Contribute to Wikipedia

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John F
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Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by John F » Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:33 am

Recently I've seen a banner at the top of Wikipedia pages inviting readers to make a contribution - not in writing but in money. It links to a solicitation from Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia:
A decade after its founding, nearly 400 million people use Wikipedia and its sister sites every month - almost a third of the Internet-connected world.

It is the 5th most popular website in the world - but Wikipedia isn’t anything like a commercial website. It is a community creation, written by volunteers making one entry at a time. You are part of our community. And I’m writing today to ask you to protect and sustain Wikipedia.

Together, we can keep it free of charge and free of advertising. We can keep it open – you can use the information in Wikipedia any way you want. We can keep it growing – spreading knowledge everywhere, and inviting participation from everyone.

Each year at this time, we reach out to ask you and others all across the Wikimedia community to help sustain our joint enterprise with a modest donation of $20, $35, $50 or more.

If you value Wikipedia as a source of information – and a source of inspiration – I hope you’ll choose to act right now.
If you're like me, you're constantly using Wikipedia to check this or find out that, and you rarely come up empty. The quantity of information is almost impossible to grasp - over 10 million articles in 273 languages, 3.5 million in English. And early skepticism about quality has pretty much subsided as Wikipedia has stood up well to comparisons with print encyclopedias. Indeed, Wikipedia is updated so quickly as to leave Britannica et al. in the dust. Which is what has been gathering on my Columbia Encyclopedia for some years now.

Less familiar horses in the same stable are Wiktionary, a dictionary and thesaurus; Wikiquote, a dictionary of quotations; Wikispecies, a directory of species; and a bunch of others, linked to here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

So I'm making a modest contribution of $20, and encouraging others to do the same. Keeping Wikipedia up is not cost-free, their operating budget for the year is $20 million, and while they aren't in financial trouble, we shouldn't let them get into trouble. If you feel likewise, here's where to do your part:

http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/WMF ... ry_code=US
John Francis

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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by living_stradivarius » Wed Nov 17, 2010 6:55 am

Definitely worth maintaining. I download the full dump of Wikipedia every few months and store it in my iPad for full offline access :)
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Chalkperson
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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:21 pm

living_stradivarius wrote:Definitely worth maintaining. I download the full dump of Wikipedia every few months and store it in my iPad for full offline access :)
I do the same thing...
Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:26 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
living_stradivarius wrote:Definitely worth maintaining. I download the full dump of Wikipedia every few months and store it in my iPad for full offline access :)
I do the same thing...
:lol: I didn't look at the author of Henry's post, saw iPad, and assumed it was from Chalkie!

I write the questions for the local high school interscholastic Academic Bowl league, and I would not want to do it without being able to jump back and forth to Wikipedia, often cutting and pasting.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by jack stowaway » Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:43 pm

I use Wikipedia practically every day. It's hard to think of a more valuable internet resource. The information is not only accurate (as far as I can judge) but often surprisingly subtle and insightful where critical analysis is an issue.

John F
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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by John F » Wed Nov 17, 2010 4:08 pm

Then let's put our money where our mouses are! :)
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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by slofstra » Thu Nov 18, 2010 9:44 am

I think they are mind police on controversial subjects. They won't get a penny from me. I prefer to see a diverse array of information sources. Sure, it's a good tool because the Internet has facilitated plagiarism from sources that you previously paid for. At some point people will see that an information monopoly is not a good thing.

John F
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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by John F » Thu Nov 18, 2010 3:23 pm

Henry, you're way off base. Wikipedia's managers are determined that it be an encyclopedia, not an ideological battlefield, and that's one of the reasons it's as reliable and useful as it is.

Most of the articles are indeed based on a diverse array of information sources, with footnotes identifying them. But as encyclopedias go, Wikipedia is less "policed" than any other in existence. That was its founding principle and remains its essential nature, with occasional exceptions when people with axes to grind, try to coopt Wikipedia to grind them.

