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> Ikkyu2: The opposite of expertise on Wikipedia, Why do the experts leave?
JohnA
post Sat 3rd February 2007, 12:15pm
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This was in the course of looking for something else when I spotted User:Ikkyu2's posting on "what's going wrong with Wikipedia" - except that when I followed the link, both the page and the user had disappeared from Wikipedia.

But the Internet Wayback machine still has a copy, so here it is:

QUOTE
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:

QUOTE
Respect other contributors. —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, with a personal example regarding Epilepsy. I'm highly qualified to contribute to an article on epilepsy. I have a 400-reference review on epilepsy epidemiology in press. I'm a board-certified American neurologist. I'm a clinical epilepsy specialist and I took my training at some of the best neurology departments in the world.

More than that, I've been obsessed with neurology and epilepsy since I was eleven years old. I doubt a day has gone by in the past twenty years that I haven't tried to learn something about neurology. It is my great passion and vocation in life.

I have spent forty hours or so editing epilepsy. After my edits, anyone else can come along and introduce factual inaccuracies, distortion of perspective, misleading anecdotal experience, or simply muddy thinking. For instance, since the last time I spent several hours editing the article, someone introduced a bunch of red wikilinks under the subheadings Types of seizure (which should be Types of seizures; a single seizure can't be every type at once). As a response, I listed some of them under Seizure syndromes as a temporizing measure.

Whoever introduced these classifications to the article had not the first idea what seizure classification was about. Classifications of individual seizure semiology were interspersed at random with general syndromology related to cerebral localization (the general and useful rubric, 'localization-related,' has yet to be introduced into the article). Furthermore, syndromes with multiple seizure types were introduced under 'Type of seizure' with random or no description of the seizure types involved, or why a soi-disant seizure "type" should have multiple "types." Finally, seizures were classified, as well, according to their etiologies and by their provocant in the cases of reflex epilepsy.

In short, this is a god-awful mess that might be created by a medical student who has heard one or two lectures; but not by someone with a deep understanding of the current state of classification schemes in epilepsy.

Worse are the folks who come through asserting that all religious experience is a product of complex partial seizures (the idea came to him while watching Joan of Arcadia); or the guy who hasn't yet mastered English grammar, but saw someone fall over and shake, was frightened, and decided to instruct the world that this is what epilepsy is about. These so-called "contributions" pollute the article and re-pollute it on a regular basis, and most editors are not qualified to recognize them definitively as the misleading, stigmatizing, distorted perspectives that they represent. In the absence of such expertise, confidence to remove them is lacking, and they remain, misleading all who visit the article.

I understand that I need to treat such contributors civilly. That's important; civil discourse is the foundation of understanding. But I do not respect them nor their contributions. I understand that oftentimes persons less qualified than myself improve an article. This has happened to articles I have edited many times. But it is the exception, not the rule. In general, such contributors and such edits make a mess out of my expert contributions; a mess that requires hours of my valuable time (if you doubt it, I can receive $600 an hour for an initial consult) to repair. They should be kept out of my way. I should not be required to respect such contributors or such contributions. Most importantly: consider the effects on the article. This kind of "consensus" editing makes the article worse, not better for the encyclopedic use for which it is intended.

Also, consider the effect on me, a good-faith Wikipedia editor. I understand that certain people may disagree with me and wish to contribute an opposing point of view. But when it comes to factual matters concerning epilepsy, I also understand how unlikely it is that they are going to be better qualified than I - especially when we're disagreeing. I understand, also, that this can be humbling, intimidating, and annoying, and I well understand how it inflames the emotions of people who have psychological trouble accepting the existence of authority in any form. But, quite apart from all that, I am a human being in addition to being an epilepsy expert, and I have an AIM block list a mile long, full of people who would like nothing better than to insult, harry, and argue with a physician twenty-four hours a day. Does the fact that I don't want to deal with still more of that make me less qualified to improve a Wikipedia article? The current system says Yes.

I am someone who could go through and revise that section on seizure and syndrome classification until it reflected the state of the art in current world-wide thinking. It'd take me 20 or 30 hours and require me to cite a dozen or so references. And then any yo-yo with an IP address could come along and crap on it four times in a day, and under wikipedia policy I couldn't even revert it back. I must leave the article in a wrecked state and defer to 'community consensus' to have my contribution restored.

Where's my incentive to do that? It sounds like a painful, joyless task with a guarantee of tragedy at the end.

