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Wikipedia Is Nearing "Completion" 248

Posted by Soulskill
from the citation-needed dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "According to Rebecca J. Rosen, it may seem impossible for an encyclopedia of everything to ever near completion, but at least for the major articles on topics like big wars, important historical figures, and central scientific concepts, the English-language Wikipedia is pretty well filled out. 'After an encyclopedia reaches 100,000 articles, the pool of good material shrinks. By the time one million articles are written, it must tax ingenuity to think of something new. Wikipedia,' writes historian and Wikipedia editor Richard Jensen, 'passed the four-million-article mark in summer 2012.' With the exciting work over, editors are losing interest. In the spring of 2012, 3,300 editors contributed more than 100 edits per month each — that's a 31 percent drop from spring of 2007, when that number was 4,800. For example, let's take the Wikipedia article for the War of 1812 which runs 14,000 words cobbled together by 3,000 editors. Today, the War of 1812 page has many more readers than it did in 2008 — 623,000 compared with 434,000 — but the number who make a change has dropped precipitously, from 256 to just 28. Of those original 256, just one remains active. The reason, Jensen believes, is that the article already has had so many edits, there is just not that much to do. Jensen says Wikipedia should now devote more resources toward getting editors access to higher-quality scholarship (in private databases like JSTOR), admission to military-history conferences, and maybe even training in the field of historiography, so that they could bring the articles up to a more polished, professional standard. 'Wikipedia is now a mature reference work with a stable organizational structure and a well-established reputation. The problem is that it is not mature in a scholarly sense (PDF).'"
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Wikipedia Is Nearing "Completion"

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday October 26, 2012 @10:52AM (#41778103) Journal
    This is the one where upon completion of recording all worthwhile knowledge, Wikipedia writes the final article describing Wikipedia itself. Following that, it detonates a bomb that implodes the universe back to a singularity so that no new information can be created and its volumes are complete for eternity. Luckily, as a Slashdot user, Wikipedia knows absolutely nothing about me or my intentions so I'll just take my Scooty Puff Jr. here over to the Wikimedia Foundation's servers ...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:04AM (#41778335)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Eldavojohn

    • by SomePgmr (2021234) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:05AM (#41778343) Homepage
      I'd rather everyone just moved on to simple.wikipedia.org now. Many of the articles are waaay too dense for me to grok, and most of the 'simple' versions just don't exist yet.
      • by Fallingcow (213461) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:29AM (#41778715) Homepage

        Articles in regular Wikipedia on more advanced topics—especially in mathematics—could do with some work in that direction, too.

        Certainly the articles don't need to be dumbed down overall, but it would be nice if at least the introductory paragraph were comprehensible to someone who hasn't spent years studying the topic, or hours following an ever-growing tree of other articles the summary links to (and others that those summaries link to, and so on) just to try to understand a majority of the nouns and verbs therein. It's often difficult to even guess at what kind of thing the article concerns without opening at least a half-dozen other tabs.

        Maybe some of the articles can't be explained, even at a high level, in simpler language, but the sheer quantity of summaries that drive me to a link-following frenzy in an effort to grasp their basic meaning lead me to believe that a lot of the editors and authors in some areas of Wikipedia aren't good at explaining their field to laymen, don't care about doing so, or don't want anyone to do so.

        • by readin (838620) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:37AM (#41778813)

          Articles in regular Wikipedia on more advanced topics—especially in mathematics—could do with some work in that direction, too.

          Certainly the articles don't need to be dumbed down overall, but it would be nice if at least the introductory paragraph were comprehensible to someone who hasn't spent years studying the topic, or hours following an ever-growing tree of other articles the summary links to (and others that those summaries link to, and so on) just to try to understand a majority of the nouns and verbs therein. It's often difficult to even guess at what kind of thing the article concerns without opening at least a half-dozen other tabs.

          I agree. The first page of any math article should be easily accessible to someone with a BS in a STEM field

          • I agree. The first page of any math article should be easily accessible to someone with a BS in a STEM field

            Hey, kids read this site, y'know. Pervert!

        • by skids (119237) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:58AM (#41779155) Homepage

          This. The math articles are actually very good, but you have to make it past the hurdle of being able to comprehend WTF the article is about before you can appreciate the power of all the crosslinks. Many of them drop almost immediately into notations, which even if notations don't scare you off, generally aren't very helpful to the objective of description. Also they follow the general mathematical convention of "here's a big bunch of symbols, now here is what each symbol means" instead of what humans naturally need: here is thing thing, we'll use symbol to represent it, and here are these other things with these symbols, and what's going tpo happen is we are going to divide this generic concept by this other generic concept and add this other thing and now here's the big mess of symbols that describes exaclty how we go about that and here are a few things you might want to notice in that big mess of symbols because they are important/interesting."

          It always amazes me after studying a mathematical topic how easy it is to picture the very simple structure of meaning after you already understand it, but how very hard it was to upload that simple structure from the printed page to the wetware. I often hold out hope that a true talent for visual art combined with modern multimedia might make that whole process much smoother. I keep meaning to suggest teaming students from our art department with math students to try to come up with art/video that explains math.

          What I would not like to see is what we see on things like the Science channel where documentaries about scientific subjects are really just human interest stories about the scientists involved. That material should be on its own page, except for the tie-ins.

        • especially in mathematics

          YES!! It seems like there is a secret cabal of mathematicians who try to make anything even partially math-related as dense as possible.

          Take, for instance, Wikipedia's article on Grundy Numbers [wikipedia.org]. It looks like there's some good technical stuff there, but what's lacking is a less technical walkthru for an educated general audience. Contrast with this page [topcoder.com], which takes a little while to get there but is MUCH more accessible.

