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When a Primary Source Isn't Good Enough: Wikipedia 333

Posted by Soulskill
from the citation-needed dept.
unixluv writes "Evidently, Wikipedia doesn't believe an author on his own motivations when trying to correct an article on his own book. A Wikipedia administrator claimed they need 'secondary sources.' I'm not sure where you would go to get a secondary source when you are the only author of a work. Thus, in a lengthy blog post for The New Yorker, Roth created his own secondary source. He wrote, 'My novel The Human Stain was described in the entry as "allegedly inspired by the life of the writer Anatole Broyard." ... This alleged allegation is in no way substantiated by fact. The Human Stain was inspired, rather, by an unhappy event in the life of my late friend Melvin Tumin, professor of sociology at Princeton for some thirty years.' The Wikipedia page has now been corrected."
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When a Primary Source Isn't Good Enough: Wikipedia

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 08, 2012 @12:44PM (#41274087)

    Convince someone else first, then convince Wikipedia.

    • by csnydermvpsoft (596111) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @12:59PM (#41274213) Homepage

      Who decides who these official arbiters are? Does it have to be an established, traditional publishing house? What if it's a self-published e-book?

      • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horningNO@SPAMnetzero.net> on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:52PM (#41274641) Homepage Journal

        Who decides who these official arbiters are? Does it have to be an established, traditional publishing house? What if it's a self-published e-book?

        The "who decides" is those who give a damn enough to help write the article and help to determine what counts as a reliable source. That is sort of the point of the article talk pages, where things like this is actively discussed. Sometimes it may simply be a blog that is accepted, other times it may need to come from a published scientific journal which has been cited by other publications a number of times.

        Hopefully those who are active on the talk page of a given article are sufficiently interested in the topic to also be knowledgeable about most of the available sources which can discuss the topic in the first place, so they are after a fashion "subject matter experts" who can properly evaluate what is a reliable source and what isn't. Discussions about what counts specifically as a reliable source are extremely common debates on article talk pages, including where there are multiple opinions as to what counts and what doesn't.

        I fall into the camp that thinks primary sources are just fine... within reason and as long as they don't dominate the article. But the funny thing about Wikipedia is that it depends on those who are active and willing to join into the discussions about such things. It isn't really some hierarchical authority but rather simply those who care to chime in can, and if for some reason you disagree with the decision being made you can also "appeal" to the greater Wikipedia community... particularly when a group of people are acting against general Wikipedia policies.

        If somebody is being a real asshat and doing constant edit wars, ignoring discussions or group consensus on what works, they can be "moderated" by wiki admins. There is even a formal judicial procedure called "ArbCom" (the "Arbitration Committee") where you can lay your disputes out before a group of very experienced users who can make a final determination and take action if necessary including imposing a user ban or editorial restrictions like "User X can't edit or participate in Comic Book discussions and articles for the next six months". BTW, the ArbCom is an elected office determined by the Wikipedia community and needs to be re-elected in order to maintain the position. Generally Arbcom doesn't get into disputes about individual sources though but rather dealing with users who don't care about what is happening on Wikipedia but know enough of the rules to stay on the fringe and not get immediately banned.

    • by Rei (128717) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @02:38PM (#41274945) Homepage

      I've seen this before a long time ago. On the article for the TV show "Man vs. Wild", people had long accused the show of being faked. Then one of the show's survival consultants, credited in the show's credits, came forward on the survival forum that he ran and admitted a whole bunch of stuff that they faked. However, this information wasn't allowed to be added to the article because it was a "forum" and a "primary source". Even though the primary source worked on the show and ran the forum. It wasn't until much later that a newspaper mentioned his claims could they be included in the article.

      Unfortunately, the rules of Wikipedia are what they are. You deal with them or you don't take part. And while sometimes they lead to less than ideal results, ultimately, I think Wikipedia has built a pretty good product as a whole.

      • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horningNO@SPAMnetzero.net> on Saturday September 08, 2012 @03:15PM (#41275163) Homepage Journal

        Actually, the Wikipedia primary source policy including the ability to reference web pages, blogs, and forums even includes exceptions to include material like this. It just sounds like there were a bunch of anal retentive idiots editing the page who were more caught up in policy than trying to actually write an article with useful information.

