that odd. It isn't as if wikipedia is the only secondary source in the world.

[ Parent ]
Modality (3.00 / 2) (#349)
by Sunir on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 08:13:57 PM EST

The problem is that the secondary citation may be quoting from the primary source using some modality that distorts the original intent. While this is a general problem for all secondary sources, Wikipedia is made of only secondary sourced content. As such, it has to be extra careful to avoid distortions. The process that Wikipedia uses has not been accepted as disciplinized (a discipline is only a process to maximize validity and reliability), and therefore it does not count as an academic secondary reference. In academia, your readers can attack you at any point they feel like you are weakest. If your professor doesn't like Wikipedia, ever worse. Keep in mind that I was at ASIS&T'04, and people were still talking about how their Ivy League school (unnamed) didn't trust anything not in print. Like, holy crap, half the journals are online now.

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

what you seem to want wikipedia to be ... (2.22 / 9) (#52)
by pyramid termite on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 03:43:08 AM EST

... is more like a traditional encyclopedia ... we have those already ... and those of us who are aware of what's available for reference materials know this

there's two things where wikipedia truly shines ... they cover recent and computer related subjects that aren't going to be in a print encyclopedia ... and they offer online links where people can get more information ... they also list reference works, which i think should be expanded for each entry


On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.

Show me a paper that cites an encyclopedia... (3.00 / 4) (#147)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:39:07 AM EST

... and I'll show you a F grade. For goodness sake: who cites an encyclopedia in an academic paper?!

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
The problem (2.62 / 8) (#58)
by Khendon on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 05:47:44 AM EST

The problem is - how do you know who's an expert and who's a troll trying to sound like an expert?

Or even distinguish between (2.50 / 2) (#80)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 12:49:33 PM EST

an actual expert and someone who merely thinks they are an expert?

I'm afraid I've avoid Wikipedia for precisely this reason - fear that I'd never be sure I'd gotten the truth or just open-sourced garbage.

RUN !! IT?S AN ATTACK OF THE ?WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS? NAZIS!!!! - Brian Crouch
[ Parent ]

OR: (2.50 / 2) (#109)
by valar on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 07:04:02 PM EST

If two people with the same certification disagree (with happens a lot in some areas of academia), then who gets priority? If two Ph.D.s of economics are arguing over wikipedia about their pet theories, who gets to be the 'expert'?

[ Parent ]
Both. (none / 0) (#348)
by Sunir on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 08:08:00 PM EST

Both get priority. As an encyclopedia, they are no in the process of settling controversies, merely documenting that they exist.

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

It's easy ;) (none / 0) (#225)
by gionnetto on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 07:13:34 AM EST

The real expert never sounds like a troll ;;)

[ Parent ]
Wikipedia is the turtle, not the hare (2.50 / 10) (#64)
by zecg on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 07:40:56 AM EST

Academia has its own problems, and egos are one of the worst. I agree that many entries in fields requiring highly specialized knowledge (which, arguably, are what make encyclopedias useful) would profit from experts. However, I've known some experts who were incapable of assigning proper value to their own contributions and giving an unbiased overview of the theme. And what happens when two of them (presumably equally meritorious) meet on a subject and each tries to put a spin on it to stress his own work?
Other than that, go visit the excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy you've linked. You'll find the following:
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) needs your support. Over 950 professional philosophers are donating their time and labor to collaboratively write, referee, and maintain our reference work. To cover the annual costs of administering and supporting this volunteer effort, Stanford University has partnered with the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) for the purpose of building an endowment for the SEP. While the library organizations attempt to raise $3 million for the SEP over the course of 3 years (primarily from libraries at academic institutions offering degrees in philosophy), we here at Stanford hope to raise $1.125 million from private individuals and corporations during that same time period.
An encyclopedia that "needs our support" to "remain free" does not exactly inspire confidence regarding its longevity.
Wikipedia, as I see it, is the turtle and not the hare. It is knowledge slowly accruing in a completely open environment - there are bound to be setbacks, since it gives a chance for participation to all the lonely loonies of the world. But I'm unsure that it would work better any other way. You do? Well, its content is free, isn't it? So, as I understand, anyone can take a snapshot and use it to build a better system. The point is, this knowledge should never again be lost and never again should we be made to pay for it.

The problem is... (2.80 / 5) (#87)
by rusty on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:29:00 PM EST

It is knowledge slowly accruing in a completely open environment - there are bound to be setbacks, since it gives a chance for participation to all the lonely loonies of the world.

I think the argument here is that Wikipedia's architecture ensures that nobody but the lonely loonies will bother to participate.

Whether that's the case remains to be proven. But it is a potential problem.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

It's already proven, as far as I'm concerned (2.50 / 2) (#103)
by zecg on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 04:54:13 PM EST

I think the argument here is that Wikipedia's architecture ensures that nobody but the lonely loonies will bother to participate.

That argument is patently false - there are several hundred thousand articles already there and a majority of them is at least passable.
And now pardon me, I have to go party at least a little bit before midnight.

[ Parent ]
I smell a double standard. (none / 1) (#214)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 10:41:00 PM EST

An encyclopedia that "needs our support" to "remain free" does not exactly inspire confidence regarding its longevity.

And of course, Wikipedia has never held a funds drive.

--em
[ Parent ]

This would be interesting if it were in true (2.57 / 19) (#66)
by jwales on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 07:56:05 AM EST

Larry's comments betray a complete ignorance of the project and a total lack of understanding of how it works and how it is changing over time.

He accuses me of something that most people would surely find shocking, and he offers -- of course -- absolutely no evidence for it.  I am not anti-experise in any fashion, and neither I nor the community at large hold the views that he ascribes to us.

We are in the process of building a review process which he would be welcome to comment on -- if he cared to do so.  Instead, he makes up complete falsehoods about us and posts them here.  As I say in the title -- his criticisms would be interesting -- if they were in any way true.

I'm very disappointed in you Larry.  In the past, I thought you were someone who was committed to getting it right, doing your homework, and engaging in rational dialogue for mutual understanding.

Why don't you join the mailing list and discuss these issues, instead of posting publicly on issues about which you know nothing -- having had zero association with the project or me for years - and embarassing yourself?

Reply (2.70 / 10) (#68)
by lsanger on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 09:05:05 AM EST

First of all, I did join the mailing list and I discussed these issues ad nauseam, Jimmy, in 2000 and 2001--perhaps you don't remember. I brought up, repeatedly, all of the points mentioned in the essay. And that's when I was leading the project and not, as I am now, an outsider. My criticisms received little support from you (ultimately, even then, you were the boss) or the community. Even I know when I'm, er, barking in the wind; so I gave up.

Now, if the project has somehow changed in respect of any of the problems mentioned in the essay, fantastic, but I see no evidence of that. When I specifically spoke to you about these problems (esp. the second problem and the "root problem") at the end of 2001 (or was it the beginning of 2002), I remember you actually claiming then that I "didn't understand the project" that I had started, and that was mere months after I had been involved in the project. It was just silly to say then. I suspect it's still silly to say. Of course, I know Wikipedia's gotten bigger and there are many more bells and whistles.

Regardless, no one should believe either of us on our say-so. Experienced Wikipedians will can read my article and determine what they think very well themselves.

As to the review process you're building, good luck.

I would offer some advice, but I suspect it would only be more barking in the wind.

Larry Sanger
[ Parent ]

Public bickering is in bad taste? (3.00 / 4) (#74)
by zecg on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 10:35:34 AM EST

As to the review process you're building, good luck.
Funny, that somehow sounded as if you don't wish them luck at all.
Note that I am completely not involved here, but find it impossible to understand your motive for writing the article (which is, NB, very well written) and now bickering publicly - until, at least, I scrap my presumption that you are acting in good will and with no personal resentment.

[ Parent ]
No way (2.90 / 11) (#84)
by rusty on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:19:22 PM EST

Public bickering is the lifeblood of internet-based projects. There should be far more of it. The world would be much poorer if the Torvalds/Tanenbaum flamewar had taken place behind closed doors.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
To expand (2.33 / 3) (#141)
by pHatidic on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:24:41 AM EST

Public bickering is the lifeblood of everything. We don't have three braches of government with checks and balances because we are all supposed to agree, but rather because we are SUPPOSED to publically disagree with eachother.

[ Parent ]
wiki (none / 0) (#171)
by peter318200 on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 01:57:29 AM EST

well i dont know if we are meant to dissagree but its cerainly safer that way the few times iv been exposed to certitude unpleasantness was never far away!

[ Parent ]
No we're not! [nt] (3.00 / 3) (#209)
by rusty on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 10:10:36 PM EST

;-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Whore. (none / 0) (#345)
by Sunir on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 07:21:08 PM EST

In that spirit, I just thought I'd start something. (P.S. Hope you had a good holiday!)

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

Bad paddler! (none / 0) (#350)
by rusty on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 08:37:08 PM EST

I was just thinking of our trip around the island the other day. I feel sort of bad about that now. Really not the sort of thing I should have subjected you to. It's still funny though. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
I'm a weakling, I admit (none / 0) (#368)
by Sunir on Sun Jan 09, 2005 at 09:29:51 PM EST

I'm doing library science at the moment. The job postings often warn of physical labour of reshelving books, a la "Must be able to carry 5kg."

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

Library science! (none / 1) (#369)
by rusty on Mon Jan 10, 2005 at 07:03:43 AM EST

I love that phrase. My wife works at a library, and I yearn to ask her cow-orkers if they're experimental library scientists, or theoretical.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Their response: (none / 1) (#381)
by Sunir on Tue Jan 11, 2005 at 04:20:39 PM EST

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh......... Wagging finger not included.

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

It's pretty obvious to me (2.71 / 7) (#116)
by Shimmer on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 09:07:53 PM EST

I ... find it impossible to understand your motive for writing the article Maybe he still cares about Wikipedia, or at least the ideals behind it. Maybe he's posting "in public" to garner the kind of support that he failed to receive from within the Wikipedia project itself. Maybe he wants to influence the Wikipedia from outside, since he was unable to influence it from inside.

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]
It isn't anti-elitism, it's the wrong focus. (2.81 / 16) (#69)
by Metasquares on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 09:05:15 AM EST

What I have seen when editing Wikipedia is not an anti-elitist community. What I have seen is a community that grants recognition and status to its members based not on expertise, but rather on time. Everything from winning edit wars to sysop status is based on some measure of time (# of edits, # of edits in a given time period, how long one has been involved, etc.), which is why I left: Not only did I disagree with the community on this point, but I myself had no time. Oddly enough, what is consuming so much of my time is work on a research paper on applications of the Situation Calculus, a type of diachronic reasoning used in AI. It felt as if I had lost status on Wikipedia as I gained more knowledge.

Thanks (2.50 / 10) (#72)
by lsanger on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 09:20:41 AM EST

I forgot to acknowledge a long kvetch about Wikipedia by Jason Scott, which was part of the inspiration for the above essay. But actually, I've been wanting to write the above essay for a long time.

Thanks (again) for the opportunity, Kuro5hin.

Larry Sanger

And thanks back. (none / 0) (#161)
by sketch on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 07:02:35 PM EST

I intend to write a more involved sequel to my first article, using some research I've been doing in my very-sparse spare time. Wikipedia will fork, by the way. It's basically impossible for it not to. The issue arises how Jimbo will handle this wrest of power and control. It will be interesting to watch. - Jason Scott

[ Parent ]
That's just the usual VfD victim rant to me. (none / 0) (#220)
by p4r on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 03:49:42 AM EST

There is basically no serious scholarship of the textfiles and large swathe of the underground computer art textfiles.com et al. He's in a sort of monopoly position there. Therefore, most of what he wrote has no place in wikipedia, and is on par with pop culture cruft.

[ Parent ]
Wrong. (none / 0) (#261)
by sketch on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 03:08:36 PM EST

You are confusing my work with TEXTFILES.COM and my criticisms of the way Wikipedia is functioning on a political/social level. They are separate. Calling TEXTFILES.COM a monopoly of anything is laughable and inaccurate. The use of "cruft" is ironic, and will be handled in a future essay about Wikipedia.

[ Parent ]
Hrm. (none / 0) (#302)
by p4r on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 06:13:25 AM EST

Well, you ARE one of the very few people interested in the early underground computer scene. So am I. You're probably the most prominent person in that field -- your site is the goto-site for all things BBS.

Your criticism is all over the place. That Fred Brooks reference is pretty dubious: his argument is that the existing project members will lose all their time training the new ones. However, the learning curve of wikipedia is nowhere near as stiff as that of a typical software project -- unless you're talking about mediawiki. As for the IMDB snark, I humbly submit this thread. It's not what you'd find in a discussion about Pierre Perrault in a scholarly mailing list on 1960s direct cinema, but it's not exactly wasteland-like. 'grey goo'?, 'on the screen'? Come on, we already know you're smart, no need to dazzle us with the incredible breadth of your knowledge.

[ Parent ]

Jason Scott? (none / 1) (#264)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 03:30:16 PM EST

What, the same guy who at one point blocked access to his site to anyone with wikipedia is their referral string, simply because he didn't like the way the article on asciifiles were going? LOL! I might note he placed an admin's phone number on the block page.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
The problem of expertise (2.88 / 18) (#73)
by J T MacLeod on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 10:08:27 AM EST

I understand what you say, and I tend to agree with you, but there is a major issue that prevents me from agreeing completely, or enough to think the Wikipedia project should take a "defer to expertise" stance:  Idiocy and egotism among experts.  

Sadly, many experts are still capable of holding their own biases in their fields of knowledge, and would use any policy that would defer to them as the final authority to inject their personal biases into the work.  

While Wikipedia's stance on presenting every side of an issue can help alleviate that, certainly crackpot experts could provide just as much of a problem as the one you (rightly) describe.  

Wikipedia seems, to me, to be society's present best chance to rise above the current acedemic principle of respecting only the work of someone with a PhD, and encouraging high standards of research and writing among society at large.  It will need time to reach the goal of acceptance--far, far longer than it would if it took the policy you describe--but I think its ultimate potential would be limited in such a case.  

Exactly. (2.20 / 5) (#83)
by Kasreyn on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:08:42 PM EST

Just go to any party where some dipstick Ph.D. is holding forth to watch this in action. You'll see Astronomy professors learnedly expounding on agriculture and Literature academes showing off their "expertise" in physics. :P

People think that just because they're provably smart or expert in one field, that they should be listened to in EVERY field, and it just isn't so. Me, I'm aware that I'm about mediocre in almost every field, and therefore only deservant of being listened to part of the time. :P


"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.
[ Parent ]
not all biases are equal (2.90 / 10) (#106)
by merkri on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 05:51:45 PM EST

It is very true that experts, whether it be in academics or elsewhere, have their own biases, and are strong. Politics exists among experts as well as anywhere else.

However, there is a big difference between the biases of experts and the biases of non-experts: on the whole, the biases of experts tend to revolve around relatively sophisticated, subtle issues that form the basis of important argument and progress. The biases of non-experts, in contrast, tend often to derive from inexperience, skill, or insufficient thought on a topic, and tend to prevent argument or discussion from progressing sufficiently.

I am in academics, and I guess, could be considered expert in certain topic areas. I do get very upset about the biases of other experts in my fields, and I know I have my own biases that others probably become upset about as well.

However, the frustration I feel in arguments with other experts is nothing in comparison to the frustration I feel with non-experts who pretend that they have expertise. Others in my field tend to have valid, if biased opinions, based on well-reasoned and experienced arguments. When dealing with nonexperts (as other posters have commented), I often feel like there are certain "basic" or "rudimentary" issues that you cannot get past. It's not that I think the nonexperts are stupid or something like that, but more like they do not realize that certain issues have been resolved or are understood, either because a large number of people have discussed the problem decades or a century ago, or because they obviously lack practical knowledge of the issue.

There are obviously exceptions, and experts are not always correct. But experts are called experts for a reason, and that is because they have far more experience and knowledge on a topic than the average individual. They may be biases, but their biases are very different from the biases of nonexperts.

[ Parent ]

experts are only expert in narrow areas though (2.50 / 8) (#118)
by Delirium on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 09:23:06 PM EST

I've encountered quite a few experts who were much worse than your average non-PhD-holder in terms of evaluating fields related to but not identical to their own. Talk to a psychiatry expert about cognitive science, for example. It's twice as bad as talking to an average person, because at least the average person isn't going to obnoxiously wave their degrees in your face.

[ Parent ]
you think? (2.00 / 2) (#130)
by Polyxena on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 06:08:25 AM EST

Hm... really? I'd trust a psychiatrist about cognitive science over a layman any day of the week, even if it's not directly related to his/her field. After all, the psychiatrist is in the academic circles and obviously has familiarity with it, even if he's not an expert on it.

[ Parent ]
I think they meant... (none / 0) (#254)
by Mudlock on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 01:03:58 PM EST

I think they meant "as a cog-sci type w/o a PhD, it is more annoying to argue cog-sci points against a psych w/ a PhD than with a layman", because they have enough knowledge to be dangerous and the credentials to convince themselves they aren't wrong (whereas the layman will roll over if you just flash your cog-sci bachelor's).
--
But everybody wants a rock to wind a piece of string around.
[ Parent ]
that's definitely part of the problem (none / 1) (#389)
by Delirium on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 03:57:33 AM EST

(Although I'm not really a cog-sci type, PhD or otherwise.)

People with "expertise" in a narrow field like to pretend that they actually have expertise in a broader area. Or, what amounts to the same, they like to cast more problems into their narrow area than really belong there.

[ Parent ]

oops (none / 0) (#131)
by Polyxena on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 06:10:50 AM EST

Sorry I'm new here and I rated your comment wrong. Havent got used to this moderation system yet :)

[ Parent ]
You can change it (none / 0) (#176)
by Torka on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 03:27:19 AM EST

Just set the rating to what you wanted it to be and resubmit.

[ Parent ]
Agreed (none / 1) (#249)
by Pakaran on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 12:30:37 PM EST

And a few folks, like Eliezer Yudkowsky (google for him), one of the world's leading experts on artificial intelligence, have real reliability problems because they lack academic credentials. Most of Wikipedia's extensive coverage of the UK Peerage is written by a 16-year-old who would NEVER get a job with a traditional encyclopedia, but nobody at WP has serious concerns with his work.

[ Parent ]
That's exactly it (3.00 / 3) (#133)
by J T MacLeod on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 09:36:00 AM EST

It's much harder to argue against the bias of an expert, especially if they are deferred to by policy.  

In the short term, yes, such a policy would be an improvement, but it would ingrain other issues that may very well not be overcome.  In the long term, though, it will be possible to reach a sort of equilibrium without such a policy.  My personal opinion is that it would be better to hold out for the long term.  Will it come out on top if they continue as they are?  I can't say, but I can hope.  Being open isn't the only boon, in my sight.  Being open also brings the opportunity to rise above the competition in ways unseen.  I understand that not everyone sees it that way, though, and even those who do may not want to take the risk with such a grand (and visible) project as Wikipedia.  

Still, not all of those biases are subtle.  As an example, there is a trend among physicists today to develop a severe hatred of Einstein.  It's really quite obvious that it's a social trend more than development of knowledge (even if it wasn't a social trend, it would still be ridiculous to hate him personally, as many do), but those maligning him, rightly or not, think they do it because they are well educated.  It's that trend that I fear bleeding in to Wikipedia.  

[ Parent ]

Not all reference books are expertly peer-reviewed (2.42 / 7) (#75)
by scruss on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 10:51:11 AM EST

I used to work for a reference publisher of note. One year, a C-something-O decided it would be really cool to have a word that they really liked go out in the biggest-selling dictionary.

Over the heads of the lexicographers, this word was inserted. A big advertising campaign (well, by reference publishing standards) was initiated.

As a sign of karmic retribution, the printing works caught fire before the books were shipped. Unfortunately, the fire didn't harm the store which held the new dictionaries. The dictionaries went out, sold in droves (despite being only one headword different in about 100,000), and the lexicographers and editors grumbled into their teacups.

That C-something-O did get the boot shortly afterwards, so there's some justice in the universe.

No, I really do design windfarms.

The Age of Participation (2.18 / 11) (#86)
by xnuzboss on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:20:03 PM EST

In the Postmodern world in which we now find ourselves, expertise without experience is always suspect, so Wikipedia is an ideal symbol of the new age. Postmoderns, Pomos, distrust institutions and their assumed authority in a top-down, Modernist world. This is a a given. Asking, therefore, a Postmodern creation to surrender — in any way — to the authority of a Modernist institution is intellectual homicide.

Wikipedia is just fine, and the more the "experts" squawk and complain, the greater the evidence that it is so. This is the Age of Participation, and self-correction will ultimately win out, because experience, not expertise, is the new authority. Only Modernists fear being shouted down, because they fear power and try to control it through logic and reason (and laws and rules). Pomos have no such fear, for they see the artificiality of Modernist power structures and rightly say, "Bullshit."

Long live Wikipedia!

post-modernist bs (2.50 / 2) (#268)
by jesup on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 04:51:23 PM EST

You may find yourself in a "post-modernist world", where reality is entirely in the opinion of the perceiver. I prefer to live in the world where someone trained (and competant) as an engineer designs my cellphone. I prefer a world where a mathematician verifies the answer to an equation that someone else may use to design a bridge, not someone who simply feels they intuited the answer and they know better anyways because they don't kowtow to "truth".

That isn't to say that paticipatory editing isn't useful, and doesn't help produce something that might not exist at all without it. However - unlike the general web, Wiki implies that because anyone can edit it that somehow this in combination with the policies (banning vandals, etc) that the result will normally be reasonably accurate/useful/neutral. The problem is that this assumption, while not entirely wrong, is not entirely right either.

The Taino indian page is a classic example of someone using a Wiki page to put forward a non-neutral POV. If someone put that on a web page, no one would really worry. The problem is that on the Wiki, one persons positions/edits _replaces_ anothers, so it becomes a war of attrition/obstinance/etc to see which version ends up there. On pages where there's a lot of visibility (say on abortion of Scientology), the Wiki community may enforce some level of civility and neutrality. But on a page where someone has a fervent position and many others don't care (or it's obscure enough that they don't know, or they simply can't deal with the effort involved in pushing back), a small group can make themselves appear legitimate or unopposed.

My parents edit and proofread orchid journals and books. Similar to the Wiki, they're unpaid volunteers, and they're doing far more boring and painful editing than Wiki stuff is. In theory, you could have the editing done by all the orchid hobbyists in Wiki fashion. The problem is that while my parents can and probably do make errors from time to time, they almost certainly make far fewer errors than almost any random orchid hobbyist would, let alone those who'd have time to proofread/edit/etc. (Both have 40+ years of experience, discovering new species, judging, and long-term board of directors members.) So, would it help people to have random people edit? Perhaps, if it was kept civil and people backed up their arguments. But honestly if J.random says "cattlyas can't be crossed with oncydiums" (sp), and my parents say otherwise, I know which one is more likely to be correct.

There is practical use in expertise. Having expertise is NOT a negative in general. That isn't to say there may not be fields where dogma reigns - but in general the onus should be on the layman to show why the expert is wrong. Certainly in a community editing you need to have some way to deal with these sorts of issues. Votes won't do. Editing wars in theory could level out to a neutral POV but given that most people observing it often can't judge the validity of either side's arguments, you're likely to get a mish-mash assuming that the experts don't simply give up and wash their hands of it.

Probably the best solution that retains the availability to all comers to make modifications is to allow independent validation of wiki pages and branching of pages when needed. This is not easy to make work (the branching part) and still retain smoothness, but it avoids some of the duplication-of-effort issues that would be involved in a full split.

IMHO - I'm not an expert on this. :-) But the assertions that expertise is irrelevant or worse really, really rub me the wrong way. I've seen way too much circular 9/11 conspiracy-theory webs where all these people seem to feel they're experts on how planes crash, games of telephone where a report of a small plane becomes an F-15 shooting down and airliner, etc, etc.

They all feel proved because they can reference all these pages that support what they say, and engineering experience is irrelevant or just makes you part of the conspiracy (such as why the towers collapsed). I've spent more time that I care to mention trying to convince a seriously non-technical relative that they and their sources simply don't understand engineering, physics, let alone concepts such as occam's razor than I care to admit. (It's amusing (kind of) how they'll say they understand when you explain occams razor and then try to assert that it proves that X is responsible for 9/11 because it's a "simple" explanation.)

[ Parent ]

The Taino article (none / 1) (#326)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:57:37 PM EST

Actually, what's wrong with briefly stating what those people believe? I checked the history the other day and noted that their POV had been entirely stripped out of the article by an anonymous user. I put it back in a more neutral form that deemphasised their position, which is the way it should have been.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
Wiki is not Eric Raymond (esr) (none / 1) (#347)
by Sunir on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 08:06:01 PM EST

However - unlike the general web, Wiki implies that because anyone can edit it that somehow this in combination with the policies (banning vandals, etc) that the result will normally be reasonably accurate/useful/neutral.
This is a mistake. Open editing does not imply accuracy, just as open source does not imply being bug-free. Eric Raymond's arguments are wrong in any medium, for any content. Open editing only implies that there is no barriers to saying hello. It does not imply that you will be said hello to, or that you won't be pushed off the site. In reality, all it implies is that the control system will be grounded primarily in social mechanisms, not technical, which makes wikis both very flexible and also very Lord of the Flies. If there already is a social system in place, that will dominate. Indeed, since most wikis are internal to companies, most wiki editors are employees of the company that owns the wiki, and thus are not unpaid volunteers. If they lie on the wiki, just as if they lie in MS Word, they will face disciplinary actions.

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

So it's, 'Listen to Me, I'm an Expert!'? (2.30 / 13) (#88)
by Kasreyn on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:30:30 PM EST

*wonders if you're even listening to yourself*

Just to get into the spirit of things, I'm going to include some cheerful abuse of the non-elite masses in my comment.

How, praytell, will one of your laudable wikipedia subject experts prove their expertise to the clod-hopping proles who apparently comprise the remainder of the user base? There's a limit to the number of us dirt-under-the-nails hicks that can be dazzled by sextasyllabic words, you know. Do you plan to have some sort of digital certification process? A link next to a contributor's name so you can read all about his Master's Degree in Agricultural Engineering (otherwise known as the Cow College Combo)? Intellectuals love to present their credentials before engaging in a discussion. I see you couldn't resist this urge, yourself!

In short, I think your entire argument is full of hot air. I don't see a problem with Wikipedia. I've contributed to several articles and when my contributions were effective, they were kept, and when they were incorrect or ineffective, they were gone within hours. Facts should not be given different valences based on the people submitting them. This concept is so basic that I have to wonder if you're trolling.

Also, articles attacking Wikipedia have the same range of motivations as any other subject - from honest reporting to jealousy. If you think Britannica et al are ripping into it now, just wait until wikipedia starts doing to their business what the Open Source movement has done to the webserver and web browser markets. That will be the real test of the dead-tree encyclopedias' "elitism".

As for elitism on Wikipedia, I disagree that you can both cherish "experts" as well as giving a respectful ear to others (who you managed to avoid *quite* calling "idiots" - nice touch!). Attention is a finite resource. If you pay more of it to "experts", less of it gets divided amongst the mouth-breathing masses. I will agree that the more abstruse articles on Wikipedia have a rather spotty quality. I would submit that the same effect holds true for print encyclopedias, simply on a higher degree of accuracy. Peer review is all well and good, but if you write an article on something so obscure that only you know about it, it doesn't matter whether the article is for a peer-reviewed paper edition encyclopedia or a mob-reviewed digital edition encyclopedia: in neither case will anyone be able to make any valuable critique or commentary.

The difference is that, at least for now, the traditional encyclopedias have a greater ability to get "expert" opinions on demand. If someone submits an article on the pheromone secreted by the legs of a rare South American stick bug, they can call up an entomologist and pay him for his time to track down an expert on the bug, then pay HIM for his time to review the article - or write one. Wikipedia won't have that sort of power until its web of contributors grows quite a bit.

If you start releasing "vetted" versions of wiki articles, sooner or later your monocle-polishing "vetters" are going to want to be paid. That or, tired of constantly correcting the missteps of the nearsighted non compos mentes submitting all the articles, they will demand that you place more controls on who contributes... and there goes the entire idea. In any case, I would like to give a stilted, upper-crust nasal laugh at your idea of an "official policy of respect". Unless you have a plan of action, you just go on writing policy ideas while us thud-and-blunder types go on writing an encyclopedia.


