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back to article Truth, anonymity and the Wikipedia Way

Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions - Catch-22 If you've read Catch-22, you know what it's like in Wikiland. In Wikiland, if someone has a conflict of interest, they could be grounded. But the inhabitants of …

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Of course ElReg is "trash"

That's why we read it. Then again it is very difficult to wipe ones posterior with electrons, so we don't use it for that purpose.

Then again, all the good tech news is here, so it must be good for something.

Wikipedia on the other hand seems like a mutual admiration society for those that want to be. Any true "source" would have its authors identified and verified. They could do that for a simple $1.00 charge to make sure your name was correct. Anyone who wanted to register multiple names would need both money and different credit cards with different names. Of course this would eliminate 14 year olds, but I see no problem with that.

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Coat

Statisticly its a given

There are more stupid people in the World than clever people. I dont see many people saying there in the top 50% of clever people that often, top 10%. But taking this into account then any concensus form of demacratic selection would lead to the most correct answears being ignored.

Now if say 50% of people are above average and deemed worthy to cast an oppinion and the other 50% being generaly wrong, then does this explain how super-powers select there leaders!

Now here is a question I do wonder - what is the average IQ on the internet? Given that due to its nature and definition of use/access (even dumbed down access) it does tend towards people in the upper 50% of intelligence, does it not!

So we come back to the old golden rule - ask 3 doctors, or in this case - ask 3 wiki's and your commen sence will guide you from there. That or evolution will count you as another notch in its onward climb thru time.

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Potential conflict of interest is not an actual conflict of interest

There is no policy against editing articles in which their is a potential conflict of interest. However, an editor should not make edits which promotes themselves or their business at the expense of other Wikipedia policies such as Neutral Point of View, and Reliable Sources.

What tends to happen is that one editor will claim a POTENTIAL Conflict of Interest in order to have another editor barred from contributing... because they have an unpopular point of view. This presupposes that the cited editor will act improperly.

Of course many experts in a subject have a potential conflict of interest, as they seek the best viewpoint for their subject, often have written their own books on the subjects.

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"Conflict of interest" puts it mildly

It gets even more ridiculous in my case. An uber-administrator named SlimVirgin started a biographical article on me in September, 2005. Nine months earlier she dismissed my life's work on a talk page for an article she was acquiring for political purposes. Her dismissive comment said, "I removed Daniel Brandt. He's not a credible source..."

After months of Internet sleuthing, it turns out that SlimVirgin is one and the same as Linda Mack, who was a PanAm 103 researcher for Pierre Salinger at ABC News in London in 1989-91. Yes, this is the same Linda Mack who ordered sources from my library at that time because they were reliable, and never paid the invoice. The same Linda Mack whom ABC bureau chief Salinger came to believe was working as a secret MI5 asset all along, and locked out of her office after ABC was raided by Scotland Yard. They were looking for information on the Libya suspects. The same Linda Mack who organized a petition against a documentary film on Lockerbie that presented an alternative theory that ran counter to the official CIA/FBI/MI6/MI5 line that blamed Libya.

More than two years after SlimVirgin started this biographical article on me (which immediately rose to the top of all search engines in a search for my name), I've finally managed to get it mostly deleted. That meant fighting anonymous teenagers for two years. It wasn't particularly fun, but at least it was educational. I now call it "Spookypedia."

Wikipedia is beyond repair. It needs to be dismantled, first one administrator at a time, and then one anonymous teenager at a time. Fortunately, there's considerable overlap between these two categories, which means it's not quite as hard as it looks.

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Andy Jones

Anyone who uses a single source (be it a website, a journal, whatever) of information for something should be shot anyway.

Although I agree there do look to be problems with the way wikipedia operates, I think it's worse that some nuggets just look at one thing and think that's the gospel. It's like the people who only read one newspaper, 'cos it has the same opinions as they do. What's the point in that?

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Coat

commen sence

Not sure if I am about to bump into a piece of irony but, common sense says use spell checking.

