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> Getting the Basics So Wrong, or How to Lie Big and Win
post Mon 27th August 2012, 1:05am
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This recently mentioned study exposes some of the worst thoughts and lies about the Wikisystem. Here is just a quick breakdown.

1. "Rejection of unwanted contributions is Wikipedia's primary mechanism for preserving the quality of content in Wikipedia. Stvilia et al. (2005) argues that Wikipedia's open contribution system constitutes an informal peer review where all contributions are initially accepted; other editors perform review and reject unwanted contributions. "

From experience of many, many people, the rejection of contributors has nothing to do with the rejection of contribution except when it comes to political subjects. There are many high end content contributors that were attacked by those that consider themselves the Wiki-elite and there are few in the Wiki-elite that know how to perform the basics of editing. The rejection or addition in many places tend to only happen during large POV wars that are mostly part of topics that either have no purpose in an encyclopedia or have been blown out of proportion.

2. "Recent work by Halfaker et al. (2011) found that rejection via this review model predicted an editor would significantly reduce their contribution rate -- especially for younger editors. With this result, it might be tempting to conclude that rejection of contributions is scaring away good newcomers.... The same observations could be explained by an overall decline in the quality of newcomers. "

The problem is that the "young" aren't providing actual contributions, nor did they focus on legitimate contribution areas. The last sentence is rather solid but not explained properly.

3. "According to political economist Elinor Ostrom (1990)"

Using a political economist for such a thing is rather bad. Bleh.

4. "These rules often arise from norms and are adopted and formalized through an ongoing process of 'articulation work' (Bannon, 1992) by which meaning is re- negotiated by recent and established community members and existing rules are adapted to new contexts. "

Which is the problem - the "community" is easily able to modify the rules to bring the most amount of harm and isolate people who pose a threat. When there is one set of clear rules applied to all, then societies can function. Instead, hypocrisy reigns.

5. "We suspect that the decline in policy creation, coupled with older editors' increased power of interpretation could make it more difficult for newcomers to have an effect on the rules that govern them. "

This is a really, really silly thing to say. There is either fairness or not. Being able to modify things does not make them fair.

6. "We also found that contributions made by good newcomers are more likely to be rejected over time. This result is most clear for editors who are trying, but not being successful, at contributing something valuable to the project. Our impression from the qualitative analysis is that, the majority of the time, this was most often due to not understanding certain norms of the community. "

This is an even sillier claim, which is kinda funny because the paper has gotten quite silly to this point. A good contribution would come from someone with knowledge on a topic, not random magic. People with knowledge, especially academics, know that you have to cite information and can't just make up claims. Any editing of a page would show you how citations look, and it isn't hard to duplicate them. Furthermore, if the edit was obviously "good" then it would stay. Vandalism stays for months, and to suggest that good edits are quickly reverted as a norm is nonsense. Even the worst experiences only happen on one or two pages, and are isolated edit wars.

7. ". It seems likely that, with the increasing use of algorithmic tools that afford only two possible reactions to newcomer contributions: accept or reject, contributions overall might be more likely to be rejected outright. "

Here is where silly turns to stupid.

There aren't bands of editors roaming around who either accept or reject edits like that. There is still tons of vandalism that slips by New Page Patrol. A person who uses Twinkle or the rest to revert information that isn't obvious tend to lose the ability to use Twinkle.

At this point, the paper is obviously too bad to even work with. The decline in quality editors is not from use of tools. Instead, it is from norms and social policies put forth by people who are like those who contributed to the paper (Ironholds, Steve Wallings, etc) that have been known to be quite hostile to quality content editors in the past to the point that they would create an atmosphere too poisonous for people to even bother.

These activities are not acceptable behavior within policy, yet they game the system through slowly wearing down any opposition. This kind of paper dodges from the real problems, and is just as wrong as claims that the decline in editors is from people unable to rely on the system. The system as it is, MoS and the such, is based on a move towards traditional academic approaches (formatting norms, citation styles, etc).

This sums up how awful these approaches are: "The ways of reaching out that are most reliably successful are human-to-human: an experienced Wikipedia contacting a newcomer to establish a supportive relationship. "

The problem is that there is too much human to human, with bands of partisans (both political and Wiki-political) roaming around and looking for targets. The system is gamed because there is some kind of weird power to be found. The power is amplified with the "human to human" aspects. They have their get togethers, their clubs, and are raising millions. Why else would someone like the head of WikimediaUK be a serial sock master who waged war against people who disagreed with hundreds of copyrighted images and useless porn to be uploaded?

The only way Wikipedia can be restored is to remove the structures that give those without merit power over those with merit.
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