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Wikipedia Criticised by Its Co-founder

Hemos posted more than 9 years ago | from the turning-in-on-itself dept.

727

wikinerd writes "Wikipedia is under criticism by its co-founder Larry Sanger who has left the project. He warns of a possible future fork due to Wikipedia's Anti-Elitism and he presents his view on Wikipedia's (lack of) reliability. New wikis on various subjects have already emerged, with some of them being complete forks of Wikipedia. Critical articles on Wikipedia are also being published by other sources."

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Wikipedia informs me and scares me. (3, Interesting)

IO ERROR (128968) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244131)

I occasionally use Wikipedia for something or other, generally when I click a link to an entry which someone has posted on their Web site. I've found that it's reliable for the most part, but when you run into something that's wrong [wikipedia.org] , it's really [wikipedia.org] wrong. And the threat of revert wars [wikipedia.org] can keep many people (including me) from contributing at all.

Re:Wikipedia informs me and scares me. (4, Interesting)

GlassUser (190787) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244175)

I occasionally use Wikipedia for something or other, generally when I click a link to an entry which someone has posted on their Web site. I've found that it's reliable for the most part, but when you run into something that's wrong, it's really wrong. And the threat of revert wars can keep many people (including me) from contributing at all.

That's about where I am on it. I used to actively contribute, write (small, out of the way) articles, but I got tired of my work being molested for someone's agenda, and threatened for not pandering to the trolls.

My experience on Wikipedia (3, Informative)

rd_syringe (793064) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244496)

I often find that most of the major articles have one or two hardcore guys with an agenda who "monitor" all the contributions everyone else puts in. For instance, the page on rape had a section called "Rape and Sexual Torture" and talked about societies where rape is tolerated and accepted as a government function. Then the link at the end was "Abu Ghraib prison scandal."

While Abu Ghraib is definitely an abuse situation, there were no cases of rape involved, and it's not standard U.S. policy to rape people. U.S. society doesn't view it as a viable, standard policy. Based strictly on the wording of the section, the link didn't apply.

Well, anyway, I changed the link to something clearly more pertinent (in my mind)--"Human rights in Saddam's Iraq." The Saddam page specifically describes how rape was used against political dissidents and citizens, just as the section on the rape page talked about, so already it was more relevant than the Abu Ghraib link. Also, I had feelings that the Abu Ghraib link was politically motivated, and rather than have the page start political flamewars, I felt a link to Saddam's Iraq was something everyone could agree on.

This one hardcore guy wouldn't let go. Eventually, I removed both our links and stuck in the Rape of Nanjing as a compromise--something more pertinent to that section than either of the links we had. The other guy seemed to agree and let it be. Then I didn't watch the page for a month or two.

I came back, and sitting beside my Nanjing link was, you guessed it, Abu Ghraib again, snuck in with some other major update. The page on Abu Ghraib doesn't even mention rape except that one prisoner is claiming it without proof. However, the Saddam page mentions rape, and Nanjing is just a given.

I also find this same thing in other articles. For instance, the Windows XP article contains a "fisher price" comment. I removed it and said it was a personal comment that implies a majority of users feel that way, and that if you're going to imply it, you should cite it. The hardcore guy of the Windows XP page stuck the link right back and linked to a couple of blogs and news sites where the author mentions the "fisher price" interface--still no hard numbers to show the majority of users actually feel that way, but now it looks "official" simply because he linked to some sites that use the term.

I've stopped looking at Wiki with the assumption of objectivity. Just about the only fun pages there are the ones about games and such.

They need expert Guest Editors (4, Interesting)

tentimestwenty (693290) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244249)

Wikipedia has the right basic structure but they need a rotating team of pro Guest Editors to go through and fact-check and then "lock" articles, or portions of articles. I'm sure they could easily add a section entitled "Are you and Expert" and many experts would volunteer their time to look at specific sections.

Re:They need expert Guest Editors (1)

Uber Banker (655221) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244324)

The Kuro5hin article makes the point: Wikipedia has an explicit anti-elitist philosophy. Instituting a 'rely on the expert' system would be a massive change in the ethos of the (remaining) site founders.

It is one, IMHO, that is essential for the widespread adoption of it as anything greater than a casual 'with a pinch of salt' source of information.

Have 2 versions (3, Interesting)

tentimestwenty (693290) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244373)

Just have 2 versions of every article - Evolving and Edited. People could toggle between the two depending on their preference.

Re:Have 2 versions (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244400)

Technically of course that's how to do it - not a hard challenge in the scale of Wikipedia.

The OP's point is that goes against the beliefs of Wikipedia - the founder that was the strongest proponent of such a system left, the 'leaders' of the site are very much anti-elitist.

RTFA.

They're idiots then (2, Insightful)

tentimestwenty (693290) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244453)

If you can have a solution that fulfills their need for open contribution AND society's need for milestones of knowledge, why fight it? It kind of flies in the face of their open philosophy to not let the device itself change.

That is the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244511)

Of what Sanger was said.

I seriously ask you to RTFA instead of paraphrasing what other comments have said, and you own spiel, which as a post further down the page said, most people are average, many don't realise it. Contrary to what you might think, your comments lack any profound insight.

open source for code but not information? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244504)

Anyone can take and modify the content of wikipedia.

That is open source/open content.

Re:Wikipedia informs me and scares me. (3, Interesting)

saider (177166) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244293)

I've found that it's reliable for the most part, but when you run into something that's wrong, it's really wrong.

If it is reliable for the 'most part', then it is not reliable at all. If I am looking for information on a topic, I can't rely on a source that is mostly correct. This is the reason that you always check your facts with other sources. Using an unreliable source as a primary source or to verify information is essentially a waste of time.

I use Wikipedia only for casual information. I would never cite it.

