"We aren't democratic." That's how Wikipedia founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales described his famously-collaborative online encyclopedia in a recent puff piece from The New York Times Magazine. "The core community appreciates when someone is knowledgeable," he said, "and thinks some people are idiots and shouldn't be writing." This is …
no big suprise
power corrupts... absolute power corrupts absolutely... or so the saying goes... and it seems that at least in this case, power has corrupted. If they want to be a respected encyclopedia... which they are not currently (just ask a teacher)... this is not a way to score points with people. A project like this needs external checks and balances from those with nothing to gain or lose from the position. This is currently not the case, and until it is... inconvenient truths (according to the "inner circle" at least) will be censored.
Patrick Byrne's problem isn't Wikipedia
Patrick Byrne's problem is that he can't squeeze a single quarter's profit out of this tired old dog of a company, which he has financed primarily by secondary stock offerings.
Your own publication wrote one of the first detailed articles questioning Overstock's business model, and described Byrne's bizarre behavior.
Nothing has changed since this article came out two years ago, except that Byrne has gotten more loony and delusional.
A couple of corrections to you very interesting piece (and I will look at the referenced articles shortly).
1. There are *no* "secret mailing list(s) used by top administrators to silence inconvenient voices". Wikimedia editors and admins are freely allowed to communicate with each other however they wish to do so, be it email, IRC, blogs or old-fashioned telephone, just as I am sure you (Cade Metz) do with your Reg colleagues and outside sources.
2. David Gerard does, indeed, look after media relations in the UK but his activities on Wikipedia are, just like every other editor new and old, as an individual, not as the representative of any body or organisation. Every individual editor can be called upon to justify their actions, and that is clearly as it should be.
3. Wikipedia is a charitable non-profit foundation and does not pay editors to edit nor does it have the resources to investigate claims and counter-claims other than using publically accessible information. Mistakes and misunderstandings can therefore happen. Having not heard of this case before this could be the situation here and I'm certain that your raising the issue on The Reg will get more eyes looking at the article histories and reviewing the situation.
Just as naked shorting can hurt companies, so can old-fashioned misleading reporting. Let's hope both are on the decrease.
Chair, Wikimedia UK
Wikipedia is a privately owned company...
...they can do whatever they like with their content.
However, the more they do this sort of thing, the less popular they will become. Which is fine by me :-)
Why waste your time, Ainsworth?
"When Bagley attempted to level the playing field, he was banished immediately," Ainsworth continues. "Obviously, there's something seriously wrong with the way Wikipedia is being managed and administered. I don't know if it threatens the long-term viability of the project or not, but it is cause for concern among those of us who spend a lot of hours actually trying to write quality articles."
Writing quality articles for Wikipedia is tantamount to polishing a turd; maybe you really can make it look shiny on the outside, but no matter how shiny you make it, under the surface it's still shite, and it stinks.
Many of us have known for a while that Wikipedia was shite. Thanks for illuminating the fact that it's organized shite. Too bad there isn't a law against this.
..That is all.
No secret cabal--just an emergent bureaucracy like all the rest
You see this same evolution in any group. There are two kinds of people: Those who believe in heirarchies, and those who don't. Those who do, when presented with a heirarchy-free situation, don't know how to behave; they immediately set about creating a heirarchy. Even if they aren't at the top; in fact, they very seldom put themselves at the top. It's not about personal power; it's about a herding instinct.
how well a link placed in the Reg wiki-thang(tm) to this article would go down?
The long tail is disappearing up it's own arse
What Wikipedia is not: "fun, anymore!"
Most of us wanting to get reliable information goto a reliable source. The only thing WP was good for was stuff not contained in reliable sources, ie trivia. video-game characters, old comic-books & obscure bands, etc.
Now WP is to be "taken seriously" all that good, fun stuff is being deleted & what we have left is a glorified dmoz of citation links with uninspiring narrative to connect them.
Hello Alison, thanks for taking the time to contribute.
