Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

The Great Failure of Wikipedia.
April 13, 2006 4:21 PM   Subscribe

The Great Failure of Wikipedia. Audio of a fascinating and at times hilarious 45-minute presentation by Jason Scott of textfiles.com on the politics and culture of Wikipedia, including tales of The Ninja, The Sex Offender and the Publisher, and the ongoing battle between the Inclusionists and the Deletionists. Will the Wikipedia become "an untenable Katamari-Damacy-like ball out of shit that rolls through the Internet"? (some language NSFW)
posted by Armitage Shanks (102 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good stuff.
posted by airguitar at 4:32 PM on April 13, 2006


is the presentation available as a text file?
posted by 3.2.3 at 4:51 PM on April 13, 2006


I think the guys at Penny Arcde put it best. Wikipedia is "a sort of quantum encyclopedia, where accurate information both does and does not exist depending on when I rely on your discordant fucking mob for my information."
posted by DWRoelands at 4:53 PM on April 13, 2006


This isn't it exactly 3.2.3, but I think it might be close.
posted by jaysus chris at 4:56 PM on April 13, 2006


I think that at least a few of the individuals with high edit counts and administratorship are mentally strange -- it appeared to me that editing Wikipedia and getting it to align with their world view was a compulsion.

Or maybe I'm just bitter that I didn't get my so called "POV edits" in. ;-)
posted by bhouston at 5:01 PM on April 13, 2006


thank you, jaysus.
posted by 3.2.3 at 5:04 PM on April 13, 2006


Wikipedia is fucking invaluable and endless entertainment. Today I read about The Prisoner (a BBC show), the electric chair -> the Rosenbergs -> Karl Fuchs. Just reams and reams of information I didn't know.
posted by Ryvar at 5:11 PM on April 13, 2006


Wikipedia is great entertainment, but you'd have to be insane to use it for real research. By that, I mean quoting material from Wikipedia, not following the source trail.

Almost all of my edits are anonymous NPOV enforcement.
posted by cellphone at 5:15 PM on April 13, 2006


The Prisoner wasn't a BBC show, it was ITV . Which may seem an irrelevant nitpick but you did say you just read about it in Wikipedia, so this may prove some sort of point.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:18 PM on April 13, 2006


Wikipedia taught me that everything leads back to World War II. Everything.
posted by schroedinger at 5:21 PM on April 13, 2006


Nope, it's my memory, not Wikipedia that's wrong.
posted by Ryvar at 5:22 PM on April 13, 2006


Inclusionism vs. Deletionism is what he calls Wikipedia's great debate. Starts around minute 22.
posted by airguitar at 5:24 PM on April 13, 2006


You'd be insane to rely on an encyclopedia for any "real research." Encyclopedias are handy for getting your feet wet in a new topic. They're a starting place, a jumping off point. That's all. And that's all they've ever been. Wikipedia is handy as hell. I use it contstantly. What would you rather use, Encarta?
posted by wheat at 5:26 PM on April 13, 2006


Wikipedia is great entertainment, but you'd have to be insane to use it for real research. By that, I mean quoting material from Wikipedia, not following the source trail.
Exactly. I've used Wikipedia a couple of times when I wanted to do some research on a subject (comparing and contrasting native american creation myths with those from asian cultures), and it provided some great starting material. After the first fifteen minutes of skimming, though, you have to wander off to follow references, hunt down books or dedicated professional sites on subtopics, etc.

It's a bit like having an obsessive, autodidactic buddy you can ask about anything. He's great to have around, but you can't pretend that "My buddy Jim" is really an authoritative source.
posted by verb at 5:26 PM on April 13, 2006


The second result when searching google for "The Great Failure of Wikipedia" is a pretty good read, too.
posted by jaysus chris at 5:27 PM on April 13, 2006


The end of Wikipedia for me was when I read that a "truce" had to be called between warring factions over a certain article. So the whole thing is an exercise in the tragedy of the commons.

And yes, I do appreciate the irony of using a Wikipedia link to criticize it. ;-)
posted by frogan at 5:27 PM on April 13, 2006


In my experience there are a number of (self-?) organized groups of ideologically aligned individuals in Wikipedia that include administrators which together push very effectively for specific interpretations within specific subject areas.

I would not be surprised if Wikipedia becomes (or may already be?) a target of government psychological operations via paid full-time editors. It makes sense for Wikipedia to be a target if it is as influential as it seems to be these days.

There is no protection against such attacks either -- especially since power (administratorship) is gained by being able to make large number of edits, something that is difficult to do without something like full-time commitment unless you want to sacrifice your life.
posted by bhouston at 5:30 PM on April 13, 2006


That was interesting; while the delivery is not unpleasant to listen to, I think it would've been nice if there were a transcript.

The upshot seems to be that Wikipedia is a utopian idea and that the reality is less pretty. An interesting thesis, but: I would not say that it is a sample of human behavior. The average person on the Web, much less on the planet, interacts not at all with the seamy underside of Wikipedia. It is an interesting survey of the subset of people who are armchair encyclopedia editors with Internet connections.

Early on, Scott hinted at some insight about what would be happening with information -- but he never got to anything meaty. The real threat to information is of channelling it to corporate and political ends; that is, when corporations, political groups, and governments attempt to taint the information online to the point where truth and fiction are difficult to distinguish. (This does happen in online and offline media to a certain extent; I am talking about a far more thorough and severe disinformation campaign.)

The other interesting point made is that settings without rules tend to generate them, and poorly, and that they are better off set from the start with a good understanding of human behavior and the desired outcome. Which puts me in mind of role-playing game theory, but ah well.
posted by graymouser at 5:34 PM on April 13, 2006


This presentation was interesting but not entirely fair, I think. He's got his axe to grind. There are certain things he just writes off, like actual experts getting involved in wikipedia. I'm a librarian, and I've been helping a class this year that has editing/creating new wikipedia articles as their main project. The topic of the class isn't well covered in Wikipedia, so the class has been working on editing those articles on a password protected wiki, and will be moving them over to wikipedia in a week or so. Who knows what will happen to the articles. But those students have done great work.

Wikipedia could be the end result of a lot more such projects. Academics and experts just need to stop complaining about the damn thing and start working with it.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:35 PM on April 13, 2006


how can the guy who runs textfiles not provide a transcript for this?
posted by boo_radley at 5:50 PM on April 13, 2006


how can the guy who runs textfiles not provide a transcript for this?

Extremely subtle, ironic humor.
posted by cellphone at 6:16 PM on April 13, 2006


This guy ends up just ripping into Human Nature... I think if the 'laws' of Wikipedia were more open and editing history was opened up I don't think there's a huge problem with it. Wikipedia will tell you if an article is disputed. what's wrong with providing equal space to two differing theories on a subject - as long as both are equally justified.

I agree the (potential) power of Wikipedia is immense and I suppose people should be dubious because of it - but I don't see anything inherently wrong with the project.