Re:Wikipedia informs me and scares me. (2, Interesting)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244437)

I use Wikipedia only for casual information. I would never cite it.

You shouldn't cite any encyclopaedia in your own work - use them as a jumping board towards new lines of research.

This is why it's so important for encyclopaedia (and Wikipedia) articles to give references. Treat them as brief introductions and overviews of particular areas, and then do your own reading and work from the references. An encyclopaedia should never be the primary source of a particular piece of information. [wikipedia.org]

Wikipedia leans more towards the 'interesting general knowledge' use for me as well, and while I'd probably not use it for anything particularly serious, I do trust its content a bit more than that from some random web page turned up by Google. Still, remember the old adage - never believe anything you read on the Intarweb. ;-)

Re:Wikipedia informs me and scares me. (4, Insightful)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244474)

If it is reliable for the 'most part', then it is not reliable at all.

No data sources are reliable. The Encyclopeadia Britanica which keeps being referred to as some sort of gold standard of accuracy was started as a triumphalist celebration of the British Empire.

But even unreliable data can point to data that is more reliable. Police investigations do not begin with firm facts, they begin with a set of evidence which may or may not be contaminated in various ways. The same is actually the case in physics research, there are very few experiments that work really well and repeatedly when they are first done.

In the last election we discovered that the mainstream media are terrebly sloppy and unreliable. The media gave far more attention to the smear boat liars for Bush and TANG memos provided by a highly dubious source than they did to actual policies.

The problem with openness is that it only takes a small proportion of jerks to screw everything up. I don't think anyone would seriously consider running the Linux kernel on wiki lines.

Fortunately there is a very simple way out of the current situation and one that will inevitably be put into practice. Just as slashdot has a reputation mechanism and can be surfed at +1 (mostly good stuff) or -1 (mostly trolls) the same sort of mechanism will eventually be put in place on wikipedia or a branch thereof.

The creative commons license even makes it easy for people to do this, the troll version of wiki is simply the last input to the editor queue.

A deeper problem though is the one that all these knowledge engineering projects suffer from at some point, not everything is physics, in most fields there is no absolute knowledge of the form that fits into a rigid taxonomic structure. There is no definitive opinion of the literary merits of Burroughs or Dickens.

The revert wars are in part reflecting genuine differences of opinion. A bunch of loonies who think they have found absolute truth and attempt to construct a rigid ideology arround it are not going to tolerate dissenting views. And bunches of loonies with a rigid ideology are not going to tollerate any form of epistomological relativism.

Re:Wikipedia informs me and scares me. (4, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244295)

I occasionally use Wikipedia for something or other, generally when I click a link to an entry which someone has posted on their Web site. I've found that it's reliable for the most part, but when you run into something that's wrong, it's really wrong.


Thank you for so neatly summing up the problem in what appears to be one of the first posts. I've read several articles over the last while on wiki that contained a paragraph or two in them that I just simply cringed at because the author didn't really know what the heck they were talking about.

I seem to remember a story not long back ... yeah, here [techcentralstation.com] ...
in which the former head of Encyclopedia Brittanica criticized it for that very reason.

It is in danger of becoming just another set of web pages which may or may not be opinion. The fact that its co-founder is pointing this out as well says a lot.

Out of curiosity (2, Insightful)

kalirion (728907) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244325)

How is the entry on FOX News wrong? I skimmed it, and it seems pretty accurate based on my personal knowledge. On think that struck me as possibly wrong is critics claiming that suicide bombers shouldn't be called "terrorists" because that gives them a negative connotation.

Re:Out of curiosity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244472)

I thought that the implication was that many editors on Wikipedia put misinformation in to push an agenda, just like Fox News does.

Re:Out of curiosity (2, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244525)

I didn't understand that either. I don't see any problem with Fox News having a conservative bias, though I do have a problem when they do try to subvert the facts.

Other media outlets claim to be unbiased, but when something like 85% of them are Democrats, I would expect them to be biased that way anyway. I believe every individual's biases color what they see and what they believe, only a very few people operate in a manner that is truly unbiased.

Re:Wikipedia informs me and scares me. (2, Funny)

Arngautr (745196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244392)

What's wrong with the Fox News one you linked to, it seems to be Fair and Balanced... oh, right....

Re:Wikipedia informs me and scares me. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244393)

Sure, there are revert wars, but there are also technical measures in place to stop them quickly. Wikipedia's so-called "Three Revert Rule" (any single person cannot revert the same article more than 3 times in any 24 hour period) get fairly strictly enforced nowadays. If you notice a glaring mistake, you could at least point it out on the articles Talk page. Reverting Talk pages is a big no-no, and if anyone disagrees they can add a comment to your objection, rather than reverting your edit.

In general the "threat of revert wars" you speak of seems more like FUD to me. People always say, "Anyone can edit? That will never work." Yet so far it's been working amazingly well. Sure there are trolls and, perhaps more importantly, changes made in good faith that are of poor quality or plainly wrong. The fact that anyone can edit helps, since you can go in and correct those mistakes.

Don't take a vague threat of a revert war as an excuse. You may need to explain on an article's Talk page why you made certain corrections, but that's a Good Thing. Anti-elitism is something to be embraced: it means not blindly following someone because they have the right credentials as an authority. It's usually good to have those credentials, but it's better to demonstrate that you know what you're doing than to simply assert it. If you really know your stuff, you should be able to explain your position clearly and I shouldn't have to take your word for it.

Ideally, this also means that editors cannot abuse trust based on a history of useful contributions. Here on /. it can happen that someone builds up excellent karma and then starts to troll, somewhat with impunity at least initially. On WP you may be forced to explain a change you made even though you may have a history of good edits, but that too is a Good Thing. You may be an expert in one area, but that doesn't mean all your changes should be automatically trusted.

