There was a question about Emacs, and the answer was a chunk of elisp that was wrong - one of the closing parens was in the wrong place, so it caused an error. OK, easy fix! But I don't have enough karma to edit answers on StackExchange and have them submit cleanly, so I submitted an 'edit suggestion' or whatever they're called.
Unfortunately edit suggestions can't be submitted unless they have at least five characters of difference - seems like a fair rule to prevent tiny changes but five characters of difference can be a world of difference in elisp.
So I pad out the edit suggestion with a comment that added some value, only to have the suggestion rejected by a user who freely admitted to having "no emacs experience" because he "didn't think it looked valuable".
It also reminds me of a conversation I had with a professor of mathematics that taught one of my classes. He said he started and stopped editing Wikipedia the same day - when one of his changes to a graph theory article was reverted by someone who was "a computer repair technician" because of some Wiki-rule.
It's very possible that he did break the rule and his edit should've been undone, but at the same time he's the editor that Wikipedia desperately needs to attract.
Sites like this have Harrison Bergeron's Handicapper General ensuring that all contributions are seen as "equal", so it's not at all surprising that the article identifies one of the more comprehensive Wikipedia articles as "List of Pokemon".
Wikipedia needs to figure out how to say that the guy who wrote a paper with Erdös gets more leeway on mathematical articles than a guy who repairs computers all day.
The problem is that anyone can claim to be a math professor with expertise on graph theory. For this reason, everyone - even experts - need to cite sources in order to add content to Wikipedia.
In addition, I'm not aware of any way to be compensated, even by citation, for putting time and care into Wikipedia. As academics, we give a lot away for free (want to know some of our most-clever trade secrets? Just read our papers, where we detail everything we do so you can replicate it), but our compensation ultimately comes from what we can show others as our contribution to society. To anyone considering me for a job, promotion, or tenure, a well-written introductory article on precision tests of gravitation isn't worth a hundredth of one precision test of gravity published in Physical Review Letters.
For a single contributor, Wikipedia is ephemeral, but the academic literature is effectively permanent.
You mean, "hey, I wrote it, you go look it up if you don't believe me?" Down that path lies madness. And Fox News.
Academics aren't supposed to have "trade secrets" by definition, because that impedes the teacher and researcher's motivation. Historically, anyway, by my understanding.
I read it more as "by being an expert in this subject I know this is true; by being an expert in this subject I also probably don't have time to find the journal that has the article in question, cite it per Wikipedia's rules, and put it in the article."
Frankly that sounds like a great task for editors that aren't subject experts. Maybe the expert can say "this is missing knowledge, this is where I think a citation should be or what to look for" and the non-expert can do that.
In any case, as an academic myself, I find it weird that we, of all people, would find ourselves "too busy to reference" or something. That's an attitude one finds among students asked to write papers, but academics do not have problems peppering supporting references all over the place; it's basically second nature. Some academics even get in arguments with book publishers because the publisher always want to remove the "clutter" of too many citations and footnotes that intimidate the general reader...
 Widely-known result, probably in Jackson's Electrodynamics
as enough of a citation to placate the reversion police?
Really, a "P.S. I'm an expert" policy?
Maybe there's some sort of verification. Maybe experts get limited to their subject area. Maybe we just have to (gasp) assume good faith on the part of the editor and trust that they are experts in what they claim.
But I'd happily accept the edits of five "experts" if it means that someone that published with Erdos sticks around to edit.
I completely understand if that's not what Wikipedia wants. But I also think it's the wrong decision.
To allow "expert opinion" without opening the floodgates to everyone with an opinion would require some kind of validation, which is probably as much, or more, work as citing sources.
I disagree. Hunting citations doesn't take specialized knowledge, but it does take time. I doubt that the ratio of editors to article churn would sustain them being responsible for hunting citations.
I think that's really the core of most issues with wikipedia: neither side has the time. Individual contributors don't have the dedicated time to comply with all quality-control policies themselves, and editors are spread too thin to provide any feedback beyond quoting chapter and verse.
Anyone can make that claim; if not forced to cite sources, many will who aren't.
> want to know some of our most-clever trade secrets? Just read our papers, where we detail everything we do so you can replicate it
ISL was pointing out that many other professions have a lot of field specific knowledge with which they can charge people money to access. Academics print all of the information for basically free. So we already give it away for free, we don't have the time or patience to give it away free to somewhere that's not going to keep our work.