        There are some editors who act as gate keepers from time to time on Wikipedia articles. They are called "article owners", and something that is also considered against Wikipedia policy. Sadly they don't get slapped down often enough even when what they are doing is contrary to policy.

        It is important to note that the information is reliable, and a talk page is certainly a good place to discuss such things. I've quoted blog entries and stood up to people who pulled things like this out (reverting their edits and responding on talk pages) where I've had these kind of "no blogs are allowed" believers to re-read the actual policy and back down. It does take weighing sources and judging them for credibility, and sometimes people are just lazy not wanting to put in extra effort to verify the source for themselves.

        That in your case it was put into a secondary source sort of makes life easier, but I've seen secondary sources misquote the primary sources as well. The key work here is "scholarship", which sadly is not an easy skill to acquire. Writing a quality encyclopedia article is hard work and harder than it looks. It can be a learned skill acquired by participating on Wikipedia and learning from "the school of hard knocks", but it does take time and effort.

    • by onyxruby (118189)

      That is absurd, /nobody/ owes wikipedia a god damn thing. That a source would bother to correct a story in person is something that wikipedia should be grateful for. Who the hell are you, the anonymous coward, to question, the source, on anything? Seriously?

      Who the hell is anyone to judge the source of a inspiration for a creative work? Unless there is /proof/ of fraud or plagiarism it absurd to doubt what someone else claims as inspiration. I'll give you a good example to make my point, the guy who ripped [politicker.com]

  • Douches (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @12:44PM (#41274091) Homepage Journal

    I don't pretend that I understand the internal machinations or politics of WikiPedia, but I have had several edits reverted because someone out there didn't like certain information being revealed. I included proper references for those edits, but when they go against the agenda of someone on the inside, you can't compete.

    LK

    • Re:Douches (Score:5, Funny)

      by macraig (621737) <mark...a...craig@@@gmail...com> on Saturday September 08, 2012 @12:49PM (#41274129)

      So then Wikipedia really isn't run by impartial androids? Damn!

      • by guises (2423402)
        It would be good enough if Wikipedia was run by humans who were honest. Androids would be pretty cool too though.
        • Good enough? More like amazing! Where would you find enough honest humans to staff entire wikipedia? Making sentient androids seems more practical in comparison..
    • Re:Douches (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cpu6502 (1960974) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:05PM (#41274279)

      Then you revert the Edits back into the article with a note: "It is a violation of wikirules to remove properly cited material. If you think it should be removed, goto Talk page and justify your case."

      • Re:Douches (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 08, 2012 @02:00PM (#41274699)

        Not all helpful people feel like becoming deeply involved in wiki-politics just to make a single edit on a topic they know well, and can cite sources for. Just like people like to donate to charity without actually having to run a fucking charity.

      • Re:Douches (Score:5, Informative)

        by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Saturday September 08, 2012 @02:55PM (#41275053)

        Then you revert the Edits back into the article with a note: "It is a violation of wikirules to remove properly cited material. If you think it should be removed, goto Talk page and justify your case."

        And then you get accused of starting an "edit war", and punish with a week or two of "time out".

        • Re:Douches (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Teancum (67324) <robert_horningNO@SPAMnetzero.net> on Saturday September 08, 2012 @03:21PM (#41275205) Homepage Journal

          Then you revert the Edits back into the article with a note: "It is a violation of wikirules to remove properly cited material. If you think it should be removed, goto Talk page and justify your case."

          And then you get accused of starting an "edit war", and punish with a week or two of "time out".

          Reverting once or twice isn't a problem on Wikipedia. It is the lack of communication and acting as though you are the only person who could possibly be editing that article which gets you into trouble. Sometimes you need to compromise and realize you are writing content jointly with almost all of the rest of humanity (at least those who care about the article in any way). That is the point of the talk pages on Wikipedia, so you can collaborate in the development of the article.

          I can understand that you don't want to waste any more of your time fixing what was a casual edit. If the edit gets accepted, be grateful, otherwise don't let it piss you off.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by DerekLyons (302214)

            Sometimes you need to compromise and realize you are writing content jointly with almost all of the rest of humanity (at least those who care about the article in any way). That is the point of the talk pages on Wikipedia, so you can collaborate in the development of the article.

            You can't compromise or collaborate with someone who doesn't accept cited facts that are contrary to their worldview. That's the OP's point, and it went whooshing about ten feet over your head.