To speak of Wikipedia as an "information monopoly," though it's resident on the World Wide Web where information floods in from all directions, is just perverse. People use it not because they have no alternative, but because they find it so darned useful. What's the problem?

As for plagiarism, chapter and verse, please. Any encyclopedia article is based on sources, but that's not plagiarism; and the many Wikipedia articles I've consulted in various ways all appear to have been written for Wikipedia, not copied and pasted from elsewhere. Because Wikipedia allows it, you will find many of its articles copied and pasted to elsewhere, usually without acknowledgment. But that's the cart, and Wikipedia is the horse.

From what you say, I suppose you'd have no use for any encyclopedia. Naturally, then, you wouldn't want to support this one - fair enough. But let's not try to lay the blame on Wikipedia!
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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by slofstra » Thu Nov 18, 2010 5:46 pm

John F wrote:Henry, you're way off base. Wikipedia's managers are determined that it be an encyclopedia, not an ideological battlefield, and that's one of the reasons it's as reliable and useful as it is.

Most of the articles are indeed based on a diverse array of information sources, with footnotes identifying them. But as encyclopedias go, Wikipedia is less "policed" than any other in existence. That was its founding principle and remains its essential nature, with occasional exceptions when people with axes to grind, try to coopt Wikipedia to grind them.

To speak of Wikipedia as an "information monopoly," though it's resident on the World Wide Web where information floods in from all directions, is just perverse. People use it not because they have no alternative, but because they find it so darned useful. What's the problem?

As for plagiarism, chapter and verse, please. Any encyclopedia article is based on sources, but that's not plagiarism; and the many Wikipedia articles I've consulted in various ways all appear to have been written for Wikipedia, not copied and pasted from elsewhere. Because Wikipedia allows it, you will find many of its articles copied and pasted to elsewhere, usually without acknowledgment. But that's the cart, and Wikipedia is the horse.

From what you say, I suppose you'd have no use for any encyclopedia. Naturally, then, you wouldn't want to support this one - fair enough. But let's not try to lay the blame on Wikipedia!

I use wikipedia all the time and find it quite useful. That doesn't mean I don't have concerns about it. Believe me, Wikipedia editors do not follow their own guidelines, and the concerns I express are shared by others. Just search the Wall Street Journal or other newspaper on 'wikipedia'. They are supposed to be a tertiary source, and use only reliable sources, but in actual fact, anything goes in the more obscure areas of knowledge, especially when it comes to politics and religion. Sure, they're good when you want to read about Beethoven or Christopher Columbus. That's because they just crib information out of existing reliable sources for those articles. But when it comes to new areas of knowledge and the controversial areas I mentioned there is no peer review, no editorial oversight based on experience, it's mainly a free-for-all. If you're really interested I can dig up a number of examples, but I'm not sure what difference it would make.

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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by slofstra » Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:31 pm

For example, here is an editor who made a large number of pro-Islam edits most of which have been shown to be false.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia: ... 5/Evidence

Believe me, there is a big problem with governance, and the size of wiki is one of the issues. I was personally involved with one or two articles, which were being written based on non-reliable sources. I took my complaint to a review board which was supposed to assess the complaint. They simply don't have enough editors to review all the complaints that come up, so nothing was done.

Take a semi-controversial topic like Naturopathy. Here are the disputes that have come up, just today:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Naturopathy

One of the worst problems is that editors and writers are anonymous so conflicts of interest (COI) cannot be properly sorted out. Nevertheless, there are constant COI disputes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Coin

Here is the noticeboard for resolving sourcing disputes. Note this is just the last couple of days worth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:RSN

Again, you don't see these problems when you read about Beethoven or Bach, but there are thousands of articles with problems of one kind or another.

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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by living_stradivarius » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:37 am

slofstra wrote:For example, here is an editor who made a large number of pro-Islam edits most of which have been shown to be false.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia: ... 5/Evidence

Believe me, there is a big problem with governance, and the size of wiki is one of the issues. I was personally involved with one or two articles, which were being written based on non-reliable sources. I took my complaint to a review board which was supposed to assess the complaint. They simply don't have enough editors to review all the complaints that come up, so nothing was done.