The barrier for entry to writing articles has to be way, way lower than it is; it shouldn't require a negotiation with a bunch of self-important petty bureaucrats.
What those self-important guys (they're mostly guys) miss is that the best is the enemy of the good. Their misguided approach to quality actively prevents improvement.
Outside the high-edit-count word-shufflers, I'd classify contributions to WP in four buckets: (a) substantial contributors who know a lot about a little and are able to significantly add or improve content; (b) trivial fixers, who fix grammar / spelling mistakes, or otherwise make tiny casual edits; (c) mindless vandals, who work some adolescent scrawl somewhere in the text, with varying degrees of visibility; and (d) the really sneaky stuff; well-written fakes, PR companies, reputation massaging, etc.
The guys in (a) need to be preserved at all costs. I think the editors are concerned about (d), but the trouble is that they're doing it in a rules-bound way, but because knowing the rules and right WP:INCANTATIONS is a source of power, the rules become a thing in themselves, rather than a last resort for eliminating (d).
I'd much rather have a more complete, comprehensive WP than one that's even 90% correct.
A number of historians have given up on Wikipedia because it's too easy for people to edit articles without discussion. An expert will spend a bunch of time working out a solid, cited article that integrates the best current understanding, often in discussion with other people, then come back 6 months later and find their work has basically bitrotted. In which case, why bother doing the hard work of hashing out a good article in the first place? Some academics therefore prefer a much more bureaucratic encyclopedia model, where all changes must first be proposed and then vetted by an expert in the subject who "owns" the article; Citizendium and Scholarpedia are two attempts to build that model of encyclopedia.
As a low-tech solution, you can actually put HTML comments in the source code, which people occasionally do, but it doesn't seem to be a very well-known option. <!-- Do NOT change birth date to XX/XX/XXXX, see talk page --> kind of things sometimes appear in the source. I haven't seen them used for longer discussions, though, just one-line "hey, watch out before you do X" things.
On contentious articles with a long history of debate people will sometimes write a summary on the talk page, so you don't have to read through the whole history of the discussion. On most articles, though, the talk page isn't huge, so I find it easy to glance at before making changes.
When that sort of stuff happens, I think you should make sure the incorrect information is referenced in the article as a misconception, or just have the correct information associated with citations. False information should only be erased if it is not "in the wild", so to speak.
Sure, Wikipedia isn't perfect. But I would question any method of evaluation that ends up preferring Citizendium to it.
Probably the easiest way to do that: If someone makes a substantive edit that isn't obviously vandalism, but doesn't quite meet Wikipedia's standards, then don't just undo it wholesale. Instead, temporarily pull it off the main page and into a back-end discussion. And then immediately contact the author with an explanation of what's going on and what they can do to get the changes reinstated.
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What needs to happen is that there should be collaboration between Wikipedia insiders who know the Wikipedia system and subject matter experts who have valuable information to add.
Worse, the demand for citations is often just absurd. There's a big difference between "this is a controversial claim that might need citations" and "no one has yet bothered to look in a basic textbook for citations."
There are real reasons why experts can't just come in and say "do it my way" but the response has to be geared towards saying "how do we take advantage of your knowledge without forcing you to learn arcane policies?"
Update: As for identifying experts, that's not altogether obvious. But if an article is an absolute mess, there should be a low bar for cleanup. If the article is in decent shape, then presumably someone is running around with a bit of subject matter knowledge, and can coordinate. Think about any area you know something about: how quickly can you distinguish someone who generally is on target from someone who doesn't have a clue?
What I mean to say is that Wikipedia's system is one that does not/will not give article editors credit for original content; it treats them as just collectors and explainers of original content. When the explainers start writing stuff that has no source, they then disappear and leave Wikipedia holding the content which is now unverifiable. And that's just not how Jimmy wanted it to work I guess.
When I look at it that way, the policy doesn't seem that ridiculous. It may be inconvenient, but that's like saying a stack data structure is inconvenient because you can't remove things from the bottom. It's just the way it is; it has advantages and disadvantages.
My point is really about process: when someone comes to us with a bit of knowledge, but no citations and limited understanding of the Wikipedia process, how do we react?
