I've also had many small edits on technical subjects (particle physics and supersymmetry) reversed by people who were self-professedly not experts, with comments like they could not find it in their beginners' textbook. So I just gave up. (Edit: this was over ten years ago, and I can't find it anymore - not even sure what my username was - but one dispute was about the naming convention of some exotic particles. I was quoting from the famous "review of particle physics" and respectable textbooks, but it kept being reverted to a made-up notation...)
All human products have issues, but are there any superior alternatives at scale?
Wikipedia is one of our civilization’s greatest achievements, isn’t it? It seems like the Library of Alexandria on steroids to me. Especially when combined with an internet archive.
It’s funny to admit it, but Reddit is also quite an achievement due to the scalable human moderation model and very useful hive mind.
For research, name a better duo.
I think wikipedia is as good as it can get given the constrains it has. Some kind of vetting process for experts on specific fields could potentially be useful for specific information though. But the matter of fact is that I have pretty much stopped using wikipedia for anything but the most rudimentary info check. I rarely even check the sources they provide. If I want more than the couple paragraphs wikipedia has on most subjects I go straight to books an sometimes I skip wikipedia altogether when I know that it won't be enough.
Pay tens of thousands of experts to work on the encyclopedia instead. The issue isn't scale, but the cost of the labor (which, in Wikipedia's case, is free - but in many cases you get the quality you paid for).
Encyclopedia Britanica was/is probably the most successful professional collection of knowledge, it's been superseded by Wikipedia over a decade ago.
Free contributor is a low expense for sure but what you get isn't necessarily lower value than paying contributors.
A search engine and scihub?
Wikipedia is useful for a high-level overview. For more info, you'll be clicking on the references a lot. No reason not to start with the sources.
> A search engine and scihub?
> Wikipedia is useful for a high-level overview. For more info, you'll be clicking on the references a lot. No reason not to start with the sources.
Ok, you got me there. I knew using "research" with no qualifier was going to get me into trouble. I should have said "general research."
I can't wait for Sci-Hub, or better, to become legal. The fact that is not legal is pretty embarrassing for our civilization.
Regarding the search engine, for a lot of general research adding "... reddit" often improves results in my experience. It's so weird how important that site turned out to be. Now if only it could make money without unneccesary features. I feel like we should buy reddit for the commons while we can :)
Philosophically speaking sure, but practically it already works fine now.
I don’t think any judge is going to convict a researcher for bypassing these paywalls. if Elsevier and company will decide to prosecute, it will become a PR nightmare for them. Also likely to cause a legislative response which will undermine their ability to collect their profits. I don’t believe these people are stupid, I think they understand these consequences as well.
> adding "... reddit" often improves results in my experience
Interesting, will try next time. I have an account there for a few years, but wasn’t using it much.
There is no way to tell whether you are debating a child on the internet.
I'm all for having experts determine the notation to be used in their respective fields...
> in his ornithology book, the generic term is always the female term, so "Truthuhn" (with u). That sounds like "turkeychicken" to the average German.
... but that also means deferring to ornithologists on the question of what birds are called, instead of relying on your lay understanding based on eating turkey meat. If chickens were named after their meat, they might be called "Hähnchen". But of course chickens are mostly kept for their eggs, so we end up with the opposite situation where the average person treats neuter "Huhn" as synonymous with female "Henne".
Collaboration is hard even when two persons are paid to work for a common goal. An encyclopedia also encourage such debate over word definitions, and its only over the medium of writing, so it can very easy fall into arguments over words rather than productive collaboration that produce a working article. When that happen the easiest way out is to follow two rules: the assumption of good faith and an almost robotic approach to using what the majority of sources is using. It is not without reason why most of the issues in Wikipedia comes down to conflict resolution.
for i in range(n):
a = [f(i) for i in range(q)]
Another complaint I have about Wikipedia: There are certain people who are sometimes described in the media as "antisemites", "white nationalists", "white supremacists" etc. If it's a reliable source then Wikipedia will describe the person as a white supremacist or whatever. That doesn't bother me a lot.
However, in some cases the person themselves will say something to clarify their view, and a surprising number of Wikipedia editors think that the subject of the article's own statement of their political view does not merit inclusion in the article.
I believe I remember one particular case where there was a person whose Wikipedia bio referred to him as an antisemite, but if you went to his Twitter profile, he used some of the (very limited) space in his Twitter bio to refer to himself as pro-Israel... and a certain senior editor strongly objected to mentioning this fact in his Wikipedia bio.
At that point I think you're effectively just smearing living people in their Wikipedia bios and that really rubs me the wrong way.
The broader issue here is that Wikipedia, due to its reliable sources policy, can't really be much better than journalists are. And journalism isn't what it once was. Same argument for academia and the replication crisis. We live in a society, basically.
