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Wikipedia Gets State Funding in Germany

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the we-could-use-some-state-support-too dept.

The Internet 157

tmk writes "How can Wikipedia be improved? The German government started a project today to train experts to contribute to Wikipedia. The goal is to write or improve several hundred articles about renewable resources in the Internet encyclopedia. The project is funded by the German Ministry of Nutrition, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection. The German chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation is hiring a Wikipedian to coordinate the efforts. 'The challenge will be to motivate experts who have done good work in other projects to get involved in the community lexicon. As project director Florian Gerlach told heise online, "Such expert reports are usually written, edited, and published in the normal newspapers or even on other websites. But Wikipedia is radically different: articles there continually grow with input from numerous authors, who often remain anonymous. The end product is constantly changing, and third parties can publish their own texts or even change yours." The future authors will therefore receive some training to help them work with Wikipedia.'"

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Could be good but.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19650957)

Oh good. It always works out well when the government mucks about in science [wellingtongrey.net] .

Re:Could be good but.. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19651043)

The problem will be when the US government funds a secret energy task force to write entries about oil being the energy source for the foreseeable future. I predict a revert war between the US and Germany.

Re:Could be good but.. (1)

beckerist (985855) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652865)

...and, will they allow anyone to edit these articles? That's the spirit of a Wiki, right? It's all fine to hire a bunch of smarter monkeys to write for you, but when your "editor" is the rest of us (relatively by comparison) retarded monkeys, I don't see how paying for the initial content makes a difference.

Re:Could be good but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19653047)

btw...as the parent I was asking those questions rhetorically.

--beckerist

WikiMail? (-1, Offtopic)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#19650963)

Maybe they're just trying to set up a new way to get a univeral email serive so that when Google pulls out there will be a free email service for Germans.

(Would that be flamebait or troll? Lucky I just posted in another thread or this would have been a FP - and that would have made it a hard choice for the mods!)

So this is where that extra 3% VAT is going to (-1, Offtopic)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#19650971)

Oy, have Germans EVER met a tax they didn't like?

Re:So this is where that extra 3% VAT is going to (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19651035)

Good thing the US only blows their money on killing brown people in Iraq for the heck of it.

Re:So this is where that extra 3% VAT is going to (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19651219)

Good thing the US only blows their money on killing brown people in Iraq for the heck of it.

Are you really so fucking retarded as to go there in an article about Germany? You know ... Germany ... the country that started both World Wars in addition to wiping out 6 million jews? I don't agree with the US policy in Iraq, but it's ridiculous to even try and compare body counts. Abu Grab and Guantanamo Bay don't have a thing on Auschwitz.

Re:So this is where that extra 3% VAT is going to (0, Offtopic)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651371)

Germany started World War II under the leadership of a party that is banned in Germany today, and Germany did not start WWI--to tell the truth, the gears of war were prepped up long before even Gavrilo Princip shot the Austrian archduke. Comparing modern Germany to Nazi Germany is much, much worse than comparing modern Germany to the modern US.

Re:So this is where that extra 3% VAT is going to (5, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651511)

Germany started World War II under the leadership of a party that is banned in Germany today, and Germany did not start WWI--to tell the truth, the gears of war were prepped up long before even Gavrilo Princip shot the Austrian archduke. Comparing modern Germany to Nazi Germany is much, much worse than comparing modern Germany to the modern US.
Great, so you just had to leave the opening for comparing the modern US to Nazi Germany. They're nothing alike. For one thing, the German uniforms were far snappier. That digital cammo stuff the US Army uses looks like ass. Second, Hitler actually served his country in time of war. Third, our war footage is in color now. So there!

Re:So this is where that extra 3% VAT is going to (5, Interesting)

owlnation (858981) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651855)

Comparing modern Germany to Nazi Germany is much, much worse than comparing modern Germany to the modern US.
No, sorry. One of the problems with modern Germany is that there are many now who are somewhat distanced from history and are complacent in exactly the same way that decent Germans were in the 1930s.

The neo-Nazi party, the NPD - and others - are not banned. In parts of Germany they have elected members and considerable power and influence. They differ only slightly from the Nazi party - and that is only because aspects of what they believe in are censored by German Law (The censorship laws are actually part of the problem - they drive neo-Nazi's underground and mask their true numbers). In my experience, as one who is not German but has lived in Berlin for many years, the rise of the neo-Nazis is much greater than the average German in the street realises. There is a significant and growing problem with extreme right wing behavior modern Germany. The Nazi's seem to be smarter this time round. They are making legal changes much more slowly this time, but it is happening.

Seemingly small things, like the decision to mark the site of Hitler's bunker, or the decision to remove the Palast Der Republik in favour of a rebuilt Schloss, are all giving the extreme right more power and influence.

Modern Germans need to wake up to this before it is too late -- again.

Specifically to the Wikipedia thing though - yes, there is a real danger, nay likelihood, of neo-Nazis hijacking that. However, that is simply a function of the fundamental problem with Wikipedia -- cabals rule all. In this, Germany is no different to Microsoft, to Scientology, to the Ayn Rand lovers in the WikiFoundation itself, or indeed to any and all with an agenda and resources.

The fundamental problem with Wikipedia is its delusions of authority, and its designs on the same. If people stopped taking it seriously it would be one hell of a lot more useful and authoritative.

Re:So this is where that extra 3% VAT is going to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19653191)

As a German, let me say that the right-wing thread is vastly exaggerated. If anything, non-nationalistic socialism is too strong, and almost dangerous. The programme is roughly the same, only that the Socialists aren't THAT openly against immigrants (but Lafontaine has said something in that direction, too).

The radical right wing is strong mostly in Eastern Germany and/or in areas with high unemployment. It's just a symptom of Germany's problems, not the root cause. Cure the disease and the National Socialists (and Socialists probably, too) will go away.

