Wikipedia

This is an open thread for the discussiion of problems with Wikipedia.

There’s a catch: you aren’t permitted to attack anybody. You have to explain what you think is wrong with Wikipedia, but you have to follow Wikipedia’s policy of not harming anybody.

But if Wikipedia is harming somebody, name the article and it will be zapped.

 

(Also you can say whatever you want about me. I won’t remove it)

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10 Responses

  1. Hi Tony,

    Two small pedantic points, firstly not every such article needs to be zapped, as I’m sure you are aware sometimes an article needs to be repaired and if necessary the unsourced negative information revision deleted.

    Secondly and perhaps more contentiously Wikipedia does contain negative information about people, which in some cases could be considered harmful. If its negative and unsourced or poorly sourced then of course it should go. But if it is reliably sourced and neutrally written then the the only reasons for deleting it is if the subject isn’t notable or the incident in question is given undue weight within the article. But if we made the test one of harm how would we avoid having agents request that we remove mention of unsuccessful movies from their clients bios, or any criticism from articles on films or video games as that could harm the individuals who own the rights to that movie or game?

  2. Well, one problem with Wikipedia is the simple fact that anyone can post anything, whether it has been verified, or hasn’t, or is true, or isn’t. Yes, efforts have been made to curb vandalism and false or malicious articles on living persons, but it still happens.

    And then, of course, there’s the talk page discourse, which isn’t strictly bound to guidelines of verifiability. For instance, I recently read this gem, where I was openly slandered by a trusted user:

    “It’s always been a polarized hate-board. That’s the purpose for which it was created. It was founded by trolls who openly admit their antipathy to Wikipedia and, when forced to do so, even admit they are lying. Why do you choose the company of liars and trolls? […] 03:28, 13 November 2010 (UTC)”

    Sure, I might be a troll now, but I didn’t start that way; and I’m anything but a liar. I chose to believe in the forum as a place of open discourse, and allowed such. I was openly accused – BY “TRUSTED” MEMBERS OF THE WIKIPEDIA COMMUNITY – of being a racist, a misogynist, and an anti-Semite, even though I took great efforts to make the site a constructive force, and even blocked certain forums from being visible to search engines. In the end, I failed, because running a site with four admins – at least two of which are rather, shall we say, unstable – was not a wise undertaking.

    I still believe the forum can be a constructive force – at times. I don’t participate in the board anymore because I no longer find it interesting to read long and voluminous trollcasts, excepting the ones at Encyclopedia Dramatica.

  3. For the record, Blu Aardvark, the words you quote above are mine and I stand by them as a correct characterization of a particular external site. But this discussion is supposed to be about another topic. I’ll leave your comment to stand but won’t encourage further discussion on this (there are many other venues where it can be discussed ad lib).

  4. WereSpielChequers “But if we made the test one of harm how would we avoid having agents request that we remove mention of unsuccessful movies from their clients bios, or any criticism from articles on films or video games as that could harm the individuals who own the rights to that movie or game?”

    I don’t at all propose a test based on harm. Heaven’s Gate was a critical and commercial failure, it was a huge flop, and Michael Cimino wouldn’t get to airbrush it out of his biography.

    I do uphold Wikipedia policy, which I think you and I agree on in principle. A recent proposal by me was that we ” encourage all admins to grab a whole bunch of these [unsourced BLP] articles, do a revision check, and delete the useless things before they bite somebody.” I think that’s a sensible suggestion, though I don’t mind waiting a couple of months to see whether the effort to source them picks up again.

  5. Hi Tony,

    OK I won’t take you literally on “If Wikipedia is harming somebody, name the article and it will be zapped.” I think we both know that there are things that people would like airbrushed out of their past, but you and I are both concerned about people using Wikipedia to lie about other people or just as bad only cover the negative issues.

    As for “encourage all admins to grab a whole bunch of these [unsourced BLP] articles, do a revision check, and delete the useless things before they bite somebody.” I’ve been involved in this unreferenced Biography saga all year, at the first RFC I was one of the first to suggest that the solution was to tighten the rules about the creation of new unreferenced BLPs. When we implemented that I was involved in the project to trawl through all 12,000 that didn’t have project tags other than to wikiproject biography, check there was nothing obviously harmful in them and tag them for relevant projects. As an admin I’ve done over 5,000 deletions on Wikipedia, many of them attack pages, but to be honest my deletions per wikihour fell when I was trawling the unreferenced BLPs because I find it much easier to find contentious material elsewhere.

  6. I’ve seen this conclusion expressed again and again as if it was a reason not to delete unsourced BLPs. Just because other articles may be a worse problem, does not mean that we should not tackle this clear and obvious problem which is easily resolved.

    An unsourced article is unverifiable. It must not exist because it contravenes almost every policy we have, not just verifiability. Without sources, we don’t know whether it’s original research, and we have no way of evaluating whether it’s reasonably neutral (film star X is the most popular of his generation–says who?)

    So we can get rid of this problem quickly and easily, without prejudice to those who genuinely intend to create the well sourced, neutral and verifiable articles we should perhaps have had on the topic all along.

    Further, doing this would leave us with more time to spend on the problems you have found in other biographical articles which are harder to assess because they do cite some source which must be examined and evaluated.

  7. You ask what the biggest problem is on Wikipedia … well it’s people like you!

    I have a very simple philosophy: everyone can contribute and as such everyone should have the opportunity to contribute. You appear to have entirely the opposite viewpoint … only those you agree with should contribute.

    I have the view that where there is a disagreement, both sides (or the many sides as is usual) should be heard. Indeed, I think we should encourage debate, encourage those who would not normally speak up or who are repressed to express their views. You clearly have the view, that where there is a disagreement it is only your view that should be heard.

    Of course I perfectly respect your right to express your own views even if that view is that I shouldn’t be heard.

    5,4,3,2,1 …. this message will be deleted because you don’t ever accept views you don’t agree with.

  8. Mike, I suspect that your statements here may be related to your views on global warming as not “science as I was taught it.”, which are not reflected in the science and consequently don’t appear on Wikipedia’s scientific articles, though your viewpoint is covered encyclopedically and at length in the Wikipedia articles about the politics of climate science.

    Wikipedia has many editors who share your views. The deal is that they get to write facts, including the facts about opinions. They don’t get to make up their own facts and insert them into the article.

  9. Jason Scott has said all that is necessary about the problems with Wikipedia.

  10. Chuck, the name didn’t sound familiar so I did a little search. Do you mean this guy?

    http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/808

    That was written in November 2004, coincidentally in the same month during which I made my first edits on Wikipedia. Since then the project has grown to several times the original size, the quality of the articles has improved greatly, and many more editors have participated.

    No doubt you’re aware of the famous study published in Nature where subject specialists were asked to look at Wikipedia articles on science topics and compare them to the Britannica articles. The quality of the writing was always higher in Britannica, but the number of factual mistakes in the Wikipedia articles was in the same ball park as in the Britannica articles. Britannica issued a rebuttal, but could not change the facts.

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