The model whereanyone can edit and see their changes live has real benefits and costs. It makes it easy to make your first contribution, but it also means that if an editor doesn't like it, they just revert it. Sometimes, maybe changes should go in a queue or something.
I come to Wikipedia, and dump a ton of graph theory on some page. An editor says "look, this isn't quite how it works, but it looks like you're trying to improve the page. Is this stuff you have citations for? Do you know what textbooks would cover it?"
Maybe my edits don't go live immediately, but it's better than the current situation, where they just get reverted by some guy spouting WP:STQ!
(That's the grain of truth the comment down below that Wikipedia needs to be more like git).
Ideally, you'd go through the article. You'd remove anything that is "wrong", and find citations for everything else. Then, when someone wants to add anything, you can find a cite for it, or ask them to find a cite for it, and remove it if there is no cite.
This demonstrates why WP can be horrible - anyone doing this to any article would soon find themselves skewered in horrible WP processes. Good cites are mocked as POV pushing, hopeless cites are forced in by people with more time than you.
> I come to Wikipedia, and dump a ton of graph theory on some page. An editor says "look, this isn't quite how it works, but it looks like you're trying to improve the page. Is this stuff you have citations for? Do you know what textbooks would cover it?
Sometimes that's how it works. There are people on WP who are great at helping that style of new editor; finding them mentors or whatnot to help them with the process. it's hit and miss, sometimes it fails badly.
> where they just get reverted by some guy spouting WP:STQ!
WP has made some effort to prevent the over active 14 year old using tools to auto-revert hundreds (thousands) of edits per day.
In my opinion, experts should be sincerely welcomed to kibbitz on talk pages - not directly in editing articles - with a strong invitation to cite sources other than themselves. This approach, optimistically, will keep bias on the Talk page, and out of articles, and give experts a substantial real and perceived voice, currently lacking.
The markup used for the linking in the edit comment is the same as the wikitext markup. For example, an edit comment like this:
... see talk page for discussion.
would be marked up:
... [[Talk:Article name#Section heading|see talk page]] for discussion.
This might help start discussions about low-traffic article topics that would otherwise languish at the bottom of the talk page for weeks if not months.
In my opinion it'd be better to risk a little inaccuracy if it meant attracting experts to edit articles. But as cldr notes above, it's possible that's not the goal of Wikipedia - which is completely fair, but makes me wish some hybrid of NuPedia and Wikipedia existed.
Is it necessarily worth playing the Stack Exchange game? Certainly not, especially as the sites have grown to an extent which strains the moderators' ability to manage them -- Super User, I'm looking at you in particular, and the flood of undifferentiated garbage questions which has increasingly occupied your front page since I created my account a year ago, and Stack Overflow, you're hardly better, thanks to the endless zombie hordes of idiot PHP hacks who ask the same stupid question twenty times rather than try a single Google search which would certainly turn up the obvious, simple answer. Worse, in fact, as the original developer admits , the Stack Exchange model is explicitly designed to be addictive, and he and Spolsky nailed it; if you're not in favor of time sinks, Stack Exchange is probably not for you. But if you're a domain expert who finds interesting questions appealing, or even better someone who finds that the best way of gaining knowledge of a given domain is to work out how to answer other people's questions about it, you might do well to try out a Stack Exchange site.
 Except for English Language and Usage, than which you will never find a more wretched hive of snark and pedantry; unless you're a tenured professor of pointless linguistics, your time will be better spent on almost any other activity, be it Wikipedia editing or toenail bonsai.
I was involved in StackOverflow when it was still fairly young (before the whole StackExchange concept had taken off). I asked questions, I answered questions, I got up to ~1k points and then I stopped going for a while. When I returned, I felt distinctly unwelcome. The social mores had shifted to such a degree, I felt like I was coming in as a new user rather than one with some experience at the site. The experience was very off-putting, and I consider a large part of the reason why I haven't made any contributions to StackOverflow in a long while.
Like I said, I got frustrated because I couldn't do anything useful, and I would rather stay away than be hunted down by a SE Inquisitor.
I doubt you care at this point, but for others who might, it's generally a better alternative for a new user to comment with the correction, than to try to edit; comments are globally visible no matter who makes them, and a comment pointing out an error like that one is very likely to result in its being edited into the answer by someone who does have the reputation score necessary to do so. Even if it doesn't, someone who tries to use code from the answer, and finds it does not work, will be able to read the commentary and find out why not and how to fix it.