I was wondering, since you've already been good enough to add to this discussion, whether you could clarify point 2 a little. Specifically, should David Gerard be called upon to justify his actions as an editor, would he be subject to the same degree of scrutiny and accountability as any other editor? If so, would you be able to give some idea of the systems/checks wikipedia has in place to ensure this?
I hope you will have the time to reply; I appreciate you must be busy.
No surprise here.
Wackipedia has gone through this in several areas I have an interest in, most notably miniature wargames, where one genius managed to hold off a bevy of experts in the space for months before arbitration backed him down - but only somewhat backed him down.
My concern: Teachers are beginning to use this as a teaching tool, and my experience is that the coverage is likely to be slanted on nearly every topic.
As part of the report why not ...
make a contribution to the reported posts along lines of "el reg - a time honoured free speak evangelist" has observed some shortcomings in contributions.
Then see who edits those, what the edits may be and track 'em back accordingly?
No "secret mailing lists"? Yet it has been reported and confirmed elsewhere that there ARE secret mailing lists... hmm. Who to believe?
Not Wikipedians, it seems [excised by Reg moderator].
The whole site is a fraud based on lies. It went from "we want to be an authority on everything" to "please don't quote us as a reference". It went from "we freely allow edits" to "we only allow edits if the clique agrees with them". It markets itself as a democracy or meritocracy, yet acts like the most narcissistic, censorship enamoured dictatorship I've ever seen, where merit is nothing, merely brown nosing with "those in charge".
It's a bloody joke, and it's about time more people realized that.
All users are equal, some are just more equal than others.
Wikipedia = Unreliable
I haven't trusted anything I read on Wikipedia without at least two independent sources saying the same thing for quite some time now.
To put it as basically as possible, there is simply no way to know where bias has crept in without regarding anything on the site as useless until proven otherwise.
Re: But ...
Because not every Reg reader might speak it as fluently, here is a translation of Wikispeak to English:
>>> A couple of corrections to you very interesting piece (and I will look at the referenced articles shortly).
"I really wish we could delete your piece just like any unpleasant Wikipedia entry and wipe it from the edit history, but unfortunately not the entire world is yet under our control, so we have to put up with this".
>>> 1. There are *no* "secret mailing list(s) used by top administrators to silence inconvenient voices". Wikimedia editors and admins are freely allowed to communicate with each other however they wish to do so, be it email, IRC, blogs or old-fashioned telephone, just as I am sure you (Cade Metz) do with your Reg colleagues and outside sources.
"Wikipedia admins are actively encouraged to form power circles and if you'd be pretending to be an encyclopedia, wouldn't you do the same?"
>>> 2. David Gerard does, indeed, look after media relations in the UK but his activities on Wikipedia are, just like every other editor new and old, as an individual, not as the representative of any body or organisation. Every individual editor can be called upon to justify their actions, and that is clearly as it should be.
"David Gerard is the guy we call when the shit hits the fan. Of course when it comes to being responsible for something, he behaves like all of us Wikipedians and tells you to suck a monkey. Because there can't be anyone responsible, as we are a collective that works cooperatively for the good of mankind".
>>> 3. Wikipedia is a charitable non-profit foundation and does not pay editors to edit nor does it have the resources to investigate claims and counter-claims other than using publically accessible information. Mistakes and misunderstandings can therefore happen. Having not heard of this case before this could be the situation here and I'm certain that your raising the issue on The Reg will get more eyes looking at the article histories and reviewing the situation.
"We do charitable work, how dare you to shed a bad light on that? We work our asses off for the good of everyone, whether you want it or not, and if something goes wrong there, it is for the greater good of all, especially ours. But now that you brought this shit, that should've stayed in the closet just like everything else we better hide, to the attention of the public, we will make double sure that we delete any incriminating evidence that hasn't yet been published".
>>>Just as naked shorting can hurt companies, so can old-fashioned misleading reporting. Let's hope both are on the decrease.
"Your interpretation of reality is way too realistic and not what we at Wikipedia would like to see. Maybe its time to block the entire Reg IP range and the surrounding neighbourhoods from editing Wikipedia".
