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> Vanity of Article Writers, ...a time to cast away stones
GlassBeadGame
post Wed 11th March 2009, 2:10pm
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I have been struck lately by the growing smugness of "article writers." Those who avoid wonkery and administraton for the creaton or "improvement" of articles on Wikpedia. To hear them say you would thing they were creating some great works of literature. I got to tell you I don't see it. Even among our FA artistes. They use this activity much in the same way "vandal patrols" or policy wonks use the stuff they do for playing the game that is Wikipedia.

At best I'd say is "Well pretty good for a sand painting made in a sandbox surrounded by pre-schoolers flinging rocks and spraying down the place with pressure hoses...but come back tomorrow." Wikipedia articles, even FAs, are no great shakes. Certainly they don't justify the sense of self-entitlement these prima donnas pretend. Nor do they make up for the many levels or irresponsibilty directed at people outside the project that results from their work.

The only thing of any value in Wikipedia is it partially functions in the the same task Wikia Search fails at, collecting a list of manually generated sources (very imperfectly vetted) and indirectly returning them on the top of search request. You don't need article writers for this task at all.
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Samuel Culper Sr.
post Wed 11th March 2009, 2:30pm
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Can't fully agree. Unless you think there is no value at all in Wikipedia. (I happen to still think it's a useful tool for general research.)

Take for instance, someone like [[User:Baseball Bugs]] (currently at RfA) and your average "article writer". One's a dramawhore, and the other does actually add something of worth. People that spend their time on adminboards or rfa or stuff like that are just "playing the game".

While not perfect, it's the article writers that maintain some value to Wikipedia. If the numbers of "Article writers" and "adminboard dramawhores" were reversed, I think Wikipedia would be a much better place. IMO, they have a right to be self-righteous and condescending to those that can't write an article.
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Emperor
post Wed 11th March 2009, 4:46pm
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For a while I made it a game to pick apart the featured article of the day. It wasn't all that difficult to find glaring errors, if I already knew something about the subject. For topics where I had no prior knowledge, Wikipedia articles seemed perfectly plausible. On the other hand, Wikipedia is often better than the other crap on the internet.

As the owner of another website that lives on user-generated content, I can honestly say that I love article writers.
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Malleus
post Wed 11th March 2009, 5:04pm
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QUOTE(Emperor @ Wed 11th March 2009, 4:46pm) *

For a while I made it a game to pick apart the featured article of the day. It wasn't all that difficult to find glaring errors, if I already knew something about the subject. For topics where I had no prior knowledge, Wikipedia articles seemed perfectly plausible. On the other hand, Wikipedia is often better than the other crap on the internet.

As the owner of another website that lives on user-generated content, I can honestly say that I love article writers.

I think that in a not insignificant number of cases the wikipedia entry is very likely the best info available on the internet. Admittedly that doesn't necessarily mean that it's much good, but that's not so much down to the article writers as to the screams of "Conflict of Interest!" whenever anyone who clearly knows what they're writing about turns up.
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Peter Damian
post Wed 11th March 2009, 5:13pm
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QUOTE(GlassBeadGame @ Wed 11th March 2009, 2:10pm) *

I have been struck lately by the growing smugness of "article writers." Those who avoid wonkery and administraton for the creaton or "improvement" of articles on Wikpedia. To hear them say you would thing they were creating some great works of literature. I got to tell you I don't see it. Even among our FA artistes. They use this activity much in the same way "vandal patrols" or policy wonks use the stuff they do for playing the game that is Wikipedia.

At best I'd say is "Well pretty good for a sand painting made in a sandbox surrounded by pre-schoolers flinging rocks and spraying down the place with pressure hoses...but come back tomorrow." Wikipedia articles, even FAs, are no great shakes. Certainly they don't justify the sense of self-entitlement these prima donnas pretend. Nor do they make up for the many levels or irresponsibilty directed at people outside the project that results from their work.