As for the edit reject reason -- well, all I can say is that idiots get everywhere, Stack Exchange sites not excepted. For whatever it's worth to anyone, I've found that sort of obstreperous idiocy much less common on most SE sites (again, English Language & Usage excepted!) than in, for example, Wikipedia.
> he's the editor that Wikipedia desperately needs to attract
If those editors require special care and exemption from the rules on the account of their fancy credentials, they're certainly not the type for Wikipedia.
One of those examples is ISL the physicist here in the comments. He complains that his contribution got edited by someone else. And that he doesn't get compensated for his hard work on the wiki. I'm sure he's a smart fella, but this attitude is not compatible with the Wikipedia model.
Congrats! You've summarized and illustrated the entire article in three short paragraphs.
McDonalds is surely turning aways scads of customers by not providing their food for free.
Certainly there are many things Wikipedia could do to be more welcoming. But not permitting editing by others and/or paying people to edit are not within the Wikipedia model any more than McDonalds giving away all their food would be.
There is nothing wrong with being polite but firm about what something is and what it isn't.
Take  as a case in point. It's aggressively and mindlessly waved all over the place, irrespective of pre-existing content in wikipedia itself and obvious factual information.
Say you contribute one or two sentence summary of related pages -- complete with links. Or worse, a sentence or two that expands on an existing statement by merely highlighting the obvious assumptions or implications. Such edits have good odds of being greeted with the dreadful  or reversed outright by some random rules zealot.
Adding insult to injury, the latter seem perfectly content with sources such as The Onion and slimy news sites. The thing that really matters is that it must be written somewhere else. It's then up to random editors to decide whether that somewhere else is credible or not.
Admittedly, would-be editors can jump back in to defend their edit, appeal, etc. and even expand on it with the requested citation. But this seldom occurs, because it leaves such a sour taste in their mouth that they grunt in bemusement, scoff the whole thing as hogwash, and move on with their life.
Wikipedia wasn't designed to scale to what it is now, and a lot of the erroneous assumptions baked into the design are causing growth of the site to become more and more unsustainable.
As a world expert on some topics (Machinima filmmaking) for which the primary source of some relevant information resides largely in my head, I was wondering if this was the best way to approach Wikipedia edits. Thanks for the info: I may actually make some contributions soon!
I also thought it was frowned upon to cite your own research.
Have these positions changed?
Obviously I don't know how to solve this issue but at first editors must be evaluated by the audience and their scores accessible. All the other Wikipedia processes are bureaucratic .
I had someone else try. It was reverted. I tried once more, probably two years later (after the "fact" had time to propagate throughout the internet), and it too was reverted.
The reason it was reverted every time? Apparently I didn't sufficiently explain the edit. It didn't require explanation: it was an uncited, demonstrably false fact. It asserted the existence and publication of a book (in recent history) that was never published. It is impossible to find a copy of it. It does not exist. I didn't know how to explain it any better than that.
A few months ago, I saw that someone finally noticed it was fake and removed it for good.
So did you provide the explanation? Was the expectation of an explanation sufficiently made obvious?
So given the reversion wars (mostly on politically sensitive topics and companies that want to whitewash their images), I can understand the reversion of the removal.
People want to create content, not fix other people's grammatical mistakes.
Here's another idea: Instead of figuring out new processes, badges, sandboxes, help zones, and polite ways of saying "your contribution doesn't meet notability requirements and needs at least n media citations. Please refer to Policy X before resubmitting", why not attack the hydra head on? Determine how to eliminate bureaucracy. Don't keep adding to it.
Hey, I'm the product manager for that work (also quoted in the article). I thought I might mention that we've A/B tested our task suggestion workflow extensively, and the answer is definitively that Wikipedians want to do both things. I can share links to all our research, which is public, if you want.
There are basically two kinds of people who sign up for Wikipedia: those with something to do in mind, and those who want a suggestion of where to start. The evidence we've gathered so far shows that many new contributors like being able to get started and learn the ropes doing something that's easy and not intimidating. They have a positive first experience editing, and then they typically move on to other tasks, having gained more confidence. We are giving people options, not requiring anyone to do N number of grammatical fixes in order to earn badges, privileges or anything of the sort.