Dear Ms Wheeler
In response to your comments:
1) Your phrasing is quite peculiar. You deny that a mailing list exists "to silence inconvenient voices". It is not outside of the realms of possibility that mailing lists are used for this purpose but merely have their function described in an alternative, more palatable fashion. A spanner is a spanner, no matter what you use it for.
2) It is unfortunate that your statement "but his activities on Wikipedia are [...] as an individual, not as the representative of any body or organisation". This is patently false. Your previous actions in removing access to editors has been to block-ban entire places of work and entire ISPs. Furthermore, it is nieve to think that the actions of your Media Relations Manager would not be analysed by the media that he is to work with? By effectively nailing his colours to the mast through a litany of recorded edits and notes, he declares an overwhelming bias in this subject. It is a natural extension therefore to feel that this view is shared with Wikipedia administration to some level.
3) Your statements around mistakes and misunderstandings are irrelevant in this context. It is already abundantly clear from reports that Wikipedia Arbitration is incapable of acting in an impartial, unbiased way. The way that senior members of your administration have behaved while enjoying the full support of executives is, quite frankly, appalling. To claim such incidents are mistakes and misunderstandings is grossly irresponsible. Encouraging more people to take part in the Wikipedia Project to perform quality control is largely pointless when any effort to perform this can be reversed and locked at the merest whim of your organisation. In short, what is the point?
Finally, your throwaway comment speaks volumes of your unprofessionalism. El Reg trades at the sharp end of journalistic controversy, a concept that is understood and often enjoyed by it's readership. The Wikipedia Project trades itself on the democratic archiving of facts, something that it's current structure, practices and people seem to be at odds with. With that in mind, it is obvious to see who is being misleading here.
An Ominous Cowherd
When Bagley's link was removed from the encyclopedia he should have politely discussed the merits of the link on the talk page of the article - not harass another editor and vandalize an article he was working on. Irregardless of the merit of his points he does not have the skills to be involved with a COLLABORATIVE encyclopedia which requires polite collaboration, not craziness and drama. Wikipedia was right to ban him - he did much more harm than good.
The Obvious Question
Strangely, in neither the artical nor in these subsequent comments, no-one seems to be asking the obvious question: IF wikipedia IS actively sheltering any and all references to Mr Weiss from public scrutiny or editorial, WHY would it do that? Does the wikipedia/wikimedia complex have some vested interest in Mr Weiss? Has anyone ever asked how wikipedia is funded?
Would allowing Mr Weiss and the naked shorting practice to be subjected to too much scrutiny amount to biting off the hand that feeds etc? Even if not true, such agressive and vindictive attacks on anyone looking too hard at Mr Weiss does raise a significant spectre of suspicion...
Re: Wikipedia = Unreliable
Just gotta be careful; the independent sources might have consulted Wikipedia...
An even more obvious question
The answer to the "obvious question," which presupposes a conspiracy, is that the premise of the obvious question is wrong. Wikipedia is not "covering up" for anyone; it is reporting the life of a dull journalist, which of necessity is less gory than the chief executive of a company as wracked in pain and losses as is Overstock.
I have an even more obvious question: Why does Overstock.com perspire over its employees not being allowed to edit Wikipedia? They are paid, we presume, to sell goods, or to maintain the website, not to add content to Wikipedia.
It surprises me that the reporter did not ask this obvious question in his interview with Mr. Bagley.
Come on people...
let Jimmy Wales and his henchmen teach the 'truth' to the next generations.
It's about time!
Sorry for the shameless plug, but over at wikipediareview.com we've been tracking this story for about a year and a half now. Our main interest has always been the SlimVirgin-Mantanmoreland connection - why did she jump to his defense so quickly, even to the point of sharing information with him that was supposed to have been supplied to her confidentially in her role as a Wikipedia administrator? At first we thought it was because Mantanmoreland had assisted her and her other wiki-friends in making controversial "tag-team" edits to certain articles, such as the notorious addition of Nazi references to the introductory paragraphs of the article on Martin Luther (which remain in place to this day).
