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The Internet Education

Wikipedia 2.0, Now With Trust? 228

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
USB EVDO writes "The online encyclopedia is set to trial two systems aimed at boosting readers' confidence in its accuracy. Over the past few years, a series of measures aimed at reducing the threat of vandalism and boosting public confidence in Wikipedia have been developed. Last month a project designed independently of Wikipedia, called WikiScanner, allowed people to work out what the motivations behind certain entries might be by revealing which people or organizations the contributions were made by. Meanwhile the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that oversees the online encyclopedia, now says it is poised to trial a host of new trust-based capabilities."
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Wikipedia 2.0, Now With Trust?

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  • by speaker of the truth (1112181) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:32AM (#20718943)
    Wikipedia is good enough for personal information or simply a quick look, i.e. unimportant information, however I doubt it will ever become the encyclopaedia it supposedly hopes of becoming. However having said that, it is certainly an interesting experiment and look into human nature (or at least American nature) with this trust-based scheme simply making the experiment more interesting.
    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:35AM (#20718959) Homepage
      The problem is that many other reference sites on various topics, developed privately by informed and qualified individuals, have now folded since the maintainers thought Wikipedia superseded hosting such information on one's own website. And now, such information on Wikipedia can be vandalized at any moment right before someone would go look at the page, and kooks can twist the page to their own ends.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:57AM (#20719143)
        I don't know. Personally, I have found exactly what I have wanted from wikipedia every time I have looked into it - on articles ranging from people, geography or technology. Every time I wanted somebody to know something, wikipedia has never failed me. Granted, you may see traces/evidences of vandalism, but give me a system without any amount of noise in it. While you jump up and down shouting 'because anybody can edit it, it can not be trusted', I can simply not think any other website/reference/system capable of replacing wikipedia. And what I find funny is that you - the doubters - end up using it nonetheless.

        Give me an alternative to wikipedia with less noise in it, or shut the fuck up.
        • by BakaHoushi (786009) <Goss DOT Sean AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:49AM (#20719533) Homepage
          Wikipedia, if you'll allow me to use emotional buzzwords for a minute as if I were a politician in a debate, is a great example of democracy and freedom of speech. The truth is, we'd like all signal and no noise, but to try and rid yourself of all noise, you're going to lose some signal. By forbidding a certain action/author/etc. on Wikipedia, you may ban 100 vandals, but you also ban 1 extremely useful editor. To let the truly insightful speak, you need to let the truly braindead have their say, too.

          The best way to deal with this is our old favorite saying, "citation needed." Like any information source, you need to ask "where did this information come from?" Using Wikipedia for serious work is a bad idea... directly... but it is a good place to find links to other places with more direct credibility.

          Not to mention one should always check the "recent edits" pages for signs of vandals.

          Wikipedia is imperfect, but so are the creatures that make it, so it's to be expected. It has a vast array of information that is hard to find anywhere else, and one of the best ways to look up "Amazon Wildlife" without running into horrible fetish porn sites along the way. So as long as people are willing to read and think and have a grain of salt ready, it will remain a valuable and interesting source of information.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mpe (36238)
            By forbidding a certain action/author/etc. on Wikipedia, you may ban 100 vandals, but you also ban 1 extremely useful editor.

            There's also the issue of how much you should trust the people doing the banning.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by zanybrainy941 (972076)

          Personally, I have found exactly what I have wanted from wikipedia every time I have looked

          How do you know? You found something, you read something, it passed the sniff test ... now, what is the truth value of what you found?

          Personally, I love Wikipedia for answering questions like "what is this thing and where does it fit into the big picture". I also think there are a lot of capable motivated people making sure that it's as close to true as possible. Still, if you're relying on it for some specif

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Solra Bizna (716281)

          I commonly visit Wikipedia to learn details of a specific algorithm. Sometimes (actually, rather often) I'll read the article and I'll see at least one statement that seems to contradict the rest of the paragraph it's in simply by having or lacking an extra "not" in a key place.

          And I think to myself, "either I'm wrong, or this page was vandalized."