The only thing of any value in Wikipedia is it partially functions in the the same task Wikia Search fails at, collecting a list of manually generated sources (very imperfectly vetted) and indirectly returning them on the top of search request. You don't need article writers for this task at all.


I think that's a bit unfair. Granted there is a load of crap, but look at the article on the Fourth Crusade e.g.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_crusade

It neatly summarises the main couple of things you need to know about this crusade, has quite a bit of detail (considering it is probably one of the most obscure of the big crusades). It mentions Geoffrey Villhardouin and has links to an article about him - he is also an obscure character, so well done that article writer - Adam Bishop I think.

QUOTE(Emperor @ Wed 11th March 2009, 4:46pm) *

For a while I made it a game to pick apart the featured article of the day. It wasn't all that difficult to find glaring errors, if I already knew something about the subject. For topics where I had no prior knowledge, Wikipedia articles seemed perfectly plausible. On the other hand, Wikipedia is often better than the other crap on the internet.

As the owner of another website that lives on user-generated content, I can honestly say that I love article writers.


As you say, it is also easy to find stuff that is moderate to complete nonsense.
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UseOnceAndDestroy
post Wed 11th March 2009, 5:19pm
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This point gets buried a lot in the noise of BLP and who's-banning-who: the general quality of wikipedia is awful, so much so its main additions to "the sum of human knowledge" are question marks and negative numbers.

Want to know what an MPLS is? Wikipedia will hand you this drivel.

Want to help your kid find out why salt melts ice on the sidewalk? Prefer the page at frostburg.edu before you subject the nipper to the mumbling density of wikipedia's treatment.

I could go on listing. Maybe it’s a product of writing by self-selected committee, but the dominant style on WP is strangulated and inaccessible, and too frequently makes understanding a topic just a little bit harder. For those editors considering quitting who can write well - I'd encourage you to write independently, you'll do better. For those who can't - for god's sake, just stop.
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Sarcasticidealist
post Wed 11th March 2009, 5:27pm
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I'd agree that the overall quality of Wikipedia is not high. In particular, very few FAs meet the nominal FA prose requirement of "engaging, even brilliant" (mine don't). The de facto prose standard for FAs is "competent, free of easily noticable technical faults and without any really terrible stylistic decisions." But for many subjects - including almost all of those that FAs - Wikipedia provides the clearest, most accessible, free online treatment.

Wikipedia is most useful not when it's a substitute for other sources, but when it's a substitute for ignorance.

As for GBG's original point, there's a segment of article writers for whom smugness is endemic. But there's an observer bias there, just as there is for admins: the article writers you notice are the ones prancing around ANI shrieking that the Wikipolitician caste is ruining the encyclopedia, and that everybody should actually be more like them (the article writers).
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Skinny87
post Wed 11th March 2009, 8:41pm
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As an article writer, and an FA contributor, I don't think I'm particularly vain; I like my articles and think they're quite good, but I'm not going to say they're brilliant. Far from it; my prose is probably average, for example.

I'd agree that wikipedia isn't the font of all human knowledge it's sometimes portrayed as being, but I'd also agree that it's better than nothing at all, and probably the best organized on the internet. My articles aren't comprehensive, even when they're at FA level, they're often lacking (non-vital) sources that I can't access or afford. But I'd like to think that they're as comprehensive as they can be, and that they give the reader a fairly detailed and neutral view of what occurred. Ultimately, they're a starting point - no one should be citing them in an essay or thinking they're the best source of knowledge for that particular topic. A good wiki article should be well-sourced to allow the reader to find those sources for themselves whilst they get at least a general understanding of the topic.
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Obesity
post Wed 11th March 2009, 9:23pm
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Give it a rest, GBG. FA writers are the last place you should be directing your idle, pissy and predictable ire.

You never struck me as a particularly insightful aesthetic critic, but it shouldn't take Harold Bloom to point out that, Pokémon and Power Rangers paeans excepted, the best Featured Articles demonstrate palpable literary style and substance, especially when compared to entries from, say, World Book (the dumbed-down paper encyclopedia for dummies, which was the only thing I had to read growing up).