"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.
you are boring (1.50 / 2) (#148)
by skelter on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:43:18 AM EST



[ Parent ]
OT: Hi Larry! Go Bucks! (1.14 / 7) (#93)
by MicroBerto on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 02:54:29 PM EST

I personally love Wikipedia - I've used it a lot in my academic career. Had I known that it was started by a fellow Buckeye, I would have helped promote it even more than I have! Thanks Larry, you're a great guy, and Go Bucks! -berto
Berto
- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
Yet another problem (2.41 / 12) (#98)
by godix on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 03:02:06 PM EST

People on a website that get spammed about your pet project might get annoyed and intentionally go fuck up a few entries. Good luck finding out which ones.

"Yeah, we rocked the vote all right. Those little bastards betrayed us again."
- Hunter S. Thompson on the 2004 election.
Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat (2.60 / 5) (#104)
by jolly st nick on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 05:01:54 PM EST

First, let me say I love the Wikipedia, although I do not entirely trust it. I think Mr. McHenry's attack on the Wikipedia was rather selective. It is amazing the number of well informative and well written articles that it contains. The article did get me thinking, however.

I think it would be hard to reconcile the positive value of wikipedia's community created nature with something like central academic board. However, I think it would possible to create decentralized boards. I'm not a contributor, so I don't have a lot of credibility, but it seems to my outsider's eyes is that it should be possible to allow any number of self appointed, self governing entities to act as authorities.

The function of an authority would be to bless versions of articles. When viewing an article, you could see whether any authority has reviewed an article and blessed it, and which prior versions had been blessed by an authority. Take historical articles. If the Republican National Committee or the Socialist Workers Party wanted to create authorities to bless versions of articles that support their of history; fine. If the Wikipedia organizers wanted to invite a bunch of illustrious academics to form an authority for the purposes of blessing historical articles, great. If I and a buch of my friends are history buffs and are getting annoyed by trolls modding our work, we could form an authority to bless our own work.

When searching for an article, I could limit my results to versions approved by set of trusted authorities. If I'm looking at an article, I could see who had blessed it and whether there were prior versions that were blessed by different authorities.

If I understand correctly, the wiki software keeps all prior versions of an article, so it would not be that difficult to add somethign like this in my opinion. What would really be cool, but probably difficult, would be if different authorities could branch articles, to avoid having to fight with other folks over the head branch.

agree (none / 0) (#280)
by bshanks on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 07:18:52 PM EST

yes, i agree that this is the way to go.

you may also be interested in the following related ideas:



[ Parent ]
Good points (2.61 / 13) (#105)
by cdguru on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 05:05:00 PM EST

Certainly, if what Wikipedia is after is "official" recognition of it being an accurate and reliable source something needs to be done. But, I don't think that is what is sought after at all.

Wikipedia is more like "the People's Encyclopedia" where all views are tolerated as "diversity" and it is something that can belong to everyone. So, when you write an article about the Earth being flat or how humans decended from a dying race from another galaxy, you can be sure that you "own" that little part of the greater whole. You don't need to be an "expert", acknowledged in any particular field as having some knowledge about it. People can then help you with your article to make it more readable. But the entire point is that the content of articles do not necessarily have a one-to-one correspondence to any particular version of reality.

Contrast this with Encyclopedia Britannica. They are unlikely to have an article that is very far outside the "mainstream" of academic thinking. WHen they had their "web experiment" which I believe persists somewhat to this day, they would have far more "current" content than the printed version. So I do not believe there is a correlation between "currency" and "academic mainstream". Nor would I necessarily exclude controversial opinions as they exist in this "academic mainstream" as well as they exist outside of it.

An appeal for "expertise" in Wikipedia is pointless - it is designed to be something composed by non-experts, contributed to by "the community at large" and not reviewed in any formal manner. To try to introduce experts and reviews into this process simply dooms it from the beginning.

However, as long as it is "The People's Encyclopedia", it is not as credible an academic resource as a reviewed collection of articles.

How to fix? Don't - Wikipedia doesn't view this as a flaw.

Trolls are extremely difficult to deal with (2.57 / 14) (#107)
by paranoid on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 06:31:32 PM EST

I am not in a position to guess about the future of Wikipedia, but I can admit that currently it lacks an efficient mechanism to deal with trolls.

Vandals are easy. Someone adds profanity to an article, he is reverted within an hour. Someone repeats this, the IP is banned. There is little reward in trying to work around the ban, since there is very little satisfaction (Wikipedians don't react emotionally to this, their comments usually amount to "rv vandalism").

One much more serious problem is a group of users, who do not value logic and pluralism of opinions, but only care about their extremist position. Quite often their position may appear to be "traditional", i.e. they are against NPOV (neutral point of view) of a particular article. For example, a user found the "Zoophilia" article and set on a quest to expose the dangers of animal abuse there. Another user came to "Paedophilia" and decided to make a point that any sex with a child automatically scars them for life and children are not capable of consent. Or a user finds "Soviet Union" article and feels an urge to explain to everyone that it was a totalitarian nightmare.

The problem with such users is not that the point they make is totally devoid of merit, it's that they appear to be completely incapable of understanding the idea of neutrality, of presenting conflicting viewpoints in the same article in a factual manner without endorsing any of them.

These users are immune to persuasion. Any attempt at rational discourse is futile, as anyone of you who argued with a moron is aware of. It's said "Don't mud-wrestle with a pig. You'll both get dirty and the pig loves it". That's the problem. When such a pig "attacks" a Wikipedia article, other users feel obliged to respond in a polite and rational way (according to the policies), even though many of them must realise that they are mud-wrestling with a pig. We can show facts, give references, build cohesive logical arguments, but in the end we can't make that troll change his opinion one iota.

I agree that the idea of building an Open encyclopedia should not be taken to mean that we let everyone in and tolerate them even when their company becomes unpleasant. I'd appreciate if there was an easier way to "kick" people who seem not to be useful contributors, but mere trolls. Unfortunately, I do not think that this is simple to do and someone may argue that this can cause more harm than good (e.g. if a sysop discovers a topic that he has a strong opinion about and bans people for disagreement). But the problem is real.

So what are you advocating? (3.00 / 2) (#325)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:50:06 PM EST

You say "When such a pig "attacks" a Wikipedia article, other users feel obliged to respond in a polite and rational way (according to the policies), even though many of them must realise that they are mud-wrestling with a pig.", but that's exactly the right way of responding to a troll!

If the troll then gives constant abuse file an RFC, or if it gets really bad take it to the arbitration committee.

You know, your "trolls" are not actually trolls. They are people pushing a particular point of view and who try to drown out all other points of view. We can deal with those people. I suggest that you read over the dispute resolution guidelines, because following them usually means that things can be worked out with such editors.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]

It's just too much bother (3.00 / 2) (#351)
by paranoid on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 11:34:51 AM EST

I am not really advocating anything. I was a pretty confrontational and "POVy" in real life, but I realised pretty quickly why I should act differently on Wikipedia. My first article was pretty damn controversial. It was deleted from Everything2 and I decided I should try Wikipedia. Well, even though it was speedy deleted in violation of the policy, it was restored, then edited to remove lots of POV and bias. Even though I am not happy with how the article ended up (it was not very encyclopedic to begin with, so it really suffered during reediting), I saw very clear evidence that the Wikipedia way works.

The problem is that the price you pay for the end result is a lot of time spent reaching the compromise (in the few cases where a "pig" starts contributing). I can enjoy prolonged flaming on a bulleting board, but I don't enjoy maintaining a PROLONGED 100% rational and polite dialog with a person who doesn't feel obliged to do the same.

Yes, these people are not trolls (they can sometimes even be decent contributors in other articles), but they do waste a lot of good contributor's time. And dispute resolution is so horribly boring that I would happily let someone else deal with it, someone, who enjoys the bureaucracy of submitting a 5-page report on someone's wrongdoings, with references, bulleted lists, summaries and the like.

I am OK with wasting time, and I enjoy creating a free encyclopedia, but I would kill myself before commiting to a dispute resolution as it's currently done on Wikipedia.

Summary: Wikipedia does have ways to deal with "pigs", but the toll these bureaucratic ways place on good users is, IMHO, too heavy. There must be better ways, but I don't know what they are. For now I will just let others waste their time dealing with "pigs".

[ Parent ]

Expertise requirements on Wikipedia (2.50 / 8) (#108)
by Fred Bauder on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 07:01:16 PM EST

Experts are welcome to participate on Wikipedia, but it is never enough to wave your formal qualifications and then exhibit a nasty attitude if other Wikipedia users do not defer to you. An expert , like other users, is expected to be able to cite published authority for their edits. Academically trained people ought to be able to do this, after all, a part of their training is gaining familiarity with the literature in their field. If an expert is willing to do this and participate in the give and take on the talk pages attached to articles, they should expect to thrive and enjoy their work on Wikipedia. And be respected and honored by other Wikipedia users.

Yes, but (2.80 / 5) (#154)
by JetJaguar on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 02:35:46 PM EST

Most of the trolls and cranks are not just anti-elitist, they are anti-establishment* as well. These people often accuse the "experts" of having an agenda of thier own, or have an interest in seeing an "opposing" point of view suppressed, no matter how idiotic it might be. This is something that happens all too often in the news media (giving "equal time" to cranks in the name of "balance"), and I see it spilling over into the internet. In such cases, all the references in the world do no good. The cranks run around making (usually unsupportable) claims of bias but the only people who are really qualified to be able to evaluate a claim of bias are often the experts themselves, so the laypeople get caught in the middle not really knowing who to believe.

*Being anti-establishment isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when you start advocating positions that have been thoroughly disproven, or blatently false, that causes damage.



[ Parent ]
Trolls and Cranks (none / 1) (#339)
by Fred Bauder on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 11:48:18 AM EST

Between the Wikipedia policies of No original research (nifty things you think up yourself but can find no authoritative reference for) What Wikipedia is not (not a platform for propaganda or advocacy) and Neutral point of view, NPOV, which excludes viewpoints which do not have substantial support, cranks and trolls have a hard time of it on Wikipedia, although it does take a while for the community to catch up with them sometimes.

[ Parent ]
Encouraging public posting on own site? (1.20 / 5) (#110)
by Gutza on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 07:07:10 PM EST

Rusty, come on! Sure, you'll rebuke by saying that you hadn't specified the site where they should make things public, but it's still a tad too obvious, you coming into the discussion on that side of the fence.

Who's your vendor, who's your vendor? — Scott Adams
time is K5
Huh? [nt] (none / 1) (#211)
by rusty on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 10:17:03 PM EST



____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia is not an Enlightenment encyclopedia (2.28 / 14) (#111)
by oska on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 07:49:54 PM EST

I found this article a very turgid read - if I hadn't known who Larry Sanger was and thought it might be worth learning his opinion on Wikipedia I wouldn't have bothered reading through his pompous Comic Book Guy sytle prose. Indeed, through his writing style and his presented argument against Wikipedia Sanger comes across as someone who is desperately seeking credibility in the academic world and is trying to shake off his perceived problems of association with the Wikipedia project. Beyond drawing that conclusion I found very little perceptive criticism in the article.

The problem is that Sanger, despite protesting that he realises how cool the project is, still doesn't get it. Wikipedia should be celebrated for what it is, not for it's perceived short-comings in comparison to the authoritativeness of conventional encyclopedias.

For me, wikipedia is a text version of the conversations that you take part in in ordinary life. A lot of anyone's knowledge is gained through what they learn from talking to other people. Not in authoritative university lectures or tutorials but at picnics, at dinner parties, in bed, at work etc. These conversations are largely non-authorial, just people relating interesting facts they have heard, or "telling it like it is". In these conversations, people engage with a discourse in many ways. Somtimes they enthusiastically agree with what is being said and applaud it and add to it. Or they have some slight disagreements which they throw into the conversation. Or perhaps they disagree more strongly and turn the conversation into an argument. Much the same thing takes place on Wikipedia.

The material in Wikipedia may not be the truth but it is certainly a collective perception of the truth which in itself is a valuable resource. Because Wikipedia does not pretend to the utopian Enlightenment ideal of an authorative telling of the truth it often better portrays a richer tapesty of truths.

The truth itself is un-communicable, as the whole mystical tradition agrees. But a variety of people collaboratively telling their truths can often lead to a great store of knowledge and even wisdom.

Sanger reminds me of fundamental christians who want to maintain that the Bible is the product of one single authoratitive voice, that being the voice of the ultimate knower of reality, God. Instead we know that the Bible, like many religious bodies of learning, is the distilled voice of many contributor's perceptions of truth.

I'm writing this off the cuff and feel like I'm probably starting to sound too grandiloquent myself, so I'll stop here. I guess my final word is that despite modelling itself on an encyclopedia, Wikipedia is something radically different and should be appreciated on its own grounds.



I don't understand this (2.50 / 2) (#119)
by strlen on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 10:06:09 PM EST

To use your bible anology, historical scholarship shows that the bible was likely composed by several authors, etc... yet the fundies are claiming (contrary to centuries of previous scholarship etc...) etc that it's literal and uncontradictory work of god. So what is there to say, that using your argument against the truth -- if I understand it correctly -- that both the fundamentalists and trained scholar are "equally right"? And for a practical application, if the majority of Wikipedia users were fundamentalists, would their article on the Bible, to you, be just as valid as a work of a trained comparative religion scholar?

Societal institutions like the academia are shown to work, yet use of "what's commonly accepted by majority" in lieu of truth is show not to work, imperically. I'd much rather be treated by a doctor holding an MD from an established research university than with a doctor who taught himself through K5 and Wikipedia -- one is far more less likely to actual cure my sickness than the other.

--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]

son of Godwin's law (2.66 / 3) (#121)
by oska on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 10:45:28 PM EST

I probably shouldn't have mentioned the Bible and fundamentalist christians. If there isn't some version of Godwin's Law against doing this in on-line discussions there probably should be.

But I did and the reason I did was I was trying to make the point that people seem to have a yearning for an authoratitive voice - one that they can implicitly believe and even obey. I don't think that the original contributors (authors?) of the body of oral/written material that became the bible planned for it to be taken as the word of God. Instead I think that belief was created later by people yearning for the voice of authority. I think that in a way Sanger is displaying just such a yearning for authoritative truth.

Now to respond to your last paragraph. Nowhere did I say that academic institutions don't work, nor do I think that many contributors from Wikipedia would say that. Wikipedia is a different approach and one that doesn't have to compete against academia. It seems that academia is attacking due its own feelings of threat and possible inadequacy rather than in response to any challenge by Wikipedia. Why should wikipedia attack one of its major sources?

And as for your second straw-man argument, no-one is suggesting you start practising as a doctor based on the information you read on Wikipedia. Indeed, Wikipedia has a disclaimer shown on every page to basically this effect.

 

[ Parent ]

That was perhaps a hyperbole (3.00 / 2) (#123)
by strlen on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 12:31:49 AM EST

I did mean the doctor example in the literal sense, I merely talked about your idea of authority and perceptions of the truth. I probably hadn't made it clear enough, thus making it seem like a strawman, but there's a very clear need for authority in many cases because the difference between "communally agreed truth" and "authoritative truth" is rather clear in many cases, medicine being one of them.

Now, I'm not even anti-Wikipedia, in fact I do use it on a regular basis, but the point I'm making is that you can't deal away with the idea of an authority. In fact, the only way I can find Wikipedia useful is that it (as at best a tertiary source -- just like any other encyclopedia) can direct me to sources I find authoritative.

I'm not fully agreeing with Sanger myself, as -- as my further investigations of his writings have found I've got grounds for disagreeing with him. Nor am I defending the "Soviet Academic" mindset (my own terms for it, given that both my parents are former Soviet Academics) - that the academia is the sole light of authoritative truth and conversely, every academic, posseses the ability to make authoritative truth. But, fact remains, is that there are authorities on certain subject areas and your average Internet user, certainly isn't one of them.  Basically, I had a problem with your idea of "Enlightenment truth" vs. "popular arrived at" (my wording, and interpretation) truth.

--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]

Vedic philosophy (none / 1) (#122)
by oska on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 10:56:04 PM EST

Adding to my parent comment a quote from something I've recently read on the approach of the contributors to the Vedas:

...the seers said, "No, we do not wish to convert our thoughts, ideas and experiences into an organized religion, because they are not the ultimate answers that we aspire for. They are an individual's understanding of reality. Therefore, let our ideas become part of a collection of ideas that deals with the same subject."


[ Parent ]
Um (2.66 / 3) (#128)
by poyoyo on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 05:31:41 AM EST

This is all very inspiring, but "the collective perception of the truth" of, say, biochemistry isn't worth a damn. In such topics --- and this is most of the valuable articles on Wikipedia --- the only thing useful and relevant is the expert's perception of the truth.

"Dinner conversation", well okay, but if you're going to talk biochemistry wouldn't you prefer to have a biochemist at your table? Sanger is talking about how to attract such people. Your blah-blah about "single authoritative voice"s doesn't amount to a rebuttal of his argument.

[ Parent ]

I largely agree (2.76 / 25) (#115)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 08:39:21 PM EST

This article very much reflects a large amount of the things that I find wrong with Wikipedia.  Let's put this from my perspective: I have studied Linguistics extensively, and am a dissertation away from a Ph.D.  What do I see when I look at Wikipedia's articles on this topic?  I see articles "written" by an aggregation of people who seem to have studied it only as far as an Intro to Linguistics course, and thus do nothing but repeat the simplifications offered by their introductory textbooks; but since they don't understand the topic in question, they do it wrong.  People who don't know how to define basic terms in a way that's both appropriate to the target audience and technically accurate (a very difficult skill).  Articles which don't have any narrative thread and read like they were  put together by a dozen people randomly writing paragraphs without reading what others did (well, because that's how it happened!).

There's another kind of scenario I've seen, which is related to the "trolls" theme in the article, but not quite.  Wikipedia has an unrecognized problem with cranks on obscure topics.  Much ink is spilled by Wikipedians about how when somebody goes into some popular article and edits it into something very tendentious, it is caught quickly and reverted.  What is not much discussed at all is cases where cranks go into an article that's not popular at all and alter it, to suit their ideology and/or political agenda.

I have an example in mind.  It is the Wikipedia article on the Taíno, the first Native American peoples that the Spaniards had extensive contact with in the New World.  The Taíno were decimated by disease and cultural assimilation in the 16th century, and thus have been extinct for over 400 years.

There is, however, a group of Puerto Ricans, based in New Jersey, who call themselves the "The Jatibonicù Taino Tribal Band of New Jersey", claim to be Taínos, and seek to achieve tribal nation status with the US government.  These people obviously have a large interest in propagating a false version of New World colonial history, and they have edited the Wikipedia article to hedge the claims of Taíno extinction with things like "it is popular scholarly opinion", and insert their blatantly fabricated story into the article.

The Taínos are a pretty obscure topic.  The only countries where the general population cares to know much about them are Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.  In most of these it's a topic that's taught very early on in elementary school, and which captivates people's imagination, and thus is subject to constant representation in the popular culture.  The result is that most people know all they want to know about the topic, and never feel like they have a need to look it up in an encyclopedia.  But the crucial point now is that the balance of power in the Wikipedia article favors the fake "Taínos".  They have much more of an interest in presenting a false version of history in the Wikipedia article, than other people do in eliminating outright fabrications from it.  The people who could correct it just don't have enough at stake to dedicate the amount of time required.

For a bit more of information, see the discussion pages for Taino (without the accent on the "i") and Taíno (with the accent).

--em

Response (2.61 / 13) (#126)
by poyoyo on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 02:22:08 AM EST

Judging by your frequent criticisims of Wikipedia, you seem to think the project is not only imperfect but actually actively harmful to society. Am I correct? I'm not claiming Wikipedia's perfect, but I would like to argue against this.

I have studied Linguistics extensively, and am a dissertation away from a Ph.D. What do I see when I look at Wikipedia's articles on this topic? I see articles "written" by an aggregation of people who seem to have studied it only as far as an Intro to Linguistics course, and thus do nothing but repeat the simplifications offered by their introductory textbooks

Of course it would be better if the articles were of higher quality, but consider the possible readers of these articles. I am a complete layman in this field, and if I casually read a long Wikipedia article on the topic I will soon forget all the details and come away with only vague generalities. It makes no difference at all to me whether the article is good or bad in the details, provided the broad outlines are accurate (and they almost always are, as you know). Even if there are numerous small inaccuracies I am unlikely to acquire any misconceptions from it. So the poorly written article does not harm me.

It does not harm experts like you either, because you can tell which claims are dubious. So the person likely to genuinely harmed by an inaccurate Wikipedia article is a beginning/intermediate level student of linguistics. But this person is primarily learning from textbooks anyway, and Wikipedia will usually act as a backup, not an authoritative resource. But more importantly, there is a potential major benefit to these people which I'll get to shortly.

What is not much discussed at all is cases where cranks go into an article that's not popular at all and alter it, to suit their ideology and/or political agenda.

You know what? I like this kind of thing about Wikipedia. I like the fact that controversy isn't swept under the rug and is right there in the history and talk pages --- and often the article itself, thanks to NPOV. Your Taino example is actually a good example for this. If I look at the article's "Modern Times" section, I get a whiff of something suspicious about the claims being made ("alternative perspective", etc). I visit the article's talk page and behold, there's lots of critical comments about the claims (in this case, mostly written by you I presume). Now if I like I can examine the claims in detail and continue researching the topic on my own from a variety of sources, making my own opinion on which side of the story is true. Even if the cranks take over the article, they can't delete comments from the talk pages.

I'm not just passively absorbing information when I read Wikipedia, I'm actively engaged with the material. I'm drawn to read further, to critically examine what's stated, and even to write about it by making my own contributions to the article. Wikipedia encourages a spirit of not taking claims at face value thanks to its very structure as an encyclopedia anyone can edit.

You seem to criticise Wikipedia from the standpoint that people will just trust anything its articles say, but in fact no one really trusts it, nor is this ever really likely to change. (You can't tell me that people might be fooled into thinking it's a "real encyclopedia", because it has edit buttons everywhere and says "anyone can edit" it in large type on its front page.) It's precisely when reading from sources that you don't trust that you learn the most.

On Wikipedia we have 15-year-old contributors engaging in heated debate on scholarly topics. Where else could they do this? They'll learn a huge amount and in the future may well become experts in their respective fields. This is the major benefit to beginning students I was alluding to earlier. You're complaining about the harm to the students reading the shoddy linguistics articles, but consider the huge benefit to the students writing them.

I consider Wikipedia a powerful force for developing its readers' and editors' critical thinking. Surely helping to instill critical thinking in large numbers of people is of huge benefit to society --- more important than the inaccurate claims that might be spread in the process.

[ Parent ]

I agree. (2.71 / 7) (#180)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 05:39:00 AM EST

The two sites that really helped me with critical thinking have been Kuro5hin and Wikipedia. Kuro5hin helped me question and debate what I read. It helped me work out crap and how hold forth opinion and to hold discourse with those I would normally ignore and stay away from. Then I shifted my focus to Wikipedia, and I now question facts: what is the source, who said it, why did they say it, can I verify this information?

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
ciritical thinking/debate and k5 (3.00 / 2) (#202)
by gmol on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 08:50:37 PM EST

I am a little older, but I recall when I first discovered K5, how I was a little intimidated by the scholarly tenor of debate, on a lot of different topics.

I may be looking through rose coloured history goggles, but it used to be a lot better than it is now. Seriously.

[ Parent ]

It was. (none / 1) (#210)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 10:12:15 PM EST

I, also, have lamented the decline of K5.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
brief response (2.66 / 3) (#212)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 10:19:19 PM EST

Judging by your frequent criticisims of Wikipedia, you seem to think the project is not only imperfect but actually actively harmful to society. Am I correct? I'm not claiming Wikipedia's perfect, but I would like to argue against this.

Wikipedia breeds vanity and arrogance among its contributors, that's for sure.  It is one more outlet for a certain demographic who think they're "smart" to celebrate their own supposed "smarts".

Of course it would be better if the articles were of higher quality, but consider the possible readers of these articles. I am a complete layman in this field, and if I casually read a long Wikipedia article on the topic I will soon forget all the details and come away with only vague generalities. It makes no difference at all to me whether the article is good or bad in the details, provided the broad outlines are accurate (and they almost always are, as you know). Even if there are numerous small inaccuracies I am unlikely to acquire any misconceptions from it. So the poorly written article does not harm me.

Notive how you failed to address a key sentence of what I said:

People who don't know how to define basic terms in a way that's both appropriate to the target audience and technically accurate (a very difficult skill).

What I'm saying is that the fact that it's a general audience is no excuse to get things wrong.

With regard to your "nobody trusts Wikipedia because of the way it's presented" argument: there are a number of "encyclopedia" sites online that are nothing but rips of Wikipedia, with advertisements tacked on (which is AFAIK completely legal; there is no non-profit requirement in the Wikipedia content license).  These sites, in my experience, come up higher in search results than Wikipedia itself, and often do present themselves as authoritative "study aids" for students.

--em
[ Parent ]

I have only one reply (1.62 / 8) (#182)
by brunes69 on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 10:10:55 AM EST

If you read an article on Wikipedia about the Taino, and you feel it is unfairly biased, why don't you **FIX IT*** so that it is not so biased?

That is the whole point of Wikipedia. If everyone who sat and whined about accuracy fixed one article / day, the thing would be golden.

---There is no Spoon---
[ Parent ]

Actually, he did fix it (3.00 / 5) (#185)
by poyoyo on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 12:37:57 PM EST

If you look at the page history of Taino (not Taíno; someone botched the page move), I am pretty sure that User:171.64.42.82 is him. He's complaining that even if he fixes it, he'd have to maintain eternal vigilance to make sure cranks don't change it back. This is a fair criticism.

[ Parent ]
It is, and... (3.00 / 2) (#252)
by Pakaran on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 12:47:08 PM EST

There's policy pages to state his concerns, e.g. this one.  I already tried to work on the point of view expressed at the end of the article, and I'll probably list the page on the above linked page later today.  

For better or worse, we give the most attention to neutrality on pages which are frequently visited and/or interest our readers (e.g. those on the Israel/Palestine situation).  This is an artifact of being all volunteers.  

[ Parent ]

That's easy an easy one (2.50 / 2) (#186)
by Mysidia on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 12:57:28 PM EST

Not worth the time to get into the edit war with the guy who came and brought in the bias



-Mysidia the insane @k5
[ Parent ]
"If we mess up, it's your fault!" (2.60 / 5) (#205)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 09:18:32 PM EST

This is a favorite attitude of Wikipedians-- blaming people who uncover errors for their existence.  In the real world, on the other hand, if you fuck up, it's not other people's fault.

--em
[ Parent ]

*I* didn't fuck it up (1.25 / 4) (#228)
by brunes69 on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 08:28:51 AM EST

...and likely, neither did the original author of the article. Someone else likely came in and fucked it up. So, if you are there readinng it, and known it is fucked up, and have the ability to fix it, then why the hell don't you?

Wikipedia is not owned by anyone - it is part of the creative commons. No one person has the ability to "fuck it up" - it only becomes "fucked up" though indifference like yours. Reading an article on Wikipedia, knowing it is wrong, and just whining about it instead of fixing it, is akin to people who complain about  their elected officials, yet continuously vote for the same two parties over and over again (or not even vote at all).

If you don't want to fix it, you have no right to complain. You can not use the site, fine, but don't whine about it. Your bitching is not doing anything to improve the situation so you can take it elsewhere as far as I am concerned.

---There is no Spoon---
[ Parent ]

Answer: (none / 0) (#298)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 04:23:52 AM EST

Please read this comment.  It answers your points.  Thanks for your time.

--em
[ Parent ]

Blame? (none / 1) (#324)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:33:55 PM EST

Sorry, I don't understand. I've been editing that site for quite a while now. Most of the editors on the site (even the anonymous ones) find an error and just fix it. Most can't be bother finding the original author in the history to send them a nasty message blaming them for their mistake.

So, basically, you're wrong. HTH.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]

You're not following. (3.00 / 3) (#329)
by Estanislao Martínez on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 12:05:37 AM EST

I'm making fun of people who, when somebody points out any inaccuracy in Wikipedia, offer a stock answer like "You should have fixed it."  Essentially, whenever you make the slightest criticism of Wikipedia's accuracy, you get a dozen hangers-on giving you back a "have you stopped beating your wife" answer that presupposes responsibility on your part for fixing the mistakes.

