?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Tycho on Wikipedia, and various stuff. - Chronicles of a Hereditary Geek [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Darth Paradox

[ website | Pyrlogos - a fantasy webcomic ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Tycho on Wikipedia, and various stuff. [Dec. 19th, 2005|12:37 pm]
Darth Paradox
[Tags|, , ]
[mood |contentcontent]
[music |Crash Test Dummies - Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm]

I found Tycho's Friday newspost on Penny Arcade both amusing and ultimately correct. In my opinion. He discusses Wikipedia, and the problems inherent in the "anybody can edit" philosophy. The comic is also excellent, but I like this quote the best:

The second response [to criticism of Wikipedia] is: the collaborative nature of the apparatus means that the right data tends to emerge, ultimately, even if there is turmoil temporarily as dichotomous viewpoints violently intersect. To which I reply: that does not inspire confidence. In fact, it makes the whole effort even more ridiculous. What you've proposed is a kind of quantum encyclopedia, where genuine data both exists and doesn't exist depending on the precise moment I rely upon your discordant fucking mob for my information.



In other news, the conclusion to Scatterplot continues to unfold. I'm not sure what next week's update schedule will be like, what with me going home for Christmas (yay!), but I'll have my laptop with me, so it's not unreasonable to hope that I can find a scanner and get some comics done.

And on that note, I will be in Ann Arbor from late (as in too late to do anything but go home) Friday night through Thursday afternoon. Sunday is obviously out, and I'll be busy most of Wednesday and most of Saturday, but that leaves Monday, Tuesday, and part of Thursday to see people. Leave a comment (or contact me some other way) if you're interested in getting together at some point....

Finally, I know at least a couple of you are interested in the last part of the novel I was writing. I'll try to get that up tonight. A warning, though - the story's not finished, and I'll be hacking large parts out of it whenever I do get back to the story, a few months from now perhaps.
linkReply

Comments:
From: ex_miang438
2005-12-19 09:21 pm (UTC)
Heh, I noticed that too and felt the exact same way. :D My personal favorite was "The fact of the matter is that all sources of information are not of equal value, and I don't know how or when it became impolitic to suggest it. In opposition to the spirit of Wikipedia, I believe there is such a thing as expertise." I want to put that on a .sig or something.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: darthparadox
2005-12-19 09:26 pm (UTC)
The whole thing is just so snarkily wonderful.

I think my favorite part about the above passage is that it starts off as an intellectual-sounding discussion, using words like "dichotomous", and finishes by referring to the collective Wikipedia community as a "discordant fucking mob".
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: partiallyclips
2005-12-19 09:31 pm (UTC)
I happen to think he's wrong on all counts. In my opinion, Wikipedia is the single most important invention of this century so far. History either will or won't bear that out.

I think Tycho is not getting it, and for the blameworthy reason that he's trying not to get it.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: darthparadox
2005-12-19 09:59 pm (UTC)
I think Wikipedia has at its core the seed of an excellent idea, but the execution is seriously lacking. The fact that the persisting version of an article is in controversial cases often determined by who is most willing to sit there and revert back to their own changes over and over again is a serious flaw in the entire model. While the quote I posted is something I found particularly amusing, miang's posted quote above is really what lies at the core of this issue: Wikipedia completely denies any notion whatsoever of expertise, any suggestion that there are in fact people who are and people who are not qualified as a source of information on a given topic.

Determining who should be able to provide information on a given topic is indeed a tough question. Wikipedia's approach was "well, we'll have anyone be able to put information in, and other people who know better will be able to edit it, and so on." And it worked great for certain things. I use Wikipedia on a regular basis. But ultimately - in my opinion, of course - I think it will be seen as a first approximation to a better solution to the problem.

Wikipedia is important, without a doubt. But at the same time, I believe it to be deeply flawed.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: partiallyclips
2005-12-19 10:24 pm (UTC)
I don't think these are valid criticisms about Wikipedia in general. I think you and Tycho both are generalizing about all of Wikipedia based on the way the subject of "webcomics" has been dealt with there. The webcomics case is one of those few cases in which a lot of little stakeholders have deep emotional investment in the text. 99+% of subjects Wikipedia covers do not see anything like those kinds of problems.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: ex_miang438
2005-12-19 10:36 pm (UTC)
Wow, I really beg to differ with you there. On the contrary (and leaving the webcomics issue aside, since I guess I'm one of the few people with absolutely no stake in that entry!), I've found Wikipedia to be of most use when trying to learn about popular culture type concepts -- people just seem to want to contribute any interesting thing they know in such a case, rather than trying to fight over it. Where it falls short, though, is exactly where an "encyclopedic" resource would be most useful: serious, academic, historical, and/or scientific accounts, particularly those on controversial issues where it would be really *nice* to have an unbiased (or approximately unbiased) source of facts.

For examples of so-called serious pages with deep flaws, I invite you to check out affirmative action, abortion, and intelligence (disambiguated), all of which I've had occasion to look up when trying to find a specific reference and found to be less than satisfactorily useful. (The intelligence page has Howard Gardner in the top half, for crying out loud!) But I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given that I'm friends with at least one person who edits the feminism wiki to her own particular ends whenever she's bored.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: partiallyclips
2005-12-19 11:14 pm (UTC)
ALL of your examples AND webcomics (for Chris and Tycho, to whom my previous post was directed and not you) fall into the category of emotionally charged topics. This would be the <1% of topics I referred to, on which there is the remotest grounds for the criticisms so far voiced.

Wiki recognizes this fact and incorporates it into its gathering and verification mechanisms:

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

For the vast majority of topics, the weight of collective intentional tampering and misinformation is miniscule compared to the weight of COOPERATIVE EXPERT CONTRIBUTED INFORMATION AND VETTING. This beats the shit out of any one expert's opinion, 9 times out of 10 at LEAST.

