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Wikipedia and the Collective Hive Mind? 155

devv_null asks: "This morning on my drive to work, I was listening to the latest podcast of the Philosophers Zone. The topic of the program was 'Is a free market in ideas a good idea?'. It featured author and speaker Jaron Lanier, who in May published an article Digital Maoism. He highlighted Wikipedia as an example of the one of the worst kinds of 'collective intelligence' and using the 'wisdom of the crowd' to average facts about the world and include them in a massive, lifeless document. Being a habitual Wikipedia user, I could only disagree with his take on the web enterprise. While it shouldn't be considered the ultimate source of knowledge on the web, I think it's ideal in many cases to use as a starting point. Apparently, Lanier thinks a Google search results page is better." So, what is your take on this issue?
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Wikipedia and the Collective Hive Mind?

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  • Wikipedia (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Wikipedia is basically a game where the most OCD person gets to rewrite history in their own image.
    • by xarium ( 608956 )

      For those who don't immediately recognise the OCD TLA, you can read about it here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OCD [wikipedia.org]

      :)
  • by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) * on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:59PM (#15709926) Homepage
    Since Google simply returns what it consider is the most relevant result (but does zippo fact checking), I use both when I'm interested in something. The classic example is "miserable failure" where Google's #1 results is George Bush's WhiteHouse page ... what many people don't know is the #2 result is Michael Moore's Home page ... I'll let you decide which is the more "accurate" miserable failure ... but at least in this example, Wiki has a great explanation [wikipedia.org]
  • NPOV is a fallacy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Baldrson ( 78598 ) *
    The idea that you can provide a "neutral" point of view is simply fallacious. Even the Wikipedia NPOV policy admits that there is a point of view and it is whatever is "mainstream". By Wikipedia's standard, the "mainstream" viewpoint could be creationism and evolution the spawn of satan, and the article on "evolution" would be named "Satanic ideas about creation".
    • Even the Wikipedia NPOV policy admits that there is a point of view and it is whatever is "mainstream"
      I'd love to see where the Wikipedia NPOV policy admits that. Really. Please direct us to the paragraph where Wikipedia policy states that the truth is democratic; because last time I checked WP policy reaffirmed that it is not.
      • by NosTROLLdamus ( 979044 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:12PM (#15709993) Journal
        Please direct us to the paragraph where Wikipedia policy states that the truth is democratic; because last time I checked WP policy reaffirmed that it is not.

        I changed wikipedia policy to state that, but a large group of assholes kept changing it back.

      • Re:NPOV is a fallacy (Score:5, Informative)

        by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:24PM (#15710046) Homepage Journal
        Content forking [wikipedia.org]: The generally accepted policy is that all facts and majority Points of View on a certain subject are treated in one article. This is where the NPOV weasels get to put the kabosh on ideas they don't like.
        • by dubl-u ( 51156 ) * <(ot.atop) (ta) (2107893252)> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:44PM (#15710386)
          "The generally accepted policy is that all facts and majority Points of View on a certain subject are treated in one article." This is where the NPOV weasels get to put the kabosh on ideas they don't like.

          A better statement is from the NPOV policy [wikipedia.org]:
          All significant points of view are presented, not just the most popular one. It should not be asserted that the most popular view or some sort of intermediate view among the different views is the correct one. Readers are left to form their own opinions.

          What's your alternate proposal? I gather that you have a notion that's not a fact and not a common point of view, but that you'd like it to be in an encyclopedia article because you consider it important. To me, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Without the NPOV policy, every physics article would be filled with psychoceramic nonsense like the Time Cube cruft [timecube.com].
          • Call it "mainstream point of view" or better yet "Wikipedian point of view". Not all of us have the time and motivation to spend out lives fighting political battles over Wikipedia articles.
            • Not all of us have the time and motivation to spend out lives fighting political battles over Wikipedia articles.