Overall, open rational dialog is a successful approach. Sure, there will be trolls who try to abuse this, but you already know how to deal with them from your experience here on Slashdot.

Re:Wikipedia informs me and scares me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244399)

Um, what's wrong with the fox news entry, looks right to me? Full description of the obvious right-wing bias (I'm european - american parties are right, far right and jackbooted-nazi-thug to me) of FOX.

Wikipedia is for the world, not just america.

FlexLM (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244152)

I still can't find a damn FlexLM crack kit. Wikipedia, which I assumed would have the commented source code came up with nothing. Even the online groups on the shadow internet have nothing!

This is ADS (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244153)

Incase you didnt notice it, this is just one big ad made to promote the 10 different wikis this guy has set up.

and techcentralstation (2, Interesting)

apsmith (17989) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244527)

I find it immensely ironic that the reliability of wikipedia is being attacked by as unreliable a source as TCS! Funded by Exxon-Mobil, if anybody needs reminding of that...

Sanger's an epistomologist? (4, Interesting)

apsmith (17989) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244158)

I hadn't realized Sanger's background was in the theory of knowledge. I'm wondering now if what he's actually up to is something much more subtle than seems evident on the surface. Of course Google is into the "sum of all human knowledge" business too, but they're going for bulk and automated quality selection methods, rather than Wikipedia's human touch. Having been around myself since the Interpedia [wikipedia.org] days, I know there's a long history here...

The first encyclopedists [utm.edu] had at least ulterior motives. Anybody have any other ideas what this is really all about? Then there's always the parallels to the world of Asimov's Foundation series, which started off as an Encyclopedia project!

Re:Sanger's an epistomologist? (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244240)

Wasn't the encyclopedia project just a cover story?

Re:Sanger's an epistomologist? (0, Troll)

Uber Banker (655221) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244361)

Someone that founds an encyclopedia has an interest in knowledge? Wow, get your tin foil hat on now!

Ulterior motives (4, Insightful)

Alan Cox (27532) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244488)

I suspect everyone has ulterior motives. The notion that an encyclopedia can be unbiased is ridiculous when if you sat twenty scientists in a room and gave them one article an academic fight would break out with many subjects.

Flaming Wikipedia for inaccuracy is missing the two most important single points about Wikipedia that no other encyclopedia has.

#1 You can reuse, reference and reprocess the content. If you want trusted articles then set up a scheme where experts in the field can GPG sign versions of the article that they believe to be correct.

#2 Unlike every other encyclopedia you can take Wikipedia content under license and "fix it", where fixing means adjusting to your own world view. If you happen to think the Encyclopedia Britannica has its head up its backside you can't fix it. Wikipedia you can. Thats both powerful and dangerous as you can easily imagine groups with an agenda doing things like issuing 'evolution free' wikipedia variants to schools.

What matters for Wikipedia isn't IMHO whether Sanger has an axe to grind but who is going to build the tools to take this kind of distributed public knowledgebase further.

Re:Ulterior motives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244552)

you can take Wikipedia content under license and "fix it"

That's part of the problem, though. You can fix it regardless of whether or not it is currently correct and regardless of whether or not you have any idea what you're talking about.

Re:Sanger's an epistomologist? (1)

frenetic3 (166950) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244548)

Reading... his article.. makes me... wonder... if he is not... in fact... William Shatner... in disguise!

Sour Grapes. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244160)

I can't believe this guy is crying for some elitism. This coming from a hired gun for a smut-peddling [wikipedia.org] company? Nice.

He himself admitted: "I stopped participating in Wikipedia when funding for my position ran out." Then he proceeds to blame trolls for no longer participating in the project.

Here's a tip: say something nice or say nothing at all.

Re:Sour Grapes. (1)

avalys (221114) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244244)

"say something nice or say nothing at all"

Take your own advice and shut up, otherwise stop spewing silly platitudes.

Either idiotic response or excellent satire (4, Insightful)

Mr Guy (547690) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244252)

You've hit the nail on the head, regardless of your intent. The problem with the wikipedia is people slinging mud at expers who know what they are talking about, particularly by anonymous people with only the barest reading comprehension skills.

There is a decidedly revisionist, politically correct, liberal, secular humanist bent to the Wikipedia that prevents it from becoming an entirely reliable source. Accuracy isn't nearly as encouraged as non-offensiveness. Anyone who dealt with the flames on the Bush and Kerry campaign can see that easily.

Re:Sour Grapes. (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244271)

Is there something wrong with selling "smut"? And what does it have to do with elitism?

As for the stopped participating part, we all need to feed ourselves and our families. Why work for free for something that is filled with venom and abuse? His point was get paid and deal with the abuse or work for free if there is no abuse.

You also are a hypocrite. You obviously didn't have something nice to say.

Re:Sour Grapes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244277)

I'm not impressed. What's porn got to do with the way wikipedia accepts submissions? It's potentially as misleading as slashdot comments.

Fork (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244162)

I'm playing around with a Wiki for American history with a focus on the American West (1820-1900) and the Frontier. Sometimes I think it would be easier to grab the whole damned thing, strip out what isn't in topic and add than what I'm doing now, which is adding piece by piece articles and when something is there that Wikipedia has I want, copying it over.

Re:Fork (2, Insightful)

OECD (639690) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244200)

Sometimes I think it would be easier to grab the whole damned thing, strip out what isn't in topic...

So do that. Why is forking a bad thing? I thought that was the whole point of open-source.

Re:Fork (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244384)

I am curious how you your goals compare with wikibooks: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page [wikibooks.org]

What do you think of wikibooks? How closely does the focus of your project line up with the closest wikibook? Is the breadth and depth of the content similar?

Let's not forget... (5, Insightful)

jasonmicron (807603) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244183)

Wikipedia was set up as a very big experiment. As with all experiments you will have problems and run the risk of eventual failure.