Even IN controversial topics, the criticisms are largely invalid. I defy you, for example, to name one guy in all of webcomics who knows more factual, important, useful information than has been collected on Wikipedia by the efforts of hundreds. Collective expertise beats informed opinion because it INCLUDES informed opinion, balanced from multiple perspectives and filtered to favor verifiable and relevant fact, and weed out the Argument From Authority Fallacy.

This will be my last contribution to this thread. Please don't reply directly to these posts, because I really don't want it in my email and I don't want to spend another second on this.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: tcdohl
2005-12-21 10:12 pm (UTC)
With all due respect, the mass of "factual, important, useful information" means that much less if you stand a chance of looking up information on JFK's assassination, only to find that someone edited it to include a co-worker as a suspect in the investigation as a prank.

The ideal that Wiki represents isn't on trial, it's the fact that it currently doesn't work. It needs improvement. Until it can be used reliably as an academic reference, in my mind, it's a joke. Those five months it took for the above "error" to be found are proof enough that incorrect information just can't sit around indefinitely and still be held to the standards most apply to Wiki's disturbingly high pedestal.

I understand the subject in this thread is more about controversial subjects and biases more than straight factual events, but the fact is that if a ten-year-old with five minutes can ruin a professor's work and let it go unchanged for ages without anyone noticing, who is anyone joking about the service as a whole?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: darthparadox
2005-12-22 12:13 am (UTC)
but the fact is that if a ten-year-old with five minutes can ruin a professor's work and let it go unchanged for ages without anyone noticing, who is anyone joking about the service as a whole?

Like I mentioned in a different thread: a professor, or anyone who needs the information for a serious purpose, will hopefully check their sources. All the same, there's this range of probability that a fact you read on Wikipedia will be incorrect, and that somewhat diminishes its usefulness, to say nothing of its credibility.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: tcdohl
2005-12-22 12:31 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's just that idealistic view that burns me - but Tycho already covered that (with his response to how "the right information will surface eventually"). I think I'd feel better, ironically, if Wiki and its supporters didn't hold such a high opinion of its credibility - I admire it for what it's trying to accomplish, not so much for it being called the end-all of the gatherings of all human knowledge.

miang and I mostly just use it as a reference tool for pop-culture junk, anyway, fitting in with that last statement. (It's funny that Wiki is probably more reliable for Pokemon episode listings than, say, historical documentation of various world events.) But that brings us back to the whole "importance determining accuracy" bit.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: hokie
2005-12-20 01:14 am (UTC)
I don't know. Wikipedia strikes me as something that works far better in practice than in theory.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: dumela
2005-12-20 02:00 am (UTC)
Can we hang out over break??? :P

See ya Friday in the wee hours.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: mcmartin
2005-12-20 07:21 am (UTC)
Yeah. Wikipedia's at its best when there are answers. Pokemon and He-Man have detailed and accurate sets of articles about them for the same reason that parsing theory does: it's easily verifiable and cranks don't care about them. (This is also why Wikipedia is better at hard science than social "science" questions, but that's arguably neither here nor there.)

My main objection to the "quantum encyclopedia" objection is that all the claims about Wikipedia being full of clueless idiots apply squared to the Web as a whole. If Wikipedia is useless as a research tool, so is Google.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: darthparadox
2005-12-20 08:25 am (UTC)
The thing about the Web is that there is still a vague notion of expertise. If I want information on a scientific topic, and I Google it, and I find two sites, one of which is hosted at mit.edu and the other at geocities.com, I have a pretty good idea of which one I can trust more. It's not a particularly strong expertise system, but it exists. With Wikipedia, I can only hope that the author of a given article - or more to the point, the last editor - has the expertise to write authoritatively on a topic.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: mcmartin
2005-12-20 10:56 am (UTC)
Articles that aren't stubs on Real Topics have external links to other sites, and often also to reference books.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: kinkyprude
2005-12-20 08:42 pm (UTC)
As a library student, I have been warned about the evils of Wikipedia. However, (and I find this hilarious, b/c my reference teacher is so paranoid about the internet in particular, and technology in general) a recent report done by the AP shows that Wikipedia is about as accurate as Britannica (at least for "scientific" entries) and as such, is a legitimate reference source.
http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/internet/12/15/wikipedia.ap/index.html
I don't know about bias, but in terms of information, it's supposedly pretty good.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: staedtler
2005-12-20 06:01 pm (UTC)
I'd like to hang out... what dates are we looking at?
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: darthparadox
2005-12-20 07:08 pm (UTC)
Basically, I'm available the 26th, 27th, and part of the 29th. I don't think a trip up to Toronto is particularly feasible for me, though, particularly given that my parents haven't really seen me at all since July.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: staedtler
2005-12-20 10:04 pm (UTC)
But you'll be in Ann Arbor, right?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: darthparadox
2005-12-20 11:04 pm (UTC)
Definitely. If you're contemplating a trip down, then that would be awesome.

(I have to say, though, I'm not sure whether I'd be able to offer you a place to crash. My family's pretty nifty about such things, in general, but what with Christmas on the 25th and the extended-family party at our house on the 28th, it'd be iffy.)

Arr. I wish I could make any assurances at all, but I'm not even sure I'll have a car available to me. I'm pretty sure the situation is going to be two cars among the four drivers in my family.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: staedtler
2005-12-22 05:02 pm (UTC)
Well, it turns out that Cynthia and I are going to be preoccupied from now until the 27th, so the logistics are nightmarish, at best. I might just have to travel to Seattle sometime, instead. :-)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: darthparadox
2005-12-22 05:22 pm (UTC)
Yes. Seattle. Come to Seattle.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)