          -:sigma.SB

        • Wasn't there an article here on /. a month ago about someone who developed an algorithm that would track data on different editors (number of disputed/undisputed edits, number of total edits, how long account has existed, etc) and different entries (external references, number of total revisions, etc) and give a fairly accurate percentage rating on the reliability of the article? It seems like a big 57% reliable at the top of the article would make it clear that maybe the Bill Gates article was a little sk
        • by MT628496 (959515) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @02:10PM (#20720641)

          Give me an alternative to wikipedia with less noise in it, or shut the fuck up.
          Just because you don't have an answer, doesn't mean that there isn't a problem.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Taxman415a (863020)
          If you've used it often for the things you've mentioned, and not checked further sources each time, then you've probably been taken for a ride at least once. I've been an active contributor for a few years now, and I can tell you that if it is for something important, Wikipedia isn't trustable right now for the most part. And that's fine right now because it's a work in progress, and the only problem is in expecting it to be 100% correct right now. As part of working on articles I see lots of vandalism that
      • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:11AM (#20719255) Homepage

        Every time this issue comes up, I make the same suggestion: the Wikipedia should branch into something like "stable" and "unstable" versions. Let the kooks vandalize the unstable version, but try to get trusted editors and fact-checkers to check-in changes to the stable branch.

        First, this keeps the kooks out. Second, if you limit trust strictly enough, then you limit the number of people who can do damage to the stable branch. You set up a review process for those people, which should be easier since there are fewer of them and they're somehow in your "trust" system. Give them instructions that all information that's presented as fact needs to be cited to a reliable source, and have someone watching the watchmen. If any of your fact checkers or experts violate their trust, revoke their trust.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by joeszilagyi (635484)
          Stable and unstable versions exist on the German wikipedia, but the English (main) Wikipedia users and admins have been very resistant to the idea.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by risk one (1013529)

          I would be very surprised (and a little annoyed) if they don't use this as the basic mechanism behind their validation scheme. This preserves the freedom of editing, and greatly decreases the probability that somebody reading Wikipedia will see a vandalized/substandard version of an article. Rather than merging changes from one branch to the other, like in software development, however, I think WP would be better off tagging a version of an article as stable, and keeping the latest version as unstable.

          The

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nine-times (778537)

            ather than merging changes from one branch to the other, like in software development, however, I think WP would be better off tagging a version of an article as stable, and keeping the latest version as unstable....[snip]... An automated trust network (like the one described in the article) should be used to assign contributors a trust rating, and then let people vote on the validity of an article or section.

            I see a conflict here; if you base the trust on a per-user basis, it doesn't get you to trusting

        • I think it would be a good option for some of the more complete articles to be tagged as "this is a featured article. If you wish to contribute please use the discussion page".
          Too many featured articles have lost their status due to people adding piles and piles of useless information, ripping up consistency and well written texts.
          That way there might be more focus on improving the information that's there, than on just adding and reverting small edits.
      • by Kjella (173770)
        I still have never gotten to a Wikipedia page that's been vandalized, and while the media loves to put up "for 30 minutes, this B-celebrity's bio said he was a kiddie fiddler". Besides if you're quoting wikipedia there's always the permanent link, which is what I'd use if I ever noticed the problem. No, the problem is when there's a mainstream opinion or no such opinion, but a rabid minority that'll keep editing the page to fit their biased view. This is particularly true for anything and anyone who has "fa
      • Too bad more of these experts didn't choose to contribute to the relevant Wikipedia entries, and link back to their own sites. Personally, I like checking out the external links on an entry, both to for verifiability, and for more in-depth information.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Troll-proofing a reference site (as opposed to a casual forum like /.) without a paid staff is laughable, it's just a good-sounding measure to pacify a particular market (Germany in this case). It will be easy enough for either pranksters or marketers/scammers to figure out and workaround whatever provisions they set up... also there will be a black market for people who have established the creds to get it done.
      • by Snowspinner (627098) <philsand@@@ufl...edu> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:59AM (#20719163) Homepage
        Except, generally speaking, we do OK. Yes, there will still be vandalized/spammed entries. But, as someone who uses Wikipedia frequently both as a reader and as an editor, I can tell you, I rarely run into an article with transparently serious problems. Thus far, as many new techniques and workarounds as trolls, pranksters, and scammers have figured out, none have been able to overcome the one technique we've figured out - having a shitload of well-intentioned volunteers who are broadly empowered to fix things.
    • If you want a quick -- nay, exhaustive -- overview of the 5th season of "Buffy," or come across a reference to "Boba Fett" in an online forum and want to learn more, Wikipedia is the site to hit. It's value as a font of pop culture knowledge is augmented by its geek-contributors obsessive behavior. Politics? Religion? Any chapter in History or Current Events involving Politics or Religion? Reader Beware.