            I can understand that you don

            • by Teancum (67324)

              Sometimes you need to compromise and realize you are writing content jointly with almost all of the rest of humanity (at least those who care about the article in any way). That is the point of the talk pages on Wikipedia, so you can collaborate in the development of the article.

              You can't compromise or collaborate with someone who doesn't accept cited facts that are contrary to their worldview. That's the OP's point, and it went whooshing about ten feet over your head.

              That is the reason you can speak up to the wider Wikipedia community when that happens. If they aren't willing to compromise with you and at least acknowledge alternative viewpoints, they are violating Wikipedia policies and will be smacked down eventually.

              I know it isn't perfect, but the issue here is that you are dealing with another human being and not some computer. It includes all of the fickle and even downright petty problems of having to deal with anybody else that exists in any other endeavor. S

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by teg (97890)

      I don't pretend that I understand the internal machinations or politics of WikiPedia, but I have had several edits reverted because someone out there didn't like certain information being revealed. I included proper references for those edits, but when they go against the agenda of someone on the inside, you can't compete.

      LK

      Sometimes it's necessary - you can find "references" for almost anything these days. Three examples: Evolution, Obama being born in Hawaii and global warming all have opponents with pages to quote and an axe to grind even though the facts strongly support all of these and there isn't any real controversy surrounding them.

      I'm not a Wikipedia editor or contributor (other than financially), and I don't know your issue either, but I do believe that some manual oversight is needed.

      • Re:Douches (Score:5, Insightful)

        by wisty (1335733) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:19PM (#41274375)

        Also, Neil Gaiman claims he made up a "fact" in American Gods, which Wikipedia put in unreferenced. Another website used Wikipedia as a source for this fact. Wikipedia then referenced the other website. Neil Gaiman thinks it's too funny to spoil, by actually telling anyone what the "fact" was.

        Citogenesis in action.

        • by Teancum (67324)

          Also, Neil Gaiman claims he made up a "fact" in American Gods, which Wikipedia put in unreferenced. Another website used Wikipedia as a source for this fact. Wikipedia then referenced the other website. Neil Gaiman thinks it's too funny to spoil, by actually telling anyone what the "fact" was.

          Citogenesis in action.

          It sounds like reliable sources weren't really followed. The person to blame here is not "Wikipedia" in general and certainly not the "Wikimedia Foundation", but rather the people who participated in the development of that particular article.

          The fact that you know about this bit of trivia and are doing nothing about it sort of puts the responsibility of trying to fix this "issue" on you, or in this case with Neil Gaiman as well since he is openly bragging about it.

          If you like Wikipedia and use it on a reg

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Wikipedia is about as partisan as /. is. Don't trust it as a source, it's as simple as that.

      • Wikipedia is about as partisan as /. is. Don't trust it as a source, it's as simple as that.

        It is even simpler than that: Don't trust any single source. For something like a school assignment, Wikipedia is fine. But for anything that you actually care about, your research should include multiple sources.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 08, 2012 @12:45PM (#41274099)

    This is how Wikipedia is like a failed software project: they value their process more than their goal.

    I could go out and make the most amazing, society-altering discovery ever, but I wouldn't be allowed to tell Wikipedia about it, because it would be "original research" and it would require "secondary sources."

    If or when Wikipedia dies, this, along with the oft-reviled entrenched fiefdoms, will be the reason.

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @02:05PM (#41274717)

      I could go out and make the most amazing, society-altering discovery ever

      Crackpots make "amazing, society-altering discoveries" everyday. Almost none of them are noteworthy. Those that are noteworthy get mentioned in peer reviewed scientific journals, or at least a few newspapers. These are the "secondary sources" you dismiss. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a newspaper, and certainly not a peer reviewed journal.

    • by bagorange (1531625) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @02:05PM (#41274723)

      If you had a science altering discovery it would be published in peer reviewed journals and you could use those as references.
      Until they are published somewhere reputable, no-one has a good reason to believe science altering claims

    • by manaway (53637)

      This is how Science is like a failed software project: they value their process more than their goal. I could go out and make the most amazing, society-altering discovery ever, but I wouldn't be allowed to tell AAAS Science Magazine about it, because it would be "original research" and it would require "peer review." If or when Science dies, this, along with the oft-reviled entrenched fiefdoms, will be the reason. [emphasis added]

    • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @02:18PM (#41274823)

      Another perfect example is there "no trivial" policy, which is totally retarded.