          • mandatory xkcd (Score:3, Insightful)

            by menno_h (2670089)
      • Its not so much that they're dense, many of them are so badly written as to be almost illegible. I appreciate that there's a reason good writers get paid, but some sort of an effort to make it not so much like a manual for a DVD player might be an idea.

    • by TWX (665546)
      I thought it was when Colossus and Guardian joined forces to protect and enslave the human race...
    • by RaceProUK (1137575) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:10AM (#41778425)

      Wikipedia writes the final article describing Wikipedia itself

      Hurry - that final article [wikipedia.org] already exists... Though you really need the Scooty Puff Snr if you want to succeed.

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Always will be an incomplete article, the one that links all the articles that don't link to themselves. See? no need for ending the univer
  • by alphatel (1450715) * on Friday October 26, 2012 @10:57AM (#41778183)
    Not for nothing, but Wiki editors are so obtuse and didactic, that attempting to add anything of relevance has become a chore unworthy of its meritlessness.
    • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:00AM (#41778237) Homepage Journal
      Not all Wikipedia editors are as obtuse as you claim. Let me reiterate the comment I made on the submission [slashdot.org]: If particular editors are violating Wikipedia's policy against ownership-like behavior [wikipedia.org] by not allowing a consensus to form after discussion of a reverted edit on an article's talk page [wikipedia.org], consider using the various dispute resolution means in the Wikipedia community.
      • by alphatel (1450715) * on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:09AM (#41778403)

        Not all Wikipedia editors are as obtuse as you claim. Let me reiterate the comment I made on the submission [slashdot.org]: If particular editors are violating Wikipedia's policy against ownership-like behavior [wikipedia.org] by not allowing a consensus to form after discussion of a reverted edit on an article's talk page [wikipedia.org], consider using the various dispute resolution means in the Wikipedia community.

        Exactly what a Wikipedia editor would post.
        But seriously, when you try to argue with a senior editor know what everyone tells you? Read the 20 awesome Wikipedia entries that validate their statements, however unjustifiable they are in real arguement.

        • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:22AM (#41778609) Journal

          Not all Wikipedia editors are as obtuse as you claim. Let me reiterate the comment I made on the submission [slashdot.org]: If particular editors are violating Wikipedia's policy against ownership-like behavior [wikipedia.org] by not allowing a consensus to form after discussion of a reverted edit on an article's talk page [wikipedia.org], consider using the various dispute resolution means in the Wikipedia community.

          Exactly what a Wikipedia editor would post.

          And he used citations! That's a total give away! You know you're talking to one of them when they embed properly formatted URLs into their posts. It instantly invalidates anything they're trying to tell you, too!

          But seriously, when you try to argue with a senior editor know what everyone tells you? Read the 20 awesome Wikipedia entries that validate their statements, however unjustifiable they are in real arguement.

          Oh you are preaching to the choir! Sometimes when I'm in one of those Northern states I have to wonder if a senior Wikipedia editor ever used the same drinking fountain I'm using! I mean, what if they were talking about the 20 awesome Wikipedia entries just before their dirty dirty mouths touched that faucet?! Gross!

          Something needs to be done about them people ... now I know why they continually destroyed the Library of Alexandria. Let's get Jimmy Wales' address from his Florida public voting registration and burn a W on his front lawn!

          • by alphatel (1450715) *

            ... now I know why they continually destroyed the Library of Alexandria.

            I was confused earlier. Now more so.

            • ... now I know why they continually destroyed the Library of Alexandria.

              I was confused earlier. Now more so.

              Damnit, if only there was some way to look up the history of the Library of Alexandria ... some online resource that could instantly serve us up a good enough but referenced version of history and .... NO no, do not give in! Remain strong brother, we can rely on things we think we heard in history class 20 years ago. That will suffice! I'm pretty sure that the Library of Alexandria was brought to ruins several times and I will fight you if you accuse me of being wrong. Let us settle this with fisticuffs

        • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday October 26, 2012 @02:46PM (#41781187) Homepage Journal

          But seriously, when you try to argue with a senior editor know what everyone tells you? Read the 20 awesome Wikipedia entries that validate their statements, however unjustifiable they are in real arguement.

          Yep. I tried adding some facts to an article about a famous/popular author, namely that he was a eugenicist who advocated the elimination and sterilization of the lesser humans. This was challenged, with the sources given as not reliable enough. I offered to hop over to the university library and photograph the intro to one of his works (original printing) where he went on about this. I was told that would not be acceptable evidence.

          Did I start up a dispute resolution process? No, this guy was a fan of the author - even if I had emerged victorious, he would have just later deleted it when nobody was looking. It wasn't worth winning this one as I didn't have a dog in the fight.

      • by DerekLyons (302214) <`fairwater' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:19AM (#41778563) Homepage

        And one of Wikipedia's sock puppets/cheerleaders chimes in as expected with his "it's all sweetness and light if you follow the bureaucracy and play Wikipedia the Role Playing Game" posts...

        You just don't get it do you? It's exactly that all that bullcrap, favoring those who play Wikipedia The Role Playing Game over those who want to do the work, that has driven the latter away. The lunatics are now running the asylum.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by readin (838620)

          And one of Wikipedia's sock puppets/cheerleaders chimes in as expected with his "it's all sweetness and light if you follow the bureaucracy and play Wikipedia the Role Playing Game" posts...

          You just don't get it do you? It's exactly that all that bullcrap, favoring those who play Wikipedia The Role Playing Game over those who want to do the work, that has driven the latter away. The lunatics are now running the asylum.

          What you say reminds me of American politics and our legal system.

          And it is probably caused by exactly the same thing - an attempt to make a system both reasonably easy for reasonable people to use while at the same time guarding against abuses while at the same time trying to give people equal treatment.

