One less wikinazi to remove things that they deem unworthy.
The human comedy that is Wikipedia just lost one of its more intriguing players. Late December saw the departure of uber-administrator Jossi Fresco, a longtime member of a worldwide religious movement that Time Magazine lists among the mega-cults of the 1970s, the heyday of the mega-cult. Fresco retired after another …
While Maharaji definitely has some issues, its nothing like the issues with Scientology.
I grew up with many Premmies around and they all seemed like normal people.
I was really surprised when I first read about a Premmie controlling what was published on Wikipedia about Maharaji. The people I knew would have avoided such an ethically questionable situation...but none of the people I knew were part of any inner circle.
One interesting thing about the Premmies I knew is that none of the children became Premmies and there seems to have been no pressure on the children to become followers of the guru.
ps I've read about a lot of the things that have happened with Maharaji in the last 15-20 years and I find it appalling.
I've gotten interested in the Caucasus, its languages, peoples, and history, and I've found information on Wikipedia that you'd be very hard pressed to extract from any conventional library, even the greatest (LOS, Harvard, British). Some of the information may not even be available in English other than on Wikipedia.
The fly in the wiki ointment lies with controversial topics: living people and religions seem to be the particularly outstanding in this regard.
There are some curious anomalies relating to such topics. I accessed the article on Stalin, and it displayed a Wiki-warning that it might be biased. Well, yes, it was biased in Stalin's favor, but as a basic biography it wasn't bad. The bias was very easy to discount.
WRT the Church of Xenu, they'll never give up, having the tenacity of a mindless animal that clamps itself to one of your limbs and chews away ferociously no matter what you do.
Clearly, articles relating to the Church of Xenu need to be locked so as to prevent anonymous editing. Why the people in charge at Wikipedia can't see this, I do not know.
Come on, Cade -- how could you mention that the Conflict of Interest policy was drafted in October 2006, without even mentioning that it was the SAME MONTH that Jimbo banned MyWikiBiz from editing Wikipedia.
I was the CAUSE of the Conflict of Interest policy!
Your readers want to know things like that.
Metz's alright - I quote enjoy the ongoing reality net soap that seems to sustain the very core of wikiland. At least El Reg is trashy on purpose.
But it'd be nice if Reg bootnoted something once in a while recalling that the 99.999% of wikipedia that doesn't have anything to do with: cults, uber-admins, Jimbo Wales and/or his friends or ex's, or short-selling - is often the single most balanced and best referenced source available on the subject.
What's bizzare is the way stuff that touches any one of those dodgy areas, eventually turns out to crossover others. In an upcoming episode: Gary Weiss is revealed to be the gay lover of David Miscavige, and in the Dramatic Conclusion Wales's son is secretly engaged to Bryne's daughter...
In a subject I presume to know something about, I have noticed certain inaccuracies on Wikipedia and have attempted to correct, to no avail. I then asked for verifiable citations for certain opinions expressed by the authors. In response all I got was my account being permanently banned.
All Verifiability means is, a link to an URL. In some cases, even the subject of the 'articles' have been unable to correct errors. As for as I am concerned, all Wikipedia is an interesting exercise in fiction ..
No movement that starts from small beginnings and grows rapidly is without the inevitable problems caused by human fallibility and egos. As time goes on, the procedures for resolving disputes become more sophisticated and bureaucratic and so the growth of the movement slows down as it acquires weight and substance. When they eventually build their glorious head office to house all the bureaucrats who manage their by then massively legalistic and heavyweight process, the movement will by then have lost all momentum and become a crusty and old institution.
We've seen this dynamic with so many movements throughout history which have changed history and I doubt Wikipedia will be exempt from this kind of organisational bloat tendency. While it has all of 23 paid staff it's still a very lean, dynamic and highly flexible organisation. As to how bureacracies manage to increase in size, see also Parkinson's Law http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson's_law .
RW said "I've found information on Wikipedia that you'd be very hard pressed to extract from any conventional library, even the greatest "
Yes, but how do you know its correct? What alternate sources are you comparing against, given that its not in the greatest libraries around? You need to substantiate the material or its worthless.
I'm afraid that if its missing from elsewhere there may be a good reason - like eg its false, inaccurate or biassed. This subject of this article sort of proves the point; anyone can put anything on Wikipedia - and remove anything, accurate or not. So material's presence and apparent rationality merely means it hasn't yet been either vandalised by a zealot or monomaniac, or authenticated by a genuine impartial observer.
