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Improving Wikipedia Coverage of Computer Science 186

Posted by kdawson
from the accused-of-original-research dept.
Pickens writes "MIT computer scientist Scott Aaronson has an interesting post on how to improve Wikipedia's coverage of theoretical computer science. Aaronson writes what while Wikpedia will never be an ideal venue for academics because 'we're used to (1) putting our names on our stuff, (2) editorializing pretty freely, (3) using "original research" as a compliment and not an accusation, and (4) not having our prose rewritten or deleted by people calling themselves Duduyat, Raul654, and Prokonsul Piotrus,' he identifies twenty basic research areas and terms in theoretical computer science that are not defined on Wikipedia, and invites readers to write some articles about them. Article suggestions include property testing, algorithmic game theory, derandomization, sketching algorithms, propositional proof complexity, arithmetic circuit complexity, discrete harmonic analysis, streaming algorithms, and hardness of approximation. One commenter suggests that professors should encourage students to improve the Wikipedia articles about topics they are studying. 'This will help them understand the topic and at the same time improve Wikipedia.'"
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Improving Wikipedia Coverage of Computer Science

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  • Original Research (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 29, 2008 @03:37PM (#25926999)

    Essentially all that you have to do (or should have to do) to avoid the "original research" claims is to cite sources. It's not intended to be treated like some sort of scientific journal, it's intended to be an encyclopedia; everything put in the Wikipedia should have been published elsewhere first. Seems reasonable.

    • I don't think that was what Dr. Aaronson was getting at there (you're referring to his point 3, right?). I would think that he was pointing out that Academics are not likely to use to contribute to Wikipedia because "using "original research" as a compliment and not an accusation" is what Academics do, whereas using "original research" as an accusation (read: attack) and not a compliment is what is commonly written by non-Academics (read: the average person contributing to Wikipedia).

      • Disagree (Score:2, Insightful)

        by pagen_hd (1124095)
        why would the average person bother to spend the time to contribute, if all he wanted to do was attack? There are much better places for that.
    • While of course there is value in writing survey articles (I've just been rearranging my bookshelves and I was realising once again how grateful I was to my supervisor, lo these many years ago, for insisting that I really wanted a subscription to Computing Surveys), academics, quite rightly, feel that they are not contributing if they are not doing original work. Of course you cite previous work, but not because you are copying it! As to not putting your name on your work—how can we tell people not to

  • by E IS mC(Square) (721736) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @03:38PM (#25927011) Journal
    It's good to see that somebody in academics is appreciating the importance and usefulness of Wikipedia, instead of ranting about inaccuracies and trolls.

    Now let's resume our program of bashing Wikipedia.
  • Donald Knuth agrees (Score:5, Interesting)

    by larry bagina (561269) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @03:40PM (#25927017) Journal

    Knuth is a fan of Wikipedia, but he's a bit leery of the concept, saying that he would not want to have to remain forever on guard after making technically complex contributions, lest his comments be badly reedited.[citation needed]

    • by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @04:35PM (#25927421)

      He should use Citizendium then.

      • by 31eq (29480)

        Citizendium looked like a great idea until they decided to dump the Wikipedia content and start from scratch. So now, according to their front pages, Citizendium has 8,700 articles and English Wikipedia has 2.6 million. If you want to look something up, chances are it won't be in Citizendium. So you go to Wikipedia instead. And we all know everybody else goes to Wikipedia as well.

        If you have a contribution to make, why bother with Citizendium? Chances are nobody'll read it. Academics like their names on

    • A Turing machine can do this. The machine rewinds the tape that anyone can edit until it detects the beginning of the crap

      "The bubble sort is the slowest sort, total fail lol"

      where the state register symbol is set to ^V and the machine begins writing the Knuth material one character at a time back onto the tape anyone can edit. Then the machine resets the state register and reenters its default state.
    • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @10:37PM (#25929561) Homepage

      just think of Wikipedia as a reflection of the social intelligence and cultural health (or is it social health and cultural intelligence?) of a society.

      if a society is healthy, and its population consists of relatively intelligent, mature, unselfish individuals, then a Wikipedia-type knowledge repository would be a great success and a very useful cultural tool. on the other hand, if a society is plagued by social issues resulting in a large population of emotionally-dysfunctional sociopaths, then the signal-to-noise ratio might be very low due to there being more trolls than legitimate users.

