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Wikipedia 2.0, Now With Trust?

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the something-to-think-about dept.

The Internet 228

USB EVDO writes "The online encyclopedia is set to trial two systems aimed at boosting readers' confidence in its accuracy. Over the past few years, a series of measures aimed at reducing the threat of vandalism and boosting public confidence in Wikipedia have been developed. Last month a project designed independently of Wikipedia, called WikiScanner, allowed people to work out what the motivations behind certain entries might be by revealing which people or organizations the contributions were made by. Meanwhile the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that oversees the online encyclopedia, now says it is poised to trial a host of new trust-based capabilities."

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An interesting experiment (4, Insightful)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718943)

Wikipedia is good enough for personal information or simply a quick look, i.e. unimportant information, however I doubt it will ever become the encyclopaedia it supposedly hopes of becoming. However having said that, it is certainly an interesting experiment and look into human nature (or at least American nature) with this trust-based scheme simply making the experiment more interesting.

Re:An interesting experiment (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718959)

The problem is that many other reference sites on various topics, developed privately by informed and qualified individuals, have now folded since the maintainers thought Wikipedia superseded hosting such information on one's own website. And now, such information on Wikipedia can be vandalized at any moment right before someone would go look at the page, and kooks can twist the page to their own ends.

Re:An interesting experiment (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719143)

I don't know. Personally, I have found exactly what I have wanted from wikipedia every time I have looked into it - on articles ranging from people, geography or technology. Every time I wanted somebody to know something, wikipedia has never failed me. Granted, you may see traces/evidences of vandalism, but give me a system without any amount of noise in it. While you jump up and down shouting 'because anybody can edit it, it can not be trusted', I can simply not think any other website/reference/system capable of replacing wikipedia. And what I find funny is that you - the doubters - end up using it nonetheless.

Give me an alternative to wikipedia with less noise in it, or shut the fuck up.

Re:An interesting experiment (4, Insightful)

BakaHoushi (786009) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719533)

Wikipedia, if you'll allow me to use emotional buzzwords for a minute as if I were a politician in a debate, is a great example of democracy and freedom of speech. The truth is, we'd like all signal and no noise, but to try and rid yourself of all noise, you're going to lose some signal. By forbidding a certain action/author/etc. on Wikipedia, you may ban 100 vandals, but you also ban 1 extremely useful editor. To let the truly insightful speak, you need to let the truly braindead have their say, too.

The best way to deal with this is our old favorite saying, "citation needed." Like any information source, you need to ask "where did this information come from?" Using Wikipedia for serious work is a bad idea... directly... but it is a good place to find links to other places with more direct credibility.

Not to mention one should always check the "recent edits" pages for signs of vandals.

Wikipedia is imperfect, but so are the creatures that make it, so it's to be expected. It has a vast array of information that is hard to find anywhere else, and one of the best ways to look up "Amazon Wildlife" without running into horrible fetish porn sites along the way. So as long as people are willing to read and think and have a grain of salt ready, it will remain a valuable and interesting source of information.

Re:An interesting experiment (3, Insightful)

zanybrainy941 (972076) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719651)

Personally, I have found exactly what I have wanted from wikipedia every time I have looked

How do you know? You found something, you read something, it passed the sniff test ... now, what is the truth value of what you found?

Personally, I love Wikipedia for answering questions like "what is this thing and where does it fit into the big picture". I also think there are a lot of capable motivated people making sure that it's as close to true as possible. Still, if you're relying on it for some specific fact, you'd better check a second source. Which is good practice no matter what you're reading, wikipedia or otherwise.

Re:An interesting experiment (3, Informative)

diamondmagic (877411) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719843)

Unlike many encyclopedias, Wikipedia actually requires editors cite sources. All added information is required to have a source, otherwise someone else will come by and add a [citation needed] notice. You can check out all the articles that don't have sources cited. [wikipedia.org]

Try clicking on the numbers next to each sentence next time you stop by.

Re:An interesting experiment (5, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720301)

Actually to be sure you'd also have to check those references[1]. Because otherwise you still might fall for fake information[2] or original research pulled out of one's ass[3], as is proven by Murphy[4]. And by the way, one plus one is three[5].

[1] April Fool: What you can do with references. Journal of Applied Fake 26 (1987), 424
[2] Joe Sixpack: Resources I trust. Yellow Press Magazine 25 (2001), 321
[3] A. S. Smith: Pulling and pushing. Yesterday's Research 42 (2010), 1876
[4] Jack Murphy: What can go wrong. Oops Conference Procedings 7 (1991), 112
[5] Frank Fake: New Arithmetics, Page 42. Stupid Press, New York 1976, ISBN 0-123-45678-9

Re:An interesting experiment (2, Insightful)

Solra Bizna (716281) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720267)

I commonly visit Wikipedia to learn details of a specific algorithm. Sometimes (actually, rather often) I'll read the article and I'll see at least one statement that seems to contradict the rest of the paragraph it's in simply by having or lacking an extra "not" in a key place.

And I think to myself, "either I'm wrong, or this page was vandalized."


What about the reliability rating thingo? (1)

thegnu (557446) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720417)

Wasn't there an article here on /. a month ago about someone who developed an algorithm that would track data on different editors (number of disputed/undisputed edits, number of total edits, how long account has existed, etc) and different entries (external references, number of total revisions, etc) and give a fairly accurate percentage rating on the reliability of the article? It seems like a big 57% reliable at the top of the article would make it clear that maybe the Bill Gates article was a little skewed by the trolls.

It seems like something that would require little to no overhead, could be updated automatically using the algorithm on each edit, and would kind of ruin it for the random troll who would see the credibility drop from 80% to 68% because he inserted 'a faggot' in between the words "Born" and "in 1943."

Re:An interesting experiment (5, Insightful)

MT628496 (959515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720641)

Give me an alternative to wikipedia with less noise in it, or shut the fuck up.
Just because you don't have an answer, doesn't mean that there isn't a problem.

Re:An interesting experiment (5, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719255)

Every time this issue comes up, I make the same suggestion: the Wikipedia should branch into something like "stable" and "unstable" versions. Let the kooks vandalize the unstable version, but try to get trusted editors and fact-checkers to check-in changes to the stable branch.

First, this keeps the kooks out. Second, if you limit trust strictly enough, then you limit the number of people who can do damage to the stable branch. You set up a review process for those people, which should be easier since there are fewer of them and they're somehow in your "trust" system. Give them instructions that all information that's presented as fact needs to be cited to a reliable source, and have someone watching the watchmen. If any of your fact checkers or experts violate their trust, revoke their trust.

Re:An interesting experiment (3, Informative)

joeszilagyi (635484) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719445)

Stable and unstable versions exist on the German wikipedia, but the English (main) Wikipedia users and admins have been very resistant to the idea.

Re:An interesting experiment (3, Informative)

Eloquence (144160) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720433)

This is incorrect. Stable versions do not yet exist on the German Wikipedia.