Maybe a completely free online encyclopedia is just impossible. There are hundreds if not thousands of revisions done on Wikipedia each day and to have a team sit there to review each update and research it would be monotonous without a paid team of researchers.

As well, having a team of professionals review their particular field on the online encyclopedia surely will not come free. Perhaps Wikipedia has hit a stopping point, if not slowing point?

Re:Let's not forget... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244219)

What about having a maintainer for a subject (small subject I guess) like dmoz.org has?

Sanger's Dead-On (2, Interesting)

Tiberius_Fel (770739) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244185)

Sanger's dead-on with his points. These are precisely the reasons that have kept me from relying on Wikipedia for anything important.

Every once in a while I may go look something up on there for general interest purposes, but never for anything for my classes.

Re:Sanger's Dead-On (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244268)

I sort of agree with Sanger but I'm not so sure it matters...

I use wikipedia frequently, I contibute to it when I find something that needs it. But I don't use it to help with launching manned space missions or anything. And what's so bad about a fork? It's not like we're ever going to run out of potential editors, if there's one thing the world has plenty of it's people that want to express themselves.

Larrys History (4, Interesting)

RobertTaylor (444958) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244189)

Larrys contributions page [wikipedia.org] on wikipedia...

2002 was the last time he edited a page *not* related to himself :)

How fast can you say lawsuit (1)

Vile Slime (638816) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244205)

> it became very clear that the most active and influential members of the project-- beginning with Jimmy Wales ... were decidedly anti-elitist

Larry probably better be careful what he says, it just might get him in a world of hurt...

Re:How fast can you say lawsuit (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244246)

And, pray tell, in what way is the remark either slanderous or libelous? Or should Jimmy sue him because he's too much of a wimp to just simply beat the snot out of him?

Re:How fast can you say lawsuit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244294)

Slander - Spoken
Libel - Written

Either way you are right. It is only libel if it isn't true.

Re:How fast can you say lawsuit (1)

Vile Slime (638816) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244364)

Whether he is right or wrong has nothing to do with it.

If he were saying things like that about me, I'd make him pay big time to hire a lawyer to defend himself.

A lawyer hired by myself wouldn't care if it was true or not, the whole purpose would be to shut his mouth, or his keyboard in this case, up tight.

You just cannot go around saying things like that in the real world and expect to get away with it perpetually.

Re:How fast can you say lawsuit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244415)

Well you live up to your username and I am glad that I am posting AC. Congrats on your attempts to drag the rest of the world into the gutter you live in. It seems to be working.

It would be a very sad place if I couldn't say something that is truthful about somebody just because it hurts their feelings.

Poor me.

Re:How fast can you say lawsuit (1)

Vile Slime (638816) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244494)

Dude,

I don't live in a gutter, it's people who make unjustifiable statements about others who live in the gutter.

If Mr. Sanger thinks he can make his statement stand up in a court of law then more power to him. But, if I were on a jury, I'd have a hard time siding with Sanger, regardless of Wales behavior.

Sanger's opinion about a fellow human being is exactly that, an opinion, and he should keep it to himself.

If he goes out and says Jimmy Wales has brown hair (BTW, I have no idea what color Wales hair is...) and Mr. Wales has a problem with that then Mr. Wales is just out of luck.

But, making derogatory statements about Wales, and how he conducts himself, is once again, opinion, and out in the open is not a good place for that sort of thing.

If he wants to give an opinion about the project then that's a lot less of a problem.

In Theory, Communism Works (4, Insightful)

The-Bus (138060) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244210)

It should work -- in theory. What happens is that you get a mass conglomerate of well-detailed correct knowledge, intentionally misleading information, vague summaries of misunderstood concepts, and/or group think. I admit, I have edited a few entries on Wiki (mostly on highly non-technical information [wikipedia.org] , and have seen it work. I've also seen a lot of articles on more technical info (in my field) that aren't wrong, they're just... bad.

The best solution I have seen was someone suggesting "stickyness" -- the longer an entry remains, the sticker and more truthful it is. I think that, combined with academics actually starting to put in information* and some sort of meta-moderating system, could work.

Either way, I think it's neat. I would not rely on it for critical information, but then, I never do that with the internet to begin with.

* I'm sure academics do now -- I guess I meant "Academia" in that a lot of them contribute.

Re:In Theory, Communism Works (2, Insightful)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244386)

The reason that Communism failed is the same reason that Wikipedia fails. We are NOT all created equal. Some people are more intelligent than others, some are stronger or faster, some have great patience and finesse for craft skills, etc.

But most people are just average. It sucks, I know, because I am one of those average people. I don't expect to win the Nobel prize (any of them), I won't all of a sudden become a quarterback in my mid-30's, and I can barely use a powersaw let alone making a piece of furniture.

The problem with wikipedia is that some people don't realize that they aren't the great subject matter experts they think they are. If someone comes along who knows the subject better than you and writes better than you then you just have to accept that what you wrote may be removed.

I've lost track of what my point was. Hopefully somebody else can continue my thread while I go back to my average job.

Re:In Theory, Communism Works (1)

AttilaB (574159) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244531)

The best solution I have seen was someone suggesting "stickyness" -- the longer an entry remains, the sticker and more truthful it is. I think that, combined with academics actually starting to put in information* and some sort of meta-moderating system, could work.

Google is a successful search engine because it can correctly determine which sites are the most relevant to your search keywords. Perhaps if articles could be rated, then that would help. If an article received many poor ratings, then people would know that the information that it contains is suspect. While this system wouldn't be perfect, overall it would help sort out the junk from the quality entries.

Re:In Theory, Communism Works (1)

justins (80659) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244549)

The best solution I have seen was someone suggesting "stickyness" -- the longer an entry remains, the sticker and more truthful it is.

How long did people think the world was flat?

