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Comment: Re:NIH has addressed this (Score 4, Interesting) 189

by Theleton (#45250089) Attached to: Why Johnny Can't Speak: a Cost of Paywalled Research

That said, I think she's exaggerating the situation somewhat. I think she should have a talk with a good reference librarian in her field.

There's another approach as well, though it's probably more for researchers than practitioners: just ask the authors to send you a copy of the article. It's not like they get royalties from the publisher, so they don't care whether you pay or not. They just want to get their research out there. Plus, every researcher who reads it is someone who might cite it, which they do care about.

Comment: Re:Having worked for a Springer journal, (Score 1) 189

by Theleton (#45250065) Attached to: Why Johnny Can't Speak: a Cost of Paywalled Research

Having worked for a Springer journal as a managing editor, I can tell you that they do not incur substantial expense

Mark Lieberman, a linguist and advocate for open access publishing, disagrees:

There are some non-trivial anti-open-access arguments. For example, there are non-zero costs associated with editing and managing a journal, which are on the order of $1,000 per published paper.
...
I've gotten versions of this order-of-magnitude number from several different types of sources, ranging from Matt Cockerill at BioMedCentral to Steven Bird at ACL. There remains a fair amount of labor beyond basic editorial and refereeing activities: copy editing, format hacking, permissions clearance, web site administration, bookkeeping, general secretarial and administrative functions. If you can get all of that done by volunteers -- or if you don't do it at all -- then the costs obviously go down. But note that we're not talking about a lot of money -- for a small journal, it's far below the cost of hiring even one professional employee.

Here's an example where I know some of the details. In 2012, Computational Linguistics published about 24 articles -- at $1000 each, that would be $24,000. In fact, through 2010 the ACL paid MIT Press $45-50k per year for copyediting, proofreading, typesetting, web hosting, marketing, handling of rights & permissions. In 2011, MIT Press introduced a LaTeX-aware copy editor, and reduced their changes to about $28k/year. In addition to these costs, there used to be a part time editorial assistant, typically a grad student, who was paid $15k/year. I believe that in 2011 that position was eliminated in favor of the OJS web-based manuscript management system; but not all journals can count on their editor being able or willing to install and maintain such a software package on a volunteer basis. So the out-of-pocket costs in 2012 were either $28k or $43k, which in either case is greater than 24*$1k. (In fact, CL does not charge author fees, but rather funds the enterprise from membership dues.)

24 articles/year seems like a small number to me, but even a journal that published ten times that number of articles would still end up with costs of $100/article under this system. You don't need to charge a lot per download to pay for that (assuming >1 person wants to read each article), but if you give them away for free you need to find the money somewhere else.

Comment: Re:Why I don't edit (Score 1) 372

by Theleton (#45244259) Attached to: Wikipedia's Participation Problem
OK, then I guess the reversion really was unwarranted. (I'm curious what the critical note was; it indicates someone really thought what you did was wrong.) Shame that it took just one bad edit to put you off the whole thing.

If you're interested, "aluminum" is the preferred American/Canadian spelling and "aluminium" the "everywhere else" one. Either would be acceptable in a Wikipedia article, but if the article is written in American English then the American spelling should be used, and if it's written in British English then use the British spelling. (Of course, many articles don't use one particular form of English consistently, which is a whole other issue.)

Comment: Re: This, this, and more this! (Score 2) 372

by Theleton (#45221027) Attached to: Wikipedia's Participation Problem
*shrug* Believe what you want. The process wasn't generally as elaborate as this, since often the article didn't exist or was just a stub, and in most cases I already had the sources available, as it was a topic I had some expertise in or that interested me. I also glossed over some individual variation: In one case I remember I discussed the edits I was planning with the primary maintainer of the article on his talk page instead of the article talk page. Other times I started out with smaller article edits and started a dialog that way before moving on to something major. Once I collaborated with a colleague, drawing on material from a workshop we attended. But the high-level description is indeed true.

We're talking edits that took maybe a full day to write and reference, not counting the research up ahead. A little time spent on preparation was worth it. Generally I don't think it's unreasonable to ask contributors (of anything at all substantial) to understand the context and history of the article (why it's in the state it's in), find reliable sources, write readable, serious text that cites those sources, and gradually build trust and credibility on Wikipedia and with other article contributors. Yeah, it's time-consuming, which is why I haven't contributed anything major recently. These days I mostly just make little fixes to articles I happen to read, once a month or so.