I think they are fans of the Brazil movie.
The example with the antisemite is probably more complicated, if you wanted a discussion on it you should have posted a link to the relevant discussion on Wikipedia, but I very much doubt it would be appropriate to take Twitter as source in that case, because Wikipedia is not meant to be (an extension of) social media. Also, it seems like you are not aware that it is very much possible to be a pro-Israel antisemite, e.g., the Nazis at one point supported Jewish Zionist emmigration to Palestine.
BTW, I am not a Wikipedia apologist, see my next comment.
It is true that low quality journalism limits Wikipedia in certain areas, but also note that good Wikipedia sources are not limited to newspapers, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Verifiability#Reliab...
Editors also didn't like it when I added info from his website. Basically, they didn't want anything he said in his own defense to make it to his Wikipedia page.
"Also, it seems like you are not aware that it is very much possible to be a pro-Israel antisemite, e.g., the Nazis at one point supported Jewish Zionist emmigration to Palestine."
I'm aware of that. This person also said he encouraged Jews to join a political organization he ran.
But anyway, I tried to be very clear: I was not saying the citations which claimed this guy was an antisemite should be removed. I'm saying it was worth including this person's own statement of their political views as well.
It is an interesting situation, because I dislike the idea that my defence of my own position is insubmissible, vs the interpretation of some third party of what they claim I think. Certainly there are positions I have on sensitive topics that could be trivially misrepresented.
On the other hand, just taking my 'PR' response is dangerous as it allows me to potentially Rewrite history / spin truth etc.
I lean towards the right to state: "author claims to be misunderstood and accusations are unfounded". I can see both sides a bit though
Another ridiculous case I know about was where the leader of the team that factored RSA-230 updated the page with a reference to the announcement. It was reverted by an editor with the note "Wikipedia is not the venue to announce your own results." So WP went from having it listed as "factored" to "not factored so far" by the revert making it incorrect. The editor who reverted the change hadn't even bothered to check the cited source where the announcement was actually made. What even was the point of the revert? Why would somebody take time out of their day to make Wikipedia inaccurate over some perceived and misunderstood ceremony following to guidelines and process?
It's so much trouble to contribute it's just not worth it, I stopped contributing entirely about 6 years ago after a bunch of edits I wrote on a topic were merged with another one even though the two topics are different. After a few weeks of fighting I just gave up. Amazingly it was unmerged and most of my original text was returned, and then usefully updated by other contributors where it still lives.
In short it sounds like the process, while frustrating at times, is still somehow generating good outcomes.
It definitely makes a non-collaborative environment when everything you try to do to help is met with entirely unnecessary hassle.
It's a bit like trying to drive a car with a passenger who doesn't have a license and doesn't know how to drive, but is constantly telling you how to do things and even keeps grabbing the wheel and sometimes tries to reach their leg over to push the pedals. Sure it's possible to drive your car from a-to-b this way. But is it a way that you're likely to repeat? Not really.
The thing is, Wikipedia is very vulnerable not just to unconscious biases, but also to malicious involvement. Just a single malicious editor with a lot of time on their hands can be unexpectedly harmful, especially if they are targeting a topic where the malice will not be obvious to the majority of editors, or if there are not many editors there to contest the malicious edits for some other reason.
Once that single editor gets support of like minded people, the situation is grim. The other ones don't even have to be naturally competent, a single "puppet master" can coordinate many "meat puppets" (people that follow orders or a common goal) or even plain-old "sock puppets" (abusing alternative accounts). Most good-faithed editors just avoid conflict with the malicious group, because
* it is unpleasant
* it requires much time
* it may require knowledge (even though malice requires less knowledge, especially with off-wiki coordination)
* it (and other conflict) may look bad for them on Wikipedia in the future
* the admins and the arbitration committee tend to punish all sides of a conflict
The "political" topics (including the parts of history that are "relevant" to nationalism) tend to be the worst. I suppose one reason for that is that politics is a viable common goal that can unify some meat puppets and competent malicious actors together. Another is that politics tends to scare a lot of editors that operate in good faith.
Another issue is that the people in power on Wikipedia in case of conflict between other editors, admins and ARBCOM, very rarely (or never) want to invest enough time to really get to the bottom of the issue at hand (which can, admittedly, be very difficult, especially since the people in power often lack the specific knowledge regarding the possibly obscure topics at hand). In the end often both the pro-Wikipedia and the malicious side gets punished, because the admins or ARBCOM just want to "resolve" the conflict or content dispute and get it over and done with.
Yet another issue is that in recent years the Wikimedia Foundation (owner of Wikipedia and other projects) has started to act against the volunteers (the case with Fram is most notorious).