Inertia doesn't have much to do with truth.

OT: Annoying (4, Insightful)

avalys (221114) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244212)

You know, one thing that annoys me about Wikipedia (I know this is OT, but I don't care) is how so many articles have nonsensical links.

For example, let's say we're looking at the article on Wikipedia itself. Somewhere within it, it says "Wikipedia has been criticized [wikipedia.com] for being an unreliable source of information."

Now, anywhere else on the web, you'd expect that the link in there would point to further information on that specific criticism of Wikipedia. But, instead it points to a page defining the term "critic"! How useless is that?

I can't count the number of times I've seen a link on Wikipedia that made me say "ooh, I'd like to know more about that" and clicked it, just to find out that it only points to a simple definition of whatever term I clicked. That's not what I wanted, dammit!

Re:OT: Annoying (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244300)

Now, anywhere else on the web, you'd expect that the link in there would point to further information on that specific criticism of Wikipedia. But, instead it points to a page defining the term "critic"! How useless is that?

If that bothers you, why don't you go ahead and change the link?

Re:OT: Annoying (1, Insightful)

Mike Rubits (818811) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244408)

If he knew, he wouldn't have had to have clicked the link in the first place.

Re:OT: Annoying (0)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244530)

Why bother? Someone will come along 10 seconds later and revert your change, because they liked the link.

Re:OT: Annoying (2, Informative)

That's Unpossible! (722232) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244432)

Ummmm... this is how wikis work. When you post something, they automatically link words that have wiki pages defined for them within the same wiki. So if you see a word linked, it is to another wiki page.

Re:OT: Annoying (1, Informative)

avalys (221114) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244506)

No, on Wikipedia it isn't automatic. Someone has to manually add the links by surrounding words with [[Tags]].

why "wiki"? (1, Interesting)

Naikrovek (667) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244221)

the word "wiki" has always put me off. I didnt' bother to even visit a "wiki" because that word reminded me of things like "flooz" and "Beenz" - useless marketing words that meant nothing and weren't creative.

once i bothered to go to wikipedia and realized that it is an encyclopedia composed entirely of user-contributed articles, i kinda had a feeling it wouldn't work. i didn't think it would work for the same reason that IRC and message boards are now all but useless. the same goes for everything2.com.

The fact that they're forking makes them even more useless. If they were based on facts, there would be no need to fork anything. Even if one of the forks is designed to be the truth wiki, how the hell do i know which one it is? They all claim to be encyclopedic, which one is actually a reference and not a site full of opinion?

Wikipedia and Everything2 are both full of opinion, rhetoric and useless data someone feels that they should shove down my optic nerve at the expense of some other information i've learned somewhere else. They're venues for flamewars disguised as articles, and if you can't trust one article on a particular wiki, you can't trust any.

i've visited both only a handful of times each, and i hope to limit my exposure to both to little more than that.

(and by the way, forking isn't bad. forking for stupid reasons is only bad because of the stupid reasons, not because something forked)

Re:why "wiki"? (1)

jrcamp (150032) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244454)

the word "Naikrovek" has always put me off. I didnt' (sic) bother even visit a "Naikrovek" because that word reminded me of a dumbass on slashdot who doesn't have anything better to do than bitch about a random name.

Let me guess, you're leading a crusade to rename the GIMP, too, aren't you?

Re:why "wiki"? (2)

AKnightCowboy (608632) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244471)

the word "wiki" has always put me off. I didnt' bother to even visit a "wiki" because that word reminded me of things like "flooz" and "Beenz" - useless marketing words that meant nothing and weren't creative. According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] , Wiki wiki comes from the Hawaiian term for "quick" or "super-fast." Doesn't seem to be a buzzword. Now, wifi and blog are buzzwords and need to die, but wiki is fine in my book.

Re:why "wiki"? (1)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244519)

Wiki is Hawaiian for "quick". I was talking to two people from Hawaii, and they knew it off the top of their head; it is a very common word.

Just because you think the word "sounds like a buzzword" doesn't mean it is. Sometimes it is merely a different language. Similar to the people ranting about KDE having apps named with "K instead of C", which in actual fact, many of the developers are in Germany, where the word "console" is spelled "konsole".

--
Evan

Encyclopedias and "Facts" (2, Insightful)

alienmole (15522) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244533)

If they were based on facts, there would be no need to fork anything.

This is naive. Encyclopedias aren't just catalogues of facts. The majority of entries involve someone's interpretation of the item being described. In commercial encyclopedias, the issue of objectivity was addressed by a process involving peer review, editors, and other checks and balances that attempt to prevent obvious abuses in which a contributor gets to promote their own points of view over others.

This has its limits, though. Such processes don't usually remove cultural bias -- think of the difference between CNN and Al-Jazeera. If all the editors and contributors share the same basic ideas and cultural context, a bias will be present that they may not even be aware of -- or if they are aware of it, they all think it's "right", and thus OK to perpetuate in the pages of their encyclopedia (or other media). You see this sort of thing in newspapers and on TV news channels all the time -- the famous liberal bias or conservative bias, depending on whether you're talking about e.g. New York Times vs. the New York Post, or CBS vs. Fox, in which even basic terms used to describe people or events are varyingly pejorative or complimentary depending on the bias of the source. Encyclopedias aren't fundamentally any different -- think of them as a type of really slow newspaper.

"All" Wikipedia does is remove some of these controls. Of course, that can result in various kinds of problems, but it's worth keeping in mind that these same problems exist in regular encyclopedias, and although the controls in those encyclopedias may catch the egregious problems, in many other cases the problems are just better hidden. Wikipedia gives an excellent insight into what postmodernists call socially constructed truth, and should remind us that when it comes to the kind of subjective descriptions that encyclopedias are full of, facts and objectivity are not nearly as simple a matter as some like to think.