      • by Snowspinner (627098) <philsand@@@ufl...edu> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:06AM (#20719205) Homepage
        I dunno. Out of the 30 articles featured and to-be-featured on the main page in September, 7 are popular culture articles. (An article on D&D, the "Bus Uncle" video clip, the pilot episode of Smallville, OutKast's "Hey Ya," Alison Bechdel's graphic novel "Fun Home, the Indian film Lage Raho Munna Bhai, and tomorrow's featured article on Blood Sugar Sex Magik) Yes, that list skews a bit geek (Though the Bechdel graphic novel is about as far from a geek comic as one can get), but there's still 23 featured articles this month on such geeky topics as meteorology, European rugby, Soviet history, and American industrial disasters.

        It's more accurate to say that we, compared to similar reference works, have a disproportionately good coverage of geeky topics. That does not appear to have come at the cost of our coverage of other topics.
        • by cashman73 (855518)
          Well, Wikipedia's Featured Article Director, Raul654 [wikipedia.org], the one that determines what FAs make it on the main page each day, is also a slashdotter [slashdot.org],... so that would explain the rather high number of "geeky" articles, wouldn't it? ;-)
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Politics? Religion? Any chapter in History or Current Events involving Politics or Religion? Reader Beware.

        Isn't that true in general? These two things are endless flame wars. For the same reasons, we have separate news networks, separate religions busy blowing each other up, etc.

        Finding 3rd parties to write about these things isn't really an answer: either they just plain don't exist, they exist but are not interested at all, or they exist, are interested, and are employed by Britannica or World Book
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Except for the notability crackdown. Unless the 5th season of Buffy is notable in some way, articles about it will probably be deleted with prejudice. I used to go to wikipedia to read trivia about every single episode of Futurama, but they've started cracking down on that; if a TV episide hasn't been nominated for an award, you might not be able to find it on WP in the coming future. (There are other possible reasons for something to be considered notable besides nominations, of course). "Trivia" sectio
      • But there's still no information on how to use a "no-spill" gas can without spilling gas =(
    • by DrBuzzo (913503)
      I agree with the assessment of Wikipedia as good for a "quick look." Most of the information is pretty accurate, but it's not something I'd use for serious research.

      However I do admit that I LOVE Wikipedia, but not because I see it as a good source of highly reliable scholarly information. It's the only place where I can find out basic info on stuff from "Neutron Binding Energy" to "Ren and Stimpy" to "List of Beatles Songs" to "Warp Engine (science fiction." And it's also updated crazy-fast when s
    • Given that independent studies have shown it to be more factual than standard encyclopedias, I'm not sure why people continue to throw about the claim that it will never become as good as a standard encyclopedia.

      I dare say, it surpassed standard encyclopedias some time ago.

      The Wikipedia is not without fault, but the same can be said for any source.
  • fundamental flaw (Score:3, Insightful)

    by daniel.waterfield (960460) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:38AM (#20718983) Homepage Journal
    Er, won't wikiscanner just move the corporate/political vandals to home? This is leaving out the fact that wikipedia will never be seriously trusted due to it's open nature, to be taken seriously requires it to close off public access and to change to specialised, academic authorship - something that would corrupt it's mission.
  • Irony: (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kymri (1093149) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:46AM (#20719021)
    Seeing a 'Is Fox News fair and balanced?' poll as the ad for this story makes me amused.
  • by LordKazan (558383) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:47AM (#20719029) Homepage Journal
    I stopped editing wikipedia due to some extremely biased, shrill, and bludgeon-you-with-the-rules (claim you were violating the rules when you weren't) editors.

    One of these editors was an admin, another was on ArbCom. It was basically a group of people who would camp one specific subject and keep it edited to support the cultural status quo/their religion's position on the article. They did it through keeping information out of the article that would cast the subject in the disfavorable light it should have, and does in most of the non-english speaking world, and some of the english speaking world.

    These individuals would probably pass whatever trust-checking mechanism.

    The truth is not reached via consensus.
    • Out of curiosity, what was the topic and the positions you mentioned?
      • If you look at his users history you'll find that it was about circumcision. I can't say that I disagree with his standpoint, but whining around because he was involved in an edit war on a highly controversial subject doesn't in my opinion do anything to discredit the rest of the encyclopaedia.
    • Truth vs consensus (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ElMiguel (117685)

      I think reaching the truth via consensus is realistic; it seems to work pretty well in the scientific world. The problem with Wikipedia is that each editor self-selects himself to work on the tiny part of Wikipedia he wants to, and so people with an agenda are overrepresented in some articles. I do agree that people with agendas using legalism to try to weed out dissenting opinions seems to be one of Wikipedia's biggest problems (and I'm not even an editor).