      One man's trivia is another man's junk! I mean, its not like the "trivia" section is taking up wads of disk-space. The WHOLE point about a dynamic non-linear encyclopedia is to link to all SORTS of information in the first place!

      Wikipedia is run by a bunch of fucktards who think they can decide is worthy of being "knowledge"

      • by Fred Ferrigno (122319) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @04:24PM (#41275593)

        With trivia sections, you get articles with a small main body followed by a very long list of unrelated facts under Trivia because it's easier to add one line to the existing list than to integrate it into the article. That's just a bad way to organize an article.

        The content in the trivia sections is usually fine, you just need to find a way to include it in the main body of the article so that it reads like an encyclopedia entry should.

  • by chill (34294) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @12:46PM (#41274111) Journal

    This reminds me of the Rodney Dangerfield movie "Back to School".

    The English professor gives and assignment to read and write and analysis on a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Dangerfield's character hires Kurt Vonnegut himself to write the analysis.

    The professor, during fit of scorn, throws the paper at Dangerfield and yells "and you don't understand the first thing about what Vonnegut meant!"

    Vonnegut himself has a non-speaking cameo where Dangerfield tells him he's stopping payment on the check and Vonnegut flips him off.

    • by platypussrex (594064) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @12:53PM (#41274159)
      Or that wonderful scene in Annie Hall when they are in the queue at the theatre, the loudmouth ass in front of them is spouting off about his knowledge of Marshall McLuhan, and Woody Allen brings out Marshall McLuhan in person to refute the ass.
    • Meh, Philip Roth just doesn't understand Wikipedia.

      Imagine that you're writing a report on The Human Stain. You see Roth's direct edit to Wikipedia, but since that's the only place he made the change, that's the only source. How would you cite that in your bibliography, knowing that any cite of Wikipedia is immediately scored an F? How do you know Roth personally made the edit?

      Wikipedia is, by design and definition, unreliable.

      • Re:Back to School (Score:4, Insightful)

        by chill (34294) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:05PM (#41274271) Journal

        Irrelevant. Roth contacted an editor himself, who acknowledged him as the primary source. The editor could make the change, having established to his satisfaction that the person was indeed the author.

        Besides, if you're writing a report on The Human Stain, you should be reading The Human Stain, not Wikipedia.

        • "...if you're writing a report on The Human Stain, you should be reading The Human Stain, not Wikipedia."

          Writing a report on David Copperfield and NOT reading a biography on Charles Dickens in addition to that is practically only doing half the work.

      • Re:Back to School (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Belial6 (794905) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:33PM (#41274483)
        I would go farther and say that the author is not necessarily the end authority on their own work. The process Wikipedia has is actually superior to letting the author put direct edits. The author wrote a separate article, and that article was quoted. That gives a path to put the authors intentions into Wikipedia while also giving those that think he may be misrepresenting himself a footing to put that into the article as well.

        The thing is that people often lie about their own actions and intentions. They lie to themselves, and they lie to other people. This gets even worse when you start seeing someone try to sell something. Something like a book. I'm not saying that THIS author was lying, but there are plenty of authors who would.

        If they took Roth as a primary source and allowed his words to be stated as unreferenced facts, they would need to take Whitley Strieber [wikipedia.org] as a primary source when he says he was actually kidnapped by aliens.

        It is infinity better for Wikipedia to remain a secondary source reference with links to the primary sources.
        • Re:Back to School (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SilverJets (131916) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @02:18PM (#41274819) Homepage

          I would go farther and say that the author is not necessarily the end authority on their own work.

          If they took Roth as a primary source and allowed his words to be stated as unreferenced facts, they would need to take Whitley Strieber [wikipedia.org] as a primary source when he says he was actually kidnapped by aliens.

          Roth was refuting claims made by reviewers of his book that Wikipedia was quoting. Reviewers that wrote reviews that were nothing more than their own opinion's on Roth's works. What secondary sources of the reviews did Wikipedia have? None. Just the reviews themselves. So Wikipedia took the reviewers at their own words on the motivation behind the book (no facts just their own written reviews) but would not accept the author's? That's completely asinine.

          As for Strieber if he believes he was abducted by aliens and this was the motivation for his books, who the hell is Wikipedia to say any different? That if anything points to exactly what is wrong with Wikipedia. They have their own agenda. Their own twist on things. Truth be damned.

