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Wikipedia Entry Turned Into Actual Encyclopedia 96

Posted by timothy
from the now-how-much-would-you-pay? dept.
Ponca City, We love you writes "If journalism is the first rough draft of history, what does that make Wikipedia? Time Magazine reports that technology writer James Bridle has created a 12-volume compendium of every edit made to the Wikipedia entry for the Iraq War between December 2004 and November 2009. 'It contains arguments over numbers, differences of opinion on relevance and political standpoints, and frequent moments when someone erases the whole thing and just writes "Saddam Hussein was a dickhead.,"' writes Bridle. 'This is historiography. This is what culture actually looks like: a process of argument, of dissenting and accreting opinion, of gradual and not always correct codification.' The books presumably only exist in one copy, so they are not for sale."
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Wikipedia Entry Turned Into Actual Encyclopedia

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Friday September 10, 2010 @08:03AM (#33532466) Journal

    Time Magazine reports ...

    It was BookTwo that originated this story [booktwo.org] because that's written by the guy who put the book together [shorttermmemoryloss.com] (which was picked up by a blog [tumblr.com] which was picked up by The Awl [theawl.com] which was picked up by Time's NewsFeed [time.com]). Of course, we are talking about Time [theonion.com] here. I found the images [flickr.com] of what's actually inside very interesting but I would bet that the guy who used some simple code to create the Creative Commons work is probably the only person to tender cash for a physical copy.

    Here's another complete rewrite reducing the whole article to:

    -
    Iraq War, eh???
    -
    All your oil are belong to U.S.
    -
    Stup up stoopid Americans

    But you know what's really interesting? When Bridle compiled this used their lexer to transform the XML, he kept the IP address in the upper right of each edit. So the above edit's IP address is forever in print: 68.162.123.240 Of course if you had used a username to make an edit, that was put in place of the IP address.

    This whole thing reminds me of the time lapse video done of the Virginia Tech shootings [youtube.com]. Creative stuff you can do with Wikipedia.

    • by fyngyrz (762201)

      Clearly shows two things we already knew; history only tells a very small part of the story; and it represents the view of whoever is doing the writing, rather than any guarantee of the reality.

      Just think how poor the quality is for history written long after the fact from indirect evidence. Boggles the mind.

      And in that light, I'd like to present: This tee design [teevirus.com]. :)

      • by hitmark (640295)

        As the saying goes, history is written by the winners.

        • by fyngyrz (762201) on Friday September 10, 2010 @08:58AM (#33532790) Homepage Journal

          Indeed. Or, perhaps in the case of Wikipedia, "History is written by the whiners."

          :o)

          • by Kjella (173770)

            And those with a cult following. Wikipedia's notability requirements are a bit "in or out". I've noticed many no-so-notable people, events and activities that probably qualifies for a page but that get a ton of information, many links from other pages and whatnot as if they were really big and important. I'm quite sure Wikipedia will give a skewed image of the past compared to what people actually thought.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by rednip (186217)

              I'm quite sure Wikipedia will give a skewed image of the past compared to what people actually thought.

              As opposed to the totally inclusive image of history given by book publishers/editors/collectors though the ages?

              • by Hadlock (143607)

                As opposed to the totally inclusive [b]New York/London-centric[/b] image of history given by book publishers/editors/collectors though the ages?

                Fixed that for you :)

            • by Moryath (553296)

              Never forget: if you have a wikipedia admin at your back, you can get away with murder. If you were a friend of a now-wikipedia admin, never fear, they will make sure your entry glows.

              Take Frank Zeidler [wikipedia.org], communist former mayor of Milwaukee, and look at how the Wikipedia article glows. The reason is that one of his "friends", a wikipedia administrator named Orangemike [wikipedia.org], patrols the article with a vengeance and has no qualms about banning anyone who tries to un-POV the article. He even went so far as to make r [wikipedia.org]

              • by hitmark (640295)

                One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter? I wonder if not the concept of impartial reporting of facts is a pipe dream of epic proportions. Maybe it would be better if everyone just declared their biases front and center.

            • by MaWeiTao (908546)

              Like sex. Look up almost anything related to sex and you'll find tons of gratuitous photos and illustrations. Search on something visually fascinating which should feature photos and routinely you're lucky if they've bothered to include a lone, crappy photo.

            • I'm quite sure Wikipedia will give a skewed image of the past compared to what people actually thought.

              That's why I only trust slashdot's editors.

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          As the saying goes, history is written by the winners.