Wikipedia also has problems with the presentation of science. Without the ability to vet editors for expertise (or basic sanity), you have page about all sorts of nutty things, from whacky statements about Nikola Tesla (an interesting guy, but his history is poluted by the writings of nut jobs) to Heim Theory. Crack pots have learned that half a dozen devoted people can own a page and fight off the attempts by real scientists or sensible people to correct or delete bogus information.
I registered a Wiki account a long while back. And I can tell you all that the worst crap doesn't come from anonymous users - it comes from registered users with thousands of edits, whose Contributions pages are a chronicle of slackwitted stupidity. That is, when they can spare the time from warring with other editors and just generally being wankers. And of course they tend to arse-lick the higher-up Wiki figures, so God help you if you cross them.
I've tangled with Rawat's cult. They paid Schillings and Schillings (expensive London lawyers at the service of wacko cultists, it seems) to write to my employer trying to get me sacked.
Nasty people, but not as nasty as Scientologists, true. Equally deluded, of course -- but you could say the same of Aum Shrinko, or Al Qaeda operatives.
Nothing to worry about there, then!
Wikipedia seems to be slowly mutating into the Galaxy's favourite encyclopedia, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. With many of its articles based on biased opinion or on the limited knowledge of a single person or small group of people, it can hardly regarded as either reliable or extensive. In H2G2, this is seen in the comment Ford Prefect entered for Earth; "Mostly Harmless". However, the main comparison lies in the biggest selling points of the two encyplopedias - the user friendly interface and the great number of articles that are of practical use in every day life rather than of use in the world of academia (eg, finding the running order for P2P downloaded TV series).
No one [sane] goes to Wikipedia because they believe it to be the most reliable source of information. They do it because it's the frendliest source of information, and that means that providing fun info is more important than providing factual, unbiased information.
You need to have a look at the main Scientology article on Wikipedia. It is currently locked so nobody can edit it and just the first few paragraphs will make you forget any notion you might have had that it is controlled by Scientology. They wish!
If people are worried that Wikipedia is too soft on cults, check Wikipedia's Scientology article against the Encyclopedia Britannica one on Scientology. You will find that Britannica is MUCH kinder to Scientology.
Wikipedia is pretty much my first stop when exploring a new topic. I understand that I can't automatically believe anything I read on Wikipedia, but the same is of any source of information.
The only thing that worries me is that some people don't get this, too many people seem to have drunk the Wikipedian coolaid.
Anyway most of what I am looking for on Wikipeidia is of the too dull to lie about category. The international standard for two letter country codes, linux shell commands, ...
set of books. Someone earlier mentioned that a library is a better source.
Well we would like to think that is the case and historically Libraries are the central source for all good reference knowledge on a range of topics but just because a book has been written and published does not mean that it too is 100% accurate!
People have falsified information in books to skew the reader into thinking something different the only reason this comes to light in Wikipedia is due to its transport medium and quick accessibility as opposed to books.
This is not a new problem nor is it any different from what has happened for 100's of years in books.
This touches on one of Wikipedia's fundamental problems. An editor who is intimately familiar with a topic is presumably in a better position to write about that topic - and is more likely to edit it - than an editor who is unfamiliar with the same topic; but because the editors are not vetted, there is no way to filter out people who have a mass of specialist knowledge but who are also twisted and wrong. This is a continual problem with the more esoteric subjects, the ones that tend to attractive single-minded autistic people (e.g. quantum physics, grammar), that are hard for general readers to understand.
Certain topics, particularly the medical ones, have to be taken on faith; the reader has to trust that the editor knows what he is talking about, and that he has not slanted the article in a certain direction. Wikipedia cannot defend itself against a David Irving type, the kind of clever vandal who can assemble a mass of reference work, and then selectively mistranslate, misinterpret, spin and pluck this reference work to support a particular point of view.
Wikipedia really needs people who have a good general standard of education; who can evaluate a diverse range of topics; who can write well; and who know their own limitations. Editors who are self-aware and can tell when they should step aside and let someone else do the work. Who are pure as the driven snow. Who will know which topics to not edit under any circumstances. Unfortunately for Wikipedia such people are rare.
You actually have it spot on, Wikipedia has the potential to be a prime example of Life imitating Art......as a social experiment it is a good one...everyone knows it's inaccurate (often wildly) but no-one stops using it because it's so so much easier to wiki something than trawl through your local library or through hundreds of possible hits on google.....
and I'll be honest, it is handy for niche interest areas or little known topics; I've spent hours on there reliving childhood memories on comic books and tv shows from my yoof...
also an opinion of mine (uncited) is that most history is biased, based upon belief and opinion anyway, didn't Caesar say "History is written by the Victors"? Or did someone else say that but he won and took the credit?
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