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Wikipedia As a "War Zone," Rather Than a Collaboration 194

Posted by timothy
from the one-way-to-look-at-it dept.
horselight writes "A new study by sociologists studying social networking has determined that Wikipedia is not an intellectual project based on mutual collaboration, but a war zone. The study finds that although the content does end up being accurate as a rule, it's anything but neutral or unbiased. The study includes extensive data on access and editing patterns of users related to major events, such as the death of Michael Jackson and the edit storms that ensued." The article explains that the research (here's the paper at PLoS One) looked in particular at controversial entries, not ones about obscure duck-hunting equipment or long-settled standards.
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Wikipedia As a "War Zone," Rather Than a Collaboration

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  • Whua! (Score:5, Informative)

    by masternerdguy (2468142) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @05:20PM (#40423377)
    Editing wars on wikipedia? Say it ain't so!
    • "Editing wars" over trivialities such as the deaths of celebrities are of no significance.

      • Re:Whua! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mellon (7048) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @06:04PM (#40423679) Homepage

        Yes and no. I've been involved in a POV dispute on an article because a friend of mine died under titillating circumstances, and another friend of mine is being coatracked over it. (Yes, these are real Wikipedia terms.) The death has been all over the news, mostly in very gossipy articles that quote a lot of third parties but don't do any fact-checking. And so of course a lot of people who want to pee on a famous person's wikipedia biography immediately dogpiled on it and started making gossipy edits.

        This isn't the first time it's happened, and the person in question has had people cancel speaking invitations on him after he and his assistants have been out of pocket on airplane tickets. So there's a really serious side to this edit warring—even though it's celebrity gossips doing it, real people get hurt in the process.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          and another friend of mine is being coatracked over it. (Yes, these are real Wikipedia terms.)

          Care to share the definition of "coatracking" with those of us who couldn't find a clue with both hands?

          • Re:Whua! (Score:5, Informative)

            by KingAlanI (1270538) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @06:50PM (#40424049) Homepage Journal

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Coatrack [wikipedia.org]
            Has to do with an article going off-topic in a biased manner

          • by tbird81 (946205)

            and another friend of mine is being coatracked over it. (Yes, these are real Wikipedia terms.)

            Care to share the definition of "coatracking" with those of us who couldn't find a clue with both hands?

            I don't want to be "the Google it guy", but let's just say I did a quick Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, and this site came up:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Coatrack [wikipedia.org]

            If you're like me you might have read "co-atracking", but it's actually "coat-rack-ing".

        • Re:Whua! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by benjamindees (441808) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @01:23AM (#40426569) Homepage

          mostly in very gossipy articles that quote a lot of third parties but don't do any fact-checking

          Wikipedia has a lot of problems, which is why I mostly stopped contributing years ago. But all the problems basically stem directly from their list of "policies" that were erected around the time that a horde of fairly obvious disinformation agents managed to wrest control away from Jimmy Wales. The new Wikipedia "democracy" now ensures that the government with the largest propaganda budget will always be able to control the tone and narrative of any controversial articles.

          One of the worst of these policies is the idea that mainsteam media news sources should be given special status. This was obviously intentionally designed to steer the revolutionary capability of truly grass-roots, crowd-sourced intelligence back into the fold of the controlled narrative. And, unfortunately, one of the most blatant abuses of this policy is the way Wikipedia is used as a vehicle to slander controversial public figures.

          Gossip is one thing; and perhaps the world is not much worse off when Wikipedia is used to spread tabloid trash. But the world absolutely is worse off when Wikipedia is used as a conduit to smear everyone from political prisoners to rogue investors who make enemies of the increasingly encroaching police state apparatus.

          • by mellon (7048)

            Yup. Even the policies intended to protect BLP articles are broken, in the sense that, as you imply, mainstream media actually does really poor reporting these days, and personal blogs by knowledgeable practitioners in the field are forbidden for use in BLP articles for any reason. It doesn't even take a corporation or country with deep pockets: all it takes is a few interested amateurs with nothing better to do, and nobody who's actually working for a living can possibly compete.