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J
Happy

Re: Statisticly its a given

"what is the average IQ on the internet?"

Easy one! It's 100 -- by definition.

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What's the problem?

It's a website with information. Some of it might be accurate, some inaccurate. The register has had some form of grudge about it for years.

Of course it's not 100% accurate - get over it.

Read multiple sources - use wikipedia, use other sources. From my experience it's not any better or worse than a lot of sources. The founder is not a saint, but I also doubt he's the devil - perhaps he falls somewhere in between?

If it's the 8th most visited web page in the world that's probably for a reason, and I doubt that reason is that it's written by 14 year olds.

The only thing I can't work out is why this site always needs to bash it - it certainly detracts from any credibility the register has otherwise.

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Anonymous Coward

Ouch.. Wikipedia pips Register in Search

A google search for "The Register" wikipedia, puts Wikipedia's impression of the Register at the top of the list.

Wikipedia suffers because it is a link farm, if they asked google not to index them then Wikipedia as an encyclopedia would work well. But, it is a battlefield because of its google rankings.

Deep down all the wikipedians know this, and realise the hypocrisy of their positioning when they allow search engines to rank their pages. But, of course they lose power when the indexing stops, so it is their ego that ruins this project.

Oh, and don't worry you are in good company google itself gets pipped by wikipedia for a search on google wikipedia.

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not true

>""what is the average IQ on the internet?"

>

>Easy one! It's 100 -- by definition.

Not true. 100 is supposed to be the average of the population. "The Internet" is a subset of that population. If "The Internet" is a proportionally representative of "The Population", then yes, by definition, you would be correct, however, the veracity of the distribution of people on the internet is not established. In fact it is THE question at hand.

Are "Internet Users" greater, lesser, or equally intelligent as the population at large?

Moreover, is such a conclusion even reachable or defensible? Given the relative anonymity with which we can all access the internet, or given at least the relative difficulty one would be required to endure to identify all internet users, it would be quite the task to ensure that all internet users were evaluated for their intelligence -- once, and only once.

If instead you take a small sample of internet users, you are then challenged with ensuring your sample is representative and unbiased, and given the sheer size of the population group (internet users, which is itself a sample of the larger population), assembling a sample group whose results could be considered anywhere near conclusive, representative, or authoritative remains impoddibly unwieldy.

Then there is the issue of the evaluation itself, and whether or not the evaluation constitutes and accurate and effective measure of an individual's intelligence.

So ultimately the question -- whether on average, internet users are more, less, or equally intelligent than the population at large -- goes the way of determining how many licks it takes to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop. The world may never know.

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You can't prevent anonymous editing

If someone wants to edit anonymously, they will find a way to do it, even on knol. There are a thousand ways of faking an IP address. There is nothing to prevent editors from using a fictional name and email address. Unless draconian methods such as credit card authentication were used. But this would put off 99% of people from editing wikipedia or a similar project and effectively kill it. In any case, what is so bad about anonymity? I, for instance, don't want my boss to know that my interests are BDSM and anarcho-capitalism...

PS. I don't get The Register's hatred of wikipedia. Sure it has a lot of flaws, and I would never use it as an authoritative source. But what it does, it does well.

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Happy

Tootsie?

Of a what now? Never mind, I'll look it up on wikipaedia....

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Coat

Truth? Anonymity?

@Michael

Well, yes, Michael. The ability to access the Internet and read probably precludes 50% of the population. The ability to access, read and understand what is written probably precludes 50% of the remainder.

I'll leave those who can read AND understand to do the rest of the maths.

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Wikipedia could fork

Most wiki articles are, for all its faults, a useful starting point. This article on the New Zealand Electoral Finance Bill, as a random instance, is broadly accurate and extensively referenced:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_Finance_Bill_(New_Zealand)

If the current clique at Wikipedia f..k it up, there is always the possibility that it will fork (after the fashion of some open source software) with a rival organisation taking over the information base and adopting different policies (like named and validated editors, or peer review, for instance).

