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Whinging about Wikipedia 
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: Whinging about Wikipedia
Nick Doten wrote:
while i may be the only sentient being with a net connection who has NEVER visited WP, I do want to echo a bit of Jim's latest posting cc the concentration of knowledge (power) into a single entity

when/if this occurs, Jim is right to fear that this knowledge may become for only the privileged and all too rational- look backwards into history and see how keeping the general populace ignorant is directly related to their enslavement- it occurs over and over- you say that couldn't happen in this age? hmmmmmm....... maybe not in a generation, especially if books still remain, but over time, when people have gotten "lazy" and general reading has become so passe, books will fall into disuse and turn to dust and nothing new is being published, then you have the makings of tyranny ! holy hanna was that a run on sentence or ?

bread and circuses....bread and circuses........ smile and take your happy pill........don't worry big brother will handle all the details cuz we know all <sheeesh don't we have WP?>- isn't ignorance bliss ? revel in it

lol just having a little fun <and trembling at this thought>

Nick

That's a little over-reaching. It's a pop resource, not used at all in 95% of the research applications that exist in what we laughingly call the real world. I think we're safe -- for the near term, anyway.


Sat Feb 28, 2009 9:59 pm
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NitroForum Oldster

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Post Re: Whinging about Wikipedia
Yes, in the near term, my post would appear a mite laughable- what's scary though is watching what is acceptable "research" for my high school aged kids- at best one hard copy source is acceptable in a LARGE writing project- the rest can be on line sources!!! As the ease of just googling for material proliferates, the hard work of seeking within authoritative texts accordingly diminishes !

what happens when the online data source becomes so broad that it becomes acceptable as a sole source of info ? what occurs when this info source becomes one humongous data base (with appropriate government oversight)? - it's a frightening progression- seriously, i'm not, at heart, a fear monger. What happens when you/I begin connecting the dots ? at the very least you're faced with apprehensions of where we're headed as a culture- why do hard research when your computer can perform the gathering and sorting (and perhaps eventually) the correlation of all the materials ? what happens when your info sources are controlled by one authority? corruption- to who's benefit?

the quest for power in the name of "right" ? who determines what's right? it's a type of gordian knot

beware for whom the computer tolls, for it tolls for thee (my apologies to Mr. Poe)

Nick


Sun Mar 01, 2009 9:31 am
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Post Re: Whinging about Wikipedia
There is a difference in viewpoints throughout this thread that I think is confusing things.

From the perspective of a properly educated and trained scholar, WP is a minor pop-culture phenomenon with interesting if casual purposes. You'll get no argument from me that this is a valid viewpoint. Very little of my concern comes from what might be called "skilled misuse" of WP and its contents. Several of you have spent a lot of words dismissing my comments from this viewpoint - which is largely irrelevant to the gist of what I'm saying.

The other perspective is that the vast number of more casual users assign too much validity to WP's content, and its relative stature. I have seen people say that "this isn't just from some web page, it's from WIKIPEDIA!" as if there was much difference. I suppose you can dismiss this phenomenon because these aren't academics talking in an academic framework to an academic audience, and thus somehow beneath concern (yes, Baylink, I think this squarely addresses your posts).

I think it is of some concern when the large base of nonacademic, untrained users assigns more weight and validity to a source like WP than is justified. Far more of influence is written by what might be loosely summarized as non-academics than by formal academics - and if these creators of pop influence are using faulty data, is the net effect on some large mass of readers any less than the smaller impact of a flaw within a formal framework?

Even that's not my real concern here, though. It's that writers, researchers, even "academics" who should know better are beginning to use WP as a source at a level it does not rate, blindly citing its contents and even secondary content like conclusions as if it came from a more validated source. It's this "validity creep" that really troubles me.

I don't think there's any point in further discussion of how academics do or don't or should or shouldn't see or use WP - we can close that argument as it's been closed several times, that we can assume the pros know better and those that don't will get their comeuppance in due time.

The concern is influential amateur use, and the evidence that even semi-pros are getting sloppy about their interpretation of WP, and that this problem is growing more widespread.


Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:44 am
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Post Re: Whinging about Wikipedia
James wrote:
Even that's not my real concern here, though. It's that writers, researchers, even "academics" who should know better are beginning to use WP as a source at a level it does not rate, blindly citing its contents and even secondary content like conclusions as if it came from a more validated source. It's this "validity creep" that really troubles me.

Sure. And I don't have any argument with you on that point.

*My* problem is that you're blaming *Wikipedia* for it, which seems to me akin to blaming Smith & Wesson for the murder rate in New Orleans.

It's not *our* (I've been a Wikipedian for about 6 years now) fault that people misuse us. We go out of our way to avoid it; our policies and procedures militate against it (though you seem to think otherwise). If people are going to do it anyway, that just means there are a lot of stupid people in the world.

If there were a magic way to make all handguns completely vanish forever, then gun crim would drop a lot. And cops and the military wouldn't have guns.

Is *that* a trade you'd want to make?

Baby. Bathwater.


Mon Mar 02, 2009 6:52 am
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Post Re: Whinging about Wikipedia
Baylink wrote:
*My* problem is that you're blaming *Wikipedia* for it...

Point to where I am doing any such thing. I don't see where I have assigned any blame for the problem except that WP has a terribly faulty operational scheme.

Quote:
It's not *our* (I've been a Wikipedian for about 6 years now) fault that people misuse us.

Ah. To quote a recent thought, maybe this is more about... you?... than anything else.


Mon Mar 02, 2009 8:08 am
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Post Re: Whinging about Wikipedia
James Gifford wrote:
But if I want to post, say, that the cover art for Sheryl Crow's latest album has a small green frog peeping in from the lower left corner,* what expertise or citation should I provide? A letter from Sheryl? A link to the artist's web site? A herpetologist's paper on Amazonian Green-Faced Frogs? Or is my "unsupported" word, which can be verified by anyone who looks at the cover in question, good enough?

In fact, it is. Policy states that anything which describes something which can be easily discerned by anyone who looks at the object in question need not be sourced.

Clearly, of course, "things which can be bought at WalMart" are in a different category here than "things under glass in the Vatican Museum"...


Mon Mar 02, 2009 2:21 pm
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Post Re: Whinging about Wikipedia
You asked me, James, where you had *blamed* Wikipedia for how people use it.

James wrote:
It scares me how many people use WP material to bolster critical arguments as if it's a real, trustworthy reference. It's the Rush Limbaugh of the internet, two-faced as hell: meant to be taken as serious, respectable and accurate, thought of as such by far too many people who should know better, but when pressed, folds into a limp "Oh, [I'm just an entertainer | it's just a collective knowledge pool]" excuse-o-rama.


The Rush Limbaugh of the Internet sounds to me like assigning motivation, and therefore blame, yes.

JG wrote:
With all respect, Will, that's what I'd regard as an irrelevant tangent. It is, IMVVHO, the underlying concept and mechanism of WP that is the danger, not any one surface facet - or any number of surface facets. WP represents a dangerous shift in the notions of expertise and reference standards that is being overlooked or dismissed because, by gosh, the entry on Cesium is just as good as the EB's.

It's not entirely clear what's the subject in that graf, and what's the object, but I think a case could be made that this supports my assertion as well.

Peter wrote:
I assert that this bolsters my earlier claim that many eyeballs lead to good results. I would expect more errors in articles about politics or current affairs that deal with topics of much less general interest; hence the reports about (relatively) obscure figures having bogus names, bogus deaths, and bogus assassinations. But in all honesty, I have yet to see anything in Wikipedia that would cause me to have even a mild tremor, let alone the 8.5 earthquake Jim experiences.

And I agree with Peter, and the issue has been studied in some depth, and those people too would take issue, I think, with your disparaging characterization of the WP process as "people voting on the facts".

Bill wrote:
Well, my point was that Wikipedia is NOT accepted as an authoritative source, and is not likely ever to be, for much the same reason the WBB was not. WBB was not rejected back in the day because it was dumbed down, but because it pandered to popular prejudices of turnofthetwentieth American culture and included a lot of questionable factual material with no way to distinguish what was questionable and what was not. So the WBB and Funk & Wagnalls was a small-scale forecast of the problems of Wikipedia.