I should also note that among more advanced editors, there is actually a popular Guild of Copyeditors that does highly-coordinated copyediting drives on Wikipedia. Not to mention all the peer review for quality that happens in other places. Never underestimate the interest of grammar nazis in fixing your comma usage. ;)
Hence a recurring theme: the great failing of FOSS products (free as in beer) is precisely that a non-trivial amount of work which needs doing doesn't get done because there is no incentive to do it: it is hard, boring, unappreciated, and/or expensive to the point that the only way to get it done is to pay someone to do it. Unless Wikipedia pays somebody to round things out and constantly polish content, it will suffer stagnation.
It used to be that being in the "Administrator" group was basically the only granularity we had to differentiate users. People complained that they only wanted to work on some things, like vandalism patrolling, or file maintenance, or creating accounts on behalf of other users.
So we unbundled, so that people could get the rights they wanted to do a particular task.
And in other cases, like with Checkuser, the Bureaucrat group, and Oversight, the advanced privileges are in fact dangerous and therefore are appropriately restricted.
Actual governance is pretty simple: the only things that are truly binding are community consensus (as determined by a sufficiently public discussion, closed at its end by one or more administrators) and decisions of the Arbitration Committee, which conducts its business on public Wikipedia pages. Administrators have some leeway in terms of blocking and closing discussions, but everything is subject to review.
NB: I'm part of the system, granted. I'm an administrator, Oversighter, and CheckUser. But these roles exist for good reasons, and I think the unbundling helps increase participation, by letting people help out without requiring full community trust in all matters.
The ability to contribute to Wikipedia is based more on one's expertise navigating the insular secret-handshake culture of Wikipedia than upon actual expertise or knowledge.
Naturally, Wikipedia needs safeguards to protect against the vandalism, manipulation, and inaccurate information that would flood the site if left unchecked. But in doing so, it's grown into a secret club where only the people with time to learn its byzantine customs and rules participate. Some effort should be made to contribute, but the majority of one's time should be spent on subject matter expertise, gathering quality citations, and good, clear writing—not on learning the intricacies of entering said content.
I expect there's a certain badge of honor that comes from being a part of the system. Once you've put hundreds of hours into learning a system and joining a community, outsiders and newcomers are viewed with suspicion at best. Why let some latecomer barge in and just start writing when everyone already in the community had to work harder to get there? But it's that "community consensus" you talk about that makes Wikipedia the closed culture it is today. As long as a small, demographically homogeneous group holds the keys to participation, Wikipedia will suffer.
It's like the Catholic church, centuries ago, when the liturgy was in Latin, and only the initiated could have access to the scriptures—everyone else had to rely on their interpretations. Wikipedia needs its Martin Luther.
I agree with everything you said.
Talk pages are a horrendous way to implement this. Making an edit proposal should be extremely new-user friendly.
I think a proposal and dialog format would do a much better job at absorbing new content than what happens currently, which seems to be a revert if you run afoul of any editing policy.
Right now, some of our most popular articles in English are perpetually semi-protected, meaning anonymous or brand new contributors can't edit. That means millions of pageviews are on articles that don't even have an edit button visible. :(
Some Wikipedias, like German, Polish, Russian and others already use a system called "Flagged Revisions", which is an obtuse name for software that instead of protecting a page, delays edits and makes them subject to approval from someone experienced. Unfortunately the workflow for this software is clunky and it doesn't seem to be helping German and other Wikipedias stay vibrant.
I'd really like to A/B test a very easy "suggest an edit" as an alternative. I think it could work, because Wikipedians are already pretty good at staying on top of the request queue, if you manage to make a request on the Talk page. One thing we'd need to be careful of is not garnering suggestions by cannibalizing the people who would otherwise have just edited.
I can't remember if there's a formal psychological term for the latter, but it's like how a person in trouble is better off being seen by one person than many (the many assume someone else is helping).
While I don't mean to sound ungrateful to the Wikipedia team and community for providing such a great resource, I've personally been turned off by all the calls for donations because they won't implement a few measly ads. It just seems kind of stubborn to me-- shifting the problem onto each individual user when money could be generated so painlessly. Even a little ironic considering the calls for donations get in the way of the user experience more than regular ads would.