      • by tbird81 (946205)

        "Editing wars" over trivialities such as the deaths of celebrities are of no significance.

        Wikipedia was one of the last places to report that Michael Jackson had died, because the editors there thought TMZ was not a reliable enough source. Unfortunately many Wikipedia admins have minimal common sense and no sense of pragmatism.

        A site like Wikipedia needs its Aspies, don't get me wrong. But when there's an important and practical decision to be made, perhaps the final should be left to people with better perspective-taking skills.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          And exactly how is this is a bad thing? I Wikipedia supposed to be a tabloid? Is Wikipedia supposed to provide 0-day news? No.

        • by sjames (1099)

          I'll bet it updated quicker than a dead tree encyclopedia!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 1u3hr (530656)

          Wikipedia was one of the last places to report that Michael Jackson had died "Last"? By how long? A few hours maybe.

          Wikipedia isn't a breaking news site, its an encyclopedia.
          If you want news, go to Wikinews [wikinews.org].

          "X has died" is one of the most common form of vandalism. It has to be verified. Better to wait a few hours and be sure.

      • There are, however, other more important disputes, like the amount of continents, which varies according to each country's POV. - America is considered one continent in some places, and two (South America and North America) in others). Oceania has similar disputes.

    • Editing wars on wikipedia? Say it ain't so!

      It ain't so.

      But in the interests of WP:NPOV, it is so.

    • Maybe Wikipedia can detect edit wars the same way as the researchers and improve merging tools. They could have a arbitrator come in and merge the two versions, or require one (or both) to submit more support for their versions before their info is incorporated. Or this is not something worth improving.

      • by 1u3hr (530656)
        "3 reverts" in 24 hours is a violation of rules. Normally one or both editors report the other one and they seek arbitration. The problem is that most disputes are incredibly trivial and it's hard to find a qualified neutral arbitrator who has the time to deal with a couple or more editors who are passionate and pigheadedly sure they are correct.

        See Wikipedia:Lamest edit wars [wikipedia.org]

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        That is generally what happens, but it only means that the long time players who have reached level 50 (moderator) can control articles as they please.

    • Actually, the funniest thing about Wikipedia is the idea of having an Edit button when you see content you don't like, or agree w/
  • It's a start (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @05:24PM (#40423411) Journal
    Wikipedia is a starting point for research. It isn't the final word on anything. And it does really well at being a starting point, better than anything else before it.
    • Except for search engines, which work just as well as a "starting point." Or Google Scholar, which also works well as a starting point, for those who want the scientific angle.

      • Nah, they really don't. Which is why Google gives such an advantage to Wikipedia in its search results.

        I don't know if you remember the days before Wikipedia, the internet was full of information about computers. Information about most other topics was lacking.

        I admit sometimes I miss those days, the days before SEO and the commercial takeover of the internet.
      • by tepples (727027) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {selppet}> on Saturday June 23, 2012 @05:35PM (#40423485) Homepage Journal

        Except for search engines, which work just as well as a "starting point."

        Wikipedia is good for use as a URL representing a given real-world subject. For example, an article about graphics in Linux could refer to "this DRM [wikipedia.org], not that other DRM [wikipedia.org]". And I haven't yet found a search engine that presents a single page summarizing the consensus of how reliable sources view a subject.

        Or Google Scholar, which also works well as a starting point, for those who want the scientific angle.

        Not everybody wants to get on a bus and go to a local campus university every time he or she runs into a paywalled article.

        • by zmughal (1343549)

          Wikipedia is good for use as a URL representing a given real-world subject. For example, an article about graphics in Linux could refer to "this DRM [wikipedia.org], not that other DRM [wikipedia.org]"

          Which is why DBpedia [dbpedia.org] (which is based on Wikipedia) plays such a central role for Linked Data [cyganiak.de].

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I was just going to point out that google scholar is infinitely broken due to JSTOR, Lexis Nexis, and the other large research databases prohibitative nature. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that updates more often. You wouldn't write a research paper with it but as others have pointed out the value. The editing wars reflect the current anti-science & subjectivity running rampant in American conservative culture.