It should be Inclusionist - as long as the website can handle all the info. If there was undisputed 'knowledge' of shops on all the streets in America - isn't there a huge amount of potential for analysis and study. This goes with all small packets of data - combined, it could create the means for analysis of 'reality'. :)
posted by RufusW at 6:20 PM on April 13, 2006


I'm starting to think that JScott has his own little plants at various websites. Whenever he starts to feel a little down, or is out of beer, he sends a minion out to post an entry about one of his projects.

I'm on to you!
posted by Plinko at 6:35 PM on April 13, 2006


"But those students have done great work."

Get ready to have their great work shat on.

I love Wikipedia, and have spent a lot of time contributing. I use it almost daily. But it's a demolition derby for content. Many of the editors are full-on assholes. Or full-on morons. They *will* take your great work and mess it up. You'll have the options to "fix" it, but that's an endless battle.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:44 PM on April 13, 2006


It would be interesting to replace the idea of 'correcting' an article, and instead let each edit live as a separate entity. A viable instance from a set of articles, all of which compete for the recognition of editors. Editors who themselves compete for recognition based on peer review of their editing decisions.

This idea that having the One True article about Tibet, for example, is preferable to having many articles at varying degrees of accuracy from several points of view, open to consensus about Tibet creates some of the editing fights Jason mentions. And he explains the objectivist philosophical beliefs Jimbo Wales adheres to which mandate that there can only be One True article about any given subject.

I'd like to see a multiplicity of articles which give readers and writers the choice and ability to rely upon their wits, to figure things out for themselves, along with everyone else, at the same time.

This would work like the Slashdot moderation system; when you don't want to read Funny's, you just want Troll's or Informative's, you create a filter. Very effective. The difference here being that filtered items would be open to editing, which would spawn a new instance of the original item (article), which then competes with it's source material for moderation marks of it's own.

The key feature then becomes managing filters and creating allegiances to editors you consider trustworthy. The beauty being that the entire system is inherently subjective, and anyone can change adherences, but no one expects to find perfect explanations for anything. The truth of something should be borne out in it's applicability, un-true statements which fail this test would be filtered out.
posted by airguitar at 6:46 PM on April 13, 2006


airguitar, sounds like you're describing blogging. ;) Why do we need a centralized service like wikipedia when we have a million experts and search engines? You can "edit" anyone else's work on a topic by linking/writing your own and building an audience.
posted by pb at 7:00 PM on April 13, 2006


airguitar -- that sounds like a phenomenal seed of an idea. A web of trust if you like originating from one's self that links together editors / content raters which in turn are used to pull together article snippets together. One problem with such a project is its seaming complexity -- it is possible to make such a system that a large number of people would be able to understand it and contribute to it?
posted by bhouston at 7:03 PM on April 13, 2006


Academics and experts just need to stop complaining about the damn thing and start working with it.

Why? Wikipedia, by its populist nature, is inherently hostile to expert content. Expertise in a subject counts for nothing; someone who's read a single book is able to edit an article written by someone who covered a topic in their PhD thesis and present it as fact. It would be an irrational waste of the PhD's time to win the dispute and get a better article on the site. From the expert's PoV, Wikipedia is helplessly and permanently broken.
posted by graymouser at 7:07 PM on April 13, 2006


One problem with such a project is its seaming complexity -- it is possible to make such a system that a large number of people would be able to understand it and contribute to it?

Scale would be a problem, I guess. It's hard to imagine all at once, but if you look at the history of any Wikipedia article, it's all there, every edit, every editor, every explanation. So turning that data back out and giving it competitive footing to the current 'article of record' wouldn't increase the storage demands to any greater than the system they already run. Some overhead might be added in the data or traffic that moderation generates, but Slashdot seems to do okay.

I've often wanted to see something like this for Metafilter. Similar to the 'so-and-so wins' quip, but being able to filter on the idea according to whom I trust to have said it.
posted by airguitar at 7:15 PM on April 13, 2006


All I know is that I've been getting quite a few hits because someone added a link to an old post of mine in this Wikipedia article on Codpieces of all things, which baffles me a bit, but which I also find very amusing indeed.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:29 PM on April 13, 2006


All I know is that I've been getting quite a few hits because someone added a link to an old post of mine in this Wikipedia article on Codpieces of all things, which baffles me a bit, but which I also find very amusing indeed.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:29 PM CST on April 13 [!]


So, what does that have to do with anything besides trying to make yourself seem important?
posted by cellphone at 7:35 PM on April 13, 2006


Why do we need a centralized service like wikipedia when we have a million experts and search engines?

It's difficult to get a consensus reading as of yet on particular ideas with just a search engine and millons of web logs. Now, if everyone on Blogger purpused each new post into a Wikipedia type article, and a classification system was used to group posts about the same subject into a class of articles (each post being an individual instance), and it was easy to sort through that class, back track through edits, and publish a new post to the same class. And if people tagged the links they made to each post on Blogger with a formalized assesment of the post, like 'true', 'not-true', 'funny', 'lame', then I could see PageRank being applied to that group of blogs and, with some adjustment, producing something similar to Wikipedia, and maybe better. That would be cool.

As of now there's no trust system.
posted by airguitar at 7:40 PM on April 13, 2006


It would be interesting to replace the idea of 'correcting' an article, and instead let each edit live as a separate entity. A viable instance from a set of articles, all of which compete for the recognition of editors. Editors who themselves compete for recognition based on peer review of their editing decisions.

This idea that having the One True article about Tibet, for example, is preferable to having many articles at varying degrees of accuracy from several points of view, open to consensus about Tibet creates some of the editing fights Jason mentions. And he explains the objectivist philosophical beliefs Jimbo Wales adheres to which mandate that there can only be One True article about any given subject.

I'd like to see a multiplicity of articles which give readers and writers the choice and ability to rely upon their wits, to figure things out for themselves, along with everyone else, at the same time.

This would work like the Slashdot moderation system; when you don't want to read Funny's, you just want Troll's or Informative's, you create a filter. Very effective. The difference here being that filtered items would be open to editing, which would spawn a new instance of the original item (article), which then competes with it's source material for moderation marks of it's own.

The key feature then becomes managing filters and creating allegiances to editors you consider trustworthy. The beauty being that the entire system is inherently subjective, and anyone can change adherences, but no one expects to find perfect explanations for anything. The truth of something should be borne out in it's applicability, un-true statements which fail this test would be filtered out.
posted by airguitar at 6:46 PM PST on April 13 [!]
Guess What? That already exists. It's called Everything2, and it's a shithole. There are a few good writeups (the bitter, sarcastic ones), but It's mostly shit, especially since Wikipedia came in to being.

Build a Slashdot-style encyclopedia, and guess who shows up? Slashdot.
posted by blasdelf at 1:38 AM on April 14, 2006


Transcript Here.
posted by Brian James at 1:39 AM on April 14, 2006


Hi, everyone. The textfiles.com guy/guy who gave the speech, that is, me, hasn't had time the last few days to cook up a transcription. There's one located here now. In ASCII. Of course.