Both those events are easily searchable. Hacker News comments are not a fucking encyclopaedia.
In history articles, things mostly get contentious around subjects that seem inherently contentious for non-Wikipedia-related reasons. The archives of the talk page for "Armenian Genocide" are rather extensive and not always cordial, because people have very different ideas about what should go in it, some of them strongly held. But it's at least converged on a decent article imo.
When there aren't the same passions around the historical disputes, I've found the environment pretty supportive. I worked on a biography of an ancient Roman politician where there was quite a bit of inconsistency between what different classicists had written about him, but the discussion was just trying to figure out how we should deal with that in the article, and where the mainstream historical consensus lay (if anywhere), not hugely partisan or anything.
So what fraction of articles on Wikipedia are "finished", and does this explain the apparent decline of Wikipedia in terms of contributors/contributions? I don't know if there's an easy way to answer this.
Lot of restrictions, if you think about it, are silly. Why can't I create a wikipedia page about my mom or my high school teacher? Why can't I add interesting details on techniques to solve high school math problem or even add exercises like textbooks? However "non-useful" it is, it's still information and it's all electronic. Why wikipedia should restrict itself to articles of types that only traditional paper-based encyclopedia would potentially allow (well, mostly)?
Would it be so hard to design it so we can add ~infinite amount of information on any given topic while allowing users to dive in from 10ft to 100,000 ft level? My dream would be to have wikipedia or an active website like that which catalogs almost every imaginable information available to any human at any point in time. May be they can add "draft" mode for content that is not fully baked yet. Or pages that are only visible if you opt-in. There has to be better way than enforcing silly bureaucracy.
Text in a wikipedia is much like source code for a program -- it will be read many times more than it is written -- and after a certain point, it should largely stop changing, unless bugs are found. "Bugs" in the case of text are the obvious: grammar/spelling, somewhat subtle: use of language, wording (contrast eg: articles written in "simple English" wikipedia vs "normal" English) -- and external change: Hiroshima has lots of beautiful wooden houses > Hiroshima is one of two cities to have ever been bombed with a nuclear weapon (For a rather grotesque example).
- Telecoms and networking protocols articles that I feel go into far to much detail, they are like abstracts of the RFCs...
- The same goes for programming languages.
- Do ( e.g. web server) comparison tables belong in an encyclopedia?
I guess it's a hard line to draw though.
I was really impressed with MailChimp, for instance, until I got to the visual HTML editor where I could never figure out how to not get my whole message screaming in <h1>
The submitted article notes that "in July 2012, some editors started a page called WikiProject Editor Retention with the idea of creating a place to brainstorm ideas about helping newcomers and fostering a friendlier atmosphere. Today the most vibrant parts of that project’s discussion page have gripes about 'bullying done by administrators,' debates over whether 'Wikipedia has become a bloody madhouse,' and disputes featuring accusations such as 'You registered an account today just to have a go at me?'" Yep, I visited that WikiProject Editor Retention a while ago to see if I could pick up some tips there on how to encourage conscientious editors to stay involved in Wikipedia, but all I found was that kind of dispute and back-biting.
It happens that my main area of professional research is connected to topics that are among the ten most edit-warred topics on Wikipedia. So from the beginning of my involvement on Wikipedia in 2010, I've seen lots of reverts and lots of article talk pages that go on and on and on and on to waste time about petty disputes. Because I used to a professional periodical editor, and later an academic journal editorial assistant when pursuing my postgraduate degree, I have a sense of what a collaborative editing looks like, and I try to suggest to Wikipedians how we can all collaboratively built an even better free, online encyclopedia.
It's slow and pains-taking work to edit articles on controversial topics. I have found it helpful to compile source lists, because Wikipedia always needs new sources, and then post links to the appropriate source lists to the talk pages of articles. Sometimes I see sources taken up by other editors months after I post such a link, gradually improving the quality of some articles. And of course I continually add new sources to my source lists whenever I learn about them from seeing them used in Wikipedia. I go to my alma mater's academic library frequently to circulate reference books about the topics I research (mostly for work, but also for Wikipedia), and I devote a lot of time to verifying sources. About two hours of "free" time today were devoted to transcription typing of quotations from reference books into Wikipedia-format citations, which I hope to use in the next few months to update articles.