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@Paul Gray

"Now here is a question I do wonder - what is the average IQ on the internet? Given that due to its nature and definition of use/access (even dumbed down access) it does tend towards people in the upper 50% of intelligence, does it not!"

Amusingly garbled grammar aside, are you fucking nuts? Read some YouTube comments say, then reassess the above statement.

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry to break your all consuming conspiracy

@danielbrandt

Well that's not the first name she uses when she emails people..

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Anonymous Coward

@Gilbert Wham

Yes youtube comments would cover the lower end of the scale along with myspace. But would an intelligent person read the comments in the first place.

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Happy

Re. "Statisticly its a given"

For a large enough population, 50% ARE above average. This is true for every population and every measure. (50% of dandelions are above average height, 50% of rats are above average weight.)

Following on from Gilbert Wham's point, try reading the user reviews on the mobile phone review websites. These, along with YouTube comments etc. could easily lead you to believe that internet users are below average intelligence; or maybe they're all 14 year olds who don't pay attention in class.

I was going to title this comment as "Grammaticly it's a goner" but decided that was too obscure.

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Happy

@frank denton

'fraid not. As is well known, more than 99% of people have more than the average number of legs :-)

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Average intelligence

"For a large enough population 50% ARE above average". Nope - a common mistake about averages. The average number of legs in the population is obviously less than 2 since there are people with no or one leg. Consequently 95+% of the population have an above average number of legs. (Income/riches show the reverse pattern).

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Joke

Average intelligence?

I prefer to use the Terry Pratchett (or Samuel Vimes) Metric of mob intelligence:

the IQ of a mob is the IQ of its dimmest member divided by the number of members of the mob

<pedantry>

50% lie above the MEDIAN intelligence, not necessarily the average (except for (sufficiently) symmetrical distributions)

</pedantry>

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Silly wannabe math geeks...

The median is an average. So is the mean. They are just different types of averages. If you want to be pedantic about it, any statement about an average which fails to specify the type of average is leaving out information. Of course, in common use you can usually determine the type of average intended by context.

-daniel

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Flame

Bah.

Tsk Daniel. When people say 'average' they always mean 'mean'.

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More averages...

"...any statement about an average which fails to specify the type of average is leaving out information..."

Indeed. And if someone claims that when they said "50% of a population are always above average!!!" they meant "50% of a population always falls in the top 50 percentiles" then the information they are leaving out is that they were not in the top maths class themselves.

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A closed Wikipedia wouldn't be Wikipedia

Casual editing makes Wikipedia what it is, for better or for worse. If it forbade anonymous edits - let alone required real names to edit - then the millions of casual edits wouldn't happen. Like it or not, being able to click, type, and click again to correct a typo or nonsensical paragraph is a virtue (albeit an abusable one). Many editors say that they wouldn't have started editing if they hadn't been able to make that first, easy, casual edit.

Expecting people to give you personal information and jump through a bunch of sign-up hoops for the privilege of doing writing for free is a losing game. Despite all the media hype, Veropedia or Citizendium are to all intents and purposes deserted. If you want to read an encyclopaedia for free then it has to be completely open, with the minimum possible barriers to entry, or people simply won't bother writing it. If you want something written by dedicated, accountable human beings, guess what - they'll want to be paid, which is why if you want that you need to shell out for the Britannica.

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Black Helicopters

Your average reg reader

What's the probability that the average Reg reader has edited more than the average number of wikipedia entries per wikipedia editor ? What's the average number of wikipedia edits per Register journalist ? Which is bigger ?

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Coat

Its all about the source

To be credible, in academia this is a given. The real trouble is Wikifiddlers want the credibility but are not prepared to put their reputation on the line. They hide behind pseudonyms.

/sarcasm noted

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Flame

@What else is there on the internet?

@Anonymous Coward

I hope you are kidding and your comments have an underlying tongue in cheek touch of irony, because if not you would be one of those people whom my gold fishes IQ would beat hands down; and it's dead!