          It's a hard thing to do.

          • by arth1 (260657)

            And it is probably caused by exactly the same thing - an attempt to make a system both reasonably easy for reasonable people to use while at the same time guarding against abuses while at the same time trying to give people equal treatment.

            It's a hard thing to do.

            When something turns out to be too hard to do, one might consider, you know, not doing it.

            • [The lunacy in both Wikipedia policy and U.S. federal law arises from] an attempt to make a system both reasonably easy for reasonable people to use while at the same time guarding against abuses while at the same time trying to give people equal treatment. It's a hard thing to do.

              When something turns out to be too hard to do, one might consider, you know, not doing it.

              But what's the alternative to making policy? Is it anarchy, where every article's text is controlled by whoever can push out penis pill spam fastest?

        • by fyi101 (2715891) on Friday October 26, 2012 @12:30PM (#41779569)
          I'm completely devastated about the current state of Wikipedia, just like you, I hate all this bureaucratic crap. That's why I take all my factually correct information from Encyclopedia Dramatica [encyclopediadramatica.se], where the asylum is running the inmates. Why have bureaucracy when you can have "bureaucrazy"?

          But seriously, do you expect something as vast and ambitious as Wikipedia to exist without a somewhat intimidating rulebook? I'm not saying Wikipedians shouldn't be more welcoming or helpful, or that they're not, perhaps the problem is related to the way the site is structured. It's not easy for newcomers to find their way around the place, or around the people.

          • by lgw (121541)

            Wikipedia destroyed it's future by attempting to become scholarly. That goal cannot be achieved: it will always be mocked and deprecated by those whose income depends on a lack of free educational resources.

            Meanwhile, a resource of everyhting evryone thought was coold, without deletion on basis of "noteworthyness", or thoughtless reverting of edits for terrirtoial reasons, or the rest of the BS that stems from trying to be "taken seriously". It could easily have been a resource for stuff thta people actua

        • You just don't get it do you? It's exactly that all that bullcrap, favoring those who play Wikipedia The Role Playing Game over those who want to do the work, that has driven the latter away. The lunatics are now running the asylum.

          Back in my younger days, I had a game called Star Fleet Battles. I had the game set, the expansion set, the Captain's Rule Book. All the add-on sets and rules addenda volumes ("this page replaces p. N of book X") plus the special issues of gaming magazines with extra ships, scenarios and what-not. I'd always want my friends to come and play out epic space battles. They did play a few times, but almost always I'd beat them by finding a special rule to defeat what they'd thought were their most brilliant move

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:48AM (#41779011)

        1. Nerd kid build sand castle on beach.
        2. Jock bully kicks over and destroys sand castle.
        3. Nerd kid goes to complain to authorities.
        4. Nerd kid learns jock bully is really popular with beachgoers because he is the star quarterback of local football team.
        5. Jock bully gets a free pass because of this. No punishment, sand castle remains destroyed.
        6. Nerd kid is no longer trusted among beachgoers due to bringing "baseless" accusations against popular kid. Further complaints are ignored.
        7. Nerd kid stops building sand castles and stops trusting beachgoers.
        8. Beachgoers wonder why nobody builds sand castles any more.

        It's far, far easier to destroy than to create or rebuild. When you have a culture that supports unchecked destruction by the popular kids, you drive out the culture that wants to create or rebuild. Having a complaint system doesn't help; the culture is still based around destruction, not creation. Moreso when said complaint system only serves to scare the new kids away from complaining by setting up a bureaucracy that, even when followed to completion, only serves to remind the new kids that the popular kids are more popular than they are, so their decisions stand.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:49AM (#41779031)

        Not all Wikipedia editors are as obtuse as you claim. Let me reiterate the comment I made on the submission [slashdot.org]: If particular editors are violating Wikipedia's policy against ownership-like behavior [wikipedia.org] by not allowing a consensus to form after discussion of a reverted edit on an article's talk page [wikipedia.org], consider using the various dispute resolution means in the Wikipedia community.

        The question is, after being rejected like that do I care sufficiently to follow up through a complaints procedure? Or do I just walk away and not bother posting to Wikipedia again.

        My guess is that a lot of the people do care enough are also the people who are strongly opinionated about the page they're trying to edit, and probably deserved the rejection.

        The majority that don't bother to follow up are more likely to have been the ones that might have been useful contributors. ....but I guess we'll never know for sure.

      • by jdavidb (449077)

        consider using the various dispute resolution means in the Wikipedia community

        I would sooner consider drilling my brain out with a power drill. And I say that as somebody who has been involved in Wikipedia's various dispute resolution methods.

        No thanks.

      • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Friday October 26, 2012 @07:10PM (#41784479) Journal

        Several times I've had my, extremely minor, edits reversed nearly instantaneously (which makes me suspect some sort of bot written by the "owner" camping that article) and then a few minutes later I get a pithy comment on my user page that almost always begins, "Welcome to Wikipedia!" That I've been registered years longer than them doesn't seem to matter. It then continues to list their extensive expertise in the related fields relevant to the article and how that makes them far more qualified than a mere mortal like me to edit the holy text.

        You may be an expert in *this* field, sir, but you're in need of some remedial English courses.

        And it's usually not even changing anything factual, just cleaning up cumbersome prose. Many of the engineering and science articles suffer from this. They still take offense and revert it. I don't have the patience to start an edit war over every single grammatically tedious sentence I want to fix.