The problem, and not in Germany but worldwide, is the general rise of neo-fascism, of taking more and more civil liberties away in the name of safety and "terrism".

I personally find it disturbing that people keep voting for the same big parties, just like in the Weimar Republic, while nothing changes, the problems get worse, and both parties basically perform only bad "reform" measures, that hurt instead of help. But we all get the government we deserve.

Re:So this is where that extra 3% VAT is going to (1)

Sircus (16869) | more than 7 years ago | (#19653751)

...the decision to remove the Palast Der Republik in favour of a rebuilt Schloss [is] giving the extreme right more power

I'm more or less familiar with the arguments about this decision and I think the decision's both wrong and wasteful, but how do you figure it empowers the extreme right?

Comparing Germany today to 1930 (5, Interesting)

JSchoeck (969798) | more than 7 years ago | (#19653887)

As a green and definitly anti-right-wing German I can tell you that Germany today is not the slightest bit comparable to the 1930s. Of course there are radical right-wing people (as in every country - see American History X or read an international newspaper, there are several reports of nazi assaults all throughout Europe each year normally; not by Germans, but all kinds of people), but they are so few and so isolated that there's no danger.

Every time I go to a public showing of the nazis (yes, the courts have to allow it unless there's a very good reason not to; right of public assembly is sacred after all) there are at least 10-50 times as many people demonstrating against them as there are nazis. That feels good. No actually it's terrible that there's even just ONE nazi standing there, shouting seriously stupid things. It breaks my heart that yound and old people are among them. The old one will die out naturally, but the young ones are just desperate, which really is a shame. At least the government has quite some money put into projects to show kids what happened in the 3rd Reich and to root out the cause of frustration. Not enough in my opinion, but they don't stop with it at least.

Germany has not forgotten. Not at all. Come over here and you will see. Ask Jews who live here now, even they will tell you that. We have many, many museums, pieces of art, historic sites and whatnot treating the 3rd Reich critically, none of which try to glorify anything that happened back then - it's the brutal truth.

As to Wikipedia: No, there's no danger of Nazis hijacking it. Firstly, it's not at all in their area of interest (why would they care about environmental issues?) and secondly there are about 83 million Germans who are no Nazis (out of 83.x million) who will report/fix any hijacked site.

And it's great that our government does this - others should do the same. Knowledge for the people for free in an accessible form. Great!

Re:So this is where that extra 3% VAT is going to (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651157)

Well, there was that tax on Zyklon-B...

*ducks*

Re:So this is where that extra 3% VAT is going to (1)

cwgmpls (853876) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651405)

Having government agencies disseminate facts to the public through Wikipedia is certainly more cost effective than having them set up and maintain siloed sites like www.nutrition.com, www.consumer.gov, and www.usda.gov to do the same thing, the way the U.S. government does.

Uh... (5, Insightful)

Wellington Grey (942717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651001)

For the first time, the German edition of the open Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia will be receiving state funding. Germany will be setting aside part of its budget to improve information about renewable resources in Wikipedia.

Paying people to edit wikipedia does not count as donating money. Would we say wikipedia is 'receiving funding from Microsoft' if MS was paying employees to write about MS products?

-Grey [wellingtongrey.net]

Re:Uh... (4, Interesting)

doublefrost (1042496) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651125)

There's a difference. If microsoft funded people to write about microsoft products on wikipedia, it would be to help microsoft. Germany is funding people to write about things that would benefit the people of Germany.

Re:Uh... (1, Insightful)

Wellington Grey (942717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651287)

There's a difference. If microsoft funded people to write about microsoft products on wikipedia, it would be to help microsoft. Germany is funding people to write about things that would benefit the government of Germany.


There, I fixed it. Now you are correct.

-Grey [wellingtongrey.net]

Re:Uh... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651337)

There's a difference. If microsoft funded people to write about microsoft products on wikipedia, it would be to help microsoft. Germany is funding people to write about things that would benefit the people of Germany.
How is that different? Microsoft pays people to write things that Microsoft's management judges serve the interests of Microsoft's stockholders, the German government pays people to write things that the German government bureaucrats judge to serve the interest of the German government's constituents.

Re:Uh... (1)

saibot834 (1061528) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651601)

Yes, however the German government doesn't plan to contribute through hiring people to improve Wikipedia, but to write about what they care about, renewable resources. From what I have heard, the government does not donate money to help pay the servers, they just use Wikipedia to spread their information.

It is better than what Microsoft did, because they improve Wikipedia (at least that's what I expect, being neutral and respect WP:NPOV)
It is not the best they could have done, because it doesn't help to pay the costs. There are enough contributors; what Wikipedia needs from organizations / governments / companies is money for the servers.

Re:Uh... (2, Insightful)

Darundal (891860) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651769)

Out of curiosity, can anyone explain to me how the German government paying people to edit and to write wikipedia pages about a certain topic (in this case, renewable resources) does not constitute propaganda?

Re:Uh... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19653969)

The vuns who control Vikipedia haf been zuppressing the German editors long enuff. Ve need liebensraum. Soon ve vill expand beyond renewable resources into musicology and medieval architecture. Then you will see. Ve vill take over the article on Poland, then Norway and France. Mit suitable asian allies, we should be able to rewrite all of Vikipedia within 3 years.

Re:Uh... (0, Troll)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651895)

It is better than what Microsoft did, because they improve Wikipedia (at least that's what I expect, being neutral and respect WP:NPOV)

NPOV is an unreachable ideal. These German-trained contributor's POV will coincide with Germany's and will, no doubt, leach into their contributions.

Re:Uh... (2)

uradu (10768) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652183)

Yeah, they will probably totally buy into and disseminate propaganda such as "Global Warming" and other such nonsense that clearly only exists to further the German government's grip on power. Those bastards!