Comment: Re:Why I don't edit (Score 1) 372

by Theleton (#45218119) Attached to: Wikipedia's Participation Problem

I would imagine that a simple find/replace on aluminium/aluminum would screw up (a) direct quotes from references that used the other spelling, (b) the titles of references using the other spelling, (c) any discussion of the spelling variation within the article (d) links to related articles or other language versions of the article.

I should probably have read the GP's post more carefully. In an article that wasn't actually about aluminum/aluminium, these issues would be much less likely. I would still check each instance of the replace manually, though.

Comment: Re:Bad Answer to the Problem (Score 2) 372

by Theleton (#45218037) Attached to: Wikipedia's Participation Problem
And fixing this problem is in tension with the idea of not reverting edits unless they're self-evidently nonsense.

One person's "This sentence isn't wrong in itself, but it's not essential, and adding it here breaks the logical flow of the paragraph, thereby reducing readability and overall quality of the article, so I reverted it" is another's "Ego-tripping, no-life wiki-nazis refused to accept my improvements."

Comment: Re:Why I don't edit (Score 1) 372

by Theleton (#45217437) Attached to: Wikipedia's Participation Problem
While I agree with your goal of consistency, I would imagine that a simple find/replace on aluminium/aluminum would screw up (a) direct quotes from references that used the other spelling, (b) the titles of references using the other spelling, (c) any discussion of the spelling variation within the article (d) links to related articles or other language versions of the article. This would be a valid (and a really good!) reason to revert your edit, although it should also serve as a prompt for the editor to go through and standardize the spelling in a more sensitive fashion.

Comment: Re:Why would I bother? (Score 1) 372

by Theleton (#45217265) Attached to: Wikipedia's Participation Problem
Well, that sounds like a pretty happy outcome to me. It's not like most people who read it will care or even know who contributed it anyway (and those who do should be able to check out the article history to see that you wrote it first), and you know it was your contribution that improved the article. Laboring anonymously to spread knowledge, isn't that what Wikipedia editing is meant to be all about?

I realize the process of getting there was frustrating, and that you feel like someone stole your credit, but there might not have been any dishonest intent behind it. Perhaps he just realized he'd made a mistake deleting it?

Comment: Re:Yep... this is *the* problem, here and now.... (Score 1) 372

by Theleton (#45217063) Attached to: Wikipedia's Participation Problem

What the WP really needs is a system by which a real expert is able to write original content

But Wikipedia isn't meant to be a venue for publishing original content. It's meant to be an encyclopedia that collates and references original content published elsewhere. If you're really a recognized expert on some topic, you shouldn't have any problem getting it published somewhere else, surely?

You're right that a text can be a great, reliable source no matter how it was published, and I believe that a BBS article or blog post or Slashdot comment by an acknowledged authority on the topic is in fact an admissible source according to Wikipedia policy (though something that has gone through an editor or peer review is preferred, obviously). It just can't be something revealed for the first time on Wikipedia itself. It has to be published somewhere else first. (And the identity of the author must be verifiable and confirmed, of course.)

But the admins and editors who deal with these things see hundreds of them a day, and most of them are in fact bogus; completely unreliable information from random people on the internet (often the person trying to get it inserted into Wikipedia as an act of self promotion). So they might get a bit trigger-happy in flagging stuff that isn't published in some "reputable" venue. It's definitely unfortunate if those overreactions push people away, and better tools and policies for moderating newbies might be helpful.

Comment: Re:This, this, and more this! (Score 5, Interesting) 372

by Theleton (#45216573) Attached to: Wikipedia's Participation Problem
I would like to echo this, if only to provide some balance to all the complaints. Not to deny that unwarranted (or at least poorly explained) reversions and deletions occur, but for a lot of these claims, upon closer examination, it turns out the edit had problems and violated one of Wikipedia's policies (most often because it's not the kind of information Wikipedia includes, with lack of sources the second-most-common reason). For some of the Slashdotters complaining, I would be astonished if their edits did in fact adhere to Wikipedia policy and style, just given the way they post here.