      • by hvm2hvm (1208954)
        I think that the whole idea that Wikipedia is too unreliable for citing is absurd and this is a clear example where the article is the real deal because the author himself edited the page.

        Unless you personally recognise the sources listed in a work how can you tell which ones are reliable? I've seen a lot of people writing papers from wikipedia and then just linking the sources of the wiki page. The papers are all accepted since the sources are obscure and expert sounding. It's all the same bullshit in
        • Well, at some point the citations actually do matter. Takes a while and it's a ways up the educational ladder, but eventually they do matter.

          At least, I think so. I've never made it that far myself.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        Except he didn't want to add a cited claim he just wanted to remove a reference to some critic deciding that the book was inspired by something it wasn't.

        Of course that's a bad idea anyway, since it's just going to get added back in future since there it was a claim with an easy cite to a new york times article that's on the nyt web pages, And the wikipedia page was stating the inspiration as a fact, it was stating that someone (who wasn't the author) had stated they thought it was - which is completely tru

    • Re:Back to School (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:03PM (#41274245)

      I had a similar exchange with an English teacher about Huckleberry Finn. In the book, he and Jim choose to go south down the Mississippi river before heading north to Ohio. We were told to write a paper about why Mr. Twain would have them go south. I talked about how the Mississippi river was almost impossible to navigate north at the time (even for steam ships) due to the swift currents and huge amount of water during that part of the year. I cited several scholarly works, and quoted Mr. Clemens himself as to why he made that decision. Got it back with a "D" because, while the mechanics and citations and the rest were all correct, I missed the "symbolism" of that choice and blah blah blah. It took a meeting with the principle for the grade to be set straight.

      • It took a meeting with the principle for the grade to be set straight.

        What was the problem with the grade? Wasn't there symbolism, which you missed?

        • by Teancum (67324)

          It took a meeting with the principle for the grade to be set straight.

          What was the problem with the grade? Wasn't there symbolism, which you missed?

          You can simply ignore the grade altogether and consider that the educational system that most people are in is a total joke, including idiot teachers/professors who really don't know what they are talking about.

          The problem is that kind of attitude also means you need to carry that attitude on after you get out of the system, or that you are about ready to tell off the educational ivory tower altogether and try to prove yourself in another venue. There are consequences to that action though, where things li

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Original AC here. The entire point is that he didn't do it for symbolic reasons, he did it only for the practical reasons, by the author's own admission. How can I miss the symbolism if there isn't any.

          Regardless, the assignment was to explain why he decided to have them go south and I answered that; if I missed the "symbolism" does that mean that everyone that missed the practical aspect of river travel should be similarly docked for not providing a full answer (or a correct one)?

        • Re:Back to School (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Solandri (704621) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @02:59PM (#41275071)

          What was the problem with the grade? Wasn't there symbolism, which you missed?

          You can't mark someone down just because their perfectly valid answer wasn't the answer you were looking for [snopes.com]. Giving the paper a D was punishing the student for the teacher's failure to give clear directions. If the teacher was only going accept an essay on the symbolism of going South on the river as the correct answer, then he should have asked for an essay on the symbolism. We are trying to teach children to be critical thinkers, not psychics.

          • by Teancum (67324)

            I once got an "F" in Computer Science for an assignment that produced output identical to what everybody else in the class had done. My only difference is that I used a completely different algorithm from the rest of the class rather than copying something from the textbook. That my program used fewer instructions, compiled to a smaller binary, and produced the results in a shorter amount of time seemed to go over the head of the instructor.

            I did end up appealing the grade to the department head in that c

      • by bosef1 (208943)

        Don't worry, your teacher's an idiot. Aside from their obvious failures in instruction: that is, the teacher should have explicitly asked for a discussion of the symbolism inherent in the southward journey in Huck Finn, instead of the broader question of just why did Huck and Jim go south; the teacher obviously missed the explicit instructions regarding the finding of motives, morals, and plot in the novel, and should therefore probably be prosecuted, banished, or shot.

        I had a somewhat similar experience:

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by VanessaE (970834)

      Incorrect.

      (OH G*D someone on the Internet is wrong!)

      In the movie, Thornton picks up his report calmly from Diane's desk, looks at it, and asks why she failed him. Her exact quote, in addition to comments about him failing her and being emotionally regressed is, "Tell you something else, whoever did write this doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut." Completely calmly, if obviously irritated.

