Reg hack gives forth in Wikipedia doco
Cade Metz surprisingly plausible, admits Wikimaniac
Those of you who had the misfortune to miss the recent Wikimania 2010 - Wikipedia's annual love-in which this year graced Gdańsk with its presence - also missed the opportunity to catch Reg San Francisco bureau big cheese Cade Metz giving forth on the popular fount of all human knowledge.
Cade wisely chose not to attend the shindig in person, but did appear alongside such luminaries as Richard Branson and Jimbo Wales himself in the world premiere of Truth in Numbers?, an independent, feature-length documentary on Wikipedia by Scott Glosserman and Nic Hill.
The film's central question, Glosserman explained, is this: “Should you and I be charged with canonizing the sum of human knowledge for everyone, or should we be leaving that to the experts?”
As regular Register readers will be aware, our respective answers to these posers are "No", and "Yes", and it seems the documentary came to pretty well the same conclusion, if Wikimaniac Sage Ross is to be believed.
In his Wikimania 2010 blog, Ross says: "The film gives a lot of focus to some shallow or misleading lines of criticism, and on an intellectual level, it comes off as largely anti-Wikipedia, contrasting the reasonable-sounding arguments of mature critics with the naive optimism of youthful Wikipedians."
This prompted a slighty confused Peter Damian (Wikipedia banned editor, for the record) to comment: "Are you saying that the shallow or misleading criticism is the same as the 'reasonable-sounding arguments of mature critics'?"
Ross replied: "By reasonable-sounding, I mean reasonable in tone and made by respectable-looking people. For example, I was really surprised to see Cade Metz on screen; he pulls off the 'hard-boiled reporter' look perfectly, and you’d never know that his stock-in-trade for covering Wikipedia is tabloid half-truths and rumors just from watching those clips."
Well, Mr Ross hints at a possible solution to the Cade Metz tabloid half-truth problem. His blog notes: "The Truth in Numbers? filmmakers also plan on releasing all the used and unused footage - full interviews with Wikipedians from around the world as well as important critics and supporters - so that others can re-edit and re-purpose it."
Ah yes - "re-edit and re-purpose". It's the Wiki way, and Cade and his fellow shallow and misleading critics should look forward to hitting the cutting room floor in due course ahead of the release of There's Truth in Numbers!, featuring youthful Wikipedians leading humanity toward an information Utopia. ®
I've never understood why some of The register's people have such an obsession about Wikipedia. It's as if they define themselves in terms of their hatred of the website... and it causes me to think they're probably not much fun to meet in pubs (unless you happen to share this obsession). It certainly can't be good for their blood pressure.
Wikipedia is free, and is as good as free usually gets. Not everything that's free gets to be as good as the Linux Kernel, but then, not everything that is free has to keep planes in the air, or bank transactions running flawlessly, and so on.
It's actually really really good at the kinds of trivia that used to nag at the back of your mind during the working day and clutter your thoughts. The cast of soap operas, the first broadcast dates of sitcoms, the history (model by model) of long bankrupt car manufacturers... You use it intelligently - asking yourself how likely it is, that anybody could have been arsed to tamper with the information, being presented to you, any more than the person who typed it in, in the first place, was enthused enough, to make sure it was correct, in the first place.
Today's featured article is about some Canadian teen Sci-Fi soap opera: I have never heard of it and I have no intention of ever watching it (the very thought of it fills me with horror, in fact) but I'm sure Wikipedia's page on the thing is the best available about it, anywhere.
If you're going to write about Proust or Rousseau, then you don't start with Wikipedia (or if you do, you don't even deserve a Liberal Arts degree), and if you use it, as a journalist - as the basis of some article you are being paid for - then you don't deserve your job. However, the problem, there, resides with the user, and not the source (and as such, the source could even be said to be doing the rest of us a favour).
So, yes, parts of it are inaccurate, full of speculation, prejudice, and stuff that has been cut&pasted from elsewhere on the web - but it is said that you only really hate the things you hate about yourself, so perhaps the Register would be wise to stifle it's next brain-fart about Wikipedia - lest people start to think it protests too much?
You lost me at mention at "wikipedia"
I slipped into a coma for a while.
Whilst we may wish to strive for objectivity (and fail repeatedly - http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/07/16/dab_promotion_fail/), one of the strengths of Wiki is that peer review is built into the system. Anybody can question/correct material that it posted, and while there are plenty of examples of silliness and stupidity (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/07/14/blatter_order/), the general order of the day is verifiable source trumps opinion.
“A peculiar and dislikable person” colours the judgement. There are many ways to say that somebody is a non-conformist without leading the readers emotions. Indeed, there are many who fit into society's norms who are likely to prove to be more dislikable people. To that end, it is - as you say - a short and concise definition, but it is also a bad definition.
You are correct that Wikipedia can never be a *trusted* source of information, however for all of the day to day questions, Wiki is just fine. To give an example, if I am bitten by a mosquito and it hurts like hell, I'd like to know why it hurts once the little critter has up and left. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosquito#Feeding_habits_of_adults
This is not the same as trusting something written in Wikipedia in a legal or technical sense. There are differing levels of trust depending upon what the information is and how important it is to what you plan to do with said information. To put it another way, I have a copy of the original "A Brief History of Time", some parts of which have since been retracted and other parts revised and refined. Is this one man's heart over his head, or is it simply a consequence of attempting to explain what we don't fully understand and thus revising these explanations in the light of new evidence? Given discussions that take place on these very forums, I wonder what Wiki says about climate change... This all leading to question the objectivity of scientists and experts in print, never mind Wiki articles. Are we looking at the truth? Are we looking at a pet theory the author doesn't want to let go of? Are we looking at manipulated figures chosen to reach a predetermined conclusion (ClimateGate is all about this; as is much of the history of the "smoking [doesn't] kill[s]" tests and examinations). Or are we looking at what is merely a best guess? The entirety of human knowledge is not infallible, in fact it is riddled with myths, hoaxes, and inaccuracies, perhaps the biggest of which is the desire to slave to please an omnipotent master. There isn't so much as a shred of actual solid evidence, yet followers will happily point to their own self-published guidebooks as both evidence and a life manual, some willing to take it to the degree of ostracising (or even harming) those who do not fit into their "norms". Given this sort of thing runs rampant in humanity, it is really no surprise Wiki is what it is. It may strive to be the best of collected knowledge, and it may fail epically at times. At least it offers means to revise, update, question, discuss. This is where it wins over a dictionary. It is more interactive. Sure, slobbering masses may point at an article and say "if it is in Wiki, it must be true", the slightly better of us would consider Wiki to be a ground research tool useful for covering the basics before lauching into more involved research; pretty much like your high school maths teacher would have taught you plane geometry before invalidating much if it when it comes to three dimensional objects...
You ask for primary source material. The first question is how do you know this material is correct, or are you placing more trust in it because it is in print? The second question... sometimes said source material is difficult to find. My mother is a great believer in old-fashioned research, but there was only so much that would fit into Woking library. The Intenet annoys her as looking up specialist articles (i.e. causes/treatments of certain medical issues (for friends, she was a nurse way-back-when)) often brings up websites with totally different, contradictory, opinions. I do wonder, however, if she was in Woking library, if she found her answer in a book, would this suffice, or would she carry on looking in other books to verify the acuracy of the information. The thing is, actually going to a library and actually finding information and actually looking over and over to confirm said information is quite a time consuming task; this coupled with many people *trusting* something that is in a textbook or reference (even if it is wrong or only tells a half-truth). It is much easier to clicky-clicky but doing so has the danger of providing contradictory information. Are some people just plain wrong, or is it a subject about which we don't know as much as we like to believe we do? If the latter, how often does a printed reference book point out its own level of accuracy?
Genesis 1.1... Citation needed... :-)