              Oh, and if you come to Wikipedia with political battle on your mind and scoffing at one of the core ideals, it's no wonder you're having a hard time there. You should come with a historian's cool. If you can't edit an article with the same level of detachment as when writing about a 15th-century earl, then you'll naturally have problems with Wikipedia, and you will be prone to misinterpreting Wik
              • The ideal is _not_ "neutrality". It is a bald-faced lie to call it that as virtually admitted by the policy on forking. Calling the ideal "mainstream viewpoint" isn't an indictment -- it is a valid ideal to accurately portray the mainstream viewpoint and stating it in those terms is honesty.
                • The ideal is _not_ "neutrality". It is a bald-faced lie to call it that as virtually admitted by the policy on forking. Calling the ideal "mainstream viewpoint" isn't an indictment -- it is a valid ideal to accurately portray the mainstream viewpoint and stating it in those terms is honesty.

                  You're taking that one word too far. Note that the forking document is actually a guideline; the actual policy is NPOV. The sentence you're quoting is a quick (and inaccurate) recap of the main policy. As the NPOV policy
                  • When presented, the non-mainstream viewpoints are are routinely presented from the perspective of the mainstream viewpoint. This is accomplished by burdening them with "criticisms" not burdening the presentation of the mainstream viewpoint to nearly the same degree.
          • Without the NPOV policy, every physics article would be filled with psychoceramic nonsense like the Time Cube cruft.


            How can you DENY the obvious SIMPLE TRUTH of the timecube? Are you one of the EVIL ACADEMIC SINGULARITY BASTARDS and evil stupid word gods?

            I invoke a curse upon you and your BASTARD Singularity Brotherhood of Bastardism.

            (Ahem. ;-)

          • What's your alternate proposal?

            everything2 [everything2.com].

            For those who don't already know, the difference in a nutshell is that when you create content on Everything2 it is owned by you, covered by copyright law, and you can license it to people under any terms you like.

            The Wikipedia model has proven to be far more popular, probably mostly because it produces more complete information (over time.) Since multiple people can write about the same thing on Everything2, it is more likely that you have to read multip

    • Perfect objectivity is a logical impossibility, therefore we should abandon all attempts to try and narrow down the scope of what may be regarded as factual?

      Philosophically sound, but completely nihilist. For practical purposes -- if I actually want to get anything done -- I don't think I'll be subscribing to your encyclopaedia. A reference source that actually makes an effort at objectivity -- like Wikipedia, or almost any printed encyclopaedia, or most academic journals -- is infinitely superior to one t

      • Yeah, he's using the same crazy absolutism as the mathematician and the engineer:

        A group of scientists decided to conduct an experiment. They brought a mathematician and an engineer and sat each of them down in a chair at the far end of a room, at the other end they placed a buffet of delicious food. Every 5 minutes the mathematician and the engineer were allowed to move their chairs half of the remaining distance to the buffet. After the 3rd move the mathematician became enraged and stormed out of the r
        • Nice analogy, thanks. I agree. If people only ever believed and used what was logically coherent and mathematically demonstrable, the world we inhabit would be a very different beast.
    • I happen to agree with you; NPOV is a fiction. Still, I always wondered about this, as the idea struck me as very encyclopedic and similar to the world-view Alasdair MacIntyre [wikipedia.org] described in Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition [amazon.com].

      Then, one day I was reading Jimbo Wales' Wiki bio [wikipedia.org]. The concept of NPOV may be an application (or possibly a principle) of Objectivism [wikipedia.org].
      • by DeadChobi ( 740395 ) <DeadChobi&gmail,com> on Thursday July 13, 2006 @12:12AM (#15710505)
        It is also possible that they mean that the article's point of view needs to consider as many sides of an issue or idea as possible, and not just the most important ones. I would argue that a man who sees the entire universe from every point of view at all times is closer to having a neutral point of view than a man who sees from but a few points. Perhaps the term should be recast to "equilibrium point of view," no? There is also a significant distinction between the words "no" and "neutral." In the phrase "neutral point of view" it is implied that our point of view must take into account all sides of an issue. "No point of view" which is what many people think of when they see "neutral point of view" implies that our eyes are closed. I think this is where people make mistakes, because they assume that neutrality steps nowhere, though in fact to be neutral one must take a stand in nautrality. I don't quite see how neutrality is fiction. I do see how human fallibility makes it more of an ideal to be reached for than a concrete milestone.