I've written at least a half-dozen Wikipedia articles or major article sections on a few different topics (bios of various authors, among others). None were summarily deleted or reverted; as far as I can tell (I don't keep close watch on them), they all still exist, and most still incorporate significant amounts of my contributions. They all seem to be in better shape now than when I first wrote them.

Here's what I did: First, I registered an account. Whenever I was thinking of making major changes/additions to an existing article (in some cases it was non-existent or a stub), I first posted on the talk page, expressing my interest in the topic, diplomatically describing what I thought could be improved, outlining what I was planning to do, and asking for comments and suggestions. This rarely got any replies, but ensured I wouldn't be stepping too hard on any toes.

In parallel with this, I figured out what the best available sources on the topic were: online material, sure (more for orientation than for incorporating), but preferably published books. If I didn't have them already I got hold of them, either through the library or second-hand (or Google Books if not in copyright). In some cases, articles in academic journals were more useful, and I was able to access these through a university library. I read or at least skimmed them.

Then I wrote the contribution, using (not copying verbatim) the information from the references and providing citations to them. I tried to write in a straightforward but encyclopedic style, to format it to be consistent with the rest of the article, and to follow the letter and the spirit of Wikipedia rules. I submitted my edits, and sometimes made another comment on the talk page, inviting comments or explaining any deletions I'd made.

I'm not claiming this is a guaranteed way to get your text on Wikipedia, but in my experience it worked. While I've also had some negative Wikipedia experiences (with smaller edits to other pages, where I didn't go through such an elaborate procedure), overall I find that as long as you understand the basic Wikipedia principles (what kind of stuff belongs and doesn't belong), can separate yourself from the work enough that your edits aren't blatantly about your own ego or biases, have solid sources for what you write, and can string a coherent sentence together, people will usually take you seriously.

There are many disgruntled attempted-Wikipedia-editors out there, some with more legitimate grievances than others. Sometimes it seems like most people who have tried to contribute got shot down. But of course, the most embittered ones are the ones most likely to go on about it: the real distribution could be quite different. Or maybe it's simply that most people aren't capable of making good, suitable contributions to an open encyclopedia. Would that be particularly surprising?

Comment: Re:Origin of story (Score 5, Informative) 158

by Theleton (#44188473) Attached to: Zynga Puts Random Stranger In Customer Support Role
Even though that particular instance didn't happen, getting someone else's old phone number, or a number close to another number (or a business listing the wrong number somewhere), is common enough that I'm sure people play similar pranks all the time. Coming up with a fictional example of something doesn't prove that that kind of thing happening is an urban myth. Another example would be stringing along telemarketers in various funny (?) ways. Just because it's been featured in stand-up routines, sitcoms and sketches, that doesn't mean people aren't actually doing it.

Comment: Re:mother of all languages (Score 2) 323

by Theleton (#43651417) Attached to: English May Have Retained Words From an Ice Age Language
The full list of word meanings they believe have cognates in many of the language families (indicating that they derive from an ancient, common ancestor language), in order of decreasing confidence:

Thou
I
Not
That
We
To give
Who
This
What
Man/male
Ye
Old
Mother
To hear
Hand
Fire
To pull
Black
To flow
Bark
Ashes
To spit
Worm

(This doesn't necessarily mean that the actual English word listed here is among the cognates in each case.)

Comment: Re:Eat me, Euroskeptics! (Score 1) 214

I saw those comments, but unfortunately I don't think they're correct. According to this article, the -es ending in Old English was part of a whole big system of declensions, and initially limited to the singular strong masculine nouns. There's no indication that these endings derived from His-genitive constructions (cf. the OE possessive adjectives here). The Wikipedia article on the His genitive indicates that the belief that -es was a contraction of "his" was a mistaken folk etymology that briefly turned into a typographical convention. In other words, although Old English did have constructions like "X his/her/their Y" as a very occasional form, examples from modern English do not come from this practice, but are in almost all cases just a misinformed spelling of -'s.

It seems like the possessive apostrophe did arise from early printers' feeling that some letters (whether part of -es or, as some thought, "his") were being omitted. Once established as a convention, I guess the apostrophe-final form was then applied to plurals and other words that already ended with an S-sound, just for consistency. It's worth pointing out that among other Germanic languages, only Dutch (to my knowledge) uses the possessive apostrophe. The others just add an S.

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