Defending Germany's POV (0, Troll)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652467)

Yeah, they will probably totally buy into and disseminate propaganda such as "Global Warming" and other such nonsense that clearly only exists to further the German government's grip on power.

In other words, in your POV, Germany's POV makes sense. True or not, that is irrelevant.

What is discussed here, is that Germany has found a way to "pay the piper" — to further its POV. Perhaps less sloppily, but not entirely unlike the other astro-turfers. Again, whether that is a good or a bad POV is not, actually, relevant.

Re:Defending Germany's POV (2, Interesting)

uradu (10768) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652753)

> Again, whether that is a good or a bad POV is not, actually, relevant.

That is a nice way to muddy the waters of our very existence. Taking your approach leads down the road of questioning even the most basic and well established theories and facts about life, the universe and everything. Nothing in their funding stipulates the advancement of a certain POV, they are essentially funding scientists at large (within Germany anyway) to contribute whatever their professional views are to Wikipedia, which can eventually lead to a sort of peer reviewing process in a public forum. Nothing prevents dissenters from disputing any material presented on a Wikipedia page, the hope is that over time these battles of authority will result in a more authoritative Wikipedia, and will perhaps also let them refine an authority-based editing system. The only ones that should be afraid of a rational discourse in a public forum should be those without a rational basis.

Re:Defending Germany's POV (2, Informative)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 7 years ago | (#19653355)

What exactly gave you the impression that the POV of someone who is paid is less valid than the POV of someone who isn't? Note also that scientists already publish as part of their jobs, just not in such an accessible forum. They also seem to be quite concerned about their reputations in their fields of expertise, almost as if their sources of funding were tied to the quality of their work and their publishing history.
The only problem I see with this idea is that not enough people who fund scientists are promoting it.

Re:Defending Germany's POV (0, Troll)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#19653797)

What exactly gave you the impression that the POV of someone who is paid is less valid than the POV of someone who isn't?

The payee's POV is likely to, at least, consider the POV of the payer. As simple as that. For example, whenever various studies are discussed on this and other forums, the source of funding is often mentioned as a significant source of bias.

Being paid does not completely destroy one's credibility, of course. But it does diminish it, even though a number of other factors (such as the desire to keep credibility, and the good old-fashioned honesty) usually compensate.

Re:Uh... (1)

Shatrat (855151) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652569)

Germany is funding people to write about things that would benefit the people of Germany.

Somehow I think it's going to be more like this:
"Germany is funding people to write about things which cast federal german programs and agendas in a favorable light."
There is no way this won't turn political.

Re:Uh... (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651223)

No, we'd call it astro-turfing.

I wonder what these German editors will be like...

"Ja, und jedermann soll sofort eine Kompaktleuchtstofflampe [wikipedia.org] kaufen, oder ... jedermann wird sterben [wikipedia.org] usw."

Re:Uh... (1)

Aqua_boy17 (962670) | more than 7 years ago | (#19653279)

I dunno, but I'm going there right now and looking up 'DOS Boot' before they get to it.

Duh. (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651281)

Would we say wikipedia is 'receiving funding from Microsoft' if MS was paying employees to write about MS products?

No, we'd call that "astroturfing."

Microsoft *is* paying people to edit Wikipedia. (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#19653783)

It is not hypothetical. Here is a testimony [oreillynet.com] of one such person.

As long as the people are paid to improve the quality per Wikipedia standards, rather than to promote a particular POV, I consider such "hired editors" for a contribution.

Just don't (4, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651007)

mention the war!

Re:Just don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19651607)

I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

Re:Just don't (1)

uradu (10768) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652211)

Which one?! I'm confused!

Re:Just don't (1)

Lurker McLurker (730170) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652905)

I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it

Re:Just don't (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 7 years ago | (#19653685)

We were invited!

Tea was served!

Re:Just don't (3, Insightful)

CowardX10 (521665) | more than 7 years ago | (#19654283)

They thought they'd be greeted as liberators.

China is next (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19651009)

Just you wait

Backlash (1, Offtopic)

kerohazel (913211) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651053)

While this project does have good intentions, I can't help but wonder if it might do more harm than good for the green movement. I don't know how things are in Germany, but here in the States, global warming is considered by many to be disputable. As is Wikipedia. Right now one of the strongest things the global warming awareness campaign has going for it is the huge number of scientific articles which support the findings. That's pretty hard to argue against. But if they start pushing information onto anyone-can-edit-Wikipedia, some of the authority is lost.

I can hear them now:
"These pinko liberals would have us believe that the Earth is warming up, because of human activity! And what sources do they have to support this? Wikipedia! Oh, that's right, the website that ANYONE can edit! How convenient!"

Re:Backlash (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19651275)

want the answer to why you have bad karma? Read your post. Moron.

Re:Backlash (1)

pretygrrl (465212) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651663)

someone went waaaay trigger happy w. the Flamebait button today. i agree w. parent - wikipedia is not an authoritative source, by definition. Its the "quantum state" of knowledge, i.e. subject to change depending on time of day.
there is only one problem w. that - its not how knowledge actually works.
looks like german government at least is taking a stand on the issue - unlike many other governments. to see it get lost in the noise of wiki seems like a huge waste.
they would be better off w. some sort of .gov site, not waste funds on articles that may just get overwritten.

Re:Backlash (1)

tronbradia (961235) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652171)

In Canada (where i tend to live), the Conservative government struggles to fight the popularity and outspokenness of the Green lobby (partly because it consists of all 3 opposition parties), and I'd say they're the most global warming skeptical 1st-world country besides the US. I'm in Germany and you might as well speak sanskrit here as deny global warming. Remember this is the Christian Democratic party leader Angela Merkel that's trying to coax Bush into accepting emissions reductions; the Europeans are already competing amongst themselves for who can reduce the most. So. ahem. the US is the only bubble on earth where people don't take this seriously.