But as we got further into it, the story just got weirder and weirder, to the point where the term "WTF?" barely describes the general tone of near-disbelief. And yet the evidence was definitely there, and it all added up. What it all boils down to is that the person known on Wikipedia as "SlimVirgin" knew Patrick Byrne at King's College, Cambridge, and apparently didn't like him much - not much at all.
And the rest, as we say, is history.
Reality is subjective
and Wikiality is even more so.
any power matrix distorts information that passes through it (credit: Robert Anton Wilson). where there is hierarchy, there will be multiple conflicting public and private agendas.
an undemocratic, opaque caste system of mostly anonymous, unpaid idealists is THE perfect set of conditions for this sort of problem. in such a situation, many idealists tend to become ideologues, and that's how today's Wikipedia version of reality probably evolved.
it is not a completely flat organization, so one should expect all the dysfunction of a large, distributed, stratified entity (think UN or any large government bureaucracy), nurtured in isolation, secrecy and anonymity (SlimVirgin indeed), as if in a hothouse.
makes for a very interesting study in pathology. just pretend you are an anthropologist, or a shrink, and enjoy their plethora of amusingly distorted "facts", presented as truth. see the world through a funhouse mirror - kinda looks like the real thing, but different...
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Look up conspiracy in
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.Conspiracy may refer to
An act of two or more parties working together to combine in such a way as to achieve a particular result often one of harm or inconvenience to a third party. Secrecy is not necessary for there to be a conspiracy. However, some 'unknown' may be involved.
A group of people who make an agreement to form a partnership in which each member becomes the agent or partner of every other member and engage in planning or agreeing to commit some act.
An act of working in secret to obtain some goal, usually understood with negative connotations.
By Wikipedia's own definition of the word it is plainly obvious that there is a conspircay at work here - it has just not been determined with specificty which of the parties involved has been or is being conspired against
Wikipedia is faced with tow or three totaly irreconcilable internal contradictions.
The two major complaints in the comments:-
1. The articles are not accurate/tureful/neutral enough.
2. Its not democratic enough. i.e. The wiki equivalent of "A man from Mars" is not allowed to edit millions of articles.
You cannot have it both ways either you have total editorial control where a self selecting elite reflects thier version of "the truth" which is pretty much the situation with the "Dead Tree" encyclopedias, or, you have a complete free for all where the few useful/good posts are devalued by an avalanche of propoganda, revings and self promotion.
As I regard "boring but reliable" as a good thing in an encyclopedia I would go for the editorial control option, but, with a more transparent structure. Some of the current uber-editors would clearly be better of spending thier time "Getting a Life".
I am in a similar situation, everything I write or do on Wikipedia, whether it is relevant or not, is removed within 24 hours...
Its not an Encyclopedia, its a Wikipedia
If you want reliable, accurate information on a given subject that isnt going to change halfway through reading it because of some palyground-esque falling out, you go look at a book. Simple as.
tl;sr;wIh (too long; still read; wish I hadn't)
Wikipedia is frequently ludicrous and the Reg has only scratched the surface, but there's no need to stretch an edit war on an obscure topic out to five pages.
Still, it's good to know from this and the comments here that everyone's eyes have been opened, that Wikipedia is too disorganised/too authoritarian, too inaccurate/too obsessed with footnoting, too full of pop culture/too bent on deleting everything obscure and fun (strike out complaints that do not apply - or don't, a lot of people are perfectly happy accusing it of all of the above in the same post). I guess tomorrow all its traffic will be gone then and they'll shut down. Fun while it lasted, time to start looking for a new browser homepage.
Or not. Wikipedia is an easy target and deserves to be, but it's still managed to produce a usable, broad reference. As a quick reference on a much broader array of subjects than any other single work it does its job perfectly well. As a source for writing your history essay it's the equivalent of asking your mate or your senile grandfather and basing everything on that. Use it for what it is and stop complaining that the apple doesn't taste orange-y enough.
Power hungry geeks...
.... with an elitist attitude, that pretty much sums it up for me.
I'll stick to getting my facts from a reputable organisation that has been publishing encyclopedia's for years.