      a Wikipedia-type site probably wouldn't work very well in a society dominated by greed and the selfish pursuit of personal financial interests either, as you'd probably have more spam ads than legitimate edits. likewise, a society dominated by a culture of anti-intellectualism might result in a collaborative knowledgebase full of misinformation.

      all things considered, Wikipedia has been a relatively big success. sure, there's the odd troll, misinformation or spam edit, but one doesn't have to "remain forever on guard after making technically complex contributions." there are enough relatively intelligent and well-intentioned users to drown out the noise from idiots/assholes. most users try to keep an eye open for bad edits, whether intentional or unintentional, and make corrections when appropriate. and as long as everyone does that, the burden of "guarding" the integrity of the information on Wikipedia gets distributed between millions of users, meaning each user has to do very little to maintain the quality of the site.

      • by jfengel (409917)

        I admit, Wikipedia has restored a little bit of my faith in humanity. Seriously.

        I've browsed Slashdot at -1 and it will sear your soul. There are a lot of people with little to do except cause grief for other people, and they seem to have a lot of free time. I believed that Wikipedia would spend more time vandalized than not.

        I do fairly frequently have to edit out minor vandalism, but it remains long enough for me to edit it out only because it's so minor. There really do seem to be more people willing

  • Prokonsul Piotrus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by snarfies (115214) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @03:41PM (#25927029) Homepage

    "Prokonsul Piotrus" aka just "Piotrus" is a rather controversial figure. He has been bought up in not one, but TWO arbitration cases, one of which is now in the voting phase. [wikipedia.org]

    I stopped trying to add any content to Wikipedia years ago. WP:Notability is, quite possibly, the worst thing to ever happen to that website, and I got sick of deletionism bullshit.

    • That most people (like you) have not yet figured out that Wikipedia is one big "hood-wink" is a credt to The Onion! When the fellows over at The Onion finally let the cat out of the bag *officially*, there will be a lot of egg-wiping of the faces!
    • by wicka (985217) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @04:37PM (#25927443)
      Deletionists are horrible horrible people. Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia, it's a website with virtually limitless room for expansion. You don't have to fit everything inside a set of books. Guidelines for inclusion should be incredibly lax.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 29, 2008 @05:27PM (#25927777)
        This really comes down to the distinction "Encyclopedia" (read: "A book, or set of books, or digital version of such, containing authoritative information about a variety of topics, arranged in alphabetical order") vs. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (read: "A book containing the compendium of Life, The Universe and Everything, notable or otherwise, as written by everyone with half an interest in writing it.")

        Wikipedia intends to be a new-agey digital Encyclopedia, which includes academic drive, unavoidable deletionism, well-cited sources, and some kind of drive for neutrality (no matter how badly it actually fails at such a thing).

        What we need is a real-life implementation of the Hitchhiker's Guide. It should be far less careful than Wikipedia (and likely should be a superset of Wikipedia with all of those fun lists like "Things Gregory House has written on his whiteboard on House M.D.") The two sites really should work in concert (i.e. when something gets "demoted" from Wikipedia, it should slide into the Hitchhiker's Guide).

        The third effort of having a even-more verified-and-factual Wikipedia is already underway via several projects. Why hasn't anyone looked into the super-set?
        • It sort of exists [h2g2.com].
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Corbets (169101)

          What we need is a real-life implementation of the Hitchhiker's Guide. It should be far less careful than Wikipedia (and likely should be a superset of Wikipedia with all of those fun lists like "Things Gregory House has written on his whiteboard on House M.D.")

          Isn't that exactly what the web is? All kinds of information about anything with no limit on the content; making a single site to hold all that information seems kind of redundant. :-)

      • by sailingmishap (1236532) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @05:47PM (#25927903)

        Are you joking? Guidelines for inclusion are incredibly lax.

        If a topic has received significant coverage in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject, it is presumed to satisfy the inclusion criteria for a stand-alone article.

        Are you reading that? Any subject that's been mentioned in a magazine/book/journal/newspaper/website with some amount of editorial control is acceptable.

        That's every video game, every book, every television show and every episode of each, every politician, every rock band, rapper, and hit song that's ever been on the radio, every school, and every city, in the entire world, forever and ever,

        and that's without even starting an argument! The number of fictional characters and abstract concepts on Wikipedia is absolutely staggering.