      • Not really, search something on Google that doesn't have a specific Wikipedia page and you end up with a huge mountain of shit with the most tenuous connections you could think of.

        Do an image search for something specific and look how quickly you start getting pictures returned that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with what you were searching for. Usually within the first page of results, definitely by the second, random shit starts creeping in. Their web search is generally not much better; if i

    • Re:It's a start (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @07:17PM (#40424231)

      Wikipedia is a starting point for research. It isn't the final word on anything.

      I would hope that most people would understand that simple fact, but the sheer number of people that try to cite Wikipedia as a reference demonstrates that said hope is misplaced.

      Wikipedia is crack for a Cliff Clavin-esque [wikipedia.org] information junkie like me, but I would never stake my reputation on anything I read there unless I had at least 3 independent sources confirming it, although I admit, the articles concerning math and science I generally accept as truth (whereas the articles concerning celebrities or infamous historical figures I generally do not) because I figure if I have a hard time making it through a given article that the citation's are going to be ancient Egyptian to me. The simple English Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] is obviously better in that regard, but it's too simple. Consider their article for Chaos theory [wikipedia.org]...barely a stub.

      Still, I'm glad I live in a time with access to such a vast repository of human knowledge, even with the bias issues. I'm old enough to remember what this was like [shoeboxblog.com]...

      • Re:It's a start (Score:5, Insightful)

        by readin (838620) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @08:13PM (#40424653)
        Parent and grandparent post make part of an important larger point. Wikipedia is like any other written thing - it's not perfect and when you read it you have to be aware of the strengths and limitations of the writers. The same is true of anything you read in newspapers, science journals, history text books. As part of the writing process people let biases and inaccuracies creep in. Sometimes it is deliberate POV pushing, sometimes not so deliberate. Sometimes it is just an unavoidable effect of having to pick and choose which information to include because space is limited so simply can't give fair hearing to all sides of a debate. Sometimes it is ignorance on the part of the writer that is compounded by the writer not even realizing that he is ignorant about an aspect of a subject.

        It's important to think about the likely motivations of writers when reading Wikipedia. It is important to be aware that occasionally vandals insert wrong information. You can always check the sources, and check the recent changes to the article when you suspect the information is simply wrong. When you suspect bias it is good to check the discussion history too so you can get an idea of what biases the different editors are trying to deal with. ~~~~
      • Wikipedia is crack for a Cliff Clavin-esque [wikipedia.org] information junkie like me, but I would never stake my reputation on anything I read there unless I had at least 3 independent sources confirming it

        Don't worry too much, most people don't have a reputation that is worth anything, so it matches Wikipedia.

        In fact come to think of it, my reputation is worth about zero too, which is something I read on Wikipedia.

      • by roothog (635998)

        The simple English Wikipedia doesn't try to simplify scientific concepts any more than the regular English Wikipedia. It just uses basic words chosen from a small vocabulary set (when possible), and simple sentence construction. It's meant as an aid for people learning the English language. It's not going to help you understand complex physics topics like the one you mentioned.

        You need to parse the title as "(Simple English) Wikipedia", not as "Simple (English Wikipedia)".

      • the articles concerning math and science I generally accept as truth

        For math at least, that's a fine policy. I've found almost no errors in the undergraduate-level and below math articles and have never been "burned" by just believing a formula or statement to be true. In my experience any math page that gets a decent amount of traffic has errors fixed very quickly. More obscure graduate-level topics have errors significantly more frequently that stick around much longer. (Anything beyond that is probably not on Wikipedia yet anyway.)

        One thing the math pages are low on is c

  • With the older commercial encyclopedias, accuracy and reliability reputations made or broke companies.

    With Wiki being free and volunteer, these restraints famously don't exist, leading to exactly this kind of thing. Not good or bad, it just is.

    I LIKE arguments in my research sources; sources should be challenged. If the challenges are in the source itself, so much the better.

    • If the challenges are in the source itself, so much the better.