(although the whole saga has a "High School Drama" tinge, it does supply amusement, usually I don't get this until the missus switches over to some American car crash TV)
Wikipedia for Schools??
Does this quote from the BBC News website (sorry El Reg, occasionally I do look elsewhere for my news!) concern anyone else other than me?
"He [Jimmy Wales] said he now thinks that students should be able to cite the online encyclopaedia in their work. "
When I grew up and someone said "I read it in the Sun so it must be true" we at least understood their humour. For the current generation growing up, the equivalent might be "I read it in wikipedia so it must be true" but worryingly, perhaps people will actually start believing that statement.....
Sorry I'm a bit hazy here..
but earlier this year I heard an English Academic on Radio 4 complaining about a science (IFIRC) piece on Wikipedia that was incorrect. He knew it was incorrect because it was about his science and his own work.
So doing the natural thing he corrected it. The next day his edits were removed and the piece went back to being incorrect.
So he edited it again and so on. He complained that there was no authority attached to the incorrect facts and there appeared to be no way to find out who the "scientist" or "dustman" was who was removing the facts.
Me. The only think I take for granted from Wiki is that the Capital of Greenland is an oak tree.
A possible solution...
between a 'free for all' and allowing 'nutters' to add rubbish and total editorial control where a few admins dictate policy to suit their own ends, would be to have Slashdot like moderation system. Users and entries have points awarded by users. This would help prevent a ruling cabal arising. And moderation of general editors should to a large extent weed out the bad editors and reward good ones.
If this system was applied across the board it would prevent a lot abuses of editors and admins and indicate to people which article are well written. And it would become an 'by the people for the people' thing, instead of the power trip the admins are turning it into.
Just a thought
Surprise, surprise ....
"I am in a similar situation, everything I write or do on Wikipedia, whether it is relevant or not, is removed within 24 hours..."
The BBC have an even more draconian blanket ban on some posters who would dare to question other posters posts on their now quite useless news message boards. Mention something simple like the Truth is flexible and only an imagining acted upon and they can't handle the Spin. At least El Reg is prepared to lead with stories rather than be frightened/petrified by them, which bodes well for El Reg. [although there are, I'm sure the odd occasions whenever they bottle out. [Sh] It happens.]
Free Speech as long as you follow the Script is never Free Speech and impossible to follow if the Script/Plot is lost or cannot be Shared.
In those cases, a new Script is always written to be Shared and expanded upon by ITs readers 42 Lead. It is not Rocket Science, IT is a lot Beta than that.
No sex please, I'm writing my wiki article
I read that article and thought - phew - these guys and gals at Wikipedia must be pretty sad, and defo. not getting enough (if any).
Is it just me...
...or did our friendly neighbourhood Martian's comment make complete sense there (well, more or less).
Or have I just got so used to reading banal rubbish on Wikipedia that pretty much anything makes sense now?
Actually, I guess I'm being a bit unfair to Wikipedia. I do sometimes check out entries on there and have found them to be broadly OK, but often lacking in real depth or detail. I've also been puzzled on one or two occasions when I've seen articles that have editorial notes about citations being needed or weasel words being used when the article does, in fact, seem to have perfectly good citations from reputable sources. Is that the whole editing cabal thing at play perhaps?
Batten down the hatches!
They need to be very careful of how this is handled. If that teacup gets any more stormy there is a risk of spillage. Nobody likes spilled tea.
"Mention something simple like the Truth is flexible and only an imagining acted upon"
It might be simple, but it's wrong. You're thinking of religion (or Wikipedia pages).
I use wiki!
.....but only to look up pictures of animals. Want to know what a tasmanian devil looks like? Wiki. Want to know want a kiwi bird looks like? Wiki. Want to know anything remotely scientific with actual, fact based research quoted? Maybe by the scientist who did the experiment rather than some gimp who thinks he knows the subject? Library.
If a kid comes into a class room quoting wiki and only wiki, that's an F right there. Not even going to read his research. If he comes in quoting wiki AND other sources of info, then we'll see.
It was a pile of carp when it started, it's still a pile of carp. Who knew?
