What's Wrong with WIKIPEDIA?


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There is a treasure trove of useful, excellent, valuable material on Wikipedia. It is an extremely valuable resource which I have come to rely on more and more. But over the last few years, there have been more and more occasions when I've gone to Wikipedia and been dissatisfied. I have a queasy feeling that the problems in articles have increased. The problems for me have fallen largely into two very broad categories: academicization and bias.

1. Academicization: Very often, when I look up a technical or scientific article, it seems to have been written in unexplained jargon with lots of 'links' instead of simple, well-written explanation. So to find out what I want to know, I have to do a tremendous amount of chasing and page or article 'flipping', forward and back. Imagine if you looked up a word in a dictionary and it linked to a synonym, which linked you to another, and so on. The situation is very different from that of a strong Britannica or Americana article on a similar subject which tends to break jargon down much more, to be an order of magnitude more self-contained, and to be consistently well-edited.

2. Bias: I just looked up a famous historian, Forrest McDonald. At the end of the article, a criticism of him was included. I then looked up another famous historian, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. No criticisms of him are in the article. The difference is that the latter is on the Left and the former on the Right. I have seen numerous occasions when someone is left of center of a glowing or "unquestioning" Wikipedia entry but an entry that undercuts or allows in many criticisms 'for balance' for people who are right of center, pro-free market, conservative, or out of current fashion or approval.

And finally, after observing enough repeated instances of these trends across a wide range of subject matter, I realized there is a common denominator which could explain the two problem areas:

Wikipedia is written and edited by tens of thousands of people who have careers in, read a lot of, or are strongly involved in ideas, in intellectual areas. And the overwhelming majority of people who are interested in ideological figures or areas are liberal. Those on the right stay out of education and go into technology, professions, or business. They don't have time to edit Wikipedia articles. And usually not the knowledge, depth of reading. Or interest. And with regard to a technical topic, the people 'in the know' or with a strong background would be much more likely to be academics, graduate students, and the like. They never learned to write in a non-academic style. They may know how to write a term or research paper or for publication in a journal. (Admittedly this may be an extreme example, but take a key branch of math I was looking at last week, differential geometry, and look at the wiki on that: instead of explaining a whole host of complex concepts which the topic involves, the article is up to one-third links each time a new concept comes up.)

Many, many people today rely on Wikipedia - it is fast and easy, so if it is generally biased, that in particular is a major, major issue. [it might be valuable to read its entries on 'global warming', to see if there is bias on an issue that is ideological but scientific as much as political.]

My findings are, of course, 'anecdotal' or peculiar to whatever searches I have done. They hardly constitute a scholarly research project.

Does anyone else have any problems with Wikipedia? Do your problems fall into the areas of academicization or bias or do you have a problem with not finding your topic at all? (That's a problem I seldom have - Wikipedia seems to have an order of magnitude more 'stuff' than the two famous library encyclopedias.)

Edited by Philip Coates
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Does anyone else have any problems with Wikipedia? Do your problems fall into the areas of academicization or bias or do you have a problem with not finding your topic at all? (That's a problem I seldom have - Wikipedia seems to have an order of magnitude more 'stuff' than the two famous library encyclopedias.)

On scientific and mathematical matters I would rate Wiki 9.5 out of 10. On political matters it is too wide open to corruption and pollution so I do not rely on it at all. On historical matters I would rate wike 8 to 8.5 out of 10. It is a good starting place to look since it gives references to the literature and other web sites.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Does anyone else have any problems with Wikipedia? Do your problems fall into the areas of academicization or bias or do you have a problem with not finding your topic at all? (That's a problem I seldom have - Wikipedia seems to have an order of magnitude more 'stuff' than the two famous library encyclopedias.)

On scientific and mathematical matters I would rate Wiki 9.5 out of 10. On political matters it is too wide open to corruption and pollution so I do not rely on it at all. On historical matters I would rate wike 8 to 8.5 out of 10. It is a good starting place to look since it gives references to the literature and other web sites.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I agree, its a good starting place for a general overview.

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Wikipedia's great advantage is speed and quantity. It's a time-luxury for me to pick up my Mother's 1911 Britannica, beautifully rebound by blind people in the 1960s, and peruse it. Just turning the pages jumping from subject to subject is educational in a way that can't be duplicated electronically. That's why I love open-stack libraries and the old fashioned card catalogs. But if you have a focus/locus for inquiry, the modern way tends to be much faster and better for productive work.

--Brant

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Wikipedia's great advantage is speed and quantity. It's a time-luxury for me to pick up my Mother's 1911 Britannica, beautifully rebound by blind people in the 1960s, and peruse it. Just turning the pages jumping from subject to subject is educational in a way that can't be duplicated electronically. That's why I love open-stack libraries and the old fashioned card catalogs. But if you have a focus/locus for inquiry, the modern way tends to be much faster and better for productive work.