      And that's exactly the sort of challenge you'll find in a good article on Wikipedia: documenting that one reliable source disagrees with another. A good article will maintain neutrality by describing the controversy [wikipedia.org].

    • With the older commercial encyclopedias, accuracy and reliability reputations made or broke companies.

      Exactly: accuracy and reliability reputations. Not quite the same as accuracy and reliability.

      With Wiki being free and volunteer, these restraints famously don't exist, leading to exactly this kind of thing. Not good or bad, it just is.

      Actually, I've never seen evidence of this sort of thing in articles on subjects about which I really cared.

      I LIKE arguments in my research sources; sources should be ch

    • by svick (1158077) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @05:48PM (#40423571)

      Just because Wikipedia is not for-profit doesn't mean the same rules don't apply.

      If a commercial encyclopedia is not good enough (what you describe as "accuracy and reliability reputation"), it means people won't buy it and so the publishing company will go bankrupt.

      If an open encyclopedia like Wikipedia is not good enough, it means people won't visit it. And that means nobody will edit it and nobody will donate to it and so the publishing organization will have to close down. And even if it would technically keep running, no visitors and no editors means it's a dead project anyway.

      Either way, if an encyclopedia is not good enough, it will eventually go down. It doesn't matter whether it's made for profit or not.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @06:50PM (#40424047) Homepage Journal

      I LIKE arguments in my research sources; sources should be challenged. If the challenges are in the source itself, so much the better.

      That's why the greatest innovation of Wikipedia is not that it's so comprehensive or that it's free or that anyone can edit it.

      The greatest innovation of Wikipedia is the "Talk" tab, where disagreements over the content of an entry is hashed out.

      One of the worst aspects of the old Encyclopedia Britannica with which I grew up was that articles were presented as the last word on a topic, even though there was almost certainly similar disagreement over many entries.

      Whatever you might think of Howard Zinn, he gave us one very important thing to think about: That facts may be facts, but they can look very different depending on whether you're the hammer or the nail.

      On the other hand (I'm arguing with myself here), the Talk pages are also filled with propagandizing, bullying, efforts at obfuscation and outright lying. There is definitely an element of devaluation of expertise and an overall "Fox News-ing" of facts.

      Takeaway is, as many have said, make Wikipedia (or Britannica) the starting point if you want to learn something, not the end. And blogs should never be taken as authoritative.

      • by Hanzie (16075) *

        When I was very young, my parents invested in encyclopedias. I read the Encyclopedia Americana A-Z cover to cover. Later, in 6th grade, I did the same thing with the current edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. This gave me a HUGE boost in school and life.

        Unfortunately, I don't see how the same is possible any more. There's just too much in any electronic encyclopedia to read all of any more. On the other hand, instant access to any information, porn and billions of opinions all easily from a variety of

        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          Once again, Mom, thank you for forcing me to learn to touch type.

          Brother, ain't that the truth.

          Thanks to Mom, and Mavis Beacon. I would so totally do her (not Mom, Mavis).

    • encyclopedias from the early 1900s were blatantly racist and often stupid.

      encyclopedias from the 1950s reflected the cold war biases of their authors.

      wikipedia is a steaming pile of shit, but its better than anything that came before it, which is why people use it and why encyclopedias are dead as a medium unless someone can figure out a new business model where the authors get payed for their work.

      (hint - wikipedia already has many articles where authors have been payed, its a dirty secret that nobody like

      • wikipedia already has many articles where authors have been payed

        [citation needed]

      • by Hanzie (16075) *

        encyclopedias from the early 1900s were blatantly racist and often stupid. encyclopedias from the 1950s reflected the cold war biases of their authors.

        Yes, but they still had good reputations. Current opinions aren't able to retroactively cancel encyclopedia sales in the early 1900's.

        wikipedia is a steaming pile of shit,

        I must respectfully disagree. I find the hard science stuff to be extremely useful. I find software and pc specification articles to be a godsend. The only areas I don't bother much wit

  • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @05:29PM (#40423449)

    While the so called summary claims that wikipedia is supposed to be this "war zone", the article's fucking summary states that they have concluded that "edit wars are mainly fought by few editors only." The article then proceeds with statements such as:

    "Usually, different editors constructively extend each other’s text, correct minor errors and mistakes until a consensual article emerges – this is the most natural, and by far the most common, way for a WP entry to be developed.

    and even

    As we shall see, in the English WP close to 99% of the articles result from this rather smooth, constructive process.