      • by lkcl (517947)

        Not all Wikipedia editors are as obtuse as you claim. Let me reiterate the comment I made on the submission [slashdot.org]: If particular editors are violating Wikipedia's policy against ownership-like behavior [wikipedia.org] by not allowing a consensus to form after discussion of a reverted edit on an article's talk page [wikipedia.org], consider using the various dispute resolution means in the Wikipedia community.

        i did exactly that, tepples. the responses *in the dispute resolution* page were so violent, abusive and dis-trusting, with one editor claiming that i was "deliberately hiding behind an anonymous IP address for the sole purpose of causing maximum damage to wikipedia", were themselves so clearly against wikipedia's policies that i simply went "fuck this" and walked away.

        there is a serious problem in wikipedia which is that the culture of encouraging and trusting new contributors is completely breaking down,

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      Not to mention that tons and tons of bias and misleading comments escape articles instantly once a company realizes they can pay people to "manage" their wiki page - aka every technology page on wikipedia.

      In addition to the fact that it will never be nearing completion, the phrasing is simply incorrect.

    • by arth1 (260657) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:37AM (#41778823) Homepage Journal

      Not only editors, but the various scripts that automatically undo any and all changes to articles without anyone even looking at the changes.

      It's become such a chore and so many hoops to jump through to add or correct wikipedia that I'm not surprised that people won't bother anymore.

      • Not only editors, but the various scripts that automatically undo any and all changes to articles without anyone even looking at the changes.

        You mean bots like ClueBot NG and XLinkBot? If you've been around for four days and make ten edits, a lot of those anti-vandal bots will stop reverting you. Some of them are also engineered to be aware of their imperfections and won't revert the same user on the same article more than once in a day, and they tend to have processes to report false positives.

        • Re:Revert bots (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday October 26, 2012 @04:46PM (#41782753) Homepage Journal

          You mean bots like ClueBot NG and XLinkBot? If you've been around for four days and make ten edits, a lot of those anti-vandal bots will stop reverting you.

          So casual editors are explicitly not welcome. My kid can't see a mistake, edit it, and expect the correction to stick until he's satisfied our robotic overlords? Fuck that. No wonder edits are drying up.

          • Depends on what your kid is correcting? I've never seen ClueBot or XLinkBot eat a spelling/grammar correction, even from an IP with a single edit.

            If your kid is adding "Bobby was here!!" or Facebook links to random articles, they tend to do a pretty good job of reverting his edits.

    • by wjousts (1529427)
      And the over-zealous moderators. I can't edit from work anymore because some moderator decided I was on an open proxy (I'm not) and refuses to do anything about it. Oh well, no more editing in my lunch hour.
    • Agree 1000%.

      A friend of mine asked me to write an article about his company, which I did, taking a well-established article about another company in the same industry as a template. It's a 10-minute job.

      The article gets taken down due to "lack of notability". When I questioned how come a company that has operations on 2 continents, employs several hundred people, and offers more products than its next 4 competitors combined, is somehow "not notable", I got back a vague reply along the lines of "well,
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 26, 2012 @10:58AM (#41778199)

    Hey, here's a thought: Maybe the reason fewer people are editing Wikipedia articles is because 90% of the time, edits get instantly reverted by some spaz who's jealously guarding their page, typos and all. I've made a half-dozen edits to Wikipedia, and every single one of them has been reverted within an hour or two. And we're not talking factual or debatable edits here, I'm referring to things like incorrect usage of it's/its or adding a citation.

    • edits get instantly reverted by some spaz who's jealously guarding their page, typos and all. I've made a half-dozen edits to Wikipedia, and every single one of them has been reverted within an hour or two.

      Was it the same jealous palsy patient [wikipedia.org] every time, or someone different every time? And did you try discussing the reverts on the article's talk page [wikipedia.org]?

    • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:41AM (#41778899) Homepage

      i've also encountered problems, especially with technical articles where the "common wisdom" is terribly misinformed. i won't mention which articles because i was so alarmed and intimidated by the unwelcoming way in which those people who were better informed of wikipedia's "policies" used those policies to bully their way towards reverting everything back towards the ignorant and technically mis-informed perspectives left me feeling very much like i never want to edit wikipedia ever again.

      the problem with these particular articles is that they are highly scientifically technical, yet quite obscure at the same time. one of them people wanted to believe that the technology would fail: it is therefore full of a scientific "review" which, wrongly, concludes that the technology could not possibly work. the other, people want to believe that the technology would *succeed*. and, because there *are* no successful examples of that technology, there are no successful products out there which can be used to demonstrate that the wikipedia article is plain wrong and misleading people!

      in both cases, the lack of citeable material resulted in an edit war verging on vandalism, and in the end i went "fuck it, i don't need the hassle" and walked away. in neither case were the reviewers welcoming: in one case they actually believed that *i* was the vandal, in direct contravention of wikipedia's "welcoming" policy which is supposed to assume that all contributors are acting with integrity. in fact what had happened was that i had not logged in, so was editing by IP address purely by mistake, and, because of what followed and the level of intimidation and abuse directed at me i am extremely glad that i *did* make that mistake.

      wikipedia has a lot to answer for.

    • by readin (838620)
      I haven't encountered such people, though I did have a bad experience with some very unreasonable editors when I tried to edit a page related to global warming.

      I think the behavior actually reflects the fact that so many articles have become good. When you work hard on something, spending time discussing and sometimes having heated arguments with other editors, you come to take a certain pride in your work and some relief in being "done". And if you have a good article, most of the edits will make the
    • by fermion (181285) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:58AM (#41779139) Homepage Journal
      If we say that all interesting content is going to be covered, that all edits are going to be reverted, then we are also saying that we are going to judge Wikipedia the same as an idealized print encyclopedia, then we are missing the whole point. First, encyclopedias were never only about facts and figures. If we look at older editions, all encyclopedias have biases, fallacies and outright lies. They were, arguably, an important cultural artifact documenting a specific time and set of values.