--em
[ Parent ]

Oh. (none / 0) (#330)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 12:53:51 AM EST

I guess I didn't pick up on the sarcasm.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
You can't fix it (2.50 / 2) (#364)
by GenerationY on Sun Jan 09, 2005 at 01:03:00 PM EST

why waste time when some 15 year old will come along the next day and change it all back? Normal people don't have the time or the stamina to wage long protracted wars over articles that are, by definition because they wrote them in the first place, of any use to them against Wikicultists.

This differs significantly from the OSS argument you are paraphrasing where software has a utility for its creator. Even then, the "if you have a problem, fix it yourself" attitude remains the major reason why OSS will never be ready for prime-time outside the harddrives of similarly socially-challenged nerds.

[ Parent ]

A similar experience. (3.00 / 2) (#203)
by gmol on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 09:06:29 PM EST

I have seen people very insidiously alter articles, quite often to link to ones they have written. I can't understand why other then as some form of vanity.

The links and alterations are often extremely tenuous, and simply isn't worth the comment/edit war with the original submitter.

This kind of behaviour isn't 'right' for an encyclopedia, but I see it as a reflection of human nature.  Wikipedia is very useful, that's really all that matters to me.

[ Parent ]

Vanity is why Wikipedia is so large. (3.00 / 2) (#207)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 09:42:32 PM EST

Vanity is (a) the reason for most contributions to Wikipedia, (b) not conducive to writing good reference articles.  The aim of a reference article is to educate, not to stroke the author's ego.

ESR's "Homesteading the Noosphere" article claims that something that essentially amounts to vanity is the major motive why people write free software.  I don't think that claim is right (and don't really wish to debate it here), but it's certainly one of the major motives.  My opinion is that it also is easily the worst of the common ones.

FOSS projects often come along because the authors needed a tool that they didn't have, and just went ahead and wrote it themselves (the "scratiching an itch" motive).  Let's apply this common scenario to Wikipedia, and ask: what itch are Wikipedia contributors scratching?  If I'm already an expert in something, do I really need to write a short encyclopedic article on it for myself?

A simpler way of putting it is that contributing to FOSS projects is most often justified and sustained by the utility of the contributions to the contributors themselves.  Contributors thus contribute in order to maximize utility to themselves.  Wikipedia, on the other hand, is not like this at all.  The motive for most contributions is vanity.  Contributors contribute to maximize ego satisfaction, not usefulness to anybody.

This is also one reason why your typical Usenet FAQ is more useful than the equivalent Wikipedia article.  The FAQ came about because it's useful to its contributors, who are faced with having to answer the same questions over and over, and to the target audience, who obviously want to know the answer to precisely those questions.

--em
[ Parent ]

Wikipedia the problems (2.37 / 8) (#120)
by Onion Blastar on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 10:30:51 PM EST

#1 Many of the critics of Wikipedia are either technophobes or the type that refuses to contribute to it to help solve the reliability problems. I had a friend, now an ex-friend, who would rather use a 26 year-old version of an Encyclopedia than Wikipedia, and she also used a 26 year-old version of a dictionary than some web based Dictionaries (Like Webster's, etc), and I found that communicating with her ended up being like talking a different language because she was using different definitions of things and not understanding the more modern terms. Anyway she is of remedial intelligence and cannot face the truth about herself and is having problems using computers anyway, they give her migraines apparently. I would classify her as a Librarian type who worships books, yet doesn't seem able to absorb the knowledge from them and apply it to the real work and cyber world. In which case, I have found, that some Wikipedia critics are in the same category as my ex-friend.

#2 Who is foolish enough to trust anything posted on the Internet? I mean really. The Internet is not the real world, and Wiki web sites can be scribbled over by people posting to their own inner voices. This is not a problem with Wikipedia, but a problem with Wiki, in that it needs credible editors to filter out those inner voices or at least translate them into something more credible and understandable if it is indeed factual.

#3 Just about anything can have a Wikipedia entry. At what point does Wikipedia reject entries? The GNAA and Maddox both have entries, but the real Encyclopedia does not. Perhaps Wikipedia should have a "Popculture" or "Cyberculture" section for entries such as these which people can filter out in their searches? Having these Popculture or Cyberculture topics just adds more fuel to the fire of people trying to burn down Wikipedia's credibility.

#4 Too bad libraries, colleges, and other institutions do not volunteer to help out with Wikipedia to edit entries and keep things credible.

#5 Hot topics, like Intelligent Design and certain Religions, get scribbled over by the bashers of those topics. For example, ID is called a Pseduoscience by people opposed to it, and a Science by people who are for it. So what will the official final and edited version say?

#6 People won't want to donate to a project where their contributions get edited out, objected to, and they are told they are wrong. Many just leave and then badmouth Wikipedia on other web sites. So what is the real market to which Wikipedia is trying to reach? The readers or the writers or the editors, perhaps all three? Has any sort of marketing been done on Wikipedia at all, or is it going to end up like the Dotcoms and go bust? Trying to market to everyone is a certain business failure. So Wikipedia needs to learn what type of people need their services and market towards them. Obviously librarians, technophobes, etc and those who say Wikipedia lacks credibility will never be marketed towards. So perhaps the market would be to those who are knowledgeable, know how to use a computer and the Internet, perhaps has a college education or 10 years of work experience, have a bit of a writing background or writing skills, knows how to be objective and can use a neutral point of view, you know, the Al Gore type. ;)

#7 Offline searching should be an option, is there going to be a finalized version that can be burned to ISOs to make CDs or DVDs and then software for most platforms to search those CDs/DVDs for information? Perhaps sales could be for pre-burned CDs and DVDs like many Open Sourced companies seem to offer as an alternative to downloading the files.

#8 Perhaps have a critic's corner to move those comments written by Trolls, Bashers, etc and have it on a seperate link to the topic so people can see what the member feedback says, and a disclaimer that it may not actually be factual. That way there is no "censorship" but people are allowed to keep their comments in a sort of "sandbox". As a matter of fact, why not allow members to write in a "sandbox" this way and then have editors pick the best comments to be included in the topic if they are found to be factual, objective, netural point of view, etc.

#9 Spin off two versions of Wikipedia, the credible one where all facts have been checked, etc, and an unchecked one in which members can scribble over it. Give the user the option of searching either one, and they have the option to search the credible version or the unchecked version or both.

#10 Have a contest for best submitted articles. Each submitted article will have a $5USD submission fee, and the winners will win a certain percentage of the collections, with the rest going to Wikipedia. Have college professors judge each category, that can research the facts.


[ Support your local anonymous online communities ]
[ Ignore User ]

Response (none / 1) (#179)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 05:32:04 AM EST

Interesting ideas, here's my take:

#1 Librarians have a valuable place in society. They are still the gatekeepers to reliable knowledge. Your friend sounds more like a technophobe that a "Librarian-type"

#2 Agreed. When doing serious research, always verify your info from several sources. That's a given, really.

#3 We have a category system already. We've done this to both the GNAA and the Maddox article: see right down the bottom of the article.

#4 How do you know they do not? However, I don't agree with official support of these bodies: they tend to have a way of trying to take over. I would most certainly oppose that!

#5 The Intelligent Design article has been badly cobbled together. We very much oppose for and against entries, but the do sometimes happen. That story needs refactoring. I have since put it on peer review.

#6 "People won't want to donate to a project where their contributions get edited out, objected to, and they are told they are wrong." Wrong. In next to no time, Wikipedia got $50,000 during a donation drive. You ask what sort of "marketing" that Wikipedia is doing like we're a business or something. The answer is: our content speaks for itself and our primary focus is to make ourselves a premier and open encyclopedia that is free from corporate bias and string pulling.

#7 is a good point. I'm not sure what's happening here, but I think there is some effort being made to get a printed and CD/DVD version out the door.

#8 The "critics corner" system is already in place. It's the discussion page, linked up the top of the story. However, we also have a request for comments and peer review mechanism in place. We also have a sandbox method we can use if necessary. Just create a subpage and link to it from the talk page. This can be frowned upon, however.

#9 Feel free to do this yourself. We give full access to the information via data dumps. Many sites are already using Wikipedia to populate their own databases. However, now I've said this: we pretty much already have done that INSIDE the site itself. We have a featured article candidates page where articles go to become featured articles: the best of the best articles. The process is extremely rigorous, and only good articles get through. They then become featured articles, and at the time of looking we have 472 articles (roughly 1 in 9000 articles are on there).

#We are a non-profit organisation. We don't and won't do that. Exactly who are we going to pay anyway? Potentially hundreds of contributors could work on an article. Who would you pay? Besides which, this is an antethesis of what Wikipedia is: we don't pay people for content. Aside from that (like I said above) we already have a contest: it's called featured article candidates, and it works extremely well. Heck, I got a Btrieve article through... I had placed it on peer review and got plenty of feedback to make it better. Now we have a high quality article. :-)

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]

encyclopedia of Tlon (2.14 / 7) (#124)
by anonymous cowerd on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 01:25:59 AM EST

It never occurred to me before, but after reading this article (particularly em's comment, et seq.) I now realize that surely at least a good fraction of one percent of the stuff of Wikipedia have to be pure creations - no more materially true, and no less lovely and meaningful, than the contents of the fabled Encyclopedia of Tlön.

Think about it! Those passages could easily be the most valuable part of all the Wikipedia.

The problem for us readers, now, is to find them.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@ij.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.

No (none / 1) (#127)
by poyoyo on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 04:37:36 AM EST

Make that a very tiny fraction of one percent. Not many people bother to make up plausible stuff. And total hoax articles are easy to flag; just do a google search and if you get no hits at all, it's probably a hoax. Wikipedia has a deletion process for such things.

[ Parent ]
Confusion over Wikipedia and Postmodernism (2.25 / 8) (#129)
by mn worker on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 05:38:00 AM EST

A number of comments have attempted to relate Wikipedia to postmodernism. While the approaches being taken to this are interesting, I suggest 1) these critiques are something less than postmodernism, and 2) a postmodern interpretation of Wikipedia can address the criticisms raised in this article.

When we suggest that the value of Wikipedia is in its presentation of multiple perspectives - truths - we have not strayed far from the much-maligned Truth. When we suggest that Wikipedia ought to be valued by certain communities because of its multitude of perspectives, what we find is no less a meta-narrative. And while it may be this embodiment of an agenda of allowing all voices to speak appeals to a certain liberal aesthetic, the aesthetic preferences of kuro5hin contributers seem decidedly unintersting in the context of this article.

Perhaps more interesting is the author's implicit perscription of those communities of value with which the values of the Wikipedia community ought to accord.

It seems redundant to debate whether academia will accept Wikipedia as an authority, or even as a legitimate participtant in scholarly discourse. Wikipedia is not peer reviewed, and is not otherwise written by authors recognized as legitimate participants in scholarly discourse. No more so does one cite or seriously interact with the opinion of an undergraduate amateur in one's Thesis; it simply isn't done.

If Wikipedia is to be recognized as a legitimate participant in scholarly discourse in academia, then by all means we must establish something approximating a panel of experts - masters to us peers - to lend legitimacy - respectability - to our blind grasping.

But that the Wikipedia community ought to undertake to obtain this legitimacy is not so clear. Consider that I am not a student of history. While I have an interest in historical topics in so far as they interesect my fields of interest, I am by no means a student of history.

A student of history participates in a very specific community of value, a community in which I do not participate. In that community, it may be essential to know the date and hour at which Walter Cummings was born; I do not dispute the legitimacy of this value in this community. But I nonetheless recognize that in the communities of value in which I participate, the date and hour at which Walter Cummings was born has at best trivial value. It so happens that we do value knowing who Walter Cummings was and specifically the contents of his psychological expositions, but the exact date and hour at which he was born is inconsequential in our community.

I welcome participation in discourse about Walter Cummings with students of history. In the finest liberal aesthetic sense, our multitude of perspectives may together offer insight to participants from both communities.

But what I do not welcome is for the community of value of students of history to dicatate to our community of students of psychology, the process, procedures, and content of our collaboration if these stipulations consort to inexoribly disrupt our own values.

We will not collaborate as a community so far as in that collaboration we cease to be a community, becoming instead an oligarchy of value-masters and value-slaves. If the terms of your participation in our community are that you become the moderators and masters of the community, we reject your participation, for that is no community at all.

Academia. I see that community as I make my way into the factory where I earn my worth. Its gates are always closed.

Applying the analogy (none / 0) (#159)
by mn worker on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 06:10:14 PM EST

The concern is that our community is being asked to assent to the propsition that the academic community of value is more legitimate - more respectable - than our community of value.

While I do not know what it would mean for one community of value to be, "in fact, more legitimate," I feel I have a good sense of what assent to that proposition concretely involves.

It involves altering the Wikipedia process or technology to impose and enforce a hierarchy of arbiters of value - value-masters.

But the concern is the only problem this imposition solves is the problem identified and promoted by these same value-masters. The problem is that value-masters are not able to side-step or short-circuit the existing community processes so as to impose their own community of value.

Value-masters identify this as a problem, because they implicitly assume their community of value to be more legitimate than our own.

The process already exists for you to become part of the community, to participate in it, and to shape its values just as we all do.

But here you come as conquerors, not as brothers.

[ Parent ]

I don't see the problem (2.50 / 12) (#151)
by vadim on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 12:21:00 PM EST

No encyclopedia is reliable, Wikipedia included. And no encyclopedia should be used for anything but a starting point.

I use it for mainly two things: Refreshing my memory about forgotten issues, and finding a starting point. I'll give two examples.

Some time ago we decided we'd like to make coffee. So we promptly bought a pressure type coffee percolator, some ground coffee and tried to brew something from it. It was crap.

So, I went to Wikipedia, read the page on coffee, googled around a bit based on the info found, and ended getting toasted beans and a coffee grinder. The info I found also helped me understand everything should be as clean as possible, and that my percolator needed to build some pressure to work properly. So I tried again, and got decent coffee out of it. I also intend to try with a french press, based again on some info I got from Wikipedia.

The second example is that I pretty much forgot the little I knew about trigonometry and went to the Wikipedia page to refresh my memory.

The articles might not have been written by some specialist in coffee, or an eminent mathematician. I don't expect Wikipedia to contain all there is to know about coffee or math, or even to contain 100% correct information. However, Wikipedia is just fine for finding some starting points, or to refresh my memory about concepts I already knew.

Incidentally, the paper encyclopedia I have on my shelf is expensive and composed of 15 pretty big books. Despite that, it's crap as a starting point for understanding how to brew coffee. It explains what it is, but contains no pointers. Not even references to methods of brewing it. I can certainly find the entry for "percolator", but no references to it under "coffee" for some reason. Some nice people decided to add their little bit of knowledge by writing a bit on their favourite drink. Meanwhile, the encyclopedia on my shelf will continue sitting there, being as useless as before.


--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
Impossible to cite (2.20 / 5) (#153)
by p3d0 on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 02:11:26 PM EST

On a related note, one problem I see with Wikipedia is that it's impossible for a publication to cite a Wikipedia article, because that article could change afterward, thereby eliminating (or at least drastically altering) the material the publication is trying to cite.
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
Why would you do that? (3.00 / 4) (#155)
by vadim on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 03:10:31 PM EST

I don't see the point in citing an encyclopedia. You normally cite books, research papers, things like that. Encyclopedias rarely contain anything works citing, since you could just read the entry and rephrase it.

Heck, in primary school it was made clear to us that looking something up in the encyclopedia doesn't constitute proper research. Say, everbody in Spain has to write on Don Quixote sooner or later. You don't write the report saying that Don Quixote is important because some encyclopedia says it is for (insert reason). You read the book, perhaps the encyclopedia entry, and try to come up with something interesting from that.

Perhaps you also read other books, refrenced by the encyclopedia, or just look for more information about what people thought was important about it in the 19th century.

To reiterate it again: You use an encyclopedia as a starting point. You may find there a short list of why it was thought to be important in different centuries, refrences to important points you have missed, things like that. But in any case you'll have to take that and do some work on it, instead of presenting it as is.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Finally! (1.50 / 2) (#178)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 04:59:55 AM EST

I'm beginning to see progress and a gradual understanding of what an encyclopedia is! I'm really suprised that an academic would see it as anything beyond a general source of information.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
Citing revisions (3.00 / 2) (#164)
by izogi on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 09:55:08 PM EST

On a related note, one problem I see with Wikipedia is that it's impossible for a publication to cite a Wikipedia article, because that article could change afterward, thereby eliminating (or at least drastically altering) the material the publication is trying to cite.

I agree, although for what it's worth, it should be possible to cite revisions. Citing anything web-related in a formal context is troublesome, because you usually have no control over what the owner of the content might do to the location after you've cited it.

At least when citing books, the dated publication has already been distributed throughout libraries and can't be withdrawn or changed. (There's a certain amount of trust involved that publishers will ensure that specific printings/editions of books will remain consistent.) From this perspective, Wikipedia is more reliable to cite as any other web page, because although it changes, old revisions are kept... just as old editions of books and encyclopedias may be updated or revised.

That said, it does seem to throw away everything beyond the most recent 500 revisions, or at least I can't figure out how to get earlier revisions than that for a particular page.

Perhaps one way to make citations of wikipedia clearer could be to make a milestone release of it every year or so... with the understanding that the content of milestone releases should be considered stable for citation purposes. (Just tag every page with the milestone, and perhaps release it on a CD or something.)

None of this solves the other issues, of course, such as verifying the authenticity of the author(s) of any given article.


- izogi


[ Parent ]
All revisions kept. (none / 1) (#170)
by gyan on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 12:29:35 AM EST

That said, it does seem to throw away everything beyond the most recent 500 revisions, or at least I can't figure out how to get earlier revisions than that for a particular page.

Just keep on selecting (next 50) till there's no more. To speed it up, select the '500' marker first. That will bring up 500 changes at a time.  

********************************

[ Parent ]

My mistake (none / 1) (#219)
by izogi on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 03:11:38 AM EST

Thanks for pointing that out. Somehow I'd missed that link completely last time I looked.


- izogi


[ Parent ]
what about the tech....!!!!???? (2.50 / 6) (#157)
by D440hz on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 03:45:03 PM EST

it seems to me and my very humble opinion, that
the discussion here is missing a crucial point.

beyond the discussion of preference as to how data will be collected and analyzed, the most significant part missing here is the fact that the wikipedia engine is available to use and modify by any body who wishes to do so.

The simplest solution for the academic body
is to create a moderated wikiengine based site (call it acapedia if you so wish) in which the academic discourse of specialized peers takes place, no trolls accept for academic trolls.
Than the discussion here will be of true value.

the public would greatly benefit from such a site in which an active academic discussion takes place. the visibility of such discussion would be very interesting.

i wonder if the academic ivory towers are actually interested in making such an effort, i have worked in academia for several years on web presence, apart from some minor (if very noble) examples, academia does not make information and discourse easily available. in fact it seems the notion that the information should be kept only for available to specialists is the norm.

the article was well written. but in a sense it seems to be a dull point of view (apologies to larry sanger, who i respect for his work)
the couldhavebeen shouldhavebeen idea is irrelevant now, the technology is availiable to modify and use by anybody. it is left for academia  to decide if the will make a serious effort to make quality information avaliable to the public for free, or will they continue the tradition of some byzantine court, smirking with diapproval at the revolting peasant outside.

If you cant take the joke you shouldnt have joined.

D-440Hz

encyclopedia work may attract special people (none / 1) (#374)
by swisswuff on Mon Jan 10, 2005 at 05:53:29 PM EST

if you read about the way the "oxford" dictionary of english was written - many contributions were offered by a madman, jailed in an asylum for insane -, you would, maybe, reconsider what you expect of gate keepers of encyclopedias: the amount of love to detail, the wish to go over any sentence over, and over, and over, and over again, endless negotiations over remote questions and small facts, all are not for everybody, and if the people that care about such details are otherwise strange - be it. encyclopedias and their maintenance do, and should, attract a peculiar crowd: one that can go over details repeatedly, with care for precise language, and without anger.

[ Parent ]
so what? (2.20 / 5) (#160)
by CAIMLAS on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 06:52:55 PM EST

One has only to compare the excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy or The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy to Wikipedia's Philosophy section. From the point of view of a specialist, let's just say that Wikipedia needs a lot of work.

So what? So don't look at it from the perspective of a specialist. The wikipedia philosophy entry is more than adequate, in my opinion, for an online encyclopedia. Not terribly good for a college-level course, no. But it does seem to be every bit as thorough - or at least approachingly so - as many of the big-name encyclopedias (britannica, world book, etc.) that are available in public high schools and libraries.

Specialists have specialized encyclopedias for a reason - it's not practical or realistic to expect an encyclopedia that covers many different topics to delve into the more complex workings of the topic. It'd be impossible to fit the damn things on shelves; as it is, most encyclopedias have a difficult time fitting on a single shelf row.

Additionally, specialists also have trade journals, publication archives, and various other things of that ilk.

I will agree that wikipedia's credibility is an issue with the 'education' croud - high schools, colleges, and their ilk. In my mind, the problem lies predominantly in the mind of the educators, as American educators (the people that would predominantly get a use out of such a resource, being as it is in English, etc.) tend to be fairly poorly educated (education having nothing to do with schooling, of course). I think you're not giving wikipedia a fair chance in the least.

Additionally, it would seem you've got vested interests in a fork. You were one of the co-founders, and have since left the project: why did you leave? Or were you ousted? Wouldn't it be beneficial to your inflated ego (and even your viability as an academian) if there was such a community, founded or conceived by you in existence, instead of one that was once under your control - yet no longer?

Not to fire the flames under your feet before you've taken off your socks, but you having not offered much defense of your departure from wikipedia doesn't bode well for these complaints you've made. Could you not have moved your vision along within wikipedia itself (with an established name), having been a person of high status within the organization?
--

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.

On Experts (1.66 / 6) (#165)
by pHatidic on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:05:16 PM EST

lsanger: You are a philosophy Ph.D. if I remember correctly, which means you are supposedly an expert in philosophy. However it is clear that you either haven't read or don't understand On Liberty by Mill, which is an important philosophical text. That is, if the opinions of an expert can't stand up to the questioning of a ten year old kid then the person probably really isn't an expert at all. Freud was not an expert at psychology but was hired to write articles for EB. Maybe if he had to defend his papers 'on the talk page' he would have been exposed for the fraud that he was.

What constitutes an expert is very difficult to define, and certifying someone as an expert in something impossible.

Within a year and a half from now there should be new technology available to solve the problems about trolls and other things you complain about. I could go into details now, but I'll save it for a full length article for later.

Here's an example for you... (1.33 / 3) (#258)
by tleps on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 02:28:10 PM EST

pHatidic,

Not trying to flame you or anything, you generally seem to be thoughtful - but did you stop to think about your statement?

As in, do you think the "opinions" of any philosopher (including Mill) would stand up to a ten year olds questioning?  That would tend to show Mill for the fraud he was too, wouldn't it?  As a holder of a piece of paper that professes that I have gained some knowledge of this subject, I might even take issue with the idea that "opinion" (in any normal day sense) even plays a role in any of philosophies concerns.  The term "studied opinion" may be acceptable to beginners of the discipline, but still falls far short of where philosophy is, was, or shall be.

It took my wife several years to see why I have no interest in discussing anything philosophical with "the masses" - they have likely never done any substantive "homework", and for some strange reason they seem to think that because they have read Nietzsche's "Beyond Good & Evil" or, even better, perhaps know the lyrics to some Disney song and thus understand the Kierkegaardian leap of faith, they now have some grasp of philosophy - as though what either wrote was directed at those who were not already knee deep in philosophies understandings.  Or, as is more usual, that it has given them some great insight into how to argue about what they perceive to be philosophical issues with me...  Those I speak with about ANY philosophical understanding are chosen - they have generally impressed me in some way and shown that they may possess the intellectual ability to follow the process.  Where that process leads is not overtly explainable to those who lack the foundations, let alone a ten year old.


[ Parent ]

On Mill (3.00 / 3) (#281)
by pHatidic on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 07:32:54 PM EST

I won't vouch for Mill as a whole, but he said that society is better when people have the freedom to question the status quo. He justifies this by saying that when people aren't allowed to question what makes accepted ideas true, then society forgets how to defend the ideas as true and they become dead dogma.

I agree with you getting annoyed at having to explain upper level philosophy to those 'without foundations.' However, this misses the point since every article in a general encyclopedia is supposed to be understandable to the general public, as opposed to someone like Nietzsche who only writes for other philosophers.

[ Parent ]

Zero because (1.00 / 3) (#295)
by edg176 on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 02:05:27 AM EST

This is trolling.

[ Parent ]
Scholar.Google. Vs. Www.Google (1.40 / 5) (#168)
by leoaugust on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:50:44 PM EST

As many people have already pointed out, the core of the reason against "expect(ing) Jimmy Wales to change his mind" is the unjustified blending of two disparate universes.

  • There is proposed Wikipedia.
  • There already is a Wikipedia.
The www.* is much bigger and popular than scholar.*
Even if you love spending most of your time in "scholar," it is wrong to expect that most of the other people also do the same.
And yes, "experts" do write in scholar.*, because most of them are from peer-reviewed journals.


The eyes cannot see what the mind cannot see.

Peer-review (none / 0) (#224)
by gionnetto on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 06:57:35 AM EST

Leo, any idea of how many times the supposed blind reviewer is not blind AT ALL, cause the paper comes to you with names, affiliation and even phone number?

[ Parent ]
In what field? (none / 0) (#253)
by Sgt York on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 01:03:19 PM EST

A paper for review where the author is named? I've never seen that before in my life; and I've seen a lot of papers for review.

You can normally ID authors by topic, model, writing style, etc. But that's not the same thing, and is pretty much unavoidable.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

Neural Network (none / 0) (#278)
by gionnetto on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 07:06:56 PM EST

For example it is one. The person I live with reviews papers coming with names in them. I myself reviewed book chapters (in another field) coming with names.

[ Parent ]
Though interesting, (1.28 / 7) (#169)
by stpna5 on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 11:33:05 PM EST

Wikipedia is infested with bogus material and severely erroneous information; at least the English language version. Unfortunately the veracity of anything under the umbrella of the site is subordinate to the hall monitor mentality of staffers who ultimately control the content submitted by the vast army of its allegedly open source contributors.

Couple caveats (none / 1) (#248)
by Pakaran on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 12:26:37 PM EST

First of all, I don't like it that people are posting "hide" here.  

Second of all, something like ten or fifteen people are permanently banned from Wikipedia (and perhaps that many banned for a year).  How many accounts are terminated on K5?  What's the relative traffic level of the two?  

Third of all, our process is almost too tolerant.  We have a relatively active user who is a member of the GNAA and one of whose early edits was to link Last Measure.  How long would that be tolerated here?  When I block a logged-in user for violation of known policies, I get flamed to pieces.  