    So, fuck you slashdot for posting a story with such an inflamatory, patently wrong and misleading pile of crap which was supposed to be the summary. If you have to lie to desperately generate page hits then it's a clear sign that you are dead as a communications medium.

    • by Pieroxy (222434)

      +1

    • by nothings (597917)

      Every time you see a terrible Slashdot article or headline, check which editor posted it.

      If you're like me you'll learn to just say "fucking timothy" when it happens.

  • by skine (1524819) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @05:37PM (#40423505)

    Wikipedia is a great resource for getting a basic overview of topics that are essentially settled.

    The problem comes in with new stories, whose only sources tend to be news articles that are written to evoke controversy. This is despite the fact that most articles don't really need any more information than is given in the headline, or because there is essentially no factual information available, so the "controversy" is just pure speculation.

    The same thing happens with /. articles.

    Just looking at recent ones, "Intel Releases Ivy Bridge Programming Docs Under CC License," really doesn't need any more information, unless you don't know what those words mean. And actually, this is a good time to check Wikipedia, because "Intel," "Ivy Bridge," and "CC License," are all fairly settled topics.

    On the other hand, "SOPA Protests 'Poisoned the Well,' Says Congressional Staffer," is taking the personal opinion of someone who is employed by someone who was elected to congress, adding the statement that "the internet is at risk," to drum up controversy, and intentionally trying to split people into "us and them."

  • by cinnamon colbert (732724) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @05:40PM (#40423519) Journal
    I have a PhD in molecular biology, and have worked on articles about DNA; in some very, very obscure techniques used to study DNA, I was, for a brief period, a world authority. I no longer contribute to wiki for two reasons: 1) I have to keep correcting, and recorrecting, and re re re correcting stuff; after a while, it gets tiresome to ahve to deal with people who think that RAM is part of the keyboard... 2) The copyleft allows *for profit* webpages to use my work. I find this intolerable; my hard work is used to make some loathsome 1%er rich? I don't mind if non profits do it, but I will be Dam*** if i contribute to something that can be ripped off by for profits. I would also add that the huge amount of work needed to write in markup as opposed to wysiwyg is also a deterrent; perhaps th next gen wiki will fix this and the copy left part
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      2) The copyleft allows *for profit* webpages to use my work. I find this intolerable; my hard work is used to make some loathsome 1%er rich? I don't mind if non profits do it, but I will be Dam*** if i contribute to something that can be ripped off by for profits.

      Get over yourself.

    • by epine (68316) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @06:12PM (#40423745)

      The copyleft allows *for profit* webpages to use my work. I find this intolerable; my hard work is used to make some loathsome 1%er rich?

      In theory, but do you really think that's easy to pull off? Can they really charge more than their middle-man repackaging justifies? Repacking is a value add if done to high standards.

      The mandate is to spread knowledge to the whole of the world's population. If middle-men can't make engage in any kind of fee-based recovery concerning editorial costs, you're not going to attract much participation with the dissemination task. I don't see many flowering plants harshing honey bees. I think you've got the wrong picture of the ecosystem.

      I have to keep correcting, and recorrecting, and re re re correcting stuff

      I learned that lesson early. It's a huge mistake to take pride in bunny-suited textual purity. Wikipedia is a pig farm. Even the most conscientious farmer gets shit on his boots. Also, Wikipedia doesn't exactly encourage subject matter experts to take on leading editorial roles. It's more into the kind of loose accuracy obtained at arm's length remove. I would almost say that Wikipedia actively resists excellence. This is hard concept for many people to comprehend. The highly cultivated "feature articles" are a bit of a Potemkin village. Featureness degrades rapidly after the parade moves on.

