Friday, March 1, 2013

Feedback to wikipedia

Feedback I gave to wikipedia in a survey form that came after its donation page:

Go a little easy on people who are starting to contribute; love,
encourage and forgive them instead of being so critical and punishing.
Create page-tags/templates that can illustrate the fact that it's a
work-in-progress, assign this status by default on new articles so a
newbie isn't expected to already have advanced skills (which is a
stupid, stupid thing wikipedia is doing right now. Adding references and
templates is difficult, period. Don't expect a person with less than 50
edit counts to know or even want to learn about it). When a visitor
comes at a page, maybe an age or number of edits can be displayed at the
top to convey an idea of how mature or immature the article is.

Having permanent-tenure editors is as bad an idea as having permanent
bureaucrats or government leaders: There should be limited terms and
off-periods between them and retirement times; that will be good for the
editing community and will encourage editors to pass the baton on rather
than be in a permanent status contest of entrenchment, edit-counts,
deletions etc that I see at present. I got totally turned off at the
last wikipedia meetup I attended in my city when people started showing
off their edit-counts and were treating them like army medals. Many of
the veteran editors today would never have participated in Wikipedia if
they'd faced the kind of treatment given to newbies today. Obviously,
this is an unsustainable model and headed for collapse when the present
generation of editors dies out. Remove any element of competition; there
is no such thing as healthy competition. There is no need for
wikipedia's editors to have an obsessive compulsive quality control
behaviour : we are NOT competing with peer-reviewed journals or
mainstream publications; we are NOT supposed to be 100% accurate
"no-matter-what". That much is obvious in the disclaimers; we need to
remind the editors lobby about it. Quality is achieved through time,
love, room for experimentation and prolonged attention; not through
rushed editing and deletions. Beware of throwing out the baby with the

And then there's the mainstream bias flaw. If wikipedia were around in
the decade before WW2, then going by its guidelines its content would
have been more and more encouraging of the Nazis, as its references are
mostly mainstream and well-entrenched institutions. And owing to the
influence it exerts, it would have helped the powers-that-be. That
situation hasn't changed today either: wikipedia is not being neutral
but rather helping the predominant world powers by according more
credibility to richer, bigger and well-entrenched media institutions who
reflect the wishes of the status quo. If by now we know that New York
Times, Fox News, Time, Wall Street Journal etc were so encouraging of
the Iraq invasion and by now it's obvious, with detailed factual
evidence to prove it, that they did shoddy reporting and acted as
mouthpieces of the then US administration, then why the hell are ANY
articles published by these organisations being quoted as references in
wikipedia articles? Instead of credibility, we are giving more weightage
to clout. And there's no way for anyone to really judge which
organisations are credible and which aren't. A personal blog entry might
have more truth than a front-page news article -- as it was before the
Iraqi invasion. If wikipedia is truly neutral then ALL viewpoints ought
to be given the chance to present themselves, instead of deleting some
references and keeping others. Heck, for the goal of neutrality it would
be advisable to make it mandatory to mention to readers that so-and-so
paragraph is based on what mainstream media is saying, so please tread
with caution. I like wikipedia, but 20 years from now, people may look
back at it as a liar and a mouthpiece of the status quo. We need
policies to fix the mainstream bias and be more tolerant of citizen
reporting, in references.


Unknown said...

Wikipedia has of course a "mainstream bias flaw". This is a structural weakness.

Wikipedia is only about reporting the actual knowledge status of the world. Opinions are treated proportionally to their level of share to achieve to create a synthesis.

This is what Wikipedia calls neutrality. In that case neutrality doesn't mean: any opinion is equally treated.

Wikipedia is not about telling the truth and never will. Who is able to decide this? Wikipedia trusts the democratic power and free medias to help making the truth emerging. This model works as good as the media ecosystem is healthy.

It's seems to me that you should blame more the society for being unable to fix this unhealthy media environment than Wikipedia for reflecting this situation.

Nikhil Sheth said...

Dear Unknown, thank you for the textbook definitions, I surely would not have been able to look them up on my own.

I was questioning the very basis/definitions of this neutrality. You cannot be neutral in a moving stream if you're taking no measures to counteract the flow.

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