      (Followed by Thornton threatening Vonnegut by phone to cancel payment on the check he payed with)

      Vonnegut

      • by chill (34294)

        Okay, damn it. I have to rent the movie again. That was probably a 10-year old memory.

  • Primary source (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @12:49PM (#41274131) Journal

    The article in the NYT, directly from the author in question, is a primary source. Wikipedia has no problems using primary sources. What Wikipedia isn't is a primary source itself, nor should it be.

    IMO, this is exactly how Wikipedia should work, with the exception that the unsupported statements about Anatole Broyard should have been removed when it was pointed out that they were unsupported.

    • Re:Primary source (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sir_Sri (199544) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:01PM (#41274225)

      Ya, it's not that wikipedia won't accept primary sources, it's that the primary source has to be statically referenceable.

      A year from now there's no way to know if edits from some IP address were actually the primary source, someone claiming to be so or the like - but if you have a reference to a static source you can at least point to that and then you can have an argument over whether or not you believe him.

      This does raise a longstanding question about static sources in academia - basically in the paper world keeping track of corrections and updates and so on was hard. In the internet era it should be easy, but we still cling to the structure of paper journals a lot of places.

  • Factoid Aggregator (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 08, 2012 @12:52PM (#41274155)

    While it sounds dumb on Wikipedia's part, it does make sense when you think about it. WIkipedia is more like a Factoid Aggregator, listing information that can be backed up elsewhere. They don't want to become the sole source of information, because then it isn't backed up and can't be referenced - say, in case someone needs to verify something or restore it after a clumsy edit (looking at edit history isn't good enough since you still need to verify the fact is true).

    It may sound weird that some guy's blog is more trustworthy than Wikipedia, but in this instance that does seem to be the case.

  • It seems reasonable to me that the guy's blog should be the source, not his user account on wikipedia. otherwise Wikipedia would have to verify user identities, which is insane.
    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      And what happens after the guy dies and his blog is shutdown? Wikipedia will just revert to the incorrect information..... shows how unreliable the place is.

      • by tnk1 (899206)

        That pretty much covers the entire web, you know. I hope you're not suggesting that someone needs to publish a paper book or journal for what they say to be cited.

        Of course, the fact that the blog could disappear does cause an issue with citations, so perhaps they should make use of something like archive.org or some other storage mechanism that maintains backups of the pages cited.

  • by Chemisor (97276) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @12:54PM (#41274163)

    Back in the 19th century people believed in science. Science is based on the belief that there is a real world out there that has properties anyone can discover. What made this world "real" was that these properties did not depend on anybody's opinion, so you didn't have to give a damn about anybody else's opinion of your research either; you could discover the truth yourself, and be right even if everybody in the world disagreed with you.

    In the 21st century we no longer have science. Now we have social science. It's based on the belief that reality is defined by majority opinion. Naturally, one man's opinion is worthless, and only when a consensus is reached can you state that you know anything.

    • by hvm2hvm (1208954)
      Shiiit, you're post made so much sense that it lowered my faith in humanity for the whole day...
  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @12:55PM (#41274183)

    How would one cite Roth's direct edit on Wikipedia...without citing Wikipedia?
    "Personal knowledge of Author, 07 September, 2012"?

    This is where the argument of "why can't he just change Wikipedia?" falls apart.

  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @12:59PM (#41274215)

    Wikipedia embraces "experts in the community," inflates them far beyond their objective worth when it comes to defending its credibility among legitimate encyclopedias, then goes all "Vonnegut in Back to School" when faced with legitimate experts who normally have little use for their sandbox.

    Like I've always said: Want a wonderfully comprehensive summary of the 5th Season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or exegesis on some nearly forgotten Geek meme? Wikipedia's the place to go. Anything else? Not if your serious about it.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      If Expert X says 'no, woozits are green', how exactly is a non-expert editor or reader supposed to verify that? Is everyone reading the article supposed to contact Expert X and ask them 'are you sure woozits are really green?'

      And my experience is that Wikipedia is generally pretty good for any technical subject and pretty hopeless for anything controversial.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      >>>nearly forgotten Geek meme? Wikipedia's the place to go. Anything else? Not if your serious about it.