      My sense is that you'd have been happier contributing to uberpedia. "wiki" is German for "I wouldn't go so far as to call the brother fat. He's got a weight problem. What's the nigger gonna do? He's Samoan." For all its warts, the constructive sentiment is loud and clear.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      I can sympathize with the re-editing issue, some form of expertise recognition would certainly encourage their participation. Even just a warning that "You are editing a section was written/corrected by someone confirmed to be a grade N expert in the field, please restrain yourself" might go a long way to reduce "corrections" by well-meaning semi-experts

      On the CC issue though I have to disagree, the purpose of such a project is to freely share knowledge - it's not like there's a thriving market in printed

    • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @07:07PM (#40424149)

      I have a PhD in molecular biology ... I find this intolerable; my hard work is used to make some loathsome 1%er rich?

      You're telling me you have a PhD in molecular bio and you aren't near that top 1% of income? 5%er perhaps? I agree with the notion of not working for free, but I think you're overselling the class-baiting angle.

      • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms@infamo[ ]net ['us.' in gap]> on Saturday June 23, 2012 @09:34PM (#40425243) Homepage

        You're telling me you have a PhD in molecular bio and you aren't near that top 1% of income?

        Cutoff for top 1%: about $380,000 [wsj.com].

        Average salary of PhD in molecular biology: $76,000 [simplyhired.com].

        Scientists are not, generally, 1%ers.

        • Which is why I said 'near', and '5%'. You get to the point of splitting hairs when the top 5% is calling the top 1% 'loathsome'. While I fully appreciate your ability to confuse the forest and trees, the point remains the same.

          PhD scientists in many fields are paid quite well, often between $100k and $200k for mid-career in STEM. That puts someone in the top single-digit percents. Also, you do realize that $76,000 number was pulled from a search aggregator and has no validity whatsoever - right? If yo

      • You're telling me you have a PhD in molecular bio and you aren't near that top 1% of income?

        Says the person who isn't as rich as David Beckham - or as intelligent.

    • by tbird81 (946205) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @07:20PM (#40424253)

      You sound quite arrogant, and my guess is that you grossly overvalue your own work and opinion.

      Do you really think that your scrawlings on Wikipedia (which other editors constantly have to fix) are being used by millionaires to make even more millions?

      You call people "loathsome" because they have more money than you? Are you delusional? You, along with many other PhDs are giving "academics" a bad name.

      I put it to you that you only did a PhD because you are socially, financially and intellectually unable to achieve in life - and there's no problem with this - it takes all types to make a world. But my main problem with you is your hatred and inability to work with other people. I don't use Wikipedia much anymore, but on behalf of them: Good riddance, Wikipedia is better off without you.

      • It sounds like someone didn't get the grades they expected to get and thus didn't get accepted into the PhD program they always dreamed of pursuing... or perhaps has a chip on their shoulder because even though they might have found some economic success, they find they are dismissed socially for lack of formal education, even if they did restore and still drive an '81 Thunderbird, yet still must further constantly overcompensate for mental and academic deficits by scrutinizing those that did study hard and

        • by schnell (163007) <me.schnell@net> on Sunday June 24, 2012 @12:53AM (#40426389) Homepage

          Ph.D.s, M.D.s, D.O.s, D.V.M.s and even J.D.s have earned the right to be arrogant.

          No offense, but it is this kind of attitude that turns a lot of people off about (at least the popular image of) academics.

          I would suggest that "arrogance" is not a "right" of anyone, but a character flaw. Your particular set of academic credentials does not give you "the right to be arrogant" any more than someone else's job title, athletic prowess, degree of popular fame or any other achievement gives them the same right.

      • You sound quite arrogant, and my guess is that you grossly overvalue your own work and opinion.

        You sound like one of those people say "everybody's opinion is valid".