Metafilter's been down for a few hours, so I'll just quickly dash off some clarifications to the postings made so far.

wheat: I agree with you, however, Wikipedia's content is now leaking out to the point that you will not know what came from Wikipedia and what was original research.

bhouston: You touch upon a point I try and make in the speech.

graymouser: "Meaty" is difficult in 45 minutes of spoken words, and you heard how fast I had to talk to get what I did get in. I had an entire extra lap of the concept of trust circles, information warfare and the nature of information, but we adapt to the time and audience as we can. But I will address this, since you mis-state it: I am claiming that Wikipedia accurately reflects human behavior when presented with an open editing system with worldwide access and presentation. And that this situation and circumstance is going to grow, not shrink, in the coming decades. And as a result, we would do best to learn what we can of the tricks, traps, approaches and pitfalls from such a situation now, with an easy to follow example like Wikipedia before it becomes more ubiquitous and hard to follow. I think, overall, you are being delightfully naive about the situation and what it represents. Like I said in the speech, right now Wikipedia is the first link for a mass of nouns. What a great attractor of power.

Hildegard: I agree you are likely a Librarian, because you entirely misinterpreted my speech. Go read it.

airguitar: Excellent ideas, and worthy of a thesis, but won't happen in Wikipedia. Too big a change.

RufusW: next time, turn off the radio or TV while listening to a speech.

Plinko: Oh, snap!
posted by jscott at 1:53 AM on April 14, 2006


So, what does that have to do with anything besides trying to make yourself seem important?

The topic under discussion is the degree to which Wikipedia is a success or failure. At the core of that is the question of whether a user-edited and written *pedia can be 'trusted'. Somebody who contributed to Wikipedia linked to a post of mine on my weblog as part of an article; amusingly, because the article was "Codpieces". I don't know shit about codpieces, although I've been making jokes about them for decades, and the post linked to at my site doesn't really have any useful information. This goes to the heart of the discussion.

Trying to 'make myself seem important'? Because I think it's ridiculous someone linked to a random brainfart I posted years ago that mentioned codpieces? You've got to be kidding.

Or, the short version: fuck you and the $5 you rode in on, you dimwit noisemonger sockpuppet sack of shit.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:31 AM on April 14, 2006


"It's a bit like having an obsessive, autodidactic buddy you can ask about anything. He's great to have around, but you can't pretend that "My buddy Jim" is really an authoritative source."
yes.

today i learned that Haemophilus influenzae will actually fight with Streptococcus pneumoniae. Isn't that fascinating? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haemophilus_influenzae
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 2:31 AM on April 14, 2006


Oh, wait, one other thing.

Airguitar: It's hard to imagine all at once, but if you look at the history of any Wikipedia article, it's all there, every edit, every editor, every explanation.

That is not true. Wikipedia has deleted, purged, removed, a notable amount of history, edits, and discussion. Gone. Forever. Don't buy into that myth.
posted by jscott at 3:30 AM on April 14, 2006


From the transcript:

This organisation came in and threatened Jimbo. Jimbo decided to say "this article seems to lack neutral point of view. I am going to block it, apropos of nothing, outside of process, and we will work with them to come up with a more neutral article." That was seven months ago, it's been blank ever since. That's the full entry about them. You can't find history about them. You can't find any of the edits that were made.

It would be interesting to know what organisation did this.
posted by Termite at 3:37 AM on April 14, 2006


1-800-VENDING.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1.800.Vending
posted by jscott at 3:56 AM on April 14, 2006


Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism

Wikipedia was originally meant as an article source for nupedia, a more traditionally written online encyclopedia. Jimbo can always return to this model one day, not by closing wikipedia, but by creating an independant system of academic review.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:00 AM on April 14, 2006


Hildegard: I agree you are likely a Librarian, because you entirely misinterpreted my speech. Go read it.

Yeah, it's about time somebody took those goddam librarians down a peg or two. They've been getting way above their station lately. Go get 'em, tiger!
posted by flashboy at 4:08 AM on April 14, 2006


I love to browse around wikipedia. The sad thing I have noticed is that now that I have upped my contributions is the amount of materials that are either: directly lifted from other sites, including one of my sites, or totally inaccurate because of an agenda of the person involved. The worst part for me is the culture of intimidation when you try to change things, even when you point people to sources, they and their friends ignore it.

It's still a very worthwhile project and it's just mind-boggling cool application of the internet, but I am going more and more on the side of Wikipedia being more entertainment and pointer to better sources rather then actual academically useful.
posted by cell divide at 4:17 AM on April 14, 2006


Interesting. Except that I can edit that article, jscott. I can also see its entire history. Argue all you want about due process, the deleted content is not encyclopedic or conceivably interesting.

It's all very fascinating to listen to how Wikipedia is an application of the tragedy of the commons or a madhouse or is about to be infiltrated and overrun by a horde of information zombies. It's also hilarious to listen to people say that no expert is going to want to edit Wikipedia. Yeah, and if you release your stuff under the GPL/CC, someone might fork it and screw it up.

I have yet to be seriously misinformed by Wikipedia (and yes, I do check independent sources when I can), I have yet to see a stupid revert war that had a tangible effect on the correctness and completeness of content, and for me and many others, Wikipedia has become the best encyclopedic resource in the world, invaluable and indispensable. I do see incorrect statements, NPOV violations, and ramblings, but any moderately intelligent person is able to see those too and investigate further at will.

The tragedy of the commons boils down to having to revert vandals. Big deal.

Finally, every single article I started has its history complete and intact, and every article I've seen seems to. Care to show me a (mainspace) article where there's a deletion of history, jscott? Maybe also elaborate on how that negatively impacts the current copy's quality? (I suspect if there ever are such deletions, they are on massively edited/vandalized articles or off the mainspace.)
posted by azazello at 4:58 AM on April 14, 2006


If we're going to discuss fixing Wikipedia, people should at least browse the Strategies of online moderation wiki, run by Clay Shirky's group at NYU:
This is a space for studying strategies of moderation in groups that conduct some or all of their communications online. The principal content of this wiki is a proposed "pattern language" -- a description of the common patterns of these moderation systems -- for developers to consider when deploying or altering social software.
posted by scalefree at 5:13 AM on April 14, 2006


Dear Wikipedia:

You need more academic review.

Signed,
the Guild of Academic Reviewers.
posted by gimonca at 5:22 AM on April 14, 2006


I look at this transcript, and a lot of things leap out at me. The dismissive, angry tone is first and most obvious; the hints at stifled ambitions; and then you get to this:
Now, this brings up an interesting idea, which I've tried to push, which is that unknowingly, and these kind of things happen, unknowingly Wikipedia happened on a form of human addiction. That is to say, it turns out that if you give people a stage, and you give them a stage where they have total control, even if it's for a short amount, they will not rest until they can do it again.