[citation needed] (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20720609)


Re:An interesting experiment (2, Interesting)

risk one (1013529) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719579)

I would be very surprised (and a little annoyed) if they don't use this as the basic mechanism behind their validation scheme. This preserves the freedom of editing, and greatly decreases the probability that somebody reading Wikipedia will see a vandalized/substandard version of an article. Rather than merging changes from one branch to the other, like in software development, however, I think WP would be better off tagging a version of an article as stable, and keeping the latest version as unstable.

The main problem is who decides when an article or section should go stable? This is where the complicated algorithms come in. One of the most important principles of wikipedia is that authority counts for absolutely nothing. People complain that wikipedia makes no use of experts, but that's not true. It simply will not view additions by experts just because they are experts. Everybody is equal. This should be reflected in the validation scheme. So many proposals have teams of fact checkers and domain experts, which is very much unlike Wikipedia. An automated trust network (like the one described in the article) should be used to assign contributors a trust rating, and then let people vote on the validity of an article or section.

I should also point out that none of this is new. Most of these ideas have been in the pipeline for years. Check out http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Article_validation_proposals#Automated_Trust_Networks [wikimedia.org] for a list of proposed validation schemes.

Re:An interesting experiment (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719877)

ather than merging changes from one branch to the other, like in software development, however, I think WP would be better off tagging a version of an article as stable, and keeping the latest version as unstable....[snip]... An automated trust network (like the one described in the article) should be used to assign contributors a trust rating, and then let people vote on the validity of an article or section.

I see a conflict here; if you base the trust on a per-user basis, it doesn't get you to trusting the article as a unit. Even if 90% of the page is a series of contributions made by trusted individuals, the remaining 10% might be made by non-trusted individuals, and that 10% might create a very misleading impression on the topic.

I think you need some method for signing off on the article as a whole, as being valid, true, and coherent. I don't think a single 50% majority vote will accomplish this. You really need a person or team who can serve in an editorial capacity, bringing the whole article together, making sure it's coherent and void of misleading ideas.

And yes, you're right that this is a foreign idea to the Wikipedia as it is today. That's exactly why I think a branch is necessary. The Wikipedia should remain essentially as it is for an unstable branch, but the stable version should be new, and it should have a more coherent editorial system.

Re:An interesting experiment (1)

kingduct (144865) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719857)

I've also thought that maybe a system could be used such that each edit on the master document got a tag (from a predetermined list of tags such as "cited" "uncited" "opinionated" "controversial" etc). While in edit mode you would see everything. While in reading mode, you would see whatever you set your threshhold to. That way, the academics with sticks up their rears could see what they want to see, while others could see a lot more.

Yes, the discussion and history pages provides some of this, but they really aren't enough. There is a lot of great information being deleted, and I would like to be able to see it and a compromise would be reasonable. At the same time though, I find that trying to participate in the wikipedia is unbearable because of the snideness of so many people involved. Thus, I expect as the wikipedia culture becomes clubbier, the odds of it changing policies to allow more participation get lower and lower.

Re:An interesting experiment (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719951)

The main problem I see here is that it doesn't lend itself to creating coherent articles. If you start dropping out particular edits because they don't match some set criteria, then I think many articles would end up more nonsensical and less coherent. Removing a "controversial" edit might also remove the appropriate context for a "cited" edit, and in doing so might cause the "cited" edit to become misleading.

You really have to understand how good writing and good editing works. Removing some fact because it's inaccurate might require several adjustments throughout an article, and so a particular edit of the entire article should be set as "approved" or "stable". This also implies that there might need to be a single editor per-article, in order to make sure that the article is well-written.

Of course, I'm assuming that part of the goal is to create good, informative, well-written articles instead of a simple list of objective facts which are either true or false.

Re:An interesting experiment (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719655)

I still have never gotten to a Wikipedia page that's been vandalized, and while the media loves to put up "for 30 minutes, this B-celebrity's bio said he was a kiddie fiddler". Besides if you're quoting wikipedia there's always the permanent link, which is what I'd use if I ever noticed the problem. No, the problem is when there's a mainstream opinion or no such opinion, but a rabid minority that'll keep editing the page to fit their biased view. This is particularly true for anything and anyone who has "fans", "followers" or the like.

Re:An interesting experiment (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20720223)

The problem is that many other reference sites on various topics, developed privately by informed and qualified individuals, have now folded since the maintainers thought Wikipedia superseded hosting such information on one's own website.
[citation needed]

Seriously, if there are "many other sites" that have definitely all folded for that precise reason, you'd think you would be able to provide at least one example...

Re:An interesting experiment (1)

Loadmaster (720754) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718975)

I agree. Wikipedia is great for a quick look and for finding more niche/pop culture subjects. I use it to get a start on research then immediately follow its sources or Google interesting info for more solid documentation.

While I find their goals admirable, I think they're overestimating their viability.


Re:An interesting experiment (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719083)

But this is exactly what an encyclopedia is for, to get a basic overview and pointers to the real sources. Have people forgotten that, or were there a lot of people out there using Brittannica as a primary source?

Re:An interesting experiment (3, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719187)

Yes, kids use Brittannica as a primary source, along with other Encyclopedias. People don't start citing research papers or hard data until college (and even then, only in Grad School for a lot of colleges - sad huh?). The reason it's acceptable, is because the Encyclopedia companies try to ensure all the information is accurate, and then print it. It can't be vandalized later, so it's generally more trustworthy than wikipedia is assuming it's not a really old edition.

Re:An interesting experiment (1)

Blood_God (895841) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719521)

Yeah, having just graduated from University we were told by a number of lecturers that Wikipedia wasn't an acceptable source for information when writing reports due to the way that it can be edited by anyone and therefore might not be entirely accurate. Of course this doesn't stop you from going to Wikipedia and looking at all the references that it cites...

Re:An interesting experiment (5, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720217)

Yes, kids use Brittannica as a primary source, along with other Encyclopedias. People don't start citing research papers or hard data until college (and even then, only in Grad School for a lot of colleges - sad huh?). The reason it's acceptable, is because the Encyclopedia companies try to ensure all the information is accurate, and then print it. It can't be vandalized later, so it's generally more trustworthy than wikipedia is assuming it's not a really old edition.
You say this as if it's a fact carved in stone, that can't be changed. If Wikipedia replaced Britannica for initial research, but teachers stick to their guns about not accepting it as an actual source (which they should not), perhaps it will force more students to start doing real research at a younger age. Using Britannica as a source seems just as inherently lazy as using Wikipedia, and I don't think that should be acceptable even at the high-school level.

It's not like it's especially hard to drill down to real sources from most WP articles. Most controversial ones have citations, or at least a list of suggested reading, near the bottom. (And some articles, like ones on particular recent events, have direct links to primary source material, which you don't typically get in a traditional encyclopedia entry.) In some ways, it's a lot easier to begin doing real research from WP than it is from Britannica, and I think WP does a better job of encouraging skepticism and fact-checking skills.

Re:An interesting experiment (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720627)

Yes, it IS hard to drill down to the sources. It IS hard to read all the additional reading listed at the end. Are you nuts? And where are high school kids going to get all that material from? Most of the research papers you don't have free access to - colleges pay $$$ to have access to them through special web portals usually, and even if high schools have access (I'm sure some do) the papers are generally too technical for kids at that age. Many kids never even learn Calculus until college, some probably don't learn Advanced Algebra until college.

Now, just to clarify, I think that you are right about the way it SHOULD be, but the bar in American schools is simply to low, and unlike most people who blame the school systems, I blame the parents. Parents these days do not teach their kids responsibility - they will go in and yell at the teachers because the kid didn't turn in something and got a zero (I've seen even worse stuff). I've heard of parents even calling businesses trying to get interviews for their kids as they are graduating college (off the radio, but a head hunter, so grain of salt). Parents don't teach their kids how to teach themselves, and thus you end up with a bunch of adults addicted to WoW that don't know how to write a proper paper much less research a subject. Hell, my sister is in nursing school, and had to call me the other day to ask why a "synopsis" was... sigh.

Re:An interesting experiment (5, Insightful)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719173)

Actually I think alot of you miss a vitally important part of wikipedia when used to serious research: The references at the bottom of the page.

I would never actually quote wikipedia as a source in serious documents, but you don't have as a lot of the best pages have a bibliography at the bottom which quite often refers to thoroughly respected publications.

Re:An interesting experiment (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719009)

Troll-proofing a reference site (as opposed to a casual forum like /.) without a paid staff is laughable, it's just a good-sounding measure to pacify a particular market (Germany in this case). It will be easy enough for either pranksters or marketers/scammers to figure out and workaround whatever provisions they set up... also there will be a black market for people who have established the creds to get it done.

Re:An interesting experiment (4, Insightful)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719163)

Except, generally speaking, we do OK. Yes, there will still be vandalized/spammed entries. But, as someone who uses Wikipedia frequently both as a reader and as an editor, I can tell you, I rarely run into an article with transparently serious problems. Thus far, as many new techniques and workarounds as trolls, pranksters, and scammers have figured out, none have been able to overcome the one technique we've figured out - having a shitload of well-intentioned volunteers who are broadly empowered to fix things.

Wikipedia: Pop Culture Resource (2, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719157)

If you want a quick -- nay, exhaustive -- overview of the 5th season of "Buffy," or come across a reference to "Boba Fett" in an online forum and want to learn more, Wikipedia is the site to hit. It's value as a font of pop culture knowledge is augmented by its geek-contributors obsessive behavior. Politics? Religion? Any chapter in History or Current Events involving Politics or Religion? Reader Beware.

Re:Wikipedia: Pop Culture Resource (4, Insightful)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719205)

I dunno. Out of the 30 articles featured and to-be-featured on the main page in September, 7 are popular culture articles. (An article on D&D, the "Bus Uncle" video clip, the pilot episode of Smallville, OutKast's "Hey Ya," Alison Bechdel's graphic novel "Fun Home, the Indian film Lage Raho Munna Bhai, and tomorrow's featured article on Blood Sugar Sex Magik) Yes, that list skews a bit geek (Though the Bechdel graphic novel is about as far from a geek comic as one can get), but there's still 23 featured articles this month on such geeky topics as meteorology, European rugby, Soviet history, and American industrial disasters.

It's more accurate to say that we, compared to similar reference works, have a disproportionately good coverage of geeky topics. That does not appear to have come at the cost of our coverage of other topics.

Re:Wikipedia: Pop Culture Resource (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720271)

Well, Wikipedia's Featured Article Director, Raul654 [wikipedia.org] , the one that determines what FAs make it on the main page each day, is also a slashdotter [slashdot.org] ,... so that would explain the rather high number of "geeky" articles, wouldn't it? ;-)

Re:Wikipedia: Pop Culture Resource (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719357)

Politics? Religion? Any chapter in History or Current Events involving Politics or Religion? Reader Beware.

Isn't that true in general? These two things are endless flame wars. For the same reasons, we have separate news networks, separate religions busy blowing each other up, etc.

Finding 3rd parties to write about these things isn't really an answer: either they just plain don't exist, they exist but are not interested at all, or they exist, are interested, and are employed by Britannica or World Book or some other Encyclopedia.

The biggest thing Wikipedia needs right now, IMO of course, is just a general audit of what it's got. They need to Deep Freeze certain pages that are "good" quality (things that aren't likely to need very many changes other than the occasional grammar touch up), they need to Freeze pages that are "pretty good" so that vandals can't come through with bulldozers and draw giant penises in ASCII, and they need to drop the "[Citation Needed]" in favor of "This sentence is worthless without a citation, therefore we're simply omitting it from general view until one is added." The audit could probably clean up a bunch of other general issues like internal linking being inconsistent, image copyrights and formats, templates changing weekly, and making "Category" and "Index" pages more useful.

Re:Wikipedia: Pop Culture Resource (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719895)

Except for the notability crackdown. Unless the 5th season of Buffy is notable in some way, articles about it will probably be deleted with prejudice. I used to go to wikipedia to read trivia about every single episode of Futurama, but they've started cracking down on that; if a TV episide hasn't been nominated for an award, you might not be able to find it on WP in the coming future. (There are other possible reasons for something to be considered notable besides nominations, of course). "Trivia" sections are being removed from articles; long articles about "uncommon" subjects are being replaced with short summaries; articles that don't affirm their own notability will get speedily deleted; and, articles without adequate citations or good references will be tagged for future removal.

Some editors say, "No, that's exaggerated---we rarely delete things!" That may have been true a few years ago, but that is not the currently policy. I've studied the recent editing guidelines and asked numerous questions in <irc://irc.freenode.net/#wikipedia>. Search wikipedia for something that doesn't exist; now, the 'not found' page has a new line, something like: the article may have been deleted for not meeting quality standards. Open an edit window for an article that doesn't currently exist; there are now multiple boldface warnings about certain things being candidates for speedy deletion. I'm afraid to contribute anything anymore. If I really feel like there's an important fact missing from an article, I'll try to visit a local college library and come up with some good sources, but, I wouldn't dare create a new article, because I know it would have little hope of surviving unless an editor happened to feel like looking for references instead of hitting delete.

"Imagine everyone having access to all of human knowledge^W^W^W^Wonly the stuff we've deemed notable and non-frivolous. That's what we're trying to do."

I used to resent the Wikipedia-Watch referring to the editors, arbiters, and overseers as a "hive mind," but, the recent policy changes have made increased the likelihood of a hivemind emerging.

There's also a new system where there are a few overseers-to-the-overseers who can make an article or particular edit be deleted without showing up in the history log or deletion log; it's supposed to be reserved for the removal of private information, specifically in instances of the "right-to-disappear" and "right-to-anonymity" systems which allow an editor to protect their identity, if they so desire, when necessary. This can lead to strange situations where one user can make another user appear to be a vandal by careful manipulation of a page and posting of private information through multiple accounts; then, looking at the edit history diffs for a page can make vandalism appear to be caused by someone that it isn't, since certain edits are completely hidden. There's no way for anyone but the overseers-to-the-overseers to be able to tell if these kinds of nearly-invisible changes have even occurred on a certain article (or, at least, the pages outlining this policy seem to indicate this; whether some pages and edit histories might have a "Notice: some revisions are hidden to protect certain individuals' privacy, and some diffs may be inaccurate" notice somewhere on them is not documented, although I would hope that sort of notice will be added if it doesn't already exist.)

I also wish that deleted articles could be viewed by the general public if they so choose. I understand that sometimes deletion is used in cases of illegal content, but, what about the perfectly-legal but uncited or non-notable deletions?

There are also two database admins who have the power to do anything at all without leaving an audit trail (Jimmy Wales and one of the lead Wiki code developers, iirc), which is a little scary. It seems to go against the ideas that WP is supposed to stand for (opening edit model, visible history, etc). I only hope that it's usage is severely limited and that some amount of documentation and arbitration does happen as much as possible.

I'm honestly not trying to flame or troll, but some wikipedia editors who browse /. might think I am, so I guess I have to post this anon to protect my wikipedia username from judgement.

Re:Wikipedia: Pop Culture Resource (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720093)

But there's still no information on how to use a "no-spill" gas can without spilling gas =(

Re:Wikipedia: Pop Culture Resource (1)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720311)

You mean I'm not the only one who spills more gas pouring with a no-spill gas can than I've ever spilled in the previous 25 years with the old style cans? I swear I splash some out every time I use the no-spill ones because the venting system causes major glugs. I'm tempted to just poke an air hole in the top of the can.

Re:An interesting experiment (1)

Mon Oncle (1160683) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719427)

I think it's a new critter. I can't imagine an encyclopedia covering many of my interests, like roleplaying games or the music from my childhood, or how words are pronounced (like Gojira).

On the other hand, sometimes the entries are poorly written and because they are on specialty topics (like beekeeping), they are not easy for a layman to correct.

I see it as a complement to the traditional encyclopedia, but not a replacement, and I hope some version of it will always be there.

Re:An interesting experiment (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720269)

The thing I feel Wikipedia really needs is some way of annotating an article with things like 'typo' 'badly worded sentence' or 'incorrect punctuation' and having the original author notified. With this, a casual reader could identify parts that need correcting, and a knowledgeable reader could then make the corrections. The closest Wikipedia has is the talk page, and since there is no way of saying 'tell me when anyone uses a talk page to write about something I've written' this doesn't work well.

Re:An interesting experiment (1)

DrBuzzo (913503) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719531)

I agree with the assessment of Wikipedia as good for a "quick look." Most of the information is pretty accurate, but it's not something I'd use for serious research.

However I do admit that I LOVE Wikipedia, but not because I see it as a good source of highly reliable scholarly information. It's the only place where I can find out basic info on stuff from "Neutron Binding Energy" to "Ren and Stimpy" to "List of Beatles Songs" to "Warp Engine (science fiction." And it's also updated crazy-fast when someone dies or there is some other major change in a given subject area.

Re:An interesting experiment (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719893)

Given that independent studies have shown it to be more factual than standard encyclopedias, I'm not sure why people continue to throw about the claim that it will never become as good as a standard encyclopedia.

I dare say, it surpassed standard encyclopedias some time ago.

The Wikipedia is not without fault, but the same can be said for any source.

Re:An interesting experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20720659)

How is it more reliable than any other encyclopedia, which are themselves often written by people with their own political or economic interest in mind? If you only use once source you'll often get a warped perspective, no matter what the source is.

fundamental flaw (3, Insightful)

daniel.waterfield (960460) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718983)

Er, won't wikiscanner just move the corporate/political vandals to home? This is leaving out the fact that wikipedia will never be seriously trusted due to it's open nature, to be taken seriously requires it to close off public access and to change to specialised, academic authorship - something that would corrupt it's mission.

Re:fundamental flaw (1)

Durova (1088517) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719391)

The WikiScanner automated only one of my most basic sleuthing techniques. People who go out of their way to manipulate the site look that much worse when they get caught.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Durova/The_dark_side [wikipedia.org]

Irony: (3, Funny)

Kymri (1093149) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719021)

Seeing a 'Is Fox News fair and balanced?' poll as the ad for this story makes me amused.

Re:Irony: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719335)

You are amused only because you think the news feeders other than Fox are fair and balanced, so someone who presents some conservative viewpoints seems unbalanced. Try reading a little about media bias [wikipedia.org] .

Won't change a thing (5, Insightful)

LordKazan (558383) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719029)

I stopped editing wikipedia due to some extremely biased, shrill, and bludgeon-you-with-the-rules (claim you were violating the rules when you weren't) editors.

One of these editors was an admin, another was on ArbCom. It was basically a group of people who would camp one specific subject and keep it edited to support the cultural status quo/their religion's position on the article. They did it through keeping information out of the article that would cast the subject in the disfavorable light it should have, and does in most of the non-english speaking world, and some of the english speaking world.

These individuals would probably pass whatever trust-checking mechanism.

The truth is not reached via consensus.

Re:Won't change a thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719059)

mod parent up. this is the case with many subjects not just one.
also with articles containing deliberately misleading info.

Re:Won't change a thing (1)

dancingmad (128588) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719075)

Out of curiosity, what was the topic and the positions you mentioned?

Truth vs consensus (2, Insightful)

ElMiguel (117685) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719107)

I think reaching the truth via consensus is realistic; it seems to work pretty well in the scientific world. The problem with Wikipedia is that each editor self-selects himself to work on the tiny part of Wikipedia he wants to, and so people with an agenda are overrepresented in some articles. I do agree that people with agendas using legalism to try to weed out dissenting opinions seems to be one of Wikipedia's biggest problems (and I'm not even an editor).

Re:Truth vs consensus (5, Insightful)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719185)

Truth by consensus? That's not how the scientific world works. There's the whole experimental model and reproducibility of experiments that leads to consensus.

Re:Truth vs consensus (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20720015)

There's the whole experimental model and reproducibility of experiments that leads to consensus.

Uhh, you just proved the GP's point. He didn't say HOW consensus was reached, just that it was ruled by consensus.

Re:Truth vs consensus (1, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719241)

"I think reaching the truth via consensus is realistic"

This is very true. Anyone who has read "Seven habits of successful people" would recognize this, because people interpret raw data differently. Two people can look at the exact same data, and see different things. What is the right answer? There isn't one, it's just interpretation, so in MOST cases, the "truth" is in fact a consensus consisting of a lot of compromises.