      • by Thanatopsis (29786) <despain.brian@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:02AM (#20719185) Homepage
        Truth by consensus? That's not how the scientific world works. There's the whole experimental model and reproducibility of experiments that leads to consensus.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          There's the whole experimental model and reproducibility of experiments that leads to consensus.

          Uhh, you just proved the GP's point. He didn't say HOW consensus was reached, just that it was ruled by consensus.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by liquidpele (663430)
        "I think reaching the truth via consensus is realistic"

        This is very true. Anyone who has read "Seven habits of successful people" would recognize this, because people interpret raw data differently. Two people can look at the exact same data, and see different things. What is the right answer? There isn't one, it's just interpretation, so in MOST cases, the "truth" is in fact a consensus consisting of a lot of compromises.

        I think it's infinitely more important to have "understanding" than "truth",
        • by smallfries (601545) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:28AM (#20719369) Homepage
          Well, anyone who reads self-help books has a problem with understanding reality, let alone truth. Let's examine this wishy-washy new age idea that truth is a consensus consisting of a lot of compromises. I think that this idea is completely flawed on every level. You obviously do not. What consensus do we reach; that it's only partly a bunch of shit?

          To back your point up you mention that things like "history" work less well than things like "thermodynamics". Do you really believe this is because people understand each other's views on science subjects more than arts subjects? That a consensus position can more easily be reached?

          The basic problem with this theory of truth by consensus is that it assumes that truth is not discrete, and it can be reached by majority voting. In many subjects truth is discrete, and the voting model is closer to winner-takes-all. The reason that the truth crystallizes in this manner is because it is objectively testable. This is why we refer to the set of things that behaves in this manner - science. That which can be studied by the scientific method.

          Furthermore, I think that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what wikipedia's purpose is. It has very explicit design goals, using your terms, it attempts to construct articles that have all of the known facts. That it, is ignores "understanding" as you put it, or POV as wiki puts it. If a fact can be attributed to a respectable source then it goes in. Understanding is left as an exercise for the reader.

          You miss the point that wiki is better for science, because in terms of establishing what the facts are, science subjects are the low hanging fruit. History (for example) is harder because the facts are not always in an objectively testable form, and usually have to pried from subjective observation. An ideal wikipedia article is not a "compromise" between all of the opinions that went into it - it is a collection of all of the facts that could be verified regardless of whether or not the contributors agreed upon them.
          • I see your point, but try to understand mine. "reality" in many cases, is simply a person's view. If you disagree, then tell me in a precise measurement how much you love your mom. Another example: You might bring your mom spam for xmas one year. Maybe she hates spam, but maybe you love it. If she thinks you were being mean because she hates spam, and you think you were being nice because you like spam, who's right? What's the truth? There is not a 100% accurate answer. Dumb example, but you get my d

      • I think reaching the truth via consensus is realistic; it seems to work pretty well in the scientific world.

        No. No it doesn't. At every major breakthrough of science, the entire preceding body of work has to be challenged and rewritten. Truth comes first. The consensus comes later.

        At every breakthrough, if the truth was subject to a vote, the new discovery would be outvoted--you have one guy (or team) with his experimental data, against every one else who still believes in the old perspective.
        • by ElMiguel (117685)

          Sure, but Wikipedia's goal is not to produce new scientific breakthroughs, but to document current knowledge.

          In the scientific world, you can judge the validity of theories or try to reproduce experimental results in those areas in which you are an expert. For anything else, your best bet for getting as close to the truth as feasible is relying on the consensus. And, as I said, I think this works pretty well.

    • by discord5 (798235)

      I stopped editing wikipedia due to some extremely biased, shrill, and bludgeon-you-with-the-rules (claim you were violating the rules when you weren't) editors.

      Slam them in the discussion page with NPOV [wikipedia.org]. The irony would not be lost :)

    • Same thing here (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rolfwind (528248)
      I tried adding something once to an article but they kept bludgeoning me and removing it due to that it wasn't referenced. I did reference it to a reliable source but I put it in a "External Links" as I couldn't add it to the citations/sources without being a registered user for some reason. If I have to become a registered user to add a citation, and if I have to add citations to add things without them being automatically deleted (regardless of their merit), that destroys a lot of anonymity. Which may
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SEWilco (27983)
        And I got bludgeoned for adding and improving references. By people who refused to state what the case was about and why they were voting, although the rules require them to.
      • by Haeleth (414428)

        If I have to become a registered user to add a citation, and if I have to add citations to add things without them being automatically deleted (regardless of their merit), that destroys a lot of anonymity.

