Help - Search - Members - Calendar
Full Version: How you can use Wikipedia constructively
Wikipedia Review > Wikimedia Discussion > General Discussion
blissyu2
I would like to think that Wikipedia is still of some use, so can we say how we have recently used Wikipedia in a positive manner?

Today, a friend had it in her head that a guy called Casey on a TV show was a doctor. Google was no use, IMDB didn't help, but Wikipedia came up with the winning answer.

Yesterday, we were watching South Park but couldn't be sure if we'd seen the episode, or if it was more up to date than the other episodes we'd seen. Wikipedia has the definitive list of all things South Park, so we used that.

Is there any way that you have used Wikipedia constructively?
Jonny Cache
QUOTE(blissyu2 @ Tue 20th March 2007, 4:44am) *

I would like to think that Wikipedia is still of some use, so can we say how we have recently used Wikipedia in a positive manner?

Today, a friend had it in her head that a guy called Casey on a TV show was a doctor. Google was no use, IMDB didn't help, but Wikipedia came up with the winning answer.

Yesterday, we were watching South Park but couldn't be sure if we'd seen the episode, or if it was more up to date than the other episodes we'd seen. Wikipedia has the definitive list of all things South Park, so we used that.

Is there any way that you have used Wikipedia constructively?


Sorry, I'm drawing a complete blank on that one.

I know lots of people who use search engines like Google to do productive research, but they have never heard of page rankings, nor would they care if they did, and they would never dream of taking the first card off the top of the deck and trying to run with that. The problem with Wikipedia is not just that it is quickly becoming all chaff and no wit — the evils of the Wikipedia Cult of Uncritical Thought are actually far more serious than that.

But it will take another thread to discuss all that.

Jonny cool.gif
guy
QUOTE(blissyu2 @ Tue 20th March 2007, 9:44am) *

Google was no use, IMDB didn't help, but Wikipedia came up with the winning answer.

I don't follow. If it's on Wikipedia, it would have shown up on a Google search.
CrazyGameOfPoker
Occasionally I use it as a reference for some circuit diagrams. The EE section's fairly good.
Cedric
QUOTE(blissyu2 @ Tue 20th March 2007, 4:44am) *

Yesterday, we were watching South Park but couldn't be sure if we'd seen the episode, or if it was more up to date than the other episodes we'd seen. Wikipedia has the definitive list of all things South Park, so we used that.

Is there any way that you have used Wikipedia constructively?

Yes, for South Park, The Twilight Zone [irony tag], and most all things pop cultural (there very likely would be a Brian Peppers article on WP now, if it had not been for a certain Fuehrer befel). But even with all things pop, WP is hardly entirely reliable, just more reliable than it is with non-pop culture subjects.

Given the way things have been trending, I think they would do better to simply strip off all the non-pop culture articles and turn WP into a mega fan site, a "Pop-o-pedia", if you will. WP's pretensions to being a general encyclopedia of all human knowledge is wearing thinner by the day.
thekohser
QUOTE(blissyu2 @ Tue 20th March 2007, 5:44am) *

Is there any way that you have used Wikipedia constructively?


I exploited Wikipedia to try an experimental marketing idea. My marketing research company (ICR - International Communications Research) was founded 24 years ago. So, I found the list in Wikipedia of organizations founded in 1983. Then, I mailed each of their marketing and/or research directors a letter basically saying, "Your 25th Anniversary is approaching. So is ours. Let's do business together."

I thought it was a quaint and clever little pitch. Unfortunately, I've gotten no response back as of yet, from any of the approximately 20 missives I delivered. Market research sales is a tough business. Sometimes I wonder how I ever got my portfolio up to $1.7 million.

Greg
gomi
QUOTE(blissyu2 @ Tue 20th March 2007, 2:44am) *
Is there any way that you have used Wikipedia constructively?

Many Wikipedia articles, when printed and then run through a shredder, make excellent packing material.
JohnA
It's difficult to assign a level of trust when history is being revised moment by moment.