Try Google Scholar.

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Re: More Averages

"Indeed. And if someone claims that when they said "50% of a population are always above average!!!" they meant "50% of a population always falls in the top 50 percentiles" then the information they are leaving out is that they were not in the top maths class themselves."

I disagree. The median is, for very many cases, considerably better than the arithmetic mean. A good example of this is that most people will nod their heads quietly when reminded that 50% of the population are above average. Clearly the word average is understood by the general population to mean the median. The median is also better behaved for datasets that don't fit the requirements of the central limit theorem, which any experimental scientist will tell you are 100% of datasets. Sadly, the arithmetic mean is more amenable to formal analysis, so maths lessons are biased in its favour.

I shall omit any mention of my mathematical prowess, since I don't think it is actually relevant. Mathematicians don't attach a formal definition to the term "average". It means what people understand it to mean, which I suppose will differ from person to person.

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Boffin

RE: Statisticly its a given

"There are more stupid people in the World than clever people. I dont see many people saying there in the top 50% of clever people that often, top 10%."

Na you wouldn't see people "there in the top 50%" but you might see them saying "they're in the top 50%"

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Coat

Averages

Is it a la mode to be above the median, or is that just mean?

I'm just a poissonian standard deviant myself.

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Anonymous Coward

@Bagley and Maury

I liked their baiting of each other - and Bagley's comment was a nice retort, although I'm not sure how one link to a webpage is better than another when both webpages are probably biased.

So we are left with the facts then, which are...?

Which are that I have no idea what the facts are, because there is no reliable source unless I was there looking over the shoulders of those involved and seeing it all for myself.

Pure speculation though - Wiki is a useful site as a stepping stone; I use it to look for information and make notes, then I go to reliable sources such as reference books and look for the same information headings/subject headings in those.

I have found the information does not match some of the time, but then I would rely on the books and not Wiki, the only thing I use Wiki for is to get a direction to go in.

From the stories I have read, Wiki can be edited by anybody, which automatically makes the information unreliable for anything except as a rough guide; even Whale has been saying that folks should not rely upon it but use it as a stepping stone to more reliable sources.

As for the elite editors etc - they are self styled elite if they are, and of course Wiki HQ can be as biased, evasive and sneaky as any other organisation can be. What could make them any different to anybody else?

Of course they will never admit to double standards, heavy bias, evasive responses...that would be counter productive.

So the elite would be protected, ignored even - and if it is they who are in charge of course they would want to protect themselves.

Wiki will not expire soon, it will fade away though if it continues to allow this sort of thing - no matter how many fan boys scream sacrilidge or heresy at non believers.

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IQs, mean and median

Modern IQ scores are defined in such a way that they are normally distributed, so the mean, median and mode are all the same. If the intelligence distribution of the population changes, new IQ tests will get normalised in such a way that this remains true. So half the population are above average IQ, regardless of which average you use.

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Black Helicopters

@Richard Tobin

So it's all fixed then?

I knew it! They told me I was mad, but I knew it!

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Unhappy

Wikipedia defenders are missing the point(s)

While the information on wikipedia may be "good enough" for most casual purposes, the ability of dedicated editors (i.e. obsessives with too much time on their hands) will pretty much ensure that any well-intentioned non-fanatics will pretty soon give up trying to make any meaningful edits in all but the most innocuous of subjects.

Pardon me for mentioning it, but I get pretty pissed off with people who defend the wikipedia process but make it clear that they've no experience or interest in editing the damn thing.

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Anonymous Coward

another

"Average" Go look it up on wiki; it's a better definition than any of the ones given in this comments thread.... (I think...)

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Paris Hilton

Oh Noes!!!1111 one one

"There are more stupid people in the World than clever people. I dont see many people saying there in the top 50% of clever people that often, top 10%. But taking this into account then any concensus form of demacratic selection would lead to the most correct answears being ignored."