        If you need any other arguments of great philosophical complexity reduced to semantics, I'll be here all week.
        • I'm glad at least someone around here is making some sense...
          Now if only more people had an IPOV (informed point of view) like this, then we'd really be getting somewhere
    • by Anonymous Coward
      So the jew-obsessed, white supremacist neo-nazi who believes that autism is caused by Indian immigrants doesn't like the way that wikipedia's NPOV policy works out.

      It's really funny how the people who complain about bias in Wikipedia invariably tend to have have massive ulterior motives, or at least a big chip on their shoulder. Unfortunately the chip on said shoulder is not immediately visible, so a resonable person would tend to take allegations of bias at face value and moderate them up on slashdot or wh
  • He's just bitter that Wikipedia doesn't use a 3D VR interface.
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:02PM (#15709941)
    I think it's ideal in many cases to use as a starting point.

    You may think it's a starting point, but millions of people think it's the end of their research. As we all now know, research starts at MySpace. Whoever has the most embedded music videos has the most accurate link to the most salient Wikipedia article.

    On an only slightly related note, I for the first time recently noticed that some of my web content was being crawled by a counter-plagarism search engine marketed to high school and college instructors. I'm not sure if I should be flattered or annoyed.
    • I'm not sure if I should be flattered or annoyed.

      How about both? Sounds like a good option to me.

    • My research starts at /. makes a quick trip over to wiki, and if I'm feeling really interested I'll read the google results pages. But not click on any of the links, by this time I'm an expert.
  • Too deep (Score:2, Insightful)

    Wikipedia is just an encyclopedia. A cooperative one. So what? We've had cooperative software devel for decades now. It's natural. This guy is overanalyzing "the Wikipedia phenomonon".
    • Re:Too deep (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bobNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:17PM (#15710272) Journal
      This guy is overanalyzing "the Wikipedia phenomonon".

      The question which isn't being asked is "why the bitter and sustained attacks on Wikipedia from the mass media?". What we have here is a free resource, a collaborative community effort which would be lauded as a benefit by any sane society, even if it isn't perfect. Instead it's being vilified. Why is this happening?

      Successful community efforts terrify centralised mass media. Wikipedia, Wikinews et al, and even Youtube and Google Video are in their infancy now, and experiencing all the teething troubles you'd expect from a newborn. Anyone with a little vision though, can see the potential for these fledglings to replace todays big media organisations.

      Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine says our culture is evolving into a "mass of niches". Community efforts are better suited to serving those niches than centralised mass media, and people like Jaron Lanier, who makes his living writing for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Harpers Magazine, etc, etc, recognise that threat and are fighting back.

      This "Digital Maoism" article is an attempt at poisoning by association. The linking of Wikipedia and Maoist collectivism doesn't stand up to even minimal scrutiny. It's sole premise, once the verbiage has been stripped from the text, is that people take the information in Wikipedia too seriously.

      That may be true, but it's not a valid criticism of Wikipedia. Many people take Fox news seriously too, but we don't see the Jaron Laniers of the world writing scholarly articles about that phenomenon.

  • by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:04PM (#15709952) Homepage Journal
    Since Wikipedia's new policy of no original content, there's basically less and less difference between the information in Wikipedia and the information you could get from a good search. The difference is conciseness.

    The ideal Wikipedia article (these days) is a concise summary of all the information that's available on the web, with each fact linked to a footnote consisting of a link to the URL of the page the fact came from. (Quite what purpose the extra layer of indirection serves isn't clear to me.)

    So most of the time, a Wikipedia search is a good way to get most of the same factual information you'd get in a web search, but in a lot less time.

    There are problems, however. The nature of truth is that it isn't decided by majority vote; often that which is true is extremely unpopular. In areas of knowledge where that is the case, Wikipedia's summaries often end up being watered down or padded out to appease the masses, with a corresponding loss of intellectual rigor or conciseness. The Libertarian socialism article is one, if you look through the history of it you can see how it turned into a mass of waffle, and the trolls and vandals still keep attacking it.
    • Most of the articles I end up at are anything but concise - either trivia-bound or stubs, it seems.

      The ideal Wikipedia article (these days) is a concise summary of all the information that's available on the web, with each fact linked to a footnote consisting of a link to the URL of the page the fact came from. (Quite what purpose the extra layer of indirection serves isn't clear to me.)

