Wanted: a hell of a lot of neutral Wikipedia editors

You know that post the other day about wanting Wikipedia to be neutral and accurate, but being thwarted by its editorial policy that means it would prefer to publish lies?

This post over at Pure Poison describes part of the problem – the fact that those interested in pushing those lies, or using Wikipedia as a promotional tool, or using it to smear the people they dislike, are more dedicated to that aim than any disinterested person could be. It’s a problem that neutral editors could fix very quickly – if there were enough of them interested in the Melbourne media and subjects about which they write to keep an eye on those articles. But since there aren’t, they don’t.

So I’m hanging up my editing, uh, gloves. They win. I do not have as much time as the vandals do to use Wikipedia to boost their own credentials and smear others. It would take a team of independent editors, bloody-mindedly committed to the idea of Wikipedia as a believable source, to take them on. To do it alone… you’d need to have as much time, and be as committed to fixing their sabotage as they are in making it. And I don’t, and I can’t be. I tried, and it’s just crazy.

It kind of stings a bit, to lose that faith that the Wikipedia model can work in the long-term. But what else can an ordinary person do?

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16 responses to “Wanted: a hell of a lot of neutral Wikipedia editors

  1. I still feel that Wikipedia and the model works fine for most purposes. And if you know that what you’re looking at has potential for acrimony (public figures, commonly-denied events, etc) then you know to dig into the comments page or back up with other sources.

    I think people can be over-cynical by assuming Wikipedia is worthless. I’m not saying that’s your position – but I talk to a lot of people who don’t have the slightest idea how good Wikipedia is dismissing it as a toilet-wall. There are errors and lies, but for most types of information it’s great, and a dash of common sense and basic assessment-of-source does the rest, IMO.

  2. Splatterbottom

    I agree, Dan. Wikipedia is a great resource. Coupled with a modicum of common sense it is very useful indeed, particularly if you bear in mind the inherent limitations which arise from its being a crowd-sourced project.

    There is a good article about Wikipedia here, while here is an acknowledgement of its limitations:

    while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish. We are fully aware of this. We work hard to keep the ratio of the greatest to the worst as high as possible, of course, and to find helpful ways to tell you in what state an article currently is. Even at its best, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, with all the limitations that entails. It is not a primary source. We ask you not to criticize Wikipedia indiscriminately for its content model but to use it with an informed understanding of what it is and what it isn’t. Also, because some articles may contain errors, please do not use Wikipedia to make critical decisions.

    Areas that are both trivial and contentious, such as the politics of Melbourne journalism, are always going to attract zealots and should be read with a healthy dose of scepticism.

  3. narcoticmusing

    This is similar to the health promotion debate – how do governments with limited resources compete with the multi-billion dollar advertising budgets of fast food? Likewise, how can a few volunteers keep up with paid marketing groups who specialise in your PR – including rigging Wikipedia, Twitter, etc by pretending to be people they aren’t in order to boost that image.

    Wikipedia is great if you are looking at Roman mythology or something, but not great if you want to look up something about political or religious issues. It is an ok starting point, but the problem with Wikipedia is that it has created laziness in that people don’t go to a second or third source. Much the same as people who only read News Ltd or Fairfax or ABC – to read only one of these is to have only one side of a multi-faceted die.

  4. It’s going to annoy me considerably when one of these people uses the Wikipedia material that’s being dishonestly created to add credibility to something they write in the professional media, which is then used to confirm the rubbish added to Wikipedia.

  5. I’m surprised that no-one’s gone in to fix up the articles concerned yet.

  6. narcoticmusing

    J – your post sounds as if it isn’t already happening. It is.

  7. It’s been evident fo some time amd it’s not just wikipedia. Any blog or blog topic that touches upon a controversial matter, especially political, is a magnet for partisans of all stripes to push their particular barrows.

    Climate change is one that attracts hordes of strident partisans determined to overwhelm the facts with their preferred views.

  8. narcoticmusing

    “… people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that.” – Homer Simpson.

  9. “J – your post sounds as if it isn’t already happening. It is.”

    Is it? I had one last go this morning, but couldn’t see anyone else doing it. And mine will probably have been reverted by now anyway.

  10. narcoticmusing

    I just mean I’ve oft seen news articles citing wiki’s that cite news articles – if it were Excel, it’d have a circular reference error.

  11. Why on Earth do you care about this Jeremy? So a Herald Sun journo might be editing his own profile, or might have friends doing it for him – what difference does that make to you?

    You’re devoting substantial amounts of your time and energy into arguing about whether the word “prestigious” should be used to describe a press award! That’s a mindboggling waste of your substantial talents – it really is.

    Jez, you and I have never met but I’ve known you for 10 years and I do consider you a friend. So please take this as genuine advice from someone who actually wants what’s best for you – you gotta learn how to let this irrelevant shit go!

    Don’t become one of the ‘zealots’ that SB is slyly implying you already are.

  12. Well, the prestigious thing was more about highlighting the highly POV version he had created in his wikipedia vandalising campaign. I wasted some time because I thought the editor system would eventually pick it up and fix the issue and make the articles neutral. Learning that’s not the case, even when the issues are highlighted, was a bit saddening, but i don’t have time to waste on it any further.

  13. narcoticmusing

    Your time could be better spent making a profile for yourself – perhaps you could claim to be a barrister by day but a superhero by night…

  14. LOL Narc.

    Lefty – If the mystery editor is the person you (and I) think it is then he’s undoubtedly been through some sort of “harnessing the new media” course and been tasked with creating the wikipedia profile in question.

    Which means he’s actually sitting at his desk being paid to participate in this edit war. Which means he will win.

    But who cares? If a (hypothetical) person were to create their own wikipedia entry for the specific purpose of inflating their self-importance then that hypothetical person would be a fucking loser of epic proportions.

    And total fucking losers have enough problems – you don’t need to waste your time tearing down someone who is already so low.

  15. I was more concerned about the smears about other people. But it looks like Wikipedia is slowly getting around to fixing them.

    And I’m not sure that BrandonFarris has won, after all…

  16. narcoticmusing

    You could make your own alias… say… BrandonFerris… ;)

    At least using Ferris would give you a day off.

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