In other words, if you say to somebody "well if you go and you edit this entry on Jimmy Carter ... for however long it is in there, you are the authority on Jimmy Carter, and everyone will know it," this is a completely addictive process. It's what keeps a lot of people going to Wikipedia as an editing faction, because when they use it, they end up saying "Wow, I've done it, I've done it, I've changed the world," and to some extent they're correct. ...
... and that's where alarm bells start going off, because I realize that what I'm looking at is really easy to understand in terms of what Hoffer described as the "faith of the fanatic". If the reason for that association doesn't immediately clear for you, consider the old saw: "There's none more zealous than the whore turned respectable." Or the "addict" in "recovery." Or more angry than a jilted lover.

So, how do we take this? Face value, I suppose, except that some of us see more detail in faces than others do. I try never to miss the crows feet, for example, or that hint of a scar that traces where you got punched out in ninth grade or went through a windshield when you were twenty-five.

I think there's some really good, interesting stuff in the talk. But the biases are glaring, to me (perhaps especially so because I share so many of them). Jscott does not like Randian Objectivism. He thinks it's a broken philosophy with no appreciation for its own inherent inconsistencies and impracticalities. You'll probably be rightly getting the idea that I agree with him about that. But while I agree with that, I also think Wikipedia is a fascinating experiment in idealism in action, and I think it's far, far too early to say that it's "failed." Like the old communes, it's a work in progress. Some of those communes went on for a long time. Some are still out there -- but they function more quietly, now.

At some level, Wikipedia is only a "failure" if it can be co-opted covertly. That part does worry me. By this time, though, Jimbo's got a lawyer, and that lawyer is probably telling him that what Jimbo sees as transparency could well be actionable as libel. So if 1.800.Vending thinks their article was biased, and they've got a good lawyer, then they can probably sue Wikimedia for allowing open discussion of the matter. Doesn't matter if they're right. That's a different problem from freedom of information. At least it's relatively open.

What's more dangerous is the changes we don't know about. I agree with jscott about those: The policy should be to make everything available. Of course, with that you get an embarrassment of data -- who can really understand it all? An API would be helpful, there, to help people write apps that filter through the changelogs and figure out what the article used to look like before it was modified.
posted by lodurr at 5:44 AM on April 14, 2006


jscott:

Two points where I think my objections are not taken correctly. One: Wikipedia is simply not a sample of humanity; despite its size, there is a selection error. It is properly a sample of the sort of people who are interested in editing Wikipedia. Your observations about it are valid, but only for the sort of people who are interested in editing Wikipedia. That is a relatively small proportion of the Internet-using population, which itself is not a representative sample of humanity. You cannot generalize about something like "human nature" based on Wikipedia, you can only generalize about early 21st century tech-savvy individuals with an inclination to edit encyclopedias (and perhaps generalize that to those with a considerable inclination to disseminate specialized information online).

Two: We will not see any real hints of what is to come in information wars until really existing groups with real funding and power in the real world try to spike the Internet. What has gone on in the Wikipedia is mostly "playing by the rules." It is not a good predictor of what will happen when some group decides it doesn't have to.
posted by graymouser at 5:54 AM on April 14, 2006


azazello : The tragedy of the commons boils down to having to revert vandals. Big deal.
I think it is a big deal. Take this article about animal feed. Right now, it's a poorly-written, severely lacking stub - it could be better, even for a stub. It happens that I'm a sort of expert about this topic and I have access to a large amount of primary sources about it. It would certainly take me a few days to write and polish a decent and more comprehensive (set of) article(s). It would be fun and useful, as WP is a little short in agriculture-related articles. Will I do that? No, not now. I'm just not very fond of the idea that my carefully, professionally written research will be edited every couple of days by simple-minded vandals of the "haha it sucks haha" variety or, worse, by people with an axe to grind. I just can't waste time and energy fighting edit wars with whoever thinks that (for instance) raising animals for food is evil. While this may not happen (it's hard to say right now as many animal husbandry articles are still stubs), the simple possibility of it is enough to discourage me from investing more professional (but free) time into WP.
posted by elgilito at 6:27 AM on April 14, 2006


Wow, his metafilter comments are are cheap and low as his talk.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:51 AM on April 14, 2006


I do admire the beauty of putting content in the revision comments.
posted by smackfu at 6:55 AM on April 14, 2006


On graymouser's first point, those who edit wikipedia and even those who use wikipedia are correctly not a sample of humanity but are a roughly equivalent sample of those who would edit or use conventional encyclopedia resources, which is a better comparison.

Using all of humanity as a template of comparison is too broad and generalized seeing as a large percentage of humanity is illiterate to begin with and a larger percentage have no access to either encyclopedias or electronic resources required for wikipedia use.

Full disclosure: I love wikipedia and wikis in general.
posted by nofundy at 6:59 AM on April 14, 2006


Two: We will not see any real hints of what is to come in information wars until really existing groups with real funding and power in the real world try to spike the Internet. What has gone on in the Wikipedia is mostly "playing by the rules." It is not a good predictor of what will happen when some group decides it doesn't have to.
We've already seen that, with Scientology. The battle for ARS was the first Class III* information war fought on the Internet. It's interesting to note that they haven't (yet) gotten involved as an organization in writing/editing the WP entries about them.
*Class I: Personal information warfare. That area of IW concerned with personal privacy issues.

Class II: Corporate/organizational-level information warfare. That area of IW concerned with espionage issues.

Class III: Information warfare viewed with an open / global scope. That area of IW concerned with cyber-terrorism issues.

(from GLOSSARY: The Convoluted Terminology of Information Warfare.
posted by scalefree at 7:02 AM on April 14, 2006


I am actually an administrator on Wikipedia, but have since stopped contributing much precisely because Wikipedia does not improve with time.

Some articles get better, some get worse. Inaccuracies appear and disappear. Plausible stuff stays around, whether it is true or not. (One example: In the article on the Holocaust someone inserted that Milgram came up with his experiment because his parents died in the Holocaust. Plausible, I guess, but totally untrue - Milgram was born in the US). A primary requirement for an information source is progress. Wikipedia lacks that.

Also, with Google Books, you can get questions answered much more accurately.
posted by blahblahblah at 7:14 AM on April 14, 2006


I find the whole Wikipedia debate hilarious. It's as if there is some alternative uniiverse where the printed word is always true.

You should take everything that you read with a pinch of salt; there is an agenda behind everything. At least we know this about Wikipedia. It's the other stuff that worries me.
posted by bobbyelliott at 7:41 AM on April 14, 2006


bobbyelliot,

That's what the debate is really about. All of the people calling for Wikipedia to change do so only because they have a vested interest in some authority, be it a university or a corporation, and they feel Wikipedia will never be legitimate until it recognizes their authority. This isn't about the truth at all, it's about power. Wikipedia's critics all follow the same line of attack: Wikipedia will never be a legitimate encyclopedia until it recognizes Authority/Institution/Corporation X. It's very suspicious and it demonstrates just how disruptive Wikipedia really is.
posted by nixerman at 7:48 AM on April 14, 2006


Last few responses, unless anyone needs anything. (Ask for me by name!)

lodurr: Weeak. Listen to a few of my other speeches, as audio recordings, before deciding "why" I did this speech vs. any other. The transcript is nice but totally loses my tone, sense of humor, strengthening, etc. I've done a good dozen or so speeches at conferences on varying subjects. Not to ruin anything for you, but I do consider myself a Randian Objectivist in thought when describing my philosophical base; does that mean I can't point out where that school of thought can have trouble?