And I just found out about Father Christmas as well.......
It seems that you CAN fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot foll ALL of the people all of the time....hooray!
I for one will never waste time on Wikiwacky again.....
Just hope that teachers are NOT using this peversion.
It Appears They're Acting Correctly
According to your article, not only are Patrick Byrne's claims about "naked short selling" not being taken seriously by the mass media, but _The Register_ itself takes a dim view of them.
Given that, it would seem to be reasonable for Wikipedia editors not to wish to have their articles modified to reflect a point of view that has not won general acceptance, but is instead seen as lacking in credibility.
When, furthermore, this point of viwe includes serious allegations against respected financial figures, there could even be a question of it being actionable.
So, while some details of the response might seem a bit overblown, it's hard for me to fault their decision to take this particular issue seriously
Just check The Register's entry on Wackipedia...
It includes this little gem:
'Journalistic Integrity, Under the motto "Integrity - we've heard of it" The Register claims that, for a price, they print any story and for an even higher price they remove any story. They published the tariffs in an article "Official Register 2000 PR tariff". Maybe this is not an in-joke, however.'
One of the best I have read in a while. Keep it up!
@ John Savard
"Given that, it would seem to be reasonable for Wikipedia editors not to wish to have their articles modified to reflect a point of view that has not won general acceptance, but is instead seen as lacking in credibility."
right here you are already mentioning exactly how it shouldn't be!
Galileo also seemed to lack credibility about the world rotating around the sun rather than the sun around the world.
just because it's not right out obvious doesn't mean that it's wrong!
"When, furthermore, this point of view (this word has been corrected from the original) includes serious allegations against respected financial figures, there could even be a question of it being actionable."
You are saying a respected financial figure! well even that is very subjective, since you may respect him, and some others may, but I don't respect him at all, because I personally think, that there is a good chance, that he is a crook!
In summary, as long as there is no clear evidence, to the contrary, there should be no banning unless it really is obvious that there is something malicious or, right out lies being told.
I can't see that in any way, as a matter of fact, the way these people are behaving it seems more like these admins are trying to cover up either own mistakes, (who really wants to take any sort of responsibility these days anyway?) or they may have in depth knowledge of criminal on goings or maybe involved with people who are involved in such things.
I know this sounds more like a conspiracy theory, but I don't think that it is that far fetched.
Best regards from a Krautlaender!
@Lol Whibley, RE: i wonder
I heartily agree. Consider it done.
or, should it be censored (irony alert)...
This is just another example of the politically motivated censorship which so many people seem to feel is endemic within Whackopaedia. Anything which can be done to focus their attention on the problem must surely be a good thing.
Off to power cycle the old modem / router now as I'd rather not be persecuted, 'though, hopefully, before anyone sets out to get me they'll pause to contemplate how and why they are ailenating so many people.
Is El Reg one of those "BADSITE"s yet? ;-)
I notice that there is no wikipedia page for amanfromMars, I'm sure this omission will be corrected soon
Ooooh, how rude.
Meanwhile, posts to Wikipedia show that David Gerard has a personal beef with Bagley. "Bagley's case is that he's been stalking people with quite some viciousness for commercial gain. He even got writeups in the NYT and NY Post, so I can state he's an odious stalking arsehole with Reliable Sources!" Gerard writes. "I urge you to start reading up - he's really at a new and exciting level of odiousness." Elsewhere he adds: "ps: Fuck off, Bagley."
^ What kind of respectful Media Relations manager talks like that publicly to start with?
I can't say that any of this has surprised me at all. Wikipedia is a joke.
@ Andrew Moore
I've just read the wikipedia entry about El Reg and while it they refer to the In jokes on RoTM and Capt Cyborg for some reason seem to have left out the Reg's oft used term 'wiki fiddler'
It's always worth remembering that there is no true objectivity. Everything you read or write is biased, often unintentionally, often deliberately.
Assuming that something written is independent or even true without cross-checking is short-sighted and naive.
Wiki is no better or worse than any politically motivated newspaper or journal.
Just my biased opinion, of course.