I have used Wikipedia when I know that the basic material is sound from other sources. The problem comes with any article dealing with politics, philosophy or religion or any article that has these components (quite a lot, I think you'll agree), because then the quality and reliability decline exponentially. Biographies (especially of living people) tend to be very bad and very uninformative.

There are exceptions where articles have survived the Wikirevisionism without losing too much, but they are in the category of "needles within immense haystacks"
Jonny Cache
If you could program a javascript to virtual punch the Random Article button every few seconds, it might make a good screen saver.

Like anybody remembers what a screensaver was ...

Jonny cool.gif
bernie724
QUOTE(JohnA @ Tue 20th March 2007, 5:45pm) *

It's difficult to assign a level of trust when history is being revised moment by moment.

I have used Wikipedia when I know that the basic material is sound from other sources. The problem comes with any article dealing with politics, philosophy or religion or any article that has these components (quite a lot, I think you'll agree), because then the quality and reliability decline exponentially. Biographies (especially of living people) tend to be very bad and very uninformative.

There are exceptions where articles have survived the Wikirevisionism without losing too much, but they are in the category of "needles within immense haystacks"


I think they (the foundation?) should do an annual lock. Lock it down for a week let the admins and bots go crazy. Release a full copy of the locked version without talk or diffs e.g. wikipedia 2006, 2005, etc (Hello king jimbo; google ad that version). It would still contain lots of crap but some of it would be interesting. At least if you send a friend a link it would be a known entity and not every changing graffiti.
blissyu2
*pout*

I somewhat expected that this would be used as a joke thread. Oh well, I tried.

I do genuinely use Wikipedia legitimately, sometimes as much as once a week.

Also I find it useful that it links from one topic to another so happily, and you can spend ages finding lots of information about obscure topics you didn't know about. It is a pity that most of that information is false, but hey you can check that out later anyway.
Jonny Cache
QUOTE(blissyu2 @ Wed 21st March 2007, 4:11am) *

*pout*

I somewhat expected that this would be used as a joke thread. Oh well, I tried.

I do genuinely use Wikipedia legitimately, sometimes as much as once a week.

Also I find it useful that it links from one topic to another so happily, and you can spend ages finding lots of information about obscure topics you didn't know about. It is a pity that most of that information is false, but hey you can check that out later anyway.


Wikipedia is a joke, that's true, but Wikipedia is something more than a joke — it is one of the biggest blots on the face of public education and public information yet conceived. It miseducates impressionable people about the very nature of information, knowledge, and research.

And for that I personally cannot forgive it.

We all know that many good faith editors put many good faith bits of information into the system, but the system as a whole operates in an extremely bad faith manner with the contributions that people give to it. To be a Wikipedia Editor, no matter what your initial intentions might have been, is to participate in a dysfunctional social system that gradually but relentlessly warps your very notions of what reliable research and trustworthy information are.

That is a grave disservice to society.

Jonny cool.gif
dtobias
What I find to be one handy thing about Wikipedia is when I'm creating a Web page listing a bunch of people, places, things, etc., and want each one of them to link to an external site with more info about them; for instance, my page on Single-Named Recording Artists. In past times, I used all sorts of strategies in finding links (and many are still in evidence on that page; I added links at various times to various sites and haven't changed all of them). Sometimes I googled the name to try to find some official or fan site, but such sites always reflect somebody's POV and I'd rather have a more neutral site people can use to start exploring the subject. Many times I used a specialized reference site for the category of things in question; for a time, I was using Ultimate Band List for musical artists, TV Tome for TV programs, etc. This, however, has the drawback that such sites were constantly coming into and out of existence, becoming moribund for lack of maintenance, getting bought out by other companies and renamed and restructured, "morphing" into something different with entirely different coverage (I think UBL now covers only "alternative" artists, where it used to be trying to be a reference on all musical artists in general), or getting taken over by obnoxious marketroids who encrust it with popups, flashing ads, convoluted navigation systems that work only in the latest browsers configured exactly as they want you to have them, etc. Sometimes the changes completely break the links, which are often full of inscrutable session and page IDs.