        Firstly, you don't have to register to add citations. Citations are the same as the rest of the page - if you can edit anything, you can edit the lot. I don't know what you were doing wrong, but it wasn't Wikipedia's fault.

        Secondly, registering doesn't destroy anonymity; it improves anonymity! You don't

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Eli Gottlieb (917758)

      One of these editors was an admin, another was on ArbCom. It was basically a group of people who would camp one specific subject and keep it edited to support the cultural status quo/their religion's position on the article. They did it through keeping information out of the article that would cast the subject in the disfavorable light it should have, and does in most of the non-english speaking world, and some of the english speaking world.

      Why do I get this awful feeling I know exactly which subject you're talking about?

      Seriously, what are you talking about?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Snowspinner (627098)
      It's good to know that /. has enough committed Wikipedia opponents to raise a completely vapid and contentless post to a 5 in seconds. This explains how shit like the "ZOMG A WIKIPEDIA ADMINISTRATOR IS A SPY" thing got to the front page.

      The shortest answer to this post is that Wikipedia isn't trying to publish the truth. It's trying to publish a neutral overview of things that have been claimed to be the truth. People who don't understandt his often have idfficult times on Wikipedia. This is because they ar
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537)

      You're right, truth is not reached via consensus. But then, truth is not reached via authority either. In fact, I can't think of any set path which will always arrive and truth and never falsehood. If you have, please share, since it would lead to a huge philosophic and scientific revolution.

      In the mean time, the best means to truth available to us (AFAICT) seems to be open discussion and review by knowledgeable and experienced people. So far, the Wikipedia has all of that, but I'm not sure it has a me

    • So what exactly is it that makes them wrong and you right, instead of them maintaining article quality and you trying to grind an axe on Wikipedia?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by owlnation (858981)
      I wholeheartedly agree. And am in exactly the same position, I'm sure there are many of us.

      The issue of trust is not one of sock puppetry, viral marketing, vandalism nor shill behavior of contributors. That is only to be expected -- and is of course absolutely rampant throughout the site.

      That will NEVER stop. The perpetrators will simply get better at hiding it. If you run a large corporation, NGO, government etc etc, and you are not using Wikipedia to manipulate your agenda, then you are an idiot, be
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by afabbro (33948)
      I stopped editing Wikipedia BECAUSE of their obsession with "being legit". It got really tiresome to look through pages with nearly every sentence marked "citation needed". Or to come back and find that whole paragraphs have been stricken from pages because they weren't sufficiently documented. There are dozens of pages I can think of that were once long, in-depth articles that have been reduced to stubs in the name of "being legit". I also disagree with the anti-original-research policy.

      The whole poi

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @01:34PM (#20720387) Journal
        The whole 'notability' requirement was one that really irritated me. I would have thought 'usefulness' was a much better standard for an encyclopaedia with no real size constraints. If a page is getting hits from people reading it, then it should count as sufficiently notable to remain, and not be deleted because it doesn't meet someone's standards for important. It's not like it's wasting shelf space...
    • It would be helpful to know the specifics. Sounds like a straightforward [[WP:TEND]] [slashdot.org] issue. In particular...

      You often find yourself accusing or suspecting other editors of "suppressing information", "censorship" or "denying facts".
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sigma 7 (266129)

      I stopped editing wikipedia due to some extremely biased, shrill, and bludgeon-you-with-the-rules (claim you were violating the rules when you weren't) editors.

      Recently, there was an anonymous editor on the Mousepad [wikipedia.org] article that was accusing regular editors under similar reasoning - in particular, making claims of pushing conjecture and plagiarism. When that editor was asked to provide a citation behind those claims, he merely made a list of pages he disagreed with rather than providing the information requested (even after being given a clarification.) As of this moment, both the article and talk page are semi-protected to prevent disruption.

      The rules were fol

  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:47AM (#20719031)
    1. Pay contributors, i.e., give them revenue. Even micro-payments will do, pennies. (The added side-benefit of this is that it means contributors will most likely need paypal accounts, which most likely means they will be "of age:" No more changing entries as result of bets made in the back of the school bus.)

    2. Fire contributors who screw up, depriving them of that revenue.

    3. Problem solved.

    Anything else is a hippy-dippy feel-good buzz-word Web-X-point-something-or-other that begins with the letter "cluster."