        Not everyone's opinion is valid. In fact most of the time it's not. Democracy consistently produces "mediocre" results. The important point is "Consistently"... it consistently creates below average work, but in many respects consistently below average is better than volatile above/below average work. In other words we are ok with an incompetent congress since we would rather have an incompetent congress a chance of getting an exc

    • by qxcv (2422318)

      perhaps th next gen wiki will fix this and the copy left part

      You've actually read Wikipedia's page on licensing [wikipedia.org], haven't you? They (where "they" is anybody with a business plan) *can* sell your work, but it has to be under a Wikipedia-compatible licence and they have to credit you (directly or indirectly) as an author. It's not exactly a bottomless pit of money.

  • War zone? Ridiculous!

    It's nowhere near that good.

  • by Burz (138833)

    Picking controversial entries is bound to lead you to examples of contention, on Wikipedia or elsewhere. And as GreatBunzinni (642500) pointed out, the Slashdot summary misrepresents the study just to be sensational.

  • That's excellent! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by goruka (1721094) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @05:49PM (#40423577)
    Instead of a single-bias publication which is solved behind closed doors, we get plenty of people with different biases arguing and trying to make their points stand. How is not that a huge improvement?
  • Thanks, sociologists, for once again stating an obvious fact of human nature. News flash: Wikipedia suffers from the same vicissitudes of human behavior as every other compilation of knowledge on the planet.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Did you ever read Encarta and Encyclopedia Britannica in their day? As an example, one showed Napoleon as a hero and one showed him as a villain ... yep, all you're seeing with Wikipedia is a collaborative environment is struggling to globally define things ... it's no surprise.

    Was Genghis Khan a mass murder/rapist? It depends on where you're from - some see him as a hero.

    Now Wikipedia has several approaches to this dilemma. One involves presenting conflicting views, another alternative is for "political

  • by br00tus (528477) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @06:09PM (#40423715)

    Everyone has their own political opinions, as does Jimmy Wales. He used to run a mailing list devoted to Ayn Rand. Speaking of Wikipedia and conservative economist Friedrich Hayek, Wales has said "Hayek's work...is central to my own thinking about how to manage the Wikipedia project. One can't understand my ideas about Wikipedia without understanding Hayek." Thus, his opinions on politics, and what used to be called political economy, have bearing on Wikipedia's structure.

    Of course, a project which gets large enough can't be run as an absolute dictatorship, or it falls apart (or everyone moved on to a split). The official Wikipedia explanation page for the 2005 Elections [wikipedia.org] is laughable. First of all, if you read the mailing lists and Wikipedia posts, Jimbo didn't even want a binding election, he wanted to appoint everyone himself. There was such resistance to this he backed off. Then fanatical Point of View pusher JayJG ran in the 2005 election for the Arbitration Committee. By any measure, he lost the election, partly due to such an overwhelming number of no votes, because so many people thought he lacked fair-mindedness and balance. So Jimbo ignored the election votes and appointed JayJG to the Arbitration Committee. Because they were ideological allies. This is all glossed over in the official entry on the elections above.

    Nowadays, it probably seems silly to have been so involved in it, but when Larry Sanger's Wikipedia came out (another person thrown under the bus by Jimbo, once Sanger's Wikipedia idea started taking off, Wales took over and tried to write Sanger out of history) it had a lot of potential. So much of what happened is despite Wales, not because of him. I think it could have been even better, but it was not meant to be, not in this iteration of the wiki encyclopedia idea any how.

    Speaking of neutral point of view, the recognized systemic bias [wikipedia.org] etc., let's take a look at the opening two paragraphs of the Abu Nidal [wikipedia.org] biography and see if sounds encyclopedic or not:

    "Abu Nidal...born Sabri Khalil al-Banna...was the founder of Fatah–The Revolutionary Council. At the height of his power in the 1970s and 1980s, Abu Nidal, or "father of [the] struggle," was widely regarded as the most ruthless of the Palestinian political leaders. He told Der Spiegel in a rare interview in 1985: 'I am the evil spirit which moves around only at night causing ... nightmares.' Part of the secular Palestinian rejectionist front, so called because they reject proposals for a peaceful settlement with Israel, the ANO was formed after a split in 1974 between Abu Nidal and Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)...Patrick Seale, Abu Nidal's biographer, wrote of the attacks that their 'random cruelty marked them as typical Abu Nidal operations.'"