Must I drag out my favorite article once again as example?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S._A._Andr%C3...edition_of_1897

This is textbook, well, textbook. It's better than most textbooks. You sound bitter and uninformed to suggest otherwise.

And it's not an isolated example.

Who, may I ask, besides the inimitable Giano (known slightly more for his over-the-top posturing than for his fluid and witty style) constitutes this insufferable gang of smug, self-satisfied wankers?

At this moment, the lady doing the best article work is Moni3. A industrious lesbian oddball from Florida, she is many things, but she is not a prima donna. She did the Harvey Milk article and is currently working on Museum of Bad Art (still a work in progress, but already mildly dazzling and, with a tiny bit of professional editing, would be suitable for a number of magazines). People like Moni3 (or Ceoil, or several others) naturally take pride in their full-time hobby (when you work for free, pride is all you can take), but they can hardly be accused of strutting about cyberspace demanding oblations; you know what they do? They write. A lot.

You are what the kids call a hater, and I suspect you couldn't write your way out of a cardboard box (and don't come after me to your tu quoque's; I'm also practically illiterate and almost used the word "ablutions" instead of "oblations," above).

People like you and others I won't mention see Wikipedia as Dimension X, or the Bizarro universe, when it in many respects approximates the regular universe more than we care to admit: full of nasty people, stacked to its eyeballs in bullshit, with a few reasonable souls and delightful, distracting baubles to be enjoyed, if you take the time to look for them.

Repent. thumbsdown.gif

This post has been edited by Obesity: Wed 11th March 2009, 9:24pm
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UseOnceAndDestroy
post Wed 11th March 2009, 9:28pm
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QUOTE(Skinny87 @ Wed 11th March 2009, 8:41pm) *

I'd agree that wikipedia isn't the font of all human knowledge it's sometimes portrayed as being, but I'd also agree that it's better than nothing at all

It's a recurring wikipedian myth to position wikipedia and "nothing" as the only possibilities. Wikipedia is decidedly not better than a rich and diverse internet of independent sites and documents, created by people who actually understand the topics they're involved in.

The wikipedian project is to appropriate and re-mediate, losing definition and wedging content into its own shape on the way - for the benefit of someone other than the readers. Most "article writers" are doing grunt work that MFA sites can do with scripts.
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Sarcasticidealist
post Wed 11th March 2009, 9:43pm
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QUOTE(UseOnceAndDestroy @ Wed 11th March 2009, 6:28pm) *
It's a recurring wikipedian myth to position wikipedia and "nothing" as the only possibilities. Wikipedia is decidedly not better than a rich and diverse internet of independent sites and documents, created by people who actually understand the topics they're involved in.
So why doesn't that network exist? Surely the people who actually understand what they're talking about aren't engaged in editing Wikipedia, so what's stopping them from setting up their own network? I've written three featured articles, all of which are, as featured articles go, of pretty middling quality. But each is the best free access online resource on the subject. That may not be true of all FAs, but it's true of a good many of them. Wikipedia has actually driven the creation of free access online information that, by all the evidence we have, would not otherwise exist in such a form.

Besides that, there is utility in Wikipedia's organization, which is actually among its stronger suits; the interconnectivity of Wikipedia articles provides utility to the reader that would not exist from your mostly hypothetical diverse network of sites and documents.
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Luís Henrique
post Wed 11th March 2009, 10:10pm
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QUOTE(Emperor @ Wed 11th March 2009, 1:46pm) *
For a while I made it a game to pick apart the featured article of the day. It wasn't all that difficult to find glaring errors, if I already knew something about the subject. For topics where I had no prior knowledge, Wikipedia articles seemed perfectly plausible.


But isn't this part of the problem?

When I read an article about, say, Thailand, or the proccess of refining iron ore, or emphysema, I wonder whether they actually make any sence, as it superficially seems, or if they are full of lies, pranks, urban legends, fantasies, like those about subjects I have some actual knowledge.