          Well, the v1.0 for sure is, provided winners were more literate then losers, which wasn't always the case. We might say more accurately that history is written by many, but only the history written or authorized by the winners is allowed to be read, at least as long as the victory stands, that is. Once victors' luck is up, their history is thrown away and new winners write not only new chapters, but rewrite old ones too, creating version v1.1, which then becomes new canon.

          However, once the importance of hi

        • by RockDoctor (15477)

          As the saying goes, history is written by the winners.

          s/is/was/
          (Or for those who don't know this editor script ... substitute "is" with "was", producing "history was written by the winners.")
          One of the few things that can be said for sure ... sorry, that's a little overconfident. One of the few things that can be said with a high degree of confidence about the consequences of the Internet, and it's significant democratisation of the production, retention and distribution of information, is that people who a

    • by treeves (963993)

      This whole thing reminds me of the time lapse video done of the Virginia Tech shootings [wikipedia edits].

      Thanks for that link. I ended up watching time lapse videos of girls faces over 200 or 300 [youtube.com] days and guys growing hair [youtube.com], beards, and unibrows [youtube.com]!

  • Ah yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Friday September 10, 2010 @08:08AM (#33532482) Homepage

    Never let facts get in the way of a poorly constructed opinion.

    Of course, it's hard to tell what the facts are when your opinion is constructed of information told by people who refuse to divulge the facts...or something.

    • by lymond01 (314120)

      Truth of it is, if you didn't witness it first hand, you'll never know what actually happened. Everyone revises history, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. The best we can do is ask around and use the majority of agreeing sources as "fact". This is why it's important to be a part of things, as opposed to reading them (says the guy in his mom's basement).

      • by ajrs (186276)

        Truth of it is, if you didn't witness it first hand, you'll never know what actually happened. Everyone revises history, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. The best we can do is ask around and use the majority of agreeing sources as "fact". This is why it's important to be a part of things, as opposed to reading them (says the guy in his mom's basement).

        Even if you do witness something first hand, your own biases and limited perception can change the 'facts'.

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Friday September 10, 2010 @08:09AM (#33532486)

    It would've been much more interesting were it made with the discussion on malamanteau.

  • Is that the same kind of bullshit as "edutainment"?

    • Think of it as a description of a running battle, in this case, a flame war. Maybe one day in the future, historians will study great flame wars of history, like alt.impeach.bush during the run-up to the 2004 election as compared to, say, the Battle for Iwo Jima. I guess by that metric, that would make news.admin.net-abuse.email the 100 Years War.
    • by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Friday September 10, 2010 @08:34AM (#33532610)
      Wow, you missed something in college. Historiography is essentially "checking your sources" and looking at how history was written. It's not some off-the-wall media term or something. Every historian does (or should do) it.
      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by bsDaemon (87307)

        I thought on soviet Slashdot, college was for suckers? At least, that seems to be the general narrative any time someone mentions college in an 'Ask Slashdot'. Maybe this can answer the question once and for all: college isn't there to teach you IT, and probably not to teach you how to be a programmer if you just aren't one; college is there to help you raise the level of your discourse to an acceptable level.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, you're just a fucking moron with the vocabulary of a 4th grader.

      historiography /hstrigrfi, -stor-/ Show Spelled[hi-stawr-ee-og-ruh-fee, -stohr-] Show IPA
      –noun,plural-phies.
      1.the body of literature dealing with historical matters; histories collectively.
      2.the body of techniques, theories, and principles of historical research and presentation; methods of historical scholarship.
      3.the narrative presentation of history based on a critical examination, evaluation, and selection of material from primary

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Alarindris (1253418)
      Lol. You're an idiot.
  • by captainpanic (1173915) on Friday September 10, 2010 @08:21AM (#33532546)

    [...] and frequent moments when someone erases the whole thing and just writes "Saddam Hussein was a dickhead.

    I searched the page, and I cannot find the entry that Saddam Hussein was a dickhead. Should I assume he was not?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_War [wikipedia.org]

  • Is this an actual useful work containing for instance some sort of commentary?

    Or is this one of those artistic statements where somebody just took the entire history of the page and printed it as a book with minimal formatting?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by carp3_noct3m (1185697)

      Why does it need a commentary to be useful? There is plenty of value in seeing the timeline and content of edits as they progress, being able to see what entries survived and remain and which have been done away with. It can give us insights into the process, the type of people that actually take the time to work on a wiki, the value of knowing multiple edits came from a single IP range. Some people like to say Wikipedia is a democracy, but there are people whose sole purpose is to raise the level of qualit

      • by vadim_t (324782)

        Because all that is available on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], except it doesn't take a whole shelf, and is more convenient to access.