Wikipedia, on the other hand, has coverage of a huge range of things, using a fairly consistent and stable naming system, and has no ads. It works very well as something to link to in these contexts.
Joseph100
QUOTE(Jonny Cache @ Wed 21st March 2007, 1:34pm) *

QUOTE(blissyu2 @ Wed 21st March 2007, 4:11am) *

*pout*

I somewhat expected that this would be used as a joke thread. Oh well, I tried.

I do genuinely use Wikipedia legitimately, sometimes as much as once a week.

Also I find it useful that it links from one topic to another so happily, and you can spend ages finding lots of information about obscure topics you didn't know about. It is a pity that most of that information is false, but hey you can check that out later anyway.


Wikipedia is a joke, that's true, but Wikipedia is something more than a joke — it is one of the biggest blots on the face of public education and public information yet conceived. It miseducates impressionable people about the very nature of information, knowledge, and research.

And for that I personally cannot forgive it.

We all know that many good faith editors put many good faith bits of information into the system, but the system as a whole operates in an extremely bad faith manner with the contributions that people give to it. To be a Wikipedia Editor, no matter what your initial intentions might have been, is to participate in a dysfunctional social system that gradually but relentlessly warps your very notions of what reliable research and trustworthy information are.

That is a grave disservice to society.

Jonny cool.gif



I agree with Jonny and totally disagree with the Dtobis.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, should never, ever be believed, unless, researched outside of Wikipedia by traditional methods.


The true evil of Wikipedia is the hurt it causes, due to institutionalized policies that encourage distortions and an online culture, which rewards unethical behavior and canonize those who practice lies and hateful behavior with gusto. This is part of what make Wikipedia an evil place.

The irony is, right now Wikipedia expends probably over 80% of its efforts in sock puppet and whack a mole hunts for people who do not conform to the cult religion of the Lord Jimbo.

Thank you.


To simply put...

"Editing Wikipedia, as well as assuming any thing on Wikipedia to be true and accurate, may be dangerous to your Life, Health, Wealth and Reputation"

And a parting shot... I would never trust anything that Tobias states regarding facts or authoritative statements. As far as I can throw a large elephant.
JTM
As things stand with Wikipedia now, there are some fine articles that do supply valuable and correct information. I also believe that these types of articles either have already peaked in quantity and quality or will shortly. The problem is inherent to any system, Wikipedia or otherwise, where there is a common pot. At first the pot can be filled with gold, but eventually it must be peed in. That's politically "the tragedy of the commons" or, in terms of physics, a reminder of the laws of thermodynamics and the one-way direction of entropy.

At present, Wikipedia is a pyramid scheme. As new users come on board, they are replacing disenchanted people who left. Some of the disenchanted folks hang around still because of various faults, perceived or real and begin aggravating the newcomers. As the legions of disgruntled and insulted grow larger, vandalism grows to such proportions that the anti-vandalism crews are not enough to undo the damage. At some point the supply of fresh meat and money runs out and the pyramid collapses.

Sure Jimmy Wales can fuel the project with proclamations about team building skills and of aspirations to make this a Utopia of free information, but this isn't going to happen. Once the false fuel has run low, no one important will remain.

The only way I could think to possibly save Wikipedia is to have Google take charge, run
Somey
QUOTE(JTM @ Wed 21st March 2007, 9:42pm) *
...these types of articles either have already peaked in quantity and quality or will shortly. The problem is inherent to any system, Wikipedia or otherwise, where there is a common pot...

Hey, I couldn't have said it better myself! And welcome to the forum, JTM...

Now, if I'm not mistaken, you've written several high-quality WP articles, including several that were featured - and many that have since been edited substantially by a variety of people in a variety of ways, not all of which are good. Would you say that most of your articles are better or worse off than they were when you decided you were essentially finished with them?

What I've noticed is that on less-controversial articles, especially ones about serious subjects, people actually do seem to respect quality writing. But if people see things like spelling and grammar mistakes, I guess they figure nobody "loves" the article enough to care what happens to it, and moral hindrances towards adding dilatory content, making changes in tone, or doing outright vandalism go straight out the window.