Take a semi-controversial topic like Naturopathy. Here are the disputes that have come up, just today:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Naturopathy

One of the worst problems is that editors and writers are anonymous so conflicts of interest (COI) cannot be properly sorted out. Nevertheless, there are constant COI disputes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Coin

Here is the noticeboard for resolving sourcing disputes. Note this is just the last couple of days worth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:RSN

Again, you don't see these problems when you read about Beethoven or Bach, but there are thousands of articles with problems of one kind or another.
Very cool stuff. thanks! Thomas Friedman's article in NYTimes about factchecking fits in nicely with these
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Jean
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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by Jean » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:38 am

I look at Wikipedia often enough to call it a friend. However, for any serious research, I find it useful not as an end resource but as providing a promising list of resources on the topic of interest to get started.
Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population. - Albert Einstein

I haven't got the slightest idea how to change people, but still I keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out - David Sedaris (Naked)

John F
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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by John F » Sat Nov 20, 2010 3:00 am

slofstra wrote:Believe me, Wikipedia editors do not follow their own guidelines, and the concerns I express are shared by others. Just search the Wall Street Journal or other newspaper on 'wikipedia'. They are supposed to be a tertiary source, and use only reliable sources, but in actual fact, anything goes in the more obscure areas of knowledge, especially when it comes to politics and religion. Sure, they're good when you want to read about Beethoven or Christopher Columbus. That's because they just crib information out of existing reliable sources for those articles. But when it comes to new areas of knowledge and the controversial areas I mentioned there is no peer review, no editorial oversight based on experience, it's mainly a free-for-all. If you're really interested I can dig up a number of examples, but I'm not sure what difference it would make.
Well, yes, Wikipedia is literally a free-for-all. :) It is also literally a work in progress, and at any given time you can find articles that are skimpy, or poorly documented, or (as in your examples) a battlefield on controversial subjects. We have to decide for ourselves, then, whether what Wikipedia offers is reliable, or at least better than nothing. As we should with anything and everything that we read.

All encyclopedias and reference works always "just crib information out of existing reliable sources," if you choose to put it that way, though of course not word for word without quotation marks. Do you imagine that the Encyclopaedia Britannica and New Grove are a medium for original thinking and research? Their reliability depends on the reliability of their sources.

No question but that Wikipedia's staff is too small to resolve every issue that every user chooses to bring up. However, I do see box comments in articles saying that facts are undocumented or in dispute. Having been warned, we can decide for ourselves whether the article is nonetheless reliable, or if we can't, then disregard it altogether. No other encyclopedia I know of puts its own lacunae up front like that.

Now to your examples. For the pro-Islamic slant, I checked out the "Thousand and One Nights" situation, and found that the sentence objected to, that this work was the first to use a particular stylistic device, is no longer in the Wikipedia article. To me, this is an example of how the Wikipedia system works to purge inaccuracy.

As for Naturopathy, the Wikipedia article includes 94, yes, 94 source footnotes, and the dispute seems to be over the reliability of some of the sources. I have no interest at all in the subject, but note that in the first paragraph, the article makes clear that "Naturopathy comprises many different treatment modalities of varying degrees of acceptance by the medical community; these treatments range from standard evidence-based diet and lifestyle advice, to homeopathy and other practices often characterized as pseudoscience or quackery." For me that is sufficient warning that this is a controversial subject and much that is said about it is likely to be disputed and may well be wrong. If I were to read on, which I have no interest in doing, my guard would be up. Meanwhile, the issue has been brought to Wikipedia's attention and a vigorous if perhaps not resolvable debate is going on. This encourages me.