Re:Backlash (1)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652255)

Remember that Wikipedia is an encylopedia, it can contain no original research and therefore any good articles (ie. the kind that you would expect from a government-trained team of experts) will be full of citations, meaning that anyone questioning the accuracy or authenticity of any points in those articles need only look at the referenced material.

With that in mind, and given that Wikipedia is often being the first place people look online for information these days it seems like a very good way of tying in all the information available online onto a single web page. Wikipedia allows the research and data regarding these topics to be relayed in a way that shows the whole story instead of just bits and peices of individual research as you're likely to find it elsewhere.

Re:Backlash (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652343)

But if they start pushing information onto anyone-can-edit-Wikipedia, some of the authority is lost.

Huh? If a UFO/JFK conspiracy mag publishes Einsteins papers on theory of relativity, then Einstein's papers and theories haven't lost their authority. Now, I might question the fact that someone said that Einstein's paper in this magazine said that E equals magic fairy dust and that Einstein hung out with little green men from mars, but that wouldn't degrade the authority of his original work

Authority works in one direction only. Not the other way around.

Re:Backlash (1)

uradu (10768) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652623)

That's EXACTLY what this funding is about, to get scientists that are reputable in their field (in this case environmental sciences) to edit Wikipedia articles in order to inject some level of authority that so many claim is lacking. There is a fundamental philosophical difference between most western governments and the US (at least as exemplified by the current administration): while most governments prefer to spend public funds on public projects that benefit the greater good, and also prefer to cooperate with other nations in doing so both to spread the costs and pool the knowledge, our current administration prefers to take a more isolationist approach that benefits at best the "American People", is often colored by special interests through private funding, and favors a pseudo-scientific platform that tries to inject plausible uncertainty into unpopular but otherwise pretty well established scientific subject areas.

Train experts? (1)

monkeyboythom (796957) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651069)

The German government started a project today to train experts to contribute to Wikipedia

Are there Wiki professionals out there that go around and train people on how to use a wiki? Outstanding! I knew my resume had a blank space that needed filling.

As for the US-based wiki, we may not be professionals but dammit we're a union. Now where did I put that union card anyway...

Accountability (4, Insightful)

athloi (1075845) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651107)

This will fundamentally change the wiki model, which grew rapidly because it did not require its writers to be accountable to existing standards. That made it popular, but also error-prone. Academia and government are going to take over wikipedia from within, by this model, and while this violates the fundamental ideal of wikipedia, it will improve the content vastly. Maybe there's something to learn here about the wisdom of accountability and peer-review standards that, while imperfect, evolved over time for a reason. It's a very generous move by the Germans, and one I hope others follow.

Re:Accountability (3, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651415)

You paint a stark picture of "anonymous random contributors" versus "academia and government"--but I think that is a false dichotomy. Wikipedia has always benefiting from the contributions of random individuals, as well as from expert academics. Whether or not those academics were told by their host institutes to contribute is actually immaterial (unless you think the academic holds different expertise/opinions in the two cases...).

To have governments actively allocate funding for people to contribute to Wikipedia in no way prevents or invalidates the tireless work of the rest of the community. Both groups should be contributing, and both groups should be checking each other's facts. There is no need (nor any ability) for governments to "take over wikipedia from within".

What we are seeing is a consolidation of efforts, and I hope other governments follow this lead. Government workers (who are inherently being paid from public funds) should not waste effort generating duplicate material. Rather than creating their own factoid-websites, they can do more good by extending and improving the vast material on Wikipedia (which, of course, is freely available to all).

Re:Accountability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19651679)

Wikipedia does not require its authors to follow existing standards. Until the German government notices that people are altering its work and orders that its contributions not be altered.

Obligatory Rand quote (0)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651149)

Germany funding Wikipedia? Oh great.

The obligatory Ayn Rand quote that I feel is applicable here:

Have you ever wondered about the mentality of those who advocate government financing of intellectual and artistic pursuits, in the name of intellectual independence and creative freedom?

Their goal, they claim, is to liberate men's mind from material concerns or economic pressures. The necessity to earn a living in a free marketplace, they claim, is demeaning and corrupting. In their language, the word "commercial" is a pejorative term, an antonym of "intellectual." Only the security of government support, they claim, can release the full power of the intellect.

The contradictions in this viewpoint are so obvious that it seems impossible for anyone to miss seeing them. Nothing is less secure than a position of dependence on the arbitrary power of politicians dispensing favors. The fate of thinkers, scientists and artists whose livelihood depends on the government - any government in any age, at the courts of absolute monarchs or in modern dictatorships or in mixed economies - is too well known to leave anyone in "idealistic" doubt. So are the fear, the intrigues, the rigid censorship, and the abject bootlicking in which and with which the recipients of governmental favors have to live moment by precarious moment. How can today's intellectuals fail to know it?

...from "To Dream The Non-Commercial Dream", The Ayn Rand Letter Vol. II No. 7, January 1, 1973.

Re:Obligatory Rand quote (1)

doombringerltx (1109389) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651315)

That quote, like everything Ayn Rand, is too damn long

Re:Obligatory Rand quote (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651373)

That quote, like everything Ayn Rand, is too damn long

I realize you are being flippant, but you may have hit on a fundamental problem currently lurking in society: most technological and political issues (and especially techno-political issues like copyright) are simply too complex to even describe in less than a page. To say nothing of sound-bites, headlines, and .signature screeds.

Re:Obligatory Rand quote (1)

doombringerltx (1109389) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651497)

Well the sad thing is about Ayn Rand is that her ideas aren't that complex and sure as hell didn't justify John Galt's 500 page marathon rant. That book went from "Who is John Galt?" to "When the hell will John Galt shut up?" pretty quick.

