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Whinging about Wikipedia 
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PITA Bred
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Post Re: Favorite Heinlein Short Story
freesharon wrote:
Here's a link to a [expletive deleted] category page for Heinlein's short stories: Category:Short stories by Robert A. Heinlein
I can't vouch for it's completeness or accuracy.

Of course you can't vouch for it, nor can anyone else. It's Wack-O-Pedia.

Might I quite 'umbly suggest: The Published Heinlein, which I can vouch for accuracy-wise.

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Mon May 05, 2008 5:19 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Heinlein Short Story
James Gifford wrote:
freesharon wrote:
Here's a link to a [expletive deleted] category page for Heinlein's short stories: Category:Short stories by Robert A. Heinlein
I can't vouch for it's completeness or accuracy.

Of course you can't vouch for it, nor can anyone else. It's Wack-O-Pedia.

Might I quite 'umbly suggest: The Published Heinlein, which I can vouch for accuracy-wise.

Absolutely agree, and thanks for the better link, but...
I do love wikipedia despite it's flaws; it accurately gauges what the average Joe thinks he knows, and what has percolated into general awareness, whether it be truth or urban legend, revisionist history or plain old propaganda (like the history I was taught in public schools in the 60's). There is lots of Heinlein there and that is a good thing. (Do a google search with the string 'Heinlein wikipedia' and you get 229,000 hits.) The inaccuracies I've found are generally the inaccuracies introduced by Heinlein himself in his 'official' author's biographical notes or -- less amusing -- the standard inaccuracies introduced by his critics.

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Tue May 06, 2008 5:02 am
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Post Re: Favorite Heinlein Short Story
freesharon wrote:
I do love wikipedia despite it's flaws; it accurately gauges what the average Joe thinks he knows, and what has percolated into general awareness, whether it be truth or urban legend, revisionist history or plain old propaganda (like the history I was taught in public schools in the 60's). There is lots of Heinlein there and that is a good thing. (Do a google search with the string 'Heinlein wikipedia' and you get 229,000 hits.) The inaccuracies I've found are generally the inaccuracies introduced by Heinlein himself in his 'official' author's biographical notes or -- less amusing -- the standard inaccuracies introduced by his critics.

Where to begin...

First, I don't believe in voting on the facts, which encapsulates Wikipedia in a phrase.

Second, over fifteen years ago I got tired of shoveling back the tide of nonsense - those things that "everyone knew" about Heinlein or this work or that work and impeded every single discussion, sometimes repeatedly - and spent the better part of a decade assembling, writing and seeing to publication a thoroughly vetted and accurate reference work. It's a little wearying to have the ball passed back to a fun, populist fact-mangler in the name of some sort of twisted egalitarianism. *sigh*

No offense to you intended, Sharon. I just think you've chosen to defend something that is indefensible. Pop crap - sure, I'll turn to the Wikipedia entry. Anything where the correct facts are important - there shouldn't even be a Wikipedia entry.

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Tue May 06, 2008 7:23 am
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Post Re: Favorite Heinlein Short Story
James Gifford wrote:
No offense to you intended, Sharon. I just think you've chosen to defend something that is indefensible. Pop crap - sure, I'll turn to the Wikipedia entry. Anything where the correct facts are important - there shouldn't even be a Wikipedia entry.


I can barely believe I'm doing this, because I'm not particularly enamored of Wikipedia even though I use it a lot, but bearing in mind Heinlein's edict about facts, I must point out the facts I am aware of in this respect: http://www.news.com/2100-1038_3-5997332.html. Summary: Wikipedia is about as accurate as the Brittanica.

I would have liked to have seen a different result because I don't think facts should be voted on either, but there it is. Now, I am NOT disagreeing with you about the entries for anything Heinleinian or anything else specific for that matter; I didn't see a standard deviation quoted and I'm quite ready to believe that there are many more problems in certain pages. However, at the moment, the only scientific study I am aware of suggests that your blanket condemnation is unwarranted and I have to respect that. Unless you would apply the same opprobium to the Britannica, of course.


Tue May 06, 2008 11:31 am
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Post Re: Favorite Heinlein Short Story
Peter Scott wrote:
James Gifford wrote:
No offense to you intended, Sharon. I just think you've chosen to defend something that is indefensible. Pop crap - sure, I'll turn to the Wikipedia entry. Anything where the correct facts are important - there shouldn't even be a Wikipedia entry.

I can barely believe I'm doing this, because I'm not particularly enamored of Wikipedia even though I use it a lot, but bearing in mind Heinlein's edict about facts, I must point out the facts I am aware of in this respect: http://www.news.com/2100-1038_3-5997332.html. Summary: Wikipedia is about as accurate as the Brittanica.

I would have liked to have seen a different result because I don't think facts should be voted on either, but there it is. Now, I am NOT disagreeing with you about the entries for anything Heinleinian or anything else specific for that matter; I didn't see a standard deviation quoted and I'm quite ready to believe that there are many more problems in certain pages. However, at the moment, the only scientific study I am aware of suggests that your blanket condemnation is unwarranted and I have to respect that. Unless you would apply the same opprobium to the Britannica, of course.