As for conflict of interest, I'm in the process of writing a Wikipedia article about my father to replace the stub that's there now. He was an important and distinguished scholar in an important field, computerized linguistics, and nobody but me (and my brother) has the resources and the incentive to do his career justice. So I'm arguably the expert on the subject. If anyone claims that nothing I write about my father's work can be properly objective because of my relationship to him, I say that's just not true, and my piece will stand any scrutiny that anybody might want to bring to it.

Conflicts of interest only matter when the writer actually distorts the facts to serve his/her/their private purposes. With a readership of millions, many with their own axes to grind, I should think such distorted writing is more likely to be outed and corrected than if it appeared in the pages of a conventional encyclopedia. Your examples suggest that it is, at least sometimes.

One reason I've given Wikipedia my dime is to help it become even better than it is. You say you use Wikipedia all the time and find it quite useful. Well, how about it?
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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by slofstra » Mon Nov 29, 2010 9:13 pm

Jean wrote:I look at Wikipedia often enough to call it a friend. However, for any serious research, I find it useful not as an end resource but as providing a promising list of resources on the topic of interest to get started.
Yes, taken with that caveat it's just fine. It has pretensions to be more than just that though and that I find worrisome.

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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by slofstra » Mon Nov 29, 2010 9:17 pm

John F wrote:
slofstra wrote:Believe me, Wikipedia editors do not follow their own guidelines, and the concerns I express are shared by others. Just search the Wall Street Journal or other newspaper on 'wikipedia'. They are supposed to be a tertiary source, and use only reliable sources, but in actual fact, anything goes in the more obscure areas of knowledge, especially when it comes to politics and religion. Sure, they're good when you want to read about Beethoven or Christopher Columbus. That's because they just crib information out of existing reliable sources for those articles. But when it comes to new areas of knowledge and the controversial areas I mentioned there is no peer review, no editorial oversight based on experience, it's mainly a free-for-all. If you're really interested I can dig up a number of examples, but I'm not sure what difference it would make.
Well, yes, Wikipedia is literally a free-for-all. :) It is also literally a work in progress, and at any given time you can find articles that are skimpy, or poorly documented, or (as in your examples) a battlefield on controversial subjects. We have to decide for ourselves, then, whether what Wikipedia offers is reliable, or at least better than nothing. As we should with anything and everything that we read.

All encyclopedias and reference works always "just crib information out of existing reliable sources," if you choose to put it that way, though of course not word for word without quotation marks. Do you imagine that the Encyclopaedia Britannica and New Grove are a medium for original thinking and research? Their reliability depends on the reliability of their sources.

No question but that Wikipedia's staff is too small to resolve every issue that every user chooses to bring up. However, I do see box comments in articles saying that facts are undocumented or in dispute. Having been warned, we can decide for ourselves whether the article is nonetheless reliable, or if we can't, then disregard it altogether. No other encyclopedia I know of puts its own lacunae up front like that.

Now to your examples. For the pro-Islamic slant, I checked out the "Thousand and One Nights" situation, and found that the sentence objected to, that this work was the first to use a particular stylistic device, is no longer in the Wikipedia article. To me, this is an example of how the Wikipedia system works to purge inaccuracy.

As for Naturopathy, the Wikipedia article includes 94, yes, 94 source footnotes, and the dispute seems to be over the reliability of some of the sources. I have no interest at all in the subject, but note that in the first paragraph, the article makes clear that "Naturopathy comprises many different treatment modalities of varying degrees of acceptance by the medical community; these treatments range from standard evidence-based diet and lifestyle advice, to homeopathy and other practices often characterized as pseudoscience or quackery." For me that is sufficient warning that this is a controversial subject and much that is said about it is likely to be disputed and may well be wrong. If I were to read on, which I have no interest in doing, my guard would be up. Meanwhile, the issue has been brought to Wikipedia's attention and a vigorous if perhaps not resolvable debate is going on. This encourages me.