--Brant

LOL, I used to read encyclopedias for hours on end. It was fascinating. Surfing the net is totally different since its linked by subject matter whereas the encyclopedia is alphabetic. :)

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> On scientific and mathematical matters I would rate Wiki 9.5 out of 10...On historical matters I would rate wike 8 to 8.5 out of 10. [baal]

Did you pull a random number generator out of your ass?

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Wikipedia is rife with cliques of leftists, anti-Americans, anti-Israelis, pro-Palestinians, pro-Marxists, environmentalists, and more.

Administrators and Arbitrators (the highest authority) who freeze articles and ban users are a self-nominating class, usually academics.

There was a recent major scandal where it was known to dozens of administrators that one of their own was using two separate accounts in violation of policy. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2009-10-05/Law_affair) When this became revealed to the general population, one Arbitrator resigned his arbitratorship, but did not resign his administrator position. No other editors resigned their positions:

He's my best friend. Big deal. I trust him. That's why I supported him. I don't care if he broke a rule on a website... I'll always have his back no matter what, because we're friends regardless of what's going on with Wikipedia. I would never put a website before a friendship. And I would never not get his back because I'm an admin. If you don't trust me with my tools, recall me, but I won't be admonished for supporting my best friend.

A case was opened to sanction editors who took this position of explicitly disavowing their own policies. A majority vote to punish these self-excusing and hypocritical editors could not be achieved. Not one of these editors lost their status as enforcers of the rules.

Policy decisions and edits are supposed to be based upon neutral positions. Neutral is regularly defined politically correct, progressive and Anti-American. Discussions of what news items appear on the front page regularly revolve around the need to take America down a peg.

The editor "Metricmike, an British expat, regularly changes measures in feet and miles in articles about American subjects to meters and kilometers, contrary to the policy to honor local usage, because Americans are stupid and should realize that metrics is superior.

I'm an airline pilot, a consequence of which is extensive travel worldwide. I live in the United States and wish the US would get on with the conversion to the much simpler and more rational System International (metric system). I enjoy History, travel extensively and just correct any errors I see in articles on Wikipedia. I really just enjoy reading various articles, broadens the mind!

He is not admonished or stopped.

The title of the article The Bronx was changed to Bronx by an administrator, in violation of the policy which holds that names of cities like The Hague, given usage, should include the article, and even though a vote of editors was six to five in favor of not changing the article's name. The reason? "Apparently there is some regional pride going into the efforts to keep "The" in the title."

The user Soman http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Soman is a paid editor who solely contributes articles on Marxist entities. He has created 3329 articles about various communist subjects. Paid editing is a violation of policy. This editor is treated as a preferred customer.

Edits made to articles such as Al Gore and United Nations introducing referenced and neutrally worded critical information are reversed by dedicated cliques within seconds.

Edits removing flat out personal attacks and reports of rumors about living people such as Sarah Palin are reversed, even though the report of mere allegations(such as the rumor that Palin's baby Trig was really her daughter's) is considered unencyclopedic and potentially libelous.

And when organizations with a politically incorrect viewpoint offer courses to teach people to edit wikipedia according to its rules, leftist editors advise each other and take preemptive actions to counter the threat.

Wikipedia is effectively part of the Dan Rather - Jayson Blair axis.

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Only if his Proctologist is a 10.00 on a degree of difficulty of 7!

My apologies to Vicky and welcome to OL.

Edited by Selene
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> On scientific and mathematical matters I would rate Wiki 9.5 out of 10...On historical matters I would rate wike 8 to 8.5 out of 10. [baal]

Did you pull a random number generator out of your ass?

Just my intuitive rating. If you don't like my estimates, then ignore them. It is like some movies are

*** out of *****.

For factually based material Wiki is a pretty good source to get a first reading. Wiki generally does not have exhaustive articles but they the articles give pointers into the literature and web-sites where one can find out more. The scientific articles and the mathematical articles are generally as good as are found in the Encyclopedia Britanica section containing the cursory or summary articles. When I have to look up something mathematical Wiki is my first stop and almost never my last stop.

On matters political or on policy matters I consider all sources polluted, because the basis is not factual.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf
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  • 1 month later...

It may be of some interest to those who are agnostic about the leanings of Wikipedia to see what article they have chosen to run on the eve of the most notable US midterm elections in the last century:

Today's featured article

170px-Nixon_handout_1950.jpg

The United States Senate election in California, 1950 followed a campaign characterized by accusations and name-calling. Republican Richard Nixon defeated Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas, after Democratic incumbent Sheridan Downey withdrew during the primary election campaign. Nixon won the Republican primary and Douglas the Democratic contest, with each also finishing third in the other party's contest. A contentious Democratic primary race left the party divided, and Democrats were slow to rally to Douglas—some even endorsed Nixon. The Korean War broke out only days after the primaries, and both Nixon and Douglas contended that the other had often voted with leftist New York Congressman Vito Marcantonio to the detriment of national security. Nixon's attacks were far more effective, and he won the election by almost 20 percentage points, carrying 53 of California's 58 counties and all metropolitan areas. The campaign gave rise to two memorable political nicknames: "the Pink Lady" for Douglas and "Tricky Dick" for Nixon. (more...)