      Of course print encyclopedias are quite irrelevant, but in an effort keep them relevant the embedded interests tried to create this idealized encyclopedia in which facts were pristine and perfect as they could be. Any error was a temporary misunderstanding of other facts that would soon be corrected by the magical editors who were superior to anyone else in the world. This of course never existed, and if Wikipedia is going to reach it's full potential it has to be very clear about this.

      The value of wikipedia is that if reflects a culture that can change more quickly that the print cycle of a encyclopedia, and a world that can be interested in more things that can fit in 30 volumes. Note that changes in the way we related to knowledge occurred prior to the widespread use fo the Internet and Wikipedia. My Brittanica was from the 60's. In the 70's it because a much more pop encyclopedia with much less of the scholarly focus we say from 1900-1970. This included shorter articles.So Wikipedia responded to a market forces that were well in effect by the turn of the century.

      So if we say that wikipedia is something new we see that it will never be 'complete' as there will always be some piece of history, some trivia, some event that can be added as soon as someone want to take charge. Even now, there are stub articles that can filled in only someone had the context and knowledge. In that Wikipedia is still run by the people, and therefore it is something old, there is always going to be the element of the pages being a product of the current editors with their biases, which means that it won't be a pristine representations of facts. however, as certain people are going to have interested in certain pages, the biases will be varied. For instance Google will make sure that it's pages continue to look like marketing copy, but that does not mean that other pages cannot have an alternate point of view.

    • Hey, here's a thought: Maybe the reason fewer people are editing Wikipedia articles is because 90% of the time, edits get instantly reverted by some spaz who's jealously guarding their page, typos and all.

      I have had similar experiences with editing, and I have ceased trying to edit any articles. After a while, it just was not worth my time trying to fight someone who is standing over an article 24/7 to make sure no one changes it.

    • by lcrocker (144720) on Friday October 26, 2012 @12:45PM (#41779763) Homepage

      As one of the first Wikipedia editors, I have to agree. The current state of Wikipedia is unusable. 5 million articles is a pathetically small number: every town, every park, every building, every movie, every TV show, every book, every law, every government official of every country throughout history: all of these should be articles, and would be if it were easier to make them.

      --Wikipedia user #43

      • by alexgieg (948359) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Friday October 26, 2012 @01:13PM (#41780123) Homepage

        all of these should be articles, and would be if it we were allowed to make them.

        There, fixed it for you. For more obscure subjects it isn't only a matter of having the knowledge about them, and then the references about them, but also of having editors consider them relevant [wikipedia.org]. I've lost the number of times I've searched for a subject just to find a page that at some point existed in Wikipedia, but was deleted because it wasn't "notable" enough. Funnily enough though, sometimes the exact same "non-notable" article exists in some foreign edition of Wikipedia, so Google Translate comes to the rescue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 26, 2012 @10:58AM (#41778201)

    Or frustration at the deletionists nuking anything added about (not-so) niche topics?

    • What articles about "(not-so) niche topics" were deleted despite citing three different scholarly or mainstream media sources independent of one another and of the subject?
      • Re:Notability (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bmo (77928) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:11AM (#41778445)

        You don't need 3 different scholarly references for stub status. It would be nice, but a stub is that, a stub and if it doesn't have a stub tag, it should be tagged as such instead of deleted.

        But stubs on "unfamiliar subjects to the editor" get deleted, because they're not complete enough. *table flip*

        --
        BMO

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by tepples (727027)
          You know, if you create an account on Wikipedia, you get a user space in which to keep your stubs while you look for sources to cite.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Which, of course, defeats the whole purpose of Wikipedia's open-content open-editing model, since now they're tucked away where casual readers won't ever find them.

            • by tepples (727027)
              As soon as your stub article has references, you can move it to mainspace where casual readers will find it.
            • by J'raxis (248192)

              See what it's like to argue with the deletionists? This is why so many editors have left Wikipedia in droves. This guy has nothing better to do than tell you what not to add to Wikipedia.

      • Re:Notability (Score:5, Insightful)

        by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortexNO@S ... t-retrograde.com> on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:40AM (#41778873)

        What articles about "(not-so) niche topics" were deleted despite citing three different scholarly or mainstream media sources independent of one another and of the subject?

        So, if some media slut says some inane inflammatory bullshit and gets all over the news, that can be cited and documented in Wikipedia... However, if one of us lowly netizens finally reverse engineers an undocumented file format, of use to many folks in the 3D graphics fields, it doesn't get in Wikipedia because there's not three independent "scholarly or mainstream" sources? Even if it's being used like mad in tons of applications, and no one can really find the data elsewhere even though they're searching for it and just don't know what exactly to call it?

        Look, Wikipedia blatantly ripped off the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy website, (H2G2) which allowed anyone to add anything regardless of notoriety. It was great, and extremely helpful. There was something on everything. Too bad BBC shut id down. If you didn't want to know about the proper way to drink water upside down, then you didn't read the damn article. Storage is Cheap, esp. for text. Maybe if Wikipedia was more inclusive you'd have MORE EDITORS? Fuck you and your popularity contests.

        • However, if one of us lowly netizens finally reverse engineers an undocumented file format, of use to many folks in the 3D graphics fields, it doesn't get in Wikipedia because there's not three independent "scholarly or mainstream" sources? Even if it's being used like mad in tons of applications

          The actual policy refers to "reliable" sources, those that have built a reputation for fact checking. "Scholarly or mainstream" sources are just the most common examples of reliable sources. If a file format has been reverse engineered, you can report this news as a press release to reliable publications that cover 3D graphics, and then once the news breaks, you can cite it. That's the route Philip Roth took when trying to correct a misconception about his 2000 novel The Human Stain.