So you end up with a dropoff effect, wouldn't you say? The main author reaches a point where the article has attained a high quality standard, but then has to sit back and watch while others mess it up, often with the best of intentions - but doesn't feel like he can revert things on sight, because then he'd be seen as trying to assert "ownership." So disillusionment accompanies the dropoff.

QUOTE
At some point the supply of fresh meat and money runs out and the pyramid collapses.

I'd say (agree?) that the new-talent supply will probably dry up within the next year or three, for various reasons. Already there's a noticeable reduction in talent levels among n00bz... I'm really interested in the "collapse" thing, though. I've noticed people here often refer to a "collapse" or an "implosion" or a "fracturing" of WP, and it would make an interesting new thread to analyze how that would actually occur, and over what sort of timeframe.
Poetlister
Even what should be uncontroversial articles can get messed up - see my recent thread on Rosemary Tonks. However, basically, if I've made major contributions to an article then the last version I edited will be OK. biggrin.gif


JTM
QUOTE(Somey @ Thu 22nd March 2007, 12:48am) *

Hey, I couldn't have said it better myself! And welcome to the forum, JTM...

Now, if I'm not mistaken, you've written several high-quality WP articles, including several that were featured - and many that have since been edited substantially by a variety of people in a variety of ways, not all of which are good. Would you say that most of your articles are better or worse off than they were when you decided you were essentially finished with them?

What I've noticed is that on less-controversial articles, especially ones about serious subjects, people actually do seem to respect quality writing. But if people see things like spelling and grammar mistakes, I guess they figure nobody "loves" the article enough to care what happens to it, and moral hindrances towards adding dilatory content, making changes in tone, or doing outright vandalism go straight out the window.

So you end up with a dropoff effect, wouldn't you say? The main author reaches a point where the article has attained a high quality standard, but then has to sit back and watch while others mess it up, often with the best of intentions - but doesn't feel like he can revert things on sight, because then he'd be seen as trying to assert "ownership." So disillusionment accompanies the dropoff.




By and large, the featured articles I prepared have withstood most of the worst Wikipedia can supply. None have lost their featured status, thankfully, but that's likely to change. But what I predicted before leaving several months ago -- that the number of featured articles is heading toward negative territory -- is starting to come true.

If you've read the recent Signposts, you'll notice that there have been several weeks where the number of articles being removed from featured status has exceeded the number of articles being awarded that status. Part of this can be attributed to the peculiarities of Wikipedia. As competition to "shine" amongst editors seeking admin status has increased, some have found that pointing to earlier articles and screaming about inadequacies takes far less time and provides them with more visibility than actually addressing the article's problems. So the FARC (Featured Article Removal Candidate) process has become a cottage industry where ambitious editors seek higher visibility by bashing as many articles as possible. God forbid they should actually spend any time actually improving the articles! The long term result is ominous for Wikipedia: unless the articles promoted weekly to featured status exceed those demoted by at least seven, there will eventually not be enough new articles to feature on the main page. Within the last three months, the net has failed to meet the seven per week minimum. It's falling apart.

In terms of the quality of those being promoted, I'd call your attention to the Ian Thorpe article that is currently on the main page. It so happens that this particular article highlights much of the problem.

One oddity to keep in mind is that the same emotions that govern capitalist Wall Street also hold reign over socialist Wikipedia -- Greed and Fear.

I wrote a treatise not that long ago for a fairly prominent law review. It was 62 pages in text and had 162 footnotes. In contrast, the Ian Thorpe article -- about a 24-year-old swimmer -- has some 168 footnotes, many ridiculously duplicative. The ambitious seeking admin or bureaucrat status greedily demand the author provide more attributions, with the stupid insistence that more footnotes = better article, parsimony be damned. Plus a commenter's demanding of more sources is also a cheap way of making him seem smarter than the writer.