That was an EPIC FAIL on several levels, and it is the second comment on the article, one of the few that most people are likely to read. Today's lesson is that it is only great to grasp the microphone if you have a song to sing, and you can sing, and well.

It's noticeable that the British-interest-only Wikipedia articles tend to be either exceptionally good, but written by one person with a cast of hundreds inserting commas, category links etc; or they are empty backwater shipwrecks with child-level English and the typical crap e.g. "it has been reported that / some people argue that / X was mentioned in an episode of Red Dwarf where Rimmer dressed up as a crab and said that X was his favourite food/place" etc.

Insert conclusion here.

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Thumb Up

Stunned

This story has been a bit of an eye opener for me, I don't usually go to wiki. But is it just me or do the Wiki fanbois make apple fanbois look quite sane?

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Paris Hilton

@Richard Tobin

However measured, it is unlikely that IQ follows a true poisson distribution.

There has been a lot of discussion in the past about cultural bias in IQ tests, and how it makes people from other cultures look less intelligent. Unless a standard IQ test existed that took into account all cultures, theres is no way a standard '100' mean could be calculated for a global community. I don't believe such a test exists (perhaps I should check with Wikipedia)

With no standard test, IQ is a pretty meaningless measure of intelligence.

Poisson distribution also presupposes that the sample being measured is random and that the property being measured is randomly distributed among the population.

IQ as measured can be learnt, (or the techniques to improve your score can, anyway) or can be affected by environment and health, therefore it is not a randomly distrubuted property. At best, IQ only applies to the sample used for setting the mean. My 100 IQ is not the same as your 100 IQ. (the mean IQ of Reg readers is probably higher than the mean IQ of, say, tabloid celebs - Paris angle found)

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Paris Hilton

What does...

Paris have to say?

@ Joe Stalin - I think you may have a piont there! Mac fans are generally the most self importnat muppets you'll meet but the wiki lot really crackpots!

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Unhappy

An open Wikipedia isn't much either

"If it [Wikipedia] forbade anonymous edits - let alone required real names to edit - then the millions of casual edits wouldn't happen. Like it or not, being able to click, type, and click again to correct a typo or nonsensical paragraph is a virtue (albeit an abusable one)."

@ Spleen: That's an interesting point, and admittedly that's very much the lure that gets people "hooked" on Wikipedia. It's very much like a drug dealer giving you your first hit for free, knowing that you'll probably get addicted and come back for more.

The thing you miss, though, is that Wikipedia's primary problem is accountability. This is something that needs to be done if people are to get good, solid information from this behemoth. Of course, verifying information and placing any stamp of approval is impossible and unfeasible since you can't hold anyone to it! Aye carumba!

The structure of Wikipedia is fundamentally flawed. There is no "tier" system by which to process information. (And, no, "featured articles" or "good articles" don't cut it.) I'm pretty fond of the "Debian" method, and I believe it should be applied to Wikipedia. There needs to be a three-tier system: stable, testing, and unstable. Unstable is where Wikipedia is at now, editable by any yahoo with the time on their hands; testing is where content gets vetted through for accuracy, prose and other things; and, finally, stable, where information is given a stamp of approval and Wikipedia can actually stand behind such information.

As the case currently is, the issue that rears its head is this: Who shall run this system? Well, you need accountable people on top, and that's Wikipedia's problem right there. They don't have anyone accountable on top. None whatsoever, and all the problems stem from that, as far as I can see.

So... what needs to be done: Wikimedia needs to be audited by an independent, reasonably unbiased third party. They need some sort of coach/guru experienced in running an effective non-profit organization, because they are wont to do things in a half-assed fashion. They've even admitted their lack of proper competence on their own mailing lists, particularly in lieu of the whole COO scandal. Secondly, they need to get rid of Jimbo Wales as head and install someone who has business and ethical acumen, not to mention anyone with him who are there solely for their own edification.