Luís Henrique
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Milton Roe
post Wed 11th March 2009, 10:22pm
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QUOTE(Sarcasticidealist @ Wed 11th March 2009, 10:27am) *

Wikipedia is most useful not when it's a substitute for other sources, but when it's a substitute for ignorance.

That's a really good quote. If Wikipedia was smart they would adopt it as a slightly-self-derogatory and helpful motto, like Google's DON'T BE EVIL.

Of course, they're not very bright, as an institution. And institutionally, they have very little real ironic self-awareness, either. But I repeat myself...

I'm impressed with the fact that Wikipedia has many critics who haven't paid the price to read its content. I mean, it's okay if you've edited little and are complaining about BLP defamation-- that is actively evil. But what about people who complain about content without having put in any work to improve it? Those are the narcissistic and entitled ones, who think information of the best quality should be FREEEEEE and complain if it isn't. Along with all the other necessities of life. Wikipedia here as mother's tit. It's very Freudian, but that's to be expected, since people who want good stuff for nothin' tend to be very childish.

Okay, so as Obesity observes, Wikipedia IS very much like the real world: full of crap and assholes and with a lot of mediocrity and only a few gems. Well, it's free so WTF else did you expect?? Really? Being free I'm amazed that it's as good as it is. If we can rid it of the actively evil and malevolent parts, starting with BLP, I will declare myself satisfied. I've put enough work into the thing to read it free the rest of my life. And I don't think I "deserve" to get paid back what I put in. Still, I can say I've done my part and more.
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EricBarbour
post Wed 11th March 2009, 10:32pm
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QUOTE(UseOnceAndDestroy @ Wed 11th March 2009, 10:19am) *
Want to help your kid find out why salt melts ice on the sidewalk? Prefer the page at frostburg.edu before you subject the nipper to the mumbling density of wikipedia's treatment.
nice find, that's one of the most obscurantist articles I've ever seen....while still being accurate.

QUOTE
You are what the kids call a hater, and I suspect you couldn't write your way out of a cardboard box (and don't come after me to your tu quoque's; I'm also practically illiterate and almost used the word "ablutions" instead of "oblations," above).
People like you and others I won't mention see Wikipedia as Dimension X, or the Bizarro universe, when it in many respects approximates the regular universe more than we care to admit: full of nasty people, stacked to its eyeballs in bullshit, with a few reasonable souls and delightful, distracting baubles to be enjoyed, if you take the time to look for them.
You both miss the point. For every well-written and useful FA, there's an unknown pile of crap like that freezing-point article. (or, for a random choice, this.) And nobody can even make up a vague statistic of how bad the problem is, because of the construction of MediaWiki's database and the sheer volume of material that has yet to be examined by a live human being who knows something about the subject.....
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Eva Destruction
post Wed 11th March 2009, 10:39pm
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QUOTE(EricBarbour @ Wed 11th March 2009, 10:32pm) *

And nobody can even make up a vague statistic of how bad the problem is, because of the construction of MediaWiki's database and the sheer volume of material that has yet to be examined by a live human being who knows something about the subject.....

Number of Featured Articles
Number of Good Articles
Articles with at least one issue needing resolution

The answer is left as an exercise for the student.
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Milton Roe
post Wed 11th March 2009, 10:43pm
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QUOTE(Luís Henrique @ Wed 11th March 2009, 3:10pm) *

But isn't this part of the problem?

When I read an article about, say, Thailand, or the proccess of refining iron ore, or emphysema, I wonder whether they actually make any sence, as it superficially seems, or if they are full of lies, pranks, urban legends, fantasies, like those about subjects I have some actual knowledge.

Luís Henrique

Sure, but you have that problem about most of what you learn in life, since you're hardly ever going to able to get your summaries directly from the greatest experts in the world, Charlie Rose style (how I envy that man his job).