What if there isn't an expert? (4, Insightful)

yndrd (529288) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244245)

I agree with Sanger that there should be greater respect for expertise, but I have to say I rarely use Wikipedia for researching any subject that has a real "expert."

Most of the time, I use it as a resource for pop culture references (leet, for instance) for which other people, though not experts, know a bit more than I do. I think of Wikipedia as an encyclopedia of the moment.

Here is an example (3, Informative)

AnuradhaRatnaweera (757812) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244248)

A good example is this article [wikipedia.org] , which has a section biased towards the separates Tamil Tiger guerrillas. Compare it with this article [cnn.com] on CNN.

Re:Here is an example (2, Informative)

AnuradhaRatnaweera (757812) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244299)

In case you miss the above mentioned section in Wikipedia, here is the exact quote:
At least four trucks loaded with relief supplies heading north to Tamil regions were commandeered by Sinhalese mobs and minor government officials.
There were many other incidents, and many many Sinhalese groups took stuff exclusively Tamil Tsunami victims and vice versa, as signs of friendship, but only the above appeared on Wikipedia, which gave a very wrong picture of our country. I am sure someone will soon change it.

And before you ask, I am fully commited in building applications [cno.gov.lk] to rebuild our nation, and didn't have time.

What is the value of accuracy or truth (2, Insightful)

gelfling (6534) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244250)

I said this months ago and many of you pooh-poohed as nonsense. But committees that accrete information based on whomever is motivated enough to motivate others to contribute is clearly establishing a bias and an agenda. But even if I'm right and most of you are wrong, you are wrong but you don't really care. And this begs the question, what is the value of accuracy or truth?

If you're in school and you're doing one of the 3 million papers you will do in your school career about the Civil War, let's say and you go to Wiki and it's chockful of subtle agendized "Wawr of Northun Aggresshun" revisionism. So what? You will probably get a good grade if you live in the south and you will probably get a pass if you live in the north and all its multicultural tolerance and whatnot.

A few weeks ago for example the entire nationalized abstinence sex ed curriculum was exposed as a fraud, jammed with flat out inaccurate information. So? It wasn't an accident and the fact that it's exposed really doesn't change anyone's mind. So in the end, truth is whatever you can use to further your own aims and accuracy be damned.

Re:What is the value of accuracy or truth (-1, Troll)

ratsnapple tea (686697) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244278)

Postmodernism is deader than punk. Please realign your worldview.

Truth Is ... (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244305)

So in the end, truth is whatever you can use to further your own aims and accuracy be damned.

Scary but true.

History is written by the winners [dom.edu] .

-kgj

Why not incorporate moderating into Wikis? (5, Interesting)

DocSavage64109 (799754) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244272)

It seems that incorporating a version of Slashdot's moderating routines would not only solve most of wiki's downsides, but people may learn lot from just metamoderating.

Re:Why not incorporate moderating into Wikis? (1)

One Childish N00b (780549) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244473)

Because on Slashdot you can usually tell with little or no prior knowledge of the topic if the moderation was good or not; If it made you laugh, it's clearly +1, Funny, for example. The same goes for most of the other moderations with the exception of Informative, which implies that whatever is stated in the post is fact - that requires a little more knowledge of the subject at hand to know if what the poster has put is true or just something they dreamt up off the top of their heads. It's a little more difficult, no?

Now imagine a site where every post was adjudged on whether it was +n, Informative or not - no other categories are availible. Now imagine that site relies on it's articles being genuinely informative for it to be taken seriously - after all, Wikipedia is trying to be an encyclopaedia, which obviously rely on the reliability of their content for their (fragile) credibility. The problem with 'people may learn a lot from just metamoderating' is that with a project like wikipedia, you need to know about the subject before you can decide whether it's entry is good or not... and that's where the problem of a lack of experts comes into play. You can't expect Joe User to know if an article on Quantum Mechanics is correct or not when it gets served up at him through the random metamoderation process - Just my $0.02.

If I haven't put my point across too well, forgive me, I've been up for 2 days and we're out of caffiene.

Re:Why not incorporate moderating into Wikis? (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244534)

moderation is of little help to an on-line encyclopedia unless it is raised to the level of an objective, unemotional, peer review by experts in their field.

anti-elitism? (2, Interesting)

wizbit (122290) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244281)

I don't really see where Sanger gets off calling it "anti-elitism" that the project doesn't let experts have the final word. I agree with him when he says "if the project participants had greater respect for expertise, they would have long since invited a board of academics and researchers to manage a culled version of Wikipedia." And this would probably produce a superior product - but not the one Sanger envisioned when he started the project, as he fully admits. No, this was not to be the be-all-end-all everything-to-everyone reference volume, it was first and foremost a community-oriented enterprise, and the (somewhat misplaced) loyalty to the community, even in the face of people who generally should know better, means the current maintainers' hearts are in the right place with regard to that goal.

So, "Anti-elitism"? No, it's "pro-community," and while I agree that it's out of place for mediating some rather silly disputes, the community-driven atmosphere has survived. Sanger is rightly second-guessing the community's ability to make Wikipedia a fully credible source, but while Wikipedia has been one of the internet/open source community's greatest achievements, it should also be allowed to highlight its limitations.

As long as they fork this page (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244282)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sex_positions [wikipedia.org] a fork of this page is a must

A better approach is needed (2, Insightful)

blackhedd (412389) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244286)

Is it possible to post the affiliations and credentials of Wiki contributors and have these somehow audited? The basic Wiki concept is absolutely right, after all what is knowledge if not the sum-total of everyone's insights? But it's far too easy to abuse this system with the result that there is no way to assess the quality.
We don't have this problem with open-source software, because the good stuff bubbles up to the top. Can we possibly set up an informal editorial board? No, I'm not suggesting we pay people to do that. But wouldn't you suppose that the foremost experts will want to have the expanded presence and notability that would come from their presence on a better-audited Wiki?