Also, and this bothers me... you seem to have missed out that I don't say Wikipedia has "failed", just that it has committed some architectural faux pas that will continue to haunt it as it changes. Wikipedia is already radically different than it was in 2001, 2002, and even 2005. I don't mean tone of people, or popularity, or window dressing/css; I mean intense, deep, fundamental changes. Imagine Metafilter with, say, no hyperlinking from within articles allowed. Fundamental changes.

Saying someone "must" be a critic because they've been hurt by a project and feel "jilted" is about two steps over from classic "the rape victim must have been asking for it" or "this is what happens when you let those people get beyond their station" declarations. Ad hominem motivation pre-judgement; it's what's for dinner!

Hildegard: Apparently you're too busy shoveling children into Wikipedia's furnace, so I'll be more explicit. You say I write off experts contributing to Wikipedia. I do not. I say that Wikipedia actively discourages experts, because they will not play with Wikipedia's gaming system. They will attack experts until these experts leave. I'm all for experts contributing to shared information space, but Wikipedia has absolutely no trust/endorsement system, so being an 'expert' is meaningless to high-octane Wikipedian editors/administrators. You also seem to confuse "wikis" with "Wikipedia". I myself work on roughly a half-dozen "wikis" on a daily basis; for work (a customer's wiki and my team's) my local hacker group, and so on. If I criticize the New York Times for an editorial choice, am I saying "Newspapers: It Can't Be Done!"? No. And as for "if you don't like it, change it or be a part of it", this is borderline delusional. You're saying "Jimbo Wales controlling Wikipedia utterly and wholly, with whims applied to it constantly as to direction and acceptable content? Jump on!" So I stand by my statement/jest: you skimmed my speech, likely ignored anything else I wrote on the subject (linked in the discussion elsewhere) and went spouting off half-cocked. Hoo-ray.

graymouser: We may be in violent agreement here, which is entirely possible. My core hypothesis with the speech is that Wikipedia shows what happens in its given situation, and that this situation is going to take place more and more over time. Now, whether it will ever be a significant percentage of population is not the point. What's ever been the percentage of literacy and potable water, much less electronic communication? But the effect of electronic communication on lives will do nothing but increase from now on. While a lot of this trickery taking place in Wikipedia (deep cover agendas being played out over multiple "characters", manipulation of trust vectors to achieve goals, the onslaught of lawyers into virgin territory and the reactive moves by an organization) has happened before, we're able to observe it in a more naked form (including ham-fisted, amateurish attempts at such) on Wikipedia, and I think that's the most valuable lesson; a warning.
posted by jscott at 7:50 AM on April 14, 2006


Nice comment, nixerman!

Reminds me of this (sort of unrelated) quote from one of the Dune books:
In all major socializing forces you will find an underlying movement to gain and maintain power through the use of words. From witch-doctor to priest to beaucrat, it is all the same; a governed populace must be condition to accept power-words as actual things, to confuse the symbolized system with the tangible universe. In the maintenance of such a power structure certain symbols are kept out of the reach of common understanding; symbols such as those dealing with economic manipulation, or those which define the local interpretation of sanity. Symbol secrecy of this form leads to the development of fragmented sub-languages, each being a signal that it's users are accumulating some form of power.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:54 AM on April 14, 2006


sonofsamiam, great quote.
posted by bhouston at 8:01 AM on April 14, 2006


Plausible stuff stays around, whether it is true or not. (One example: In the article on the Holocaust someone inserted that Milgram came up with his experiment because his parents died in the Holocaust. Plausible, I guess, but totally untrue - Milgram was born in the US).

It's gone now.
posted by languagehat at 8:16 AM on April 14, 2006


Also, let me just say that the widespread faith in experts and elites is very misguided. If there is any single lesson that the new millenium has taught us it's that all the various experts out there--from the universities to corporations to the various government agencies and think tanks--have absolutely no clue what's going on and are simply unable to tackle many of the world's problems.

Experts are not needed by Wikipedia. It's great if they contribute, but it's no big loss if they don't. For every expert out there, there are hundreds of people who have a pretty solid understanding of the topic, even if their understanding hasn't been certified by some authority. If experts do contribute to the project then it should be on the same grounds as everybody else. There's no reason to do otherwise. This idea that Wikipedia will never "work" until it defers to some authority is simply not grounded in reality.

Wikipedia is a huge success. If I were to make one change to Wikipedia it would be to completely remove the illusion of a 'finished article.' It's this illusion that causes so many of the flare-ups and edit wars. Going to a URL like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/$Topic should take you to the article's revision history, not to the content of its latest revision. Of course, as many have already pointed out, this wouldn't be user-friendly at all. But it would force users to acknowledge that no article in Wikipedia is ever finished and there is always simply the latest revision which is implicitly understood not to be the best revision.
posted by nixerman at 8:19 AM on April 14, 2006


ObLink
posted by Gyan at 8:25 AM on April 14, 2006


Also, let me just say that the widespread faith in experts and elites is very misguided. If there is any single lesson that the new millenium has taught us it's that all the various experts out there--from the universities to corporations to the various government agencies and think tanks--have absolutely no clue what's going on and are simply unable to tackle many of the world's problems.

What are the other lessons that the "new millenium" has taught us?
posted by trey at 8:29 AM on April 14, 2006


That robots are adorable.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:36 AM on April 14, 2006


languagehat - Yeah, I removed the error when I found it, the point was just illustrative of the way in which inaccuracies are inserted, just as they are removed. In fact, I used to be one of the "custodians" of the Holocaust article after rewriting it majorly a year ago, it may very well be the amount of depressing vandalism (as many as dozens of bad edits a day) that made me dial down my Wikipedia interaction.

Another example is the article on Genghis Khan. Once a lot of people came together to improve it, but Mongolian nationalists (who knew?) have taken it to pieces since.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:45 AM on April 14, 2006


airguitar doesn't like the idea that "there can only be One True article about any given subject". The idea that it's preferable to have one good article instead of many, "at varying degree of accuracy from several points of view", will only lead to fights, according to him:

It would be interesting to replace the idea of 'correcting' an article, and instead let each edit live as a separate entity. A viable instance from a set of articles, all of which compete for the recognition of editors. Editors who themselves compete for recognition based on peer review of their editing decisions.
[---]
I'd like to see a multiplicity of articles which give readers and writers the choice and ability to rely upon their wits, to figure things out for themselves, along with everyone else, at the same time.