In the real world, gaining most knowledge is sort of like learning a new word in your vocabulary. You hear it once, this perfectly cromulent word, but you've never heard it before. Still from the way it's used, you begin to have some idea of what it means. As it's used more and more, you realize that your ignorance does not mean it wasn't cromulent, it must means YOU hadn't encountered it. But now you're aware of it.

Studies show that when 3 year-olds are exposed to an articificial word, it only takes about 5 usages for them to hone in on its meaning pretty well, and that they do it rather like tracking an animal by scent. It doesn't start out perfect, but descends through the categories, until they nail it.

Again, in the real world, you don't get to find out about iron ore refining from the bored steelworker sitting next to you on some transoceanic flight on which he wants to talk. Instead, you sort of need to know, don't have access to the net, and so you ask the people around you: "Know anything about iron ore refining"? And you get back something like: "A little. I dunno how they get the dirt out, but I know they have to take the iron oxide, mix it with coke in big furnace, and heat the blazes out of it till the carbon takes out the oxygen and molten iron is left. Then they blow pure oxygen through to get rid of more carbon, to get steel." So you still have an incomplete picture, but you know more than you did. Later you find the thing is self-heating and is called a blast furnace. And you learn out they get the dirt out, and so on and so on. That's Wikipedia, too.

In some ways, as has been said by many people, one problem is that we expect too much of Wikipedia. If we could just fix the vandalism and defamation, we'd be left with sort of what you get from a very large roomful of decent, random people on any subject. And that's no small thing. It's bound to beat hell out of what you "know" just on your own.
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Jon Awbrey
post Wed 11th March 2009, 11:07pm
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QUOTE(Milton Roe @ Wed 11th March 2009, 6:22pm) *

QUOTE(Sarcasticidealist @ Wed 11th March 2009, 10:27am) *

Wikipedia is most useful not when it's a substitute for other sources, but when it's a substitute for ignorance.


That's a really good quote. If Wikipedia was smart they would adopt it as a slightly-self-derogatory and helpful motto, like Google's DON'T BE EVIL.

Of course, they're not very bright, as an institution. And institutionally, they have very little real ironic self-awareness, either. But I repeat myself …

I'm impressed with the fact that Wikipedia has many critics who haven't paid the price to read its content. I mean, it's okay if you've edited little and are complaining about BLP defamation — that is actively evil. But what about people who complain about content without having put in any work to improve it? Those are the narcissistic and entitled ones, who think information of the best quality should be FREEEEEE and complain if it isn't. Along with all the other necessities of life. Wikipedia here as mother's tit. It's very Freudian, but that's to be expected, since people who want good stuff for nothin' tend to be very childish.

Okay, so as Obesity observes, Wikipedia IS very much like the real world: full of crap and assholes and with a lot of mediocrity and only a few gems. Well, it's free so WTF else did you expect?? Really? Being free I'm amazed that it's as good as it is. If we can rid it of the actively evil and malevolent parts, starting with BLP, I will declare myself satisfied. I've put enough work into the thing to read it free the rest of my life. And I don't think I "deserve" to get paid back what I put in. Still, I can say I've done my part and more.


Tagged for Web Searches under • Still Clueless After All These Years (WP:SCAATY) •
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Kato
post Wed 11th March 2009, 11:13pm
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QUOTE(Obesity @ Wed 11th March 2009, 9:23pm) *

People like you and others I won't mention see Wikipedia as Dimension X, or the Bizarro universe, when it in many respects approximates the regular universe more than we care to admit: full of nasty people, stacked to its eyeballs in bullshit, with a few reasonable souls and delightful, distracting baubles to be enjoyed, if you take the time to look for them.

That could apply to almost anything. Even Fox News has the odd decent and delightful person involved.

Look, when you see Wikipedia as a con-artist's sweatshop, or a plain bully, which are surely reasonable, proven positions to take by anyone's measure, then how else do you expect people to respond?