Her ideas are complex (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651731)

Her ideas are complex, and have many interesting ramifications - just like Karl Marx. Now I realize that in most ways she was the antithesis of Karl Marx, but IMNSHO she makes the same fundamental mistake as Karl Marx - she appears to place too much faith in her fellow human being. Of course, I've only read one book (Anthem) by her, so I'm definitely no expert on her thinking. I'm basing this mainly on that book (recently read), but I'm also basing it on how her "supporters" describe her philosophy (which largely agrees with what I got out of the book).

Re:Her ideas are complex (1)

doombringerltx (1109389) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652089)

There is no doubt that her philosophy was ground breaking, intelligent and extremely well thought out, but when you sit down and try and summarize it then it appears to be extremely simple.
1. Government intervention in the economy is bad
2. Work is man's highest calling.
3. Logic is man's greatest asset
4. Neither greed or ego are not evil
5. And finally, the most ape shit insane views on relationships that has ever been published.

While I'm at it I might as well:
6. ???
7. Profit!

But I should point out I really enjoyed Atlas Shrugged and I agree with her more often than not, but she can get extremely redundant

Re:Obligatory Rand quote (1)

Mr. Bad Example (31092) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652351)

> That book went from "Who is John Galt?" to "When the hell will John Galt shut up?" pretty quick.

I once attempted to read Atlas Shrugged at a local Barnes and Noble with the assistance of a B-vitamin injection and an intrepid Sherpa guide with a BA in English literature.

We got as far as the fiftieth page of the John Galt monologue, and then I had to abandon the effort after poor Lobsang went mad and hurled himself into the espresso maker at the Starbucks next door.

Re:Obligatory Rand quote (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651655)

This issue is ideal for a soundbite. "Government stipends for thinkers? Sounds good for thinkers who are the politicians' lap dogs, producing their propaganda for them".

Re:Obligatory Rand quote (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651701)

Good answer. :)

Re:Obligatory Rand quote (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19651389)

That's because you, like every other liberal, are to fucking stupid to understand what he's talking about.

Re:Obligatory Rand quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19651457)

This might come as a shock, but Rand was a woman. I've seen her pictures, so I really can understand your confusion.

When calling others stupid... (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651669)

When calling other people stupid, it's best to use big words like "too" and "she" correctly.

Re:Obligatory Rand quote (2, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651619)

Germany funding Wikipedia? Oh great.

The obligatory Ayn Rand quote that I feel is applicable here:
One of these words does not belong with the rest.

Re:Obligatory Rand quote (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651649)

Yeah, like the "free market" will be unbiased. If you leave it to those people all you get is a brochure of product ads and loads of spam, even if it means the death of Wikipedia.

No real change here. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652079)

The late, great Anne is invoked:

Have you ever wondered about the mentality of those who advocate government financing of intellectual and artistic pursuits, in the name of intellectual independence and creative freedom?

You might have a point, if this were anything more than a efficiency motivated form change. The experts are already spending their time writing the same material over and over for newspapers. Contributing source material to Wikipedia instead does nothing but save time.

Re:Obligatory Rand quote (4, Insightful)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652357)

Ayn Rand wrote:

Have you ever wondered about the mentality of those who advocate government financing of intellectual and artistic pursuits, in the name of intellectual independence and creative freedom?

Actually, I'm quite sane Ms. Rand; thanks.

I wrote (#19300097 [slashdot.org] ):

There are some things that monopolies, like governments, can better provide than many smaller competing companies; infrastructure and technology research are two of the most important ones. The simple reason for this is that monopolies can be relatively sure that they will be around in many years' time to reap the benefits of their investments, whereas in a hypercompetitive market, risk is higher and the "rational" investor will focus on smaller, shorter-term investments; this maximizes his expected return.

You see: if government doesn't fund research, who will? Gone are the days of Bell Labs.

Also, Ms. Rand, you forget: The absence of civic government does not imply the existence of individual freedom. Quite the contrary: Civic government is a necessary check on corporate government.

You mention...

Ayn Rand wrote:

the fear, the intrigues, the rigid censorship, and the abject bootlicking in which and with which the recipients of governmental favors have to live moment by precarious moment.
Are you so naive, Ms. Rand, to think that politics is unique to organizations run by the State?

Anarcho-capitalist "libertarianism" is no recipe for freedom.

Ayn Rand wrote:

How can today's intellectuals fail to know it?
...which -- funny thing, this -- is also my question, exactly.

Re:Obligatory Rand quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19654571)

The simple reason for this is that monopolies can be relatively sure that they will be around in many years' time to reap the benefits of their investments, whereas in a hypercompetitive market, risk is higher and the "rational" investor will focus on smaller, shorter-term investments; this maximizes his expected return.

Rand's point is that this is simply is trading economic risk for political risk. Only in the idealized world of "perfect government" is this an improvement.

Are you so naive, Ms. Rand, to think that politics is unique to organizations run by the State?

The market is a natural check on this. If a corporation becomes too bogged down in internal politics, its inefficiency will attract competitors or cause it to go bankrupt altogether. The government on the other hand can tax or print money and persist long after a company would have gone under. You admitted this yourself by saying governments don't have to worry about ROI, but seem to believe that it will only use this power for good.

permanent articles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19651255)

I kind of wish that it would be possible to go through a credentialing process to prove that a given author has definitely been educated on a particular subject. It would be good if such credentialed people could get a section that cannot be altered by random politicians/companies/idiots/etc. That way you could be a little more confident about a piece of info being accurate, and you can tell the differece between a well recognized academic and a 12 year old.

This could be seperate from the normal wikipedia article; there could be a link near the bottom that leads to the 'expert wiki.'

Poor academics..... (1)

Snowtide (989191) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651327)

They will likely research what they write, write well and have it sh*t on by the general wikipedia trolls, or worse, people who think they know what they are writing about.

Re:Poor academics..... (1)

Admiral Ag (829695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651843)

It's not that bad. I am an academic, and I have found a few things regarding my field in Wikipedia that I think are incorrect. But then again, I have found inaccuracies that are just as bad in Britannica, so I guess it is just what happens in non specialist encyclopaedias.