Yeah, would't that be great. We can have one Wikipedia article about 9/11 which says that Saddam did it. Another one which says that the Jews did it. And so on.

The disrespect for knowledge (and the unwillingness to learn anything) implied in that way of reasoning is amazing. Disrespect authority as much as you want, but you're making a fool of yourself if you believe that disrespecting knowledge is the same thing as disrespecting authority.
posted by Termite at 8:56 AM on April 14, 2006


Termite: I actually had a whole set of paragraphs prepared for the talk about how Wikipedia could be used to question fundamental aspects of 'Truth' and 'Accuracy' and 'Information'. Didn't have time to go into it, though, 45 minutes and all.
posted by jscott at 9:11 AM on April 14, 2006


I think to focus on controversial articles is to really miss the true power of wikipedia.

There are maybe 50,000 entries that are subject to this sort of push and pull, and almost all of them are on topics that you know are controversial. That leaves over 1,000,000 entries that are pretty much agreed upon.

The power of Wikipedia -- like any other encyclopedia -- is not its depth, but it's breadth. You don't keep the Britannica on your wall because you expect it to be the complete and definitive source on every topic -- you keep it for quick lookups and a list of citations for when you really want to know about something. Using an encyclopedia as your cited reference is grade school stuff -- they are the first stop when doing research, not the destination.

Basically Wikipedia could omit every article with even a hint of controversy about it, and still be left with a very credible encyclopedia.
posted by tkolar at 9:12 AM on April 14, 2006


tkolar - the problem is that it is often unclear which articles are controversal. Even as an intelligent rader, could you have known that one of the biggest fights on Wikipedia a few months ago was the name of a northern Polish city (Danzig or Gdansk)? Or that Genghis Khan was controversal? Or that some material presented as widespread is not (see Polonophobia)? The issue is that trustworthiness varies, and only by also reading the debates on the discussion page can you tell what is undisputed and what is controversal.

And keep in mind, I am a fan of Wikipedia, having spent way too many hours as a contributor. I just think that there are some very obvious flaws that need to be addressed, and that there are no plans to do so, that I know of.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:51 AM on April 14, 2006


Hildegard:

For someone who accuses me of not listening/reading, you're remarkably good as misspelling my username.

Apparently you're too busy shoveling children into Wikipedia's furnace, so I'll be more explicit.

...It was the instructor's idea, first off, and they're not children. They're all in their twenties. I'm an academic librarian. Aren't they allowed to contibute? Or would you rather no one contribute to wikipedia?

You say I write off experts contributing to Wikipedia. I do not. I say that Wikipedia actively discourages experts, because they will not play with Wikipedia's gaming system.

That's based on the presumption that so-called 'experts' can't be the same sort of people who edit wikipedia, and can use the same "gaming" system. Academics are used to the concept of peer-review, and the wikipedia model challenges them to do exactly what they've been having to do all along; use sources well to prove a point. If "experts" will leave their hard-won prestige aside and actually make proveable points, they can "play with Wikipedia's gaming system". No one should be believed just because of who they are, and wikipedia is a good challenge to the system, no matter what happens to their edits.

You also seem to confuse "wikis" with "Wikipedia".

Not so much, no. I'm not confused about it. I have a wiki for the students that's under a lock, but they're working on articles from wikipedia. I'm not confused, but perhaps you are. Seriously, can you stop being such an asshole? You don't have to start with the presumption that everyone is stupid except for you. You have an option.

So I stand by my statement/jest: you skimmed my speech, likely ignored anything else I wrote on the subject (linked in the discussion elsewhere) and went spouting off half-cocked. Hoo-ray.

OMG, you mean, I have to care who you are? Sorry, I really don't. No, I haven't read anything you've written on the subject, I have never heard of you. I guess you haven't read anything I've written either. Zounds! How could this be?

Please go back on the meds, man. The world doesn't have to be this hostile.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:53 AM on April 14, 2006


As a thought...

There are a lot of people who are concerned about the prominence of Wikipedia and its lack of accuracy. However, Wikipedia is GPL, which means that the information in it can be reproduced freely, verbatim or in modified form. While the Wikipedia itself is intractably broken, it is not unthinkable that a project could be created that would cull the worthwhile information from Wikipedia, submit any dubious or contested pages to a panel of experts, and publish the results online as a competitor. This process could be intentionally designed and would satisfy most of the problems with the 'pedia. So -- why hasn't it happened?
posted by graymouser at 10:00 AM on April 14, 2006


I'm starting to think that JScott has his own little plants at various websites. Whenever he starts to feel a little down, or is out of beer, he sends a minion out to post an entry about one of his projects.

That's what sock puppets are for.

Sock puppet! Bring me a beer!
posted by craniac at 10:27 AM on April 14, 2006


blahblahblah wrote...
The issue is that trustworthiness varies, and only by also reading the debates on the discussion page can you tell what is undisputed and what is controversal.

I'm certainly not denying that controversy turns up in odd places, but I'm playing more of a statistics game.

Even with a traditional encyclopedia I know that a certain number of entries are going to be controversial -- Danzig or Gdansk being a good example -- and that the "authoratative" answer may be given by an encyclopedia editor who believes it to be "Danzig" and has no idea that a controversy even exists.

The question for me is "How often do I get hopelessly biased information?" By and large the information I've gotten from Wikipedia has proved to be useful and true, and it has been the very rare exception that bias has turned up in an unexpected place.

I suspect the reason for the burnout and/or bitterness seen among people closely involved with Wikipedia is that the vast bulk of their time is spent on the controversial issues. There are certainly more controversial entries than one human can follow, so from that perspective Wikipedia must look like a sea of shit.

Seen from farther out, though, it looks like just another encyclopedia, with perhaps more than its share of biased entries.

On a totally unrelated side note, you aren't from Northern New Zealand, are you? :-)
posted by tkolar at 10:42 AM on April 14, 2006


Will the Wikipedia become "an untenable Katamari-Damacy-like ball out of shit that rolls through the Internet"?

as if it's ever been otherwise?

full disclosure: poster has been deleted from wikipedia
posted by quonsar at 10:46 AM on April 14, 2006


Wikipedia: proving socialism will never work.
posted by Mick at 11:27 AM on April 14, 2006


While many Wikipedia contributors may not be recognised experts, many have detailed knowledge (sometimes inside knowledge) of the topic. And a large number of knowledgeable non-experts is better than a small group of experts.
posted by bobbyelliott at 11:39 AM on April 14, 2006


I enjoyed the talk, though it's overheated. But bobbyelliott is wrong in a dangerous way (whereas nixerman, with his 'experts are unnecessary' schtick, is wrong in a readily-identifiable, boring, and less dangerous way):

'The wisdom of crowds' is an appealing semifiction for people who have a resentment toward meritocracy, and its usefulness is limited to very particular domains. For instance: three hundred non-experts might be able to figure out how to fix a widget or address a direct question about the plot of (heh) The Search for Spock. But three hundred non-experts would be vastly less likely to give a good radio lecture on The Search for Spock as narrative. They might be able to assemble it from memory, but certainly couldn't have cooked it up in the first place. Do you see the difference? Certain individual skills simply can not be mirrored in the aggregate.