        Proper commentary could be incredibly interesting. A book on how the news about the war affected the changes people made to the article, the different editing factions, etc could be very worth reading.

        • I see what you are saying now, that having someone interpret it and make some summaries of the information therein would indeed be valuable.

    • by Hadlock (143607)

      It's a primary source, in printed form, of the developments of the Iraq war for ~6 years. This is sort of like (but not really) having the transcription of every town hall meeting and journalist's notes from the Civil War in your bookshelves to reference if you wanted to write the de-facto book on the subject. Somewhere in there is some fact of number that was deemed too obscure or too specific for a general wikipedia article buried in those 12 volumes that someone might use in a book some day. Primary sour

  • now, with the internet, we get to see all of the opinions forming: the opinions that won out, the opinions that lost out, and of course, the trolls

    internet: what is history without trolls?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Actually, I think that what you stated is the true genius of wikipedia - not necessarily the finished product, but the PROCESS of how that product evolves over time.

      On historical matters, it also shows that maybe we CAN'T know the whole story because, even in today's world, facts can be dubious things.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This always reminds me of an article I read on ancient Rome. Back then they had a problem with graffiti, people would write and draw all kinds of nasty things about the politics of the day onto the side of buildings. The solution was to simply whitewash over it. Fast forward to the present, archeologist's are pealing back those layers of whitewash to get to the graffiti underneath. It's providing historians with very interesting insights. I wonder if 2000 years from now we will see historians poring over ou

  • by VShael (62735) on Friday September 10, 2010 @08:45AM (#33532660) Journal

    Even at this late stage, there are
    1) People who still claim there were WMDs.
    2) People who say there were WMD's but don't actually believe it anymore.
    3) People who say we genuinely thought there WMD's and there was never any reason not to think so.
    4) People who say we genuinely thought there WMD's but we were misled by bad intelligence.
    5) People who say we genuinely thought there might be WMD's, but if we were wrong, we didn't really care.
    6) People who say we never actually thought there were WMD's, but they made a good excuse to invade.
    7) People who now say there were no WMD's, but pretend that they knew this all along.
    8) People who claim that there never were WMD's, but no one would listen to them.

    At any one time, any one of these subsects could be winning the ongoing flame war.

    I can't help but think this exercise might have been more meaningful, had it been conducted over a page with less competing factions.

    • by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday September 10, 2010 @09:17AM (#33532928)

      The thing is, Iraq really did have WMDs at one point. This is a verifiable, widely known fact. The use of them is documented. However, they bought them from the US who was willing to sell chemical weapons to the lesser of two evils in order to create a bullwork against Iran, after our Iranian puppet fell in revolution. I make no claim to have any knowledge of whether or not Iraq had any WMDs at the time of the invasion, and frankly its almost sort of irrelevant at this point.

      This is all just fallout from the breakup of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. The British encouraged Arab nationalism against the Turks, since Istanbul was allied with the Germans. Then the Brits took over administration of the region, and in World War II, the Germans backed the Baathists against the British. Then the Americans took their turn, and now we have this crap. Its all just failed attempts at managing an empire without the benefit of a heavy boot.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GooberToo (74388)

        And even all that ignores the fact that WMDs were found. The were basically remnants of their previous stockpiles. Of course they were invaded because of supposed, massive levels of new production. It didn't matter that none was actually found as Saddam was more than happy to play the cat-n-mouse/shell game with inspectors which played right into intelligence reports. Reports, which seemingly, indirectly, verified Saddam has biological weapons to hide, much of which was on the basis of Saddam's cat-n-mouse/

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          It was obvious, even at that time, that Saddam was playing a shell game in order to create the perception of strength for both his country's civilians and his neighbours. By maintaining the illusion of strength, the Iraqi population was less likely to revolt and he would make Syria and Iran less likely to consider invading. He also had to maintain the illusion to prevent Kuwait from resuming their directional drilling scheme which sparked the whole 1990 Gulf War.

          The fact is that the first Gulf War left Iraq

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by GooberToo (74388)

            in order to create the perception of strength for both his country's civilians and his neighbours.

            I've heard that said endlessly at this point and I still don't buy it all. It doesn't make sense at all. Never has. Not one bit. Had he not played his game, inspectors would have come, verified, left, and that would have been the end of it.

