The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320


August 16, 2004

I told you so, didn't I?

I'm well aware that people who say say "I told you so" after something has gone wrong are not exactly universally loved. Still, this time I simply can't resist becoming one of these people myself. Wikipedia administrator Ulrich Fuchs resigns because

The mob - a nasty word, I know - has taken over the [Wikipedia] project and is bringing it down to the level of the level of the rest of the Internet without anybody protesting.
[...]
Those [admins] who advocate quality of content have largely surrendered to the camarilla of web designers and wiki fetishists Diejenigen, die hier die Qualität hochhalten wollten, haben vor dieser Kamarilla der Webdesigner und Wikifetischisten unter den Admins leider zum großen Teil resigniert. These are now systematically sabotaging the aims of the Wikipedia because they are seeing the wiki as only an end in itself and are using it to satisfy their play instinct, but don't understand it as a means for a certain purpose.

[Original article in German; my translation, found via netbib weblog]

Well, I told you so, didn't I?

Posted by Horst on August 16, 2004 12:08 AM to books & bookkeeping | Tell-a-friend
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Comments
Julian Mehnle said on August 25, 2004 01:38 AM:

I love you not. ;-)That's one of many dozen Wikipedia admins who obviously lost his nerves. I think Uli leaving the project is going to serve at least two valuable purposes:make other Wikipedia admins think of doing their jobs better, even if it turns out in the end that Wikipedia has already been going in the right direction — i.e. it made them think! —, and…Uli can sleep well again, and maybe found a competing project which may turn out to beat Wikipedia in quality.But I definitely don't think that Uli leaving the project proves anything of relevance, including your postulation that Wikipedia sucks.

Horst said on August 25, 2004 08:52 AM:

You obviously didn't read my article. I never claimed that Uli's decision to leave proves anything.

What I found interesting is:

I write an angry rant on wikipedia.
Uli leaves a comment defending wikipedia.
Two months later, Uli leaves the project, criticising exactly the same things that I had criticised.

No, it doesn't prove anything, but it's a compelling case of "I told you so".

And the fact that wikipedia sucks as an encyclopedia is not a postulation. It's a fact. Of course I agree that Uli's decision does not serve as a proof, but the entries themselves are proof enough.

Julian Mehnle said on August 25, 2004 12:45 PM:

"It's a fact" — Oh well, I don't agree. I guess that's because your standards are higher than those of most wikipedians. That's good for you, but please don't say "it's a fact" when it's still just an opinion, nothing more.

Julian Mehnle said on August 25, 2004 12:56 PM:

BTW, I had actually read both your prior blog articles about the topic, plus most responses on others' blogs, plus all the respective blog comments, before posting my first comment above. What makes you think otherweise?

Josh Cogliati said on August 27, 2004 02:16 PM:

I still find it hard to believe that "I don't have the time, nor do I see it as my task to correct incorrect Wikipedia articles, especially as when I did it on a couple of occasions in the past, many were overwritten again with more incorrect data. (source)" I have removed inaccuracies from wikipedia twice, and neither has been readded or reverted. The first was in the Crook's Radiometer (diff) article and the second was in
Crushing by elephant (diff) article. Neither of these edits has been reverted. Both times I made a comment in the talk page explaining my modification, and I documented the sources (or lack there of). The first edit required 6 hours of library research and understanding, and the second required about 2 hours.

Since you have not provided links to the edits that you created and then were reverted, I can only assume that you probably either failed to explain your change in talk or failed to document the reasons for removal as throughly if you were submitting a research paper.

Horst said on August 27, 2004 03:00 PM:

Julian: It is a fact if wikipedia articles do not aim at producing concise articles containing a relevant selection of data for any given topic. The average website content is certainly not sufficient, as an encyclopedia should aim at a higher level of information value. But maybe you are right, and the fact that I am an academic librarian means that I set standards for encyclopedias higher than what wikipedia has to offer.My conclusion that you hadn't read what I had written came from the fact that I had never said that Uli Fuchs's decision to resign proved that wikipedia is flawed. All I said was that Uli said pretty much the same things that I had said earlier on.Josh: Since you don't seem to give up easily, let me make the following points clear again:I expect articles in any encyclopedia to be correct at any given time, not to become correct at some point in the future.As much as I agree on the value of wikis for discussion and knowledge management purposes, where results can and even should emerge over time as part of a shared group process, I think that the use of a wiki, which is by definition process-oriented, for an encyclopedia, whose average user is not at all interested in the process, but only in the result, is inherently flawed.This is, however, a matter of principle, over which we obviously disagree. Discussing this further amounts to a discussion between an orthodox Christian and an atheist about the existence of God. This is pointless, and I do not wish to continue this discussion.I don't think any of my edits were reverted to their previous state. Usually, somebody would simply add additional text that would render them pointless. In fact, I think that bloat is a far greater problem in wikipedia than deletions. The other problem is articles whose authors fail to distinguish between facts of importance and minor details.I maintain the point that wikipedia is the toy of a couple of people with very tech-oriented brains who have set up a tool with a very complex set of rules that are totally non-transparent for the average user. For example, I was not aware that I had to write an explanation every time I edit a post, and I think that it's unworldly to expect anyone to look at the version history of an entry to figure out how often an article has been changed in order to decide whether an article can be trusted.I do not understand your sentence "you ... failed to document the reasons for removal as throughly if you were submitting a research paper".As for your challenge, I have been monitoring four articles on the German wikipedia with errors and spelling mistakes in them for about a month now. Some (but not all) of the spelling mistakes have been corrected, but all of the factual errors are still there. In addition, one article has about doubled in size without having added any relevant information.

Josh Cogliati said on August 30, 2004 02:51 PM:

I can agree that for Horst's definition of an encyclopedia (and probably many other people in the world), Wikipedia is not presently an encyclopedia.

The sentence should have been: "you ... failed to document the reasons for removal as throughly as if you were submitting a research paper". My typo.

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