User:Larry Sanger makes some similar points on his userpage and in the articles he's written (to which he links); he's quite articulate about it. (It also appears to me that his experience is sufficient to qualify him as an expert on the subject of Wikipedia; unfortunately, and somewhat ironically, this has not brought greater attention to his views and their importance.)

He points out that in topics of narrow and specialized interest, such as my monographic articles PPRF and PNES, this sort of "consensus editing" is unlikely to destroy the substance of the article; but that in topics of wider interest, it must always do so unless there is a firmly followed principle of extra respect for expertise. I believe that he is correct in every particular.

I still like the Wikipedia, but not as an encyclopedia. It's just an enjoyable, relaxing way to fool around and waste some time; enjoyable for its own sake, but not useful as a finished product. I would never recommend it to my patients nor to anyone else as a source of reliable information.

Am I content with that? No. I think the Wikipedia is amazing and wonderful. I am watching its evolution with great interest and fascination, because I see that it has the potential to be something very wonderful - and if it doesn't become that thing, something very similar to it certainly will. That's exciting.

Do I have the solution to the problems I raise in this little essay? No. I wish that I did. Not having them, I am sometimes ashamed of having posted this essay, because instead of paving the way for the future, it is just a lot of petty carping and complaints. Maybe someone who reads this essay will think of a good solution. That would be very wonderful.

What else is wrong

I follow Wikipedia:Articles for deletion and Wikipedia:Deletion review. I've been interested, in general, in the topic of Wikipedia process: how it's determined, how it's followed, especially in cases where common sense doesn't provide a clear road. Therefore, I became interested in policy and guidelines, how they're determined, how they're implemented, how they're perceived in the minds of Wikipedia users and admins, how they are recorded and referenced and accessed. I have read Wikipedia:Ignore all rules and much of its article history: I think that certain versions of that page, particularly the one I contributed and the one that User:LMS contributed back in 2002, are probably the most accurate descriptions of how Wikipedia really works with regard to these issues.

Ignore all rules is a very terrible way to run an encyclopedia. It is the polar opposite of wonderful. It's ruinous.


I wonder what happened to this editor? Does anyone know?

This post has been edited by JohnA: Sat 3rd February 2007, 12:16pm
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Skyrocket
post Sat 3rd February 2007, 1:41pm
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VERY interesting post. Thank you for putting it here. Can't help you with the user, though.

A live demonstration of what's wrong with Wikipedia can be gotten by spending a few minutes on the Ann Coulter talk page. There you can see a few thoughtful efforts at improving an article, hidden among reams of blather from the likes of Ubiq and kizzle. Coulter is an extreme example, but this is what happens to many, many, many controversial articles and articles on living people, controversial or not: the level-headed are overwhelmed by the persistent efforts of the agenda-driven stupid.

To look deeper, examine the gulf between Ubiq's self description and his/her actions. He/she has some sort of a stalker, and the dialog about it is hilarious. Heroic admins rush to the aid of the dam/damsel in distress.

One of the admins even used his "tools" to transmogrify one of the stalker's sidesplitting criticisms into a paean of sycophantic praise. You can see it HERE.

This post has been edited by Skyrocket: Sat 3rd February 2007, 2:18pm
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JohnA
post Mon 5th February 2007, 2:23pm
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I have a friend who is a Professor at an Ivy League University. She remarked to me that real scholarship and real expertise result from the most illiberal and most elitist process ever made (and politically she is a liberal).

So despite Jimbo's drumbeat about how experts are flocking to Wikipedia's aid, the fact is that like Ikkyu2, most experts find the battle between rare genuine expertise with Google-ized Blog-ized Ignorance, there can be only one winner and they leave.

Like Ikkyu2, they leave believing that Wikipedia is/was a good idea that is going off the rails. My perception is that Wikipedia's approach (to be followed up by Citizendium) is fundamentally flawed because truth, expertise and knowledge are not derived from pablum or the so-called "wisdom of crowds".

The experiences may vary but the results are the same.
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Jonny Cache
post Mon 5th February 2007, 2:50pm
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QUOTE(JohnA @ Mon 5th February 2007, 9:23am) *

I have a friend who is a Professor at an Ivy League University. She remarked to me that real scholarship and real expertise result from the most illiberal and most elitist process ever made (and politically she is a liberal).

So despite Jimbo's drumbeat about how experts are flocking to Wikipedia's aid, the fact is that like Ikkyu2, most experts find the battle between rare genuine expertise with Google-ized Blog-ized Ignorance, there can be only one winner and they leave.