[ Parent ]

Evolving. (1.00 / 10) (#172)
by davibennett on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 02:00:14 AM EST

First of all a lot of the specific points strike me as valid and important. But (big but here...) the overall validity depends on the context in which we examine the project. To me certain domains have been a great success. For many details of computer technology, especially emerging technology wikopedia is often a first place to go. The arguments are frequently good and they merge in well with more extensive sources (<- the existence of these other sources is important!) This provides a faster easier to use resource than google, much less clutter. And as Wikopedia is to philosophy in comparison idealized standard encyclopedias, these are to xml or firewalls in comparison to Wikopedia. So at least within a limited set of domains Wikopedia has proven to be a success. The method *can* work. In many others a lot of the entries are adequete, in still others as you say they of an "interesting" nature. Now if Wikopedia were to claim to be *the* referance we would have a serious problem. But a huge number of referances are availible, the academic world is slowly unlocking though they remain reluctant to share their resources, to redesign the mechanisms used to present research. Quite frankly we've had the capacity to archive all papers for over a decade. A serious lobbying effort could have shifted the huge federal funds that currently indirectly support journals to a system that started out imitating existing publications and peer reviews (without the huge cost of paper publication and the huge cost of storage and organization) then evolved to more sophisticated forms of organization and linkage including journals created days after a new problem area was defined. One strength of this would be that not only would Stanford have a more complete set of publications than it now has, Foothill community college down the road would have the same and so would a researcher in Kenya. We have not seen the research community rally behind this. So as a related note no matter how good the resource it would be criticized because it is a threat just as some journalism reduce blogging to a set of rightwing fanatics. But we shall agree that in some, perhaps many areas Wikopedia not only fails to meet not only academic standards (not really a goal,) but even (in places) minimal standards of popular referance veracity. So indeed if he has a teacher who is somewhat intelligent some 6th grader is going to lose some points because some modern troller inserts the "history of the bathtub" by that classical American troller Mencken. We might also get history inspired by Franklin and Twain. So checking sources is a good lesson. And we all need to do with the most trusted. Wikopedia is one source among many. I personally would not commit much to it because I want editorial control. But it's easy enough for me to insert a link perhaps with a brief explanation at an appropiate place in an article. If you insist on Wikopedia as a central reliable source you can build a shadow of another system within it. You can use the same engine. You can also evolve engines that represent knowledge better. Certainly a philosophy encyclopedia would benefit from the "argumentation" systems that were such a rage in AI and hypertext in the early nineties? Wikopedia is a valuable resource as it exists. And it is a fascinating experiment. It evolves, one is curious to see what shapes this organization takes. People who dislike it can certainly involve themselves in the definition and the reworking. And examining it frozen at certain places, watching articles change, the intense social flows... And the "ontology" (newest AI buzzword, essentially meaning hierarchy only really cool if done in xml though you're really cool if you say lisp s=expressons are better...) Wikopedia is this model and set of links (heterarchial not hierarchial so maybe not an ontology) of all these words and ideas and things someone thought was important. It's a model of the world in many respects more extensive and powerful than that of traditional encyclopedias. I suspect not many of them lists Japan's "cell phone culture" which incidently as it's evolving in Asia may have an effect exceeding that of the PC or net. It's a "swarm" creation, a first experiment. It may indeed be heading for a deadend, but it remains a revolutionary step and (I don't mean to sound elitist here, but...) much of academia won't recognize it's historic importance until a few years from now people do their thesis on the subject. As for it's flaws work with it, become part of the history or build your reliable little domains and link them to all the knowledge bases (including Wikis) which can be extended by them. For most of us Wikopedia is not a center, it is an event which may or may not successfully evolve into the new shapes of hypertext. As a general rule many of the really valuable works will be snatched up and evolve and I have to say it, I forgot who wrote it, but I thought it really cool: In the future every little kid when they start school will start their own encyclopedia and they will keep adding to it all their lives... ...and their great grandkids will someday look at a drawing of a rainbow and what a six year old said about it... ...and no it won't pass peer review (except maybe among the committee of grandmas) but quite possibly the addition written 15 years later will or the link... And that first colored rainbow is what wikopedia is and in large part the medium is the message, the spontaneous creation, organization, reorganization... A lot of it may be about discovering what can go wrong, but that is a key part of a truly scientific approach. Other things will emerge. - David Bennett davibennett@yahoo.com

Apologies. (none / 0) (#173)
by davibennett on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 02:05:10 AM EST

I should have previwed my post, I was in a hurry. I didn't realize carriage retuurns needed to be formatted.

[ Parent ]
Evolving (redone) (2.44 / 9) (#174)
by davibennett on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 02:29:28 AM EST


This time I might manage carriage returns.

First of all a lot of the specific points strike me as valid and important. But the overall validity depends on the context in which we examine the project.

To me certain domains have been a great success. For many details of computer technology, especially emerging technology wikopedia is often a first place to go. The articles are often good and they merge in well with more extensive sources (<- the existence of these other sources is important!)

This provides a faster easier to use resource than google, much less clutter.

As Wikopedia is to philosophy in comparison idealized standard encyclopedias, these are to xml or firewalls in comparison to Wikopedia.

So at least within a limited set of domains Wikopedia has proven to be a SUCCESS.

The method *can* work.  And the result is a valuable if somewhat specialized encyclopedia.  Incidently it probably cost much less to produce than any other method and is updated and corrected more rapidly.

In other areas a lot of the entries are adequete, in still others as you say they of an "interesting" nature.

Now if Wikopedia were to claim to be *the* referance we would have a serious problem. But a huge number of referances are already availible,

And now even the academic world is slowly unlocking though they remain reluctant to share their resources, to redesign the mechanisms used to present research.

Quite frankly we've had the capacity to archive all papers for over a decade. A serious lobbying effort could have shifted the huge federal funds that currently indirectly support journals to a new system...

... a system that started out imitating existing publications and peer reviews; without the huge cost of paper publication and the huge cost of storage and organization; then evolved to more sophisticated forms of organization and linkage including journals created days after a new problem area was defined.

One strength of this would be that not only would Stanford have a more complete set of publications than it now has, Foothill community college down the road would have the same and so would a researcher in Kenya.

We have not seen the research community rally behind this. Indeed it is stil regarded as a threat in many circles.  In them energy is devoted to explaining why it can't work, not making it work.

So no matter how good the resource it would be criticized because it is a threat; just as some journalists reduce blogging to a set of rightwing fanatics, a part is used to represent the whole.

But we shall agree that in some, perhaps many areas Wikopedia not only fails to meet academic standards (not really a goal,) but even minimal standards of popular referance veracity.

So if he has a teacher who is somewhat intelligent some 6th grader is going to lose some points because some modern troller inserts the "history of the bathtub" by that classical American troller Mencken. We might also get history inspired by Franklin and Twain.

This may sound brutal, but checking sources is a good lesson. On the net we can double or triple check in the same time in takes to walk to a bookshelf and look up an entry.  

Wikopedia is one source among many. For many things it's a good starting point or adequete referance.

I personally would not commit much to it because I want editorial control. But it's easy enough for me to insert a link perhaps with a brief explanation at an appropiate place in an article.

It is easy for serious academics to build good referances for their domain.  They can use the same engine. They can also evolve engines that represent knowledge better. Certainly a philosophy encyclopedia would benefit from the "argumentation" systems that were such a rage in AI and hypertext in the early nineties.

Wikopedia is a valuable resource as it exists. And it is a fascinating experiment. It evolves, one is curious to see what shapes this organization takes. People who dislike it can certainly involve themselves in the definition and the reworking. And examining it frozen at certain places, watching articles change, the intense social flows...

It is also an "ontology" (newest AI buzzword, essentially meaning hierarchy only really cool if done in xml though you're really cool if you say lisp s-expressons are better...) Wikopedia is this model and set of links (heterarchial not hierarchial so maybe not an ontology) of all these words and ideas and things someone somewhere thought was important.

It's a model of the world in many respects more extensive and powerful than that of traditional encyclopedias.

I suspect not many of them lists Japan's "cell phone culture" which incidently as it's evolving in Asia may have an effect exceeding that of the PC or net.

Wikopedia (like SMS) a "swarm" tool, a first experiment. It may indeed be heading for a deadend, but it remains a revolutionary step and (I don't mean to sound elitist here, but...) much of academia won't recognize it's historic importance until a few years from now people do their thesis on the subject.

As for it's flaws work with it, become part of the history or build your reliable little domains and link them to all the knowledge bases (including Wikis) which can be extended by them.

For most of us Wikopedia is not a center, it is an event which may or may not successfully evolve into the new shapes of hypertext. As a general rule many of the really valuable works will be snatched up and evolve.

I read an idea that is really cool:

In the future every little kid when they start school will start their own encyclopedia and they will keep adding to it all their lives...

...and their great grandkids will someday look at a drawing of a rainbow and what a six year old said about it...

...and no it won't pass peer review (except maybe among the committee of grandmas) but quite possibly the addition written 15 years later will or the link...

That first colored rainbow is what wikopedia is and in large part the medium is the message, the spontaneous creation, organization, reorganization...

A lot of it may be about discovering what can go wrong, but that is a key part of a truly scientific approach. Other things will emerge.

- David Bennett davibennett@yahoo.com


Who is an expert? (2.85 / 14) (#181)
by apparatus on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 06:39:24 AM EST

Larry, You present some good points. The bulk of your argument seems to be that expert opinion should hold some esteemed trump stature. The problem that I see with this is how to decide who an expert is. Perhaps by credentials, but these are often times difficult to verify over the internet. Even if credentials could be verified, they alone do not guarantee expertise. Without naming names, I can think of a few globally recognized individuals with diplomas from prestigious institutions that seem to have very little, if any, expertise. I believe that a stronger trump card is reputation. The community as a whole should decide who's knowledge is reputable. I suppose in a way this is true expertise. Listing diplomas, appointments, title, etc. does not make one an expert. There was an internet community called experts exchange a while back that implemented this well. Perhaps wikipedia could implement a community reliability ranking not only of the article, but also of the submitter(s).

Fundamental "Problems" with Wikipedia (2.53 / 13) (#184)
by DrRobert on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 12:16:22 PM EST

As someone who has no vested interest in Wikipedia other than occasional use, I think the main aspect of the debate about "problems" with Wikipedia lies in the fact that everyone has a different concept of what it should be and therefore any deviation from that results in a "problem". Wikipedia will never be an encyclopedia in the sense of other encyclopedias. It will never be a scholarly journal, but this does not mean it is not practical. If Wikipedia decided what the purpose was and clearly stated it, then there would be less debate. A statement of purpose of the Wikipedia would probably need to abandon the notion of experts, truth, and relative cultural importance and simply default to being useful.

Encyclopedias, reference books, textbooks, and journals have inertia; they have a certain resistance to change and they emerge in a quantized fashion, representing the an opinion of the state of some subset of knowledge average of some period of time to average out the noise. Because these sources have this inertia they serve as a cultural calibration standard, a "trail of bread crumbs" to that we can culturally assess our position and move on. Wikipedia can never serve this function and so will always receive a certain disdain or lack of respect in that it can never serve as a landmark. Even the metaphor of a snapshot is too generous because (on a cultural scale) the content is too malleable.

There are really no experts, certainly not as related to the mass cultural opinion. You can have two professors with identical training, identical publication records, and identical credibility within a field who would write completely opposing articles; this happens in courtrooms daily. If a person is the first to have an idea, he will always be shouted down by the masses because (based on Thomas Kuhns writings) science does not progress by accumulation facts, it progresses by the political struggle and marketing of ideas.

All writings in Wikipedia are the result of someone's political views and cultural ideologies. Everything is based on someone's perceptions.

So the "problems" with Wikipedia would be lessened if:

Wikipedia stated clearly with a disclaimer (linked at the top and bottom of each page) that listed exactly its purpose and clearly expressed the assumptions that do not hold for wikipedia.

There are no experts.

There is no truth for wikipedia to asymptotically approach.

If there were truth that was free from personal ideology or motive, Wikipedia would not approach it because it is free to float with cultural whim.

One thing that might be better than constant editing is to simply publish all the articles. If there are two opposing views on a subject, publish them both and any debate. This would require a minor (technologically speaking) increase in storage, but the resulting work would have some inertia. Many academic journals are headed in this direction now. A good system of organization and links would insure that neither article would be seen as definitive, but both together would be seen as valuable.

Another possibility: have everyone be able to submit their views and have an editor compile them into a single coherent article which has a gzipped file attached contain all the source emails and debate. These changes would make Wikipedia an unsurpased research tool.

Wikipedia is trying to use the superior ability of newer technology to replicate an editorial process and structural style like paper encyclopedias. By including all the discussion and all the opposing view points you no longer have to worry about elitism or attitutes etc. These are things that regular encyclopedias cannot do, so why limit the wikipedia in these ways. Perhaps the limitation of the structure of the information is part of some cry for "old school" legitimacy.

This would eliminate the "problems" that cause debate about Wikipedia. The one true problem is that Wikipedia seems to be striving to be branded by society with some arbitrary mark of "legitimacy". Striving for this mark in no way makes Wikipedia more useful and prevents it from quelling some of the debates that hinder its advance.

With certain caveats, wikipedia is useful, as is every other reference source, although the caveats are a little different. Wikipedia should advertize itself as a virtual crowd around a water cooler where you can ask a question and get one or more detailed answers, which you take with a grain of salt.

Of course, I'm certain all this has been said before, but I'm new.

Fundamental "Problems" with Wikipedia (none / 0) (#233)
by yath on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 09:50:59 AM EST

If there are two opposing views on a subject, publish them both and any debate.

That is the current policy. "Neutral point of view" means that all widely-held viewpoints on a subject should be included in each article. Of course, there is endless debate on whether certain opinions are widely-held enough to merit inclusion, or so marginalized as to be unnotable. For example, the article on the Historicity of Jesus didn't mention that anyone doubted his existence for quite a while. After a lot of gnashing of teeth, it's in there.

Another possibility: have everyone be able to submit their views and have an editor

Nice, except who's going to do the work? Who do you trust to do it? It's being done already. Messily, with a lot of anguish, but being done. The question is whether we can do away with the anguish and still get good articles. I doubt it. Some people lack the will and constitution to weather these struggles. Such is life. Personally, I just step back for a few weeks. At least three articles are currently organized in a manner I don't approve of--but they're still pretty good.

By including all the discussion and all the opposing view points you no longer have to worry about elitism or attitutes etc.

You're making me laugh. No offense :) Read the archives of Talk:Atheism. If you have the endurance.

Of course, I'm certain all this has been said before, but I'm new.

You think very clearly and have good ideas. But I think the NPOV policy pretty much covers what you've suggested: WP:NPOV


[ Parent ]

why publishing all of the articles isn't the soln (none / 0) (#272)
by bshanks on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 06:33:17 PM EST

publishing all the articles is essentially the same as a read-only web; everyone has their own website, they write what they want, and then some people provide lists to all of the articles on particular topics. the value of wikis lies in the ability to collaboratively write text. this has a number of advantages; amongst them: * over time, a higher-quality, more comprehensive, easier-to-read article can be produced by the group than any single reader could have produced * the reader has a manageable amount of stuff to read

[ Parent ]
Re: all the articles (none / 0) (#288)
by DrRobert on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 09:18:43 PM EST

Perhaps this was poorly phrased. A better concept may be to think of "forking" an article if the edits float back and forth repeatedly. There are some fields; psychology comes to mind, where you can have long practicing experts who have no fundamental views in common. Some psychiatrists believe in the "no-paradigm"/ Freudian view of psychology and will trace its evolution and all current psychological phenomena as some branch of Freudian thinking. There are other psychiatrists who will simply state that all psychological disorders are physical medical conditions based solely on brain chemistry and acquired bad habits resulting from that brain chemistry. These articles may have nothing in common, and I think a reader would be better served by having two separate entries for psychology rather than a mash of edits trying to combine the two schools of thought. Just as a dictionary has several, often unrelated, meaning for words. In retrospect, I have not read the article on psychology so this may be an extremely bad example, but I can see this is a common problem that would be suffered anytime two paradigms collide.

[ Parent ]
But sometimes the combination is valuable (none / 0) (#307)
by jrincayc on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 08:34:20 AM EST

I frankly find some of the most interesting articles on wikipedia are the ones where two viewpoints have been combined into one article. For example, the best article I have ever read on partial birth abortion is in wikipedia.

[ Parent ]
Um... (1.72 / 11) (#187)
by trhurler on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 02:26:04 PM EST

Let me get this straight. You allow people to do almost anything they want, then tell them "but respect your elders"?! I mean, that's the same basic message, if not in the same words.

Western society has more or less proved that this doesn't work. It is an experiment on a far grander scale than you could ever hope to equal, and one of its many interesting results is that if people are given freedom to do as they will, then respect really does have to be earned, and some people just won't show it even when it is earned - and that there are enough of these last sort that you can't just treat them as exceptional cases - banning them won't work, and so on.

The real problem is the utter lack of credibility your average person ascribes to academics in non-science fields. In other words, most people KNOW that philosophers who are still arguing about foundationalism vs coherentism are basically full of shit, and that whatever degrees they may have are a function of jumping through hoops and playing the game right rather than being an "expert" at anything whatsoever. Except, I suppose, the history of bad philosophical thought. Now, admittedly, your average person may never have heard of foundationalism or coherentism, but if you explained them, he'd regard you as an idiot right away, even if he lacked the stones to say so, and he certainly regards academic philosophy as a bunch of bunk. Which it is, in any case. And philosophy is by FAR not the worst of the academic disciplines. Consider sociology, for example - a "science" without any meaningful results, ever. Every two bit mediocrity with the persistence and drive to keep slamming his head against that wall until someone opens the diploma door for him can be found with a sociology degree, a history degree, a philosophy degree, or whatever.

Admittedly, even if these disciplines WERE respectable, many would not give that respect. BUT, as it stands, only three kinds of people give it, and these are small categories. The first, of course, is those who aspire to these fields. The second is people stupid and/or ignorant enough and gullible enough to be easily swayed by appeals to authority without actually inspecting the authority in question with any degree of fervor. The third, and largest by far(but still a minority, I'd guess,) is people who just can't stand the thought that these institutions would be full of charlatans. They are so invested in the greatness of their society, so insistent upon optimism, so unwilling to criticize, that they simply will not accept the obvious, even when it is presented in clear terms.

The last real academic "experts" on most of the humanities and social sciences, in such fields as there ever were any real experts, died a long time ago. These days, the few people who have good ideas are marginalized because those ideas don't fit any of the existing orthodoxies and taxonomies, and the rest are basically historians of their subjects, mindlessly repeating the words of long dead men with a reverence they certainly never earned. Anyone who considers such people "experts" on anything meaningful to our existence as human beings is either very naive, very stupid, or both.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

clarify my point (2.33 / 3) (#188)
by D440hz on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 02:56:39 PM EST

i think i have not presented my point to effect.

is there really a problem? what is this disucssion really about? can anything useful come out of it?

it boils down (again) to technological issue, and its implamentation. expert opinion are free to formalize their own environment, using the same modified tools.

Wikipedia, is above all else a discussion tool.
i really dont understnad the problem, or rather i think the focus here is in the wrong direction.

Let the Ivy leagues invest some of the hugh cash amounts they have in a wikilike site, and then we will judge the merit of it all.

To complain about something without doing anything about it, (while having the capability) is really so unproductive. It is also tends to make the arguments pretty weak.

dont change wikipedia, create an alternative. then we will have the ability to value the "expert" vs "nonexpert" argument based on its value, not on some sentiments whether there is or isnt such a thing as expertise.
D-440Hz

Heh (2.50 / 2) (#193)
by pHatidic on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 06:07:32 PM EST

Let the Ivy leagues invest some of the hugh cash amounts they have in a wikilike site, and then we will judge the merit of it all.

You would let the sum of all human knowledge be determined by a football league? We're in more trouble than I thought.

[ Parent ]

wikipedia as a discussion tool (none / 1) (#201)
by jsnow on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 08:47:50 PM EST

Wikipedia, is above all else a discussion tool.

I don't think this is really true. Wikipedia is mostly a collective note-taking tool. Slash, scoop, and phpnuke are discussion tools. A well-made discussion tool prevents one user from deleting another user's comments, and makes it clearly obvious who wrote what.

Wikipedia works as a note-taking tool because any controversial statement X held by person Y can be trivially converted into a noncontroversial statement "person Y believes X". This is why the neutral point of view (NPOV) policy works. (A minor possible remaining controversy is whether anyone really cares what person Y believes.)

Mediawiki is clever to have a separate discussion page for each article to give a separate space for casual editorial remarks and discussion that would be inapropriate in the main article, but it ought to go one step further and use a real threaded forum system for the discussion, instead of a wiki (where anyone can delete or modify oposing arguments).

I also think some problems could be resolved by restricting edits to the most popular pages (as determined by site traffic logs or by the link structure of the wiki). This could be done by disallowing anonymous edits, requiring edits to be approved through some peer-review system, or by forking articles into a "stable" and "unstable" version.

[ Parent ]

10x (none / 0) (#217)
by D440hz on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 02:31:26 AM EST

thank you for correcting my flawed metaphor.

D-440Hz
[ Parent ]
Scratching my head (2.50 / 6) (#190)
by epepke on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 04:02:02 PM EST

So, let's see if I have this straight. Wikipedia is this experiment in social democracy. Now, with the Internet, we can have this wonderfully democratic process, and it will result in something that's just great, and everyone will love it, and everything would be just peachy.

Only it doesn't really work out that way, which you would have known if you had talked to any teacher at all over the past 6000 years.

And so, now, you hope that some of those people will just voluntarily agree to fix Wikipedia and make it all better, for free, because it's not as if they haven't been trying to keep their own enterprises going duirng the period when you were bitching about your taxes, and pretty much all of the other time for the past 6000 years when people were sometimes trying to burn them down and stuff.

Is that, basically, it?


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


why i must jettison a poo (1.00 / 21) (#191)
by Your Moms Cock on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 04:29:26 PM EST

from my bum: it is required of a normal functioning body that waste materials be expelled from the intestines through the rectal cavity, eventually emerging from the anus; the waste matertials are jettisoned from the browneye and equilibrium becomes restored.....until NEXT TIME!!!!!!


--
Mountain Dew cans. Cat hair. Comic book posters. Living with the folks. Are these our future leaders, our intellectual supermen?

You tried this, remember ? (2.66 / 9) (#192)
by Eivind on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 05:20:12 PM EST

Hi Larry !

Remember you tried this ? Let me quote from the wikipedia entry: Nupedia was an online encyclopedia project founded by Jimmy Wales and underwritten by Bomis, with Larry Sanger as editor-in-chief. Nupedia lasted from March 2000 until September 2003, and is mostly known as the predecessor of Wikipedia. Nupedia was characterized by an extensive peer review process designed to make its articles of a quality comparable to professional encyclopedias. Before it ceased operating, Nupedia produced 24 articles that completed its review process (three articles also existed in two versions of different lengths), and 74 more articles were in progress.

Fact is, people contribute to projects if you make the projects fun and the barriers to entry low. Nupedia was exactly the oposite. Getting a single article published there meant going trough a process with something like 379 steps, and by the way in no way shielded you from having to argue the merits of your article with the "unwashed masses". Instead it made what on Wikipedia is easy, effortless and rewarding into a real chore.

It's a wonder anyone ever went trough with it at all, 24 articles after more than a year online says everything about the appeal of such a project.

If you want people to put up with onerous reviews and a shitpile of bureaucracy, you have to pay them for it. It's simple as that. You can continue for another 5 years, complaining that your Nupedia was the rigth thing and wikipedia is "wrong", but thing is, wikipedia is growing and improving with every day while nupedia gets more and more forgotten with every day.

General reply (2.75 / 8) (#194)
by lsanger on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 06:19:10 PM EST

I don't have time to reply to the many comments on this forum. There are many interesting comments here. Some simply claimed that, for one reason or another, I am wrong to think that Wikipedia needs to pay any special respect to experts. So they disagreed with what was one of my basic, and unargued-for, premises. Fine. I can try to support that premise another day; I have no time now.

But I found that many of the people who disagreed with me imputed to me various views that are not mine, or which betray a serious misunderstanding of my essay or of pertinent surrounding facts.

For example, above, Eivind says that, with Nupedia, I "already tried" whatever proposal he took me to be making in this essay. Isn't that really obviously not the case? Maybe what is obvious to me is not so obvious to others, especially those who didn't read the article carefully enough. I did not propose a Nupedia-like process for Wikipedia in my essay. Indeed, I know what makes Wikipedia work and what would kill it, and complicated procedures and barriers to participation are what would kill it. Nothing I proposed, if you will look at my article again, is contrary to that.

(By the way, there has grown up a mythology about why Nupedia failed. Most people write about this without knowing most of the relevant facts. This does a huge disservice to the good people who spent thousands of hours, all told, on the Nupedia project. The reason it failed is, partly, that at least under the old system, it really required more money (it needed two or three full-time editors). We never gave it enough time, or a serious try, under the old system. But we were also developing a newer, simpler editing system in fall and early winter, 2001--just one or two steps, but still peer-reviewed. That system was never implemented because I was spending all my time on Wikipedia and no one else was motivated to do it. Jimmy could have implemented it, or paid me specifically to implement it, but he didn't. I also offered to buy Nupedia from him--two times, I believe. He never wanted to sell it. So the reason Nupedia died and no longer exists is that we did not give it enough time, and essentially Jimmy let it die. For him to say now that it was a miserable failure is a little like a black widow spider complaining that her miserable mate, which she ate and whose substance she used to build a new web, died!--I wish people also would not forget that it was Nupedians who got Wikipedia going. One of the reasons it got so many good people on board Wikipedia in the first place is that there were already so many good Nupedians who seeded the new project.)

Another perhaps representative remark (but not one on this forum), which amazing to me, is one by Sunir Shah here. Sunir claims, amazingly, that I do not understand the very project that I created. No, Sunir; the reason that it works now and exists for you to enjoy is that I understood very early on how it should work, and I helped move it in that direction. And I still understand it extremely well. Then, further down, Sunir writes, "Larry suggests removing the controversy by letting a single expert write articles, but that completely devalues the article as readers will know it is subjective and probably wrong." This is completely wrong, and silly besides. I don't know how Sunir got that out of my article. Even an academic fork of Wikipedia would and should have lots of controversy--but worthwhile controversy, not infantile controversy with trolls--and it beggars belief that he would say that I suggest "letting a single expert write articles." This is a textbook example of a straw man.

In fact--and those of you who read the article carefully should not be surprised when I say this--I recommend changing Wikipedia as little as possible consistent with solving the problems I've pointed out. Now if, as I have said, that proves to be impossible, then a fork will be necessary. And as I said, I fear it probably will be. I don't welcome a fork; but if that's what it takes, to make the best encyclopedia possible, then so be it.

A good many other intemperate and critical remarks on this forum feature other basic misunderstandings that are also due to not having read the article, or not carefully enough, or giving it the most ridiculously uncharitable readings.

But some of the remarks are really good and really interesting and I wish I had time to carry on the discussion with those people.

Larry Sanger
[ Parent ]

This is the new JWZ/RMS. (3.00 / 3) (#199)
by p4r on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 08:05:01 PM EST

Be very careful that no one posts an mp3 of you singing the Nupedia song. Well, unless you can actually sing. And fork the damn thing already. You know you want to.

[ Parent ]
A Few Thoughts. (none / 1) (#208)
by davibennett on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 10:06:21 PM EST

If some of the remarks by people here strike you as worth pursuing, gather their names and invite them to a forum when you do have time to continue this discussion.  

One of the bigest tragedies of discussion groups is that we let ourselves be overwhelmed by the (often trivial) topical when important beginnings die in archives.

I consider Wikopedia adequete because I have little invested in it, I support a different model of development essentially many pieces linked together and because I believe many of your goals can't be realized until we have systems closer to those of Engelbart's notion of an augmentation environment.  For example scholars to referance a dynamic text, need to be able to link to an original piece even though it has been changed, then follow changes or previous representations.

However your position as I understand it is that you believe that Wikipedia should be an authoriative document, which seems sensible though some of us also appreciate it as an expression of social energies, not always ideal.  Still I can understand why Wikipedia as primarily a case study in group dynamics is not your main priority.

I also suspect you that you have spoken so forcefully primarily because you value Wikopedia and desire it to be a center.  And in ths context your position is fully valid.

I think the debate over scholarly acceptance and standards is somewhat of a distraction.  You used these as examples and also criticized certain attitudes which you felt hindered the creation of truly reliable articles.  And there is no doubt that there is some silly stuff there.  But I don't think your primary point was blind acceptance of academic authority.  I think your desire is mechanisms which work successfully to validate and correct.

I think much of the counter gist is correct.  To cut to the heart of the matter, the Kuhn defined "paradigm" as something which can be changed when the old generation dies out.  I think he may have been to cynical, but I think there is no doubt that we working to change the "paradigm" of research and thought with various trails, formations, dead ends, alternative view and the like frequently laid out publicly.

While I think the Wikopedia medium is currently inadequete for this it does implement some beginnings.  It should be of fascination of scholars.  It is a prototype of future tools.

I do think if passion and dedication continues then flawed elements will increasingly be corrected. At least I hope so.

But articles such as yours are part of the process.

