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Feuding Wikipedia editors headed to their private top court

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From msmash at Slashdot:

Wikipedia, the vast online crowdsourced encyclopedia, has a high court. It is a panel called the Arbitration Committee, largely unknown to anyone other than Wiki aficionados, which hears disputes that arise after all other means of conflict resolution have failed. The 15 elected jurists on the English-language Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee — among them a former staffer for presidential candidate John Kerry, an information-technology consultant in a tiny British village and a retired college librarian — have clerks, write binding decisions and hear appeals. They even issue preliminary injunctions.

Referencing the Wall Street Journal:

Wikipedia editors got locked in a dispute several months ago about the biographical summary boxes that sit atop some pages of the online encyclopedia. The tiff quickly turned heated. (paywall) More.

The language reported by Wall Street Journal doesn’t sound very professional but then there is no reason why it should. Not much online about this yet but from Technology Review (2013):

The volunteer workforce that built the project’s flagship, the English-language Wikipedia—and must defend it against vandalism, hoaxes, and manipulation—has shrunk by more than a third since 2007 and is still shrinking. Those participants left seem incapable of fixing the flaws that keep Wikipedia from becoming a high-quality encyclopedia by any standard, including the project’s own. Among the significant problems that aren’t getting resolved is the site’s skewed coverage: its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy. Authoritative entries remain elusive. Of the 1,000 articles that the project’s own volunteers have tagged as forming the core of a good encyclopedia, most don’t earn even Wikipedia’s own middle–ranking quality scores.

Not much change?

Some of us still find it hard to understand why any teacher accepts Wikipedia as a source There are many sources out there whose proprietors must, by necessity, take more responsibility for the contents.

See also: ID and Wikipedia as the ultimate post-modern encyclopedia

Wikipedians diminish another high achiever sympathetic to ID: Klinghoffer adds, “So it goes with Wikipedia, which your kids are probably consulting right now for their latest school assignment.” Oh? Why are your kids consulting Wikipedia? Do they need to know what the world looks like to a freak show of the mediocre misfits Klinghoffer provides notes from? Yes, there is sometimes useful information in Wikipedia. But one can say that of the supermarket tabloids as well. It’s a question of how likely that is, relative to stuff we can’t evaluate or should avoid, averaged against the value of one’s time sorting it out. The basic idea behind Wikipedia is wrong for a number of reasons. One is that the model assumes that the people most likely to have the needed perspective are the ones who care most. Anyone familiar with the behaviour of trolls knows that trolls care more than anyone and usually have the least to offer the public.

When you disappear from Wikipedia is when you matter, apparently. Klinghoffer also provides a sample of people who, according to Wikipedia, are supposed to be notable compared to paleontologist Bechly (show showed sympathy for ID). Judge for yourself.

Wikipedia founder wades into fake war on fake news

Larry Sanger, Co-founder of Wikipedia, Agrees That it Does not Follow its Own Neutrality Policy

How Wikipedia can turn fiction into fact (Sourced enough times, the fiction becomes “troo”)

Wikipedia: The world of heavily edited unfacts

Wikipedia as astroturf

Wikipedia’s declining stats

Wikipedia hacked by elite sources now (The main problem is that the people who use Wikipedia do not care whether it is false or true. “Wikipedia is my library” is the new diagnostic for irresponsible laziness.)

Whackapedia whacks a civil liberties group

Is social media killing Wikipedia?

Wikipedia founder wades into fake war on fake news

Larry Sanger, Co-founder of Wikipedia, Agrees That it Does not Follow its Own Neutrality Policy

How Wikipedia can turn fiction into fact (Sourced enough times, the fiction becomes “troo”)

Wikipedia: The world of heavily edited unfacts

Wikipedia as astroturf

Wikipedia’s declining stats

Wikipedia hacked by elite sources now (The main problem is that the people who use Wikipedia do not care whether it is false or true. “Wikipedia is my library” is the new diagnostic for irresponsible laziness.)

and

Mathematician complains Wikipedia is promoting “pseudo-science” of multiverse (Then there were the minor revelations that core articles “don’t earn even Wikipedia’s own middle-ranking quality scores” and that some “editors” are paid by outside sources.)

6 Replies to “Feuding Wikipedia editors headed to their private top court

  1. 1
    goodusername says:

    Some of us still find it hard to understand why any teacher accepts Wikipedia as a source

    I’ve never heard of any teacher that would, as it’s not a primary source. Even Wikipedia says that it shouldn’t be used as a source (unless the subject is wikipedia itself).

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    kairosfocus says:

    GUN, for many legitimate purposes secondary sources of reasonable quality are more than good enough. This BTW includes textbooks, handbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias and more. Primary sources are relatively rare in the real world. On Wikipedia it is a case of idealism, flawed systems, subversion and ideological tyranny. Ironically, many articles in quiet corners are really good; but those are on subjects the rabid ideologues don’t care so much about. For many of those articles, I get the feeling they are reworked term papers or the like. A sad case and yet another sign of our times. KF

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    goodusername says:

    KF,

    GUN, for many legitimate purposes secondary sources of reasonable quality are more than good enough. This BTW includes textbooks, handbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias and more. Primary sources are relatively rare in the real world.