            Unless you're position is that the only reason his neighbors hadn't invaded and the population hadn't revolted is they feared use of biological weapons by Saddam. I've never heard that suggested before. Is that your position?

            The reality is, the people were completely terr

            • If it's a civil rights issue, they should have just fucking said that, not lied to people with the "mushroom cloud" nonsense.

            • I would really like to see some solid verifiable backup to everyone of your claims. How the fuck you have been modded Interesting buggers belief.
            • by Danse (1026)

              The reality is, the people were completely terrified on Saddam. The number of people killed in the Iraq war is a drop in the bucked compared to the deaths inflicted by Saddam every year. He was a modern day Stalin. And that's not counting the roaming terror squads who would randomly pick someone up. Frequently they were murdered. Torture was always used - typically involving meat hooks. Mass rape occurred every day. The chance of civil revolt was zero. For it to be non-zero means the population would have revolted and overthrown the government at the start of of the invasion. The population was frozen in terror. There was zero chance of revolt. US had actually hoped it would happen during the days of the invasion. It never did.

              Wow. Bizarre logic, and not a single citation to back up any of your claims. And you have the sack to criticize other people's claims? Pathetic.

              • by GooberToo (74388)

                Do I need a citation that 1+1=2?

                Everything stated is extremely widely known. The fact that you're demanding a citation for what is essentially common knowledge says far, far more about you and how ill equipped you are to be making comments here, on this subject, than anything else.

                • by Danse (1026)

                  Do I need a citation that 1+1=2?

                  Everything stated is extremely widely known. The fact that you're demanding a citation for what is essentially common knowledge says far, far more about you and how ill equipped you are to be making comments here, on this subject, than anything else.

                  Estimates of Iraq war deaths versus Saddam inflicted deaths do not remotely equate to "a drop in the bucket" by any math I can think of. This is where a citation of what numbers you're using would at least tell us that you're not just making shit up, and that you're doing an apples to apples comparison.

                  As for the chance of revolt being zero, yeah, I think that requires some explanation, the kind that might be provided through a citation. Saying that they would have revolted at the start would mean that th

        • by m50d (797211)
          Huh? No, no WMDs were found. 50 shells capable of being filled with chemicals eventually turned up, months after the invasion - but there were still no chemical weapons to put in them.

          I don't think those in power in the US/UK were seriously looking to avoid the invasion. If they were, why invade just after the weapons inspectors had been allowed in? They could've afforded a few weeks to let Hans Blix & co. reach a conclusion (even if that conclusion was just "Saddam's not given us full access, again, so

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          The thing is, Iraq really did have WMDs at one point. This is a verifiable, widely known fact.

          Saddam was more than happy to play the cat-n-mouse/shell game with inspectors which played right into intelligence reports. Reports, which seemingly, indirectly, verified Saddam has biological weapons to hide, much of which was on the basis of Saddam's cat-n-mouse/shell game.

          The morale of the story? When your country is on the brink of invasion, don't play games which create the illusion you have what they

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by stephanruby (542433)

            He can be seen inside pointing what looks like a gun of some sort out his windows at the neighbors

            But that's the thing, after the invasion of Kuwait, the US went in front of the UN and said that they had satellite pictures clearly showing that Saddam Hussein was amassing troops and tanks in the desert near the border of Saudi Arabia, so as to prepare to invade Saudi Arabia. It turns out that the satellite pictures didn't show any of those troops. And former Secretary of State Powell did say a few years later in the most unambiguous terms that the the satellite imagery at the time were a complete fabric

        • by guruevi (827432)

          Well, Sadam didn't really have a choice did he:

          If he said: Come and see, we have no such weapons anymore in our arsenal then he would've gotten invaded right away because the US wanted access to the oil.
          If he said: Yes, we have massive amounts of weapons then he would've had to use them or look stupid when he was invaded anyway because the US wanted access to the oil. Besides that, the UN would've probably embargoed the heck out of the country because they have stockpiles of weapons the US doesn't approve o

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TubeSteak (669689)

        I make no claim to have any knowledge of whether or not Iraq had any WMDs at the time of the invasion, and frankly its almost sort of irrelevant at this point.

        I find this conclusion distressing.
        You do realize that history tends to repeat itself unless we learn from it the first time around?
        Iraq's lack of WMDs at the time of the invasion will be relevant for as long as the USA has a military.