I think it's infinitely more important to have "understanding" than "truth", because the former will allow you to make your own judgment calls about a subject, so that even though you may see something differently than another person, at least you have the understanding to support you views on the matter. This is why, imho, wikipedia is useless for things like "history" and great for things like "understanding the 3rd law of thermodynamics".

Re:Truth vs consensus (4, Interesting)

smallfries (601545) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719369)

Well, anyone who reads self-help books has a problem with understanding reality, let alone truth. Let's examine this wishy-washy new age idea that truth is a consensus consisting of a lot of compromises. I think that this idea is completely flawed on every level. You obviously do not. What consensus do we reach; that it's only partly a bunch of shit?

To back your point up you mention that things like "history" work less well than things like "thermodynamics". Do you really believe this is because people understand each other's views on science subjects more than arts subjects? That a consensus position can more easily be reached?

The basic problem with this theory of truth by consensus is that it assumes that truth is not discrete, and it can be reached by majority voting. In many subjects truth is discrete, and the voting model is closer to winner-takes-all. The reason that the truth crystallizes in this manner is because it is objectively testable. This is why we refer to the set of things that behaves in this manner - science. That which can be studied by the scientific method.

Furthermore, I think that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what wikipedia's purpose is. It has very explicit design goals, using your terms, it attempts to construct articles that have all of the known facts. That it, is ignores "understanding" as you put it, or POV as wiki puts it. If a fact can be attributed to a respectable source then it goes in. Understanding is left as an exercise for the reader.

You miss the point that wiki is better for science, because in terms of establishing what the facts are, science subjects are the low hanging fruit. History (for example) is harder because the facts are not always in an objectively testable form, and usually have to pried from subjective observation. An ideal wikipedia article is not a "compromise" between all of the opinions that went into it - it is a collection of all of the facts that could be verified regardless of whether or not the contributors agreed upon them.

Re:Truth vs consensus (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720573)

I see your point, but try to understand mine. "reality" in many cases, is simply a person's view. If you disagree, then tell me in a precise measurement how much you love your mom. Another example: You might bring your mom spam for xmas one year. Maybe she hates spam, but maybe you love it. If she thinks you were being mean because she hates spam, and you think you were being nice because you like spam, who's right? What's the truth? There is not a 100% accurate answer. Dumb example, but you get my drift. This is why 3rd party mediation is used so much in courts and business, because although it can't remove differences in views it can reduce misunderstandings and heated emotions. It's not that history is harder to get the facts about, it's that the "facts" aren't actually facts at all, people typically just see them as facts because they've discussed it with other people or that's what they were taught, in which case they are just relying on the consensus of the people before them and around them. Unless you were there during the battle of Gettysburg, you're going on the consensus of a bunch of historians, which in turn got their information from previous consensus'

Just my 2 cents of course...

sources (1)

erlehmann (1045500) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719253)

also, articles that lack sources are somehow unwanted, so those who make something up on wikipedia have no good stand. with the suppression of unwanted information, it's kinda different, but as long as jimbo doesn't go crazy, it's all in the history. not many people may do, but i check consistency, article history and links before i believe what i see.

Re:Truth vs consensus (1)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720617)

I think reaching the truth via consensus is realistic; it seems to work pretty well in the scientific world.

No. No it doesn't. At every major breakthrough of science, the entire preceding body of work has to be challenged and rewritten. Truth comes first. The consensus comes later.

At every breakthrough, if the truth was subject to a vote, the new discovery would be outvoted--you have one guy (or team) with his experimental data, against every one else who still believes in the old perspective.

Re:Won't change a thing (1)

discord5 (798235) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719129)

I stopped editing wikipedia due to some extremely biased, shrill, and bludgeon-you-with-the-rules (claim you were violating the rules when you weren't) editors.

Slam them in the discussion page with NPOV [wikipedia.org] . The irony would not be lost :)

Same thing here (2, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719203)

I tried adding something once to an article but they kept bludgeoning me and removing it due to that it wasn't referenced. I did reference it to a reliable source but I put it in a "External Links" as I couldn't add it to the citations/sources without being a registered user for some reason. If I have to become a registered user to add a citation, and if I have to add citations to add things without them being automatically deleted (regardless of their merit), that destroys a lot of anonymity. Which may be good or bad depending on your POV.

Wikipedia is pretty good as a resource in my experience, but lately they have been obsessed with being SEEN as accurate and are implementing rules that get them SEEN as accurate but I don't know if the actual result is that they become more accurate or just more orthodox and accepted by the establishment. They have been already shown in a study to be as or more accurate than Encyclopedia Brittanica - I think the direction they are heading actually does not lead them toward their ideal (accuracy) but more toward the mob rule/(orthodox accepted truths).

Re:Same thing here (2, Interesting)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719297)

And I got bludgeoned for adding and improving references. By people who refused to state what the case was about and why they were voting, although the rules require them to.

Re:Same thing here (0, Troll)

LindaMack (1134133) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720519)

Well, I had my reasons. [wikipedia-watch.org]
God knows what reasons others have had...

[Please realize that this IS a nickname]

Re:Same thing here (1)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720335)

If I have to become a registered user to add a citation, and if I have to add citations to add things without them being automatically deleted (regardless of their merit), that destroys a lot of anonymity.
Firstly, you don't have to register to add citations. Citations are the same as the rest of the page - if you can edit anything, you can edit the lot. I don't know what you were doing wrong, but it wasn't Wikipedia's fault.

Secondly, registering doesn't destroy anonymity; it improves anonymity! You don't have to provide any personal information at all when you register -- not even an email address. And if you edit as an unregistered user, everyone can see your IP address every time you post; if you register, the IP addresses you use are hidden from everyone apart from a limited group of Wikipedia administrators, and they are only allowed to view them if they have evidence that suggests your account is being used abusively by someone who was previously banned.

Re:Won't change a thing (2, Insightful)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719243)

One of these editors was an admin, another was on ArbCom. It was basically a group of people who would camp one specific subject and keep it edited to support the cultural status quo/their religion's position on the article. They did it through keeping information out of the article that would cast the subject in the disfavorable light it should have, and does in most of the non-english speaking world, and some of the english speaking world.
Why do I get this awful feeling I know exactly which subject you're talking about?

Seriously, what are you talking about?

Re:Won't change a thing (2, Insightful)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719263)

It's good to know that /. has enough committed Wikipedia opponents to raise a completely vapid and contentless post to a 5 in seconds. This explains how shit like the "ZOMG A WIKIPEDIA ADMINISTRATOR IS A SPY" thing got to the front page.

The shortest answer to this post is that Wikipedia isn't trying to publish the truth. It's trying to publish a neutral overview of things that have been claimed to be the truth. People who don't understandt his often have idfficult times on Wikipedia. This is because they are always trying to do what they sincerely believe improves the encyclopedia, and yet are routinely shot down for trying.

It is, however, not a bug in our method. It's a feature.

Re:Won't change a thing (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719283)

You're right, truth is not reached via consensus. But then, truth is not reached via authority either. In fact, I can't think of any set path which will always arrive and truth and never falsehood. If you have, please share, since it would lead to a huge philosophic and scientific revolution.