Nothing wrong with anti-elitism (4, Insightful)

etymxris (121288) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244290)

There are plenty of elistist encyclopedia publications out there for people that want to "respect the experts and authorities". Pick your favorite pre-net era encyclopedia, and contribute to that. If you want respect for your authority or expertise.

Larry Sanger may be an epistemologist, but his views on knowledge and its justification seem a bit naive. Who determines who the "experts" and "authorities" are? It can't be these same people, that would just beg the question. Or perhaps its the social structures already created that mold and promote expertise. But then why even make wikipedia in the first place? Wikipedia is not a reflection of these social structures, and that was intentional from the very beginning. It's not a mistake to be rectified.

Go ahead, fork the project. It was founded so that those unhappy with its direction could fork it. Just like Linux. Make your own elitist version. Just don't expect any tears from me.

The same criticism applies to democracy (4, Insightful)

benzapp (464105) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244303)

So the masses of folks have no respect for expertise and the elite of various fields. How is this different than society as a whole?

The problem that infects Wikipedia is not limited to a few simple trolls. It is a world-wide societal problem. It is the wicked child of the delusional advocates of democracy and egalitarianism, who in their naivete believe that all people are equal in their abilities and judgement.

How else can we explain the sick believe that masters of rhetoric and intrigue make decisions that are affecting the future of the world? How is it a moron with an 8th grade education is allowed to have a legitimate position on highly technical topics like environmental protection and global warming?

The world has become too complex for any one man to have the requisite knowledge to make decisions about anything other than his field of expertise. What we require is a new social order than recognizes the various discplines of each citizen and identifies his expertise. When our electorate is organized along these lines, only then can representative government work. Instead of a mass of rhetoricians ruling over the world, we should have a council of experts, each elected by the members of his respective field. Chemists should elect the most elite chemist. Electrical engineers, the most elite electrical engineer.

With this top down approach, Wikipedia and society at large will work far better. Further, we may prevent the complete destruction of our civilization by ceasing to hand power to the unqualified and depraved.

Watching the Watchers (3, Insightful)

cyngus (753668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244316)

This is kind of the "who's watching the watchers" question, except, who's editing the writers (and editors).

You need a peer rating system where authors and editors can be given points as to the quality of their material and corrections. I think Experts Exchange [experts-exchange.com] and probably others offer something of this kind. This, as always, required community participation to work effectively. But beyond that, for an encyclopedia people should have an overall rating and a rating for subcategories, for example a lot of ./er's can tell you a ton about Star Wars, but probably very little about the Easter Island heads.

Re:Watching the Watchers (1)

cyngus (753668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244347)

Of course, ./ offers its own version of this with scores, and karma, and mod points.

Wikipedia isn't "anti-elitist" (4, Insightful)

Jonathan (5011) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244326)

As an evolutionary genomicist specializing in microbes, I have contributed to Wikipedia and always explained in the discussion why I changed things and mentioned my (easily verified) credentials relating to the topic. In general, people are quite willing to accept changes if someone can explain *why* the current information is out of date or just plain wrong. Maybe affairs like the status of Taiwan or Tibet will be biased in Wikipedia, but they will be in normal encyclopedias too, because in such cases there are no "right answers", just political opinions.

Special Expertise (1)

larsal (128351) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244327)

It's one thing to call for tolerance towards expertise and specialization, and another entirely to put it into effect.

Who determines what areas are specialized enough to warrant closer consideration? How?

Same two questions, on the subject of who is an expert?

These problems aren't clearly resolved among the academics and professionals who work in the relevant fields. Areas of chemistry and biology frequently overlap, and a celebrated expert in German Idealism might contribute a diatribe on Marxist philosophy, rather than a thoughtful article.

It's for this reason that encyclopedia articles have both expertise and careful, professional editing. I'm not sure how such things could be implemented within the structure of wiki.

Larsal

Wikipedia needs moderators and editors (3, Interesting)

earthforce_1 (454968) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244345)

The Linux kernel is a good model of how Wikipedia should work. All source code contributions must be vetted by Linus or one of his designated underlings before being checked into the kernel. If anybody and everybody could check whatever code they want directly into the root branch, the kernel would quickly become an unusable mess. New Wikipedia submissions or changes should be held as pending until passing editorial review.

Another option is /. style moderation, where you can log in and vote on the accuracy of an article. Enough -ve mods and the entry would be deleted or rolled back to its previous iteration. Meta-moderation would ensure that the moderation system is not abused, and trolls are prevented from moderating.

But the idea behind Wikipedia is great, and shouldn't be allowed to die. Despite its warts, I do consider it a valuble reference, and keep a quick link to it on my Mozilla toolbar.

Re:Wikipedia needs moderators and editors (5, Insightful)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244431)

Wikipedia gets 24.8 "submissions" (edits) per minute. This is several orders of magnitude higher than the linux kernel. Your comparison is specious. -- A Wikipedia Admin

this would never work for the same reason (0, Flamebait)

Interfacer (560564) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244480)

"Another option is /. style moderation, where you can log in and vote on the accuracy of an article."

any topics that are deemed sensitive by a large enough fraction of the population will be modded down

the result would be that anything to do with sex, violence, drugs, laws would be voted down by either europeans or americans, depending on the issue.

look at slashdot itself: any pro linux post automatically gets modded up, while almost any pro windows post gets modded down, regardless of the value of the information itself.

Anti-elitism is what the net is all about (-1, Troll)

scotay (195240) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244349)

My job experience and as a high-school graduate and my experience with those in academics have proven that elitists are no more educated, socialized, or intellectual than the masses. Academic institutions are becoming a threatened distribution model, just like the movie and music distribution business. Nothing an academic dislikes more than a system that might make them earn their keep as opposed to their do-nothing tenures promise.

