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BS: Wikipedia Puzzles

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JohnInKansas 07 Dec 12 - 07:41 AM
Nigel Parsons 07 Dec 12 - 08:50 AM
GUEST,Grishka 07 Dec 12 - 08:58 AM
Amos 07 Dec 12 - 08:59 AM
Jack Campin 07 Dec 12 - 11:58 AM
GUEST,Lighter 07 Dec 12 - 12:18 PM
GUEST,999 07 Dec 12 - 12:37 PM

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Subject: BS: Wikipedia Puzzles
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 07:41 AM

A couple of recent little essays (blogs?) have attacked(?) Wikipedia. The assaults are not really too interesting but perhaps do suggest some subjects that need thoughtful consideration:

Article 1: Is Wikipedia 'done'? It's close, says historian

The premise here is based on the decrease in edits received by Wiki as individual entries "mature," and a perceived decline in the number of entries that receive significant proposed modifications. [The full article from the JMH that makes the argument is about the War of 1812, downloadable as a PDF at a link, and might be interesting to historians too.]

Given that Wiki started from nothing a fairly short time ago, there obviously were a lot of things already known that deserved comment. The assumption that the compilation of "everything interesting" can be completed requires the belief that there will never be anything new to talk about.

POSSIBLE DISCUSSION POINT 1: Are people really stupid enough to think somebody knows everything that will ever be known??

Article 2: You're not smart enough to read Wikipedia

The premise of this article is that Wikipedia likely presents information you don't already know and hence you won't be able to understand it. It's unclear whether this is a criticism of Wiki, or a tong-in-the-creek slam at the level of literacy among our populations.

POSSIBLE DISCUSSION POINT 2: Perhaps someone can explain WHY anyone would consult a place like Wiki if they didn't WANT TO KNOW something they didn't already understand.

POSSIBLE DISCUSSION POINT 3: Is it necessary to understand something you read on the internet in order to have an opinion about it.

Discussion Point 3 may seem a bit too obvious to some of us here, but I really don't intend it as a trick question for ******* [censored]

Feel free to discuss, and/or to propose additional questions raised by the essays linked …

John


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Subject: RE: BS: Wikipedia Puzzles
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 08:50 AM

POSSIBLE DISCUSSION POINT 2: Perhaps someone can explain WHY anyone would consult a place like Wiki if they didn't WANT TO KNOW something they didn't already understand.

There again, if you want knowledge, why consult Wiki?
It's a good starting point, but a large dose of salt is required.
Wikipaedia often seems to be a construct of conjecture and opinion. Verified facts are often lacking.   (Hmmm... sounds familiar!)


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Subject: RE: BS: Wikipedia Puzzles
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 08:58 AM

POINT 0 would be: Do we want a Wikipedia that is easier to understand? My answer: yes, as far as possible.

"Simple" is complicated to define and most difficult to achieve: Many top scientists fail miserably, even if they try. Often it turns out just wrong, and (thus) not to be understood at all.

I do not know of the "Simple Wikipedia" (does it exist?). The quotation in Article 2 is from Wikipedia in "Simple English" - a different goal, in my opinion. Those who know fewer English words and idioms are not the same as those who know less about science etc.

Authors of any article should start with a survey that is easier to understand, and allows readers to decide if they want to read the complete article. Wikipedia often fails that goal, and so do other sources of knowledge. Many blue clickies are a great service to those who lack some of the presumed knowledge, but a "royal road" rarely exists.

Readers who do not understand an article should not be too quick to blame either themselves or the author. More reading often helps.


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Subject: RE: BS: Wikipedia Puzzles
From: Amos
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 08:59 AM

I have wrestled with dozens of Wiki chains that led me in over my head, but I always valued the understanding I COULD glean and the pointers to remedy the overwhelm.

To have an opinion worth anything, you have to have SOME understanding, though. At the least you should be able to say why a piece is hard to understand. For example, mathematicians often write papers on mathematical concepts, and somehow feel compelled to use scores of abstruse mathematical terms which they do not define well, requiring the learner to go from page to page to page trying to fill in the backstory and vocabulary needed to understand the first piece. This is not an unavoidable problem.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: Wikipedia Puzzles
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 11:58 AM

It's nowhere near as democratic as they make it out to be. I've come across many articles where I know more than the writer did, but I can't do anything about it because the process of correcting misinformation is made to be so much hassle you don't want to get into it. So some topics get to be the personal playground of half-informed egomaniacs (like Andrew Kuntz on traditional music).

Other articles are horrendously slanted by corporate or political interests and again, there is no appeal against any of it.

The latest one I came across was the entry on Robert F. Kennedy (can't recall why I got there). It makes the biographies of mediaeval saints look critical. I presume it's locked down so nothing that might conflict with the myth is allowed in.


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Subject: RE: BS: Wikipedia Puzzles
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 12:18 PM

The idea that anybody and everybody can write, review, and correct factual articles isn't democratic.

It's idiotic.

Wikipedia is useful if you're a skeptic who's able to identify and check more reliable sources. Otherwise it's a very appealing trap. Students love it.

Many articles seem to be quite accurate and informative, but the fact that anybody can add or delete anything at any time means you can't even trust those.

I've made carefully explained corrections in several places. On one or two occasions they were soon removed (for no stated reason) and the original errors reintroduced by (I assume) the original "contributors."


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Subject: RE: BS: Wikipedia Puzzles
From: GUEST,999
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 12:37 PM

I find Wiki useful when I need to refresh my brain on a subject or get a general overview with which to then go look for more detailed information. The old GIGO rule certainly applies to that site and any other on the internet.


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