    Not from my experience. Even from grade school I was warned not to use encyclopedias or textbooks as sources.
    And a good secondary source will tell you what the primary source is, so finding it shouldn’t be an issue. It’s hardly rare. Again, from my experience, if I do have trouble finding a primary source, say, for example, a quote or a stat, that usually means that the quote or stat is fake, regardless of how many secondary sources mention them.

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    kairosfocus says:

    GUN,

    I am afraid, you are assuming a degree of accessibility that is not a general phenomenon.

    Yes, where there is access a primary source MAY be helpful or even necessary in cases, but who can get into archives, legal registries, museums, lawyer’s files, reference grade libraries and the like.

    Likewise, I suspect only few at high school or primary level education are in a position to understand the structure or arguments in journals or monographs or proceedings or professional works much less to sift a professional literature and draw conclusions that reflect the general balance on the merits. Hint: it’s not just, Bayesian statistics washes whiter!

    Don’t even begin to ask about understanding relevant epistemology or logic or the specific technical issues of warrant for particular fields. These last things may be taught in a good College but will not typically be a part of course content for technical areas.

    I suggest, again, that a well edited (and reviewed) high quality textbook, handbook, magazine [as opposed to journal], specialist or even general purpose encyclopedia adds the value — a value we are willing to pay for — that the sort of epistemological-logical assessment, survey of a field’s knowledge base and issues, structuring and presentation for effective communication that make reliable materials accessible to one about to do a school or general project or put out something for journalism that is useful and acceptable for most educational, general and even work-linked technical work. Such a source is worthy of respect.

    Similarly, when one does desk research for a position paper or work-related document, etc. that level of source is reasonable and responsible. I recall here things like yhe IEA’s World Energy Outlook series or good textbooks on sustainability. When I taught in secondary and tertiary levels, such sources were invaluable resources. Indeed, I made a special effort to secure copies of Russian texts as I found them particularly useful. Indeed, when I discovered Savelyev’s [sp?] General Physics online in a web archive that was a red letter day as my own set was missing a volume and I would no longer have to try to source in Brazil or Yugoslavia. (I wish the Mir portfolio were all accessible online!)

    When one goes on to be doing a term paper, a thesis, dissertation, conference presentation or research report, some of these sources will still be useful (especially the more technical materials) but it is at this level that primary source materials in hands capable of making relevant evaluations come into their own. But even then the underlying knowledge base will be largely grounded in secondary materials. Which we had better know how to evaluate and use, especially on controversial matters such as Macroeconomics and sustainability of development. I am not just talking about Origins Science.

    Wikipedia’s core problems (beyond the ideological) have to do with lacking the calibre of editors and reviewers that I have spoken of. Though, when an article is effectively a repackaged term paper or the like, it can be quite valuable. The editing and review will of course have been done as part of the course or seminar it comes from.

    And people of a certain level of background will sense the quality almost intuitively.

    Let me add, Wolfram’s Mathematical online reference and its Alpha are technical but show what I am thinking about.

    KF

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    kairosfocus says:

    PS: As there is a hint on the fake news controversy, I add a thought. Warrant is warrant, wherever well-warranted materials are found. Unfortunately, this is a day of trollery, agit prop, ideological subversion of major societal institutions (including media, education, government and churches etc) and professions, etc. We need to cultivate the basics of defensive reading, listening and viewing i/l/o first principles of rhetoric. Namely, that arguments appeal to pathos, ethos, logos — emotions, character/credibility of sources/presenters, weight of facts, logic (and assumptions) — so we must sift on a good background to do that sifting. No emotion is better than the quality of underlying perceptions, expectations and judgements. No source, expert, presenter or authority is better than underlying facts, logic and assumptions. This last is the least persuasive appeal, but it is the only one that actually grounds a conclusion or recommendation. So, we must acquire the taste. Likewise, we need to see responsible balance, prudence and fair presentation of issues with assessment of likely consequences (including of error). Agit prop is most likely to come from the powerful and dominant who are caught up in ideologies. The marginalised or dissidents earn their credibility fighting uphill and need to be calibrated on track record and substance. In the end, it is to the merits that we must go in a day and age where many once trustworthy institutions and media houses have lost their moral compass. And yes, I here imply that our minds are morally governed by duties to truth, right, justice, prudence and charity to name a few principles. And let the worldview level chips that fly from that lie where they land: we are looking at the pervasive IS-OUGHT gap and the need to bridge it at world-root level. Where it can be shown that the only serious candidate is the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being; worthy of loyalty and the responsible, reasonable service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature. A point that may be tested on comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power by simply putting up and testing suggestions: _____ . I suggest that we would do well to ponder that the epidemic of fakery we see traces to the spreading rebellion against that loyalty.

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