    • I'm not so sure of that. I'm pretty damn sure Catholic theology is a niche topic, but due to the superior nature of the search engine, Wikipedia has become one of my go-to sources for good discussions on obscure theological topics.

      Having said that- it does seem to me that just from a statistics standpoint, 100,000 English articles is a bit small for an online general encyclopedia. Perhaps they need to adopt Google's business model and start building out more datacenters.

  • by rodrigoandrade (713371) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:02AM (#41778277)

    If some stupid intellectuals from Harvard, Yale, etc. aren't happy with Wikipedia's "scholarly maturity," then maybe they/their respective institutions should pony up and donate to the project.

    I've done my part.

    • I would love to exerts in a field become the editors for one or two articles in Wikipedia as part of the academic responsibilities. Nothing that would take more then an hour a week.

      • by MarkGriz (520778) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:29AM (#41778709)

        I would love to exerts in a field become the editors for one or two articles in Wikipedia as part of the academic responsibilities. Nothing that would take more then an hour a week.

        I would love for experts in a field to become the editors for one or two articles in Wikipedia as part of their academic responsibilities. Nothing that would take more than an hour a week

        I'm an expert pedantic speller.

        • I would love to exerts in a field become the editors for one or two articles in Wikipedia as part of the academic responsibilities. Nothing that would take more then an hour a week.

          I would love for experts in a field to become the editors for one or two articles in Wikipedia as part of their academic responsibilities. Nothing that would take more than an hour a week

          I'm an expert pedantic speller.

          But it was all spelled correctly, just not the right words!

          Actually, I have this nasty suspicion that a lot of the apps I use auto-suggest word completions when I'm not looking. Badly.

    • Donating to the project, though, just helps to pay for server maintenance, connectivity, etc, correct? Donating money doesn't go towards hiring professional editors or anything. It just keeps the light on. If Harvard and Yale wanted to help on the quality, they shouldn't donate money, they should get a bunch of their faculty to start editing, right?
  • by Urban Garlic (447282) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:08AM (#41778381)

    The War of 1812 is an odd example to pick -- the summary makes it sound like it's a representative military history item for which there is lots of good scholarship, so that the readership and edit traffic numbers might generalize across other history articles.

    But in fact, the War of 1812 has been getting more press lately, because it's currently the 200th anniversary. There's even a post-blog, 1812now, specifically about it, and a variety of interest-generating retrospectives in mainstream media.

    Their broader point may not hold up for other, less topical pages.

    • Their broader point may not hold up for other, less topical pages.

      For the specific sub-specialty of military history I study, it certainly doesn't. But after the bruising battles I fought (and lost) trying to get the base article even remotely into shape and useful... I'm disinclined to even try and fix/expand the balance. There's a bunch of soi-disant experts on the topic who'll revert any attempt almost immediately - and who'll zerg you if you even try any of the discussion/mediation processes.

    • by LoudMusic (199347)

      I think it's a safe bet that this article references the War of 1812 to glean a few search hits from people searching for actual information on the War of 1812.

      Marketing tactics at work.

  • by phrackwulf (589741) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:10AM (#41778419) Homepage

    Maybe there is a need to split this project along the lines of the split between Red Hat and Fedora? Wikipedia as we know it today would continue as an open source, crowd-sourced knowledge base while the scholarship required to polish the project is applied to produce a more refined product that could be used to support the open source project? How do we translate what has been accomplished as an open, public knowledge product into an economical and refined knowledge product?

    • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:13AM (#41778489) Homepage Journal

      Maybe there is a need to split this project along the lines of the split between Red Hat and Fedora?

      They tried that. Wikipedia was originally the draft version of Nupedia, and Nupedia fizzled.

      • Point taken, but just because a product that was half baked didn't sell the first time, does that mean we just sort of give up and never try selling the product again now that it is further along? Certainly, we don't keep trying for a win after the fourth or fifth loss but just giving up on the concept entirely seems somewhat premature?

        • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:53AM (#41779091) Journal

          Point taken, but just because a product that was half baked didn't sell the first time, does that mean we just sort of give up and never try selling the product again now that it is further along? Certainly, we don't keep trying for a win after the fourth or fifth loss but just giving up on the concept entirely seems somewhat premature?

          And people continually try to fork it. The earliest instance of this that I remember is citizendium [slashdot.org] but often what spurs a fork is a very specific thing (okay sometimes they change multiple things but usually it's one big factor). And the reason for that is that Wikipedia has done very well. It's easy to criticize anything claiming to be the nexus of "good enough" human knowledge because any label like that is inherently flammable.

          A more recent example is Conservapedia [conservapedia.com] which changes one big thing: NPOV now stands for Nixon's Point of View:

          Barack Hussein Obama II (b. August 4, 1961, either in Kenya or Honolulu, Hawaii) was elected the 44th President. Promoted heavily by liberals, as demonstrated by his unjustified receipt of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, Obama won the presidency despite a short and unremarkable political career by outspending his opponent, John McCain, by hundreds of millions of dollars in 2008.

          Now, aside from the entertainment value of that line, you have to tell me what your fork is going to do differently and how is that going to be better for your fork? I think that any attempts to fix this could result in even bigger problems for your newer-Pedia and would simply succumb to being a less popular Wikipedia. So what are your change(s) and what negative effects could arise from them?

  • by grahamsz (150076) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:11AM (#41778457) Homepage Journal

    There's loads of local interest stuff missing. I'm not sure exactly where it could be acquired from, but I know when I take local tours of historical sites there are lots of interesting stories and ties with historical figures that are almost entirely uncaptured online.