Wikipedia is useless as a scholarly resource, and worse, many many many Wikipedia articles are useless even as pointers to scholarly resources. The ability to evaluate the worth of scholarly work is a scholarly skill, and Wikipedia is a handy demonstration of both the value of that skill and the impossibility of duplicating it as a systemic effect.

I used to work at a textbook publishing company, and would tell anyone who'd listen that Wikipedia and other sites like it would someday make our work unnecessary. It's clear now (in the year and a quarter since I started there) that I was jumping the gun: a thousand writers and editors are no better than a single writer/editor. Indeed, they can not be, because on Wikipedia it's almost impossible to maintain consistency of tone and narrative push without a single editor working, whose subtlety and idiosyncracy will be lost in the crowd.

The category error that arises when people tout the 'wisdom of crowds' is no less miserable for being common.

(As for distributed textbooks: the ideal is something akin to Wikipedia with tighter reins and committed specialists on staff. But expert collaborators are hard to find. Wikipedia is not the place to start looking.)
posted by waxbanks at 12:26 PM on April 14, 2006


To clarify with an example I just thought of in the shower:

Say you had 50 aliens and sent them around each to one of the 50 states of the U.S. You gave each of them a month to explore their given state, but they were not allowed to travel between states.

Say you asked them to pay close attention to the way racial difference was experienced in their assigned state.

Now get them back together. And ask them to discuss 'the national conversation about race'.

Pointless! None of them has any kind of synoptic view - that is to say, none knows what is important. A race riot between whites and Aleutian islanders might seem major in Alaska - might even burst into apocalyptic violence - but in the history of the U.S. that would only be a footnote. Unless you wanted to think structurally, of course...but then who determines the categories according to which structure is built? Similarly, an alien who confined himself to NoCal wouldn't know how to contextualize the multiculti fantasyland of San Fran alongside NYC's kitchen sink stew. And how do you explain Katrina to the 49 not witness to the curious racial dynamics of NOLA?

Pedagogy can not be distributed so easily as people think, and Wikipedia aspires to be a (rudimentary) pedagogical tool. That's maybe the biggest problem: it's barely more than ignorant for the most part, and is consulted most often by people who are in a state of ignorance (else they'd know where else to look).
posted by waxbanks at 12:55 PM on April 14, 2006


While the Wikipedia itself is intractably broken

Not in the world I live in. Wikipedia almost always has the information I'm looking for, and a lot more besides. It's taken over from Google as my first stop for general information-gathering; once I've read what Wikipedia has to say, I'll either know what I need to know, or I'll know what search terms to use to find out more.

All this hoopla over Wikipedia in the last year strikes me as mildly hilarious. People are going on and on about authority, experts, verifiability, controversy, and whatnot as though these are fundamental problems with Wikipedia rather than isolated edge cases. If you think these are such big problems, would you mind explaining how it is that Wikipedia manages, burdened with them as it is, to be so useful to so many people? Further, would you mind explaining what the alternatives are? I don't see a terribly crowded field in the free online encyclopedia market right now.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:16 PM on April 14, 2006


Pedagogy can not be distributed so easily as people think, and Wikipedia aspires to be a (rudimentary) pedagogical tool.

No it does not. You appear to misunderstand pedagogy. Look it up in an encyclopedia.
posted by bobbyelliott at 1:47 PM on April 14, 2006


Wikipedia has deleted, purged, removed, a notable amount of history, edits, and discussion.

A notable amount only if you're interested in wikipedia minutae. It's a unbelievably, vanishingly tiny portion of total edits (I'd be shocked if it was more than a thousandth of a percent).

deep cover agendas being played out over multiple "characters", manipulation of trust vectors to achieve goals

This is the most interesting allegation in the speech: that wikipedia has spawned its own analogues of software crackers and virus writers -- people who enjoy gaming the system for the sheer hell of it. But there wasn't any evidence provided.

Even as an intelligent reader, could you have known that one of the biggest fights on Wikipedia a few months ago was the name of a northern Polish city (Danzig or Gdansk)? Or that Genghis Khan was controversal? Or that some material presented as widespread is not (see Polonophobia)?

Yes -- I could see the controversy in the Ghengis Khan article through the way it was written even though I know jack shit about Ghengis Khan. That type of thing is usually apparent if you're a careful reader (for example, a quick scan of the first paragraph of the Tokyo article will reveal the outlines of the prefecture/city terminology debate). I wrote a blog post about reading WPedia this way.
posted by Tlogmer at 2:08 PM on April 14, 2006


it's barely more than ignorant for the most part

Eh?
posted by RufusW at 3:58 PM on April 14, 2006


"You don't have to start with the presumption that everyone is stupid except for you. You have an option." -- Hildegarde

That's definitely the QOTD for me. Not that I necessarily agree with Hildegarde's original point. However, this was a great FPP, and an excellent ensuing conversation. Great job, Armitage.
posted by rush at 4:12 PM on April 14, 2006


Have the Wikipedia display a stability score on each current article. It would be calculated based on edit frequency and edit impact measured as an average percentage of text changed per edit or something.

It would be a immediate heads-up to the reader about the level of agreement or consensus regarding each article.
posted by NortonDC at 5:08 PM on April 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


Saying someone "must" be a critic because they've been hurt by a project and feel "jilted" is about...

... the same as willfully misrepresenting what someone else has said?

You lost me when you admitted you were a Randian Objectivist. If you really, truly adhere to that school of thought, you really don't have any credibility.
posted by lodurr at 5:21 PM on April 14, 2006


lodurr wrote....
You lost me when you admitted you were a Randian Objectivist. If you really, truly adhere to that school of thought, you really don't have any credibility.

Although the fact that Wikipedia treats "Randian Objectivism" as a serious topic instead of an adolescent fantasy is a point against it.
posted by tkolar at 5:44 PM on April 14, 2006


At least Randian Objectivists know how to spice up their inane political fiction with a few well-placed rough sex scenes, and spice up their lives by participating in a few anticommunist witch hunts. What have Wikipedians ever done that's as much queasy fun?
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:07 PM on April 14, 2006


Lodurr: The biases are glaring. Jscott does not like Randian Objectivism.

Jscott: But I call myself a Randian Objectivist.

Lodurr: Then you really don't have any credibility.

Well played, Clerks. Well played.
posted by jscott at 7:15 PM on April 14, 2006


In the unlikely event that anyone gives a shit, here's my considered take on the topic.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:18 PM on April 14, 2006


Astro Zombie writes...
What have Wikipedians ever done that's as much queasy fun?

I'm sure someone will take care of this shortly, but are you aware that there appears to be absolutely no slash fiction about Wikipedia at all?