In the mean time, the best means to truth available to us (AFAICT) seems to be open discussion and review by knowledgeable and experienced people. So far, the Wikipedia has all of that, but I'm not sure it has a method for distinguishing between "open discussion" and "review by knowledgeable and experienced people". Perhaps it should.

Re:Won't change a thing (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719359)

So what exactly is it that makes them wrong and you right, instead of them maintaining article quality and you trying to grind an axe on Wikipedia?

Re:Won't change a thing (2, Informative)

owlnation (858981) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719799)

I wholeheartedly agree. And am in exactly the same position, I'm sure there are many of us.

The issue of trust is not one of sock puppetry, viral marketing, vandalism nor shill behavior of contributors. That is only to be expected -- and is of course absolutely rampant throughout the site.

That will NEVER stop. The perpetrators will simply get better at hiding it. If you run a large corporation, NGO, government etc etc, and you are not using Wikipedia to manipulate your agenda, then you are an idiot, because your competition / opposition most certainly is.

No, the most serious abuses of trust where Wikipedia is concerned lie with their admins. Some (if not in fact many) of them are corrupt and have a clear agenda. It seems to start at the top. Jimmy's agenda has been (rightly) questioned here many times.

Adding a new technology layer to that won't change a thing. If anything it will make it more obscured.

The fundamental issue is that the Wikipedia goals are arrogant and impossible. The solution is simple. Remove all admins. All of them. Put a big disclaimer at the top of every page saying something like that "the info below may or may not be factual. It is offered only as a starting point, and may not represent the truth".

That will go a long way to solving the issue. Wikipedia is an exercise in vanity and control. It's very clear that some people become admins because they believe their truth, and inwardly that they themselves, are better than everyone else. Their Wikiality is what you will accept... or else.

No. Fire all the admins, and Reality will take care of itself...

Re:Won't change a thing (2, Insightful)

afabbro (33948) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720121)

I stopped editing Wikipedia BECAUSE of their obsession with "being legit". It got really tiresome to look through pages with nearly every sentence marked "citation needed". Or to come back and find that whole paragraphs have been stricken from pages because they weren't sufficiently documented. There are dozens of pages I can think of that were once long, in-depth articles that have been reduced to stubs in the name of "being legit". I also disagree with the anti-original-research policy.

The whole point of Wikipedia is that it's self-correcting. If I know a lot about a subject, I write about it. If some of it is bogus, someone else will correct it. Documenting it with endless citations adds nothing. Wikipedia didn't used to be like that...but then some people got obsessed with "being as legit as Encyclopedia Britannica". I mean, gee, if we can't cite Wikipedia in our term papers, what good is it! Gasp! Yawn. Wikipedia would eventually have been good enough there wouldn't be a question, but now it's gone down this tedious path.

It's hilarious to read now. Go look at most of the higher math or science articles...few citations, but no one questions them because they don't understand them. Now go look at some pop culture article - tons of citations needed or marked all over the place. Some things are inherently un-citable, yet good to add to articles. And of course, there is NO standard for citations - a quote from some yahoo's web page is as good as a cite for a scientific journal. So what's the point?

I've made thousands of edits and created several entire categories, but ultimately it wasn't worth my effort any longer. Now I put my specialized content on web pages and if people find it, good for them; if less do because it's not on Wikipedia, big deal.

As a side note, I sincerely hope that the Wikipedia project is replaced by something with structured data, rather than free-flowing text...i.e., something that is queryable. "Here's an article about the Confederate Generals of the U.S. Civil War" should be accompanied by "and here is the information in a structured format so you can use it programmatically".

Re:Won't change a thing (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720387)

The whole 'notability' requirement was one that really irritated me. I would have thought 'usefulness' was a much better standard for an encyclopaedia with no real size constraints. If a page is getting hits from people reading it, then it should count as sufficiently notable to remain, and not be deleted because it doesn't meet someone's standards for important. It's not like it's wasting shelf space...

Re:Won't change a thing (1)

Air-conditioned cowh (552882) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720189)

It would be helpful to know the specifics. Sounds like a straightforward [[WP:TEND]] [slashdot.org] issue. In particular...

You often find yourself accusing or suspecting other editors of "suppressing information", "censorship" or "denying facts".

Better Living Through Benjamins (4, Interesting)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719031)

1. Pay contributors, i.e., give them revenue. Even micro-payments will do, pennies. (The added side-benefit of this is that it means contributors will most likely need paypal accounts, which most likely means they will be "of age:" No more changing entries as result of bets made in the back of the school bus.)

2. Fire contributors who screw up, depriving them of that revenue.

3. Problem solved.

Anything else is a hippy-dippy feel-good buzz-word Web-X-point-something-or-other that begins with the letter "cluster."

Re:Better Living Through Benjamins (5, Insightful)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719111)

Wikipedia gets hundreds of edits per minute. I don't think even micropayments are going to be cost-effective.

Re:Better Living Through Benjamins (5, Interesting)

mrnobo1024 (464702) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719313)

Plus, any kind of payment system would have people trying to game it, to the detriment of quality - if Wikipedia paid by the edit, they'd have people dragging out trivial changes through as many separate edits as possible, making the history tab practically unusable.

Whereas on the other hand, if Wikipedia were to pay by amount of content added, this would be likely to lead to the rather undesirable consequence that editors of the aforementioned Internet-based encyclopedia might pad out their edits through the utilization of wholly unnecessary verbiage, guided by the realization that this practice would vastly increase their character count and therefore result in a larger payment to be made to the editors in question, granting to them a larger share of their economy's purchasing power - considered by many to be a desirable state of affairs, and certain to in some cases override any aesthetic misgivings that they might otherwise have had regarding the practice of composing overly long sentences such as this one.

Wont that make it worse? (1)

Richard.Tao (1150683) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719759)

If it's ruined by vandals with agendas, you'd be weeding everyone else out but them and the people who really care about wikipedia, which may do more harm then good. Age doesn't matter, just knowledge and the want to be fair. I think a system like /. where you could peer rank contributors, or articles so there is an agreed upon standard. Possibly make popular articles un-editable unless your ranked high enough.

On the other hand (2, Interesting)

Jotii (932365) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719885)

If you had to pay to edit Wikipedia, only the serious editors would do it.

Wikipedia is fine how it is.. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719035)

There is nothing wrong with Wikipedia as it is. I have never trusted traditional encylopedias more than Wikipedia. There is often much more information available in Wikipedia than in a traditional encyclopedia. Furthermore the this comment is just plain dumb "Last month a project designed independently of Wikipedia, called WikiScanner, allowed people to work out what the motivations behind certain entries might be by revealing which people or organisations the contributions were made by." Who gives a crap who made the edit I'm only concerned with the accuracy or value of the information present; if you believe everything you read no amount of academic authorship is going to help anyone. I for one like to listen to whatever anyone has to say on any subject be they retarded or wearing a tin foil hat or if they are teaching at university.

jayg slimvirgin et al pushing Jimbo's Worldview (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719039)

While you still have Jayjg, SlimVirgin etc pushing their agenda Wikipedia will still lack any credibility.