I guess I should admit that I was pretty sure a reference to wikipedia would get some discussion started, and on this board I can count on the tone of a disagreement not becoming disagreeable and simultaneously revealing new information, as in these posts of yours. I figured that if that Heinlein short story page was terribly flawed, someone whose collection was not boxed up for a move would check it and say so. (Did anyone notice any omissions?)
I work at a college where students are not allowed to use wikipedia as a reference -- the nature of the site makes that appropriate (although not so much so as I thought before I read the article associated with the link Peter referenced) -- but I love following links from their articles to other sources generally considered more reliable. I've followed links from Heinlein articles to sites for a number of other authors, philosophers, and philosophies, and bought and enjoyed a number of books I found further down those paths. It's a (lazy) way to get to interesting new places.
It's also a great way to see what the popular misconceptions are, and that can be valuable information. During my twenties there was a full year when I did a tarot reading everyday, noting the layout and my interpretation and the actual events of the day in my journal. I wasn't testing tarot; I was testing my bias regarding possible immediate futures. I learned a great deal about how to fool this fool, and hopefully reduced the potential for others to do the same. Watching wikipedia articles grow has some of that about it, too. It might be important to know what fallacies about, say, energy sources and recent history are becoming generally accepted as fact.

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Tue May 06, 2008 12:07 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Heinlein Short Story
Peter Scott wrote:
Summary: Wikipedia is about as accurate as the Brittanica.

Yes! It's true! Wikipedia and Brittanica use exactly the same 26 letters, ten digits and dozen-odd punctuation marks! They're equal, folks!

It's really a "look closer" situation. That sampling was extremely selective and touched only on topics where an easy verification of content could be done. Wikipedia's problems are real, enormous and not fixable unless the model is changed so much that it's no longer the same thing.

I am beyond dismayed that we've devolved to the point where it's argued that a fluxing, open-access, collective-contribution cesspool is 'jest as good' as references produced by real, verified experts and produced by proper publishing processes. It's the ultimate expression of "everybody's just as good as anybody else"-think.

If Heinlein were alive, he'd die laughing.

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Tue May 06, 2008 5:13 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Heinlein Short Story
freesharon wrote:
Watching wikipedia articles grow has some of that about it, too. It might be important to know what fallacies about, say, energy sources and recent history are becoming generally accepted as fact.

It should be no difficulty for you to understand how damnably dangerous this is. Wikipedia doesn't present itself as a blog, or Joe Sixpack's web page, or an advertisement. It presents and claims it's a reference. A reference is something that is inherently trustworthy and proven to the limits of the expertise embedded in it, not a place to throw dirty underwear at the wall to see what sticks. To use a truly hoary cliche, at one time "everybody knew the world was flat." Popular belief and widespread misinformation does not equal correctness. We don't vote on the facts, ma'am.

Wikipedia is just another web page - no better, no worse, and no more reliable. But more and more I see it cited, by both the ignorant and those who should damned well know better, as if it is a verified reference. It's not, and nothing is more dismaying here than the degradation in understanding of what "reference" and "expertise" and "validity" mean.

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Tue May 06, 2008 5:17 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Heinlein Short Story
James Gifford wrote:
Wikipedia is just another web page - no better, no worse, and no more reliable. But more and more I see it cited, by both the ignorant and those who should damned well know better, as if it is a verified reference. It's not, and nothing is more dismaying here than the degradation in understanding of what "reference" and "expertise" and "validity" mean.


Stop mealy-mouthing, Jim! How do you really feel about Wikipedia? :?:

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Tue May 06, 2008 6:10 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Heinlein Short Story
Jack Kelly wrote:
Stop mealy-mouthing, Jim! How do you really feel about Wikipedia? :?:

This is what comes of working with Sir Richard Burton stuff all day. :lol:

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Tue May 06, 2008 6:34 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Heinlein Short Story
James Gifford wrote:
freesharon wrote:
Watching wikipedia articles grow has some of that about it, too. It might be important to know what fallacies about, say, energy sources and recent history are becoming generally accepted as fact.

It should be no difficulty for you to understand how damnably dangerous this is.

Dangerous trends need to be watched, no? Is that not what I said I was doing? However, I am not so black and white as to insist that if wikipedia spelled Heinlein 'Heinlein' it must be wrong. No one has mentioned finding errors on the page in question (the list of short story titles) but even if they did that would not mean that I couldn't find links there to other valuable sources (including a very interesting article written by a member of this forum, at http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/works/novels/ifthisogoeson.html) that I might or might not have found as quickly following another path.
I see it a lot like watching television. If you accept everything you see as truth, you're in trouble. If you're smart enough to pour pee out of a boot without wetting yourself, you know that it's not true just because you saw it on something called 'the news'.

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Wed May 07, 2008 5:06 am
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