    I doubt even Haaretz would publish something like this. Yet it's an encyclopedia entry on Wikipedia. Whether you like Nidal or not, this is not neutral and encyclopedic writing. If you don't think this is biased or unencyclopedic enough, it gets worse as the article goes on. And there are worse examples, this one just comes to my mind. If your answer is "It's Wikipedia, just change it yourself", you've missed the point of this post. Go to Wikipedia Review [wikipediareview.com] to really get an answer to that question.

  • I was the world's #1 authority on a very narrow subject. No kidding, I really was - in the English language, anyway. The Wikipedia article was blah, the sort of crap that people copy & paste from local government websites. Stats and figures, GDP, tons per month exported from the port, that sort of crap. The native language article on the same topic was pretty blah, too. I took it upon myself (this was in 2005) to update the article, remove the crap, and start plugging away at making it more useful
  • looked in particular at controversial entries, not ones about obscure duck-hunting equipment or long-settled standards.

    Wow, so editing of controversial entries turns out being not very collaborative. What's next? Victims of abuse are more likely to be unhappy in their marriage? Come on. what's the point here? Signed, a guy who didn't RTFA. :-)

  • by ras (84108) <russell-slashdot ... u ['id.' in gap]> on Saturday June 23, 2012 @08:48PM (#40424923) Homepage

    Typical inflammatory Slashdot story that gets it so wrong you have to wonder whether the submitter read TFA. The Slashdot summary says:

    sociologists studying social networking have determined that Wikipedia is not an intellectual project based on mutual collaboration, but a war zone.

    What the paper actually says:

    Usually, different editors constructively extend each other’s text, correct minor errors and mistakes until a consensual article emerges – this is the most natural, and by far the most common, way for a WP entry to be developed. ... As we shall see, in the English WP close to 99% of the articles result from this rather smooth, constructive process.

    The paper does say there are some articles are the subject of what appears to be permanent edit wars. But they are a tiny proportion:

    it is a credit to the WP community that such cases are kept to a minuscule proportion of less than 100 in the entire set of 3.2 M articles

    The summary says:

    The study finds that although the content does end up being accurate as a rule, it's anything but neutral or unbiased.

    The paper is a study of human interaction in social media. It is not a study into the quality of Encyclopeadia's. It draws no conclusions on the accuracy, neutrality, or bias in of Wikipedia's articles whatsoever. Nonetheless when they set the scene in the introduction they quote this result from another paper:

    independent studies have shown that, as early as in 2005, science articles in WP and Encyclopedia Britannica were of comparable quality

  • ...it takes approximately an hour and an internet connection. Further, it's not just a massive edit war, it's a multi-directional war in which a few sides always seem to out-gun the other. Whoever has more administrators on their side ultimately end up deciding what happens. The only good thing is that there is very little large-scale coherency, so the bias is more random noise than outright propaganda. However, there are some wide reaching factions (inclusionists and deletionists) which do serve to screw t
  • I, for one, can live with the fact that a few adolescents think that the article on Micheal Jackson is important enough to make a fuss about. Same with GW Bush. The lemmas that are mired in controversy, are usually the ones where you know about it, and have your own opinion on.

  • If there are heated wars over a topic, with factions constantly making changes... well damn, that tells you a lot right there. So long as the changes are documented and the history available... that's a very good thing. I learn more in the comments of places like slashdot, reddit and google+ than I do in the original post or argument. often quite a bit more.

    Same applies to wikipedia. If mr Alpha says one thing and Mr. Beta says another thing... and you see a whole string of alpha and beta modifications... w

  • On a controversial page where there are few experts.

    It is hard work being an editor. Expect to put many hours in trying to make changes which will be constantly reverted and argued against by multiple people on talk pages. Experts probably have better things to do. If you're not available at the right time, all your work can can be removed in days.

    Add to that, the massive learning curve for Wikipedia: people who are contracted by the majority of scientific papers can impose their bias on a page simply be

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