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Stanford's Authoritative Alternative To Wikipedia

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the citation-provided dept.

Education 355

eldavojohn writes "For decades, Stanford has been working on a different kind of Wikipedia. It might even be considered closer to a peer-reviewed journal, since you have get submissions past a 120 person group of leading philosophers around the world, not to mention Stanford's administration. It has several layers of approval, but the authoritative model produces high quality content — even if it only amounts to 1,200 articles. Content you can read straight through to find everything pertinent — not hop around following link after link like the regular Wikipedia. You might question the need for this, but one of the originators says, 'Our model is authoritative. [Wikipedia's] model is one an academic isn't going to be attracted to. If you are a young academic, who might spend six months preparing a great article on Thomas Aquinas, you're not going to publish in a place where anyone can come along and change this.' The site has articles covering topics from Quantum Computing to technical luminaries like Kurt Friedrich Gödel and Alan Turing. The principal editor said, 'It's the natural thing to do. I'm surprised no one is doing it for the other disciplines.'"

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355 comments

tags are correct (3, Funny)

yincrash (854885) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501270)

this has already been attempted. however, if stanford can keep it going and make sure it keeps reviewing then it could work. Can I submit a wikipedia article for peer reviewed inclusion?

Re:tags are correct (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501290)

The article about 4chan on this server should be awesome...

Re:tags are correct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501476)

This would valuable in tandem with Wikipedia. It won't stand alone of course, since most "academic" authors write with the primary goal of displaying their intellectual prowess, rather than actually communicating understanding.

Re:tags are correct (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501608)

It's a conspiracy against the laity!

Re:tags are correct (2, Insightful)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501748)

Translation: "I don't understand a lot of what these people say, but I am reluctant to believe that there could be anything missing in my own education or intelligence, therefore I will ridicule the authors instead."

Re:tags are correct (3, Interesting)

BrentH (1154987) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501852)

I don't know if you're in a uni and what your field is, but as physics master I certainly can attest that 95% of 'teachers' in phys and math are like that. Perhaps it's related to the fact that I'm not in a top10 university, but I guesstimate this phenomena is widespread.

Re:tags are correct (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502066)

Teachers that can't teach? Preposterous!

Re:tags are correct (5, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502098)

No, translation: most people who are close to the material are generally incapable of communicating it to people who are not. This is not a lack of education or intelligence on the part of the others, but rather a lack of distance on the part of the authors.

No human being alive is capable of specializing in every single area of every single field simultaneously. There is simply not enough time in a human's lifespan. Most people are either generalists who specialize in all aspects of a single field with limited depth or specialists who focus on a handful of specific areas of a field. For example, on top of a broad general CS background, I have specialized CS knowledge in storage systems, with somewhat less specialized knowledge of security, networking, and a few other areas. I also have a background in communications with an emphasis in production (radio/TV). Although I can understand papers written about other areas of computing, it will generally take a lot longer for me to figure out the meaning of a highly technical paper in the field of crypto research than in the field of storage systems. That doesn't reflect a lack of education so much as a fundamental inability to specialize in every possible area at once.

This is why technical communication is hard, and why good technical writers are so valuable. It takes a special skill set to be able to both understand a piece of complex information and still communicate it in a way that is readily understandable to someone who is not intimately familiar with the jargon of a particular area of specialization within a field. When it comes to being understood by a more general audience within a given field (but outside the area of specialization), academic papers are among the worst examples of technical communication out there, often eschewing all sense of context in order to limit the amount of time spent writing so that they can focus on research. This is why peer-reviewed journal articles are quite often rewritten in a more intelligible form for broader consumption.

There's nothing inherently wrong with that model---both the precise, jargon-filled, rapidly written journal articles and the parsed, compiled, and summarized versions serve valuable purposes---but sadly, mistakes are often made when technical writers interpret those initial journal articles and try to make them comprehensible to people outside that area of specialization. That's why there is a real need for a continuous feedback loop with the people who write the original articles. Unfortunately, quite often this feedback loop does not exist. And that is worth criticizing.

I will almost certainly be criticized for this post using too much jargon. I can already see it coming....

Re:tags are correct (2, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501614)

I think they might stand a chance at survival if they made it work similarly to Slashdot's own comment rating/reading system. So normal/anonymous users would browse as +5 or something (meaning completely peer reviewed) and for others who opt into it, might be able to view at lower levels like "-1" or something like that.

Peer review processes like these will not move quickly. By making it available prior to review completion, people might be able to see something more interesting even if it's not completely accepted yet at the time.

Re:tags are correct (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501678)

models like slashdot sound great but it's incredibly easy for people to poopsock moderation and game the system. That's the problem with any ratings system - someone needs to be able to nix the moderation, but that person now becomes the one with the questionable bias.

Stanford's solution is good as long as they're willing to accept that information will be outdated and/or it won't be complete. It also depends on the format they use.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501278)

You mean like a normal encyclopedia? The opposite of Wikipedia?

Yes, please give me information that is only approved by authority figures.

Re:Wow (3, Funny)

bbtom (581232) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501314)

Yes, please give me information that is only approved by authority figures.

Let me guess: 9-11 truther? ;-)

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501368)

Harsh, lol.

Re:Wow (1)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501324)

Isn't there possibly room for both models to succeed?

Wikipedia's good at covering a lot of topics broadly, but not great for drilling down into a specific topic in the kind of depth that someone studying it for post-graduate work would find useful or helpful. At some point, that kind of peer-reviewed material has to migrate more strongly away from being in dead-tree journals.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501374)

There certainly is room for both models to succeed, and we would be better off if that is the case. If Google Library can ever get through their copyright problems we can really see some educational advancements.

This article talks about an "alternative" to Wikipedia, which this is not.

Re:Wow (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501684)

It already has in some fields. See arxiv.org.

Re:Wow (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502088)

Encyclopedias are useless for real research.