[ Parent ]

I am with Sunir (3.00 / 4) (#223)
by gionnetto on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 06:48:23 AM EST

Larry, regardless of my position about "respecting expertise" (btw expertise means "having experience of", NOT "being an academical on" any topic), Sunir is right. You contributed to create wikipedia. For some reason it started behaving like a community of practice (check Lave & Wenger, 1991). Then you say you wanted it to be "respectful" of expertise, even "deferring" towards academics, and similar stuff. THIS is exactly where you show that you aren't grasping what you contributed to create. If you want respect for hierarchies and "common" academical knowledge, don't create a community of practice. If you have a community of practice in place, don't ask for its egalitarian (and yes, anti-elitism!!) to go away because it won't. Whichever case you were into, you showed not to have understood either what you were asking, or to whom. All the other problems that wikipedia may have or have not, could have easily been solved, IMHO, with the intelligent engagement of like-minded academics, willing to be treated (and to treat) others on a peer-to-peer basis and not to be considered superior because they can legally append some alphabetical letters to their name. Or else, wikipedia becomes yet another "edited book" where most outstanding contributions will be left out because Mr Academic didn't quite grasp those concepts (maybe they weren't "best practices" or - more often - ***mainstream*** enough). In an academical world in which "best practices" are the ones that "always work", I'm all for what doesn't. At least, in the latter case, there IS room for improvement. And not just theoretical.

[ Parent ]
Writing reference articles is not a circle jerk (2.83 / 6) (#213)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 10:29:09 PM EST

Instead it made what on Wikipedia is easy, effortless and rewarding into a real chore.

Surprise, surprise: writing reference articles for a general audience, and having them come out actually accurate, useful and well-organized is not "easy" or "effortless."  In fact, it is a "real chore", one that people who seek nothing but cheap ego gratification are unlikely to enjoy.  And review is a large part of that.

References: myself, why, of course.

--em
[ Parent ]

I think we can safely discount everything you say (1.10 / 10) (#236)
by Harvey Anderson on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 10:48:40 AM EST

because you are a total geek.

[ Parent ]
An example of academic abuse (2.80 / 10) (#195)
by gmol on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 06:24:52 PM EST

Let me preface my comment to say that I have only made a few contributions to Wikipedia, but I use it a lot and think it is very cool.

The gist of your article (IMHO) opinion comes across as that (accurate) specialized knowledge can be marred, under wieght of (innaccurate) mass opion.  I can appreciate the sentiment, but let me provide you with a counter example which in my opinion is a far greater threat to legitimacy (and usefulness) to the masses.

Read this article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_photography

The article is non-encyclopediac at best, you may not be able to tell, allow me to explain why.

The author who submitted the article first, has also put pictures of himself, links to advertisements for texts which the same author has written, regarding his own original 'research'.  This is blatant violation of NPOV policy, and hardly in the spirit of an encyclopedia.

Follow the links and you will find that they are largely uninformative.  Take a look at the link to another article (by the same author) apparently having something to do with a type of equation, you won't be able to find that term in Mathworld.

This is an example of someone writing an article about a 'specialized field', which does not actually exist, and yet (despite my attempted changes) no one really seems to mind.  Yet the original author benefits by free advertising to his texts and citations from an (mostly otherwise) reputable source.  Part of it doesn't really matter, since I doubt anyone reads the article anyway, but there seems to be a problem when it can be demonstrated that the rules can be broken, as long as it is for 'specialzied knowledge' that people don't really care about.  I abstained from any further comment on this family of articles, as my opinion could only come across as biased.

On the other hand, my example may support Larry's position, as I have 'specialized knowledge' that is demonstrably accurate, but that most other wikipedians don't know/care enough for such knowledge to be incorparated into the Wikipedia.


Submit it to VfD (none / 1) (#259)
by stevietheman on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 02:55:03 PM EST

Have you tried submitting the article to Votes for Deletion? If the article is as bad as you say, others will agree and the article will be removed.
Steve Magruder
[ Parent ]
Larry's recent Wikipedia activity (1.54 / 11) (#196)
by Fennec on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 06:47:03 PM EST

"Larry's comments betray a complete ignorance of the project and a total lack of understanding of how it works and how it is changing over time."

You can view the contributions of Larry Sanger's account on the English Wikipedia. Since December 12, 2002, he has made exactly one edit to a Wikipedia: project page (which he summarized in his own words as "Don't much like categories"), and a few random contributions to his user page. That's it.

He's effectively been away from the project for over two years. I don't think he's really all that qualified to comment on how to restructure its internal processes and basic philosophy.

Larry (2.50 / 2) (#215)
by pHatidic on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 11:47:55 PM EST

I think Larry's ideas have much truth in them. Most of his ideas are agreed with in theory but for various reasons haven't been put into practice.

[ Parent ]
The real problem - PLAGIARISM (2.45 / 11) (#198)
by foon on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 08:01:44 PM EST

Here is an interesting Usenet post of recent vintage. The author of the post maintains a website with detailed information on roads and highways, which is copyrighted. A direct, unattributed copy of one of his pages was posted to Wikipedia as an article by a third-party. Naively believing that Wikipedia was concerned with intellectual property issues, and also wanting the information to be freely circulated, he changed the Wikipedia article to correctly acknowledge its sources, and also informed the perpetrator of the plagiarism that he had been caught. The Wikipedia staff has deleted his modifications, and there is still no acknowledgment of the true authorship of the article. Other readers of the newsgroup misc.transport.road have discovered that almost every article about United States roads and highways on Wikipedia contains plagiarized content from public websites, many of which are operated by group readers. Now this is just one narrow subject: The exact amount of unattributed copyrighted material on the site may be impossible to determine at this point. But given the lack of safeguards, its not surprising that, just as proprietary code has been illegally slipped into open-source products such as Linux, plagiarized text has seeped into Wikipedia in unknownn quantities.

If the Wikipedia is ever to be remotely legal, much less trustworthy, a strict copyright review process such as any legitimate publisher has should be instituted, and rigorous documentation of sources should be required on all articles. All existing content that has not passed throuh a review process should be removed, and the operators should realize that they may be held liable for damages to copyright holders whose work has been infringed.

The usual reply. (2.66 / 3) (#200)
by p4r on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 08:18:34 PM EST

You can't copyright basic facts. It's a question of intellectual honesty not intellectual property. The other issue is that by not citing its source, Wikipedia loses a lot of its quality as a starting point. There is a sort of copyright review in place: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Request_for_immediate_removal_of_copyrigh t_violation.

[ Parent ]
rip , mix, wiki (none / 1) (#216)
by D440hz on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 02:26:39 AM EST

well expertise costs money dont it?
you are not allowed to directly quote some experts.
they own the information (especially in specific fields)

how is that factored in above mentioned credibility issue? can one directly quote expert opinion, and by that giving some credibility to the text?
D-440Hz
[ Parent ]

Bzzzt...wrong! (1.80 / 5) (#226)
by stalker on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 07:55:51 AM EST

"just as proprietary code has been illegally slipped into open-source products such as Linux" is a falsety, also knows as FUD: mentioning it en passe undermines any following argument. Please refrain from spreading FUD.

[ Parent ]
Hmmm... (3.00 / 3) (#229)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 09:01:36 AM EST

Interesting. The article in question is Heny Watterson Expressway, which is almost exactly one paragraph of text, that could all be gained from public sources. However, I've made a few replies to the newsgroup post and will ask what's going on at the admin noticeboard. However, see the edit where the original author cited his work.

This is now cited, which is a very good thing. I've apologised to the author in my post if we have caused him any distress. I would like to note that this is public information available to anyone, and though it was unfortunate that the source was never cited by the original author, this has now been resolved.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]

Eh, no copyvio here, only paraphrasing facts (none / 0) (#232)
by SPUI on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 09:35:53 AM EST

here vs here. "Naively believing that Wikipedia was concerned with intellectual property issues, and also wanting the information to be freely circulated, he changed the Wikipedia article to correctly acknowledge its sources, and also informed the perpetrator of the plagiarism that he had been caught. The Wikipedia staff has deleted his modifications, and there is still no acknowledgment of the true authorship of the article." I see no such revert in the article; all I see is the link he added to his page, which is still there.

[ Parent ]
Blah blah blah (1.50 / 2) (#237)
by ubu on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 11:02:01 AM EST

You'll have to convince us that copyright is necessary or valuable, anymore. Copyright was granted to encourage the development of arts and sciences, in the US; now that creators and creation are plentiful, you'll have to do far better than a plagiarized paragraph to convince anybody that copyright is a serious challenge for Wikipedia.

It seems to me, personally, that Wikipedia ought to lay claim to all works, regardless of legal status. There is no public good in hiding (or pointlessly annotating) information that is useful to the general public.


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Hay, do you guys have a working search? (1.33 / 9) (#204)
by aphasia on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 09:11:04 PM EST

If so, can you have a talk with our boy rusty? I think he could use a few pointers.

"You have *huge* brass balls. Tex would be jealous." --ti dave

Google's "Suggest" (none / 0) (#206)
by gmol on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 09:18:52 PM EST

was reverse engineered just a little while ago, it'd be great for wikipedia no?  I should sit down and read that article.

[ Parent ]
Your real problem is... (2.00 / 5) (#230)
by student on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 09:09:27 AM EST

The people who use Wikipedia are like people everywhere else?

If you can solve that problem, please let us know!

¤¤¤¤¤¤
Simon's Rock College of Bard, a college for younger scholars.

That's unfair (none / 1) (#242)
by Pakaran on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 11:43:20 AM EST

There is a need for subject matter experts.  I'm not sure that Larry's mention of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a fair analogy, since that is far more detailed than a general encyclopedia (and some subjects on Wikipedia would be unlikely to appear in one, e.g. reality shows).  

I'd be interested in a comparison between Wikipedia's articles on a given subject, e.g. philosophy, and a traditional encyclopedia's coverage (which I don't have easy access to).  

That said, I think that reluctance among Wikipedia users to use print references which cannot be found via Google is a genuine problem.  Sadly, most of us are hobbyists (the only people who can do this degree of work without pay).  

[ Parent ]

Live editing by newbies is wikipedia's strength. (2.57 / 7) (#231)
by yath on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 09:29:38 AM EST

The attraction of editing Wikipedia is that real people will read your changes, and be informed by you, immediately. And if you're not too full of yourself, you can appreciate the likelihood that if someone changes YOUR edits, the article will be even better, and the world is still improved through your actions.

If you take that away, Wikipedia will die. Period. The experts-only encyclopedia has been tried, and it didn't work. You can't mess too much with the current system without breaking it.

There are several ways this can play out:

  1. Wikipedia continues as it is, well-known but marginalized and maligned. Result: A good encyclopedia, but not as good as we'd hope.
  2. Someone creates a fork of Wikipedia, reviewed by experts. Result: Wikipedia gets competition. Perhaps it receives less editing. Efforts are split, and again, things aren't as good as we'd hope.
  3. Wikipedia changes its policy. This would be a real gamble. Wikipedia's strength lies in attracting masses; if you give administrators too much power, will they use it well, or will they become tin-pot Napoleons and drive away people who make clueless-newbie edits?
  4. A miracle occurs.
I guess I'm hoping for #4, as the first 3 are either no better than the current situation, or disastrous.

If you gave a number of trusted users the ability to mark a particular version of each article "approved", it might do the trick. It would be important to keep most-current article the default. Otherwise, I think the motivation to edit would wane. But if you wanted to, you could log in and decide to view only "approved" articles.

wikipedia is exploratory (2.66 / 6) (#234)
by drquick on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 10:46:33 AM EST

lack of public perception of credibility, particularly in areas of detail
If it's just a perception of unreliability why change it? It would be very bad if the price to get a perception of reliability would be to become populist or even unreliable. the review process in wikipedia is ongoing. Do we realy need a point of no more reviewing? That would not be more reliable in my opinion. Many so called reliable sources are themselves full of errors and biased facts. I for one don't need yet another open source - or actually open facts - project that is trying to be like old technologies. We must explore what networked knowledge can give not mimic what an eatablished encyclopedia already can do. I don't care if conservatively thinking minds can't accept wikipedia.
the dominance of difficult people, trolls, and their enablers
I agree this is a problem. I've seen much of it in GPL linux software projects. Someone with enough leverage will throw out perfectrly good code, SW architecture and features just because he wants to feel important or promote his own little snippet of code that breaks something bigger. This issue seems to me as a very big problem. But does it disqualify wikipedia? I am inclined to suport the anti-elitist approach since elites are aften self appointed. I think that he real experts will win in the long run. wikipedia is sitll an obngoing project and will hopefullyu always be so. If snotty wannabees sabotage the work of experts will they in the long run be able to do so? I have some faith in a natural evolution of of a dynamic networked system like wiki. Elites cannot dictate truths in wikipedia - at first glancde that's a huge drawback - but in the long run power will gravitate to the experts. Not just the self appointed experts with a huge ego, but real experts. the project participant's respect for expertise will have to evolve with time not be dictated. This is what makes wikipedia interesting to me. A seed of knowledge will attract the experts later on too.

So who counts as an expert? That's the true problem. Also in academia where that problem is not properly addressed.

Who is elite? (2.57 / 7) (#235)
by neurogeek on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 10:46:34 AM EST

How could the Wikipedia decide who is "elite"? I'll provide an example from my own area of study. There is some controversy surrounding the use of cochlear implants to treat deafness, particularly in children. Consider this group of five "experts": a representative of the company who manufatures the device; a PhD scientist who sudies the effects of these implants in an animal model; a surgeon who implants the device; an official at a school for deaf children; and a deaf teenager who has recieved an implant and is unable (or unwilling) to use the device. All 5 have some special knowledge of the cochlear implant, and there are disagreements, both of opinion and of fact, among them. How would the Wikipedia decide which of these experts was more likely to give a reasonable edit?

All five (3.00 / 3) (#241)
by dharma on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 11:37:50 AM EST

The scientist is in the best position to discuss technical, scientific issues, risks, mathematical models, etc.

The child is in the best position to discuss social issues and the effects the device has on him (i.e. practical issues, problems, psychological, social, etc).

The company can discuss manufacturing costs and the expected benefits the implant would provide to the user.

The surgeon can discuss the issues surrounding implanting the device into a user and the risks of doing so.

The offical at a school for deaf children can discuss the effect the device has on children who do not have it. Are they jealous? Do they even care? Do they want it? How do they react to children who were deaf but than decided to get the implant.

Posting on the 'net allows for multiple informed points of view. Experts might have conflicting opinions or ideas but at least they are informed individuals. Its like obscenity. Its hard to describe but I know it when I see it. One may argue abstractly about who is an expert but most people would recognize one regardless of the abstract arguments.

[ Parent ]

That's not balance, that's bias. (1.60 / 5) (#244)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 11:53:41 AM EST

There is some controversy surrounding the use of cochlear implants to treat deafness, particularly in children. Consider this group of five "experts": a representative of the company who manufatures the device; a PhD scientist who sudies the effects of these implants in an animal model; a surgeon who implants the device; an official at a school for deaf children; and a deaf teenager who has recieved an implant and is unable (or unwilling) to use the device.

Your list of people with "conflicting viewpoints" on this issue is crassly unbalanced.  You don't include any Deaf adults.  Especially not any college-educated Deaf people, or even Deaf faculty at colleges or universities.  By leaving out the Deaf adults you commit a fault that's all too familiar-- the infantilization of deaf people, i.e. their portrayal as children unable to manage their own affairs, and who therefore should be subject to our "help" (whereby we choose what they want and need, according to our own criteria).

--em
[ Parent ]

A Perfect Expert (none / 1) (#257)
by mcherm on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 02:27:51 PM EST

Obviously, the best expert would be a deaf PhD studying cochlear implants who lived many years without such an implant but recently received one, and who used to work for the major manufacturer but has left that position (voluntarily) and now works independently, and who is a leader in the deaf community with personal ties to hundreds of users of the devices.

But that expert may not be speaking. Neurogeek gave us a very realistic situation: we have these 5 "experts" and need to decide who to give more weight to.

Nowhere did neurogeek imply infantilization of deaf people; please stop trolling.

-- Michael Chermside
[ Parent ]

Al 5l of them and none of them (none / 1) (#285)
by Mysidia on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 08:26:22 PM EST

Their area of experience should be considered, and what they have to say. If there are conflicting ideas, then all points of view should be expressed fairly.

If what's being suggested is that one of their conflicting viewpoint be weighed blindly over the others based on some arbitrary idea, that seems very shaky, bad idea.

Ideally everything should be resolved to some mutual satisfaction, but on the other hand, an expert can go off the wall too sometimes.

So none of them gets a priori weight over the others. Even experts need to justify their point of view where there is contention.

And if they can't do that reason out the situation in way based on sound logical reasoning, explaining their pertinent experiences, connect it to simple, clearly expressed thoughts and ideas, are they really expert enough?



-Mysidia the insane @k5
[ Parent ]
You're attacking a strawman. (none / 0) (#290)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 09:50:43 PM EST

Where did I suggest that we need a "perfect expert"?  Hell, where did I suggest that a single person should work on such an article?  Where did I attack neurogeek?

Neurogeek gave us a very realistic situation: we have these 5 "experts" and need to decide who to give more weight to.

And you're forcing me all over again to say that this group of people is likely to produce a very biased article, which was the only thing I said.

And anyway, one of the fatal assumptions you're making is leaving out a review process for articles.  Sure, the person who is assigned to write this doesn't need to be an expert in every single thing it touches on.  But the article can still be reviewed by several people.

--em
[ Parent ]

It's a matter of architecture (2.20 / 5) (#240)
by Ethanol on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 11:24:27 AM EST

You can't change the sociology of wikipedia's users by fiat, and the idea of declaring a new key principle and enforcing it "somehow" is almost laughable. What's needed is an alteration to the social architecture of the site. Here's my suggestion: Add a way to stamp a given version of an article as having been "approved", "peer reviewed" or whatever--I don't like either of these terms, but surely someone can think of a better one. A relatively small circle of reviewers, who would be nominated and elected by the community as a whole, invited to particpate by the heads of the project, or both, would be the only people with the authority to "approve" an article. There is no dramatic change to the way wikipedia works. Anyone can edit any article at any time. But if, at some time in the past, an article was approved by one of the reviewers, then the article will always contain a link to the last approved version, the ID of the reviewer who approved it, and the date of the approval. If you look up Philosophy, for instance, and see a link at the top to the "most recent approved version of this article", you can click that to get the peer-reviewed article. (There might be an alternative URL or a cookie that could be set by people who prefer to always see the most recent approved verison rather than the most recent edit. In their case, instead of seeing the link to "most recent approved version" they'd see a link to "most recent version" that they could follow if they wanted to.) The beauty of this is that it plays to Wikipedia's strengths. You're not discouraging the addition of new information; you're simply adding a new datum: This version of this article has, or has not, been peer-reviewed. A user may prefer the lively chaos of Wikipedia and never bother to follow the "approved version" links--but the links would be there for those who did want them.

general remarks (3.00 / 6) (#243)
by Pakaran on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 11:46:05 AM EST

I see nothing wrong with an "approved edition" except that there aren't that many academics willing to put in the time to make one, that there would be a need for more paid editors (which the project perhaps can't afford at this point), and that it might cause the current contributers to feel left out; in addition, an "approved edition" such as that of h2g2 would not be likely to be updated as frequently.  It would also be unlikely to include allegedly biased coverage like the election controversies article (which Jimbo Wales himself has criticized).  However, some would argue that that article deals with a legitimate issue which academics have covered, and which is being discussed by politicians.  Certainly this issue wouldn't be covered up-to-the-minute in an approved edition.  Whether it should be is an interesting issue.  

Another point Larry makes is giving too much credence to vandals.  I think folks like SOLLOG are tolerated even when they begin to harrass project members, and that their rights are emphasized even when they begin to drive legitimate contributers out.  Read the near-megabyte of archives of the above page (and some material on that page has been removed.  

Sollog in particular has been making threats against the site co-founder Jimbo Wales.  He has made homophobic and/or outright bizarre remarks on talk pages and made efforts at self-promotion of his self-alleged paranormal abilities.  He has linked his own anti-WP site, which includes site co-founder Jimbo Wales' personal information and previously included character assassination on Jimbo's family, from various articles in a very likely attempt at pagewank on behalf of his various commercial sites, including an adult site focused on death.  If you want links to the above, which I will not promote, please by all means contact me using the username "windrunner" and the domain "gmail.gooGOL.KOM".  

Another user, SPUI, has been allowed to remain in the community despite one of his earlier edits being the linking of Last Measure from the site's sandbox.  This user also admits on his user page to being a member of the GNAA, but is now making good edits.  

Sollog on Slashdot (1.20 / 5) (#352)
by Aurochs on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 04:09:52 PM EST

A Slashdot article on Sollog's edit war can be found here. Also of interest is the Wikipedia article List of Shock Sites, where Sollog's anti-Wikipedia site is reported to host a copy of Last Measure.

No, I'm not going to check that link.
--
And everybody say... Yatta!
[ Parent ]
We are all elite in our own minds (2.78 / 14) (#245)
by weave on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 11:57:09 AM EST

Defering to an expert is such a problem because those who are at a level below the expert fail to realize that they are lacking in knowledge in the area. In severe cases, those who are grossly incompetent are so badly afflicted that they lack the facility to realize they are, well, idiots. In their mind, they are the expert for whatever reason and will defened their view with great vigor.

This is not my own theory, but one that I have grasped on to question my own competency when I get too cocksure.

Some of my favorite quotes that I believe are relevant to this discussion (i.e., I'm admitting I'm not the expert here!):

"It is one of the essential features of such incompetence that the person so afflicted is incapable of knowing that he is incompetent. To have such knowledge would already be to remedy a good portion of the offense."

-- Miller, W. I. (1993). Humiliation. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press)

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge."

-- Darwin, C. (1871). The descent of man. (London: John Murray)

well said (2.00 / 2) (#247)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 12:11:00 PM EST

it's about objective truths and subjective truths

you really can be a certifiable, bona fida expert in say, 3 variable calculus

but on the question of say abortion, or the war in iraq, you have the cocksure types you talk about, on either end of the aisle

the point being that "education" for some on issues like these really is nothing more than indoctrination into a given agenda or pov

it's also why we have are judged by a jury of 12 of our peers in the usa: you can say, "well what the heck does some yahoo off the street know about dna evidence?"

at the same time, if you consider the idea of being judged by a panel of "experts" instead, you are confronted with a much worse possibility: someone who ignores the evidence in the case in pursuit of a dubious agenda: that is, in their minds, their allegiance to some sort of agenda is more important than the actual truth, something some "yahoo off the street" without any allegiances to anyone, would most be interested in

unfortunately, for many people, indoctrination into a given agenda equals education in many peoples minds, from the right and the left


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Re: Who is an expert? (2.66 / 3) (#246)
by emmerson on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 12:10:25 PM EST

My thoughts exactly.

It would seem that a mechanism would have to exist to easily and conveniently make editorial decisions based on the ranking of contributors.  Some sort of weighted voting I suppose.

Is anyone acquainted with such a technology?

Experts for Later, for Now Fact / Reference Checks (none / 1) (#292)
by Synonymous on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 11:14:49 PM EST

You don't really need experts, at least not yet. You simply need a way to verify the facts.

What is holding the project back are a lack of smart foot/end note tags. How credible will Wikipedia be if each fact is crossreferenced with 5, 10, 20 external sources like academic journals, encyclopedias, books? Very.

[ Parent ]
Does it really work, or not? (2.50 / 12) (#250)
by cjames53 on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 12:38:53 PM EST

Excellent article.

But I question one of your most basic premises: that Wikipedia works. When judging the success or failure of any project, you must compare your achievements against the project's goals. Having a web site that gets lots of hits and lots of contributions is not a measure of success.

Pretend Wikipedia doesn't exists, and imagine you were embarking on a new project, a collaborative web-based encyclopedia. What would your goals be? There are four key words here: "free", "collaborative", "web-based" and "encyclopedia". Each of these suggests a set of goals, aka "requirements" in the software project-management world.

Here's the problem. I think Wikipedia has achieved three of the four goals: It's free, it's collaborative, and it's web based. But let's look at the fourth. What are the requirements for an encyclopedia?

An Encyclopedia is:

  • Comprehensive: Articles on every subject of interest to virtually anyone.
  • Complete: Each article covers the topic
  • Accurate: Each article is accurate and factual, or where there are issues of controversy or opinion, the various points of view are laid out clearly.
  • Indexed and cross-referenced: Articles on related topics are cross referenced, and there is a way for authors to identify keywords for an index.
  • Readable: Articles are written with a tone, language and style that can be understood by the typical person, i.e. a person who is otherwise unacquainted with the topic.

I will assert, and I believe your own article states the same, that Wikipedia simply fails to achieve the status of "Encyclopedia". It is complete, comprehensive and indexed, but it is not accurate or readable. It does not meet the minimum requirements you would set for such a project.

Here's where I disagree with your reasoning:

...one can make a good case that, when it comes to relatively specialized topics (outside of the interests of most of the contributors), the project's credibility is very uneven.

You are assuming that only specialized topics have reliability problems. I disagree: I believe every topic in an encyclopedia is a specialized topic. Whether it's an extreme specialty like mine (cheminformatics), or a widely-known topic like art, history, biographies, there is always somebody who is more knowledgeable than the rest of us, who should be given special recognition.

Knowledge is fundamentally elitist. It's not something you get to vote on, because 99% of the people don't have enough expertise in 99% of the topics to even vote responsibly.

Scientists have dealt with this issue for hundreds of years, via the peer-review process. It's not perfect, there's lots of politics, back-stabbing and so forth. But by and large, the good science makes it to the top of the heap, and the bad science is weeded out.

I'll echo the sentiments of many other respondents to your article: I would never bother writing for Wikipedia. I'm an expert in my field (cheminformatics) and have written extensively on the topic. When I found Wikipedia, I thought, "Hey, this is cool! Maybe I'll write an article..." But when I looked at what was there already, I discovered it was based on some of my writing without attribution, was badly written, and, more importantly, there was no mechanism by which I could say, "Hey, I happen to know something about this field." That was the first and last time I used Wikipedia.

I believe that Wikipedia could be a success if it added a peer-review process with the following features:

  • It incorporated a voting mechanism or peer-review process. When an article was changed, the new version would be available, alongside the old, and readers could vote. The new article would only supplant the old when a threshold was reached.
  • There must be an "override" mechanism where authors or groups of specialists could appeal to management to override the vote (i.e. when a group of "trolls" or a commercial attack out-voted the genuine specialists on a topic).
  • Specialty areas would have moderators. The moderators' votes would count much more heavily than the general public, and a moderator could override votes, ban certain readers from voting, etc.

I really hope that Wikipedia, or its successor whatever that may be, is a success one day. It's such a great idea. But until we come up with a mechanism that recognizes that all knowledge is specialized, it's going to be an elusive goal.

Craig A. James



A single accepted point of view? (2.88 / 9) (#251)
by MoebiusStreet on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 12:43:11 PM EST

Suggestions for improving this seem to involve some sort of "approval stamp" on articles. Unfortunately, in today's complex world there is not simply a single objectively true point of view. Many commentors have recognized this, and pointed to the impossibility of choosing who the expert(s) are when they frequently disagree.

I submit that in the spirit of open decentralization, there CANNOT be a single approval group or entity. Instead, there must be an allowance for multiples approvers, each with their own points-of-view (and yes, possibly agendas -- we all have them, may as well admit it)

Anyone should be able to set themselves up as an approving authority. We've got a zillion of them in the world today -- ANSI, ISO, ECMA, FDA, etc. Let any individual user decide which point of view they want to view as authoritative. Let me say that when one exists, I want to see articles that have been posted or vetted by the Republican approvers. Or some group from the AMA, or whatever

Let everyone put their ideas out as approvers not just as authors. Then the market will decide whose approval is valuable. Thus we get openness in at multiple levels.

Absolutely! (3.00 / 2) (#363)
by shash on Sun Jan 09, 2005 at 07:07:38 AM EST

I agree... There's a reason that a democracy works - pluralism of views. This is what makes Wiki work, and there's just no point in taking it away. In fact, this is what makes it better than most of the "real" encyclopedias, the fact that you are assured that it's not claimed to be accurate, not claimed as authoritative and not written to accomodate only one set of views. Any improvements should have the same thing in mind before making a big issue of it.

[ Parent ]
how about open to those who demonstrate competence (2.33 / 6) (#255)
by dh003i on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 01:34:22 PM EST

How about...
  1. Only allow those with accounts to post.
  2. Accounts initially start off with a score of 0 on each topic.
  3. Accounts earn points (or lose points, going negative) as their owners demonstrate knowledge/expertise/understanding of various topics.
  4. Below a certain level, edits need to be submittted for approval. Below another level, individuals cannot post on a topic, due to their demonstrated ignornace of it.
  5. Below a certain overall average level, individuals cannot post at all, because they've demonstrated they aren't being constructive.
  6. Above a certain level, individuals are considered competent, supercompetent, or experts in various areas.
  7. When there are arguments in a field (e.g., in economics, between mainstream economists and Austrian economists), to support objectivity, editors and contributors should not take positions, but rather explain the positions of particular sides. They should be judged on how accurately they explain these differences, and compare and contrast.