As for conflict of interest, I'm in the process of writing a Wikipedia article about my father to replace the stub that's there now. He was an important and distinguished scholar in an important field, computerized linguistics, and nobody but me (and my brother) has the resources and the incentive to do his career justice. So I'm arguably the expert on the subject. If anyone claims that nothing I write about my father's work can be properly objective because of my relationship to him, I say that's just not true, and my piece will stand any scrutiny that anybody might want to bring to it.

Conflicts of interest only matter when the writer actually distorts the facts to serve his/her/their private purposes. With a readership of millions, many with their own axes to grind, I should think such distorted writing is more likely to be outed and corrected than if it appeared in the pages of a conventional encyclopedia. Your examples suggest that it is, at least sometimes.

One reason I've given Wikipedia my dime is to help it become even better than it is. You say you use Wikipedia all the time and find it quite useful. Well, how about it?
The difference in the EB and similar repositories is that they rely on peer review and they also worry about the qualifications of those entrusted with editorial oversight. The EB to a degree has earned my trust in a way that wikipedia never will. It's really too bad that their future existence is imperiled by free-for-all-apedia.

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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by karlhenning » Mon Nov 29, 2010 9:29 pm

John F wrote:One reason I've given Wikipedia my dime is to help it become even better than it is. You say you use Wikipedia all the time and find it quite useful. Well, how about it?
Yes; I don't see Henry's objection as meaning that Wikipedia is somehow unworthy, but (as you say, John) as indicating that what is wanted. is support.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by slofstra » Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:13 pm

karlhenning wrote:
John F wrote:One reason I've given Wikipedia my dime is to help it become even better than it is. You say you use Wikipedia all the time and find it quite useful. Well, how about it?
Yes; I don't see Henry's objection as meaning that Wikipedia is somehow unworthy, but (as you say, John) as indicating that what is wanted. is support.

Cheers,
~Karl
Perhaps what I should do is buy a subscription to the online EB, if I didn't believe that the effort was futile at this point.

John F
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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by John F » Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:09 am

slofstra wrote:The difference in the EB and similar repositories is that they rely on peer review and they also worry about the qualifications of those entrusted with editorial oversight. The EB to a degree has earned my trust in a way that wikipedia never will. It's really too bad that their future existence is imperiled by free-for-all-apedia.
That's the key word, "trust." You trust the editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica to hire well qualified writers, but in most cases you've never heard of the writers (if EB actually identifies the author of each piece), so you don't know whether you can trust them. You also trust the editors of EB to have gotten each article reviewed by at least one specialist who is as qualified in the subject matter as the author - but you don't know who the reviewers are, and besides, experts get things wrong too. There's a whole lot of belief in EB here, based on little if any actual knowledge of the people involved and how well they do what they do.

With Wikipedia, trust doesn't enter into it. You really don't know who wrote any given article - by the time you read it, many hands may have been involved - and while every reader is a reviewer with editorial capability, you don't know precisely who's had what input into what you read. So the right attitude for using Wikipedia is, "It ain't necessarily so."

But that's also the right attitude for using Encyclopaedia Britannica, and indeed anything and everything else you may read, from that email from your cousin to the Bible. I'm not talking about a free-floating skepticism that rejects everything on principle, but an active, alert, intelligent, and critical way of reading and evaluating. How critical you need to be, depends on what you're using the information for. Wikipedia is good enough for most informal purposes, while even the Encyclopaedia Britannica is not good enough for scholarly and professional writing, in which you mustn't rely on predigested stuff from reference books but are expected to digest the original sources yourself.

What really matters, when you get right down to it, is the content and accuracy of the encyclopedia article itself. If you believe you can safely give the Britannica's editors and writers your trust, fine. But whether Britannica's article on Mozart is actually more worthy of your trust, word for word, than the equivalent article in Wikipedia, is not as simple as that.
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Re: Contribute to Wikipedia

Post by living_stradivarius » Fri Dec 10, 2010 3:01 am

With all the buzz going on right now, some people think wikileaks is an offshoot of wikipedia :lol: :lol: :lol:
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