Edited by Vicky Petty
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Vicky Petty:

Out of curiosity, what do you "read into" their posting this lead article on the eve of one of the "most notable US midterm elections in the last century:

Adam

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How does Wikipedia report a record midterm defeat for the Democrats on their front page?

"In the United States midterm elections, the Democratic Party retains a majority in the Senate, while the Republican Party (its House leader John Boehner pictured) wins a majority of seats in the House of Representatives."

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How does Wikipedia report a record midterm defeat for the Democrats on their front page?

"In the United States midterm elections, the Democratic Party retains a majority in the Senate, while the Republican Party (its House leader John Boehner pictured) wins a majority of seats in the House of Representatives."

Vicky Petty:

Perhaps an attempt to be vapidly factual?

Adam

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How does Wikipedia report a record midterm defeat for the Democrats on their front page?

"In the United States midterm elections, the Democratic Party retains a majority in the Senate, while the Republican Party (its House leader John Boehner pictured) wins a majority of seats in the House of Representatives."

Vicky Petty:

Perhaps an attempt to be vapidly factual?

Adam

Even when they are right they are wrong?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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  • 3 months later...

I recently came across the claim on Wikipedia that Ayn Rand believed that government was a "necessary evil" and that she identified it in those words. But I am absolutely sure that she never said any such thing, and I remember her saying that government could not be described as evil, since in its proper form it is a good thing.

I figured this forum would be a good place to ask if anyone knows where she made the statement that it is not a "necessary evil."

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I recently came across the claim on Wikipedia that Ayn Rand believed that government was a "necessary evil" and that she identified it in those words. But I am absolutely sure that she never said any such thing, and I remember her saying that government could not be described as evil, since in its proper form it is a good thing.

I figured this forum would be a good place to ask if anyone knows where she made the statement that it is not a "necessary evil."

I don't know where to find Rand denying that government is a "necessary evil" - maybe somebody else does - but the burden is on the editor who added the claim to provide a reference for where she does describe it as a necessary evil.

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I recently came across the claim on Wikipedia that Ayn Rand believed that government was a "necessary evil" and that she identified it in those words. But I am absolutely sure that she never said any such thing, and I remember her saying that government could not be described as evil, since in its proper form it is a good thing.

I figured this forum would be a good place to ask if anyone knows where she made the statement that it is not a "necessary evil."

I don't know where to find Rand denying that government is a "necessary evil" - maybe somebody else does - but the burden is on the editor who added the claim to provide a reference for where she does describe it as a necessary evil.

Doesn't sound like her at all. It's true she never would have affirmed government was a "necessary evil," but her only denial of that was through implication--i.e., that there could be a government that relied on "voluntary taxation," an oxymoron, yes, but one that couldn't accept any such necessity of evil in limited-government politics. She was a believer in perfectibility. It was a personal disaster and a mistake that should not be repeated for that's what the Nazis and communists believed and believe.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede
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I recently came across the claim on Wikipedia that Ayn Rand believed that government was a "necessary evil" and that she identified it in those words. But I am absolutely sure that she never said any such thing, and I remember her saying that government could not be described as evil, since in its proper form it is a good thing.

I figured this forum would be a good place to ask if anyone knows where she made the statement that it is not a "necessary evil."

I don't know where to find Rand denying that government is a "necessary evil" - maybe somebody else does - but the burden is on the editor who added the claim to provide a reference for where she does describe it as a necessary evil.

Doesn't sound like her at all. It's true she never would have affirmed government was a "necessary evil," but her only denial of that was through implication--i.e., that there could be a government that relied on "voluntary taxation," an oxymoron, yes, but one that couldn't accept any such necessity of evil in limited-government politics. She was a believer in perfectibility. It was a personal disaster and a mistake that should not be repeated for that's what the Nazis and communists believed and believe.

--Brant

If someone (I don't) has the Objectivist CD ROM they could search for "necessary evil". I suspect the comment might be in Capitalism, but again am not very helpful.

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I have it in the house but unfortunately am not sufficiently interested in the topic to dig it out.

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I have it in the house but unfortunately am not sufficiently interested in the topic to dig it out.

I think your lack of interest in this topic is far more than unfortunate, Phil. I think it's a calamity, if not an outright tragedy.

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/benjamindi163476.html

JR

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I have it in the house but unfortunately am not sufficiently interested in the topic to dig it out.

I think your lack of interest in this topic is far more than unfortunate, Phil. I think it's a calamity, if not an outright tragedy.

http://www.brainyquo...indi163476.html

JR

Jeff,

Not to mention that we are all far richer intellectually and spiritually for knowing of Phil's lack of interest.

:)

Michael

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I have it in the house but unfortunately am not sufficiently interested in the topic to dig it out.

What an utter waste of space. <_<

Ted, "necessary evil" appears on the CD-ROM several times. None attribute it to government. All pertain to the views of another philosophy or religion.

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