        You really want it to be laxer than that? Here's where you can find that stuff: THE REST OF THE INTERNET.

        Deletionists are following the Golden Rule that summarizes the purpose of Wikipedia and all of the debates that have ever occurred on it, the one part that no one seems to get, no matter what:

        Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that summarizes research from reliable secondary sources.

        That's what it is and that's all it's ever going to be. If someone's doing something you don't like, either a) you're wrong or b) they're a troll and you shouldn't give up so easily. How is that any different from the rest of the Internet? How is that any different from real life? How could Wikipedia possibly pursue its goal better than it does without restricting people more?

        • "Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that summarizes research from reliable secondary sources." Absolutly *SSH*T wrong. The number of articles that need some reference to reality is staggering. If even 1% of the articles had citations from reliable sources, it would improve wikipedia by an order of magnitude.

          Guidelines for inclusion are: "I wrote this." Thats all.

          The hardware articles are fair, but software and theory are factually correct but for the most part, are WORSE than 'The Highlight Childrens Encyclopedia
          • by arotenbe (1203922)

            Guidelines for inclusion are: "I wrote this." Thats all.

            Incorrect. The guidelines for inclusion are 1) "I wrote this" and 2) "no one else deleted it or mangled it beyond recognition". This is a much stricter requirement, and the reason that most vandalism gets deleted within a matter of minutes.

            This is how you test wikipeida. Click on 'Random Article' until you find something you actually know something about...

            As a test, I clicked "Random article" 20 times and counted the types of articles I got. Here are the results:

            4 articles about writing or literature
            3 articles about politics
            3 articles about sports
            2 articles about a place or geographical feature
            1 article about music
            1 articl

            • by LingNoi (1066278)

              Why don't you just think up something you know about and search for it?

            • Mod parent +2 Informative.

              "0 articles about mathematics, computer science, software, hardware, or any other topic with which I am significantly familiar"

              See? Wadda I tell ya?!?
  • by BigZaphod (12942) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @03:43PM (#25927043) Homepage

    A problem to watch out for is that if you add your own research to Wikipedia (even with all the proper citations), you'll get slapped by some self-important wikipedian because it is apparently wrong and evil to have the person directly responsible for the research itself to be included in the creation of encyclopedia content about said research.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not "wrong and evil" per se, but you should be extremely careful about this sort of thing. Ethics are important; someone with an obvious conflict of interest should be open about it and circumspect about his edits.

      • by argiedot (1035754)
        This reminds me of that guy who got his edits rolled back because he was correcting the list of bibliography on his own article. I thought it was funny. Anyone know who it was?
    • by Culture20 (968837) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @04:16PM (#25927273)

      it is apparently wrong and evil to have the person directly responsible for the research itself to be included in the creation of encyclopedia content about said research.

      Good thing Wikipedia is a Wiki and not an encyclopedia then.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BigZaphod (12942)

        Yeah.. tell that to some of the admins over there... The way they reject things for being non-notable (as if there was a lack of space in wikipedia) and the other rules they fling at people sometimes, it's getting to where whole areas of the site aren't worth even trying to edit anymore simply because of the egos that might be stepped on.

        • Stepping on egos is one thing, and horrible, but Wikipedia does still need server space, does it not? While I agree that biased editing is an epidemic, the phrase "as if there was a lack of space in wikipedia" is a bit falicious.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ShakaUVM (157947)

          >>The way they reject things for being non-notable (as if there was a lack of space in wikipedia) and the other rules they fling at people sometimes

          Look, if we fill up Wikipedia with totally non-notable theoretical computer science stuff, then we'll run out of room for our highly detailed, referenced, verifiable pages on every episode of the Simpsons made, ever.

        • by Raenex (947668) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @06:24PM (#25928137)

          The way they reject things for being non-notable (as if there was a lack of space in wikipedia)

          Yeah, I really hate that. I was trying to publish my research about how (1/0 * Infinity) proves the existence of God, but they deleted my page. Bastards. They're in cahoots with all the journals too.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          It has nothing to do with "a lack of space". All information on Wikipedia must be backed up by reliable, independent, secondary sources. This is fundamental.

          An article is deleted if and only if there are no reliable, independent, secondary sources that discuss it.

          So if you want an article on a Simpsons episode [wikipedia.org], find the sources that discuss it -- IGN, EW, TV Guide, all reliable sources not directly owned by Fox Television -- and it's good. Even though not every sentence in the article is properly cited, the

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            It's more than just "sources and nothing else."

            There's a whole list of "Reasons for Deletion" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_policy [wikipedia.org], at least one of which (notability) is at best controversial in its application.

            A lot of the time, this flexibility in deletion justification is a good thing and it keeps a lot of spam/kooks/PR garbage off Wikipedia. However, sometimes it is mis-wielded as a tool to remove or prevent articles for whatever reason makes sense to some deletion-obsessed editor.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by VGPowerlord (621254)

      A problem to watch out for is that if you add your own research to Wikipedia (even with all the proper citations), you'll get slapped by some self-important wikipedian because it is apparently wrong and evil to have the person directly responsible for the research itself to be included in the creation of encyclopedia content about said research.

      Of course, they're just following WP:COI [wikipedia.org] (the Conflict of Interest guideline) to its extreme. Of course, depending on the sources, WP:SOURCES [wikipedia.org] (a policy) could also

    • A problem to watch out for is that if you add your own research to Wikipedia (even with all the proper citations), you'll get slapped by some self-important wikipedian because it is apparently wrong and evil to have the person directly responsible for the research itself to be included in the creation of encyclopedia content about said research.

      Or some idiot who doesn't actually know anything about the topic will edit it to enshrine his own ignorance instead.

      I quit contributing to articles in my field long before I quit editing just-for-fun articles.

  • DocForge (Score:5, Interesting)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @03:45PM (#25927063) Homepage Journal

    Or submit the articles to DocForge [docforge.com] where original research is allowed. It's focused completely on programming and computer science topics. It hasn't grown large enough yet to breed overzealous editors, either.

  • Removal... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by perlhacker14 (1056902) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @03:47PM (#25927079)

    A while back, about a year ago, I spent my time correcting wikipedia - the corrections I made were accurate, meaningful, and relevant to the topic. However, my additions and changes were mostly removed within two hours of my posting. Perhaps those who run wikipedia do not like my educated improvements. One incident that sticks was when a friend and I added a section dedicated to the problems with genetic algorithms; by the next day it was removed. I had sources, a good and well written arguement, and it was fairly long and not biased (at least my professor thought so).
    As for adding new topics, one may try, but seeing as additions are not appreciated, than what would become of new articles (even stubs)?

    • Re:Removal... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 29, 2008 @03:49PM (#25927091)
      Tell me what you added and to what article, and I bet I can tell you why it wasn't worth keeping.
    • So show us. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sailingmishap (1236532) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @04:38PM (#25927449)

      You know, every time there's a Wikipedia-related thread on Slashdot, there's a massive run of people with anecdotes about how they spent hours and hours improving some article only to have it reverted.

      I've never once seen someone post a link to the changes they made.

      Please tell us what article it was, and what corrections you made. If you go to the article's history you can post a link to the exact changes that you made, and the subsequent reversion. It'll take two minutes, I swear.

      You don't even have to go through all that. Just post your user name and the article title and we can find it ourselves.

      It would prove once and for all that Wikipedia is as bad as everyone says it is. I'd love to see it. We'd all love to see it. Then we can fix it and make sure that your corrections actually get implemented properly.

      Because otherwise you, like everyone else here, are just posting the equivalent of "my friend's friend died from eating Pop Rocks and Sprite." Baseless accusations that don't help anyone.

      • Re:So show us. (Score:4, Informative)

        by earthbound kid (859282) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @04:46PM (#25927503) Homepage

        Give me one reason why this [wikipedia.org] was reverted and you'll be giving me one more reason than the reverter did.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          It seems it was a mistake while reverting vandalism that came just before your edit. The reverting editor confirms this [wikipedia.org].
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            That's just another example of the problem, really. Articles have to battle vandalism so much of the time that self-appointed editors just revert first and ask questions later, with the unfortunate consequence of ensuring that the article will never be better than mediocre.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by owlnation (858981)

        It would prove once and for all that Wikipedia is as bad as everyone says it is. I'd love to see it. We'd all love to see it. Then we can fix it and make sure that your corrections actually get implemented properly.