        • by bsDaemon (87307)

          I suspect the USA will have a military longer than there will be an Iraq. Iraq itself, as a political entity, is a creation of British Imperialism, which is why we had to spend so much time suppressing a 3-way civil war. That's the same reason there is constant civil war in various African countries where groups who don't particularly care for each other are forced to jockey for position to negotiate on behalf of the entire population of some lines on a map that were drawn by Europeans who then up and le

      • by shmelly (855824)
        IOW... I'm going for number 5?
    • by sorak (246725) on Friday September 10, 2010 @09:46AM (#33533186)

      I'd like to see a compendium of the PR fallout. For example, remember all the anti-France hatred, because they dared to question our information? Remember "Freedom Fries" and "Freedom Toast"? I actually saw "Freedom Ticklers" in a gas station vending machine a couple of years ago. I'd like to see a record of how much anti-world sentiment was generated against countries that questioned us, and how much of that sentiment still exists.

      I wonder how many people there are who now believe that Iraq had no WMD, but still have a distrust of France because they voted against us.

      • by operagost (62405)

        For example, remember all the anti-France hatred, because they dared to question our information?

        They didn't question the intelligence; they had no conflicting intelligence on which to base such a position. They questioned our intent to invade.

        I wonder how many people there are who now believe that Iraq had no WMD, but still have a distrust of France because they voted against us.

        I distrust France because their leaders are incompetent, their people have few principles, and the country relies on the sta

        • They didn't question the intelligence; they had no conflicting intelligence on which to base such a position. They questioned our intent to invade.

          Stop spreading lies. All the major powers, France, Russia, China, believed that Iraq didn't have WMDs. That's three independent intelligence services that said no, when only one intelligence service (America's, which mixes data freely with the UK's) said yes. Any sane person faced with odds of 3 to 1 would suspect political shenanigans, and guess what? That

    • by wfstanle (1188751)

      What many people don't know is why he tried to convince the world he still had some WMDs.

      He was not worried about the US and the rest of the world but he was afraid of Iran. He figured that the uncertainty might keep them from invading Iraq. Unfortunately, he overplayed his hand. The US called his bluff and invaded. Of course, Bush and his friends were just looking for a plausible excuse and he provided it.

    • by MaWeiTao (908546)

      Did you know that there were 550 metric tons of yellowcake taken from Iraq and sent to Canada [msn.com]? Of course not.

      In fact, the reference I found on Wikipedia to that yellowcake, under the entry for Iraq War, maintains that the claims were false, if not an outright lie.

      I don't know if yellowcake qualifies as a WMD, but I'd argue it shows that the intent was there to build these weapons. Whether that stuff justified the way is another argument all together.

      Facts sure can be a pesky, can't they?

  • So (Score:4, Funny)

    by JustOK (667959) on Friday September 10, 2010 @08:52AM (#33532722) Journal

    Saddam wasn't a dickhead?

  • Bad summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Friday September 10, 2010 @09:03AM (#33532814) Homepage Journal

    This wins the award for the day for being the post where the title disagrees most with the article content. Yay!

  • !encyclopedia (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday September 10, 2010 @09:42AM (#33533136) Homepage Journal

    That's a big book at 12 volumes, but it's not an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia is "training in a circle [etymonline.com]", the "full circle" of knowledge of the world. "Iraq War Jr" is not a full circle; even "everything about its Wikipedia entry" is merely a small point of knowledge in a full education.

    Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Indeed, it's more like a cylinder, since its circle is stacked atop the previous circle of revisions. It's an encylindropedia.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      It's more like the roughly spherical splaying of threads of molten matter you get when someone detonates a thermal grenade in the middle of your information burrito.

  • So now that it's published, it becomes a source for itself. Doesn't this usually result in head asplosions?
  • What I love about this is not just the "history of a history" idea (though the hobbyist journalist in me likes that), but the fact that, really, anyone can do this with a Wikipedia XML dump and not-too-difficult XML Transforms. I'd love to know the process this guy went through, even if it's not all that complicated (or maybe it is).
  • and they couldn't put the damned things in order for the photo? my OCD is going to be bugging me about that all damned day now......
  • It's all online [wikipedia.org]. Why the fuck would you print it out?

  • The books presumably only exist in one copy, so they are not for sale.

    Have them scanned and put on line. Before Sony [slashdot.org]does it and applies DRM.

  • ....is that the books are out of order. Why does volume IX come after volume XII?
  • Have anyone actually tried to get their hands on this? If its not for sale ...and it is not online.... and not available for download paid or otherwise (and believe me I tried) Then I call Shenanigans.... The alleged author website is a mess of cross references going nowhere... Put up or shut up!

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