Apart from the tendency of articles to get messy, Wikipedia only suffers from organized or semi-organized groups gaming the open system. The glaring examples of this are most of the Wikipedia articles to do with Israel and Palestine. The hotly contested nature of the subject has led to some really bad behaviour on the part of editors and admins and the information in them tends to be ridiculous and POV.

If Wikipedia is to really work, then it needs to have some system for preventing collusion. It works best when individuals edit alone, and other individuals edit those edits alone. Once you have gangs trying to force a POV on an article, the open nature of the format becomes a hindrance to accuracy.

Re:Poor academics..... (1)

Snowtide (989191) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652549)

I agree with you. My post was an overgeneralization of problems concentrated mostly in certain types of articles. Thanks for a well written correction. :)

I like your idea about preventing collusion but have no idea how to implement it.

To me Wikipedia is never to be trusted as an authoritative source on anything, although it can be lots of fun and a great starting place to read up on something before moving to more reliable sources. Not that other sources are always perfect, but they tend to be less prone to error than much of wikipedia.

Re:Poor academics..... (1)

Admiral Ag (829695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19653363)

"I like your idea about preventing collusion but have no idea how to implement it."

Neither do I, other than introducing a paid "judiciary" of impartial non editors who periodically banned the worst offenders (if you use the site much, you probably know the people I am talkin about). But I can't see Wikipedians accepting that.

If there was a general, simple answer to the problem, the libertarians could have their society tomorrow.

In related news.. (1)

Anonymous Meoward (665631) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651375)

I. G. Metall has organized the new submitters and called a strike. Access to Wikipedia comes to a crashing halt.

Wiki is crazy, shouldn't work but does (5, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651455)

If you tried selling me on the concept before it launched, I would have said it was a nice idea but impossible, like the 19th century utopian societies that collapsed on themselves. While Wiki does have flaws, what it gets right far outstrips what it gets wrong. Color me thoroughly impressed. Before someone goes and says "but it doesn't stack up compared to professionally edited encyclopedias and newspapers and books," let me point out that those sources have just as many flaws. New York Times and Iraqi WMD's anyone? I believe Chariots of the Gods was also a published book, same as Mein Kampf. And didn't I remember hearing about the Million Little Pieces guy totally fooling Oprah with his fictional autobiography? Readers are encouraged to use their own intelligence when assessing the validity of claims made in printed material. Official sources can get it just as wrong as Wiki but they lack the discussion pages for people to hash out the truth.

The best suggestion I've seen is that Wikipedia can go the way of Linux distributions. For those who are willing to do their own fact-checking, they can get the straight dope from Wiki, warts and edit wars and all. For academic distributions, editing boards can decide what to accept from the live articles. It naturally won't be all of Wikipedia, just what pertains to the topics that the editing team think are appropriate for the distro. MIT may pull in a ton of science articles and leave out the articles about countries, TV shows, music, etc. Harvard Business School may concentrate on business history, applicable case law, and other subjects encompassed in the curriculum but find the material MIT covers to be factually correct but outside the interest of the course. These distros can then filter edits through a peer review process to make sure they agree with what's entered. The reputation of the editing board is on the line in these distributions and factual inaccuracies here would incur as much shame as if the error occurred in a peer-reviewed journal.

To extend the comparison to open source, one could consider the academic distros to be the stable fork, straight wiki would be the beta version. The respect and prestige accorded to the various editing boards will be a matter of public opinion. Because the board members are not just anonymous yahoos on the net but people with careers and reputations, the overall quality of work should be higher. And, seeing as all of this knowledge is "open source," original research appearing in an academic distro can always be ported into the real wiki.

I do not think any of this is starry-eyed optimism or unrealistic hippie idealism, I think it is quite realistic and the hard parts have already been demonstrated for the skeptics.

Re:Wiki is crazy, shouldn't work but does (1)

going_the_2Rpi_way (818355) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651799)

While Wiki does have flaws, what it gets right far outstrips what it gets wrong.

Which is arguably the most dangerous aspect of it. If it was blatantly false, it would not be used by so many as an authoritative source. Not everyone takes everything they read their as true, but too many do.

Imagine the call to war in Iraq 10years after wikipedia, with a consistent set of 'facts' about Iraq added. Colin Powell would never have needed to give his little UN speech.

Re:Wiki is crazy, shouldn't work but does (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652093)

Which is arguably the most dangerous aspect of it. If it was blatantly false, it would not be used by so many as an authoritative source. Not everyone takes everything they read their as true, but too many do.

Imagine the call to war in Iraq 10years after wikipedia, with a consistent set of 'facts' about Iraq added. Colin Powell would never have needed to give his little UN speech.
Good point. Three things that should prevent this sort of thing from happening:

1. Edits are logged by user or IP so you can see who is making them.
2. If the community corrects the information and it keeps getting changed, the topic is locked.
3. All factual assertions are supposed to be backed up with links to other sites with hard evidence.

People can be some devious investigative bastards. Republican astroturfing attempts have been sniffed out thanks to smart people finding the holes in the efforts and documenting them.

The guideline I've seen suggested here on Slashdot that works nicely: If you need basic factual information, you can start with Wikipedia. Unless you are doing serious research, that's likely good enough; if not, you can expand your search from there, just like you started with the encyclopedia with your school papers but had to resort to more specific books to round out your research. If the topic is contentious, you can look at Wiki to find out what both sides are saying in the edit wars. You will usually see links in the discussion to other sites that might help round out your understanding.

Take a look at the Scientology [wikipedia.org] page. You get the neutral point of view description of what it is including the crazy shit that they never bring up in the initial audits. They even mention Xenu in the main article. Now check out the reference links.