I mean, I think we can all agree from the transcript that there's big time simmering sexual tension between Jason Scott and Jim Wales. You know, who's got the biggest Wiki, and all that stuff.

Anyways, I just thought I'd point this out. Wiki-Slashers, go to it!
posted by tkolar at 7:24 PM on April 14, 2006


it is not unthinkable that a project could be created that would cull the worthwhile information from Wikipedia, submit any dubious or contested pages to a panel of experts, and publish the results online as a competitor. This process could be intentionally designed and would satisfy most of the problems with the 'pedia. So -- why hasn't it happened?

indeed

'The wisdom of crowds' is an appealing semifiction for people who have a resentment toward meritocracy, and its usefulness is limited to very particular domains.

The counter would be that 'meritocracy' is an appealing semifiction for people who have a resentment toward the wisdom of crowds. Arguable, but a boring argument. Consider that the usefulness of both methods may be limited to separate domains, and that knowing when to use which is the key. An easy example is the lifelines on Who Wants To Be A Millionare? There is a time to ask the crowd and there's a time to phone a friend. Discarding one method for another in every situation handicaps the effort to learn.

...would't that be great. We can have one Wikipedia article about 9/11 which says that Saddam did it. Another one which says that the Jews did it. And so on. The disrespect for knowledge (and the unwillingness to learn anything) implied in that way of reasoning is amazing. Disrespect authority as much as you want, but you're making a fool of yourself if you believe that disrespecting knowledge is the same thing as disrespecting authority.

The focus should be on endorsement and trust. Bad ideas will persist with or without the One True summary of 9/11 being posted to Wikipedia. By holding those bad ideas up to a formal system of evaluation based upon the collective consideration of editors who themselves are qualified by fellow editors assesments of past work they--the bad ideas--can be isolated as such, which then serves to deter additional people from adopting that bad idea, which ... can be considered a form of respect. A willingness to learn, no doubt.

Also consider the value of a system that attaches ideas to identities and gives proportional value to ideas based on the value of identity. Authority, if you will, but not absolute or permanent authority. This is a conditional degree of authority that must be earned and maintained. Using your example, to attach the value of an edit stating that Iraq carried out the 9/11 attacks to the identity of the person who posted it becomes instantly useful in evaluating any other edits attached to this identity. This is the same as the informal ability to disregard a person's claims based upon what you've heard them say before. 'Don't listen to him, he says the Holocaust never happened.' Well apply that in a formal way to a *pedia of information and something powerful emerges.

The crucial assumption is that people are, under the best conditions, eventually to be trusted. That good sense is possible. The challenge is creating those conditions, my suggestion is not to disregard authority, but to use a more reliable system of granting and maintaining the status of 'authority'.

And something about Everything2. The moderation system is different. But I like it.
posted by airguitar at 7:24 PM on April 14, 2006


...such contributors and such edits make a mess out of my expert contributions; a mess that requires hours of my valuable time (if you doubt it, I can receive $600 an hour for an initial consult) to repair. They should be kept out of my way. I should not be required to respect such contributors or such contributions. Most importantly: consider the effects on the article. This kind of "consensus" editing makes the article worse, not better for the encyclopedic use for which it is intended.

This is from the article ikkyu2 linked to, and it's a perfect example of what jscott talked about in his speech. Look at the negative earnings an expert is faced with when considering a contribution to Wikipedia, and explain what it is about Wikipedia that motivates someone to lose $600/hr.
posted by airguitar at 7:43 PM on April 14, 2006


ikkyu2. Very well put! I have similar reasons for winding down my contributions (though I don't earn $600/hr). My little essay on the troubles of Wikipedia can be found on my Wikipedia user page, for those interested in that sort of thing.

Even better is Michael White's criticisms of Wikipedia.
posted by blahblahblah at 7:58 PM on April 14, 2006


Bingo ...the trust metrics designed and implemented for Advogato are a near-perfect match for the needs of a Wikipedia-like project...
posted by airguitar at 9:35 PM on April 14, 2006


I'd just like to have a copy of Wikipedia that fits in my pocket. And it should say "Don't Panic" on the cover.
posted by bigbigdog at 10:49 PM on April 14, 2006


airguitar: glad you were not offended. After posting that, I think I was too harsh. The attitude towards knowledge, learning and facts among some of the Wikipedia apologists in this thread was new to me. It's, well, interesting to think about where it might lead.

"A large number of knowledgeable non-experts is better than a small group of experts". Well, if you're going to guess the weight of an ox, yes. Collect a number of more or less knowledgeable guesses and the average will probably be a fairly good estimate. That isn't very similar to writing an ecyclopedia entry.

I regularly use both Wikipedia and Britannica online. The idea of treating this as if it was some kind of football match between the experts and the non-experts, where you are supposed to cheer for your team, is absurd.
posted by Termite at 3:35 AM on April 15, 2006


This is starting to sound familiar: Someone posts to metafilter; somebody with a dog in the hunt on the FPP (and a thin comment history) joins in the fight in an attempt to bolster his ego by counting coup in the blue via sophistic rhetorical judo.

jscott was a lot more interesting and a lot more credible before he openend his mouth here. Then, I saw him as someone who might have turned hurt feelings into a little insight; now, he seems to me like an arrested adolescent, narcissistically obsessed with his own humor and presentation. He reminds me of the guy who buttonholed a major poet at a reading and said "How do I get readings? Because I'm an actor, and I know that I can make people like my poems if I do the reading."

GOB: They're laughing with me, Michael! They're laughing with me!
MICHAEL: At you, GOB. At you.

posted by lodurr at 6:22 AM on April 15, 2006


> I'd just like to have a copy of Wikipedia that fits in my pocket.

I'll assume your interest is genuine for the moment and tell that it already exists. Encyclopodia is a free project that puts the text and links of the Wikipedia on an iPod. Take a look at the Wikipedia on my iPod mini.

I like it, but it certainly has it's limitations. Text only, click-wheel text entry, problems with links containing a colon (slated to be fixed in the next release), and it seems to draw down battery power faster than playing music. But then again, it's the freakin' Wikipedia in your pocket. Which is nice.
posted by NortonDC at 7:55 AM on April 15, 2006


... also available as an ebook for zBEDic, for Qtopia users (many Linux handhelds). User interface is a little richer than for an iPod, but then, they're typically a good deal bigger.
posted by lodurr at 8:26 AM on April 15, 2006


lodurr: I am sorry to have disappointed you.
posted by jscott at 2:49 PM on April 15, 2006


Who said you disappointed me?
posted by lodurr at 5:24 AM on April 16, 2006


airguitar: I'm a major fan of the Advogato trust metric, I was going to post it for you but you beat me to it. I dunno if it's considered polite to cross-post from other meta-sites, but FYI Kuro5hin just discussed using it for their site.
posted by scalefree at 8:38 AM on April 16, 2006


« Older Stardates....   |   Searchable Ornithological Rese... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments