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Google's Knol
December 14, 2007 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Google takes on Wikipedia with Knol. The web responds. Invite only, of course.
posted by Soup (121 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
"In contrast to Wikipedia, each page will be written by a single author and cannot be edited by others. Also, there would be multiple articles for the same topic."

So actually not a lot like Wikipedia at all.
posted by Artw at 10:32 AM on December 14, 2007


So now we are going to have people camping entire subjects the way they sit on domain names? And who decided who is going to write the page on a given subject? Is Dr. Rachel Manber the foremost expert on the subject of insomnia (the sample page)? If she isn't, the fact that her name will be there will lead people to think that she is, which is going to create a market for people to try to get invited.

And when ads for Ambien start showing up on her insomnia page, what is the process for requesting an ethical review on the basis of influence?

This could be achieved more easily and far better by having wikipedia require editors to register with their real names.

The time is now ripe for Britannica to go online with unrestricted access, and charge hefty ad fees. Gone are the days when people would object to ads on encyclopedia pages on an ethical basis. The more I hear of "new and better encycolpedias", the more I appreciate how great the old one was.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:33 AM on December 14, 2007


In contrast to Wikipedia, each page will be written by a single author and cannot be edited by others.

Fail. Next.
posted by DU at 10:34 AM on December 14, 2007


And when ads for Ambien start showing up on her insomnia page, what is the process for requesting an ethical review on the basis of influence?

Right.

The time is now ripe for Britannica to go online with unrestricted access, and charge hefty ad fees. Gone are the days when people would object to ads on encyclopedia pages on an ethical basis.

Irony?
posted by DU at 10:36 AM on December 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Udi Manber is a smart guy, and I still pull out his algorithms book now and again (one of the most concise and useful textbooks I had in college). But this just strikes me as a terrible idea.

There are half a dozen high-profile projects out there looking to "solve the problems with Wikipedia," when in fact Wikipedia is the best we're ever going to see from Internet-scale knowledge construction of this sort. It's messy, it's often wrong, it's fraught with ridiculous politics and ethical quandaries, and god help you if you try to cite it in any sort of respectable publication. But it's a perfectly useful reference of first resort.

The most interesting thing about Google's plan is the potential to monetize content creation for the authors; that might help them get the coverage that they need to compete with Wikipedia for eyeballs and editors. But honestly I don't see why I should trust an article written by a single author (or a single author and his or her friends) more than something that's been collaboratively edited by the anal-retentive hordes of Wikipedia.
posted by xthlc at 10:45 AM on December 14, 2007


I'm not an expert, but I play one on the internet.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:46 AM on December 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Google Knol has at least one benefit over Wikipedia: A much nicer web design. Wikipedia feels so... Web 1.5...
posted by SansPoint at 10:47 AM on December 14, 2007


previously
posted by phaedon at 10:48 AM on December 14, 2007


If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads.

Looks like Dr. Zero will becoming an expert on Vioxx Lawsuits and Injury Lawyers.
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:48 AM on December 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


"In contrast to Wikipedia, each page will be written by a single author and cannot be edited by others. Also, there would be multiple articles for the same topic."

Ah, it's Everything2.
posted by cillit bang at 10:50 AM on December 14, 2007 [9 favorites]


A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. ... Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors.

So we should all run and consult these "knols" (stupid name, by the way) because... they appear on a Google-run site? Even though Google claims no responsibility for them? I join everyone else in considering this a ridiculous idea, and if Google artificially hypes the rankings for them to try and make us use them, it's going to make them look bad.
posted by languagehat at 10:54 AM on December 14, 2007


Wow, really dumb idea.

Not that Wikipedia is perfect, but maybe they will adapt to this new threat gracefully.
posted by parallax7d at 10:56 AM on December 14, 2007


It's not Wikipedia, it's geocities with a ranking system.
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on December 14, 2007 [5 favorites]


Just as long as this comes preinstalled on Windows, every will work out fine.
posted by phaedon at 10:59 AM on December 14, 2007


parallax7d: "Not that Wikipedia is perfect, but maybe they will adapt to this new threat gracefully."

Or maybe they will do absolutely nothing and Knols will go the way of Orkut.
[NOT ANTI-BRAZILIST]
posted by Plutor at 10:59 AM on December 14, 2007


"In contrast to Wikipedia, each page will be written by a single author and cannot be edited by others.

Sweet, where do I sign up? I've got a killer page all ready for Idi Amin.
Some ol' bullshit happened in Africa with some Biggie Smalls lookin' guy. Dude killed mad dudes cuz he just didn't give a fuck. He dressed like M. Bison, and there was a movie I think. Uther be gettin this paper, s0n. Batman is awesome.
Actually, that'll be what I submit no matter what subject I end up writing about.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:16 AM on December 14, 2007 [8 favorites]


Apparently Citizendium has gone from 8 approved articles to 46! Quake in fear Wikipedia!
posted by Artw at 11:21 AM on December 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Knol" does sound pretty cool..
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:48 AM on December 14, 2007


I agree with Cillit Bang. This is Everything2. Google are hacks.

In fact I wish the guys behind E2 could sue Google for everything it's got. Of course then E2 would finally have the money it needs to go three point oh, and I'd have to update my page about Weird Al Yankovic. Actually, I'm getting messages in the chatterbox from people regularly telling me to update my Weird Al entry, but I'm lazy as shit, and I can't improve upon Wikipedia's take on the guy. I mean look at it! My entry sucks raw eggs through a straw! Time has not been kind to it. Why'd I get upvoted over 100 times for my Weird Al E2 entry, when Wikipedia actually shows you a picture of him? I don't understand it.

I was more proud of the things I wrote for E2 that you can't write for Wikipedia, and I doubt any of those would fit in this knol thing. My favorite E2 pieces didn't get upvoted. They apparently didn't even get read. If I'm remembered in E2 at all, it's for pieces that went over well when I didn't think they would and that I'm now mildly embarrassed about. In fact most of the things I enjoyed writing for E2 ended up in what they call "Node Heaven" which is one of the reasons I don't write for E2 anymore. Everyone's a critic.

Honestly I don't know why people are often criticizing Wikipedia for being wrong. When I go there, I usually get the information I need. It may be hazy occasionally, but not in a way that's ever really mattered to me. I can generally tell when a 'fact' is more fiction.

It's pretty obvious when you go into an entry that there's been a disagreement. There's often a banner on the top of the page that says "we're arguing over what it's about" and from that one knows how serious to take the information. It's sometimes fun to read through the history of the page's edits to find out what that disagreement is, or at least scan the talk page to find out what the people who cared enough to edit on topic have to say about said topic. Still, you can go to an entry about a nation and even if there's disagreement over who's in charge and whether or not child labor is happening or whether or not its a totalitarian regime pretending to have elections or whether or not drug is smuggled through it's borders, most of those arguing will agree that it is in fact a nation, and if that's all you really wanted to know, you're good to go.

It's like going into a public place and asking the entire room if there's anybody who knows about Topic X. Topic X of course being any topic that you find recently interesting but haven't actually learned much about cuz you're lazy or busy or whatever.

Go to any party that's got more than say thirty people and bring up a topic you know about but don't know in detail. Ask the room if there's anyone who knows about a certain celebrity or profession or cooking recipe. You'll get at least one person who sincerely knows something, at least one person who thinks he knows something and will argue with the other guy for the rest of the night, and a third guy who will make snarky wiseass comments about the other two as they go.

Whether you leave that party smarter than if you'd just gone to the library is anyone's guess, but at least you'll have had a good time. That's Wikipedia. It's an encyclopedia of common wisdom for the rest of us; for those of us who know that fancy Encyclopedias were not ever written to be read, but to be 'studied,' which really sucks.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:50 AM on December 14, 2007 [5 favorites]


This really is nothing like Wikipedia. Perhaps closer to about.com or essortment.com.

You know, as much as people rant about the place, it's a perfect example of "good enough" technology.

So now we are going to have people camping entire subjects the way they sit on domain names?

RTFA. It says that there may well be multiple articles on the same topic.

The time is now ripe for Britannica to go online with unrestricted access, and charge hefty ad fees.

Sure, but since Wikipedia is as noted "good enough" ... they may have missed the boat.

Sure would like to see the OED opened up, though ....
posted by dhartung at 11:50 AM on December 14, 2007


Small font + grey text = headaches.
posted by smackfu at 12:06 PM on December 14, 2007


That's a terrible name.

Google is trying to become an also-ran on everything. Take a hint from Microsoft's mistakes: covering all the bases and doing everything badly is not as good as finding a niche and doing one thing well.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:08 PM on December 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'd prefer using gnolls as units of knowledge.
posted by ooga_booga at 12:11 PM on December 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


This knol, it's grassy?
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:13 PM on December 14, 2007 [5 favorites]


Whether you leave that party smarter than if you'd just gone to the library is anyone's guess, but at least you'll have had a good time. That's Wikipedia.

Is it though? Isn't there some stat on the number of editors who write the majority of the articles? My understanding of Wikipedia is less the room full of people with anybody's guess and more of an elite volunteer team of researchers. Where did I read that?
posted by Avenger50 at 12:18 PM on December 14, 2007


covering all the bases and doing everything badly is not as good as finding a niche and doing one thing well.

But this is the curse of being a public company. You must have revenue growth. Every year, without fail. Preferably every quarter. Eventually you can't do this by sticking to what you're good at, so you branch out. Look at Amazon... 3rd party sellers, and MP3 store, and video downloads, and Kindle, and S3, and whatever else they can think of, as long as it generates revenue.
posted by smackfu at 12:22 PM on December 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


schoolgirl report: "This knol, it's grassy?"

Nope, just a little gassy.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:27 PM on December 14, 2007


But this is the curse of being a public company. You must have revenue growth. Every year, without fail. Preferably every quarter.

I've never understood this. Surely it's clear that over time this is an unsustainable strategy? Wouldn't people start rewarding companies that take the long view and do well over, say, a few years, as against companies that pull all that Enron-style shit in desperate attempts to GROW GROW GROW? Are people collectively that stupid?

I suppose I could make an AskMe question of this, but what the hell, I've already typed it here.
posted by languagehat at 12:34 PM on December 14, 2007 [12 favorites]


"For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject."

My Knol on Obscure Cult TV Program is so much better than your Knol on Obscure Cult TV Program... I'm a recognised expert! And my author photo is way cooler! Now give me that ad-gravy.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:48 PM on December 14, 2007


Google needs to change their motto to "Don't be AOL".
posted by srboisvert at 12:56 PM on December 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


I thought that a 'grok' was the established unit of measurement for knowledge.
posted by quin at 12:59 PM on December 14, 2007


Wouldn't people start rewarding companies that take the long view and do well over, say, a few years, as against companies that pull all that Enron-style shit in desperate attempts to GROW GROW GROW? Are people collectively that stupid?

That's why the principle goal of the Stock Market is "buy low, sell high", not "buy something good and keep forever" - trading as opposed to owning - winning the Investment Game. The so-called Wisdom of the Market adores the current Hot Property and is looking for the Next Big Thing. People (at least those 'in the market') are collectively that greedy.
posted by wendell at 1:07 PM on December 14, 2007


i know it's really only tangential to the topic at hand, but man i wish i could double or triple favorite what languagehat just said...

Unlike some posters in this thread perhaps, I've always respected Google as a company in the past, and I like a lot of the other non-search related things they've done recently (Google Maps, etc.) but this one does seem more than a little iffy...
posted by saulgoodman at 1:11 PM on December 14, 2007


Surely it's clear that over time this is an unsustainable strategy?

I too never quite got this. But if I can recall my one finance course well enough...

When you buy a stock, you get some chunk of the underlying company.

Assuming you want to grow your investment (you didn't buy the stock to frame it on your wall) there are two ways to get money out of the stock: one, dividends, where the company pays part of its profits to shareholders. Two, growth, where as the company grows the value of your underlying chunk of the company grows too. Then you sell the stock to someone else for more than you paid for it. The rest is mostly handwaving (e.g. hot stocks, shorting, etc).

Why does the company bother trying to increase the value of shares at all? The CEO is hired and fired by the board of directors, who are, in turn, elected by the shareholders, who want - guess what - their shares to increase in value. It's really like natural selection that way; CEOs who grow share value are rewarded and don't get killed, CEOs who don't grow share value get killed and are removed from the CEO gene pool.

Essentially, Google must either continue to grow to support their stock price or become really profitable and begin issuing dividends, otherwise the shareholders, via the board, kill the CEO.

Anyway, the jury will be out on this project for a while. I admire Google for sticking to it's spaghetti-testing product development strategy. Keep throwing stuff out there Google, see what sticks.
posted by GuyZero at 1:21 PM on December 14, 2007


When does KnowledgeFilter launch?
posted by davejay at 1:24 PM on December 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


Yeah, rediculous. Who came up with this idea of calling pages "knol"s? Why not just call things pages. I've never, in my life, seen a startup succeed that tried to create it's own terminology for what it did and get people to use it, other then games of course, and Maybe twitter (technically on twitter your posts are 'tweets').

If you become so successful that most of the people you're going to talk too would know what you mean when you say 'I'll google it', it's really a bad move.

But who knows. I mean, I never use about.com but apparently someone does.
posted by delmoi at 1:27 PM on December 14, 2007


Great idea! With Wikipedia there is only a single article for a topic. Once that article achieves a certain level of quality, it doesn't change much. Once you've read the Wikipedia article on the subject, your pretty much done with Wikipedia. There is no room for other takes. To get an idea what I mean by this, compare the Wikipedia article on Literature with the Citizendium article on Literature. Ok, now we have 2 "acceptable" articles on Literature that probably won't change much. Unless Wikipedia copies the Citizendium article over, which Wales has said it would do, in which case we are back to a single article.

There needs to be room for multiple takes on the same subject. There is no single "right" version, just compare the difference between professional encyclopedias, they all have very different articles on the same topics, but all can be very good. Wikipedia tries to be the best and in the process creates a monolithic article that screams for competition.

Wikipedia is successful because of Google which drives most of its traffic. WP should seriously be concerned when Google searches start pointing users to Knol before WP. When users search on "Literature" and find Knol is the top hit, it will drive editors to to Knol. We all like our work to be read, that is the secret behind all this - ego, knowing people are reading your work. Another area WP has totally missed the boat - no page ranking, no hit counts, no "was this article helpful" etc.. no reward system. Looks to me like Knol could be successful.
posted by stbalbach at 1:45 PM on December 14, 2007


Do you have to worship Yeenoghu to get an invite?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:46 PM on December 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


When users search on "Literature" and find Knol is the top hit, it will drive editors to Knol.

What do you mean, "drive editors to Knol"? Only people with invites can post on Knol. Why should they be viewed with reverence? I'll take Wikipedia, thanks, where I can post my information without sitting around waiting for Google to call.
posted by languagehat at 1:50 PM on December 14, 2007


So, instead of the most Google-accessible information being whatever is most currently popular amongst the infinite editor internet monkeys, the most Google-accessible information will be what is the most currently popular amongst the infinite reader internet monkeys?

I foresee a great many mimetic funny pages outranking anything useful.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:57 PM on December 14, 2007


LH: you wrote: What do you mean, "drive editors to Knol"? Only people with invites can post on Knol.


I take this line to mean that they plan to open knol up to any and all comers after testing ends...


For now, using it is by invitation only. But we wanted to share with everyone the basic premises and goals behind this project.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:08 PM on December 14, 2007


Boy, that Citizendium literature article is just a little stuffy isn't it?

One time a wikipedia editor who was in a middle of a flounce out was making a bit of a noise about how Citizendium would handle the subjhect in question (Jimmy Swaggart) so much better. Till this day Citizendium has no Jimmy Swaggart article, which is, aparently, preferable in the eyes of Citizendium fans.
posted by Artw at 2:10 PM on December 14, 2007


Only people with invites can post on Knol.

It's in beta, of course.

Wikipedia, thanks, where I can post my information

Knol will appeal more to people who want to write entire articles, and get credit for it. It's actually how the real world works. There will be a lot of "poo" but the good articles will rise to the top. Hey, imagine some well known experts in the field creating signed articles - Harold Bloom writes an article on Literature - then Woolf decides to write one too. Wikipedia doesn't attract real experts because their work gets no respect by other editors. Knol would fix that problem and could actually get some real expert signed writing.
posted by stbalbach at 2:13 PM on December 14, 2007


I wrote this on TechCrunch, but it bears repeating here:

Hallelujah!

No question, this is about blasting Wikipedia out of the water. And I, for one, am thrilled to see it finally happen.

Far from its Utopian ideal “Anyone can edit a page”, Wikipedia is really nothing more than a clique of editors that thinks entirely way too high of itself. And heaven forbid you try to make a correction to an existing entry if you work for either a PR agency or the business itself being referenced. Even if your intentions are entirely noble, you will get slapped with a red deletion notice so quickly, it will make your head spin.

I know what some people are already thinking — why not use the comments and discussion feature to air out any grievances? Again, has anyone tried that lately? The process represents something out of Joseph Kafka’s “The Trial.” There are a series of pages that talk about deletion, but most of them contradict each other. When you have a legitimate gripe, it gets shouted down by the editors who basically believe that their word is the Final Say and that you can’t do a damn thing about it.

Here's a question I asked on Ask Metafilter about the same topic. Notice the maddening maze of contradiction and frustration? It should be easy to make a correction -- and yet when I followed the advice given here and on Wikipedia, some Know-It-All from Wikipedia declared that it was invalid because it was coming from the company itself. Even though I could literally host a page on our site that read, "Hey, everyone, post this to Wikipedia" and it would be accepted, making a simple correction (note: not a whitewash or PR scrub) was deemed to be unacceptable.

Far from being a public resource fit for the common good, Wikipedia has morphed into something far worse. Instead of representing the best human encyclopedia ever created, it is nothing but a cabal of arrogant, self-important editors who reject all that does not adhere with their worldview.

Go Google!
posted by zooropa at 2:14 PM on December 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


heaven forbid you try to make a correction to an existing entry if you work for either a PR agency or the business itself being referenced.

Care to take some guesses as to why?
posted by Artw at 2:16 PM on December 14, 2007 [4 favorites]


Artw -- care to take any guesses that PR people might actually NOT be evil and have something legitimate to say? Care to take any guesses that some people actually care about ethics and integrity, and actually *gasp* act with principles in mind?

Regardless of what you think of PR people or the industry, it doesn't change the fact that Wikipedia's editors are at the root cause of its problems.
posted by zooropa at 2:18 PM on December 14, 2007


Wow.
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on December 14, 2007


It's actually how the real world works.

:: pets wee Wikipedia on the head ::

"Ok Wiki, Britannica let you stay up late, but now Mr. and Mrs. Google are home, it's time to go to bed. Awww, isn't that sweet-- you made a 'literature' entry! We're so proud of you! We'll make sure to have Uncle Bloom [FIND HAROLD BLOOM GNOMES www.haroldsgnomery.co.uk] fix it for you while you're asleep. Shhhh it's OK that you forgot to repeat gnosticism over and over and over again. Shhhh there, there."
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 2:34 PM on December 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hey, imagine some well known experts in the field creating signed articles - Harold Bloom writes an article on Literature

You can imagine whatever you like, but Harold Bloom ain't gonna be contributing articles to this thing. And the whole point of Wikipedia is that the concept of information being restricted to "well known experts in the field" is elitist nonsense. Google is on the horns of a dilemma: if they go the "well known experts in the field" route, they'll be in the Citizendium drawer, with a few (mostly probably tedious) articles by "experts" and nobody consulting them (unless they shamelessly stack the deck by subverting their own algorithm), but if they open it to to any and all comers, as saulgoodman suggests, then how are they different from Wikipedia except that they'll have a bunch of articles on some subjects? Which frankly is not going to be a big draw for most people; if I want to find out about something quickly, I'm not going to want to wade through a bunch of competing articles. And if I want to do serious research, it's not going to be on a website anybody can post to.

zooropa: It's astonishing to see how little self-awareness you have. If you think anyone's going to agree with you that one of Wikipedia's basic problems is that it doesn't allow flacks to post about the places they flack for, you've got several more thinks coming.
posted by languagehat at 2:35 PM on December 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


...Joseph Kafka?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:35 PM on December 14, 2007


For what it's worth, I *have* made changes to articles relating to businesses I've worked for. No explodo-zap from evil editors has occured. To be fair, I didn't go in saying "I am the ultimate authority on this! Respect my edits!", as that sort of thing often results in trouble, and I wasn't paid to do it or anything, just happened to pass by and see something that needed fixing.

I've deleted a fair amount of PR company driven spam as well, so forgive me if my view of anything obviously generated by PR people is a low one. I guess we have no ay off telling what good, objective edits on notable subjects have been made by PR people as such edits would just blend in with everybody elses.

And you're right: Wikipedia's editors are definately the root cause of its problems - and pretty much every other thing on Wikipedia.
posted by Artw at 2:37 PM on December 14, 2007


For what it's worth, I've never had an edit deleted on Wikipedia.
posted by languagehat at 2:42 PM on December 14, 2007


Hell, I've never not gotten a cash prize as thanks for an edit on Wikipedia.
posted by cortex at 2:48 PM on December 14, 2007


zooropa, it is best not to edit articles in which you have some outside interest. Not because there is anything inherently wrong with that (as Artw says), but because other people will make your life a living hell for doing so - if they find out about it. I don't know which users you ran up against on Wikipedia, but the "Conflict of Interest" group is particularly nasty (a few users come to mind). They use sock puppets, back-channel coordinations (cabal), stalking - basically really tear apart your work. Unless you've experienced this, it's hard to describe how demoralizing it can be - stick around Wikipedia long enough and you will eventually run into them (I will refrain from naming names as these people are also vindictive and litigious, they have been in court a number of times for defamation).

languagehat, Bloom is just an example of what could happen when an expert contributes, if you don't like Bloom, pick someone else. Google is not going to the experts, that is not what Knol is about. Such a thing would be possible that is currently not possible with WP. Citizendium is a dead end, no expert is going to spend the rest of his life maintaining an article - it's a bad design. The reason Knoll will be a draw is because instead of having one article on a topic there will be many. Depth.

I read and helped write the First Crusade series 3 years ago. I've gone through it so many times I almost know it by heart. No one has made any real changes to it. I sure would like to read an entirely different article about it. Wikipedia has no room, it's stagnant.
posted by stbalbach at 2:57 PM on December 14, 2007


Competition is good, no?
posted by gwint at 3:01 PM on December 14, 2007


And heaven forbid you try to make a correction to an existing entry if you work for either a PR agency or the business itself being referenced. Even if your intentions are entirely noble, you will get slapped with a red deletion notice so quickly, it will make your head spin.

Well, the same thing would happen if you posted an FPP on metafilter with the same relationship. Except your account would also be banned.

Really, it's not that complicated. But, unlike metafilter you can edit articles anonymously, without logging in. If you're having articles deleted as spam that you post anonymously, then it's probably because they read like bullshit.

And maybe your own intentions were pure, but really it's a good rule to have in place.
posted by delmoi at 3:01 PM on December 14, 2007


Metafilter is rigged! By a cabal!
posted by Artw at 3:03 PM on December 14, 2007


There is no cabal.
posted by cortex at 3:05 PM on December 14, 2007


There will be a hidden second author on the grassy knol.
posted by lukemeister at 3:29 PM on December 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Delmoi, respectfully, I disagree. You're looking for people to be inherently motivated by nefarious intentions and bias. I guess I'm looking at people to actually have good intentions first. It's gotten me very far in life (go figure).

Rules are one thing. There should be rules and guidelines in place. That's what makes a community grow. That's why Metafilter has become the terrific community it has. But Wikipedia's rules are arcane, difficult to follow, and contradictory. Worse, there is no accountability.

I understand the need for rules. But when rules stifle expression, your community begins to die a slow death.
posted by zooropa at 3:35 PM on December 14, 2007


I'll take the shitshow of people with too much time on their hands and odd obsessions at Wikipedia over the profit motive at Google.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:37 PM on December 14, 2007


knol is such a ridiculous name. I can't think where they came up with that idea. People say, "I googled it," but I can't imagine anyone saying, "Oh, yeah? Well, knol it and we'll see who is right."
posted by misha at 3:57 PM on December 14, 2007


Personally, the first place I go for the facts is PR.

That's how I know my Kools are flavorful, my Oxys non-addictive, my health care plan dependable, my operating system painless, my favorite baseball player flaxed, my music transcendent/mellifluous/edgy, my hairspray the strongest, my CEO above reproach, my encyclopedia helpful, and that my Prez is fighting for my freedom.

Thank God for PR. They make my life much, much easier. And helpful!
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 4:13 PM on December 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Delmoi, respectfully, I disagree. You're looking for people to be inherently motivated by nefarious intentions and bias. I guess I'm looking at people to actually have good intentions first. It's gotten me very far in life (go figure).

No, I expect people to have noble intensions, which are subverted without their conscious awareness by their biases.

Like right now you think Wikipedia is like the worst thing ever because it won't let you do the one thing you want to do. But if you didn't have this specific problem, you'd never know.

And furthermore, I'm not so sure why you'd be so excited about Knol either, I mean no one will be able to edit Knol articles, and if PR people try to write PR on Knol it will probably get voted down anyway. So. I don't think Knol solves your particular problem either.

The bottom line is most people do not want their information filtered through a companies PR operation. Maybe most people have good intentions, but some professions have proven themselves less trustworthy. I mean, would you take everything a used car salesman says at face value? Or a political candidate? Or some guy on an infomercial? I wouldn't, and I wouldn't trust PR people either.
posted by delmoi at 4:48 PM on December 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't people start rewarding companies that take the long view and do well over, say, a few years...

Some investors embrace this line of thought, but the vast majority of professional investors are compensated based on two major factors: (1) the amount of money they manage and (2) their short-term performance relative to the market and other managers. A company that takes the long-view does these managers no good--they need to the stock to go up this quarter so that they can market their fund more effectively next quarter and get that big bonus. Agency problems abound.
posted by mullacc at 5:31 PM on December 14, 2007


If there are multiple pages for each topic and each person just works on their own pages because there's no collaboration, and there are Google ads everywhere, don't you just have, uh, the internet?
posted by XMLicious at 5:42 PM on December 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Boy, that Citizendium literature article is just a little stuffy isn't it?

Christ, tell me about it. I bailed after the first sentence.

zooropa: I have updated your AskMe with something resembling the officially recommended course of action for dealing with problem articles for their subjects. Sorry nobody else gave you that. I don't reject everything that was said in that thread, and things have changed a bit since you posted it, but I hope I help a few future Googlers. As for your own experience, the only thing I can say is that there are two things verboten at Wikipedia: negative or poorly sourced information about living persons, and spam.

But Wikipedia's rules are arcane, difficult to follow, and contradictory.

Such is life. Wikipedia is designed around editors, not flacks.

Worse, there is no accountability.

That's ridiculous. The bureaucracy surrounding accountability is simply epic. Maybe you need some patience to navigate it, but I see accountability of some kind almost every day. The biggest thing you need to know about any dispute is more eyes.

But back to Knol.

Google is trying to become an also-ran on everything.

We go through this every time. Google insists that its programmers do these little sabbatical projects to keep their minds fresh. So every year there are half-a-dozen of these odd, tiny projects that reach the public, but they were created by a small team and don't necessarily have much to do with the wider mission of Google. In fact, they tend to be poorly integrated with the Google interface, if at all, and receive minimal UI updating unless they become a key component such as Gmail. Indeed, there are places on the Google search interface -- supposedly their bread and butter -- where if you pick from the "more" drop down, your search text disappears (I always forget which ones until they bite me in the ass). This is clearly not something that Google values highly, which is quite annoying, because even if individual parts work well, it's especially nice to have them work well together.

In any case, this is probably just another Google one-off that they'll float out there and see how it happens. Like Google Answers, say, it may well bite the dust in a year or two.

I will make this prediction: Something posted on Knol in the next year will become an insignificant, but briefly talked-about, issue in the 2008 Presidential campaign.
posted by dhartung at 6:13 PM on December 14, 2007


I will make this prediction: Something posted on Knol in the next year will become an insignificant, but briefly talked-about, issue in the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Good prediction. If I may co-predict, the "unexpected publicity" will be thanks to the efforts of Google PR and a little cha-ching slipped under the doormat of a communications conglomerate or two. (If that isn't what you were already suggesting.)
posted by XMLicious at 6:30 PM on December 14, 2007


Just curious, Zooropa... Are you a Scientologist?
posted by Down10 at 6:33 PM on December 14, 2007


Just curious, Zooropa... Are you a Scientologist?

Or perhaps a Led Zeppelin fan? I get a kick out of reading the talk pages for articles where biased editors get in revert wars over controversial material. I guess I like a good train wreck when it's all in fun.

Some of these people really have no idea how biased they are, which is why PR flaks and the like get dealt with so harshly. And then, some do know and don't care, which is perhaps even worse.
posted by cj_ at 7:37 PM on December 14, 2007


Setting aside the fact that “knols”...has very little to show for itself beyond a screenshot and a lot of hype (remember the days when Google announced things with live addresses and login screens?)

Heh.

smackfu really nailed it above: Google's business model - keep the stock price high at all costs - is totally dependent on this kind of regular announcement of questionable new "products" that generate enough buzz to keep the Google name on everyone's tongue. The products are getting increasingly silly, and, as far as I can tell, are almost never driven by any serious user demand for whatever it is the PR machine is chewing and spitting at us.
posted by mediareport at 8:09 PM on December 14, 2007


If there are multiple pages for each topic and each person just works on their own pages because there's no collaboration, and there are Google ads everywhere, don't you just have, uh, the internet?

Yes, but with moderation.
posted by delmoi at 8:12 PM on December 14, 2007


dhartung writes "We go through this every time. Google insists that its programmers do these little sabbatical projects to keep their minds fresh. So every year there are half-a-dozen of these odd, tiny projects that reach the public, but they were created by a small team and don't necessarily have much to do with the wider mission of Google ..."

Yeah, I know. I've been aware of that for years. But the results are not looking so innovative anymore, and the business doesn't have much of a mission except to raise the price of the stock and make money. Although, I am at once concerned and interested in Google's interest in the 700MHz band, along with their mobile software. That actually moved the market in a way I prefer, but I'm not sure where it will take us in the long run.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:49 PM on December 14, 2007


Yes, but with moderation.

Well good thing MeFi has already patented moderation. Take em' down, mathowie!
posted by XMLicious at 8:50 PM on December 14, 2007


Surely it's clear that over time this is an unsustainable strategy? Wouldn't people start rewarding companies that take the long view and do well over, say, a few years, as against companies that pull all that Enron-style shit in desperate attempts to GROW GROW GROW? Are people collectively that stupid?

lol -- you even need to ask?

Google's earnings last year were 10.6 billion, of which about 3 billion was pure profit. Most of us, regular folk, would be happy as a junebug to be involved with a company that has a cool $3 billion sitting in the bank. The company could do alot with that money: raise salaries, benefits, save it for a rainy day (or month, or year...). To us, that seems like an awsome company. If we, as employees of that company, could ensure that it would make $3 billion in profit every year forever, we would consider ourselves to be outstandingly sucessful.

But from a modern American-capitalist viewpoint, such a company would be an abject failure. If Google made $3 billion in profit last year, they need to make $3.15 billion in pure profit this year (an extra $150,000,000) to claim a "healthy" growth rate of 5%. For next year, they'll need to make $3.307 billion -- in pure profit -- to claim the same. What this means is that, esentially, Google needs to find an extra $150,000,000 or so every year just in order to "look good" for Wall Street. Actually, probably more than 150 million per year, since it takes money to make money, and to make 150 million in pure profit will probably require a sizeable investiment.

Google needs your money. They're going to need more and more money, every year, forever. Of course, it never happens that way. Eventually the market for online-fu will start to be saturated, stock prices will drop, Wall Street will panic, noises will be made, Google will be bought out, placed under a different brand, its finances rearranged and the whole game will start up again. The new company will be called Weyland-YutaniGoogle.com and will be based in Beijing.

But in the meantime, they're still trying for that extra $150,000,000. Thats why we have this new retarded "Wikipedia, but more biased and with more ads" bullshit.
posted by Avenger at 9:05 PM on December 14, 2007 [4 favorites]


With writers self-editing their entries, I wonder if there will be a clash of very different writing styles on Knol, or if eventually all content will be presented in a homogeneous format.

One of Wikipedia's quality is its consistency of style. Whether I research a pointed academic subject or a casual pop culture subject on Wikipedia, I know what to expect on the pages and can skim and go straight to the information important to me.

On Knol, I suspect we'll find a lot of writers imposing their personal voices, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but its helpfulness will be less immediate than Wikipedia's.
posted by jchgf at 12:49 AM on December 15, 2007


Wikipedia's greatest competitors and danger is Wikipedians.
posted by jscott at 1:03 AM on December 15, 2007


Not sure why it matters. As soon as they release it, we'll see 3 front page articles about it, it'll get 9875 Diggs, Reddit will go nuts over it, and the 5 people saying "Google is evil" will get modded into oblivion on Slashdot.

Or, like some of the other Google services, they'll be announced and nobody will really use them.
posted by drstein at 4:32 AM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


PR people might actually NOT be evil and have something legitimate to say?

Well, the idea is (and I think this is where the self-link rule here comes from) is that, as a PR person, your biases about the topic prevent you from being able to accurately judge what is "legitimate" and what is whitewashing. PR people can say things that are entirely true but, by using clever words, can be completely different from reality.

The problem with Wikipedia--and I think Google's little project may address this--is that you can't say something as a PR person with obvious attribution. If there could be a little box on Wikipedia that said "Statement from company" or "Corrections from company" or something similar, that may work. But without digging into the history, looking at IP addresses, etc, Wikipedia edits are not very transparent. We don't know if the person who added a particular fact has a bias or not.

This is where Google's project could really shine. If we have several articles on, say, Microsoft. One could peruse the official "Microsoft" article on Microsoft, a Wikipedia-style account of Microsoft's history, a financial history of Microsoft for investors, an ethical history of Microsoft from FOSS people..one could have access to a body of knowledge that comes from many sources and is especially transparent in who is writing and what biases they may have. The information you're looking for could be tailored to your needs as well. You might want Microsoft's account of themselves for a paper you're writing, but need an ethical history to consider buying a PC or a Mac.
posted by almostmanda at 8:51 AM on December 15, 2007


Google is on the right track. Wikipedia is not only flawed, it is misleading. I've seen things that are true and informative disappear without a trace simply because they don't fit into the majority belief system. The voting mechanism, the only currency the web contains, and the only added value the web offers to civilization besides efficiency, is built into wikipedia as an eager mob of unemployable types, called editors, (most of them belong to cults and PR firms and sockpuppets rule the day). The people who know differently ignore fixing wikipedia articles because it is a game to master. To add insult to injury, the people in the know can't even vote on articles in passing because wikipedia has an NPD complex at its core and posers don't want feedback.
posted by Brian B. at 10:11 AM on December 15, 2007


I think what a lot of people are trying to say here is "some edit war didn't go the way I wanted it to - Wikipedia sucks".
posted by Artw at 10:42 AM on December 15, 2007


I think what a lot of people are trying to say here is "some edit war didn't go the way I wanted it to - Wikipedia sucks".

The whole reason it sucks is because it went somebody's way at all. If that is ever going to happen, the person needs introduction. If that is not going to happen, the viewpoints need to be multiplied, with feedback processes, not unlike the web search function itself. This is why Google nailed it and wikipedia will be left to degenerate by the vandals that are free to roam.
posted by Brian B. at 10:57 AM on December 15, 2007


The whole reason it sucks is because it went somebody's way at all. If that is ever going to happen, the person needs introduction.

I actually had my own idea for a wikipedia based on version control systems like Git or Mercurial where each person has their own 'view' and can 'pull' from whoever they want. That way, you could 'subscribe' to edits by whatever cliques you want, rather then having everything being controlled by one master clique.

Now, obviously this presents it's own issues, like, only one clique is actually right. But it makes more sense then having a single POV controlling things, because who should get to pick that single POV? Jimmy Wales for no particular reason?
posted by delmoi at 11:59 AM on December 15, 2007


MetaFilter: "...at least one person...thinks he knows something and will argue with the other guy for the rest of the night, and a third guy...will make snarky wiseass comments about the other two as they go."
posted by ericb at 12:11 PM on December 15, 2007


You Wikipedia haters seem to be experiencing a different Wikipedia from the one I know. I just did a complete revamp of an article on a magazine, adding paragraphs of history from various sources online and off; I confidently expect it to remain substantially as I left it. I ask myself what would be the benefit of a seeker after knowledge being confronted with both my version and the crappy one it replaced, a la "Knol," and who knows how many others, and I can't come up with an answer. Sorry about your feelings getting hurt, those of you who broke the rules or otherwise had a bad experience, but your problems are not Wikipedia's.
posted by languagehat at 12:17 PM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


languagehat -- If you're game, would you mind sharing a link to the article you've edited? I'd love to see your post and follow along. If the process and discussion surrounding it works for you, I genuinely would like to learn from your example.

Truthfully, this has nothing to do with mine or anyone else's feelings hurt. Ask any of the people who've posted here about their experiences editing Wikipedia. The ones that were negative were people trying to make an honest, genuine attempt at improving the encyclopedia. Put your cynycism aside for a second and look at it from someone else's point of view.

I can't speak for everyone else. I just know what happened on the two experiences I tried to make legitimate changes and go through the convoluted process of grievance and redress. It was ridiculously complicated, and the parties involved were ridiculously childish, hateful, and unreasonable. This has nothing to do with axes to grind or feelings getting hurt. Wikipedia only grows as much as there are people who care and give a sh*t about accuracy. When that dies, the communal encyclopedia that "anyone can edit" begins to die, too.

p.s. For the person who asked, no, I am not a Scientologist. I'm a funky hippie Jew with a Buddhist twist. *grin*
posted by zooropa at 1:16 PM on December 15, 2007


Sorry about your feelings getting hurt, those of you who broke the rules or otherwise had a bad experience, but your problems are not Wikipedia's.

This seems familiar to the problem while professing innocence, a passive-aggressive response so much like wikipedia itself, where editors have the same approach to finding reasons for having it their way on the talk pages. Those pages are a waste of time as far as knowledge is concerned. It's an artificial bottleneck of information by having 40 talk pages and only one page of presentable material based on persistence of deletion. Mr Wales obviously buys into a genetic theory of information involving human conflict, while Google rightly sees it as a selection process. Personally, I don't even have a problem with wikipedia sucking, I just want readers to know it when it probably does, and to be able to vote that way. If knowledge improves, then objective ranking will best promote it, not subjective persistence.
posted by Brian B. at 1:41 PM on December 15, 2007


I've seen things that are true and informative disappear without a trace simply because they don't fit into the majority belief system.

An example would be great at this point. Thanks.
posted by mediareport at 4:15 PM on December 15, 2007


An example would be great at this point. Thanks.

No thanks, it would compromise me, and leave me to defend my examples all over again. But any controversy with talk pages should contain dozens of examples. I quit when I found that it took over ten times the effort in writing to attain a 50% chance at defending a simple edit in order to balance a biased article on subjects I was familiar with, and that was only for the short term.
posted by Brian B. at 4:32 PM on December 15, 2007


*shrug*

An example would still be great at this point.
posted by mediareport at 6:48 PM on December 15, 2007


*shrug*
posted by Brian B. at 6:51 PM on December 15, 2007


Yeah I'm hearing a lot of claims that Wikipedia is full of lies and has a subjective worldview, but I've yet to see proof of it. Just people claiming that. Abigail in Frank Miller's The Crucible did that too. She told people what she thought they wanted to hear in order to save her own hide. Abigail may have been the first American PR Lady.

It's like witch hunts or red scares or accusations of drug abuse in sports. Sure, maybe it's true maybe it's not but if an accused person is able to manipulate the situation so that they become an 'informant' and starts pointing fingers? They can create a swarm of controversy and muddy the waters so nobody knows what the truth is anymore. I think people claiming Wiki is "elitist" or "wrong" or "difficult" are just boys crying wolf, or maybe wolves going "baaaa" to see what they can lure to their alternatives. The more you claim Wiki is filled with liars, the more you look like a liar.

Public relations people, by definition, are biased. They are spin doctors. Their job is to accentuate the positive and delineate the negative with regards to their alterior motives, while simultaneously seeking to do the opposite to perceived competition. And all this has to be done as subtly as possible to convince their audience that they're not doing this. So if you're a public relations person and you're reading this thread, please don't take it personal when we call you liars: cuz that's what you are.

I'd rather get my information from a gaggle of nerd geeks with an agenda that involves remaining cooped up in their basements while mom bakes them cookies, than get my information from a gaggle of well-dressed, over-paid, under-moralled, sweet-talking, shell-gaming con artists with an agenda that involves convincing me "new and improved" means something, and that "cheese product" is actual cheese. PR people are evil charlatans perpetuating a "game" that wouldn't exist if you "playas" didn't insist on playing it. Don't hate the playa hate the game, huh?

"By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing… kill yourself. ...Seriously though ...there’s no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan’s little helpers. Okay - kill yourself - seriously." - Bill Hicks

Playas make the game. Wiki's just Wiki. PR people are evil.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:53 PM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Actually, Google intends to kick off the service with articles written by knowledgeable people, but the whole idea is to have competing opinions. Others WILL be able to add to the topic. That's really the whole idea.
http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2007/12/14/googles-grassy-knol-theory.aspx
posted by Gerard Sorme at 6:54 PM on December 15, 2007


"Abigail in Frank Miller's..."

ROTFLMAO! Oh Gawd that's bad! I was typing faster than I was thinking. I meant ARTHUR Miller! LOL! Now I find myself imagining Frank Miller doing Death of a Salesman in graphic novel format. That'd be hilarious.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:57 PM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Languagehat, just think, you could have written that article on Knol and had your name signed, officially published, added to your CV, monitor how many people each day read your work, marvel at all the Web 2.0 "Was this article helpful" voting, emails and talk page feedback from users suggesting changes, show it to your grandkids - or do you prefer being anonymous and getting no credit or thanks for your work with no idea how many people read it and no assurance it will remain, telling your friends "I helped write that article" careful not to take "ownership" (lor forbid) - In my experience Wikipedia ceased being a fun place after a 3 year honeymoon period (I was ranked around top 250 edits), it's a chore now and very little positive re-enforcement to keep doing it other than occasional bursts of good will tempered by cranky editors and labyrinth of rules. It's like communism, contributing to a collective, idealism can be sweet but not lasting.

Once a few well known people start publishing work on Knol, being associated with it will be a mark of prestige.
posted by stbalbach at 8:26 PM on December 15, 2007


Touché... Wikipedia Founder's Google Rival To Launch
posted by XMLicious at 12:10 AM on December 16, 2007


Once a few well known people start publishing work on Knol, being associated with it will be a mark of prestige.

Is it prestigious to author an article in a print encyclopedia? I'm not being snarky, I actually don't know.
posted by XMLicious at 12:13 AM on December 16, 2007


Generally pretty anonymous, I would have thought. It's kind of the goal.
posted by Artw at 12:34 AM on December 16, 2007


To comment on XMLicious' link

Wikia appears to have changed their strategy of having an army of volunteers manually rank the pages.

Now they are proposing to open source the algorithm for searches and beat the spammers by staying one step ahead.

Now Wikia, a company co-founded by Wikipedia pioneer Jimmy Wales, plans to build an open source search engine to rival Google that will publicise the way its algorithm ranks results. Ben Laurie, an open source programmer based in London, says that this will make it easier for spammers to game the algorithms. Instead of having to guess at how an algorithm works, as they do now, they will simply be able to peek inside the software to come up with ways to manipulate it. "By publishing its search algorithm, it's going to be pretty obvious to spammers how to get to the top of the search hits, risking a huge spamfest," Laurie says. "Some genius might come up with algorithms that, despite being published, are resistant to that. But it strikes me as unlikely."

The Wikia Search team, however, expect that to happen. They hope their algorithms will be more responsive than Google to new spam techniques because of the vast number of volunteers' brains that will be thrown at the problem.

Danny Sullivan of the news site searchengineland.com thinks that Wikia Search will turn its army of volunteers to finding ways to block spammers in the same way that Wikipedia handles vandalism in its articles using an army of human editors. "I think they might come up with some novel technology to let humans shape or refine search results," he says.


From the same article:

To take on Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and the rest, Wales and his coterie of coders face some tough challenges. One is a lack of cash to buy a fleet of global data centres. Today's search engines create lists containing the contents of billions of web pages, known as indexes, and store them on tens of thousands of servers around the globe. The exact number is another trade secret, but there is no doubt that maintaining and powering them is hugely expensive.

Wikia Search is already considering one solution. Rather than investing in data centres, it might store its index on a distributed computing "grid" made up of thousands of volunteers' home PCs and servers connected via the internet. The model for this is the SETI@home screen saver, which divvies up data from a radio telescope among volunteers' home PCs. Each computer would hold a small part of Wikia Search's index and handle search requests relevant to that part.

This strategy brings a bunch of problems of its own, though. What do you do when individual machines are switched off? And how do you stop spammers posing as Wikia volunteers and flooding the index with nefarious web pages?


Comparisons to SETI notwithstanding, we're looking at an interesting attempt to enter the search game on shoestring.
posted by Brian B. at 9:59 AM on December 16, 2007



Dang, I thought the writers here would be psyched that there's something online that wants to actually pay them for their work instead of simply generating ad dollars for themselves and taking the writers' expertise and work for granted.

Many encyclopedia articles are actually written by well known scholars, but they don't get paid very well because academic writing doesn't generally pay very well.

It does sound a lot like about.com, which seems to be doing ok.

And there are many fields that could benefit from having experts with strong backgrounds who can write giving their particular perspectives on them.
posted by Maias at 8:04 PM on December 16, 2007


Brian B: I've seen things that are true and informative disappear without a trace simply because they don't fit into the majority belief system.

Mediareport: An example would be great at this point. Thanks.


I think it's actually quite a big problem for Wikipedia. Things that everyone "just knows" to be true are edited in, all the time, without actually checking -- so facts that are only known by a minority are perpetually drowned out.

Example: Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand got a degree in Hotel and Catering Management from Strathclyde University. It has been put on the page a number of times, but is always being changed to say that he studied "English" (and his PRs would have liked that to have been at the Art School so that crops up from time to time as well).

I have a friend who worked for Strathclyde, and he's tried a couple of times to put it up, even sourcing it to their website, but it is always changed because it doesn't fit with the assumptions of fans/readers.

It's the quiet bias that's so hard to account for when reading Wikipedia, which you're much, much more able to do with a single author.

(Worth too, everybody, making the distinction between author and editor. I wish wikipedia would. Even the best editors need to have their writing edited. A two-stage revision process for a page would slow things down, yes, but could only improve them.)
posted by bonaldi at 7:29 PM on December 17, 2007


Example: Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand got a degree in Hotel and Catering Management from Strathclyde University. It has been put on the page a number of times, but is always being changed to say that he studied "English" (and his PRs would have liked that to have been at the Art School so that crops up from time to time as well).

Citing your Franz Ferdinand fun fact and then challenging nay changes to it on the talk page should make pretty short work of that. If people are intent on adding something that "everyone knows" but you feel to be wrong it's worth stivcking a fact tag on it, challenging under WP:V and then deleting it if no one addresses the situation.

If theres cites that support story A and story B, and their of roughly equaly weight, then you're in trouble. I would suggest altering the article to reflect that there is some controversy over the facts, and include both versions.
posted by Artw at 7:40 PM on December 17, 2007


It's telling (to me at least) that this comes from their engineering department and not from a publisher or a community. I don't think this project will have legs, it's not well thought out and there are too many issues involved for a real community to coalesce.

I honestly think a place like MeFi has a better shot of creating what they say they want Knol to be.
posted by cell divide at 7:45 PM on December 17, 2007


Artw: as a chap in the street, I've no idea how to add a fact tag (or even what one is), nor do I know what WP:V is. I'm disinclined to include both versions either, since he did after all only get one degree.

Moreover, it's not that this is a particular fun fact is gotten wrong -- it's that apparently the only way to really ensure the truth gets into an encyclopedia involves fact tagging, WP:V-ing, talk-paging and essentially sitting like some green eyeshaded brooding hen on every unexpected fact you add.
posted by bonaldi at 7:51 PM on December 17, 2007


-shrugs-

If you got involved with that page and pushed that edit you'd probably hear all of the above soon enough. You are correct in that Wikipedia pages are only as good as the people that edit them, and that there can be some slightly technical stuff involved, but it's not really that complicated and can be picked up pretty quickly.

I notice that no one has even discussed it on the talk page, which would be the best first step.

Also, for teh sake of argument, let's just say that you're mistaken about him only getting the wrong degree. Which as far as I know could be the case, I've only your word to go on it. If that was the case then people editing it back and insisting that it meet WP:V and be cited and so on would actually be a pretty good thing, wouldn't it?
posted by Artw at 8:09 PM on December 17, 2007


There's a whole lot of shrugging in this thread. I'd rather there was altogether less shrugging around wikipedia and more thinking about ways to make its mechanics work better -- ways that don't involve byzantine committees and typing ~~~##~~#~# beside a post.

I agree that it should be insisted upon that things need citations, sure, possibly even WP:V whateverthefuckthat:is. Except that in this case, what happened was: Statement, statement removed, statement again added this time with direct citation, statement removed.

Unless you really care about a fact, I think two (or three, as it ended) goes around are enough -- and would have been enough to satisfy a review stage, which talking about this makes me increasingly think Wikipedia would benefit from.

/shrug
posted by bonaldi at 8:32 PM on December 17, 2007


I don't suppose you could point me at the edits?

Also if you want to get into it further (which I'm aware you probably don't) it would be worth reading this, the short version of which is if you're willing to make a stink out of it you can pretty much remove anything from an article about a living person that hasn't been cited, and people better not mess with it if you do and you mention WP:BLP, unless they;ve got cites to back up whatever they restore.