    Presumably it would require citing actual history books and the likes but it would require a reasonable effort to get that all online.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:13AM (#41778485)

    >> 'Wikipedia is now a mature reference work with a stable organizational structure and a well-established reputation. ...which is why NO ONE accepts it as the reference of record, right?

    >> Jensen says Wikipedia should now devote more resources toward getting editors access...so that they could bring the articles up to a more polished, professional standard.

    The current problem isn't that editors don't have direct access to the information; after all, most editors would rather edit than become subject matter experts. Instead, it's that it's not even worth trying to post any change to Wikipedia anymore. As a previous poster stated, it seems that there's about a 90% chance that any revision to any entry will be quickly redacted, whether it's a punctuation correction, a fact backed up by a reference, or just the addition of a reference. From the perspective of contributors with subject matter expertise, Wikipedia has largely become a waste of their time.

  • by kbob88 (951258) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:26AM (#41778677)

    I just looked on Wikipedia for what happened on October 28, 2012, and there's nothing there! The 29th doesn't look very complete either. Jeez, how sloppy. So clearly it's not finished yet...

  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:28AM (#41778699) Homepage Journal

    There are still plenty of Japanese cartoons, political ideologies and conspiracy theories that need pages and links to those pages in every other page that has the slightest real or imagined association.

  • by PPH (736903) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:30AM (#41778727)

    ... its time to start making some new stuff up [xkcd.com].

  • New Articles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by readin (838620) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:32AM (#41778753)

    After an encyclopedia reaches 100,000 articles, the pool of good material shrinks. By the time one million articles are written, it must tax ingenuity to think of something new.

    It isn't that hard. There are plenty of local landmarks around. And there are always new things being built, and new major historical events occurring. And then there is foreign stuff. People write about what they know. Most Anglophones write about things that exist or occur in the English speaking world. There are plenty of famous people, places and historical events in foreign countries that either don't have articles or have very weak articles.

    • Re:New Articles (Score:5, Insightful)

      by chebucto (992517) * on Friday October 26, 2012 @12:01PM (#41779195) Homepage

      Exactly. This is why the 'notability' thing pisses me off: why not let there be an article for every tiny, minor thing? Where is the harm?

      If I care enough about a the history of a the street I grew up on to write an article about it, and do a decent job of it (eg back it up with sources and do a neutral job of it), Wikipedia should be glad to have the info. And once you let in all the small things, and the minor historical figures, all the little battles and sub-sub-sub fields of philosophy, you get many more than 4 million articles.

  • by Elbereth (58257) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:33AM (#41778759) Journal

    How many of those articles are about vapid pop culture topics, like Pokemon or Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

    Regardless, I still like Wikipedia, and I contribute to it, when I notice obvious errors (increasingly rare) or poor grammar (much more common). I've even partially rewritten several articles, because the grammar and spelling were so atrocious. Although I'm philosophically what you might call a "deletionist", I'm too apathetic to actually bring up an article for deletion (or even to vote for deletion). Anyway, I figure that every article, no matter how stupid, deserves a chance to be fixed, before it's deleted.

    I remember once editing an article that was being used for character assassination against some prominent NYC socialite. After I cleaned up all the personal attacks and gossip, someone accused me of being her public relations team. Ha. I have only one rule, when editing Wikipedia articles: never edit an article that you care about. It keeps stress levels minimal. If someone really thinks I care about NYC socialites, young adult romance fiction, 1980s death metal bands, or anything else in my list of Contributions, they're quite wrong. That's how I avoid burn-out, and, for that, I have to thank all the pop culture-obsessed nerds and gossipy housewives out there, for providing me stress-free articles to edit.

  • by crankyspice (63953) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:38AM (#41778835)

    obligatory humorous link to an article on [theonion.com].

    Meanwhile, Wikipedia has some serious credibility problems, as a federal judge in California recently observed:

    “It is unfortunate that the parties were unable to provide more authoritative evidence. One court recently noted the danger of relying
    on Wikipedia:

    Wikipedia.com [is] a website that allows virtually anyone to upload an article into what is essentially a free, online encyclopedia.
    A review of the Wikipedia website reveals a pervasive and, for our purposes, disturbing series of disclaimers, among them,
    that: (i) any given Wikipedia article ‘may be, at any given moment, in a bad state: for example it could be in the middle of
    a large edit or it could have been recently vandalized;’ (ii) Wikipedia articles are ‘also subject to remarkable oversights and
    omissions;’ (iii) ‘Wikipedia articles (or series of related articles) are liable to be incomplete in ways that would be less usual in
    a more tightly controlled reference work;’ (iv) ‘[a]nother problem with a lot of content on Wikipedia is that many contributors
    do not cite their sources, something that makes it hard for the reader to judge the credibility of what is written;’ and (v) ‘many
    articles commence their lives as partisan drafts' and may be ‘caught up in a heavily unbalanced viewpoint.’ ” Campbell ex rel.
    Campbell v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 69 Fed.Cl. 775, 781 (2006).

    “See also Badasa v. Mukasey, 540 F.3d 909, 910 (8th Cir.2008) (noting that Wikipedia is not a sufficiently reliable source on
    which to rest judicial findings for the reasons stated in Campbell); Kole v. Astrue, No. CV 08–0411–LMB, 2010 WL 1338092,
    *7 n. 3 (D.Idaho Mar. 31, 2010) (“At this point, it must be noted that, in support of his brief, Respondent cites to Wikipedia.
    While it may support his contention of what the mathematical symbols of ‘’ refer to, Respondent is admonished from
    using Wikipedia as an authority in this District again. Wikipedia is not a reliable source at this level of discourse. As an attorney
    representing the United States, Mr. Rodriguez should know that citations to such unreliable sources only serve to undermine his
    reliability as counsel”); R. Jason Richards, Courting Wikipedia, 44 TRIAL 62, 62 (2008) (“Since when did a Web site that any
    Internet surfer can edit become an authoritative source by which law students could write passing papers, experts could provide
    credible testimony, lawyers could craft legal arguments, and judges could issue precedents?”); James Glerick, Wikipedians Leave
    Cyberspace, Meet in Egypt, WALL ST. J., Aug. 8, 2008, at W1 (“Anyone can edit [a Wikipedia] article, anonymously, hit and
    run. From the very beginning that has been Wikipedia's greatest strength and its greatest weakness”).” Crispin v. Christian Audigier, Inc., 717 F.Supp.2d 965, 976 (C.D. Cal., 2010).

