Archive for the ‘Science’ Category
Another accomplished academic fell afoul of Jimbo Wales’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ this week. This latest calumny involved the usual Star Chamber trial and subsequent banishment imposed by anonymous figures lacking published credentials. This week’s victim was a well-known mathematical physicist, a Director of a major research group and Professor at a major University.
His efforts to clarify the origins of a set of dubious physics equations, given undue prominence by Wikipedia, led to an attack by a mob of editors during a heated debate. Many of the professor’s adversaries openly admitted that they had no knowledge of the subject matter, but weighed in on the dispute nonetheless. The episode is discussed in this Wikipedia Review forum thread.
Previous Wikipedia Review editorials have exposed Wikipedia’s failure to apply basic ethical standards when writing about living people, and its capacity to cause serious harm to the reputations of the subjects of their biographies. This post reviews the efforts of Barry Kort (Wikipedia user name: Moulton), an academic who is currently a Visiting Scientist at MIT’s Media Lab, and examines the problems he encountered improving the Wikipedia biography of colleague Rosalind Picard.
Picard is a director at MIT’s media lab, and was one of many academics manipulated by propagandists advocating the teaching of the pseudo science “Intelligent Design” in US schools. Picard had signed a petition later misused by Creationist advocates as evidence of a “Dissent from Darwinism” without her consent.
In turn, editors at Wikipedia stridently opposed to “Intelligent Design” maintained a biography of Picard that was little more than a hatchet job aimed to discredit her assumed beliefs. Which were in fact unrelated to the Creationists’ goals, but had become entangled with their propaganda nonetheless.
When Moulton arrived at the article, it looked like this.
Having failed to enforce a modicum of biographical standards on the article, Moulton was soon blocked from the site. His situation is a common occurrence for those who attempt to combat dominant cliques at Wikipedia.
Moulton initially wrote this blog post about his experiences, which was reprinted in the online newspaper at Utah State University. The article includes a link to another essay called “Scathing Glances” on Moulton’s own personal blog, which goes into more detail. The below post is a reproduction of Moulton’s second essay written in August 2007:
In 2005, Wikipedia user Ikkyu2 wrote what was to become a well distributed and resonant criticism of Wikipedia. Though the essay was eventually deleted at the writer’s request, a copy was saved and it was hosted on another user’s wikipedia page. Very recently, this copied version was also deleted for unknown reasons.
For posterity’s sake we’ve dug up a cached version of the piece to add to our growing collection of essays. And to ensure that it doesn’t disappear down the plug hole for ever.
What’s wrong with Wikipedia
What’s wrong with Wikipedia is neatly summarized in Wikipedia:Policy, which is a very old and very entrenched official policy.
The offending text follows:
Respect other contributors. â€”Wikipedia contributors come from many different countries and cultures, and have widely different views. Treating others with respect is key to collaborating effectively in building an encyclopedia.
Then there is a list of links, which essentially are a user’s manual concerning how to implement respect for other people in a civil and effective manner. These are fine. I have no beef with them. I also have no beef with the factual accuracy of the second or third sentences of that quote. To my mind they are correct as stated.
Here is the problem: Respect other contributors, while a good guideline, is too broad. Let me explain why… Read the rest of this entry »