Third, there needs to be a drive to get academics involved with Wikipedia, in addition to professional copy editors and other seasoned professionals who can peer review content generated by Wikipedians. Having said that, I should note that most Wikipedians aren't bad people, they're well meaning and can be made even better... but it's the bad apples that really cause the problems with Wikipedia, and that's because there's no way to get rid of the major bad apples at all. The system is almost rigged to protect them, except when someone from the outside shines the light and attracts the press, then someone is thrown to the blade to make it seem like there's some accountability on the home front.

Why do you think Essjay was outed? Why do you think that the defemation was removed from John Siegenthaler's article? The press. Finally doing its job in showing us the truth, regardless of whether or not we can stomach it.

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Re: "Conflict of interest" puts it mildly

>>> After months of Internet sleuthing, it turns out that SlimVirgin is one and the same as Linda Mack, who was a PanAm 103 researcher for Pierre Salinger at ABC News in London in 1989-91. Yes, this is the same Linda Mack who ordered sources from my library at that time because they were reliable, and never paid the invoice. The same Linda Mack whom ABC bureau chief Salinger came to believe was working as a secret MI5 asset all along, and locked out of her office after ABC was raided by Scotland Yard. They were looking for information on the Libya suspects. The same Linda Mack who organized a petition against a documentary film on Lockerbie that presented an alternative theory that ran counter to the official CIA/FBI/MI6/MI5 line that blamed Libya.

Mr. Brandt, please don't take it personally, but when it comes to hardcore Wikipedians and hardcore Wikipedia critics, it is hard to say who, if any, of those are actually the sane.

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The Arbitration Committee does not make policy

Speaking as the member of the Arbitration Committee who proposed the quoted principle, "Allowing anonymous editing and forbidding conflict of interest," the committee said, "is an obvious contradiction which necessarily is imperfectly resolved.", it was presented as something for the Wikipedia community to think about. Although sometimes our decisions have resulted in policy, we are supposed to apply existing policy.

Fred Bauder

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Alert

ArbCom and Fred Bauder

Fred Bauder was also the one who made a much-ridiculed proposal in the same case to redirect articles on people who criticize Wikipedians to the article titled "Clown". He also made a proposal titled "Salt the earth" seeking to expunge and suppress all mentions of Bagley's site, but it failed.

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Black Helicopters

I have no real proof

but up until about a month ago Wikipedia came up top of the list on a lot of odd search terms in Google then it dropped like a rock 8th visited seems like it will end if this continues artificially inflated search ranking hey _if_ Google made them they can do them in. Just an observation it may be some other factor like people are starting to doubt Wikipedia has any trustworthy information. Google has a problem they need their results to actually have relevance so skewing in favour of a known source of information and not spam is understandable (not terribly honest but understandable) which is why they might do this if they did.

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Black Helicopters

Google, Wikipedia, and You

It's no doubt that Wikipedia benefits from Google, and likely vice versa.

However, with Knol right around the corner, I have a feeling that Wikipedia will suffer in terms of traffic, given that Google might give them a run for the money and pump up their encyclopedia instead. Which might not be a bad thing, since WIkipedia needs to be put in its place. Perhaps Knol can teach Wikipedia a trick or three in the process, but let's hope that it is not to our detriment.

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Silver badge

May the most helpful dogged argument win .......

Would anyone have a valid objection as to why Wikipedia shouldn't rearrange facts to present another greater picture which we could build upon? Arguing about historical correctness does nothing to advance the Future which should Follow AI Fantastic Imaginative Tale with Media Providing the Script/Sounds and Vision Created as Vistas being Built and Transparently Peer Review BetaTested for ITs Future Purpose Fitness.

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Alien

@amanfrommars

I would agree that Wikipedia could be an interesting virtual parallel universe - and anything could go, so that the virtual parallel universe would be a masterful mass work of fiction (or a complete bunch of nonsense).

If Wiki wants to go that way then all power to it - but to have any credibility (perhaps a rare thing on the internet?) Wiki would have to put itself as being a virtual parallel universe.

A text only version of Second Life with supporting photos and links to videos and external websites?

Imagine the mess.

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