Academics (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501284)

My experience in academia taught me that there was no such thing as the "authoritative" source. If one scholar thought one thing about a particular subject, there was always at least one other scholar who disagreed with him/her. Most of the encyclopedia articles written in more scholarly encyclopedias (like Britannica) are therefore usually written by a single scholar, not a crowd of them. Get a crowd of these yahoos together and odds are you won't even get them to agree on what time it is. I've sat in on meetings where grown Ph.D.'s argued like children over so-and-so getting to teach a 100-level class that someone else wanted to teach (because so-and-so is an idiot who disagreed with them in some journal article written 20 years ago). Any attempt to get agreement out of scholars usually just results in really bland "committee" history (the kind some prevalent in so many unreadable textbooks). Such controversy-free scholarly writing is bizarre at best, absolutely misleading at worst.

For all the ribbing it takes, my experience with Wikipedia is that it's generally pretty reliable. In the subjects of my narrow areas of expertise, I've found it to be pretty accurate--or at least as accurate as any other conventional source (i.e. Britannica). Of course, scholars don't like it because they don't get paid to write articles for it (the way they often do in encyclopedias) and writing for it gets them no tenure-track kudos in the publish-or-perish world. That means most scholars are never going to be happy with Wikipedia. And that has nothing to do with its purported lack of accuracy, but rather scholarly politics.

Re:Academics (4, Interesting)

jlechem (613317) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501460)

I've sat in on several United States Armed Forces meeting where they were writing documentation for the software I was working on. A bunch of GS-12+ civilian employees arguing for half an hour over where the place the word 'the'. It's not just academics, you get any large enough group trying to compile a document at the same time and it's going to be a clusterfuck.

Re:Academics (5, Funny)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501890)

Your comment reminds me of a demotivational poster: "none of us is as dumb as all of us".

Re:Academics (5, Funny)

Beerdood (1451859) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501924)

over where the place the word 'the'

Well let's hope someone besides you made the final decision on that one

Re:Academics (2, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501938)

A bunch of GS-12+ civilian employees arguing for half an hour over where the place the word 'the'.

It appears to me that we need to have our discussion at least once more...

Re:Academics (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502062)

I believe it's called the bikeshedding.

Re:Academics (1)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501580)

My experience in academia taught me that there was no such thing as the "authoritative" source. If one scholar thought one thing about a particular subject, there was always at least one other scholar who disagreed with him/her. Most of the encyclopedia articles written in more scholarly encyclopedias (like Britannica) are therefore usually written by a single scholar, not a crowd of them. Get a crowd of these yahoos together and odds are you won't even get them to agree on what time it is. I've sat in on meetings where grown Ph.D.'s argued like children over so-and-so getting to teach a 100-level class that someone else wanted to teach (because so-and-so is an idiot who disagreed with them in some journal article written 20 years ago). Any attempt to get agreement out of scholars usually just results in really bland "committee" history (the kind some prevalent in so many unreadable textbooks). Such controversy-free scholarly writing is bizarre at best, absolutely misleading at worst.

Those kind of disagreements are usually only about fine details. In most academic domains including philosophy there is broad agreement on what positions are reasonable.

For all the ribbing it takes, my experience with Wikipedia is that it's generally pretty reliable. In the subjects of my narrow areas of expertise, I've found it to be pretty accurate--or at least as accurate as any other conventional source (i.e. Britannica). Of course, scholars don't like it because they don't get paid to write articles for it (the way they often do in encyclopedias) and writing for it gets them no tenure-track kudos in the publish-or-perish world. That means most scholars are never going to be happy with Wikipedia. And that has nothing to do with its purported lack of accuracy, but rather scholarly politics.

I love Wikipedia. It's a great place for people new to a topic to go to get some context and direction. The overall quality of the philosophy articles is poor though. Many times they are about the equivalent of an undergraduate essay. It's more than just politics, at least for philosophy. It really is a quality issue.

Re:Academics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501798)

In most academic domains including philosophy there is broad agreement on what positions are reasonable.

Groupthink doubleplusgood.
Dissent doupleplusungood crimethink.

Re:Academics (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502126)

In most academic domains including philosophy there is broad agreement on what positions are reasonable.

Great minds think alike and fools never differ. (The last, and most important part, of that quote is often forgotten.) Peer review is important and is the best solution to many academic problems to date, but it is prone to false positives and false negatives. Ideally, you'd have three methodologies - two (peer review being one) run in parallel such that the second methodology is going to pick up probably good information that is rejected by peer review but is not going to pick up more than an absolute minimum of gunk. A third method is then needed to collate the two sets of potentially-good information. It only has to filter out the remaining gunk, it doesn't have to do anything more than that.

Re:Academics (1)

brufleth (534234) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501606)

Right. So an article on this other system can get through all that review with errors or at least with interpretations that are in dispute and unlike on Wikipedia those issues can't be fixed. Well they can be fixed but only after another shit storm of review and if those reviewers agrees etc etc. Wikis are excellent ways to document and organize knowledge in a relatively casual and cheap manner. Stanford setup a system that is slow, potentially still open to bias, definitely still open to mistakes, and requires much more resources. Comparing the two systems is like comparing a scooter to a tank.

Re:Academics (1)

DingerX (847589) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502046)

Aye, bad use of headlines.

FWIW, I use and cite SEP articles. I do occasionally check through Wikipedia, but they're working to a different audience, and the quality of their articles on second-tier philosophy subjects is pretty damn low. They are very different beasts. Wikipedia is very fast, and for subjects that are high-velocity, it's unbeatable.

On the other hand, Wikipedia can't get to the same level of detail as the SEP because of Wikipedia's model of editing-by-committee and governance-by-wikielite (aka the people who put in the time and effort to be able to throw down TLAs and related wikijargon in the discussion threads). Simply put, the advantage of having one person be an authority on an article lies in that person being able to assure the meaning of every sentence. A simple "stylistic rewrite" can kill the sense of the passage (see above, where people have trouble making sense of a logical argument).