I really lost faith with the whole institution when Jayjg failed to get enough votes for ArbComm and yet got appointed anyhow. If Jimbo wants to run it as his own personal little world view that's his right. Just don't expect the rest of us to take the place seriously.

Trust? (2, Interesting)

SilentGhost (964190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719061)

Common, even /. is more trustfull. Trust is not something you can buy with another set of features.

Re:Trust? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719381)

What the fuck is "trustfull"? Did you just fucking make that up? Who the hell cares what somebody who makes up words thinks?

OpenID (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719073)

of course, OpenID is not a trust system, but it could help to build up reputation, so that i could use my wikipedia-en account on wikipedia-de and vice versa.

rfta (3, Interesting)

distantbody (852269) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719095)

And yet the simplest and most effective quality control, requiring registration, is still considered sacrilege to the Wikipedia overlords...

Re:rfta (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719215)

Looks like somebody hasn't been on /. long enough to remember the Coalition of Logged-In Trolls.

Re:rfta (2, Informative)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719223)

Actually, if there's one thing WikiScanner showed, it was that not requiring registration is useful to us in identifying problems.

Registration is a small hurdle. While it's impossible to bot-register accounts, and thus requiring registration would provide a layer of insulation from vandalbot accounts, we haven't actually had a serious vandalbot attack in years. For your garden variety fuckwittery, registering an account doesn't fix much - most of our total fuckwits are registered.

Re:rfta (2, Informative)

kusma (139069) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719311)

Registration is a very poor method of quality control. Registering a nickname provides far more anonymity and less accountability than posting your IP address. Unlike on Slashdot, the IP addresses of edits made while not logged in are public on Wikipedia. Mandatory registration would make corporations completely safe from WikiScanner and similar tools.

Re:rfta (1)

infestedsenses (699259) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720503)

That wouldn't remedy anything, it would just make the user database bloat up with fake accounts.

Link to the actual New Scientist article (5, Informative)

sczimme (603413) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719141)

Instead of using a link to a sub-optimal blog site, how about a link to the actual New Scientist article. [newscientist.com]

Mod article up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20719199)

But who will moderate the metamoderators?

free encyclopedia strategies (1)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719213)

The article summary hits the nail on the head because that's what it's all about: boosting reader confidence, even despite any concerns about accuracy. Oddly enough the two concepts are different and yet closely related. And then there's Citizendium [citizendium.org] who state "We aim at credibility and quality, not just quantity". I'll tell you, Wikipedia is smart, expanding their already huge user-base by slowly gaining more trust, whereas Citizendium just decided to turn everything on its head suddenly. This could be a long, drawn-out marketing campaign, if there is one!

tmcnet trustworthy? (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719245)

I don't know if I can trust that tmcnet site. Is it bad formatting or bad reporting when it says:

"As a result, although Wikipedia has grown in since its launch in 2001 around
per cent
f all internet users now visit the site on any given day its information
ontinues to be treated cautiously."

Trust and anonymity (2, Insightful)

uid7306m (830787) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719273)

The trouble with trusted editors is that any large organization can afford to pay someone to become a trusted editor. All you have to do is hire someone reasonably smart, and tell them to spend a day per week helping Wikipedia. Then, once and a while, you tell them to fix what you want fixed. Some would refuse, but others would not want to risk their job.

Since large organizations spend millions on PR, they would happily spend the small sums it would require for this plan. We're talking about US$40,000, which is not a lot. The only reason this plan would fail is that it would be too tempting to demand a lot of edits.

Ultimately, the problem comes down to anonymity. You really want people to put their reputation on the line, and you need people who care about their reputation. Paying university professors to write articles is one solution, though there may be others.

Alternatively, you just accept that Wikipedia is what it is: good for the stuff that everyone knows, of dubious value for controversial stuff (though often surprisingly good!).

Re:Trust and anonymity (1)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719437)

I agree, except inasmuch as, 6 years into the project, the surprise is starting to wear off, and it seems like it's time to start rethinking our sense of what should and shouldn't work in writing an encyclopedia.

Interesting article (2, Interesting)

MarkWatson (189759) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719411)

I like De Alfaro's statistical approach of ranking both blocks of text and editors.

I also like the approach of checking IP addresses, although I was caught in that: earlier this year I added an article on machine learning, but someone from my ISP had done vandalism; I was blocked for a few days until I went through their system; no problem, just a delay.

The whole topic of trust is a very interesting problem, one that also occurs on web sites, the semantic web, etc. (Imagine trying to perform reasoning with RDF on the web when some contains fake information).

I (slightly) embarrassed myself last night by sending a link to a parody article to a few friends and family, not realizing that it was a parody - I had to send out a "never mind" email this morning.

I have mixed feelings about private anonymous use of the web vs. the benefits to knowing who people are. I very recently turned off anonymous posting on my web blog - too many anonymous posts offered opinion that I doubt the posters would express if they represented themselves.

As an open platform (hopefully forever), the Internet will evolve in interesting ways :-)

The Problem Lies with Misinformed Users (2, Insightful)

mmyrfield (1157811) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719429)

I really wish /. posts would stop asking if wikipedia is "trustworthy" or "reliable". All of the cynics reply in chorus "no, it can't be because X can vandalize article Y, and group Z can gang up and bully topic Q into having systemic bias omg wtf @!$!".

No kidding. This happens. Guess what? It happens in print encyclopaedias also. Replace vandalism with plain old errors, replace the systemic bias of group Z with that of the editors and voila.

Then you have the camp of "ex-editors" who are really nothing more than bad editors who haven't taken the time to understand what the mission of wikipedia actually is, rather than what their contrived notions lead them to believe it is who say things like "I got scared away because what I added which was so clearly invaluable to me was removed by a long-time editor which clearly means I'm right and they're doodie heads with an agenda omg wtf @!$!".

What they don't realise is what they add has to be verifiable from reliable, secondary sources, with no new opinions of their own. Wikipedia seeks to add established analysis, not what you perceive to be right. And this is exactly what makes wikipedia more reliable than any print encyclopaedia - it has inline cited references to back up it's claims. Any part of wikipedia that does not yet have these inline citations (that anybody can and should follow up on) should still be considered works in progress - consider finding the source yourself!

So I guess my question is, why do you insist we hold wikipedia to a higher standard than other encyclopaedias? Stop being afraid of dynamic content.

Note (2, Insightful)

joeszilagyi (635484) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719473)

Trust is reliability. The problem is that (as others mention below) trust, truth, and fact are not subject to deviation or consensus. No matter HOW much some want it to be. The problem with Wikipedia is everything is subject to groupthink review and approval.

Science isn't. Facts aren't. The sky is blue, the planet is billiions of years old, two airplanes flown by terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, intellegient design is myth.