That's going to push the means of winning to editing towards the collective biases of the majority of wikipedia editors. Just consider the fact that at various times in our history that commonly accepted knowledge was that the Earth was flat, the Sun, Moon and Stars revolved around it and that slaves were property instead of people.
Effectively this is a proof that mob-sourced information tends towards the mob's interpretation of information and is not necessarily the truth.
I think a lot of people reading Wikipedia forget this and makes me disagree with your last statement -- there's a high potential for danger to the reader if the prevailing mob opinion is outwardly destructive or self-destructive.
Wikis sort of have this backwards. There's lots of competition in the niches but there's not much competition with Wikipedia itself. The risk is in it being a singular body of knowledge.
You would need a scoring system though.
Typically first versions of software reproduce real world limitations, which don't apply to the software. Second and third iterations tend to drop them.
Wikipedia has lots of those real world limitations. Notoriety and style of writing were determined by the limitations of shelf space and paper.
The selected editor team is something wikipedia specifically wanted to get rid of but has bumbled back into over time.
I keep expecting someone else to crate wikipedia 2.0, but so far nothing. Here's my suggestion for a better virtual encyclopedia.
- Articles are cryptographically signed by authors.
- Articles are not editable after publication. Edits result in new articles.
- Articles have a unique and unchanging url.
- Registered users can vote on articles.
- Registered users can create collections of existing articles. And those collections can be tread as an article.
- Articles can be filtered on popularity, and on popularity among select groups of authors, and on popularity among select groups of up-voters.
I think based on the above you end up with human repository of knowledge. Where articles and links to articles are reliably unchanged, and you never have to worry about them changing "under your feet" so to speak.
The same group of people running wikipedia now, can reproduce their own view of the world in the above setup, and their fans can use it.
Any other group can also create their view of things. There is going to be one most popular view of things. But there could also be a one armed economists' view of modern dance filter of the knowledge pool.
How to deal with spammer or trolls? In addition to voting and filtering, top notch text compression and time based moving of the least often visited articles to slower and cheaper storage.
The slowest and cheapest storage we have, combined with how well we can compress text, in my opinion, results in almost unlimited capacity to store text. And thus notoriety should not be a concern. Leave that to paper encyclopedias.
> Articles are cryptographically signed by authors.
This would significantly up the hurdle for doing edits and, given the meager popularity of PGP, not really pin down a person. But fair, I'd like to see that as a feature.
> Articles are not editable after publication. Edits result in new articles.
I don't see how this is different to a version history. For the most part, people just want the newest information; if a specific revision is needed, you can already direct-link to that.
> Articles have a unique and unchanging url.
Again doable via direct links. I see why you'd want to use that, but if I link (for example) my town, I want people to get the best info about my town and not that version I saw at that moment, unless I'm talking about edits specifically - in which case I'll link a revision. Of course, this requirement satisfies the crypto nerd in us, but it's really going against the usability here for hardly any gain whatsoever.
> Registered users can vote on articles.
Because that works so well for Reddit and all the other vote platforms. Or in science - see the replication crisis.
In all honesty, I think adding a popularity score into this is going to make things far worse. It'll just lead to repeating whatever happens to get votes, with everything else ignored. Why bother with the article of your town? No one cares about that, those two upvotes ...
Let's go start an edit war over the birthday of a person!
> Registered users can create collections of existing articles. And those collections can be tread as an article.
Fair, but that's nothing that wouldn't be doable as of now.
> Articles can be filtered on popularity, and on popularity among select groups of authors, and on popularity among select groups of up-voters.
That'd be actually interesting, but I don't think it be worth the drawback of votes. Also, people which were set to that group or people which self-identify as that group?
Why not both. Self-identified groups and groups curated by someone else.
And on popularity, I just think of votes as one filter. For example, who and how decides what is the best info of your town? Latest? A filter. Most popular? Another filter. The exact link you sent. Also a filter. Liked by a selected group of people. Yet another filter.
I bet you could interact with telnet too.
Actually made me laugh
You allude to a government conspiracy but don't elaborate. You say you investigated this story, but don't describe your investigation (ie. Did you interview victims or did you read blogs online?). You mention this all happened on Wikipedia so presumably there exists some kind of paper trail, but you don't provide any supporting evidence. You describe "random objects" in your mail but don't describe them.
From the reader's perspective this story could be:
1. An unbiased account of a (unnamed) government unfairly wielding their influence over Wikipedia
2. The result of someone upset that their Pizzagate exposé wasn't being taken seriously on Wikipedia
3. An exercise in creative writing
Some kind of supporting evidence would greatly improve your comment.
If you want specifics, I suppose I could mail you those. I fully agree that the account sounds fantastical and psychotic, but it is what I was comfortable sharing. I also think it is a smart tactic if you wanted to discredit someone. I never told anyone close to me either and completely submitted after the article was deleted.