      If that is so, then how does one know if the linked-to web site is correct? What if the referred-to page disappears or i

    • "Libertarian socialism"? Isn't that a contradiction, like "beautiful ugliness"?
    • Since Wikipedia's new policy of no original content, there's basically less and less difference between the information in Wikipedia and the information you could get from a good search. The difference is conciseness.

      What "new" policy? "No Original Research" has been Wikipedia policy from the very start, while original content is permitted: i.e. Wikipedia, like all encyclopedias, is intended to be composed of original content that provides the fundamental facts about established ideas, and lists the primar
      • The policy may have been written somewhere, but it's only recently that I've seen people going round adding hundreds of {citation needed} notes to articles.

        Most encyclopedias do not footnote every single fact. Take a look at Britannica, for example. What's normal is to note a few additional sources at the end.

        I didn't say web sources were preferred or the only sources allowed, so you can take that strawman down.
  • Once again (Score:4, Informative)

    by MaelstromX ( 739241 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:05PM (#15709959)
    Most Wikipedia criticisms can be answered the same way. It is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, which is its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. That needs to be kept in mind when using it as a reference (and particularly so with controversial subjects [wikipedia.org]). If people do not the solution is not to slam the entire idea and write it off as a disaster -- the solution is to simply make sure it is more clear to people that Wikipedia is not authoritative and at any particular moment the version of the article you are viewing might be an inaccurate one. For most purposes, the risk of that happening is far outweighed by the strong likelihood that you are getting an article so high in quality that it leaves Britannica and Encarta in the dust (assuming they even cover that topic).

    One person who is causing real headaches for Wikipedia is Daniel Brandt, who is upset that there is an article about him [wikipedia.org] that may potentially contain untruths about him. His response is to wage war [wikipedia-watch.org] against the encyclopedia and its administrators and most prominent users. A better idea for him and everybody, one that wouldn't be futile and one that would save everybody a lot of trouble, would be to use your soapbox to recognize the extraordinarily high quality product the Wikipedia project makes available to web users for free, while being very vocal and clear about its weaknesses that most people might not understand.
    • Re:Once again (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kebes ( 861706 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:32PM (#15710088) Journal
      I agree with what you say. However I think some of your points should be even more general. For instance, you say:
      the solution is to simply make sure it is more clear to people that Wikipedia is not authoritative and at any particular moment the version of the article you are viewing might be an inaccurate one.

      I think people should realize that:
      the solution is to simply make sure it is more clear to people that any source of information is not the final authority and any particular document you are viewing might be inaccurate.

      I think the real problem is that too many people accept information without being critical about it. Wikipedia comes along and suddenly people freak out and yell "you can't trust it for reason X." The truth is that you *always* need to double-check sources if what they are claiming sounds strange, or if you need high accuracy information, or if it is a controversial subject. This applies equally to Wikipedia, Britannica, the NY Times, Slashdot, and quality scientific journals.

      I think Wikipedia is an amazing ressource that is right far far more often than it is wrong. However the general lesson here is that we all need to analyze all the information we receive in a more critical fashion. If anything, we can thank Wikipedia for bringing this issue to light (and providing a venue for improving the status quo).
      • I think the real problem is that too many people accept information without being critical about it.

        I think the real problem is simply there is not enough time to be critical about everything you read, there is simply too much information and human beings do not possess enough brain processing power to be able to assess critically everything one reads and still have time to perform the functions of daily living. It would simply take too much time for many people who have other things to do within their ow
    • Re:Once again (Score:3, Insightful)

      by The Bungi ( 221687 )
      One person who is causing real headaches for Wikipedia is Daniel Brandt

      The problem with the Brandt article is that he keeps growing in "notoriety" (as per the WP definition) because he wants his article deleted from Wikipedia. The more WP denies his deletion requests, the more he piles it on WP. It's a vicious cycle.