      Naturally. When I was in school the rule was: "No encyclopedias". We could use them as starting points but not published references. I assume the schools still have that same rule?

  • If a biased party *lies* about what a book or group actually says but the biased party's statement is published in a "reliable source" like a journal heavily supported advertising, perhaps 98%, merely quoting what the book says is a primary source and not accepted since it is not a secondary source. Used to be "patently false" would get crap removed. Ran across this with advertising journals, the largest advertisers vs their competitors.

    Wikipedia's content has often been captured by various commer
  • by McGruber (1417641) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:04PM (#41274251)
    Just ask George Lucas whether or not Han shot first...
  • by Bogtha (906264) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:05PM (#41274269)

    A few months back I saw people having trouble editing the page for a court case. The citation they had provided was the actual court findings as published by the court. There were a couple of Wikipedia moderators that didn't like the topic at hand, so they slapped a big banner saying something to the effect of "Warning: this is all unsubstantiated hokum and will burn down your house if you read it" at the top of the page. They said that the court findings as published by the court were not good enough, that you actually needed an article written about the court case published by a journal instead. They supplied an article published by a journal. This was then also rejected because it was published by a law firm. Kafka would have been rolling his eyes at this point.

    People seem to have lost sight of the fact that a wiki is effective because it drastically lowers the barrier to editing. Wikipedia now fetishises process and is about as far away from the spirit in which wikis were conceived as possible. It's not a wiki if bureaucracy makes it impossible to contribute without reading hundreds of pages on process and you have to fight somebody who seemingly devotes all of their time to controlling their favourite subjects.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      It's not like that on everything, just those things that people with clout care about.

      For instance, I was browsing Wikipedia one day, found something that was clearly vandalism (had added a statement that a particular screen actor was a "faggot" with no citation), and removed it without the slightest bit of difficulty. I also noticed, on an unrelated article about a public figure, that there was a list of commemorative statues, and I knew of one that wasn't on the list, and added it in without any kind of p

      • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

        I read your post this way: Wikipedia is a wiki for things no one really cares about, but for current news and important concerns it's pretty much a blog for whomever has the clout to control it.

        I didn't read "encyclopedia" at all. And cleaning up obvious vandalism is hardly a great example - someone would have to be a supreme idiot to revert that, or ask you for a source that supports your removal.

        And ultimately, yes those things do happen, because there are very powerful idiots in the wikimedia empire.

    • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horningNO@SPAMnetzero.net> on Saturday September 08, 2012 @02:56PM (#41275059) Homepage Journal

      There are a bunch of folks on Wikipedia that seem to think that primary sources are evil and should be avoided at all costs. Many of these same folks also seem to think that paper sources don't exist, so if you can't Google the information or reference it from a URL, it doesn't exist.

      Regardless, sometimes you need to stand up to these bullies (that is what they are) who hang around Wikipedia and act like idiots. More often than not they usually get what is coming to them as somebody does stand up to them and either gets them to back down or perhaps they even get brought forward to an ArbCom case and get slapped down real hard or even banned from the project. The problem is that they do a whole lot of damage in the meantime and sadly drive away people like yourself.

      I've encountered more than a few idiots on Wikipedia over the years like this. Karma can be a bitch when it bites them back, and I sometimes get guilty pleasure seeing them on their way out the door. I'll also note that it is a very small minority of the Wikipedia editor community who act like this as well, even if sometimes they seem to dominate discussions. Because anybody can slap on warning banners and complain or even revert all sorts of edits, realize that there are a bunch of people who do stuff like that who are just being trolls too.

      The sad part is that often a great many people just don't have the time or energy to fight these trolls. I certainly understand if you don't. Hopefully they don't damage the project too badly before they get their hand caught in the cookie jar and kicked out.

  • Did the author provide some sort of collaboration that other people could verify? Or was this due to correspondence between him and a Wikipedia admin? After all, if I changed a Wikipedia article to claim a fact that nobody else could check, does that serve Wikipedia's fact checkers?

  • Odd but necessary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sheepe2004 (1029824) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:07PM (#41274291) Homepage
    As a comment on the ars technica [arstechnica.com] article pointed out

    Do you want George Lucas to go edit the Wiki pages on Star Wars and note that Greedo always shot first? Enforcing a secondary source means he first has to convince some citable source that it's what happened, which provides a check that Wikipedia's crowdsourced model on its own can't.