Scientology web links

        * Church of Scientology official home page
        * Church of Scientology International - News Site
        * Scientology Handbook (Training Manual for Scientology Volunteer Ministers
        * What is Scientology? A description of Scientology and its activities and answers to FAQs (by the Church of Scientology)
        * Official Church site about L. Ron Hubbard
        * Theology & Practice of Scientology
        * The way to happiness Scientology-related non-denominational moral code group
        * CCHR Scientology's anti-psychiatry front group
        * Criminon Scientology's criminal rehabilitation front group
        * Narconon Scientology's drug rehabilitation front group
        * No to drugs-yes to life Scientology's anti-drug campaign front group
        * Youth for human rights Scientology's human rights front group
        * Religious scholars What Religious Scholars Say About The Scientology Religion
        * Scientology Volunteer Ministers

Critical links

        * The Secrets of Scientology
        * Scientology Lies
        * Rick Ross Scientology Information
        * Scientology at The Rotten Library
        * www.lermanet.com/frontgroups Scientology front groups exposed
        * Operation Clambake on Scientology Xenu.net
        * Scientology--Through the Door Survey interviews of over 100 former Scientologists.
        * Scientology--is this a Religion? Stephen A Kent, 1979.

Look at how intact this article is despite the assault you know had to be going on here. It's a victory.

Citizendium (5, Interesting)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651525)

I'm excited to hear this, but -- wouldn't the Citizendium [citizendium.org] be more appropriate, given that the experts could actually be recognized as experts, and the work could go towards a recognized polished page?

Well, no. (1)

Grendel Drago (41496) | more than 7 years ago | (#19654269)

It would, but Larry Sanger is kind of a joke, and nobody cares about his sour grapes over leaving Wikipedia with a "you'll be sorry!" and seeing it flourish without him.

absolutely terrible development (3, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651571)

wikipedia is of course full of smears, propaganda, lies, errors, partisanship, etc. but at least it's a democratic model of such, so you can expect it from all sides: a random cacophony of background noise. your average person's healthy critically minded bullshit meter can weed the useful from the unuseful

but by linking the government, any government, to wikipedia, now your cacophony has a louder strain of establishment rhetoric and bureaucratic agenda. instead of your bullshit meter going off here and there, now your bullshit meter is on orange alert all the time: those with an agenda aren't random riff raff, now they have dug themselves deeper into the lifeblood of the entire site

there is no such thing as a neutral unbiased source of information. but a site unhinged from corporate ownership or governmental oversight or funding accountability is pretty much as close as you are going to get. involving any outside entity with an agenda, no matter how innocuous the agenda nor how limited the scope of the involvement nor what the model of involvement is, it taints everything about how you must perceive the site if you have a healthy bullshit meter

a shame, just a bloody awful development because i love wikipedia, but now i love it a little less ;-(

Re:absolutely terrible development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19652381)

To be clear, wikipedia (like any volunteer effort) was founded on the principle of voluntary association: nobody is forced to contribute, nobody is forced to read or accept it, and nobody is forced to fund it. If government becomes involved, then at least one crucial aspect of that free choice -- the free choice which created wikipedia in the first place -- is destroyed through the coercive power of government. The taxpayer is now forced to fund the program, free will be damned.

So what would lead a person to believe this is a good idea? Either that person will benefit -- meaning they are part of the power elite who control goverment -- or that person has been convinced they will benefit. Perhaps these people would be wise to refer to history, where the ruling class of every government that has ever existed has exploited the coercive power of government for their own benefit. Nah, that could never happen, could it?

Nevertheless, if this goes through, wikipedia will no longer be a volunteer effort in Germany, and the consequences will soon become clear.

Re:absolutely terrible development (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 7 years ago | (#19652733)

mod parent up

Re:absolutely terrible development (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19653565)

I don't understand this bit of the thread. They're not being funded by the government -- a part of the German government is just paying people to write detailed articles on technical topics which those people know well in order to get the information out there to a broader audience. It's no different than the old days of government-sponsored film strips, only you're not forced to look at it, it costs less, and no one's going to be surprised if it's dry. I think this is at least better than what most government officials, or any celebrity for that matter, currently does which is hire out people to continually edit their entry to show them in the best possible light.

Re:absolutely terrible development (2, Interesting)

thePsychologist (1062886) | more than 7 years ago | (#19654173)

Those pages edited by these paid experts will be subject to general review just like any other page. Besides, governments already have write access to Wikipedia, only with this, it's public, and therefore makes us more aware of it anyway.

Re:absolutely terrible development (2, Interesting)

quantaman (517394) | more than 7 years ago | (#19654637)

There is a risk but I think this is something that can be done very well, and from the article it looks like they intend to do that.

there is no such thing as a neutral unbiased source of information.
This saying always bugs me. Can you be completely 100% neutral and unbiased? Of course not. But if you're trying it's not that hard to get pretty damn close. The fact is we see so little of it because we don't want to, people want their opinions reinforced, they want some "flavour" with their information so the media gives us what we want. But I've always considered that quote to be an excuse for people to slant info however they want and not even try to be unbiased.

there is no such thing as a neutral unbiased source of information. but a site unhinged from corporate ownership or governmental oversight or funding accountability is pretty much as close as you are going to get. involving any outside entity with an agenda, no matter how innocuous the agenda nor how limited the scope of the involvement nor what the model of involvement is, it taints everything about how you must perceive the site if you have a healthy bullshit meter
The risk with wikipedia is there's a bit of a power vacuum, volunteers are effective but there are a lot of organizations with the capital and the lack of morals to hire a non-trivial number of people to deliberately, and ruthlessly, try to skew information in their favour and I'm not sure volunteers can compete with that. Sooner or later some organized group is going to start doing this and some other organized group will be required to fight back. Now you have the risk of agendas at any level but I think if a government establishes an independent organization, gives them a mandate that says "supply good impartial information" then you'll get good impartial information.