        I hope people do this, to make you realize how skewed and insular your view is. It's certainly not baseless. You will be inundated if they do. It's not as bad as everyone says it is, it's actually worse. But bearing in mind the many corrupt admins, this just seems like wasting more time. It wou

        • Re:So show us. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Carbonite (183181) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @05:16PM (#25927715)

          Maybe you're right, but thus far you've acted exactly as the parent post described: Complaining about how bad Wikipedia is without providing any links as evidence. So why not show us these "minor edits" that were reverted by corrupt admins so we can judge for ourselves?

          • Yeah, he MUST be lying. Because it never happened before. Ever. It's a total lie made up by people who, for some unknown reason, simply decided to hate Wikipedia one day.
            • So, there's this Slashdot user... DNS-and-BIND, who may or may not be a paedophile. Really. None of us have done the research necessary to determine whether DNS-and-BIND is or is not a paedophile. So, until the Slashdot community can crawl out of their collective basements and get the job done, it is best to remain wary and alert while dealing with this most serious of matters.

              But seriously. We're asking to see the disputed edits. The complainant hasn't even replied with "The Admins Deleted Them, So I Have

      • Re:So show us. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 29, 2008 @05:44PM (#25927883)

        Ok...

        Some guy nominates Heavy Metal (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) [wikipedia.org] for deletion and fails in his attempt. So what does he do? Merges every episode, save that one, into List of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episodes [wikipedia.org]. You see - this user knows he couldn't get consensus by an AfD so he engages in backroom deals to gain support.

        Of course, that doesn't top Torchic [wikipedia.org]. A front page featured article with 20 paragraphs and 46 citations now reduced to redirecting to a list of pokemon, with 2-3 paragraphs (depending on whether or not a one sentence paragraph counts) and no citations.

        Critics of pokemon articles often say "it's insane that there are articles on every single pokemon but not on {some random subject}". Wikipedians used to, properly, redirect such critics to be bold [wikipedia.org] - if you don't like the coverage of some random subject, expand on that subject, yourself, instead of trying to destroy other peoples hard work. Now, all wikipedia ever does is cave to critics proposing deletion.

        • by vyrus128 (747164)

          Wow. I have always been one of the smug people who replies to people's complaints about Wikipedia with "show me the diffs", and frankly those diffs stun me. I have not the words for how much TTN's behavior upsets me.

          It's clear to me that I don't have the resources to do anything about him and his ilk directly; even though he's made some clear policy violations, I just don't have the time to wikilawyer against him singlehandedly, and I'm sure he has friends.

          I'm contemplating what larger moves I could make th

      • by arotenbe (1203922)

        Here's some more validation for the "most people are making stuff up" argument. Out of my almost 350 edits [wikipedia.org] to Wikipedia, including several major article redesigns and a couple complete section deletions, I have never had an edit reverted.

        Never.

        Interpret that as you wish.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I've noticed that too. Here's the thing, there are three kinds of articles in Wikipedia today: stubs, mediocre articles, and decent articles. No one is watching the stubs, so you can add stuff to those, though there is a serious problem getting past the deletionists to make a stub in the first place. Mediocre articles on the other hand had some good information in the past, but now paragraph three cuts off halfway through and the references section is screwed up. When you look at the history of the page, yo

      • by julesh (229690)

        though there is a serious problem getting past the deletionists to make a stub in the first place

        Strangely, none of the articles I've created there have ever been deleted. Or perhaps it's not strange... I don't think more than a small fraction of articles created are deleted, except in certain "hobby horse" areas where I'll grant the deletionists roam free -- stuff related to explaining the plots of works of fiction and biographies of people known only for a single thing, mainly. Create articles outside o

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I didn't edit WP that much, but I did some pretty major changes on some articles (e.g. "Closures" and "C Sharp (programming language)") along those lines (rewriting and reorganizing), and no-one reverted them or anything. A few people did clean up the spelling and reworded some awkwardly worded sentences.

  • by Angostura (703910) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @03:49PM (#25927087)

    I'm not sure that Aaronson really gets it regarding original research and putting his name on it.

    Surely, it is meant to work this way:

    1. Researcher publishes research in reputable peer-grouped journal, and makes this paper available on the Web.
    2. Researcher writes nice, easily digestable Wiki page on the topic, citing the peer-reviewed research as a source.