In terms of Fear, you'll notice that the article has precisely one (1) photo of Mr. Thorpe (taken from a distance in the midst of a crowd, no less). Why? Because everyone is afraid to use "fair use" images even when it's clear that the images are essential and there is no legal problem with their inclusion. (Fair use is a legal term that has been misconstrued by Wikipedia to mean whatever the most paranoid of non-lawyers thinks it means. As an attorney myself who deals with fair use issues all the time, I am constantly appalled at how people with absolutely no understanding of the term can feel free to impose their own definitions.)

The consequence of this unhealthy combination of fear and greed makes for an article you don't even want to read. Good Lord, who wants to read through 168 footnotes! And you don't even know what the guy looks like!

Wikipedia rewards those who create process, not prose. I once had someone commenting on my featured article candidates that he objected to "quote boxes" that I used to illustrate the articles. Mind you, there has never been any rule that says quote boxes are inappropriate and I had used them in prior featured articles, but the commenting party was insistent and, after Raoul blew off my objections, I had to remove the boxes to get the article through. The commenting party's insistence was nothing more than a bold face effort to distinguish himself from the rest of the commenting parties and, lo and behold, he became an admin shortly thereafter. Surprise!

(And the folks you get making comments! There's this one guy who actually wrote an "essay" on how to write a featured article who regularly pimped it while rejecting almost every proposed submission. He is also well known for dismissing many well-written submissions as "garbage" and, in a few instances, attacking people who disagreed with his assessments right there in the middle of the FA discussions. The most bizarre part was that the essayist had never written a featured article! Only on Wikipedia! Thankfully, this -- pardon my French -- prick has never been promoted to admin -- he appantly pissed too many people off with his ambition. Nonetheless, he still hangs around the board and Raoul won't do a damn thing about it.)

Anyway, I could go on but I think I've made my point. Everything bad about Wikipedia and the Featured Article process has just gotten worse. Why anyone these days would want to go through the elaborate and often humiliating process of getting feedback from these self-aggrandizing morons is beyond me.
Jonny Cache
QUOTE(JTM @ Sun 25th March 2007, 9:39pm) *

Anyway, I could go on but I think I've made my point. Everything bad about Wikipedia and the Featured Article process has just gotten worse. Why anyone these days would want to go through the elaborate and often humiliating process of getting feedback from these self-aggrandizing morons is beyond me.


JTM,

A goodly portion of your observations and predictions are consequences of a single axiom of Wikipedia Ideology, namely:

QUOTE

It's not about information — It's about control.


More and more Admins and Brown Noses thereof who know nothing about a given subject matter, much less care about doing the nitty-gritty work of writing a half-way decent article about it, can be found gravitating toward the sites of Absentee Landlordship over large numbers of articles, for example, working on Categories, Area Projects, Style Sheets, and Templates. From there they exercise WP:OWNERSHIP over articles about which they know nothing — wiki-pontifically thumping their chests and tearing out everybody else's hair over the few trivial matters that they have the competence to comment on, such as How Many Bytes of their blinking attention spans the ideal article should dare to tax.

Jonny cool.gif
Cedric
QUOTE(JTM @ Sun 25th March 2007, 8:39pm) *

In terms of the quality of those being promoted, I'd call your attention to the Ian Thorpe article that is currently on the main page. It so happens that this particular article highlights much of the problem.
. . . .
In terms of Fear, you'll notice that the article has precisely one (1) photo of Mr. Thorpe (taken from a distance in the midst of a crowd, no less). Why? Because everyone is afraid to use "fair use" images even when it's clear that the images are essential and there is no legal problem with their inclusion. (Fair use is a legal term that has been misconstrued by Wikipedia to mean whatever the most paranoid of non-lawyers thinks it means. As an attorney myself who deals with fair use issues all the time, I am constantly appalled at how people with absolutely no understanding of the term can feel free to impose their own definitions.)

And now I can reveal why there is no close up:
FORUM Image
Ian Thorpe is a lizard man mutant! Aaaaaaaaaaugh!