Social Security is a pyramid scam.

a typically statist approach. (2.00 / 10) (#271)
by the ghost of rmg on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 05:49:54 PM EST

wikipedia, like academia and our democracy as a whole, is a free marketplace of ideas where the best promoted and the cruft eliminated by natural market forces -- the invisible hand of discourse, if you will.

i suppose some people, alabamian economists for example, may seek to create some sort of utopian ideological welfare state of the sort you'll find at the dailykos or at the mises blog, but as hayek said, it is simply not possible to engineer a better system than the open system of discourse in liberal democracies, as mirrored by wikipedia. it is the fatal conceit of socialists to believe that one can think through infinite complexity of debates that occur everyday and act as a guiding hand to truth and prosperity.



rmg: comments better than yours.
[ Parent ]

Wow. (2.00 / 3) (#273)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 06:40:01 PM EST

That's a pretty interesting perspective... good points!

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
no... (1.00 / 4) (#275)
by dh003i on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 06:46:09 PM EST

no, that's total and complete bullshit, and the author knows it.

Social Security is a pyramid scam.
[ Parent ]

Well, I found it interesting. (nt) (3.00 / 3) (#277)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 06:55:34 PM EST



---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
cut the crap (1.33 / 9) (#274)
by dh003i on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 06:44:40 PM EST

You're full of BS, and obviously have no life. Nothing private property owners (qua their private property) can be Statist. They own it and have the right to decide how it's used.

Last time I checked, every attempt by those you worshipo to actually do something useful (as in, make money on the stock market, using their omniscient quantitative prediction models) has fallen flat on its face.

Fortunately, on the Mises Blog (and Mises Daily Articles), a high quality is maintained, and crackpots like you aren't allowed to post main entries (they those like you are allowed to make comments, and all topical, non-insulting comments are kept). Being a moderator there, I'd know.

Social Security is a pyramid scam.
[ Parent ]

illustration (1.33 / 9) (#276)
by dh003i on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 06:51:44 PM EST

your worthless post, by the way, illustrates the flaws of a completely open system. Jackasses can hijack it, and there's nothing that can be done. Fortunately, private property includes the right to exclude jackasses, and some people (e.g., those at LiveJournal) actually believe in exercising it. Apparently, those who run K5 and /. don't, which is their right to decide. It just means they'll attract all of the worst sort of scum and losers, and deter those who contribute useful things.

Sort of like the point the original author (co-founder of Wikipedia) was making. Also similar to the point Hans-Hermann Hoppe makes about socialism and the foolish open-borders policy, which encourages all of the most worthless losers to come to the US and become parasites, living off of welfare.

Social Security is a pyramid scam.
[ Parent ]

i have no idea why you're so hostile about this. (1.71 / 7) (#283)
by the ghost of rmg on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 07:58:49 PM EST

it is simply my perception that certain kinds of ideology cannot stand up to the scrutiny of open debate. such ideologies seek to eliminate opposition through centrally planned discursive systems (restrictive moderation like that you mention, for example). if you ask me, that's socialism.

it's true that the rights granted to property owners allow them to dispose of their property as they see fit and as such, site owners may exclude people they find inconvenient to whatever ideological agenda they are pushing. but wikipedia is different. they have taken up the noble democratic experiment in the tradition of liberal democratic thought (and of course the tradition of our beloved first ammendment). they are interested in advancing public discourse -- that is, the pursuit of new and better ideas.

some people do not value innovation and advancement of the public sphere. instead, they pursue their own ideological projects, often enough in the further pursuit of their own private ends. they are often painfully aware that their ideologies, as i mentioned before, have been rejected by all the experts, have been marginalized, refuted, rebuked, and rebuffed -- in short, they know their beliefs are ideological charity cases, so they do the only thing they can: demand that charity, ideological welfare, from those who wish to participate in the proprietors' very cloistered, very private discourse.

while our open capitalist system allows for and even encourages such activity, such people cannot have any pretenses of discourse. those are the breaks.


rmg: comments better than yours.
[ Parent ]

Speaking of jackasses... (none / 1) (#314)
by Drog on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 11:20:10 AM EST

If K5 did believe in excluding them, your comments would have quickly been deleted due to their lack of civility and maturity. As you say, private forums have the right to exclude anything they wish. That does not necessarily mean doing so is a good thing for society, however. It depends on what gets excluded. Excluding posts because they are uncivil or trollish is perfectly acceptable. Excluding posts solely because the opinions they express are contrary to the opinions of the site owners is just plain cowardly. If a belief cannot stand up to debate, there is probably something wrong with the belief.

There is an interesting discussion currently going on at The World Forum called "The New Tribalism - Has It Peaked Yet?". It talks about the essay "The New Tribalism" by David Frohnmayer 10 years ago, and how this trend has manifested itself today in forums (online forum, radioshows, etc.) that are politically skewed to the right or the left and do not allow dissenting opinions. Such sites simply preach to the converted and never actually hold their ideas up to scrutiny. If we only participate in such tribal forums, we never expose ourselves to different points of view and we never learn anything.

Looking for political forums? Check out "The World Forum". News feed available here on K5.
[ Parent ]

Sounds exactly like H2G2. (2.50 / 2) (#287)
by mcc on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 09:15:54 PM EST

And H2G2 was very possibly the biggest failure in the history of the internet.

[ Parent ]
huh? (none / 1) (#293)
by guyjin on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 12:36:55 AM EST

what is this h2g2 you speak of?

-- 散弾銃でおうがいして ください
[ Parent ]
Imagine (3.00 / 4) (#296)
by mcc on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 02:22:03 AM EST

The worst aspects of everything2 and wikipedia combined, overlaid with a system whereby articles have to be approved to be on the site by an overworked and disinterested staff, meaning that the amount of content on the site is multiple orders of magnitude higher than the amount of content publically accessible on the site.

Then imagine the BBC ran it.

Then imagine it unexpectedly shut down for like years and came back with an attempted humor spin.

That's H2G2.

[ Parent ]

Why do some projects get away with being elitist? (2.83 / 6) (#260)
by cribeiro on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 03:01:31 PM EST

One thing that caught my attention is that neither the author, nor any one of the comments did mention how do big open & free projects like Linux and Apache handle expertise. A few principles seem to be common:
  • It's a meritocracy (if there's such a word). Good code wins. Bad code gets out.
  • Patches are reviewed. No anonymous, unchecked code.
  • It's elitist to the extreme. Try to post a naive comment on any of the main dev lists out there, and you'll know for yourself what does 'flaming' means.
Let's face it - the best FOSS projects are run by a elitist gang of people. Only the best - I mean, the best - are accepted. The guys there may be nice in public, play and joke, but they take their work very seriously. Perhaps Wikipedia can learn some lessons from them... p.s. It's been a long time since I've last posted here, on K5. And I'm glad to be back, specially because this is a great article to debate.

Some reasons. (2.50 / 2) (#267)
by davibennett on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 04:32:26 PM EST

I think if you take some of the GNU or other oen source projects there are a significant number of people who consider them highly important.  Strategically this is very clear.  One is potentially creating crucial standards and products of computing.  A number of institutions even feel they have a stake in this and support this.  There are clear economic incentives.  That these also offer to bring once unimaginable resources to "the people" including the third world is for most just a side benefit.

For many others it's a passion and they've been building these communities for decades.

But this only applies to some projects.  Some are fairly stagnant, others abandoned.

At this stage in the game Wikopedia simply can't hope to be broad and deep in all places.  If it's an encyclopedia it should be broad.  Depth might be created in certain domains, but for now on most things we are hoping for relatively brief, clear articles.  I use Wikopedia sometimes because a number of these exist.  A lot of them are adequete so even now for rudimentary explanations it has better odds of a decent first hit than google.

I think for increasing accuracy there is a good argument for registering writers, if nothing else to inform them if a change in their entries is made by email.  

Registration also creates a sense of community and I think if Wikopedia that *perhaps* Wikopedia might position itself as the knowledge base that people contribute to.

For example I took an art history class for fun and one thing the teacher did was have students write a paper on a famous picture of art for extra credit.  I suggested to the teacher that perhaps next semester he vet these and have students post good ones to Wikopedia.

Of course this kind of thing is risky and thinking more closely perhaps Wikopedia doesn't want to be such a vast store of things?  

But if it does then it can be a place where hundreds of thousands maybe millions are able to put their own little pieces in something important and famous.  And that point there will be "critical mass" for more rigor and perhaps as a side benefit it's gradual implementation will help teach the general public it's uses and methods.

I think then we get to entirely different sets of editing choices.  When the commentary on a subject first made by an 8th grader is replaced by something more "advanced" is the original linked to?  Is some memory shown?

Lots of complex stuff, some moral in how we prioritize contributions.  But I suspect the thing  has an excellant chance of working out if we can get lots and lots of people to feel "this is ours, we make it!"  

To put things into perspective my recollection is that conventional encyclopedias often take a decade or more to complete.  Just as the gnu project has been running for quite a while.  

So while certain goals may be valid, a realistic appraisal would recognize that it's a little early to judge whether the direction is failing.  This is a new form of organization.

 

[ Parent ]

ObSlogan (none / 1) (#331)
by Peahippo on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 02:35:33 AM EST

The only elitism that works is the elitism of skill.


[ Parent ]
Two kinds of Knowledge (2.66 / 3) (#262)
by jrincayc on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 03:10:31 PM EST

I believe that there are two distinctly different kinds of knowledge, history, and models.

History is what has happened. This type of knowledge is propagated by original sources, documents and the like. The key question with any history is, "Has it really happened?" To answer that question, you must know how the document originated. A document written by a college student in the 1970s about the industrial revolution is entirely different from a document written by an actual participant of the industrial revolution who only attended the equivalent of elementary school. The college student's version might have higher educational credentials, but it is less important because it is lacking important credentials of a different sort, such as first-hand experience. With history, who wrote the document and what they knew matters. The exact providence of a historical fact is very important, since there is no independent way to verify a historical fact other than different sources. Once it is wrong, only by careful research and examining the credentials of many documents can a historical fact be proved wrong.

Wikipedia has many such historical facts. In the Crushing by Elephant article there was the fact: "The last person to be officially executed in this fashion was put to death in India in April, 1947." Is this true? I thought it sounded somewhat implausible, so I tried to verify it in a library. I was unable to verify it, so I removed it. However, it is possible that the fact might be true, and I was merely unable to find a source for it. This is a problem with most historical facts. Wikipedia is currently very weak at dealing with this type of problem.

The other type of knowledge is models. (Don't get too hung up on the term. Others might use systems, methodologies, or theories to describe what I am calling models.) These consist of assumptions and their consequences. There is a quote that "All models are wrong, some models are useful." For example, Newton's model of physics is wrong when high speeds are involved, but, for say, building a car, it is very useful. The economic model of supply and demand is wrong for certain goods, but it is still useful for much else. The only possible problem is that a model might be inconsistent (or two or more models might be mutually inconsistent). The basic method for finding problems in models is to understand them, and then think about them. I have discovered mistakes made by people with PhDs (in physics) about physics by listening to a lecture, and then thinking about it (though, to be honest, the PhDs found more of my mistakes than I found of their mistakes). The other half of a model, its usefulness, is determined by testing it against the real world.

Wikipedia has many models in it. There are physics models and economic models and models of computers. Sometimes, mistakes are added (mistake) by ignorant editors. However, after thought, these can be corrected by less ignorant editors (fix). The key fact here is that Patrick did not know any more about elasticity that I did, he just thought about the example I gave, and realized that I had made a mistake. For all I know, he could have no credentials whatsoever, but he fixed a mistake.

My key point is, that for much knowledge, what matters is not the providence of the information, but the explanation that goes with the information. If the expert actually knows more than the layman, then the expert should be able to explain the flaw in the layman's reasoning and why the expert's method is better. If no expert can, then I consider the "expert's" knowledge highly suspect. Modeled knowledge is well served by Wikipedia, since it truly can be reviewed by non-experts.

So, historical knowledge will be poorly served by Wikipedia in its current form, but modeled knowledge will be well served by Wikipedia in its current form. I believe that this type of knowledge is far more important than historical knowledge. A vigorous debate between laymen and experts on equal footing will improve both Wikipedia's and humanity's overall modeled knowledge.

As for historical knowledge, Wikipedia could use some work.



Re: Two kinds of Knowledge (3.00 / 2) (#269)
by femto on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 04:55:07 PM EST

Wikipedia has many such historical facts. In the Crushing by Elephant article there was the fact: "The last person to be officially executed in this fashion was put to death in India in April, 1947." Is this true? I thought it sounded somewhat implausible, so I tried to verify it in a library. I was unable to verify it, so I removed it. However, it is possible that the fact might be true, and I was merely unable to find a source for it. This is a problem with most historical facts. Wikipedia is currently very weak at dealing with this type of problem.
Perhaps one definition of an 'expert', in the context of lsanger's article, is someone who has followed facts back to their sources for a particular subject area? Thus Wikipedia's problem could be restated as 'too few people who are able to back up their facts with sources'. Perhaps Wikipedia needs a way to more closely link facts with sources. Perhaps every sentence in every article should be required to hyerlink to a reference to a source??

[ Parent ]
Expert definition and Sources (none / 1) (#279)
by jrincayc on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 07:16:33 PM EST

I would consider an expert to be someone who can either show what they are saying from first principles (basic assumptions), or sources. Of course, this is by no means the same as the academic credentials. Experts by this definition (and who also have sufficent time) tend to do fairly well on wikipedia (See for example MyDogAteGodsHat). Experts who refuse to site sources or explain their logic tend to do badly on wikipedia (See for example RK).

There are some projects on wikipedia to provide more sources. Wikiproject Fact and Reference Check and Forum for Encyclopedic Standards are two.



[ Parent ]
internet sources (none / 0) (#366)
by hallvor on Sun Jan 09, 2005 at 06:58:14 PM EST

The big problem I see with this is that a lot of the valuable sources are textbooks not internet links.

[ Parent ]
Use a reference (none / 1) (#394)
by femto on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 06:43:17 PM EST

In that case, wikipedia should link back to a reference to the book.

[ Parent ]
thank you Larry (2.50 / 6) (#263)
by matusz on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 03:20:20 PM EST

I have been on wikipedia pretty much from the beginning, and this is very encouraging to see that You still do care after those years away and having not so good personal experience with it. I also thank you for the great thought-framework you created, even if the real-world result differs much from your expectations. To me it seems like a child that has proven healthy enough to live, grow and learn, but needs much bring-up. This requires patience and courage.

To comment on your essay:

I think wikipedia has grown too big to be directly altered by any single person (maybe with the exception of Jimmy deciding to close it after all, but I don't know if even he can do it anymore).

But it can be affected by something that it needs - by knowledge. I think that while creating an elitist project basing on wikipedia could initially lower the user-base overall expertise, the long-term results could be worth it, as long as the resulting articles are freely available to be copied back into wikipedia.

I wish You would start something like that, although I know that probability is low.

The other thing that could possibly affect it would be some periodical philosophical insight from you, provided you could write it knowing there will be no immediate results, but flaming and whining.

This essay seems like a good starting point, but it needs some polishing to get rid of preaching and wounds-tending. Would you agree to put it on wikipedia?

matusz


Thank God someone is finally saying this! (1.00 / 9) (#265)
by logicnazi on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 04:11:11 PM EST

This is commentary on wikipedia which is long overdue. As I myself have experienced at many wiki projects, especially wikinewe, there is an almost cult like anti-elitist mentality. Any change to the system which would give some group (frequent editors, those with enough experience whatever) more controll over the wiki than joe schmoe is deridided as against the wiki spirit. When did things change from trying to produce the best encyclopedia/news/whatever possible to religiously adhering to some idea of equality? Many of the posts responding to this message either exhibit the same blind religiousness and simply refuse to consider the possibility they might be wrong or are confused about the basic issue. Also I would point out it is completly hypocritical to critisize the article poster for not having enough expertise as an argument for allowing completly random people to add their own 2c to an encyclopedia. The problem, at least as I see it, is not about having low barriers to entry. I fully agree that every joe schmoe should be allowed to submit his edits. The problem is that the wiki community refuses to consider a tiered editing struture to approve these edits. Admitedly coming up with the proper review system is hard but take a look at wikinews. Every time someone takes a bunch of time to propose a tiered structure a bunch of people protest that it is anti-wiki. At the very least the wikipedia community needs to start addressing these points in a substantive matter instead of just accusing the position of being anti-wiki. I'm not sure if I should take all those questions of the sort 'who decides what is elite' seriously. Admitely there is a real issue here, but it is clearly a solveable issue since we manage to do so succesfully for scientific journals and real encyclopedias. However, It seems that many of these comments indicate a deep comitment to a sort of relativism about expertise (it's kinda like theology for the wiki-philosophy). So I will give the simple answer and hope that it satisfies everyone who isn't dogmatically commited to the opposite viewpoint. Basically you have two choices for who determines expertise. The first is a trust web in the style of PGP. This web is seeded with a couple of known wikipedia developers who then give editorial status to others they find trustworthy. The other option is to let the community as a whole decide who is worthwhile. Implement some sort of rating of edits/contributions and give those people who get a high enough karma editorial status. Personally, I prefer some combination of the two. Some level of adequate contributions should be necessery but not sufficent to gain editorial status and a group of developers can assign people to be editors in chief of certain areas of wikipedia.

Thank God someone is finally saying this! (2.66 / 9) (#266)
by logicnazi on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 04:11:54 PM EST

This is commentary on wikipedia which is long overdue.  As I myself have experienced at many wiki projects, especially wikinewe, there is an almost cult like anti-elitist mentality.  Any change to the system which would give some group (frequent editors, those with enough experience whatever) more controll over the wiki than joe schmoe is deridided as against the wiki spirit.

When did things change from trying to produce the best encyclopedia/news/whatever possible to religiously adhering to some idea of equality?

Many of the posts responding to this message either exhibit the same blind religiousness and simply refuse to consider the possibility they might be wrong or are confused about the basic issue.  Also I would point out it is completly hypocritical to critisize the article poster for not having enough expertise as an argument for allowing completly random people to add their own 2c to an encyclopedia.

The problem, at least as I see it, is not about having low barriers to entry.  I fully agree that every joe schmoe should be allowed to submit his edits.  The problem is that the wiki community refuses to consider a tiered editing struture to approve these edits.  Admitedly coming up with the proper review system is hard but take a look at wikinews.  Every time someone takes a bunch of time to propose a tiered structure a bunch of people protest that it is anti-wiki.  At the very least the wikipedia community needs to start addressing these points in a substantive matter instead of just accusing the position of being anti-wiki.

I'm not sure if I should take all those questions of the sort 'who decides what is elite' seriously.  Admitely there is a real issue here, but it is clearly a solveable issue since we manage to do so succesfully for scientific journals and real encyclopedias.  However, It seems that many of these comments indicate a deep comitment to a sort of relativism about expertise (it's kinda like theology for the wiki-philosophy).  So I will give the simple answer and hope that it satisfies everyone who isn't dogmatically commited to the opposite viewpoint.

Basically you have two choices for who determines expertise.  The first is a trust web in the style of PGP.  This web is seeded with a couple of known wikipedia developers who then give editorial status to others they find trustworthy.  The other option is to let the community as a whole decide who is worthwhile.  Implement some sort of rating of edits/contributions and give those people who get a high enough karma editorial status.

Personally, I prefer some combination of the two.  Some level of adequate contributions should be necessery but not sufficent to gain editorial status and a group of developers can assign people to be editors in chief of certain areas of wikipedia.

Statistical Fully Democratic Wikipedia (2.50 / 4) (#270)
by Hakkikt on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 05:30:49 PM EST

As our perceptions are limited, in some ways, our knowledge is always biased (because of experience, choices, agendas, etc.)
Everything is matter of opinion or consensus.

I think the only thing that escapes this condition it's mathematics, as it is a pure mind creation with a specific set of rules (logic). Others may not agree :)

So why can't Wikipedia be a multi-view encyclopedia?
This encyclopedia should be as diverse as the internet is.

Surely it's going to be source of debate and some "bad/unpopular" memes are going to infiltrate (racism, religious fanatism, intolerance), but it can be balanced with proper commentary, and some sort of poll where people can tell what opinion is more useful/accepted (this even may change in time).

Can we be so arrogant to think there's only one way to interpret every thing in life?
I think we shouldn't.


many interpretations: mine, and all the wrong ones (none / 1) (#358)
by ph0rk on Sat Jan 08, 2005 at 12:57:19 AM EST

>> Can we be so arrogant to think there's only one way to interpret every thing in life?
>> I think we shouldn't.

While there may be merit in including every possible interpretation (that someone bothers to write) on, say, the recent Iraq war and subsequent occupation, how could anyone genuinely looking for information choose from all the options?

Rating or voting system you say?  Then we end up with more or less the same system; there are plenty of interpretations but the one representing the majority will have the highest rating (and thus be on top). Most people searching for information will naturally read that article first, and we are right back where we started: effectively one interpretation, as judged by the masses.

Now, I don't really think this is a big deal.  Some issues may need articles cartering to differing schools of thought (provided they aren't total quackery).  Others don't.  An article on evolution does not need to be peppered with antievolutionist propaganda, for example.

For many topics only one interpretation will do, and for the most part the consensus will be that interpretation.  Differing schools of thought can always be linked, but trying to accomodate too many variant interpretations will only lead to confusion for the layperson (and isn't the layperson who any *pedia is for?).
.
[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]

wasting experts' valuable time (3.00 / 11) (#282)
by bshanks on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 07:39:39 PM EST

i think one of Larry's points could be usefully extended.

Larry writes "nearly everyone with much expertise but little patience will avoid editing Wikipedia, because they will--at least if they are editing articles on articles that are subject to any sort of controversy--be forced to defend their edits on article discussion pages against attacks by nonexperts."

This argument, while accurate (the more that experts have to "waste" their time on this, the less they will participate, which is bad for Wikipedia), rubs many (including myself) the wrong way. My instinct is to think, "certainly it sucks to have to defend one's contributions, but how else can we assure quality? If the hoity-toity experts are unwilling to put in the same amount of effort that i am, there's not much that we can do, now is there?". This response, while also accurate (I think), ignores the reality that it really is a loss to the project when experts don't participate.

But there's another way to look at this. It's not just a matter of pampering the elitist experts so that they deign to contribute. Imagine that you own Wikipedia, and that an expert is one of your employees.

If you had a credentialed expert who agreed to spend a certain number of hours working on Wikipedia each week, you would want them to spend their time adding content that they consider important, and on making corrections to important but non-obvious errors that few others would be likely to detect.

You would NOT want to spend their time repeating the same arguments over and over about things that they are quite sure are obvious. Other people are qualified to take on this task. Since there are only a few experts, it is most efficient to have each expert focus on the things that only they can do.

So, it's not just a question of pampering the experts. It's a question of efficiently using their time. When their time is spent doing what someone else could do, this is not just unpleasant for them, it is inefficient for the project.


Just a freak coincidence. (2.00 / 3) (#284)
by i on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 08:01:08 PM EST

One Two. Enjoy!

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

Are you sure? (3.00 / 2) (#294)
by marx on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 12:49:43 AM EST

If you perform the Google search as you say, you also get a document from some marine center. It says:
the Aleut of Kodiak Island, Alaska refer to the killer whale as "polossatik" (which means "the feared one") (Dahlheim & Heyning, 1999).

...

Dahlheim, M.E., and J.E. Heyhing. 1999. Killer Whale. In S. Ridgeway and R. Harrison (eds) Handbook of Marine Mammals Volume 6: The Second Book of Dolphins and the Porpoises. Academic Press.

So you have a peer-reviewed handbook of marine mammals saying the same thing as Wikipedia.

If anything, all that you've proved is that established encyclopedias or reference literature can be as wrong as Wikipedia.

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

Why of course. (none / 1) (#303)
by i on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 06:37:52 AM EST

But a featured article should be of better standards, non?

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Well sure (3.00 / 3) (#311)
by cburke on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 10:05:16 AM EST

Sure, they should aim for high standards.  Yet your example is not an instance of them being worse than the peer-reviewed works and thus doesn't motivate any changes to the structure of the w-p.

[ Parent ]
Not quite in the spirit, eh? (2.00 / 2) (#300)
by hbobrien on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 04:55:21 AM EST

So... you found a mistake in wikipedia... one that can be verified (see http://www.oceanlight.com/marine_mammals.html )... And then you didn't fix it? (in this case, by removing the sentence about polosatik and the Aleuts) Hokay, fine... Fixed now. Got another one? :)

[ Parent ]
I don't like making edits (none / 0) (#304)
by i on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 06:48:38 AM EST

I'm not 100% absolutely positively sure of. After all, Aleuts could pick the word from Russians. Historically and geographically, that's a possibility. And they could re-apply it to a different kind of whale, though it's highly unlikely. And they could assign a different primary meaning to it, with vanishingly small but non-zero probability. To my non-expert opinion anyway.

I did leave my opinion on the talk page, but as I'm not an expert by anybody's standards I don't want to touch the main article.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]

Hm. (none / 0) (#327)
by hbobrien on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 08:37:48 PM EST

So you were certain enough to kvetch about it, but not certain enough to do anything about it.

That somehow sounds like an echo of the classic definition of chutzpah (ie, killing your parents and then throwing yourself on the mercy of the court as an orphan -- think Los Bros Menendez), but let it stand.



[ Parent ]

In simple easily-understood words: (2.33 / 3) (#336)
by i on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 08:44:12 AM EST

I alert the balabus in a haimisher manner about the article being basically ferdreit. I don't step in and assume achrayes because I don't need another loch in kop with editing wars and all that choleryeh. He hears me but chooses to do gornisht. Well, frankly a deigeh hob ich. And you're saying that if I hoizik machen of him, it's like killing my mother? Gey avek, nishtikeit.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
A few thoughts on wikipedia (2.71 / 7) (#286)
by thehero on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 08:53:45 PM EST

I have to agree with numerous other posts here and say that what Larry sees as problems with wikipedia, I think are, in fact, strengths. One should never fully trust any source regardless of who (expert or not) "approved" it or did not approve it. This is the real beauty of wikipedia, it teaches us to always question, to seek out other sources, compare and contras and be critical. Something our US society dearly needs to learn, in my opinion.

Also I don't believe there is such a thing as real objectivity...and beyond that, that objectivity is not even desirable.

"Objectivity is not possible if it means not taking a stand, not having a point of view. Because writing or teaching history inevitably involves choosing from a great mass of historical data what you will present, and your choice depends on your view of what is important to present, and that is affected by your social stance, how you think about race or class or war, etc. Therefore, to claim objectivity is not quite honest, because you can't help being subjective, so you may as well declare yourself openly, which allows your reader/listener to judge what you say, to measure that against other viewpoints and decide for himself/herself." -Howard Zinn

Perhaps than wikipedia can have one or more dissenting opinion sections for each article. A space for multiple points of view on a particular subject or definition.

On trolls-

Some aspects of the Indymedia project and other open web forums might be applied here, specifically the rating system for articles...(-2, -1, 0, +1, +2) this would allow for democratic troll monitoring and action...after a certain number of negative points from a certain number of different users, the change or article is hidden. The ratings system could also be applied to the wikipedia users themselves. If say I "fuck up" or "troll" several articles I could start receiving a poor user grade and after a while I will be restricted from changing articles or posting new ones. I have seen this system work rather well.

Wikipedia requires faith in other ordinary human beings, which is not easy I admit, but let us try and remember that education and access to knowledge as well as expertise are noting but privileges gained by economic statue and luck. Elitism is the believe that you are somehow better to more entitled that others because of your luck in economic status education and knowledge etc. The expert needs to teach, to pass on their knowledge, not to control that knowledge.

Wikipedia alive, it a learning experiment in information anarchism, it empowers every person who has access to it and above all it is fully democratic...which is refreshing, visionary and revolutionary.



accidentally posted my draft version (none / 1) (#289)
by thehero on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 09:29:35 PM EST

...my apologies for the grammatical errors in the above text.

[ Parent ]
Imposing a K5 system into Wikipedia won't work. (none / 1) (#297)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 03:34:09 AM EST

Wikipedia is not about discussion or arguing so much as it is about the presentation of facts. Those facts should not be a popularity contest!