That said, there are some really good articles on Wikipedia. As good as you are likely to get on a topic. Though these are scarce. And I have time for anyone who is in the act of creating something of worth.

Months ago, I wrote here that the Art articles are dreadful - you hit the roof. But the plain fact is that they are terrible. Sure, you can point to some quality article on a Bosch painting, but they are few and far between. One needle in a haystack, after how many years now? The "Wisdom of Crowds" hasn't produced anything like the quality Wikipedios would like to believe.
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Jon Awbrey
post Wed 11th March 2009, 11:17pm
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QUOTE(Milton Roe @ Wed 11th March 2009, 6:43pm) *

QUOTE(Luís Henrique @ Wed 11th March 2009, 3:10pm) *

But isn't this part of the problem?

When I read an article about, say, Thailand, or the proccess of refining iron ore, or emphysema, I wonder whether they actually make any sence, as it superficially seems, or if they are full of lies, pranks, urban legends, fantasies, like those about subjects I have some actual knowledge.

Luís Henrique


Sure, but you have that problem about most of what you learn in life, since you're hardly ever going to able to get your summaries directly from the greatest experts in the world, Charlie Rose style (how I envy that man his job).

In the real world, gaining most knowledge is sort of like learning a new word in your vocabulary. You hear it once, this perfectly cromulent word, but you've never heard it before. Still from the way it's used, you begin to have some idea of what it means. As it's used more and more, you realize that your ignorance does not mean it wasn't cromulent, it must means YOU hadn't encountered it. But now you're aware of it.

Studies show that when 3 year-olds are exposed to an articificial word, it only takes about 5 usages for them to hone in on its meaning pretty well, and that they do it rather like tracking an animal by scent. It doesn't start out perfect, but descends through the categories, until they nail it.

Again, in the real world, you don't get to find out about iron ore refining from the bored steelworker sitting next to you on some transoceanic flight on which he wants to talk. Instead, you sort of need to know, don't have access to the net, and so you ask the people around you: "Know anything about iron ore refining"? And you get back something like: "A little. I dunno how they get the dirt out, but I know they have to take the iron oxide, mix it with coke in big furnace, and heat the blazes out of it till the carbon takes out the oxygen and molten iron is left. Then they blow pure oxygen through to get rid of more carbon, to get steel." So you still have an incomplete picture, but you know more than you did. Later you find the thing is self-heating and is called a blast furnace. And you learn out they get the dirt out, and so on and so on. That's Wikipedia, too.

In some ways, as has been said by many people, one problem is that we expect too much of Wikipedia. If we could just fix the vandalism and defamation, we'd be left with sort of what you get from a very large roomful of decent, random people on any subject. And that's no small thing. It's bound to beat hell out of what you "know" just on your own.


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EricBarbour
post Wed 11th March 2009, 11:17pm
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QUOTE(Eva Destruction @ Wed 11th March 2009, 3:39pm) *

QUOTE(EricBarbour @ Wed 11th March 2009, 10:32pm) *

And nobody can even make up a vague statistic of how bad the problem is, because of the construction of MediaWiki's database and the sheer volume of material that has yet to be examined by a live human being who knows something about the subject.....

Number of Featured Articles
Number of Good Articles
Articles with at least one issue needing resolution
The answer is left as an exercise for the student.

That's very nice. Who devised these statistics? Where is the complete list of "good" articles?
Define a "good article". Who decided this, and where's the written policy or standard?

That count of "good articles" appears to be the work of a bot. Very funny. Skynet, I suppose?

Where in this list is the category of "articles that have factual errors, are poorly written or are obscurantist"?
This category contains only 126 articles. I'm fairly certain there are tens of thousands more
which are not listed here (or anywhere).

You want something to do to "improve the encyclopedia", Eva? Delete this.

For that matter, where is the Wikipedia policy that says "Wikipedia is a general interest
encyclopedia, therefore all articles should be written to answer general-encyclopedia
questions, and should avoid obscurantistic specialist jargon when possible."

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