Like Ikkyu2, they leave believing that Wikipedia is/was a good idea that is going off the rails. My perception is that Wikipedia's approach (to be followed up by Citizendium) is fundamentally flawed because truth, expertise and knowledge are not derived from pablum or the so-called "wisdom of crowds".

The experiences may vary but the results are the same.


There's a whole stream of literature on this issue -- it is sometimes discussed as a question about the relation of democracy and inquiry, sometimes as a question about the place of science in an open society. There are famous essays by John Dewey, Karl Popper, and more lately by Hilary Putnam and others that I will look up citations for later.

At any rate, it is something of a reductive oversimplification, even a bit of a false dichotomy, merely to set up an opposition between knowledge and liberalism.

There is nothing liberal about Wikipedia. It may pander to populism, but then all fascists always do. It is simply setting up another kind of elite, one whose members have to earn their place in the wikipecker order by doing different sorts of things than the nitty-gritty knowledge-workers of the world are socialized to do. What those membership requirements are in practice you can see by ignoring the preaching and focussing on the practice.

Jonny cool.gif

This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Mon 5th February 2007, 3:52pm
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JohnA
post Wed 7th February 2007, 7:52pm
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QUOTE(Jonny Cache @ Mon 5th February 2007, 2:50pm) *

QUOTE(JohnA @ Mon 5th February 2007, 9:23am) *

I have a friend who is a Professor at an Ivy League University. She remarked to me that real scholarship and real expertise result from the most illiberal and most elitist process ever made (and politically she is a liberal).

So despite Jimbo's drumbeat about how experts are flocking to Wikipedia's aid, the fact is that like Ikkyu2, most experts find the battle between rare genuine expertise with Google-ized Blog-ized Ignorance, there can be only one winner and they leave.

Like Ikkyu2, they leave believing that Wikipedia is/was a good idea that is going off the rails. My perception is that Wikipedia's approach (to be followed up by Citizendium) is fundamentally flawed because truth, expertise and knowledge are not derived from pablum or the so-called "wisdom of crowds".

The experiences may vary but the results are the same.


There's a whole stream of literature on this issue -- it is sometimes discussed as a question about the relation of democracy and inquiry, sometimes as a question about the place of science in an open society. There are famous essays by John Dewey, Karl Popper, and more lately by Hilary Putnam and others that I will look up citations for later.

At any rate, it is something of a reductive oversimplification, even a bit of a false dichotomy, merely to set up an opposition between knowledge and liberalism.

There is nothing liberal about Wikipedia. It may pander to populism, but then all fascists always do. It is simply setting up another kind of elite, one whose members have to earn their place in the wikipecker order by doing different sorts of things than the nitty-gritty knowledge-workers of the world are socialized to do. What those membership requirements are in practice you can see by ignoring the preaching and focussing on the practice.

Jonny cool.gif


My impression is that Wikipedia has elements of both Marxism and fascism in its make-up. However because of its accessibility and size, it seems to have 10,000 unpaid editors and 1,000,000 unpaid spin doctors arguing in its favour.

Quite right about the liberalism part. Wikipedia is the antithesis of the Enlightenment and of liberalism. It certainly is slavishly attached to populist ideas then both extremes of Left and Right have done so in the past.
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Jonny Cache
post Wed 7th February 2007, 8:12pm
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QUOTE(JohnA @ Wed 7th February 2007, 2:52pm) *

My impression is that Wikipedia has elements of both Marxism and fascism in its make-up. However because of its accessibility and size, it seems to have 10,000 unpaid editors and 1,000,000 unpaid spin doctors arguing in its favour.

Quite right about the liberalism part. Wikipedia is the antithesis of the Enlightenment and of liberalism. It certainly is slavishly attached to populist ideas then both extremes of Left and Right have done so in the past.


In my view, Wikipedia is not evolved or mature enough to have a coherent political perspective, at least not enough to deserve any of the classical names. This is probably one of the reasons that I can't seem to work up much interest in the local political wranglings, even though I'm as much a political animal as anybody.

Talking about the politics of Wikipedia is like talking about the politics of the anthill, the two-year old, or the street gang. The Wikipedia populace does not really manifest the level of coherent collective consciousness that it would take to be for anything else but its half-wittedly and often wrongly perceived self-interest, nor against anything but its accumulated exiles and whoever fails to CYA in the coverup of the week.

If I had to make up a name for the politics of Wikipedia -- and I've already made up quite a few -- pride of place would have to go to the Self-Love Of The Hive (SLOTH).

Jonny cool.gif

This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Tue 13th February 2007, 5:54pm
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