Besides, I fail to see how that resolves the problem of factual inaccuracies being endorsed by the masses. If anything it will excaberate it.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]

What are the "facts" exactly? (2.00 / 2) (#301)
by thehero on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 06:12:54 AM EST

Ok.

Can you please give me the facts about the recent political situation in Haiti?

Or maybe you could find an expert to give me the facts, only...funny thing how the experts can't seem to agree. How do we decide which person's facts are more valid, more "expert"? Should we use the facts as seen by the business leaders in that nation, or maybe the fact as seen by the US military, or as seen by the disposed president, or as seen by the Dominican paramilitary forces, or the local media, or the international media, or newscorp, or cnn, or aljazeera, or maybe a US economic think tank or two, or perhaps a international human rights group, or maybe a local human rights group, or perhaps a few academics and Yale and Harvard, or better yet the peasant on the ground who was an eye witness to the events? Should we take a vote?

Not so easy, is it? Facts are subjective. They can be molded and shaped depending on which ones you use, which ones you choose to omit and depending on what or whom you choose to believe. This is an uncomfortable truth for many in academia.

Almost every article on wikipedia is made up of, not just one fact, but of many all woven together by the author based on his or her own personal subjectivity. For this reason we must embrace the malleable nature of factual reality and choose to work with it by providing a place for people to present their facts as they see them. Wikipedia is a good start, and my adding more places for the presentation of each person's own set of facts it can become even more amazing.

[ Parent ]
Indeed. Facts are illusive. (none / 1) (#323)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:13:05 PM EST

Which is why Wikipedia is not a primary source. Wikipedia does not do original research. It merely details what has already been said and details what is already known. Where there are conflicting points of view each sides arguments are detailed. This leads to the neutral point of view policy which, while hard to achieve, can be done and is necessary in a truly collaborative project like Wikipedia.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
Enriching Entries. (none / 1) (#316)
by davibennett on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 01:49:32 PM EST

In regards to your point that there can be room in wikippedia for dissenting opinions one solution is simply reducing the use of the delete button.

I do believe the top entry should be relative concise with explanatory links.  going through the clutter of google and picking out a few good articles is a major time saver.  

But when I get involved in wikis I am very reluctant to destroy any other work.  Comments such as this fact is questionable or this summation seems to reflect x position seem useful to me.  A lot of knowledge is in formation and a system which reflects (to some degree) this reality is essntial!

I do not use the word essential lightly.  Science especially is presented as a set of finished answers, not a set of partially answered questions whose answers change frequently, where the process is a puzzle that can be especially intriguing and fun, which can be practiced by anybody often in ways which are useful.  Especially now that we can combine sets of observations through mediums such as the net.

To many the humanities seem more lively because they involve at least some dialogue, but even here so much is presented as cut and dried, out of the head of Zeeus... yes we need working summations of basic "facts" and concepts.  There is an accepted common place of basic knowledge, but to show that these facts can be arranged and interpeted differently isn't a bad thing.

Why can't Wikopedia support this?

To some extent we are getting back to the original vision of encyclopedia.  Wikopedia can become more of a record of everything, it can include far more than any conventional encyclopedia.  And if we are a little more conservative with the delete key understanding that even a veey subjective article demonstrates a specific view that can be labeled in context and tucked under a more standard description just as we link to a variety of views.

We can even within existing structure present knowledge as an unfolding flower.  Yes this is a starting point it comforms with standard conceptions, but others think ... and also...

Incidently some proof of wikipedias value can be seen from answer.com.  This uses a variety of referances to come up with answers to questions.  Most of these are convnentional which means that there is less need for wikipedia to provide the traditional "right" answers, but when these more conventional resources are not availible who does answer.com turn to?

http://answers.com/main/ntquery?s=engelbart&gwp=8

Now isn't it interesting that conventional referances have nothing on Douglas Engelbart?  He did a little more than invent the mouse, when his research team broke up they went to Xerox Parc and other places to lay out the basics of the computers we use today.  And there is a great deal of validity to Engelbart's critiques that the tools we use today are far weaker than those he prototyped.

So we have a historically important character who remains relevant and it's wikipedia which provides the basic referance.

[ Parent ]

Wikiproject: Fact and Reference Check (2.92 / 13) (#291)
by Synonymous on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 11:05:59 PM EST

You don't really need experts, at least not yet. You simply need a way to verify the facts.

What is holding the project back are a lack of smart foot/end note tags. How credible will Wikipedia be if each fact is crossreferenced with 5, 10, 20 external sources like academic journals, encyclopedias, books? Very.

References and Academics (3.00 / 7) (#322)
by DHSkarjune on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 04:13:07 PM EST

I'm not surprised by Sanger's frustrations and questions, but I'm not impressed by his recommendations. Is his contention about Anti-Elitism, Pro-Academia, References, Quality Assurance, or some Quest for Truth?

Footnoting is a good idea, as it would facilitate verification and additional research. Peer Review, on the other hand, has as much to do with pecking order as it does checking references.

Why did Postmodernism get such a bad rap? Much of the published academic articles were indulgent crap... And, where would String Theory be today if physicists had not continued despite peer review rejection?

Steadman took a big risk, Torvalds took a big risk, Wikipedia has taken a big risk. And these things are blooming nicely. The day that all the academics in the world read Lawrence Lessig's works, take it to heart, and CC all their publications is the day that I (and my students) won't need Wikipedia.



[ Parent ]
Summary of 1,000 "arguments" (2.62 / 16) (#299)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 04:40:22 AM EST

Third party observer: "One can produce a reference work of better quality than Wikipedia currently does by doing X."

Wikipedia cult member: "Doing X will not produce a perfect reference work, therefore, it's of no value.  And anyway, if there's an error in Wikipedia, it's your own fucking fault for not fixing it."

--em

I'll add one, then (none / 0) (#308)
by vadim on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 08:53:12 AM EST

My argument is that the lack of a process like a commercial encyclopedia doesn't make Wikipedia inherently bad, it makes it simply different.

The Wikipedia way certainly has problems, but it also has advantages. It's currently in widespread use despite the deficiencies, and appears to work just fine for most people.

Currently I simply see no need to turn it into something completely different. If it's so much needed, surely somebody can just fork it, after all the database is downloadable.

BTW, Nupedia didn't work.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

paraphrases (3.00 / 4) (#328)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 11:59:48 PM EST

My argument is that the lack of a process like a commercial encyclopedia doesn't make Wikipedia inherently bad, it makes it simply different.

"I'm willing to set the quality bar infinitely low."

The Wikipedia way certainly has problems, but it also has advantages. It's currently in widespread use despite the deficiencies, and appears to work just fine for most people.

"If everybody's doing it, it must be right."

BTW, Nupedia didn't work.

"I can prove anything with just one example."

--em
[ Parent ]

That's rather extreme (none / 1) (#334)
by vadim on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 06:39:50 AM EST

All I'm saying is that it's all tradeoffs. Wikipedia doesn't have the strict model of a paper encyclopedia, but it has no barriers to participation. That isn't a bad thing, it's just different. If I wanted a traditional encyclopedia I've got one on my shelf already.

"If everybody's doing it, it must be right" is going a bit too far, as well. It's not that it's right, it's more of "the best is the enemy of the good enough". Wikipedia is currently in wide use. That's got to be for a reason. Of course it can be improved, but I'm fairly sure something working that well doesn't need radical changes.

The Nupedia example is just the best thing that came to mind. I saw Nupedia ages ago. It kept my interest for all of 5 minutes. It looked like a huge pain to contribute to, and had almost no content. In comparison, a Wiki just screams "edit me!". It's almost addictive.

I've seen that in programming too. Each time I set out to do the "uber-program", something like the chat server to surpass all chat servers, it ended as a huge complicated mess.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Heh. (none / 0) (#337)
by i on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 08:50:55 AM EST

"If everybody's doing it, it must be right."

Yes, by definition.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]

And here's another one (none / 1) (#359)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sat Jan 08, 2005 at 01:48:04 AM EST

Disinterested third party: "As long as Wikipedia does not do X, its quality and usefulness will be limited."

Wikipedia Zealot: "Why are you saying that Wikipedia is worthless?  That's just wrong!"

--em
[ Parent ]

Tech Central Station (2.77 / 9) (#305)
by sien on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:11:02 AM EST

One of the cited articles is of interesting origin. It's written by a former head of Britannica, who obviously doesn't like how things like Wikipedia are threatening Britannica. It is also published by Tech Central Station.

Any article from Tech Central Station should be treated with some discretion. Tech Central Station is a Republican PR out fit. They are described in disinfopedia .

Is it any wonder that a PR firm that regularly attacks scholars like Juan Cole and Green theory should want to have things like wikipedia and disinfopedia discredited if they expose PR organs like Tech Central Station for what they are?

Interesting (3.00 / 3) (#310)
by CaptainZapp on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 09:33:29 AM EST

Any article from Tech Central Station should be treated with some discretion. Tech Central Station is a Republican PR out fit. They are described in disinfopedia.

Teaches me once again that if it something is on the internet and has a snazzy name it's probably not true.

However: It doesn't discount Larrys reasoning that the "fanatical" openness of Wikipedia invites idiots and trolls and while such jerks in general shouldn't command any respect from the community they can be downright lethal to such a project. Especially if they piss off knowledgeable and credible specialists that devote their time and insight.

That said I think Wikipedia is one of the best resources on the Internet, alas I never used it to make crucial design decisions for a nuclear power plant, or other facilities which are better not operated by software from Redmond.

BTW: Thanks for Disinfopedia link.

[ Parent ]

Juan Cole, a scholar? (none / 0) (#355)
by akulkis on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 11:15:38 PM EST

Sorry, but that poser lacks the mental capacity to escape from a paper bag.... Which is, of course, why an ultra-anti-knowledge institution like the U of Michigan hired him. (And since I *DO* live near Ann Arbor, I am well aware of the disdain for actual knowledge which is rife within the humanities schools at U of M.)

[ Parent ]
Disinfopedia... (none / 0) (#356)
by akulkis on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 11:17:36 PM EST

Now THERE's an unbiased (in a Dan Rather/CBS kind of way) authority....

[ Parent ]
Wikipedia is a flawed concept (2.22 / 9) (#306)
by philstaite on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:42:04 AM EST

The peer review process, i.e. when an article is reviewed by recognised experts, is the only thing that guarantees an academic article's validity.

The fact that Wikipedia eschews this in favour of an open approach means it's lack of reliability, perceived or otherwise, will always be under question; the perception is a direct product of it's approach and is utterly unavoidable.

Whilst "open source", for want of a better phrase, is an entirely laudable aim, it is just not applicable in all situations and to suggest that it is to ignore the reality in favour of an ideal.

Well not that flawed. (none / 0) (#309)
by Highlander on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 09:30:21 AM EST

I don't think the non-moderation is that flawed. I find it very difficult to proffer contestable views on websites that are heavily moderated, so there is value in being able to speak out.

I think the easy solution would be to add another level of wikipedia entries, like "this article has been blessed by an expert on the subject", i.e. a star rating system. Of course this conflicts with the design of wikipedia to present only one article on a subject.

I guess you can't have both, but a system with an additional level works at least in the situation where there is either one "blessed" article, or one "non-blessed"; here, both of these pages would be presented as a default.

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
[ Parent ]

Blessed articles (none / 1) (#313)
by philstaite on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 11:12:07 AM EST

I like your choice of classification...

The issue I see with the system you outline is why would anyone bother to look at the non-blessed (heathen?) version if they have a blessed one there too?

[ Parent ]
Well, if peer revew is so great (3.00 / 3) (#319)
by jolly st nick on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 02:22:51 PM EST

where is the peer review on your post?

I'm not trying to be obnoxious here, just pointing out that while peer review is great, it isn't the end of all things. Would you post benefit from peer review? Certainly, as would mine. Is your post worthless because it is not peer reviewed? Of course not.

What academic review clearly does is increase the credibility and comprehensiveness of content. But the importance of credibilty and criteria you assign for sufficiency varies with how you use information.

For example, if I am designing a bridge and need certain physical constant, if I find that constant in the Wikipedia (or K5 post) I would not use it. I need higher credibility. I would even hesitate to use figures I found in Brittanica. I would trust the CRC handbook or other engineering references. The same would probably go for academic journal papers, where I would be most likely to cite prior journal articles.

If I were publishing a newspaper article, the relative credibility of Brittanica over Wikipedia would make it much more useful and sufficient for background research.

If I were writing a book, regurgitating the information in the encyclopedia hardly justifies my existence. But it might be a starting point for research. Used this way, an encyclopedia is a switching station on the way to other sources of information. This is the way in which the Wikipedia excels, and in my view it can have complementary value to real encylopedias.

The wheels of credibilty, if they are to grind fine, must grind exceedingly slowly. Thus if I needed to research nanotechnology, or a recently proved mathematical conjecture, a proper encyclopedia is useless. Wikipedia, however, might be highly useful as a starting point.

Just so long as I don't use anything I find there to design bridges.

[ Parent ]

It's all about the context (none / 1) (#338)
by philstaite on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 09:51:29 AM EST

The Wikipedia claims to be an online encyclopaedia.

According to dictionary.com, the definition of an encyclopaedia is:

"A comprehensive reference work containing articles on a wide range of subjects or on numerous aspects of a particular field, usually arranged alphabetically."

From the same source, the definition of a reference work is:

"A book to which you can refer for authoritative facts"

If those definitions are accepted, then we can re-state the aim of the Wikipedia as to be a comprehensive collection of authoritative facts on a wide range of subjects.

The key phrase here is authoritative facts; without those, the Wikipedia is NOT an encyclopaedia, it's just an online collection of writing..

So, how do you ensure that you only have authoritative facts? Ensure they are checked by experts in the relevant field, which seems to me to be a pretty good definition of the peer review process.

[ Parent ]
Sure, and Britannica claims to be authoritative (3.00 / 2) (#343)
by jolly st nick on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 10:00:50 AM EST

But I'd sure like to see the articles on colonialism and eugenics from the late nineteenth century editions.

The point is that there is no such thing as absolute authoritativeness, in the sense of anything that merits complete trust in itself as a sole source of information. Authoritativeness comes in degrees, admittedly Wikipeida and Britannica occupy opposite ends of the spectrum.

Really, any data souce should only be sufficiently authoritative for a particular purpose. The idea that a source of informaiton can be considered "authoritative" enough for any purpose is a result of a defective education system, which does not teach what for want of a better term I'll call "information literacy". A data source may be authoritative enough to be accepted in a school paper, but that doesn't constitute ulitmate authoritativeness.

So, how do you ensure that you only have authoritative facts? Ensure they are checked by experts in the relevant field, which seems to me to be a pretty good definition of the peer review process.

If you want to play the definition game, there are no "authoritative facts". There are facts and non-facts on one hand, and on the other hand assertions about what is factual or non-factual that vary in degree of authority.

In the end, however, you have to to go to original sources for things that matter. If I were a college professor and you turned in a paper on Marx that cited the encylopedia, I'd hand it back and tell you to at least read The Communist Manifesto.

[ Parent ]

Peer reviews are not even close to perfect (3.00 / 4) (#320)
by dgrant on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 02:25:58 PM EST

"The peer review process, i.e. when an article is reviewed by recognised experts, is the only thing that guarantees an academic article's validity."

Sorry, I guess you've never gone through the peer review process before, or at least never through a flawed peer review process. I've submitted a paper before which was total crap and the peer review process was a total joke. It got submitted and I got my paper. Woohoo, now I can put that on my scholarship applications.

I wouldn't ever trust a peer review process.

Another peer review process which is a total joke: thesis review. Professors/supervisors never read the whole thesis, nor do have half a clue what you actually did, unless they were directly involved with your work, or if their limited sphere of knowledge directly overlaps with your own. The other professors/examiners who read the thesis read even less, and understand even less. It becomes an exercise in signing their name on the dotted line, nothing less.

[ Parent ]

Peer review process (none / 1) (#335)
by philstaite on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 07:58:12 AM EST

"I've submitted a paper before which was total crap and the peer review process was a total joke." Well, what journal did you submit it to? Or was your peer review process some college/society run thing?

[ Parent ]
Wrong. (none / 1) (#370)
by Eivind on Mon Jan 10, 2005 at 07:12:30 AM EST

The peer review process in no way whatsoever guarantees the validity of an academic article. If it wasn't clear to everyone before, certainly it should be after Alan Sokal.

At best the peer review process gives reasonable assurance that the article is free of errors obvious to other experts in the field. That's all. There are literally tons of articles that passed peer-review, yet turned out to be doneky-turd.

Yes, peer-review, when used properly, can contribute to increase the average quality of published articles. It cannot however guarantee anything whatsoever, certainly not that all published articles are "valid" (for whatever definition of 'valid' you want to apply)

[ Parent ]

Wikipedia vetting (3.00 / 8) (#312)
by fuzzyeric on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 11:03:55 AM EST

It is common to portray and perceive academic topics as cut and dried, dessicated remnants of research from which all the humanity has been removed. While this impersonal (or perhaps, anti-personal) style has been common since the mid-1800s (and somewhat earlier), it is not the only style. Perhaps we might grasp that the Wikipedia more accurately reflects the nature of human knowledge -- multi-faceted, sweaty, and very poorly pigeonholed, somewhat like a bazaar. This may not make it more accurate in the eyes of an expert who has already invested in a collection of particular viewpoints. It is, however, a vastly more accurate representation of the nature of human knowledge than the dry representations which are common in encyclopedias. Certainly, it is the desire of the monk, steeped in the tradition of the Cathedral to cant the dogma in hushed and reverent tones and to present the work as that of the impersonal deity or church. Thus, the expert demands deference.

Contrariwise, it is clearly the case that while everyone may have their opinions on an issue, the vast majority of people are too ignorant to justify their certitude. Heck, half of all drivers are below average, but rather fewer than that seem to think that they are. (Source: various statistics with varying degrees of credibility that universally support the statement. Heh.) At a minimum, the desired goal suffers from a bootstrapping problem: there's no objective way to detect expertise. The only alternative, it would seem would to be allow users to specify who they think experts are and allow them to only see articles and edits by their supposed experts.

A particular failure of the wiki is the absence of a mechanism for representing that there are sharply divided expert factions for an issue and representing that a collection of (sub-) articles presents a survey of viewpoints. I.e., not sections in an article, a set of (sub-) articles referenced or transcluded into an article indicating multiple viewpoints. In this context, users may then select their expert(s) and only see positions espoused by their expert(s). Similarly, articles can be marked as "accepted" by a user's delegated expert and therefore is qualified for presentation to the user.

In other words... There's no objective mechanism for recognizing experts, especially on a topic new to the encylopedia. There's no mechanism for nonrepudiation of entries that may or may not have been submitted by the person signing them. There is not even a clear definition of expert. It would seem that the best that can be done is the specification of "my experts" or "my delegate for refereeing articles".

The reviewed restriction of the Wikipedia that you want to make is entirely in that camp. However, instead of the user indicating whom they believe, they are required to believe that the editors have made the correct choices. Maybe so and maybe not. This again would be trying to predict the future.

Yay for self-censorship! (none / 0) (#402)
by saturnight on Sun Mar 27, 2005 at 04:33:09 PM EST

"In this context, users may then select their expert(s) and only see positions espoused by their expert(s). Similarly, articles can be marked as "accepted" by a user's delegated expert and therefore is qualified for presentation to the user."

You mean like conservatives* choose to only watch fox news and watch a load of neocon bullshit being spewed by some "expert"?
And liberals** get their information from www.democratic-underground.com where "experts" are busy comparing Bush to Hitler?
What a great idea!

*Some conservatives, not all!
*Some liberals, not all!

[ Parent ]

Sanger is off his rocker (2.12 / 8) (#317)
by dgrant on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 02:11:45 PM EST

First of all, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written BY the people who read it, FOR the people who read it. If there it no article on some Philosophy topic, or if there is some very basic article in its place, then clearly there is no demand from the readership for such an aritcle. If someone is appalled by the lack of said article, then he or she should write one, otherwise I think the readers will be in ignorant bliss about the non-existence of said article.

Secondly, I have never experienced this anti-elitism you speak of. Maybe you went looking for it and found it, only after looking hard because you wanted to find it. I once corrected a bunch of articles written by a particular guy, because they weren't factually correct. I was an expert in the particular field of the articles and I corrected him. At first he was hesitant to believe me, but I proved my points on the Discussion board of one article, and he gained my respect. He also had a background in physics, and was a smart guy, and thus was able to understand the corrections I had made to the articles. Lastly, I have written several articles from scratch, which almost no one has touched. Clearly I am the only expert in those areas so far. I don't see anyone deleted my articles or doubting my expertise.

Are you the quack that tried to start Nupedia? That was an elitist project that was doomed from the start, whereas Wikipedia, an a-elitist (neither elitist nor anti-elitist) project was destined to floorish.

Too tame ... let Peahippo continue. (2.00 / 9) (#332)
by Peahippo on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 02:41:28 AM EST

Dear Mr. Sanger:

I hope you are reading K5 since I really want you to get my message.

Look, twitboi, the era of Approved Knowledge is OVER. The Internet is providing expression to anyone who can type something into a computer. Oh, don't you like that? TOO FUCKING BAD.

I don't know about you, assface, but I laugh myself silly when I see the "history" texts that are being shoved in the faces of schoolchildren. Those books aren't just lacking in detail; they are completely wrong. In short, they are written by committees of scared little White Western Judeo-Christians like yourself, who want to paint a picture of the world completely lacking in your own, immense shortcomings. After all, you don't want to raise the next generation to conclude all those stocks you have for sale are worthless, do you? You need the next generation of suckers to cash you out. You need to keep that cheap immigrant labor working in your fields, picking your food. You need to keep that foreign slave labor working studiously away, making your cheapo gadgets. In short, you need to maintain the inherently unfair and highly militarized status quo, where America alone consumes 20% of the world's resources (if energy consumption is any indicator) for the benefit of just 5% of the world's population.

If you don't like Wiki's biases (and everybody has 'em), assgoblin, then start your own fucking "Sangerpedia". Make sure -- what with all your righteous indignation -- to boldy tell your Sangerpedia readers that the information provided is a product of a stringent review process by "professionals". Bask in the glory of all the confidence that you'll gather. And then watch your silly enterprise fall into the "trashbin of history" itself, since Approved Knowledge is just another name for PROPAGANDA ... and propaganda is in the business of promoting fiction, not reality.

We will know the truth by the war cries and smoke issued by the battles over it ... not on the dispatches from the front for consumption back home. All this brouhaha over Wiki is the best thing for it. To be fair to you AND Wiki, go ahead and complain all you like ... it's better to know the "other side", no matter how wacko, wrong, and absurdly demented it is.


[ Parent ]
Trust (2.87 / 8) (#321)
by vadim on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 03:53:38 PM EST

There several things here. First of all, who cares what the perception is? We should be more concerned about the reality. Second, Wikipedia perhaps can't be fully trusted. But so what?

Here's the thing. Perhaps it would be useful to live by the strict standards followed to securely verify PGP signatures, but nobody in practice does. There is actually very little you can seriously trust. For instance, take encyclopedias.

Let's take a look at the one on my shelf. It's made by some company called "Plaza & Janes", who I honestly have no idea who they are. It was bought after a door to door salesman (whose name I ignore) convinced my parents years ago it was a good thing to have for our homework. Apparently, it's endorsed by the University of Salamanca. While not very far from Madrid, Istill can't say I know what kind of place that is. I have no clue of what this endorsement means, either.

Surely it's been written by some competent people, though. Or so I would hope. The small list of names is completely useless to me. Two of them look like they were involved in the production of the text, the rest did something else. Surely this huge thing couldn't have been written by just two people, and if it was I doubt they know that much about it. A list of trusted experts is nowhere to be seen.

Why do I trust the contents of this thing? Well, after thinking about it, the best I can come up with is the same reason why I trust my bank's website: because it's got a signature from Verisign (who I hear bad things about), and Microsoft (who I dislike) trusts Verisign and included its certificates on the Windows CD, and I trusted Microsoft not to screw up... that is, not really sure why.

Okay, enough about that. Now let's try Wikipedia instead. It's clearly visible it's a collaborative project. It is writtenby a huge number I never heard about either. And it even has big disclaimers about the content.

However. First of all, I like the fact this is all being made clear to me. Second, unlike with the paper encyclopedia, I can actually develop some trust in it, oddly enough. For instance, I can go to the talk page and see if there's some controversy. I can also see who made what modifications and develop some trust in the authors. Granted, that's one messy and lengthy thing to do.

Third, I can actually complain, discuss, and/or fix things. If it turns out my paper encyclopedia says something that I consider obviously wrong, I have no recourse. Oh sure, I could try calling the producer, and wouldn't get anywhere, except ifit was some extremely outrageous issue the press would decide to discuss. It's not like bias is hard to introduce. Take religion for instance, plenty room there. Say, I'm sure there are plenty people who believe an encyclopedia should point somepeople think God doesn't exist. But my encyclopedia doesn't seem to include that, it merely describes the concept and various gods.

Now, of course Wikipedia isn't perfect. There's some bad stuff in it, and there will always be. However, I believe there are advantages to that approach. It doesn't try to be some kind of authoritative source, made by experts that aren't even listed anywhere. It doesn't hide disagreements. That's one reason why I use it a lot more often than the one on the shelf.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.

Wikipedia is not an academic resource. (2.75 / 8) (#340)
by Russell Dovey on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 01:50:28 PM EST

Wikipedia is the world's first serious attempt at a  fully-automated many-to-many distributed teaching system. It's a teacher! It's not meant to support your thesis!

It's meant to help you learn about anything you want to, and allow you to teach other people about things in return.

I see this as the most important function of Wikipedia, one that is sadly overlooked because it is so obvious.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

What's up with the media blitz? (1.25 / 8) (#341)
by Sesquipundalian on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 11:01:54 PM EST

Since when does anyone care what fccking Larry Sanger thinks? I mean really? Everybody just started hating wikipedia in the last two weeks? This is like the 12th place I've seen the same crap about wikipedia being bad and I honestly don't get it. All of the anti-wikipedia sentiment I read here and in those other forums just ammounts to a huge pile of really lame whining about something that is A) good and B) free. Wutupwidat?

Any chance that someone with anti-wikipedia adgenda could just speak up and enlighten us as to what's really going on here? You know, something like; "Hi I'm a <INSERT tenured proff at XYZ University/ Executive at the Rand corporation/ one of the aliens from Area 51/ representative of 'da man HERE> and I'm experiencing a freak episode of self loathing because I'm such an anti-social jerk off and this is why I hate wikipedia and anything else that helps people for free..."

Come on, we'll all rate your comments very highly and you'll feel sooooo popular!


Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
Somebody sees it as a threat (3.00 / 3) (#344)
by vadim on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 03:33:06 PM EST

That might be it. Britannica and perhaps the academia might be getting a bit worried that Wikipedia could be considered good enough by the general public.

I'm one example. I don't pay for Britannica. I have a web keyword in Konqueror instead, which I use extensively. That is, I type "wp:coffee" in the URL bar and get the coffee page. The existence of Wikipedia is a significant reason not to subscribe to a commercial one.

I do this with good knowledge of what using Wikipedia implies. I'm guessing Britannica and the academia are worried about that the general public will choose Wikipedia over them, simply because it's free, and looks good enough, and that by making enough noise and trying to discredit Wikipedia they can hold on to a decent piece of them. In part I'd say this is not a bad thing, but the criticism of Wikipedia does seem to be going a bit overboard lately. Reminds me a bit of the noise Microsoft makes about Linux.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Dismiss opposing views as conspiracy? [n/t] (none / 1) (#393)
by quanta on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 06:42:34 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Not conspiracy, collusion. (none / 0) (#396)
by Sesquipundalian on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 07:57:45 PM EST


Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
[ Parent ]
Whats that noise? (1.75 / 4) (#342)
by largo on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 08:16:21 AM EST

Oh, its the sound the point makes as you miss it by miles and whizz straight by.

Point 1 - You sound like a whinger, who's just annoyed because a bunch of internet nobodies didn't show sufficient respect to your shiny Phd. You may have a serious point, but whinging like a big girl isn't going to win you any friends.

Point 2 - You want a source of reference thats compiled professionally by experts? Hello, its called an encyclopedia. Wikipedia. Encyclopedia. Notice the subtle difference in spelling? Like astrology and zoology. Gee, do you think they could be different things?