    • by Snowspinner (627098) <philsand@@@ufl...edu> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:55AM (#20719111) Homepage
      Wikipedia gets hundreds of edits per minute. I don't think even micropayments are going to be cost-effective.
      • by mrnobo1024 (464702) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:22AM (#20719313)
        Plus, any kind of payment system would have people trying to game it, to the detriment of quality - if Wikipedia paid by the edit, they'd have people dragging out trivial changes through as many separate edits as possible, making the history tab practically unusable.

        Whereas on the other hand, if Wikipedia were to pay by amount of content added, this would be likely to lead to the rather undesirable consequence that editors of the aforementioned Internet-based encyclopedia might pad out their edits through the utilization of wholly unnecessary verbiage, guided by the realization that this practice would vastly increase their character count and therefore result in a larger payment to be made to the editors in question, granting to them a larger share of their economy's purchasing power - considered by many to be a desirable state of affairs, and certain to in some cases override any aesthetic misgivings that they might otherwise have had regarding the practice of composing overly long sentences such as this one.
    • On the other hand (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Jotii (932365)
      If you had to pay to edit Wikipedia, only the serious editors would do it.

    • 2. Fire contributors who screw up, depriving them of that revenue.

      Who determines if #2 happens? Who gets to decide if a statement is not factual? You can only use other experts to decide that--so are you proposing finding 3 experts for every subject matter? We have that now, btw. It's called the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

      And you didn't even address where the money for #1 would come from. Ads? Then we would risk having advertiser bias. Subscriptions? Then how is this better than the Enc Brit?

      It's
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:47AM (#20719035)
    There is nothing wrong with Wikipedia as it is. I have never trusted traditional encylopedias more than Wikipedia. There is often much more information available in Wikipedia than in a traditional encyclopedia. Furthermore the this comment is just plain dumb "Last month a project designed independently of Wikipedia, called WikiScanner, allowed people to work out what the motivations behind certain entries might be by revealing which people or organisations the contributions were made by." Who gives a crap who made the edit I'm only concerned with the accuracy or value of the information present; if you believe everything you read no amount of academic authorship is going to help anyone. I for one like to listen to whatever anyone has to say on any subject be they retarded or wearing a tin foil hat or if they are teaching at university.
  • Trust? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SilentGhost (964190)
    Common, even /. is more trustfull. Trust is not something you can buy with another set of features.
  • rfta (Score:3, Interesting)

    by distantbody (852269) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:54AM (#20719095) Journal
    And yet the simplest and most effective quality control, requiring registration, is still considered sacrilege to the Wikipedia overlords...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Snowspinner (627098)
      Actually, if there's one thing WikiScanner showed, it was that not requiring registration is useful to us in identifying problems.

      Registration is a small hurdle. While it's impossible to bot-register accounts, and thus requiring registration would provide a layer of insulation from vandalbot accounts, we haven't actually had a serious vandalbot attack in years. For your garden variety fuckwittery, registering an account doesn't fix much - most of our total fuckwits are registered.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kusma (139069)
      Registration is a very poor method of quality control. Registering a nickname provides far more anonymity and less accountability than posting your IP address. Unlike on Slashdot, the IP addresses of edits made while not logged in are public on Wikipedia. Mandatory registration would make corporations completely safe from WikiScanner and similar tools.
    • That wouldn't remedy anything, it would just make the user database bloat up with fake accounts.
  • by sczimme (603413) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:57AM (#20719141)

    Instead of using a link to a sub-optimal blog site, how about a link to the actual New Scientist article. [newscientist.com]

  • The article summary hits the nail on the head because that's what it's all about: boosting reader confidence, even despite any concerns about accuracy. Oddly enough the two concepts are different and yet closely related. And then there's Citizendium [citizendium.org] who state "We aim at credibility and quality, not just quantity". I'll tell you, Wikipedia is smart, expanding their already huge user-base by slowly gaining more trust, whereas Citizendium just decided to turn everything on its head suddenly. This could be a lo
  • I don't know if I can trust that tmcnet site. Is it bad formatting or bad reporting when it says:

    "As a result, although Wikipedia has grown in since its launch in 2001 around
    per cent
    f all internet users now visit the site on any given day its information
    ontinues to be treated cautiously."

  • by uid7306m (830787)
    The trouble with trusted editors is that any large organization can afford to pay someone to become a trusted editor. All you have to do is hire someone reasonably smart, and tell them to spend a day per week helping Wikipedia. Then, once and a while, you tell them to fix what you want fixed. Some would refuse, but others would not want to risk their job.