To answer some questions that came up in comments posted before this comment, Wikipedia does have a too-radical culture of not taking experts seriously, but indeed that is partly because it is hard to verify who is an expert. Wikipedia got badly burned once by a young guy who claimed to be an older guy with academic credentials and actual expertise on certain topics, and that phony not only pushed around a lot of other editors while editing articles, but even got a job at the Wikimedia Foundation without his background being checked out beforehand. So now Wikipedia is once burned, twice shy about anyone who claims to be an expert. Come with sources, and everyone will join in the scrum of deciding whether or not you are an expert.
One person in this discussion thread claims to be an expert (and I believe him) and he wonders how much of a detailed reference he has to give for a widely known fact. There are a BUNCH of the 4,359,600 articles now on English Wikipedia that cite no sources, or at best only cite the name of a book or article without any page reference. So if you are really sure that a standard reference book in your field backs up a fact you've just inserted in the article, you can add a reference like <ref>Smith Handbook of Physics</ref> and let other editors sort out what edition of the handbook, and what page of the handbook, backs you up. I see that iterative process of improving references happen all the time, sometimes over years.
We have frequent discussions of the defects of Wikipedia here on Hacker News. I still wonder if there is space for a new effort to build a nonprofit, free, online encyclopedia for the whole world. Is the current Wikipedia just the AltaVista that will be replaced by a yet unknown Google? I think a more healthy and professional editing environment could still let another effort to build an online encyclopedia take off and surpass Wikipedia, if only it had enough seed funding.
To the extent that reform is possible, they'll have to figure out a way to attract new, inexperienced editors who either don't care about or don't know the organizational structure and technical requirements (will all due respect to the software engineer quoted, wikitext is significantly more complex than # or @ symbols, and is most definitely not user friendly).
Maintaining a complicated language of policies and procedures is not an effective way to do this. It's all too easily used as a weapon by those who understand it best.
Is it possible that all the important articles have been written and are, at this point, well vetted? Perhaps there aren't enough topics left for all the people that would be writing articles? Or perhaps the ones that are left are boring, so volunteer writers won't address them?
1. Grammar/typos - for whatever reason correcting "then" and "than" ticked some people off. "Could/would/should of", "intensive purposes", "loose/lose". These are common mistakes that happen with either careless writing or non-native speakers. The content can be good, but it feels like amateur hour and cleaning it up should be encouraged. Most of my changes of this sort were reverted within hours, even though I would include a comment in my commit explaining the changes.
2. Correcting based on the citations provided. Read an article, see something that seemed off, go to the citation. The citation states the exact opposite of the WP article (or some segment of the article), and I'd make changes based on that (usually it was careful editing so that it was a paraphrase or quote that dropped a "not" or something).
3. New content. I was new to WP editing, so I didn't know all the arcana (the process seems as esoteric to new editors as the old AD&D manuals seem to modern RPG players). I'd write something, post it, have the citations, realize I didn't put them in the day after. Everything was gone. I'd remake the changes with the citations, and it'd still be reverted (I honestly can't recall anymore which articles). I'm not doing research, there was no POV issues, I was just fleshing out content that was barebones. I'm the sort of person that could've been a good maintenance editor, filling in sparse articles or rectifying the information in others. Instead, the community seemed to actively reject my contributions. After a few starts like this, I saw no reason to persist.
That's been precisely my experience too. Even compared to traditional encyclopedias and broad reference material, Wikipedia does not fare well at all.
Read one good book on the Middle Ages and you'll find hundreds of significant facts that would be appropriate for Wikipedia, but simply aren't there.
Instead of degradation through overuse (as with real-world resources, but meaningless in the context of Internet resources), we have degradation without meaningful contribution.
Is a million forks the missing feature of the wikipedia experience?
It'd go on the line, and people would be able to suggest edits and that page would ask them to provide a citation.
This version would be suitable for children to use.
The ledes would be re-written to give an ELI5 intro to the topic for people with little to no knowledge of it.
There'd be torrent downloads of it, so people could run it locally offline.
Quite a few are, though it's highly variable between countries, and many contribute in languages other than English. The Japanese-language Wikipedia has about 4000 active editors in a typical month , and I believe the vast majority of them are Japanese, though I'm having trouble finding solid stats on that (if any exist).