The byzantine committees and typing ~~~##~~#~# beside a post are all a pain in the ass, but allowing situations llike this to be fixed is what they are for, and wikipedia depends on people putting in the effort to use them. It's not perfect, but as others has said it turns out to be good enough, and no one actually has an alternative that "just works".
posted by Artw at 8:44 PM on December 17, 2007


I'll ask my friend when the edits were, to help narrow the search a bit. Don't fancy trawling it myself!

I do think, though, that editing by editors is a plausible alternative. It would gum up the works a bit for people just making spelling corrections, but if another user had to check and approve every edit, it'd immediately cut down on the graffiti and insertion of spurious bollocks. Editors would be expected to check the citations on facts that are going in, and if it's beyond them, calling for help. The "every reader is an editor" thing would become the second, not the first, line of defence.

It would also mean that the minutiae of committees would only apply to the people most interested in pushing things through and in working as editors. Joe Reader could just make his change and leave an editor to worry about making sure it stayed (if correct, of course!)

The wisdom of crowds can apply to the editing process just as much as the authoring one. A problem for wikipedia seems to me that it was designed to expedite the creation process, which is not the hard bit of encyclopedias; it's the editing.
posted by bonaldi at 9:25 PM on December 17, 2007


That sounds like it would make it harder for you to make your change, not easier.
posted by Artw at 9:31 PM on December 17, 2007


It only makes it harder to make an unverifiable or false change. What should happen is I make my change, with its little citation link, and then an editor reviews it. Then it stays up forever.

If some other schmoe fan comes along and goes "what? it was totally an English degree!!1!" and makes an edit, then his editor looks, sees the original was cited and passed and that there's no cite on this one and rejects it.

Much easier for the original author -- who only had to make one edit and didn't have to worry about chasing it up every day. Much easier on the truth, which was kept up. And it'll give wandering minstrel editors a focus for their efforts.
posted by bonaldi at 9:46 PM on December 17, 2007


Hmm... that's basically what happens with any stable article on Wikipedia, only without the special empowered elite of editors. Quite where you get the manpower for that I'm not sure - let anybody in and you'll pretty much have the same set up anyway, restrict the number of editors and uou end up with something like Citizendium. Which has no Alex Kapranos article and probably never will. Citizendium also scares off casual editors like nobodys business - and since your problem was that you found it hard to make a casual edit, as it got changed and you didn't want to engage in any kind of process, I find it hard to beleive that with something more indepth like you'd actually bother making the edit in the first place.
posted by Artw at 1:18 AM on December 18, 2007


Wikipedia: for casual editors. That sums it up well. As soon as one becomes a serious editor on Wikipedia, that is where the trouble starts. Wikipedia works best if you don't care too much. Certainly, there must be a way to do it for more serious editors and readers.
posted by stbalbach at 7:16 AM on December 18, 2007


ArtW, that's almost the exact opposite of what happens with any stable article: anyone comes along, changes something, and it goes up immediately. If you want to make sure a fact stays in, you have to babysit it, squat the talk page, work the tags, flick the WP:V etc.

I'm probably not explaining myself fully, however: I'm not talking about a special elite of editors -- anyone should still be able to edit, its just that there is a separate task -- a change needs two separate pairs of eyes before it appears. If you want to edit, you click an "Editors" tab on the front page and see the queue of things awaiting approval. Dive in! There's no shortage of editing manpower: it's just currently wandering without a focus, deleting images and adding a welter of meaningless tags to pages.

I find it hard to beleive that with something more indepth like you'd actually bother making the edit in the first place.
Ultimately, this should be less indepth for the authors. If you could put up something once and have it stick if verifiably true, why isn't that better? The way it is now I apparently have to do a LOT to get one poxy fact to stick ... and, lo, I'm simply not bothering making the edit in the first place.
posted by bonaldi at 8:26 AM on December 18, 2007


Weird. Looking through the history I can see at for a long time it the article stated he had a BA in catering, then that was altered to say he just had a BA, and then the mention for English comes in (though you'll note it doesn't actually say he has a degree in English). This was about six months ago. Are these the changes you made? If so they don't quite match up with your story, since as far as I can tell no one has tried to change it back and I can't . Certainly no one has added a link regarding his degree.

Are you sure you actually edited the article? What timeframe are we talking about?

I'm now kind of suspecting your're full of it, I'm afraid.
posted by Artw at 9:05 AM on December 18, 2007


/shrugs
He has a BA in Hotel and Catering Management. So the altering the article to say he has just a BA is part of what I'm talking about, as is the addition of English. Basically, by your picture, the article has gotten increasingly less accurate over time, not more.

This is why I'm suspecting wikipedians are're full of it.

(But I'll ask my friend for roughly when they put the cite it, as I'm interested too)
posted by bonaldi at 9:20 AM on December 18, 2007


A causual googling brings up plenty of sources for him having studied English and Catering as well, like so. Are you sure you've got your facts right on that as well? Even if you have it presnets somewhat of a problem - you could add your bit, expecting it to be invulnerable because of a cite, and then someone would come along with a counter cite. Then you'd be back to exactly the same kind of resolution problems you can't be bothered with in Wikipedia.
posted by Artw at 9:25 AM on December 18, 2007


Well, my facts come from the institution that awarded the degree so I'm certain of them, yes.

More generally, what you're saying about opposing cites does, I feel, lend *more* weight to the need for editors, not less. If it's going to be cite and counter cite ad infinitum, how do we resolve this? Do we expect passers-by to learn a resolution system? I'd suggest not.

Why not have an editor responsible for checking out a cite (and it seems obvious that a cite from the awarding institution beats one from the Graun) and putting in the correct version? That way you get to the facts faster, instead of back-and-forth "but I read it on the internet look here's a link" bullshit.
posted by bonaldi at 9:40 AM on December 18, 2007


Such a correction backed by a cite (assming the cite actually says what you think it does) would be a fine addition to the article. I'd go ahead and add it If I were you. If it's that solid I don't really see why anyone would challenge it, and you may find editing WIkipedia easier than you thought it was going to be.

Of course if it's not solid people are going to debate it, and so they should.
posted by Artw at 9:56 AM on December 18, 2007


I hate Wikipedia. Mainly because of it's elitism over who posts information and links. Knol seems to be a better way to deal with that problem. I'm not sure if Google will oust Wikipedia, but it'll give us a great alternative.
posted by crazychick18 at 10:20 AM on December 18, 2007


Your link is borked, crazychick18.
posted by cortex at 10:21 AM on December 18, 2007


Example: Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand got a degree in Hotel and Catering Management from Strathclyde University. It has been put on the page a number of times, but is always being changed to say that he studied "English" (and his PRs would have liked that to have been at the Art School so that crops up from time to time as well).

Sorry, your friend misled you. This edit from October 2006 added that he got "a BA in Hotel and Catering Management", basically stayed unmolested for months, gained a {{fact}} tag in April 2007, was properly removed as uncited in July, and was immediately replaced with no citation (as "English and Catering"). And now Artw has added a {{fact}} tag again. Like Artw, I can find no evidence that there was ever a citation for this fact.

Meanwhile there's been no end of controversy over his ethnicity (Greek/British/Scottish).

As you can see, I really looked, worried that there was some article ownership or POV-pushing problem, but I couldn't find anything.
posted by dhartung at 7:43 PM on December 18, 2007


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