Monday, March 19, 2012

Why Wikipedia's Fans Shouldn't Gloat

A wonderful wonderful article in The Atlantic. It speaks for itself, no further comment required.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Belette said...

WTF!?!

"The books gave comfort. A set of Britannicas sent the message that all the world's information could fit on one shelf... But there was another positive contribution of the old Britannica."

The principal ***positive*** contribution of Britannica was to be a comfort blanket, and to lie to you about the breadth of knowledge? That is a positive? Weird.

As to the single article he chooses to compare... well, I dunno, I don't judge that kind of stuff. But I'd have expected someone writing a "real" article in the Atlantic to have done a bit more work. The thinness of the article probably reflects how little anyone cares about Britannica.

10:36 am  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

The expression 'comfort blanket' is yours, whereas he says 'noble illusion'. He is also quoting another writer, who calls it a 'naïve belief'. So his position is quite clear. He does not say it is the 'principal' positive contribution. Rather, he says it is a reason for mourning. Then he goes on to talk about another 'positive contribution', which is the main one about the old-school cultural judgment that value is not determined only by the marketplace. The main point is that order and appropriate granularity and probing 'coherently and deeply' are more important than a random and disordered list of propositions.

>> I dunno, I don't judge that kind of stuff

Quite. The humanities are not your strong point, and that I suspect is the main reason for your often blinkered view of Wikipedia.

10:52 am  
Blogger Belette said...

"The books gave comfort" is a direct quote from the article. "Comfort" in that sentence is used in exactly the same sense as "comfort blanket".

> He does not say it is the 'principal' positive contribution

It is the one he chooses to mention first. It would be possible to start with the least important matters and work up, but uncommon.

> old-school cultural judgment that value is not determined only by the marketplace.

That bit was weird - because, as you know, there is no marketplace on wiki.

7:33 pm  
Blogger Belette said...

> and that I suspect is the main reason for your often blinkered view of Wikipedia.

And yours is because they banned you.

Or we could be nice?

7:34 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>It is the one he chooses to mention first.
<<

He is giving an affectionate, but confessedly sentimental reason for liking Britannia. If the sentimentality were unconscious, perhaps you may be right.

>>And yours is because they banned you.

My disillusionment with Wikipedia started long before the ban. In some ways it resulted in the ban. Even the most ardent Wikipedians (apart from yourself) have confessed to me privately that there is something wrong with a system that allowed a previously productive contributor to be banned in such a shameful way.

>>That bit was weird - because, as you know, there is no marketplace on wiki.

Of course there is. The most popular subjects with its moronic contributors, such as Dr Who, Computer games, Anime, etc etc are those which overbalance Wikipedia with nonsense and trivia.

8:23 pm  
Blogger Belette said...

> are those which overbalance Wikipedia with nonsense and trivia

But that's not a marketplace. That's a basic terminology error. You mean "popular thing which you dislike" or something similar.

> have confessed to me privately

I thought I'd said so publicly, not just weaselling around in private like the cowards. I do so now, for the avoidance of doubt, if it makes you happy.

11:20 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>But that's not a marketplace. That's a basic terminology error.

The very earliest posts from the Wikipedia lists (Wikipedia-l) show how its founders compared Wikipedia to a free market of ideas. Jimmy is fond of quoting paper by Hayek about information and knowledge and the pricing mechanism. Think about the country fair and the crowd guessing the weight of the ox better than an individual expert.

>>I thought I'd said so publicly,

I'm a bit confused. Said what? My impression from our private correspondence was that you fully supported my ban.

6:47 am  
Blogger Belette said...

> My impression from our private correspondence was that you fully supported my ban.

I'm baffled as to how you could have got that impression. I oppose it. Not in an active sense, because I think that would be a waste of time, because you're not likely to get it lifted without some change of attitude. Mostly, IMHO you need to abandon old disputes and make a credible promise to cease socking,as a start.

8:39 am  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>I'm baffled as to how you could have got that impression. I oppose it. Not in an active sense, because I think that would be a waste of time, because you're not likely to get it lifted without some change of attitude.
<<

You mean change of attitude by me? Then in which sense do you oppose the ban?

>>Mostly, IMHO you need to abandon old disputes and make a credible promise to cease socking,as a start.

The old dispute was essentially about conflict of interest and abuse of power by those in power. I will never abandon this quixotic enterprise. Why are you so keen on defending this system of institutional abuse, and of hiding the corruption and covering-up that is part of it?

I have never 'socked', i.e. use alternative accounts for the purpose of gaining an advantage in a dispute, or a vote, so I don't know what you are talking about. I strongly disapprove of the practice, and I think it is one of the great evils of the Wikipedia system.

8:55 am  
Blogger Belette said...

Oh dear, this is clearly difficult to get across.

I don't think you should be banned, because you could make useful contributions. Whatever sins you've committed are time-expired now, if they were ever that exciting - I doubt anyone really remembers the details.

> Then in which sense do you oppose the ban?

Passively, and not actively. Which is to say, if anyone asks me my opinion, as you've done, I'll give it. Were there a vote on it, I'd vote accordingly. But I'm not about to go out and do anything about it because...

>> you need to abandon old disputes...
> I will never abandon this quixotic enterprise...

That is what I'd assumed.

> I have never 'socked'...

Then you must mean something different that me by the term. You were very free-n-eazy with your use of the term "market", it is odd that you're now insisting on a very tight defn of "sock". You have edited via anonymous IP whilst your account was blocked. As you know, wiki regards that as socking.

9:59 am  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>You were very free-n-eazy with your use of the term "market",

No. See my latest post. The 'market model' lies at the very heart of how Wikipedia is supposed to work. OK there are no actual market stalls, and no trading floors. The market model is essentially allowing a large group of actors to mediate supply and demand, rather than have regulatory intervention. The equivalent of regulators in Wikipedia would be a committee which had the power to make decisions about content. Wikipedia has always avoided this (at least in principle, the practice is somewhat different).

>> I will never abandon this quixotic enterprise...
> That is what I'd assumed.

I don't think we are a million miles apart. However, I take disputes about principles very seriously, and I am one of those irritating people who rarely compromise on a principle. The principle in this case was and is about transparency, accountability and also honesty. I daresay I could have handled it better. But I am unwilling to compromise, for all that. You strike me as someone, and forgive me if I am wrong, who is prepared to compromise for the greater good of 'the wiki' and who will drop principles on that account.

I think both kinds of people are necessary in the world. If everyone stuck to principles, hardly anything would ever get done. If everyone compromised, horrible things would happen.

(Actually this is academic. I did reach a compromise with Arbcom exactly this time last year, but then there was some internal dispute when one of them left under a cloud, and I never got to the bottom of it, and they don't even answer emails now, so I gave up. The whole thing is completely messed up).

11:43 am  
Blogger David Brightly said...

If wikipedia is a marketplace then some of the vendors are fighting over whose goods get laid out on the stalls. And where is the price mechanism? The 'buyers' (ie readers) have no impact on what is offered for consumption. If we are to see wikipedia in economic terms it's more a tragedy of the commons.

7:51 am  

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