    Definitely not 'scholarly mature.'

  • Nearing completion? Hardly. Its veracity at points conflicts with alternative interpretations of an event or phenomenon, which cannot always, nonetheless, be discarded as a matter of course. That tension will always be present, and balancing the two will always be necessary. Let's not even mention spelling and especially grammar (except I just did, and it is too often atrocious). Mature reference work with a well established reputation? Certainly debatable; I personally know several professors who wil
    • Re:Disagree (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cashman73 (855518) on Friday October 26, 2012 @05:23PM (#41783181) Journal

      I personally know several professors who will not accept citing Wikipedia.

      You shouldn't cite Wikipedia for the exact same reason that you shouldn't cite Encyclopedia Britannica. Both are tertiary references, and it's preferred to cite the primary or secondary source. If you haven't figured this out by the time you reach college, you need to go back to high school.

      There's also a huge difference between "citing Wikipedia" in term papers and "using Wikipedia" in your research. I fully support Professors that ban citing Wikipedia. But I completely support students that want to use Wikipedia as a good starting point to their research on a given topic.

  • Jensen says Wikipedia should now devote more resources toward getting editors access to higher-quality scholarship (in private databases like JSTOR), admission to military-history conferences, and maybe even training in the field of historiography, so that they could bring the articles up to a more polished, professional standard. 'Wikipedia is now a mature reference work with a stable organizational structure and a well-established reputation. The problem is that it is not mature in a scholarly sense (PDF).'"

    Hang on, that almost sounds like wanting people to do original research. I thought that was against Wikipedia policy. Training professional historians and getting them access to raw information sources would probably do wonders for the article quality, but I somehow doubt that the Cult of Wales would put up with such heresy. A lack of professionalism was taken as a known side-effect of volunteer-driven content creation, and considered a lesser evil than allowing any crackpot theorist to use the wiki as a

  • Editor access??? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bradley13 (1118935) on Friday October 26, 2012 @12:17PM (#41779383) Homepage

    "... getting editors access to higher-quality scholarship (in private databases like JSTOR), admission to military-history conferences..."

    Um, no. The problem with this idea is that the editors - as well intentioned as they may be - are generally not scholars of particular fields. They will never really be in a position to judge these things. Worse, on historical events such as wars, the editors have a well-deserved reputation of resisting any interpretations other than those that are well-established and well-accepted. They generally do not allow controversial alternative views to be mentioned, however well-founded, because Wikipedia is about consensus.

    If they really want to make the transition to academic-quality content, they need to find away to get experts in the various fields to contribute, and to not only allow but encourage the presentation of more than one viewpoint - while somehow still filtering out the crackpots. This will be a very difficult thing to achieve, will require a very different way of working. I frankly do not believe that Wikipedia is capable of this kind of transition, though I would love to be proven wrong.

  • by FridayBob (619244) on Friday October 26, 2012 @01:26PM (#41780311) Homepage
    Of course it isn't! For instance, with so many blatantly anti-scientific types preventing the biology articles from being organized and developed properly, why would that accusation sound surprising to anyone? For this reason, biologists avoid Wikipedia, but without them it will never become a descent source of information about life on this planet.
  • by Rudisaurus (675580) on Friday October 26, 2012 @02:54PM (#41781251)
    And how many of those 4+ million articles are just stubs?

    There's no way that Wikipedia is anything near to "complete"; there's a huge amount of work left to do to fill in the blanks, correct errors, add detail to existing articles, etc. The large number of stubs I run into when I read almost anything is testimony to that.

    But this isn't the sexy work of adding a whole new article, so many people lose interest at this point -- as evidenced by the drop in the rate of recruitment of new editors (see: I did RTFA) and the numbers of edits per article. It's very much like the process of debugging a piece of software to make it functional and useful; many developers just aren't all that into the whole process, the grind that it takes to turn a first-pass into a usable product.

    I think what they're trying to tell us is that Wikipedia is nearing maturity ... but maturity and completion are two entirely different concepts.
  • by jdavidb (449077) on Friday October 26, 2012 @03:56PM (#41782061) Homepage Journal

    I did not lose interest because the exciting work was over. I lost interest because of a lot of policies that I thought were counterproductive, annoying, contrary to Wikipedia's founding principles, or depersonalizing. For example, at one time Wikipedia looked to be on track to have a comprehensive guide to Star Trek, including an article for every episode, pictures, summaries, etc. Somebody decided that wasn't "encyclopedic," came up with a new interesting definition of notability that excluded individual episodes, and went on a deletion-happy mad spree obliterating the great work people were doing.

    When I came to Wikipedia, we all understood that the wiki medium was not paper, that it would therefore not run out of space, and we could aim for capturing "the sum total of human knowledge." I was interested in that vision. Then along came Wikia, a for-profit venture that could capture all of the non-notable knowledge.

    I lost interest in the current vision. I still use it, they are still doing good work, but there's a lot of things I wish were different about Wikipedia, and trying to change it involved fighting with a bunch of entrenched jerks.

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