Now they really can be Nazis (1)

milatchi (694575) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651633)

Now they really can be Nazis.

WhoseStory if not History (1)

going_the_2Rpi_way (818355) | more than 7 years ago | (#19651683)

You'd think in Germany they might be especially wary of 'consensus' history projects, especially within a political context. And about privacy laws too, for that matter (cf. the Google/Gmail story from Saturday).

Then again, maybe not...

Govt workers paid to promote party line isn't good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19652127)

Having annoying twits vandalize information they dislike is one thing, but when Big Brother is using tax money to fund it, it's quite another.

A slight cloud on the horizon (1)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | more than 7 years ago | (#19653099)

"Such expert reports are usually written, edited, and published in the normal newspapers or even on other websites. But Wikipedia is radically different: articles there continually grow with input from numerous authors, who often remain anonymous. The end product is constantly changing, and third parties can publish their own texts or even change yours." The future authors will therefore receive some training to help them work with Wikipedia.'"

The last person to try recruiting people to edit Wikipedia for money got banned, and his reputation besmirched by the screaming idiots who administer Wikipedia. Fortunately he doesn't care now [centiare.com]

There's only one problem with editing Wikipedia as an expert - you'll be buried by the hordes of ignoramuses who know better than you because they've got Google and there's more of them than there is of you.

If you're of a classical bent, you'd call it a Sisyphian struggle - but if you're on Slashdot you'd call it "shovelling shit against the tide".

Should governments decide what Wikipedia says? (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 7 years ago | (#19653377)

As a contributor to Wikipedia, the idea that a foreign government is targeting Wikipedia to "improve" articles to reflect its point of view and policies (make no mistake, despite whatever they're calling it, that's what this is) makes me deeply uncomfortable, and I'm not even certain this is legal under current Wikipedia rules and practices.

Simmer down. (1)

Grendel Drago (41496) | more than 7 years ago | (#19654327)

They're German. They're going to be editing the German Wikipedia, which is, unless you speak German, not the one you've been editing.

The U.S. following in (2, Funny)

BitterKraut (820348) | more than 7 years ago | (#19653443)

Rumor has it George W. is going to fund a rewrite of the entry on evolution.

I, for one... (1)

Mr Jazzizle (896331) | more than 7 years ago | (#19653733)

...think this is a very good way to spend money. If money is put into school system, it might be to build new gyms, give teachers a 20 cent raise, maybe a few more computers; if money is put into writing articles for wikipedia, money goes straight to making information available to the public. Very truly making it a 'free encyclopedia' and a reliable compendium of knowledge. I think it could also be beneficial to mark wikipedia articles written by certified professionals on the subject, or something similar.

Very European, very Prussian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19653835)

This is Wikipedia on the European/Prussian model, where State-funded expert "authorities" dictate what is to be believed. The masses are not to be trusted.

I'm a great fan of Wikipedia, but I find this rather scary. What next? Perhaps only letting those approved by government-paid experts contribute articles to Wikipedia like the State-run BBC decides what constitutes news in the UK.

Never, never forget that the BBC kept Winston Churchill off British radio during the long and disasterous run-up to World War II. They allowed only the appeasement point of view on the air, giving Hitler the 'breathing space' he needed to make the war a long and bloody one.

How long till the holocaust gets whitewashed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19653909)

like all other wikipedpia articles

Windräder müssen rollen für den Sie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19653999)

How can German-language Wikipedia sustain its claim to impartiality if contributors are paid by a State institution whose goal it is to "conduct research ... with an eye to launching products on the market"? (German products surely)

I hope all Wikipedians and anonymous IP holders to whom NPOV still means anything will relentlessly vandalize the "improved" articles.

Wikipedia useless for non-orthodox thinking. (1, Flamebait)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 7 years ago | (#19654123)

So what? Wikipedia is already run by the dark side on every issue which actually matters that I've ever looked up on it.

Wikipedia seems to be run entirely by science geeks who never figured out that highschool and TV are brainwashing tactics. How sad for a bunch who supposedly take pride in using their brains that they should have been so easily tricked.

Thus, in Wikipedia, if it doesn't fit with conventional wisdom, it isn't in there.

This is fine if I need to look up how jet engines work or what the capital of Sweden is, but if you want to look up anything which hedges into areas which are controlled, then you might as well forget it. You'll just get loads of false wisdom spat at you with cult-like vehemence.

The genius of the New Big Brother is that Thought is self-policed these days. Who needs Orwell?

Congratulations, humanity. That paper bag trap is going to baffle you for a long time yet.


-FL

Wikitruth shows horse already bolted stable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19654297)

As Wikitruth [wikitruth.info] and the Wikipedia Review forums [wikipediareview.com] have shown hundreds of times, Wikipedia is full of inaccuracies and edit wars on all but the most mundane topics. More insidiously, there is tremendous pressure for particular viewpoints from groups of administrators with special interests, sometimes reflecting the bias of Wales or employees.

So, the idea that there will be an organised effort by a particular group to push a particular agenda (that of a particular dept of the German government) is nothing new. The idea that it will spoil some honourable volunteer effort where all points of view "balance out" is, alas, a complaint about a horse that has grown wings and a horn and blasted through the stable roof.

I don't like this idea. (1)

Grendel Drago (41496) | more than 7 years ago | (#19654443)

One of the nice things is that nobody gets paid to do Wikipedia, no matter how highly respected they are, or how much work they've put in. How does someone who has the official imprimatur of the Foundation compare with them in terms of prestige or authority? With a retired person who spends eight hours a day fixing typos and essentially being one of the little gnomes that makes everything run smoothly?

The Essjay incident should have put the kibosh on credentialism; users should be evaluated by the work that they put in and nothing else. I fear that this sort of sponsored participation will lead the paid contributors to think that they're more authoritative than the folks who just do it for the love of the project.
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