Sisyphus and Wikipedia

I’ve spent a few hours over the last week or two trying to clean up the Wikipedia article, and got it into some kind of shape.  It has taken but a few days for someone (anonymous!) to turn up and start reintroducing rubbish that I had removed.   I added a whole load of valuable data; his change was to globally alter AD to the American/Jewish CE.  Well, that was useful, wasn’t it?

Can I have my hours of life back please?

9 thoughts on “Sisyphus and Wikipedia

  1. And as I am sure you are aware for certain topics like the biography of Mohammed – they don’t allow any further modifications to the existing entry. But for all other topics it seems the message is that they aren’t important enough to actually warrant accuracy. It’s shameful. The whole idea behind Wikipedia is so embarrassingly modern – that truth can be ‘shared’ and ‘agreed upon’ by everyone’; it’s ludicrous. Unfortunately, it seems ‘authorities’ are useful and necessary for somethings in life. The problem of course today is that even the ‘authorities’ aren’t as authoritative as they used to be …

  2. Ah, you’re getting to know Wikipedia. I’ve stopped doing anything there because of frustrations like these. If you want to work professionally maybe you should try online encyclopedias like Citizendium.

  3. I didn’t know, but I am not surprised. Fundamentally Wikipedia is parasitic on the web. I remember when it didn’t exist, and we all just searched for what we wanted. Now everyone gets Wikipedia as the first entry, which is nearly always just a digest of what someone could find online. It can certainly be useful, but on controversial subjects it is useless. Fortunately the editor in this case seems to be amenable to reason; but boy is it wasteful of time.

    You also get hate-articles. The British far-right party the BNP has a DREADFUL article, which is written and monopolised by a group of bigots who hate the BNP like poison and revert any change. It’s just a litany of accusations by their enemies, referenced against other accusations by their enemies. And I can’t recognise the real party that appears on TV from the description in it.

  4. We all have these experiences, and it isn’t the first time for me. I just got tired of seeing rubbish from it quoted as an authority. I know… I should have known better.

    Does Citizendium still exist?

  5. The last time I looked there wasn’t a lot going on. But that’s because they are still in need of authors, lots of them, I guess. Either these things take time—especially considering Wikipedia’s power—, or the project is dead in the water.

  6. It’s all been quiet for a long time, so I guess the latter.

    This used to happen on usenet; if a moderated group was created, an unmoderated one would usually come into existance, and the moderated group would just die.

  7. You’ve hit on the paradox: It’s got to be open enough grow, and closed enough to have quality. Indeed, Wikipedia is closing ranks through it’s cabal, as an adjustment to excessive openness.

    I don’t want to kneejerk defend Wikipedia, and it is woeful in some things I know a lot about, and I’m not making the effort I should to improve things. And yet it is the new dispensation; it truly does have its uses; and the old dispensation was not intrinsically better. In fact, the old dispensation shielded us from how corrupt the building of scholarly consensus really is. (And it is.)

    To cement the fact that I’m ideologically at odds with our host, I’ll link approvingly to the anarchist Bakunin’s take on intellectual authority. 🙂

    The monoculture of Wikipedia is deleterious, I agree. Scholarly blogs aren’t intrinsically any better than Wikipedia, but at least they ensure the plurality of voices is still heard. The real obligation, I fear, is on the scholars to flood the internet with their publications, rather than cede the internet ground to the mountebanks, and stick to the scholarly press. Because only Google matters now, and the scholarly press isn’t googleable enough to compete.

    Horrid, I know, but that’s the world we live in. It’s not as if you *don’t* google.

    And you know, if AD > CE was the full extent of the mods to your article, well, it could have been a whole lot worse. (From what I gather, that wasn’t the full extent…)

  8. These are good points, Nick. We live in an imperfect world, of course. While the scholarly system sort of works, at least for non-controversial stuff (I see definite evidence that it does not work where religion or politics comes into it), we don’t have a better.

    Wikipedia will become more closed as time goes on. The flattery of calling contributors “editors” becomes more threadbare, as those with real power over the edits become more visible in some areas.

    I agree that scholars need to flood the web with their publications. It is happening, slowly.

    It wasn’t just the pettiness of changing a load of someone else’s edits from AD to CE (and I really hate CE, as an example of how decisions that affect all of us are NOT made democratically today but by cliques and conspiracy), but also the reintroduction of material deleted for good reason.

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