    • Re:Odd but necessary (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:24PM (#41274425) Journal

      Excellent examples. There are enough examples of authors and other artists rewriting history to suggest that the creator's word alone should not be sufficient to change an article. To do so would be to open Wikipedia up to inaccuracies specifically put there. There are no lack of real life Greedos who would like Wikipedia to alter the order of who shot first, so simply giving them the power to unilaterally alter statements in an article would damage Wikipedia.

    • Which is laughably silly - because creating a citable "secondary" [read: astroturfed] source is so simple.
       
      It's also why Wikipedia is so badly broken, they trust someone's *opinion* of a source over the source itself... a complete inversion of traditional research standards and practices.

  • by Canjo (1956258) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:14PM (#41274337)
    If you actually read the New Yorker article, you'll find that Philip Roth is just using this Wikipedia thing as an ironic way of introducing a piece that's really about his book and not about Wikipedia. It isn't a serious complaint.
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:25PM (#41274427) Journal
    It's a tertiary source. Always has been. This is by design.

    It relies on things that have been recorded and documented. The benefit of this is that if something is in dispute, you can go to the secondary source and verify it. The primary source may change his mind, or may not be around after a certain time.

    This seems the most obvious rationale anyway. There's no particular reason to make an exception here.
  • by Renevith (1556657) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:38PM (#41274527)

    It seems in this particular case that Wikipedia editors wanted something they could cite. This strikes me as rather reasonable. If I read the statement "according to the author, the book was inspired by an unhappy event in the life of his late friend Melvin Tumin," with no citation, how could I possibly verify that? If the citation was "the author sent Wikipedia private correspondence, trust me," is that any better? For all you criticizing this decision, is that what you want the encyclopedia to look like?

    Asking the author to put a previously unknown fact into a citeable public record before reflecting it in the Wikipedia article is a process that I am personally in favor of, since it now allows me to follow up and see exactly where that information came from and why it's in the article.

    Wikipedia does have its problems with overzealous and protective editors, but this particular case doesn't seem to be one. Perhaps there is some additional detail that I've missed in this case but reading TFA actually makes me more confident in the information in Wikipedia.

  • Brilliance: An online repository of knowledge on pretty much anything.

    Idiocy: Having to know someone in the editor cartel or have someone who knows nothing about a subject corroborate actual authorities trying to share real knowledge.

  • Just because an author makes potentially self-serving claims about his book doesn't mean that Wikipedia should just uncritically adopt them.

  • Here's what the Wikipedia article said before immediately before Roth's biographer's edit (emphasis mine):

    Salon.com critic Charles Taylor argues that Roth had to have been at least partly inspired by the case of Anatole Broyard, a literary critic who, like the protagonist of The Human Stain, was a man identified as Creole who spent his entire professional life more-or-less as white.[1] Roth states there is no connection, as he did not know Broyard had any black ancestry until an article published months after he had started writing his novel.[2]

    I can't see why Roth threw such a fit over that. The article stated that one guy said one thing and that Roth contradicted him - I can't see any mis-statement.

  • by quax (19371) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @03:36PM (#41275267)

    Ever wondered why there are so many more biographical entries on athletes (even 2nd rate ones) than academics on Wikipedia?

    That is because athletes are much more likely to be interviewed and have biographical information published.

    Contrast this with finding biographical data on some researchers. Even high profile ones with a long publication record will usually at best have some self-reported biographical data if any (e.g. Facebook). Hence it will be rejected by Wikipedia due to their secondary source policies.

    And so the largest Internet encyclopedia operates like your local high-school where all the attention goes to the sport jocks and nobody cares about the nerds.

  • by Distan (122159) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @03:43PM (#41275305)

    I'm ancient by the standards of both Slashdot and Wikipedia.

    One thing that is pretty much forgotten on Wikipedia is that Primary Sources used to be preferred for references. There were a series of edits over time to the reliable sources policy, each one appeared mostly grammatical at the time, and nobody really picked up on the fact that Primary Sources had been demoted in priority and Secondary Sources had been promoted in priority. There was basically zero discussion at the time that a fundamental sourcing policy had been radically changed.

    Those changes went unchallenged, newbies joined the project and were taught that Secondary Sources were preferred, and eventually most people forgot that the policy used to be effectively the reverse and that the change had been made accidentally without significant review.

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