Also, SEP comes with a built-in system for citation to static versions, along with the requirement that authors keep their articles up-to-date by revising them at least every five years.

What's impressive is that it's fast rendering obsolete print dictionaries of philosophy. Yes, they still exist; but people are starting to ask why.

Re:Academics (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501692)

Congratulations, you've experienced human nature.

Now imagine those sort of arguments happening continuously around the world by an effectively infinite number of people often with nothing productive to do for the rest of the day. Worse, imagine that - unlike in academia (IME) - no-one wears their proud bias on their sleeves for filtering where necessary, but everyone pretends to be fair and balanced.

That's Wikipedia, that is.

Re:Academics (1)

sgt101 (120604) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501768)

Most of the "young" academics I know, and a lot of other domain experts contribute to Wikipedia.

Y'know - the truth and facts and things... they have a certain sort of persistence and value.

And ok, there's no credit, but that's what grant applications and papers are for right?

Re:Academics (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501814)

My experience in academia taught me that there was no such thing as the "authoritative" source. If one scholar thought one thing about a particular subject, there was always at least one other scholar who disagreed with him/her.

There will always be someone who disagrees, whether in academia or politics or industry. This is a good thing - disagreements lead to experiments, which lead to answers and convergence on more accurate hypotheses. But one of the unfortunate side effects of debate is that some members of the public will inevitably latch onto crackpot ideas that agree with their pre-existing notions of the world, and assign as much value to the opinion of a single scholar as to the settled findings of the field. For example, there are undoubtedly a few scholars out there who will insist that evolution did not happen. However, this is not a "scholarly dispute", and there are very few people who would call these individuals authoritative just because they disagree with mainstream opinion.

Get a crowd of these yahoos together and odds are you won't even get them to agree on what time it is.

There are several perspectives here. One is that these people are human, and any large group of humans is unlikely to completely agree on every detail of a certain topic. Another perspective is the one already made - that disagreement is a good thing, because it leads to experiment proposals to resolve the issue.

Any attempt to get agreement out of scholars usually just results in really bland "committee" history (the kind some prevalent in so many unreadable textbooks).

It's easy to bash "elitist" academics. Let's try that quote again...

  • Any attempt to get agreement out of politicians usually just results in really bland "committee" history
  • Any attempt to get agreement out of corporations usually just results in really bland "committee" history
  • Any attempt to get agreement out of historians usually just results in really bland "committee" history

See, it works with everyone... Any attempt to get agreement out of people who disagree on a point will result in a compromise that appears "bland" to an external observer.

Such controversy-free scholarly writing is bizarre at best, absolutely misleading at worst.

Are you suggesting that academics should "teach the controversy"? Where have we heard that before?

scholars don't like it because they don't get paid to write articles for it

Actually, most scholars think that the concept of a world class free encyclopedia is awesome. Many of the Wikipedia articles that you praise were probably contributed to by academics at some point. The issue is something else: how a field is to be interpreted by Wikipedia authors. When looking at the field of astro-physics, should the written interpretation of that field be guided by "elistist authorative sources" like, say, Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein, or should we ascribe the same value to their interpretation as we would to any other human on the planet? There are some benefits of taking a Wikipedia "any collaborator" approach, but there are also drawbacks. Whether one way is better than the other remains to be seen, but I don't really see the conflict - there is plenty of space on the net for Wikipedia, Scholarpedia, Stanford Encyclopedia etc. Arguing that there should be only one encyclopedia is like arguing that there should only be one newspaper.

Re:Academics (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502068)

Bingo. I have sat through many lectures in college where the instructor was simply BSing their way through the subject matter, and many where they were just plain wrong. Not all of them mind you, but my experience with Wikipedia is that it is about as reliable as what you get out of a college. In both cases, you have to look at what kind of information is presented. Soft subjects are pretty poor. Hard subjects are generally pretty good, or at least verifiable. History is politically decided.

It is getting pretty popular, actually (4, Informative)

bbtom (581232) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501296)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is pretty great. A lot of young academics and Ph.D's in philosophy are writing stuff up for it. Really great resource.

It isn't really an alternative to Wikipedia though: Wikipedia is about more than just philosophy. Similarly, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy - the big printed encyclopedia on philosophy - isn't an alternative to Britannica. It is a subject-specific encyclopedia. The two have different roles.

Re:It is getting pretty popular, actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501444)

Agreed. I used it very often when I was taking a load of philosophy and constitutional theory classes last year. Wikipedia was specifically banned from being used as a resource, but this site became a valuable resource for the entire class during the semester. While it's limited articles was a detriment, when the content was there, it was accurate, insightful and invaluable.

It won't replace or even compete with Wikipedia, but it should start showing up in the citations of Wiki soon (if not already). It will also be a good resource for other academics look for more than a general overview of a topic.

Re:It is getting pretty popular, actually (2, Funny)

Itninja (937614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502146)

All I know is this: if I can't ctrl-a, ctrl-c, ctrl-v, grep out all special characters, then take that and ctrl-a, ctrl-c, and ctrl-v into a Slashdot comment to appear learned, and then delete the article to cover my tracks....it's not a valid source of information.

Good Way to Compare (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501318)

The problem Wikipedia has is comparing it to other digital encyclopedias. Ether this will prove to be a better academic way to source work, or it will be a bureaucratic nightmare and die due to the lack of information. I don't see why it would work if they think they'll only get 1200 articles though. What makes any encyclopedia good is a high volume of content not just quality.

Awesome! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501332)

Let's copy these articles into Wikipedia, so they're actually of use to someone.

Re:Awesome! (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501454)

Would that be legal?