    Since large organizations spend millions on PR, they would happily spend the small sums it would require for this plan. We're talking about US$40,
  • Interesting article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MarkWatson (189759) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:34AM (#20719411) Homepage
    I like De Alfaro's statistical approach of ranking both blocks of text and editors.

    I also like the approach of checking IP addresses, although I was caught in that: earlier this year I added an article on machine learning, but someone from my ISP had done vandalism; I was blocked for a few days until I went through their system; no problem, just a delay.

    The whole topic of trust is a very interesting problem, one that also occurs on web sites, the semantic web, etc. (Imagine trying to perform reasoning with RDF on the web when some contains fake information).

    I (slightly) embarrassed myself last night by sending a link to a parody article to a few friends and family, not realizing that it was a parody - I had to send out a "never mind" email this morning.

    I have mixed feelings about private anonymous use of the web vs. the benefits to knowing who people are. I very recently turned off anonymous posting on my web blog - too many anonymous posts offered opinion that I doubt the posters would express if they represented themselves.

    As an open platform (hopefully forever), the Internet will evolve in interesting ways :-)

    • I was blocked for a few days until I went through their system

      Hm. I wonder if it would help to have a queue of articles that have been edited, but do not yet show up on the main page? Then the wiki Nazis could monitor that queue, and catch vandalism before it actually made it the published pages. After a period of time--say 24 hours, the edits are automatically published.

      This would have the disadvantage of introducing a latency to good fixes, but I think it would really cut down on vandalism and graf
  • I really wish /. posts would stop asking if wikipedia is "trustworthy" or "reliable". All of the cynics reply in chorus "no, it can't be because X can vandalize article Y, and group Z can gang up and bully topic Q into having systemic bias omg wtf @!$!".

    No kidding. This happens. Guess what? It happens in print encyclopaedias also. Replace vandalism with plain old errors, replace the systemic bias of group Z with that of the editors and voila.

    Then you have the camp of "ex-editors" who are really no
  • Note (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joeszilagyi (635484) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:44AM (#20719473)
    Trust is reliability. The problem is that (as others mention below) trust, truth, and fact are not subject to deviation or consensus. No matter HOW much some want it to be. The problem with Wikipedia is everything is subject to groupthink review and approval.

    Science isn't. Facts aren't. The sky is blue, the planet is billiions of years old, two airplanes flown by terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, intellegient design is myth.

    If enough people say otherwise aggressively enough, though, Wikipedia--even if they don't outright say otherwise--will leave it gray enough to be contested.

  • by kingduct (144865) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:52AM (#20719555)
    I now find contributing to Wikipedia unbearable. At one time, everyone was supposed to contribute what they knew. It was a place for the world to create a new form of reference based on everyone's knowledge. Now, I find that if I contribute about things I know, I am told to find a citation. Thus, incorrect information with citations is allowed on, and good information without citations is removed. The goal is to look academic (like tradition resources) and not to let everyone share (like it originally was). It was incredibly frustrating to have people who had no idea what they were talking about start telling me that I was in the wrong for changing things.

    I can understand people wanting to make sure that the right stuff is put on the wikipedia. But shouldn't it be people with experience in the subject matter of the topic who go through and find what is wrong? Instead it seems like people attach themselves to articles and feel like rules changes in the wikipedia give them the power to control articles and show their academic formatting superiority, even when they know nothing about the topic. I still use the wikipedia some, but this change has actually made me lose some of my trust in it. Whereas before the wikipedia more openly admitted that it was imperfect and I took it for what it was, now it pretends to be perfect and in order to do so is reducing its validity and I distrust it for that pretension.
    • by 808140 (808140) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @01:53PM (#20720533)
      It is true that cited information that happens to be incorrect or misguided will often be difficult or impossible to remove due to the existence of a citation — this is clearly a problem. However, I do not see the other direction as being an issue.

      The fact is, nearly everything that is correct and accurate can indeed be cited. Wikipedia has, for very good reasons, a policy of not allowing original research — so anything you determine yourself is not admissible. But everything else is.

      I'm the sort of person that "knows" a lot of stuff. I have a lot of trivia and information stored in my brain; I'd wager many Slashdotters are similarly of the "know-it-all" variety. But I cannot tell you how many times I have sworn that some factoid or other was true only to discover in the course of research that I was either mistaken, or that the knowledge was somehow so obscure that no one else made any references to it whatsoever (which, let's face it, probably means I was mistaken).

      Unlike you, apparently, when this happens I thank my lucky stars that WP encourages citation of sources. When something is correct, finding a cite is a trivial endeavor, as it only amounts to telling them where you read what you're saying. When something is incorrect, your inability to find a cite will prevent you from looking like a daft fool by insisting something is true when it's not.