Seriously though, JTM points out in detail above one of the biggest problems (if not the biggest problem) with WP today: the triumph of process over content. Indeed, the obsession with process and the battles that naturally engenders are taking up so much time and energy that the quality of articles is bound to suffer.
Somey
QUOTE(JTM @ Sun 25th March 2007, 7:39pm) *
...the FARC (Featured Article Removal Candidate) process has become a cottage industry where ambitious editors seek higher visibility by bashing as many articles as possible. God forbid they should actually spend any time actually improving the articles! The long term result is ominous for Wikipedia: unless the articles promoted weekly to featured status exceed those demoted by at least seven, there will eventually not be enough new articles to feature on the main page. Within the last three months, the net has failed to meet the seven per week minimum. It's falling apart.

Fascinating! I'd never bothered to look at that page before.

And who is this guy, User:LuciferMorgan? He spends all his time adding "rated stub" templates to article talk pages. Right now he's apparently working on an article about the fourth album by Slayer that has, like, 26 footnoted citations. But he's actually being rather conservative - the article on their third album has 36 of 'em! (The article on their second album only has three, though - I guess they'd all just like to forget that one?)

QUOTE
...the Ian Thorpe article -- about a 24-year-old swimmer -- has some 168 footnotes, many ridiculously duplicative. The ambitious seeking admin or bureaucrat status greedily demand the author provide more attributions, with the stupid insistence that more footnotes = better article, parsimony be damned. Plus a commenter's demanding of more sources is also a cheap way of making him seem smarter than the writer.

Okay... so if you've been following this stuff, how many FA-level writers just get fed up and quit over stuff like this? I know I wouldn't be able to deal with it. wacko.gif

QUOTE
In terms of Fear, you'll notice that the article has precisely one (1) photo of Mr. Thorpe (taken from a distance in the midst of a crowd, no less). Why? Because everyone is afraid to use "fair use" images even when it's clear that the images are essential and there is no legal problem with their inclusion.

There was a big article on Wikitruth about that. But they stopped short of suggesting that it was done to pave the way for a future in which various forms of advertising appear on WP - the idea being that any sort of copyright might give the holder a rationale for demanding licensing fees or a share of the ad revenue, if advertising were to appear on the same page.

We didn't stop so short, though... I think the relevant topic was this one. It's all a little confusing, if not confused. JTM, I don't mean to put you on the spot - but given that you're a lawyer, maybe you'd have a more educated take on it...?
JTM
QUOTE(Somey @ Sun 25th March 2007, 10:51pm) *



We didn't stop so short, though... I think the relevant topic was this one. It's all a little confusing, if not confused. JTM, I don't mean to put you on the spot - but given that you're a lawyer, maybe you'd have a more educated take on it...?


I don't think that the stated need for more money contributions and the demand that so many legally valid images be removed has anything at all to do with advertising revenue. The first instance is a scare tactic designed to force people to cough up money. The second instance is an example of paranoia combined with a desire of those who pull articles for fair use purpose trying to scare up credit on their way to adminiship. If the Wiki world made any sense, people who wrongly delete appropriate fair use images would be sanctioned. Instead, it's a road to promotion. Primarily this is a manifestation of a mob mentality that knows little of fair use and is willing to cling to whoever promises the most "protection."
blissyu2
I can applaud Dtobias for boldly standing up to opposition and saying how good Wikipedia was, and without resorting to insults either. It also helped to get this thread back on track, at least a little bit.

I think that we also need to realise that, while it has its faults, Wikipedia also has positives.

And while what I read on Wikipedia might not necessarily be true, it is going to be more useful than knowing nothing about a topic.

I never knew what Cumfart was until I was following links on Wikipedia. After learning it off Wikipedia, I then went and checked it out, and it was true! Of course, if you go to enough porn sites, you'd find it out, but then you'd be spammed full of ads and porn and be subscribed to shit you don't want and so forth. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know what cumfart is and another meaning for what a creampie is.
Jonny Cache
Sometimes irony can be too subtle ...

I will try to cook up a less subtle title ...

Jonny cool.gif
This is a "lo-fi" version of our main content. To view the full version with more information, formatting and images, please click here.