Wikipedia is something entirely new - an attempt to see if accuracy can be arrived at through consensus - an implementation of the wisdom of crowds, if you will. Having any kind of editing or oversight process would render the whole thing totally pointless, and result in a free, rather crap encylopedia. As it is, I wouldn't necessarily trust the facts in Wikipedia as far as I could comfortably spit a rat, but I still think its a fascinating experiment.

you say wikipedia, they say encyclopedia (none / 1) (#357)
by ph0rk on Sat Jan 08, 2005 at 12:37:12 AM EST

I thought Wikipedia -was- a free encyclopedia; (hell, their tagline is even Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia).

If they want to be seen as a reference work (which is what any encyclopedia is) then they must work on their credibility.

If they just want to be an ego-stroking excercise/experimental project, then they may remain as they are.

I don't really see how deferring to an expert on law enforcement or law or biology when there is controversy would hurt; within reason (and assuming Wikipedia administrators verify the alleged experts credentials).  Most professions and disciplines have a system for recognising professionals.

I would imagine most people would prefer even debates between a lawyer and an ornery layperson who just watched Law and Order be settled in favor of the lawyer (yet still open to review).

on the other hand; wikipedia's dynamic nature make it nearly worthless as a citation, so I suppose the discussion is largely moot.
.

[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]

When reality comes calling (none / 1) (#380)
by epepke on Tue Jan 11, 2005 at 02:05:22 PM EST

If they want to be seen as a reference work (which is what any encyclopedia is) then they must work on their credibility.

If they just want to be an ego-stroking excercise/experimental project, then they may remain as they are.

Many social experiments, from Communism to Calvinism, face this.

First, someone gets an idealistic urge that is different from the common way of doing things. Hey, this or that would really solve all those problems!

Then they do it.

Then (surprise, surprise) they discover that it isn't as solid gold an idea as had been planned.

Then they try to fix it by making it more like the common way of doing things.

Then it falls apart.

I like wikipedia. I really do. You'll find little esoteric bits that you won't find anywhere else, and you can then look those up. It's a great source for starting research, but it's useless for ending it.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Spike the Canon! Credibility is a Continuum (1.80 / 5) (#346)
by redelm on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 07:24:29 PM EST

First, congrats Larry. Second, take a chillpill.

Wiki shatters publishing paradigms in much the same way as USENET, blogs, Linux & the Internet itself. All these egalitairian/network developments are deeply threatening to the establishment in/out model and have been called unreliable or worse. I loved the Britannica editurd's whinge. Reliability is a canard for it is purchased dearly at the price of omissions. NYT vs Drudge. Linux vs MS-Windows.

Trolls can be a problem best handled by things like Karma/metamod (USENET works without it) and growing some skin. In my experience, true experts are very confident in themselves, ignore the drooling trolls and actually enjoy the more cogent challengers. Only the posers gripe over form or credentials.



This is so amusing! (3.00 / 2) (#367)
by gzunk on Sun Jan 09, 2005 at 07:57:25 PM EST

All this talk about how the establishment is threatened by all this new stuff that we do is amusing.

Wikipedia doesn't threaten traditional encyclopedias, because very few people outside of the Wikiepedia fraternity take it seriously.

You might think you are changing the world, but if you actually look outside your own clique, to other people, you'll see that they don't care about you - or about what you believe so passionately.

You cannot relate USENET, blogs, Linux and the Internet to anything that "threatens" the establishment.

USENET is a bulletin board which is now almost useless owing to spam/porn. It doesn't threaten the status quo, commonly it's an amusing diversion for people and at worst it's a way for terrorists to communicate anonymously - as if there weren't other ways.

Blogs are a way for self-important people to write things that they hope other people will read. Judge for yourself the quality of the blogs that are out there. Why are they doing this? Do they really know what's happening or do they just like the attention?

Linux is an operating system, no more, no less. It has a certain appeal because of the mode of its development, but that's not Linux, that's Free / Open Source software.

The Internet. Well, as a government (establishment) sponsered project it's done really well.

Wikipedia doesn't fail because it threatens the establishment, it fails because it's not as good as the "establishment" alternatives.

[ Parent ]
Ghandi: First they laugh at you ... (none / 1) (#387)
by redelm on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 10:48:24 AM EST

I'm afraid you misread my tone. It's not "let's attack the establishment", but rather "they don't even understand what's coming". I rather regret it, because there is a lot of valuable knowledge in "The Establishment" that will wind up stranded.

It does not matter what experts think of Wiki. What matters is what it's users think. I see rapid growth, and a development model that scales well. Ditto for the other developments. They're different from their predecessors, but effective once you learn to work them.



[ Parent ]

If this were Wikipedia... (none / 0) (#397)
by kindall on Thu Jan 27, 2005 at 03:24:31 PM EST

... I could have corrected your spelling of Gandhi!

[ Parent ]
Mental Vomit Regarding Wikipedia (1.00 / 2) (#354)
by noise on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 07:26:03 PM EST

True revolutions become standards...at least for a bit. Reality is cool and all... but the interface sucks.

Effect on Undergraduates (2.50 / 4) (#360)
by jcg on Sat Jan 08, 2005 at 02:55:03 PM EST

The Britannica is not a perfect encyclopedia, but I believe it's probably the best available in English. I'd say that most undergraduates across the country have, with a little effort, access to the on-line version. More than 90% of them, I'd guess, would go first and probably only to wikipedia for their encyclopedia-based needs. For many subjects, the information they'll find is considerably inferior. And for most of those, I don't see it getting better.

is that so? (3.00 / 2) (#388)
by Delirium on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 03:48:05 AM EST

In computer science and mathematics, Wikipedia is considerably better than Britannica, both in terms of breadth and accuracy.

[ Parent ]
On reference works and expert opinions (3.00 / 8) (#361)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sat Jan 08, 2005 at 11:22:16 PM EST

Too many people have answered this essay by saying something like "Experts can be wrong or biased."  Yeah, no shit.  How come I never thought of that?

Anyway, getting back to the point, I will contend that these people are making two fundamental mistakes.  

First think they're getting wrong: an encyclopedia is a reference work, not a research work.  The way I'm using the words "reference" and "research" here is the following: reference work provides useful reports of expert opinion; research work (e.g. papers in peer-reviewed specialist journals) aims to improve expert opinion.

This translates into this discussion as follows: there is much talk (on both the pro and the contra side) about the "accuracy" of Wikipedia.  This is ambiguous, because there are two different ways in which a reference work can be said to be "accurate":

  1. It accurately reflects the truth.
  2. It accurately reflects expert opinion.

A lot of the things experts on some field believe today will turn out to be wrong.  Still, the job of an encyclopedia is to report those things, not to correct them.  A common problem with Wikipedia is that somebody will edit an article to say something that goes counter to expert opinion, and claim those opinions are wrong.  My point is that it is wrong for reference work to report those opinions, even if in the future it turns out that it was correct.

Now, the second mistake, which has to do with bias: a biased expert's opinion can still be very valuable.  Here's an example.  In the late 1920's, the Encyclopedia Britannica commissioned Edmund Husserl to write an article on Phenomenology, a philosophical school that Husserl himself had founded.  It goes without saying that Husserl was not exactly unbiased when it came to this topic-- he founded the phenomenological school.   The historical record, in fact, shows him to be biased: he at first asked his pupil Martin Heidegger to coauthor the piece with him, and when disagreements started to pop up, essentially ditched him.

So, the article was certainly biased.  Now, a very important question: was it useful?  Hell yes.  Even if it was an opinion that was not shared by everybody in the school, it was a very useful opinion to have set down.

There's a third thing I wish to stress: good editing is really important.  A lot of people have been eager to point out that just because you assign an article to an expert, that doesn't mean you'll get a good article.  Well, duh, you don't tell me.  The answer to this strawman, however, is that an encyclopedia is, to a large part, only as good as its editorial team is.  And one of the important tasks of editors is to figure out which experts are the ones that are good for handing out articles to.  Not any expert will produce a good article: after all, experts are primarily trained to produce research, not to write reference works.  Still, some of them will be good enough, especially under the guidance of a good editorial team.

--em

So where does Google fit in? (3.00 / 2) (#372)
by jolly st nick on Mon Jan 10, 2005 at 04:40:07 PM EST

Clearly, you can't take any page returned by a Google search as accurately reflecting the truth itself or expert opinion on the truth.

Yet despite this it is extremely useful, possibly even indispensible, but certainly not sufficient.

Personally, no longer being a student and not being an academic, searching the Wiki is more of an entertainment for me than anything else (for that matter getting lost in a real encyclopedia). However, if I were to consider wikipedia's potential usefulness as a research tool, it would certainly not be to provide either comprehensive or authoritative data. However, it could play a role as a kind of information nexus.

For example, I've been mulling over creating a K5 article on Shabbatai Zevi. I've done some reading on his life, and it turns out the Wikipedia article on him is pretty good. But the real usage to me is that it also points me in several other directions to look for topical material. For example it mentions a potential influence of Engish Millenarianism on Zevi's father. Now this can't be taken as reliable fact; its speculation. But it does offer a some food for thought and futher research.

[ Parent ]

Wikipedia and intellectual laziness (2.00 / 4) (#376)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Jan 11, 2005 at 12:45:57 AM EST

But the real usage to me is that it also points me in several other directions to look for topical material. For example it mentions a potential influence of Engish Millenarianism on Zevi's father. Now this can't be taken as reliable fact; its speculation. But it does offer a some food for thought and futher research.

Why do you need Wikipedia for this?  And if Wikipedia is your major means to do this, don't you think that reflects badly on the seriousness of your interest?

If you really want a lot of pointers, there's tons of much better things you can do.  Like, go to a good academic library (plenty will let you in even if you're not a student there), figure out where in the stacks the relevant books are found, and then just go there and thumb through every single one of them.  Pay particular attention to bibliographies.  Take notes.  Even if you only go through a fraction of the relevant books, you're guaranteed to find all sorts of pointers.

The fact is that the net, contrary to all these pronouncements about providing so much information, is making people very intellectually lazy.  Too many people's idea of "research" today is "type stuff into Google and read the results."  Sure, that can get you quite a bit of information-- but not nearly all.  

--em
[ Parent ]

For some academics (2.33 / 3) (#377)
by cronian on Tue Jan 11, 2005 at 03:24:55 AM EST

They have this idea of research where you just search in a library, find stuff, and write bullshit about it. They don't understand how to do real research. The library has made people lazy.

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
Of course you don't NEED it. (3.00 / 2) (#378)
by jolly st nick on Tue Jan 11, 2005 at 10:10:27 AM EST

You don't need Google either.

It's not like people couldn't think before the Internet was invented.

If you really want a lot of pointers, there's tons of much better things you can do. Like, go to a good academic library (plenty will let you in even if you're not a student there), figure out where in the stacks the relevant books are found, and then just go there and thumb through every single one of them.

Sure, I live in Boston, and I could sneak into one of the many college libraries to do research (althouh I haven't tried ths post 9/11). But sometimes it's fun just to strap on your intellectual roller skates and go for a ride.

Pay particular attention to bibliographies. Take notes. Even if you only go through a fraction of the relevant books, you're guaranteed to find all sorts of pointers.

Blah blah blah. <sarcasm>Thanks! I'd never have thought of doing those things on my own.</sarcasm>

This reminds me of a story. My wife had a roommate in college who grew up on a farm. She had a farm girl expression for somebody who was a bit too uptight, "She has a corncob up her ass."

[ Parent ]

but it is all there, if your field doesn't suck (none / 1) (#391)
by Delirium on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 04:02:31 AM EST

In some fields, people have the good sense to put the articles they write as PDFs on the internet.

[ Parent ]
entirely wrong (3.00 / 2) (#390)
by Delirium on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 04:00:52 AM EST

Wikipedia is not to provide a summary of expert opinion, but to provide a summary of total opinion. Expert opinion is to be included and labeled as such. If this were 1960, we would point out that psychiatry experts consider homosexuality a mental illness, but that would not be the entirety of the [[homosexuality]] article—we would also point out the activists who claim the experts are wrong.

[ Parent ]
Community or Encyclopedia? (2.22 / 9) (#362)
by cribcage on Sun Jan 09, 2005 at 03:35:24 AM EST

Sanger's analysis is accurate. Moreover, these problems are cyclical: People refuse to take Wikipedia seriously because of its community problems, and its community problems are tolerated under the laissez-faire attitude that comes with not being taken seriously.

The underlying problem is that Wikipedia behaves as a community. Members call themselves "Wikipedians." They hold online elections and real-life meetups, and gossip with each other in IRC and on mailing lists. They're more interested in being a community than in building an encyclopedia.

This attitude breeds the anti-elitism Sanger criticizes. Participation is prioritized above knowledge. Many articles remain in constant battle because the community insists on treating all opinions as equal. They obsess over method to the detriment of the result. Accuracy, as a goal, takes a back seat behind the aim of representing different points of view. And because Wikipedia is seen as a third-rate reference, no one feels compelled to raise the bar.

It isn't a problem with the concept of an open-source encyclopedia. It's a specific problem with Wikipedia.

crib

Please don't read my journal.
Community Feel (1.50 / 2) (#371)
by Halden on Mon Jan 10, 2005 at 12:48:35 PM EST

Wikipedia's community feel is both what I love and hate about it. When I have a question at work one of the first sources of information are my co-workers. They maybe right or wrong but I ask them. This is how I feel about Wikipedia. As for a disregard of expertise I haven't seen it on Wikipedia but I could see how experts could be Troll bait and there in lies the rub.
"...aol.com, the cyberspace neighborhood of parents and children but never of students, hackers, or people who actually work in high-tech." -- Neal Stephenson Halden Johnson DOT net
[ Parent ]
Can someone change that first link? (1.00 / 3) (#365)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Sun Jan 09, 2005 at 04:31:55 PM EST

Larry forgot to add a http:// to the start of it.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
wtf? (none / 0) (#382)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Tue Jan 11, 2005 at 05:01:52 PM EST

Why did I get a zero? I'm pointing out an error on a FP story!

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
Opinions may get deleted- but facts often stay. (2.00 / 3) (#373)
by swisswuff on Mon Jan 10, 2005 at 05:40:42 PM EST

It is certainly correct to deplore "lack of professionalism" of some kind when discussing Wikipedia content. But then, professionalism in terms of knowledge is different for Wikipedia than it is for a specialized professional dictionary. Wikipedia connects "the common people" and the "trained people", it connects everybody with the few, the amateurs with the profis. It opens doors into new subjects. Wikipedia is where we all meet to exchange knowledge - to write, to read. There is nothing more important today than a portal for professionals to post and to read easily understandable information. If Wikipedia can explain a concept in simple terms, it succeeds. If Wikipedia can offer the correct keywords for anyone to continue a websearch using, say, scholar.google.com, or other literature databases or search engines, it succeeds. If Wikipedia forces an academic to explain something very carefully, it succeeds. If Wikipedia is able to provide the so-called "academics" with a system that they can use to work out their differences - and Wikipedia is far better at that than, say, writing E-mails is -, then Wikipedia succeeds. It is an illusion to believe that academics - or groups of academics - are less prone to trolling when it comes to views they oppose, than "normal people". Even academics tend to have a hard time to distinguish pure information - which is what Wikipedia should be about - and personal opinion or biased information. Such opinion or biased information is typically content on Wikipedia which anyone may delete freely. If anything, an opinion will survive on Wikipedia if it is argued well - but raw facts, clear details, will probably always stay in Wikipedia. It goes without saying that any commonly understandable information always is degraded - from any perfectionist point of view. That is the essence of a good explanation easy to understand, but it is also the essence of a perfectionist, that such apparent degradation could be inherent, to a certain degree, to good explanations. Wikipedia, however, has this great role of acting as a link for new areas of knowledge. Wikipedia can definitely help you getting started on a research project by providing correctly typed keywords, rough ideas about a subject or names of key players. That is quite good for a free project that features peer review on an all accessible basis.

So we all agree, there should be only one book! (3.00 / 6) (#375)
by nomentanus on Mon Jan 10, 2005 at 09:20:30 PM EST

Everyone disagrees about what the online encylopedia should be like, but everybody seems to agree that just one will do. This is just as absurd as saying that there should be one book in the world, and that anything more is confusing. Yet all those scrapping here seem to be in agreement about what seems to me most false - that one Wiki source of knowledge is enough.

There should be many forks to accomplish many different things. There should be expert encylopedias under strict conservative editorial control. There should be strictly academic (and non-academic) wikis where disagreement and novelty are fostered (call it progress). There should be wikis where those without "the right degree" who know, and have found that the academics are all wet, can post without being over-written as well.

Academic wikis would likely be very conservative and skip over a lot of knowledge, but I want to be able to go to one, being reasonably sure it's accurately sourced and contains what's well known. (That's not the same as being accurate or complete.) I also want the rest of the story, and views that aren't academically fashionable right now - anyone who's been in the academe knows that the winds of what's fashionable blow very strongly there, and often change suddenly.

So I also want some place to exist where ideas can filter up from whoever has them - academics already have a way to spread their knowledge and hypotheses. And I would like to see various technologies for weighing and valuing contributions to develop, and keep changing. That's a lot of forks, so let's get to it!

Just one book? NO WAY!

As for my experiences with Wikipedia, their "Neutral Point of View" so often becomes "the general uninformed prejudice on the matter". In one case what I wrote (taken from the book Black Hawk Down) was censored because it wasn't in the movie Black Hawk Down by people who probably didn't know there had been a book from which the movie was derived! That's sinking to an awfully low common denominator.

I won't be back to Wikipedia if there's any alternative, but it's been a brave and useful pioneer. Unfortunately, other similar projects such as Everything2.com seem to have copied this error and are far more likely to censor truths that contrast mere general prejudice and leave in anything that repeats commonly held fallacies. The internet should be doing more than just this - say some of the work Mersenne did, centuries ago. (Better trace back through deltas and identifiable authorship might help with this as well as a tolerance for novelty, originality or original discoveries.)

Let a thousand Wikis bloom, Google and it's successors will have to sort them out - which is a whole other discussion.

derived wiki (none / 1) (#386)
by Nyarlathotep on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 10:11:49 AM EST

This would be easy to accomplish if the wiki's would make a convienient "sharing" protocoll which could be used to mirror, extract, or derive, i.e. I can set up my own wiki which is a mirror for your wiki, but I can also make it a filter for your wiki.. and you can reextract any content of mine which extends yours.  Of course, all wikis should respect one anothers content, and display the wiki from which it was taken.

Lacking such a sharing protocol.  Your thousand wikis will just compeat based on stupid principles (name recognission and historically large number of enteries), and not based on surperior policies.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]

On the subject of E2... (2.00 / 2) (#392)
by Gartogg on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 05:05:29 PM EST

You compared Everything2.com to Wikipedia, which is very unfair to both, in my opinion (I contribute to both, occasionally in each case.) on E2, very very rarely is a well written, informed piece that goes against public opinion destroyed; frequently, however, if it goes against public opinion strongly, on some topics, it is not a winning proposition as a post. (Though it will still normally not be deleted.)

The problem is that it is rather unfair to compare the two; E2 has evolved into a community that produces vey original, amzingly insightful, and sometime "merely" factual but well written work. In general, the drive there seems to be more art than fact, which gives it a very different slant; I wouldn't necessarily go to E2 for a report, but for an interesting, if possibily rather strange perspective on soy, it just might be the perfect resource.

[ Parent ]

Wikipedia corrupts the morals of youth (2.25 / 4) (#379)
by jolly st nick on Tue Jan 11, 2005 at 10:21:45 AM EST

Which is probably the next argument we'll be hearing.

There's a certain population in K5 that will take a story, which might be reasonably well written but at the end of the day is just a blog entry after all, and kick it to death because it's not a friggin dissertation. It's inevitable that a story like this brings them swarming out of the woodworks.

What's the thing that really sticks in their craws? Simple:

Wikipedia is too much fun.

I mean, for chrissakes, you'd think the Wikipedia was going to put Brittanica and LexisNexis out of business.

Now, if we're not worried about that particular outcome, we might have a discussion about how Wikipedia could be made more useful (or even *gasp* more fun).

funny. (1.50 / 2) (#395)
by yllugkcin on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 08:16:51 PM EST

There isn't even an Anti Elitism topic yet in wikipedia.

As a Dear Friend (TM) of Larry Sanger (1.33 / 3) (#399)
by The Cunctator on Sun Feb 06, 2005 at 12:30:46 AM EST

LMS refers obliquely and extensively to the problems he claims existed at the time of his leaving Wikipedia. Let's go to the videotape: I refer interested parties to [[The Cunctator/Bias Talk]] to see LMS's freak-out (IMHO--I believe he would label it something like trying to call a troll a troll) before he left the project. Unfortunately a lot of the related matter linked from the above page got eaten in the Great PHP Shift in 2002.

I also want to say this for the sake of the virtual history books: LMS leaving Wikipedia because the postion got defunded is much like an administration official resigning for personal reasons, to spend more time with his family, yadda yadda.

Since it would be rude and anti-elistist to call LMS a shmuck, I'll just say that he was the right man to start Wikipedia but was the wrong man to lead it once it left the starting gates and is utterly unqualified to make any knowledgable criticism of the project.

Wikipedia - why it will fail (2.80 / 5) (#400)
by Robert Brookes on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 11:28:27 PM EST

In summary (and I borrow phrases and sentences from what others have posted on the matter): From metasquares: "What I have seen is a community that grants recognition and status to its members based not on expertise, but rather on time." From cribcage: "The underlying problem is that Wikipedia behaves as a community. Members call themselves "Wikipedians." They hold online elections and real-life meetups, and gossip with each other in IRC and on mailing lists. They're more interested in being a community than in building an encyclopedia." The anti-elitism talks about is cultivated and desperately defended as it allows just about anyone with absolutely no qualifications who have a lot of time on their hands to become community "insiders" and control the activities of others. Who cares if anyone is reading the articles the wikipedians are having fun, right? Expertise and the amount of time required to become a respected member of the Wikipedia community are mutually exclusive. This demand for time screens out experts and allows officious (and oh so self important) bureaucrats with dubious qualifications to control the process. Kids, students (with either no social skills or no real academic commitment - with as a result lots of time), dossers and assorted unemployed or minimum wage bums have the one ingredient required to make it up the Wikipedia hierarchy ... time. As time passes the expertise level settles on the lowest possible common denominator. Without expertise Wikipedia will eventually self destruct. The process has already started ... the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Rules, expertise, and encyclopedic standards (3.00 / 3) (#401)
by Robert Brookes on Sun Mar 06, 2005 at 03:03:49 AM EST

This (below) is from a person 172 who was desysoped on Wikipedia:
I'd like to use the above claification as a chance to illustrate my salient point concerning expertise. My frustration was never that I'd failed to receive sufficient deference from 'non-experts'; the root of the problem was never my treatment. The problem is that there are mechanisms for enforcing some policies but not others.
Wikipedia has a court reprimanding users for breaking the 3RR and making personal attacks. But it lacks an authority reprimanding users for chronically undermining Wikipedia's progress with original research, POV nonsense, and ungrammatical prose. My suggestion on Wikipedia:Forum for Encyclopedic Standards was an alternative arbitration committee with public credibility, composed of qualified encyclopedists who have the calhones not to edit anonymously. (Such a review board would "kill two birds with one stone": making Wikipedia more "expert"-friendly and solidifying its public credibility.) However, other people may have better ideas, and my suggestion is certainly not the only one on the table warranting attention.
Since the behavior of contributors is influenced by the options afforded to them by Wikipedia's governance-- as behavior is rooted in process and structure in every organizations-- a formal organ on Wikipedia delegating a special role for **non-anonymous** professionals, academics, graduate students, etc. would have a profound, positve effect on the culture of Wikipedia. Right now, far more talk is generated when a serious user commits a faux pax (e.g., violating the 3RR or 'calling a troll a troll') than when a troll spews crap into an article. Here's the reason: Wikipedia has mechanisms enforsing rules of PROCESS (e.g., Wikipedia:No personal attacks and Wikipedia:Three revert rule enforcement) but lacks mechanisms enforsing rules of PRODUCT (e.g., Wikipedia:Manual of Style, Wikipedia:No original research, and Wikipedia:Neutral point of view). As a result, when a policy related to product is broken, the dispute usually stays on talk, handled only by a handful of serious editors actively watching the page; but when a policy related to process is broken, it will attract a huge contingent of users fussing over who reverted whom, how many reverts there were, and what did or did not constitute a revert. The rules are shaping a culture on Wikipedia utterly obsessed with process, but incognizant of product.
I'm not arguing that rules of process ought to be discarded. Instead, they ought to be supplemented by rules emphasizing and ENFORCING quality. I say "supplemented" because of the likelihood that far fewer good users would act rashly if already-existing rules mandating encyclopedic standards were enforced.
In short, I'm not laying out a detailed case for policy changes here. I'm just pointing to a problem that ought to be addressed. Right now the rules create a culture on Wikipedia resulting in large amounts of attention to some policies but a lack of attention to others. This asymmetry ought to be addressed, before more users committed to undermining NPOV, no original research, and stylistic conventions figure out how to accomplish their ends by exploiting the over-emphasis on other policy guidelines. Others may disagree with solutions that I am proposing. But that doesn't mean that the problem does not exist. If my proposals are wrong, please come up with better ways of handeling the problem. -172
What 172 confirms is that Wikipedia administrators (by and large) do not have the expertise to deal with anything other than three-revert-rule violations and personal behaviour breaches. Quality of articles therefore comes a poor second as a result.

Relevant Discussion on Meta-Wikipedia (3.00 / 2) (#403)
by cfp on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 06:13:21 AM EST

http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Academics

This lack of respect for expertise (3.00 / 2) (#404)
by trinsic on Tue Apr 19, 2005 at 06:23:08 PM EST

This lack of respect for expertise explains the first problem, because if the project participants had greater respect for expertise, they would have long since invited a board of academics and researchers to manage a culled version of Wikipedia (one that, I think, would not directly affect the way the main project is run). But because project participants have such a horror of the traditional deference to expertise, this sort of proposal has never been taken very seriously by most Wikipedians leading the project now. And so much the worse for Wikipedia and its reputation. I think that you are mistaking lack of respect for a lack of importance, the informed public have about so called experts. Personally I think this sounds more like a issue of titles and a perception of importance that experts seem to want and get from the general public. Thing is, its become clear to me that the title of expert does not mean a whole lot to me any more. I gain respect for myself based on my actions and how I effect others, NOT by any title society has given me. I dont really need anyone to tell me, true or false, that what I do makes a differnce, because I know deep down that I do. That being said Ill judge you buy your actions and if you make a differnce in my life based on what you have told me while I back that up with real world experince, not by some title that you feel you need to have to gain respect. This whole argument you are trying to present is based in the past. We dont need experts to tell us right from wrong, we can figure it out for our selfs using our ability to reason. I think the Expert mind set is proven that it can be faulty. Look at what happens when a good majority of people gain expert status on a particular subject matter. They start relying only on what other colleagues say and dont have to do and real work after something has been established as proven by an *expert*. Everyone is a expert in one field or another, I dont think it helps us get closer to the truth by relying on people that have a title that makes them think the a better then the rest of the smart people out there. Granted people work hard to get this status. But what is the real motivation? and does that effect the judgment of people in this day and age.

en (1.00 / 3) (#405)
by keleyu on Sat May 14, 2005 at 09:24:45 AM EST

If you cant take the joke you shouldnt have joined.

wikipedia (2.33 / 3) (#406)
by soart on Sat Jun 18, 2005 at 11:09:46 AM EST

That wikipedia is in such a state should come as no surprise given the mediocrity democracy breeds in everything it touches. If it's to ever be of any real use, it does need to discriminate heavily in favor of elitism. Good luck getting the ball rolling on that.
机票打折机票
Please define your terms (2.50 / 2) (#407)
by jrincayc on Sat Jun 18, 2005 at 07:26:31 PM EST

What do you mean by mediocrity democracy and what do you mean by elitism?

[ Parent ]
hehe (1.33 / 3) (#408)
by soart on Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 11:42:15 AM EST

Oh, its the sound the point makes as you miss it by miles and whizz straight by.
机票打折机票
Last post! (none / 0) (#409)
by Patrick Chalmers on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 12:45:27 PM EST


Holy crap, working comment search!
Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism | 408 comments (381 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest © 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!