Re:Awesome! (4, Informative)

Danh (79528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501782)

No, it's not legal to copy the articles to Wikipedia, since they grant no other right than free view. See their copyright [stanford.edu] : basically the author retains the copyright, and grants Stanford the right to publish the article electronically.

Re:Awesome! (2, Informative)

tibman (623933) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501788)

I think facts can be copied with a citation to the source?

Re:Awesome! (1)

allknowingfrog (1661721) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502014)

True. It's not possible to copyright a fact. However, the question at hand was whether whole articles can be "borrowed." In order to cite facts, someone must be willing to write those facts into a new article. On the other hand, most of these topics are probably covered already in Wikipedia, so maybe a quick citation wouldn't be such a problem after all.

Re:Awesome! (1)

AffidavitDonda (1736752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501780)

At least some of them are already linked in Wiki. I just checked the article about John Searle's "Chinese Room" and it contains a link to Stanford Encyclopaedia's article by David Cole.

Re:Awesome! (1)

AffidavitDonda (1736752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501800)

Same for the article about Alan Turing, you find te links under "References" or "External Links"

Tough crowd here (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501334)

I've been struck by the negative opinions of the discipline of philosophy on Slashdot over the last few years. Lots of people saying "No empirical testing? Then it's crap!", without apparently realizing that vital questions they have to face in everyday life, such as ethics, are part of philosophy. It's not just all fanciful proofs of God or poststructural interpretations of classic literature.

Re:Tough crowd here (0, Redundant)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501354)

No empirically-testable system of ethics? Then it's crap!

Re:Tough crowd here (1, Redundant)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501544)

A non scottish system of ethics? Then it's crap!

Re:Tough crowd here (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502108)

man... no Austin Powers fans here today!

Re:Tough crowd here (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502012)

1: There is no such thing as choice which is not random.
2: 2nd law of thermodynamics.
3: Maya

1 and 3 being related to 'free-will'.

some people do not have Maya.

given that a system of ethics should be one where all people and things are treated equally (yes you should treat up like a golf ball)
given the 2nd law, such a system should also be balanced
a system based on ownership would only be balanced if the ownership was balanced, that is neither a capitalist nor academic system. wikipedia is near a balanced system, though some people are said to be more authoritative without merit (ie the subject is a philosophical one, like mathematics and not an empirically testable one like umm.... philosophy)

Re:Tough crowd here (2, Insightful)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501892)

I've been struck by the negative opinions of the discipline of philosophy on Slashdot over the last few years. Lots of people saying "No empirical testing? Then it's crap!", without apparently realizing that vital questions they have to face in everyday life, such as ethics, are part of philosophy. It's not just all fanciful proofs of God or poststructural interpretations of classic literature.

Yes, many people seem to be really hung up on the fact that philosophy is not science. Unfortunately for them almost all of science is based on metaphysics and the scientific method (the very tool they are are using to heap scorn on philosophy) is the result of epistemology. Philosophy is thinking about thinking; it's a meta-subject. It will always have value as long as people are eager to have their ideas criticized. Unfortunately most of the people saying "No empirical testing? Then it's crap!" are the least scientific and the most dogmatic. As long as philosophy doesn't try to be or claim to be science there is no problem here. They serve complementary functions.

Ethics (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501906)

The Golden Rule is the Gold standard of Ethics (Confucius was the first to say it, btw. ). It's short and concise - everything else is just mental masturbation.

Gee, is it ethical to [...]?

Hmm, would I want that to happen to me? No? It's unethical.

Re:Ethics (3, Insightful)

hahiss (696716) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502030)

The golden rule isn't a rule of morality at all, actually. It can be a useful heuristic for teaching empathy, but all of the formulations of it fall apart when confronted with examples.

Consider a basic formulation: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Okay, well suppose I want to be sucker punched by a stranger out of the blue or have my genitals grabbed by a stranger without invitation. That's what I should do to them?

We could continue this all day, but all formulations will have similar structural failings.

Re:Tough crowd here (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501976)

They also don't realize that major areas of philosophy underlay empiricism. Specifically metaphysics (the study of the nature of existence) and epistemology (the study of the nature of knowledge). If you are doing physical science you are assuming certain metaphysical and epistemic conclusions. You may not be interested in them, but, as the cliche goes, they are interested in you. Combine that with the fact that another areas of philosophy, logic, underlies mathematics and you have one very fundamental discipline.

On the other hand, I've seen what gets classified under 'metaphysics' in the bookstore so I can't blame the laymen for not understanding what philosophy is actually about.

Re:Tough crowd here (1)

firewrought (36952) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502022)

Lots of people saying "No empirical testing? Then it's crap!", without apparently realizing that vital questions they have to face in everyday life, such as ethics, are part of philosophy.

Everybody knows that we are all philosophers. The empiricist also knows that we aren't very good philosophers: that there are all sorts of weird hiccups in human reasoning that lead us to mistake thought for truth. Unless constantly checked against the real world, it's all too easy for an entire field of knowledge (*cough* cultural studies) to wander into the dark, taking with it the energies of countless institutions and entire generations of scholars. For knowledge to be meaningful, it must be tested. Mathematics, with its inhuman capacity for strict formalism, is the only field that gets a bye.

Philosophy has her triumphs, but she prefers to celebrate false heroes and dead ends. It's a shame because we do need philosophy and better ways of going about it.

Well, that's great... (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501338)

If all you want is information on philosophy. I'd like to see similar encyclopedias on other disciplines, like physics or engineering.

But if you want a track listing for Led Zeppelin IV, or just want to do some personal research like I did before my eye surgeries, or for a slashdot argument, Wikipedia is the place to go.

If you're doing academic research, it's a good pointer to citable publications and articles. And I rather like having to click to read about related stuff; it keeps me from having to go over stuff I may already understand.

Re:Well, that's great... (1)

trb (8509) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501482)

Yes. That's like saying that zappos.com is an authoritative alternative to amazon.com, without mentioning that zappos is limited to shoes.