If enough people say otherwise aggressively enough, though, Wikipedia--even if they don't outright say otherwise--will leave it gray enough to be contested.

No longer everyone's knowledge, now just citations (5, Insightful)

kingduct (144865) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719555)

I now find contributing to Wikipedia unbearable. At one time, everyone was supposed to contribute what they knew. It was a place for the world to create a new form of reference based on everyone's knowledge. Now, I find that if I contribute about things I know, I am told to find a citation. Thus, incorrect information with citations is allowed on, and good information without citations is removed. The goal is to look academic (like tradition resources) and not to let everyone share (like it originally was). It was incredibly frustrating to have people who had no idea what they were talking about start telling me that I was in the wrong for changing things.

I can understand people wanting to make sure that the right stuff is put on the wikipedia. But shouldn't it be people with experience in the subject matter of the topic who go through and find what is wrong? Instead it seems like people attach themselves to articles and feel like rules changes in the wikipedia give them the power to control articles and show their academic formatting superiority, even when they know nothing about the topic. I still use the wikipedia some, but this change has actually made me lose some of my trust in it. Whereas before the wikipedia more openly admitted that it was imperfect and I took it for what it was, now it pretends to be perfect and in order to do so is reducing its validity and I distrust it for that pretension.

Re:No longer everyone's knowledge, now just citati (4, Insightful)

808140 (808140) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720533)

It is true that cited information that happens to be incorrect or misguided will often be difficult or impossible to remove due to the existence of a citation — this is clearly a problem. However, I do not see the other direction as being an issue.

The fact is, nearly everything that is correct and accurate can indeed be cited. Wikipedia has, for very good reasons, a policy of not allowing original research — so anything you determine yourself is not admissible. But everything else is.

I'm the sort of person that "knows" a lot of stuff. I have a lot of trivia and information stored in my brain; I'd wager many Slashdotters are similarly of the "know-it-all" variety. But I cannot tell you how many times I have sworn that some factoid or other was true only to discover in the course of research that I was either mistaken, or that the knowledge was somehow so obscure that no one else made any references to it whatsoever (which, let's face it, probably means I was mistaken).

Unlike you, apparently, when this happens I thank my lucky stars that WP encourages citation of sources. When something is correct, finding a cite is a trivial endeavor, as it only amounts to telling them where you read what you're saying. When something is incorrect, your inability to find a cite will prevent you from looking like a daft fool by insisting something is true when it's not.

Many people who think they are experts tend to assume that the "cite everything" policy that WP has adopted does not apply to them — but more often than not, these people are not actually experts. Real experts, who do research and read on their subject of expertise in an academic setting pretty much full time, are accustomed to citing their sources (although they are often not accustomed to WP's prohibition against original research — but that's something else entirely).

As a rule of thumb, if you can't find a citation for what you know to be true, it's probably not true, and so I cannot empathize with your distaste for the citation requirement. However, I think you are right in your assessment of the problem in the other direction: citations can be of poor quality and be incorrect themselves, and people can be very unreceptive (read: belligerent) when you suggest that citation or no, their statement is either incorrect or POV or whatever.

Trust isn't the big problem (2, Insightful)

nwbvt (768631) | more than 7 years ago | (#20719673)

Trust isn't the Wikipedia's biggest problem at all. Its biggest problem is that it is an encyclopedia that is treated by many as a primary or secondary source. When someone argues that the Wikipedia is not appropriate for citations in something like a research paper, they get flamed by people claiming its more accurate or has more information than traditional encyclopedias. But thats completely missing the point; no encyclopedia (or any other tertiary source) is an appropriate source for citations.

True History or spin with no trust, just bias .... (1)

OldHawk777 (19923) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720063)

Thanks to all you folks at Wikipedia, maybe this will help US, EU ... understand and learn some about reality.

I remember reading encyclopedias and listening to news in the 1950/60s. By the mid 70s, I knew there was little truth in any history, but many extensive facts spun to cultural propaganda.

Among many cultural groups globally names like Hitler, Stalin, Mao ... Caesar, Huang, Alexander ... Ramesses, Saladin, Urban, Gupta, Columbus, Cortez, Falwell, Farrakhan ... Nixon, Reagan, Kohmani, Sharon, Kennedy, Bush2, McClellan, MacArthur, Montgomery, Custer, Napoleon ... (so many more) are held in great reverence and honored as great leaders of humanity.

I hope one day we will have a history based on what was provided to humanity, not what was gloriously lost for greed, creed, lies, and spin-legacy. Caesar, Bush2, Napoleon, Hitler ... had far more in common with each other, then anything in common with Gandhi, Theresa, Joan, Carter ..., but history books literally cover the bad with many good lies and justifications, and then for further future evil relegate or omit the good to almost anonymity. The greatness of Rome, Greece, Egypt, China, US, EU ... is not due to the imperial destroyers of human life and civilization ... The greatness of all cultures, nations, art, science, learning ... is due to Citizens creating and developing (not ruling). [Don't reply in support of megalomaniacs or dogmatist, because it will simply express your intelligence and nothing of value to humanity]

Please, understand (I do not say) wars or warriors are bad. Warriors fight for family, friends, and ideals. Warriors are never the pitiable and fearful foolish followers of pseudo-patriotism flag waving, religious dogma, or the mental and emotional cripples looking for gold, glory, and/or gore.

War can be forced upon Warriors, Warriors are human and make mistakes, but Warriors cannot be forced to fight on any battlefield. Warriors prevent the subjugation/slavery of family, friends, and ideals. Wars are human events caused by an insane few to injure the many. Economic class-warfare is cultural war and does cause death and instability of human lives and societies.

Interesting but tough problem (2, Informative)

felix9x (562120) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720191)

This is an really interesting problem. In my opinion vandalism is not an issue with wikipedia but the quality of the research work involved with each article is. Every article has a varying degree of quality to it. Some are "good" as in someone who did thorough research has written the article. Some are "good" because many people did little good bits of research and the combination is good. Some are "bad" because the research was flimsy or the article is tainted by the bias of the author. Not all articles have been well researched. Not all articles have been reviewed or corrected by people who are experts on the subject. And finally the really hard problem. For some articles there is not enough "good" material elsewhere online available to cite or use by people who do want to do good research. For some topics in order to write a good encyclopedic article one would have to spend 5 month researching secondary sources which are not freely available online.

So we wind up with a situation where some parts of wikipedia are good because the topics covered have alot of good research material to rely on and some topics are poor because the cost/motivation of doing proper research are too great for an average wikipedia editor. This is the really tough problem to overcome since most of wikipedia is volunteer work and most people are not willing to dedicate large portions of their life to it.

Nevertheless this new tech is going to at least solve the vandal problem a bit better. Right now its a little difficult to spot vandalism in the see of changes. This bit of automation would make it much easier for the "police" force of wikipedia to spot and eliminate any obvious vandalism.

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