But that's not the real issue, Bill. The real issue is that *Britannica* (Galacta? :-) is not acceptable as a primary source, either.

JG wrote:
But what about when it isn't? What about when we've passively or actively turned all our collective knowledge over to Google the Mighty? When libraries close because no one uses them any more except as internet kiosks (already happening); when no one has any personal cache of references because it's just mouse clicks away? (Sad to say, that includes me - our net connection was down the other night and I had no current VideoHound to look up a film datum... stopped buying them years ago because of IMDb.)

And that's... whose fault?

JG wrote:
As much as you are trying to dismiss the problem as one of semantics and a few poorly educated individuals, it is real, it is here and it is only going to get worse as the understanding of what a reference is declines. We've never had anything like WP around before, so comparisons with WB etc. are at best shallow. If this doesn't bother you, go back to sleep - and hope the guy who designed that semi's brakes, you know, the one rounding the corner near your house, got his numbers from a valid source.

Well, if he didn't, someone will lift his engineering license, and sue him and his employer... which is to say: that's a strawman, as well.

I'm not saying there's not a problem. But if you're saying that my driving over the bridge to downtown Tampa, taking the elevator to the 14th floor of the Acme building, and walking around with a Really Big Degausser is the solution, I think you're wrong.

On re-reading this entire thread, though, I don't think that I've seen you advance a *solution*... just whinge on about the problem. Do you *have* a proposed solution? Even if it does involve degaussers and sleeping gas?

JG wrote:
I have seen people say that "this isn't just from some web page, it's from WIKIPEDIA!" as if there was much difference.

There's quite a bit of difference.

Let me give you an analogy.

The State of New York has for some years outlawed traffic enforcement by actual cops in unmarked vehicles.

Why?

Cause it's too easy to *imitate* a "cop in an unmarked vehicle", and then rape, assault or extort the person who stops. You have no skin in the game, driving around in a tan Crown Vic.

It's an entirely different matter driving around in a *marked* cruiser, with vinyl and beacons all over it: the odds of a *real* cop coming across you and figuring out that you'd be a pretty good person to arrest are *several orders of magnitude higher* in that case.

And Wikipedia is in the same circumstance. People assign a higher perceived weight to its information because *it's a high profile target*. And the smart ones can get a fairly reliable idea of the provenance of any page or section thereof from the history and other tools the engine provides.

So, no, I don't think that it's unreasonable for people to assign it a higher weight than ... well, than your Site:RAH, for example. As the old Byte/McGraw Hill ads used to say "who are you?"

Is that always a reliable metric? Or course not. Does WP go out of its way to make it possible for people to *determine* whether that information has any validity? Sure it does. Is that Good Enough? Well, apparently, not for you.

But, again: do you have a solution to propose? Or is this thread properly titled after all? :-)


Mon Mar 02, 2009 2:58 pm
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Post Re: Whinging about Wikipedia
No, I don't have a solution to propose. (I don't subscribe to the theory of net pleasantness that says one must include a workable solution as part of any post decrying something.)

I think you've gone out of your way to selectively quote and interpret what I've said. I don't and have not "blamed Wikipedia" for anything. It's not any part of my criticism or viewpoint. I don't think the founders/movers/shakers have an unimpeachable rationale or viewpoint about their baby, but I don't "blame" them. It's a collective problem (and would need a collective solution).

On the other hand, rereading all your posts in light of you being a "six year Wikipedian" changes their interpretation quite a bit, IMHO. They start to sound a lot like the howling of tender toes.

I've really said all I have to say in this thread and really don't wish to devolve to me said/ye said hashing. I retain deep reservations about WP and all it represents, and those representing it, and the growing number who misrepresent and misuse it. If you want to take away that it's some personal problem of mine, I'm happy to leave it at that.


Mon Mar 02, 2009 4:33 pm
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Post Re: Whinging about Wikipedia
I don't edit enough to be talking it personally, I don't think, no.

And since the thread is titled what it is, complaining without suggesting a solution is perfectly acceptable.

So, certainly, nolo contendere.


Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:23 am
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