Re:Well, that's great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33502008)

Mcgrew, I've seen you post a lot the eye problems you have are interesting to me, as I also have some pretty shitty eye problems. I think its time to throw down, here's what I've got:

1. Giant Retinal Tear and detachment in the right eye at age 14, repaired without a buckle.
2. Retina detachment again during theatrical showing of LotR 2 followed by a buckle, vitrectomy and silicone oil.
3. Surgery to remove the oil and replace lens due to oil-induced cataract.
4. Surgery to remove laser induced cataract in left eye.
5. Retinal detachment of the left eye following cataract surgery resulting in a buckle, vitectomy and gas bubble at age 23.

Re:Well, that's great... (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502086)

If all you want is information on philosophy. I'd like to see similar encyclopedias on other disciplines, like physics or engineering.

But if you want a track listing for Led Zeppelin IV, or just want to do some personal research like I did before my eye surgeries, or for a slashdot argument, Wikipedia is the place to go.

Or if you want information on philosophy, Wikipedia is the place to go, to find articles that will cite/quote this encyclopedia of philosophy.

Why I Use Wikipedia (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501370)

It has an article for everything. I can find the names of different fallacies, book summaries, the date a movie came out, or info on the latest game by ID Software all in one place. It's up to date, it doesn't need to be perfect that's not the way I use it.

Here, fixed that for you (5, Funny)

Dalzhim (1588707) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501422)

If you are a young academic, who might spend six months preparing a great article on Thomas Aquinas, you're not going to publish in a place where anyone can come along and do better.

Re:Here, fixed that for you (0, Troll)

phyrexianshaw.ca (1265320) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501618)

am I the only one thinking that if you're publishing a grant application on Thomas Aquinas, maybe you should get a fucking life and not worry about where it's published?

Re:Here, fixed that for you (1)

DingerX (847589) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501728)

If you're publishing a grant application, you're doing it wrong, dude.

Nookable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501442)

I've been hooked on SEP for about a year. One of my justifying reasons (excuses) to buy a pre price drop Nook was reading these articles in more comfortable format or location. Alas, the web browser is still awful, but I found this wonderful little tool:

http://www.web2fb2.net/

Converts SEP articles (and any other web page) into an EPUB file. It even did a great job rendering the diagram of modal logic systems.

Wrong model. (1)

chaboud (231590) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501452)

Following link after link is exactly why I like Wikipedia. I can cruise by dense information if I already have the background or dig through articles to get the background I need for a particular topic.

On top of that, it really fits well with tabbed browsers, sort of an information nesting-doll model.

The absolutely ridiculous thing is that educational institutions won't take citations from wikipedia, but some will take citations from the internet at large. Understanding fail.

Re:Wrong model. (2, Informative)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501550)

Fool-proof method to fool that...

Step 1: Use wikipedia for information
Step 2: View cited sources for wikipedia.
Step 3: Cite cited wikipedia sources.
Step 4: ???
Step 5: Profit!

Re:Wrong model. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501988)

Description

Content you can read straight through to find everything pertinent — not hop around following link after link like the regular Wikipedia.

Comment

Following link after link is exactly why I like Wikipedia

Amen. I don't see why anyone sane would want to "read straight through to find everything pertinent". That's why we invented hyperlinks...so you only get the "pertinent" information that you want to get, not the "pertinent" information that the author wants to shove down your throat. Or eyes.

The readability seems to be questionable. (5, Insightful)

EvolutionsPeak (913411) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501468)

This piqued my interest so I took a look at an article on "Actualism". Here is the first paragraph:

To understand the thesis of actualism, consider the following example. Imagine a race of beings — call them ‘Aliens’ — that is very different from any life-form that exists anywhere in the universe; different enough, in fact, that no actually existing thing could have been an Alien, any more than a given gorilla could have been a fruitfly. Now, even though there are no Aliens, it seems intuitively the case that there could have been such things. After all, life might have evolved very differently than the way it did in fact. For example, if the fundamental physical constants or the laws of evolution had been slightly different, very different kinds of things might have existed. So in virtue of what is it true that there could have been Aliens when in fact there are none, and when, moreover, nothing that exists in fact could have been an Alien?

If this is a representative sample then I'll stick to wikipedia. Can someone decipher that last sentence for me? I've read it several times and I can't seem to grasp what it is saying.

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501596)

Our intuition tells us that there "could have been" Aliens. If our intuition is true, *how* can it be true, given that i) there are no Aliens in existence, and ii) there are no situations or evolutionary pressures which could have caused any actual organism to evolve into an Alien?

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (1)

bertok (226922) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501838)

Our intuition tells us that there "could have been" Aliens. If our intuition is true, *how* can it be true, given that i) there are no Aliens in existence, and ii) there are no situations or evolutionary pressures which could have caused any actual organism to evolve into an Alien?

Then ( our intuition is wrong, OR we are wrong about the nature of evolutionary pressure OR the aliens were intelligently designed by other, naturally evolved aliens ) AND ( its possible for something to exist - 'could exist' - even if it doesn't. Think about transient things that only exist for a short period. They *can* exist, but might not exist *right now*)

How is this a big fucking mystery? It's just a stupid play on words.

This is why I didn't study Philosophy at university. I did one of the short introductory classes, and just a couple of days in, we had a conversation along the lines of:

lecturer: "blah blah blah... rules... blah blah blah... rules"
lecturer: "... the exception proves the rule."
me: "No it doesn't, the exception disproves the rule."
lecturer: "Well, how about this example, there are speed limits, but the exception is emergency vehicles, which are allowed to go faster than the speed limit, which proves the rule."
me: "No, then the rule is either: 'Everybody except emergency vehicles are legally required to drive under the speed limit', OR the rule 'everybody must drive under the speed limit' is wrong. Pick one."
lecturer: "But the rule that everybody must drive under the speed limit is still valid."
me: "It's not, you just gave a counterexample."