      Many people who think they are experts tend to assume that the "cite everything" policy that WP has adopted does not apply to them — but more often than not, these people are not actually experts. Real experts, who do research and read on their subject of expertise in an academic setting pretty much full time, are accustomed to citing their sources (although they are often not accustomed to WP's prohibition against original research — but that's something else entirely).

      As a rule of thumb, if you can't find a citation for what you know to be true, it's probably not true, and so I cannot empathize with your distaste for the citation requirement. However, I think you are right in your assessment of the problem in the other direction: citations can be of poor quality and be incorrect themselves, and people can be very unreceptive (read: belligerent) when you suggest that citation or no, their statement is either incorrect or POV or whatever.

    • But shouldn't it be people with experience in the subject matter of the topic who go through and find what is wrong?

      Yes! Yes! But a) how do you find those people, and provided that you do, b) how do you get them to work for free?
    • At one time, everyone was supposed to contribute what they knew.

      In practice, many editors of Wikipedia believe they know things that aren't true. Since everybody's anonymous, there's no way to separate the real experts from the kooks. When you get right down to it, material just isn't useful unless it can be verified [wikipedia.org] through references. This policy of demanding references is a matter of necessity, and not just an attempt to "look academic" as you make it out to be.

  • Trust isn't the Wikipedia's biggest problem at all. Its biggest problem is that it is an encyclopedia that is treated by many as a primary or secondary source. When someone argues that the Wikipedia is not appropriate for citations in something like a research paper, they get flamed by people claiming its more accurate or has more information than traditional encyclopedias. But thats completely missing the point; no encyclopedia (or any other tertiary source) is an appropriate source for citations.
  • Thanks to all you folks at Wikipedia, maybe this will help US, EU ... understand and learn some about reality.

    I remember reading encyclopedias and listening to news in the 1950/60s. By the mid 70s, I knew there was little truth in any history, but many extensive facts spun to cultural propaganda.

    Among many cultural groups globally names like Hitler, Stalin, Mao ... Caesar, Huang, Alexander ... Ramesses, Saladin, Urban, Gupta, Columbus, Cortez, Falwell, Farrakhan ... Nixon, Reagan, Kohmani, Sharon, Kennedy,
  • This is an really interesting problem. In my opinion vandalism is not an issue with wikipedia but the quality of the research work involved with each article is. Every article has a varying degree of quality to it. Some are "good" as in someone who did thorough research has written the article. Some are "good" because many people did little good bits of research and the combination is good. Some are "bad" because the research was flimsy or the article is tainted by the bias of the author. Not all articles
  • Cache citations (Score:3, Interesting)

    by doctor_no (214917) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @02:25PM (#20720795)
    One thing I wish Wikipedia would do is cache the citations; if the citations are made to a website. I've noticed a slightly out-of-date wiki entry would usually have a good majority of their citations lead to pages that no longer exist. I'm sure there are legal and technical issues that make it difficult, however, transparency of works cited is crucial.
  • Trust misplaced? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jensend (71114) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @02:27PM (#20720819)
    The article says that "trusted editor" status will be based on number and frequency of Wikipedia edits. I don't know about others, but I think that in many situations I would place considerably less trust in people who are constantly editing Wikipedia as opposed to occasional contributors- as a group they represent a very biased selection of the public at large*, and as individuals they often have agendas they're pushing which represent a major (if not the major) motivation for their continual editing.

    *I was about to submit and realized this statement could be misread to mean that they're more biased people than average. That's not what is meant, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sample_bias [wikipedia.org].
  • No, It Doesn't (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @02:34PM (#20720881)
    WikiScanner does NOT allow people to tell the "motivations" of those who make changes... it simply identifies those parties (in some cases), and other people draw their own conclusions. Those are not the same things.

    Further, WikiScanner is probably going to work itself out of a job, because now savvy people will not use Corporate sources for making their self-serving changes. Of course, WikiScanner will still continue to uncover the clueless... but if anybody in business is smart at all, its popularity is already making it less useful.
  • Well based on my coursework last week at least the U-232 alpha-decay energy appears to be accurate. That is, the peak we detected using a surface barrier detector fit quite well with Wikipedia's value. Ok, so the peak overlaps somewhat with one from Th-228, which complicates the experiment if you don't have a pure sample, but it appears to be correct. Now if you were looking for a reliable source on ME politics... well... let me know if you find one.

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