    The Wikipedia prohibition on 'original research' is really a polite way of saying: 'don't assert things that could simoly have been pulled out of your butt'. The reliance on peer-reviewed external sources is supposed to get around this problem.

    ----
    Anyone know why my posts recently started appearing with Score 1, despite "excellent" karma? I'd love to know.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by caramelcarrot (778148)
      Indeed - I think it's a nice way to keep the crackpots out of the science articles, and allows most researchers to get their work in fine.
    • Exactly.

      That's the trade-off for letting anyone edit the encyclopedia. Scientific journals have a smaller writer base, and can individually verify the academic validity of new research.

      Wikipedia users can't make sure that every new piece of research is valid. That's outside the scope of the project. So more information (in terms of topics) is allowed, but with stricter guidelines (in terms of verifiability) for inclusion. Makes sense to me.

  • wrong list (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @03:58PM (#25927143) Homepage

    He's got a list of complaints which is completely the wrong list. Essentially he seems upset about (1) not getting a byline, (2) neutral point of view, (3) no original research, and (4) having what he writes modified by others. Well, sorry, but those are all basic features of WP. They're not gonna change, and IMO they shouldn't change. WP has problems, but the problems are not on this list.

    In my opinion, the biggest problems with WP are (1) the poor quality of the writing, and (2) the tendency of the quality of an article to get worse over time, rather than better. Problem 1 is particularly pronounced in my field, which is physics; most of the physics articles read as if they were written by smart grad students who wanted to show off how smart they were. If there was going to be a #3 on my list, it would have to do with the factors that make me personally feel like working on WP has gotten about as pleasant as a proctological exam. But that's really not a problem with WP, it's just a problem that makes me personally not want to work on WP. Plenty of other people still seem to be happily maintaining it, which I think is great.

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by David Gerard (12369)
      Who the heck modded this flamebait? First para is precisely correct.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TorKlingberg (599697)
      I don't don't know why this was modded down. Better than all the comments above.

      About your claim that articles get worse over time, I haven't seen many real cases of that. Some articles on important topics seem to stay in bad state indefinitely, but that's an other matter.
      • by julesh (229690)

        About your claim that articles get worse over time, I haven't seen many real cases of that. Some articles on important topics seem to stay in bad state indefinitely, but that's an other matter.

        This happens a lot: initially, a well-written, but not comprehensive or possibly slightly inaccurate article gets written. Additions to it are haphazard and badly written, resulting in a difficult to read but comprehensize and correct article. Nobody bothers fixing the latter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      Actually I think a lot of people (myself included) may have misinterpreted his points. He's not saying Wikipedia is wrong for these reasons. Merely that there's an incompatibility between academics and Wikipedia.

      Academics aren't going to write about these articles because they prefer to spend time doing original research, so he's challenging those of us who do like to research other peoples work to summarise it for Wikipedia.
  • what, you mean like how p != np?

  • by sentientbrendan (316150) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @04:07PM (#25927209)

    Most academic issues are handled worse than computer science.

    Most of the CS coverage addressed on wikipedia is the kind of stuff that working computer programmers would be interested. There are a few theory articles, but you can't expect much from them. Writing in CS theory or other areas in mathematics is difficult, and requires more than citations. It requires strong writing and editing skills, and strong understanding of the subject at hand. I wouldn't expect to get more than a rough overview of a field from its wikipedia entry.

    • by Gazzonyx (982402)
      I'd agree. I've found much less 'politicing' in the CS area than almost any other section. For the most part, if you see something that isn't cited, but more than obvious to anyone in the field, it doesn't get a "citation needed" by some anal editor. Furthermore, most of the articles have less of the drive-by insults/bickering that seems to be so common when companies or (somewhat) famous people are the subject. I guess that most of us geeks are more interested in commonly-known (no citation needed if t
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @04:10PM (#25927227) Homepage

    If they and their students write a Wikipedia article in exactly the same way as they write an academic "literature review," they will have no problems at all.

    Literature reviews presents no original research; provide some interpretation and context but no personal opinion; and cite sources for every fact. Just like a good Wikipedia article.

  • My remarks on the comments:

    (1) You're only researching published material
    (2) You're only researching published material
    (3) You're only researching published material
    (4) Fair enough.