That's when I stopped talking and realized that everybody who knew how to thing logically took their 'philosophy' and named it 'science', and everybody who was left was a blithering idiot.

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (1)

hahiss (696716) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502102)

I thing logically (to use your expression) and I'm a philosopher. But, in fairness, my lectures aren't "blah blah blah... rules... blah blah blah... rules." They're more "Dit-Dit-Dit Dah-Dah-Dah Dit-Dit-Dit wah wah waah BLAM!"

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33502112)

Like most people who quickly and disparagingly dismiss philosophical issues, you completely misunderstand the issue at hand even as you attempt to solve it.

 
Possibly there could have been aliens. You say maybe our intuitions on this account are wrong. I don't quite see how that could be the case though. It's certainly not logically necessary that only the things that in fact exist are those that actually exist. That would make all counterfactual statements false, which is absurd. This issue has nothing do with how evolution works, or whether aliens designed other aliens or whatever. The issue is that in asserting that something possibly exists you're asserting that it does exist, in some sense. Formally this is cashed out in terms of possible worlds using a logically rigorous method outlined later in the article which, of course, you don't understand. I happen to think this whole debate's nonsense too. But you're only right by accident, as it were, since you clearly don't even understand the issue enough to coherently critique it.

 
And in fact this issue, which seems utterly arcane, does have real-world consequences. If you believe that damaging the environment is immoral because it harms future generations then, congratulations, you've staked a significant philosophical position on this issue because you're regarding NON-EXISTENT PEOPLE as moral agents worthy or moral consideration in our economic and social calculations. Try to explain how we can have a moral obligation to people who don't exist. No matter what you say you've taken a stance on an issue related to this. And the idea that we have a responsibility to future generations not to ruin the planet is hardly some wacky philosophical idea: you hear it all the time in politics about social security and the debt and the environment.

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501628)

The article writer should have at the very least emphasized the word "what."

"In virtue of WHAT is it true that ..."

In other words, how can we get away with saying "there could have been Aliens" when none of the things that actually exist could have been Aliens?

I don't see how this is such a conundrum. It's like wondering how it could be true that my backpack could have contained a flashlight, even though none of the objects currently in my backpack could have been a flashlight.

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501774)

The article writer should have at the very least emphasized the word "what."

"In virtue of WHAT is it true that ..."

In other words, how can we get away with saying "there could have been Aliens" when none of the things that actually exist could have been Aliens?

I don't see how this is such a conundrum. It's like wondering how it could be true that my backpack could have contained a flashlight, even though none of the objects currently in my backpack could have been a flashlight.

Yes to your explanation, yes to your opinion on the topic, and an even bigger yes to your criticism of the wording of that sentence.

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501706)

The last sentence means, "Given reality, is it reasonable to consider the possibility of Aliens existing when they cannot in fact exist, as their existence would violate the laws of reality?" I'm about to go research this branch of Philosophy now; it is really intriguing.

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (1)

phiwum (319633) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501754)

This piqued my interest so I took a look at an article on "Actualism". Here is the first paragraph:

So in virtue of what is it true that there could have been Aliens when in fact there are none, and when, moreover, nothing that exists in fact could have been an Alien?

If this is a representative sample then I'll stick to wikipedia. Can someone decipher that last sentence for me? I've read it several times and I can't seem to grasp what it is saying.

The problem is that you're not used to certain kinds of philosophical jargon.

The author is asking: Given that there are no aliens and that nothing which exists could have been (counterfactually) an alien, what would make the sentence "There could have been Aliens" true?

It's abstruse philosophy about the problems of what could make a sentence that "X is possible" true, given that X is in fact false, as I understand it. (Perhaps my move from "there could have been..." to "...is possible" is not an equivalence on this view, so read with a grain of salt. I'm not familiar with this theory.)

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501860)

Philosphers still debate this stuff? Hasn't Judea Pearl [wikipedia.org] (et al) already solved this with the method of causal nets and counterfactual surgery? (Presentation) [ucla.edu]

Thanks for nothing, philosophers!

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501964)

The author is asking: Given that there are no aliens and that nothing which exists could have been (counterfactually) an alien, what would make the sentence "There could have been Aliens" true?

Even after that translation to logical language that we're more used to (Given..what..(implicit) such that), it still isn't any clearer of an explanation of what actualism is.

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501762)

Can someone decipher that last sentence for me? I've read it several times and I can't seem to grasp what it is saying.

So in virtue of what is it true that there could have been Aliens when in fact there are none, and when, moreover, nothing that exists in fact could have been an Alien?

vaj Daq vo' nuq 'oH 'oH teH vetlh pa' laH ghaj taH ghorgh Daq pa' 'oH pagh 'ej ghorgh pagh vetlh Daq laH ghaj taH?

I'm a bit rusty, but it does seem to parse out better in Klingon.

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501770)

"Actualism is the philosophical position that everything there is -- everything that can in any sense be said to be -- exists, or is actual. Put another way, actualism denies that there is any kind of being beyond actual existence; to be is to exist, and to exist is to be actual. Actualism therefore stands in stark contrast to possibilism, which, as we've seen, takes the things there are to include possible but non-actual objects."

 
In the alien example an actualist would say that, in some sense, those aliens are actual. This is opposed to possiblism, the view that not all things that are possible are actual.

 
Of course your concerns about readability are entirely correct. Just a bit down in the article it moves into quantified modal logic: x(Sxp Px)

 
All this says is what (7) says, namely "(7) Joseph Ratzinger (i.e., the Pope at the time of this writing, August 2008) could have had a son who could have become a priest." which isn't that complicated, but still. In fact, this is probably one of the more technical articles including gems like this: "The quantified formula 'xPx' is trueM,f at w just in case, for all individuals a in dom(w), 'Px' is trueM,f['x',a] at w, where f['x',a] is f if f('x') = a, and otherwise is just like f except that it assigns a to 'x' instead of f('x')."