Re:Anti-elitism is what the net is all about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244417)

Good generalization, especially given your vast experiences and that whole graduating high school thing.

Re:Anti-elitism is what the net is all about (2, Interesting)

cyngus (753668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244477)

My experience is very far different. Being at a large university (Boston University) it was easy to forget that the outside world existed, because I might not leave campus for days at a time. Additionally, Boston tends to be "a terribly over-educated city" (to quote one of my professors). However, returning home to Iowa was a culture shock, as I encountered so many people I thought were complete idiots.

The bottom line is that I am an elitist, and I think its a good idea. Shouldn't the smartest people be in charge? Wasn't America founded a meritocracy?

Many associate elitism with getting rid of the un-elite. I put forth that most intellectual elite do not see the "average" man as something to be gotten rid of, but rather something to learn to live with and to take care of. The interests of the intellectual elite and the average need not be in conflict. If you think they are, you misunderstand the problems faced by both groups.

The man is right (1)

biehl (580274) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244352)

And lack of respect for authorities on a field is a problem in my opinion. It is bad when people will not recognise that some text and ideas are just WRONG - this is of course especially obvious in the natural sciences and mathematics.

Would you trust this man? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244377)

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

Juvenile statements like this are the reason why blogpedias will never be taken seriously.

Very pro-Israel (1)

Timo_UK (762705) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244403)

Every time I looked something up regarding the Mid-East conflict, I noticed how biased Wkipedia is. Just look at West Bank or Gaza, no word of illegal occupation, or buried at the bottom.

Kuro5hin.org (-1, Offtopic)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244413)

Mod me off topic, but I just want to point out how long it has been since slashdot last linked to a kuro5hin.org article. Kuro5hin was suffering from a lack of quality last spring, but recently seems to be going through something of a renaissance. Just look at how many front page articles have been posted in December alone. I even got one posted about Public Schools, a sure sign of the apocalypse if ever there was one.

Niche media (3, Insightful)

SilentChris (452960) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244439)

I've said from the beginning that the major problem with Wikipedia is that it tries to be everything to everyone.

In the past 20 years or so, media has become extremely niche (if you're a bicycle rider into tarantulas, there's probably a magazine for you). The benefit of this is that you often get experts and people genuinely interested in the subject writing the articles.

I tried Wikipedia and gave up in disgust (particularly that articles about GNAA trolls, filled with lies and editorials, were kept). I since have spent some time with the (admitally silly) Homestar Wiki at http://www.hrwiki.org, and have found it to be a much different environment. No brass arguments, no format wars -- just people adding bits and pieces of what they like about their favorite web cartoon. I've thought about setting up a similar MST3K wiki.

The point is, all-encompassing media is dead. No one expects CNN/Fox News/etc. to focus on every story available, and no one should expect the same from internet sites. Niche media will continue to thrive.

In a nutshell (1)

Excelsior (164338) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244463)

Guy founds project. Guy loses political arguments while running project. Guy leaves project in a political huff. Guy criticizes project.

Must be a slow news day.

students get screwed (1, Funny)

peter303 (12292) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244475)

Think of all the inaccurance in the term papers students cut-and-paste from wikipedia!

I've also contributed to this fork of Wikipedia (1)

PrimeWaveZ (513534) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244482)

EncyclopediaDramatica [encycloped...matica.com] is an internet drama and controversy wiki that was formed as a direct result of institutional meddling at Wikipedia. I've contributed some, but mostly enjoy the reading. Entertaining, and informative.

Just my $0.02

twoferone (0)

thegnu (557446) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244487)

In light of all the new Wikis popping up, imagine a beowulf cluster of them. A bit abstract, but imagine.

-OR-

Whatever will happen in the world of wiki wiki web?!!

This type of posting shouldn't be approved. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244490)

We all know Wikipedia is not totally reliable. It is, as the article says, one of those sources that is not totally reliable, but everyone reads it anyway. That's what it'll always be.

Postings saying "Wikipedia is unreliable!" are inherently uninteresting and shouldn't be greenlit as articles on Slashdot, especially front page articles.

Wikipedia as a knowledge source (1)

Skinny Rav (181822) | more than 9 years ago | (#11244497)

People write here about revert wars, bias and so on. For me the solution is simple: I use Wikipedia to get reasonably non controversial data. What is this strange name I encountered in a book? An esoteric piece of cutlery? A vegetable?

And if I read about Bush, Fox News, Stalin or whatever controversial subject, I just get careful and try to detect bias. That said, I do the same when I read mainstream press or watch TV.

Anyway, Wikipedia is much more reliable and less biased than communist encyclopedias from before 1989 (I come from Poland, I even have a few old encyclopedias I read from time to time just for fun - so out of touch with reality they are).

Cheers

Raf

We don't know that this is really Sanger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244545)

It comes from an anoynmous account which claims to be him. There is no proof that this is really him.

A Peek into the Mind of a Wikipedia Junkie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11244551)

Man, Wikipedia is the future of the world! Democracy at it's finest! The will of the people, cumulated and tallied, will always balance out into the most accurate and correct truth! There's no need to seek out truth in individual intelligence or judgment, or in "facts" or "objectivity"! Everyone is biased anyway! So just tally it all up and I'll take it! ........

God, I can't believe they reelected Bush! How can people be so stupid? What the hell is wrong with people? .....

Man, I hate McDonalds! They have thousands of restaurants! I can't believe everyone eats at McDonalds! What the hell is wrong with people? ....

Good christ, I can't believe The Day After Tomorrow made $200 million! What a horrible movie! What the hell is wrong with people?

Well, time to get back to working on Wikipedia! I sure love my scrumptious Will of the People, yes sir I do!
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