    The remark that original research is an accusation on Wikipedia is correct but it's not really relevant. I'm sure a science fiction author wouldn't complain about not being able to make stuff up in a science journal, and I'm sure that physicists are quite happy that there are no tolerances specified in cookery books.
  • by nullhero (2983) * on Saturday November 29, 2008 @05:05PM (#25927645) Journal
    My British Lit professor was always pushing us to use Wikipedia as a source for papers and content. After reviewing the list of contributors to the areas that he wanted us to read I found that he was a regular contributor. The point he knew the entries that he was taking us too had correct information because he made sure of. I think what the article is saying is the same thing. Rather than knock it down academics, or at least their grad students, should be making an effort to update the entries regarding Theoretical Computer Science so that the information is viewed as hear say.
  • FTA's wishlist:

    Well-known theoretical computer scientists without Wikipedia pages

    No, I'm not going to make that list ... but you can.

    If Scott Aaronson was hinting at himself here, which I assume he was, it seems that somebody just took the bait [wikipedia.org].

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by julesh (229690)

      And somebody's already tagged it {{notability}}. *Sigh*

      Aaronson is one of the few CS researchers whose name keeps coming up again & again. He's at least as notable as many of the other CSists who have articles. (Yeah, I know. WP:OTHERSTUFFEXISTS.)

  • by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Saturday November 29, 2008 @06:39PM (#25928203)

    One commenter suggests that professors should encourage students to improve the Wikipedia articles about topics they are studying. 'This will help them understand the topic and at the same time improve Wikipedia.'"

    How is bringing thousands of people into the mix who don't know what they're talking about (many of whom think they know everything) supposed to improve anything?

    Encouraging your students to go "improve" Wikipedia articles isn't encouraging them to speak up, seek knowledge, or debate.

    • by lennier (44736)

      "Encouraging your students to go "improve" Wikipedia articles isn't encouraging them to speak up, seek knowledge, or debate."

      Huh?

      How is writing a contribution on a public website, and then defending that contribution from others who want to revert it, not "speaking up" and "debating"?

      Sounds like a great idea to me.

  • """
    One commenter suggests that professors should encourage students to improve the Wikipedia articles about topics they are studying. 'This will help them understand the topic and at the same time improve Wikipedia.'
    """

    This would actually be counter productive. Student, just starting to study something, have the horrid habit of thinking they understand something that they actually don't. Students, in general, should be told to avoid writing about subjects they are studying, not encouraged.

  • I have submitted a project to googles 10^100 compatition that will solve the 4 problems with wikipedia he lists.

    The project name is wikixandria and the idea is to make a p2p wiki library.

    If the project wins 10^100 we will soon have an academy-friendly alternative to wikipedia.

    Also lets remember that is also possible to store knowledge in a knowledge base. Like they do at true knowledge [trueknowledge.com] and the let a computer answare our questions.

    Also take a loke at my "p2p" news-site crowdnews.eu [crowdnews.eu]

  • What this guy seems to be complaining about is that Wikipedia doesn't have enough coverage of the parts of computer science he's interested in. His field seems to be probabilistic algorithms. This is a relatively new field. The general idea is that there are problems for which an algorithm with some randomness is much faster than a deterministic algorithm, at least for the worst case. Classic examples are the simplex method in linear algebra and the traveling salesman problem.

    In the last twenty years,

  • Aaronson writes what while Wikpedia will never be an ideal venue for academics because... [blah blah blah snipped]

    Then don't use goddamned Wikipedia.

    "How can we use this medium over here that is set up completely opposite to what we need?"

    Start your own repository. I thought you MIT kids were supposed to be thinkin' good.

  • Every once in a while I try to look up a known concept on wikipedia, and I am simply shocked by the lack of any sort of useful information provided on some of wikipedia's articles on econometrics and statistics with the former being usually much much worse or often non-existent. (for example try to look up "GMM". Surely what's written there does not give the subject the justice, even by encyclopedic standards).

  • Lets hope that they will at least include an introduction that can be read by the layman. Already I can see that pages containing cryptographic protocols are squarely aimed at mathematics. This while most people looking for such pages are users of the algorithms rather than researchers. Having fully correct pages is one thing, being able to read them is another.

    I've created a perfectly fine, fully HTML-4 compatible user manual (for end users) once only to see it demolished with technical terms by a manager.

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