 
That's why I always find it amusing when people stereotype philosophy as easy. Contemporary academic philosophy is extraordinarily technical and difficult. Large sections of analytic philosophy are just applied formal logic. This might not say anything about whether it's useful or truth-discovering, but it's certainly difficult. But then I happen to think that metaphysical disputes like this one are malformed, or don't have definite answers. (Sorry if the post looks weird, Slashcode doesn't show the diamond operator or several other logical symbols).

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (0, Troll)

deathguppie (768263) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501806)

IANAS,.. but I'll giver a go, let's break it down like a math problem shall we..

So in virtue of what is it true

Obviously truth is virtuous so that is strait forward enough..

that there could have been Aliens when in fact there are none,

And since this statement is basically true there are no Aliens..

and when, moreover, nothing that exists in fact could have been an Alien?

Aha.. and here is the sum of the problem. Nope nothing exists that could have been an Alien.

So, (the virtue of the truth) + (not having aliens) = (no existing aliens) ... ?

There see how simple that was?

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501894)

Since we have imperfect knowledge about the said universe we are stuck with discussing the validity of the logic. The truethyness of the statement will forever be in doubt given that we may indeed learn something new about the universe that will make the alien existence possible. So actually it is a highly academic discussion of how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

Re:The readability seems to be questionable. (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501914)

If this is a representative sample then I'll stick to wikipedia. Can someone decipher that last sentence for me? I've read it several times and I can't seem to grasp what it is saying.

The original:

So in virtue of what is it true that there could have been Aliens when in fact there are none, and when, moreover, nothing that exists in fact could have been an Alien?

My translation: What makes it true that there could be Aliens, when there are none in fact, and they are precluded from existing by the "Laws of Nature" (remember, Aliens exist only because of fundamentally different Laws of Nature)?

But as for sticking to wikipedia... good idea, I think, if you're not a student of philosophy. The SEP isn't really written for the average Joes like you and me (no disrespect if you actually are a philosophy student)... so it's not a good resource for us.

Awesome site but it's not new... (3, Informative)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501470)

I've been going to plato.stanford.edu for years.

Queue the anti-intellectuals! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501514)

Brace yourself, here come the "academics" hate! If there is one thing that is consistent on slashdot, it is the "joe slashdot user knows more about any subject than tenured professors" meme. Say it with me "correlation does not equal causation, thus your study is flawed!"

Wikipedia if Run By Academic Experts.. (5, Funny)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501558)

So the article is titled:

"Wikipedia, if it were run by academic experts, would look like this"

Intrigued I clicked the link and got a firefox unable to connect/page unavailable error. So in principle I agree. This is exactly what a webpage with wikipedia's user base would look like if it were run by Academics.

Silly article spin (3, Interesting)

mattdm (1931) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501576)

There's room for -- and need for -- both this sort of site *and* for Wikipedia or something like it.

The article wants to cast this as some sort of competition, and tie into existing anti-wikipedia bias, but there's no particular reason that this is actually a zero-sum game.

In fact, Wikipedia's strength is partly in its policy of _never_ being authoritative. You want that, you follow the citations. And this is a great example of a site that Wikipedia can refer to.

double negative (1)

M. Kristopeit (1890764) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501616)

wikipedia is the alternative to authoritarian sources... the alternative to the alternative is not something to brag about.

stanford seems ignorant of the current state of information discourse. harvard doesn't test their students any more... the ivy is rotting.

Why would you want to not let people change it? (1)

Mathonwy (160184) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501620)

If you are a young academic, who might spend six months preparing a great article on Thomas Aquinas, you're not going to publish in a place where anyone can come along and change this

For some reason, this line really bugs me. Maybe it depends on what your goal is? If your goal is to provide the most up-to-date, complete reference, then heck yes, I would say, you SHOULD put it somewhere that other people can change it. In case they have anything to add to what you wrote, or in case there are any things you wrote that need correcting. (And assuming that you have at least some degree of trust that they will do so in good faith and not just delete/vandalize your work I guess.)

The only reasons I can think that you would want to write something in a way that DOESN'T allow people to modify it is if you either a) are 100% certain that what you have written is completely accurate and definitive and will require no maintenance, b) are more worried about having "your" version up and public than having the "most correct" version up, or c) don't trust the people who might do edits, or the moderation system.

All of these seem like pretty petty reasons except C though. (a reeks of hubris, and b seems like the wrong goal.) And wikipedia HAS a pretty good handle on C, all things considered. It seems like the biggest danger of this is that the update process becomes too much work (either because you have to wait for 120 people to review it, or because those 120 people get bogged down by review oversight requests) and that the encyclopedia becomes out of date.

It will be interesting to see how this works out for them though. If they find a model that works, then more power to them?

Re:Why would you want to not let people change it? (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501718)

Wikipedia has a lousy handle on C. If you don't see this, your adherence to the idea of Wikipedia is blinding you to the reality of Wikipedia.

In addition, the vetting of initial information so that people can make minor changes at a later time is pretty bad, too.

Re:Why would you want to not let people change it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33501930)

The whole point is the "authority" aspect. Somehow the present age has rejected "truth by authority" and embraced "truth by consensus".

It's a good thing we all know the world is flat. If someone tries to change wikipedia to show it as a sphere the intelligence of the general community can swiftly strike them down...

Re:Why would you want to not let people change it? (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502054)

assuming that you have at least some degree of trust that they will do so in good faith and not just delete/vandalize your work I guess.

This is exactly where Wikipedia falls down.

And wikipedia HAS a pretty good handle on C, all things considered.

No, it doesn't. It appears to on topics on which there's widespread agreement about factual knowledge because there's an easily referenced external source. On any topic requiring real expertise, or worse, a topic on which there are few experts (but many who think they are), you get either edit wars or the idiosyncratic views of page-squatters. There's also no mechanism for verifying the expertise of writers--that's how you get scandals like the Wikipedia editor who claimed to have multiple PhDs and was page-squatting and reverting others edits, who turned out to be a 26 year old college student.

Citizendium (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501636)

Centizendium is the half-way point between the free-for-all of Wikipedia, and the extremely stuffy "authoritative" wikis (at that point, really, why bother?).

With CZ, you are required to use your real name, and if you largely write an article and hang around to maintain it, you do get a degree of ownership to it, with etiquette and policy dictating that any other contributors merely suggest their recomended changes to the original author via the talk page, rather than everyone willy-nilly making changes as if they're all experts on the subject.

Similarly, articles are reviewed by experts (required to have a degree) and those reviewed version are the ones which stick, while you have to go out of your way to see the revised versions.

For the details, and an indictment of all that is wrong with Wikipeida, see: http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/CZ:Why_Citizendium%3F [citizendium.org]

If nothing else, CZ is the only other wiki with a Wikipedia founder behind it. "Suffice it to say that he learns from his mistakes."

You're right it is like a journal. (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501670)

Instead of making out like this is something "NEW" let us just call it what it is. A "Journal". All be it one that doesn't cover a great many interesting things and takes extremely long to get things published. But as long as you are publishing things that will not go out of date then you are ok. What I find interesting is this trumped up need to say open wikipedia bad -- peer reviewed journal good or vise versa. The fact is we need both. Get over it academia.

120 only ?! Too few reviewers! (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501690)

120 only ?! That is far too few reviewers!

That is less than one per academic topic.

No wonder that Wikipedia will remain relevant.

Philosphers? (1)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501750)

I'm not sure that an article on quantum computing is best peer reviewed by 120 philosophers...

Re:Philosphers? (1)

arogier (1250960) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501816)

It might work when a number of the philosophers are logicians.

Nothing new? (1)

necro351 (593591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501784)

Slashdot posts many stories related to Wikipedia, and in each of those stories related to its trustworthiness, it is endlessly repeated that you should follow the footnotes to where the source is cited, and do two things: (1) fact check the statement you are about to cite, and (2) fix it if its wrong. Using this simple strategy, you never have to invite the wrath of your teachers because you would never cite Wikipedia (but instead cite what it cites), and additionally you'd be doing mankind a service by keeping Wikipedia accurate. Yes there are vandals out there, but the operating principle of Wikipedia is that people interested in sharing truthful information far outweigh those that seek to vandalize and misrepresent it. If that is true then Wikipedia will continue to be right far more often that its not. This is a good thing, because at the rate the population is exploding, Wikipedia seems to be the only strategy of cataloging our cultural story that will scale. I don't see how 120 philosophers who probably have grants to write and classes to teach will find the time to do it.

It's been tried: Nupedia. Citizendium. (3, Informative)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501902)

I wish them luck, but it is certainly not the first time it's been tried. In fact, Wikipedia originated as Nupedia [wikipedia.org] , "an English-language Web-based encyclopedia whose articles were written by experts and licensed as free content." After three years, perhaps 100 articles were close to completion. Wikipedia was originally conceived as a source of draft articles to be reworked into Nupedia.

The assignment of credit for Wikipedia between Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger is a matter of dispute. The two, sometimes described as co-founders, have squabbled publicly. Sanger is probably responsible for some of the cultural foundations of Wikipedia that have led to the surprisingly high degree of accuracy it has.

In 2006, Sanger, unhappy with Wikipedia's undervaluing of expertise, launched Citizendium [citizendium.org] , an expert-approved wiki-based encyclopedia, which is said to currently have "We currently have 14,722 articles at different stages of collaborative development, of which 148 are expert-approved."

I am not saying Stanford's experiment can't succeed. I'm not saying Citizendium has failed. But I know where I got for answers, and it's not Citizendium. (And it's not Knol, either). The traditional encyclopedia--Encyclopedia Britannica--was able to pay contributors, using money it earned by selling print volumes. The social ecology of free web encyclopedias is tricky. There is probably more to success than saying "We'll be just like Wikipedia, but we'll restrict participation to experts." Experts usually want to be paid in something more than ego-boosting.

ZOMBIES! (1)

idcard_1 (953648) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502006)

Still waiting for the page to load...(thanks /.) But how can you beat an article about zombies from an "authoritative" source!? http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/zombies/ [stanford.edu]

Really newsworthy? (1)

totally_mad (1061918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33502116)

There have been several other attempts in to setup similar wikis. For example, Scholarpedia [scholarpedia.org] is exactly this model of a peer-reviewed topical encyclopaedia, but for mathematical sciences. There were two comments from other Slashdotters, complaining that a group of academics, or any group of people will often struggle to reach consensus. But I think that there are qualitatively different types of disagreements. Some are about writing or presentation style ("where the place the word 'the'"). But, some are more substantive, especially in topics that are not entirely resolved. For example, there is little disagreement that Newton's laws are wrong, but nearly exact for certain spatial and time scales. But, if you were to write an article on information coding in neurons, there are probably as many opinions as there are labs working in that area!

If only Wikipedia became more widely used than it is presently, especially in academic circles, then more groups will be interested in having articles reflect debates. To reflect different opinions is particularly important in fields involving subjectivity (pretty much every thing other than Mathematics). If there is enough interest among academics in Wikipedia, then the current state of debates on various topics is bound to be reflected in the articles.

Given that Stanford's plato website is simply a fledgling effort, I do not see why it is newsworthy. If for example, someone cited an article from the plato website in a peer-reviewed journal article (and reviewers accepted it), that would be newsworthy. Short of that, it is simply yet another effort at collaborative information sharing. It cannot be newsworthy simply because it is from a well known university.

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