      This is not an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination. There have been instances of WP articles appearing with personal information that the subject does not want to publicize,

    • I think he's most upset about it mentioning that in the 1970s he burnt his draft card on television, and even after Jimmy Carter gave the pardon to the draft-dodgers, he's worried someone will hold it against him.
  • Bo-ring. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:06PM (#15709964)
    What discussion, exactly, is this article going to start that hasn't been covered in every [slashdot.org] other [slashdot.org] article [slashdot.org] that slashdot posts about wikipedia? Learn to use the search box already.
  • While it shouldn't be considered the ultimate source of knowledge on the web, I think it's ideal in many cases to use as a starting point.

    That's true if your need for such knowledge is for just entertainment/casual purposes. For more critical needs, where research time needs to be low and source accountability needs to be high, beginning at a "starting point" is not an option.

    Basically, your point is equivalent to: if it doesn't matter to someone whether it's crap or not, wikipedia is good enough to try fi
    • For more critical needs, where research time needs to be low and source accountability needs to be high, beginning at a "starting point" is not an option.

      I know Wikipedia's servers are not always as quick as we'd want, but still, 30 seconds is not a lot of time and might give you precious pointers and keywords for further research; cross-checking data is a lot easier than finding new information. How many times have you googled and refined your searches using result data? bingo.

    • by PepeGSay ( 847429 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:20PM (#15710288)
      The question is now whether you can accept "crap or not" but whether are you seeking understanding or regurgitation. Your description of "low time high source accountability" is great for well known or well documented topics where you expect there to be some existing accurate source. Things like knee surgery, a particular legal case, a review of things related to some other medical topic. This can lead to a narrow understanding. Essentially regurgitation. In the case of new or emerging concepts, trends, technologies, etc. when you are researching the keys to finding the really good info is finding keywords relevant to the topic and that relate to finding the cluster of related topics that can give you true and deeper understanding of the topic at hand.
    • Generally, when I have high accountability information that I need to research, I am probably not searcing the web (this is subject to obvious exceptions, including (but not limited to): comparing information from web-based vendors or getting info from an online respository of journal articles (usually through a university library)).
  • We talked about this a while ago on CommunityWiki; [communitywiki.org] you may want to see it: DigitalMaoism. [communitywiki.org]

    General take on things: (1) Nice sentiment, yes: don't surrender the individual to the group. (2) But no, this isn't a major danger here. (3) The title is inappropriate.

    We actually have quite a bit of thinking about the HiveMind. [communitywiki.org] ;)
  • Two things... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:08PM (#15709974) Journal
    1) The problem with Maoism isn't collectivism per se, it's killing everybody who gets in the way of the collectivist scheme. Until some megacidal Web 2.0-based regime starts killing everyone with individual expertise, I don't see what the problem is.

    2) I think there's a generational gap here. People with a certain degree of familiarity with the Internet take for granted that there's a certain percentage of error, stupidity and lying out there, and weight what they read accordingly. But others have expectations of an encyclopedia that include its being 100% goatse.cx free.

    3) (And I don't feel like changing the subject header.) Who the hell cares what Jaron Lanier thinks, except for other Wired-ish blowhards?
    • > 1) The problem with Maoism isn't collectivism per se, it's killing everybody who gets in the way of the collectivist scheme.

      Top down collectivism creates some problems, inefficencies (see: some socialism) or plain murder (see: Soviet Union). It's wrong to write off all collectivism, however. See: Mondragon [wikipedia.org] (can't resist that link here) for one example. As a US citizen without a stock portfolio I would prefer the UK's national health to my current method of not getting check ups.

      >2) I think there's a
  • Wikipedia is more of an outlet for fan boys to pay homage to their various hobbies/heros/whatever. Which in itself can be an incredible resource if say you are interested in a dissertation on the origins of Robocop [wikipedia.org]. However, if you are interested in Voyager space progam [wikipedia.org] you best venture elsewhere.
  • Story Links (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Wow! I just checked out this "google" thing linked to in the article. It's really good! Definitely worth checking out!!
  • Bad Metaphor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:15PM (#15710008)
    Is a free market in ideas a good idea?

    A "free market of ideas" is a bad metaphor. In a market, people bargain for commodities. When there is a limited supply of commodity X, and lots of people want it, only the people who are willing to sacrifice the most (time, energy, money, whatever) get to use commodity X. If I give you my supply of commodity X, then I don't have it any more.

    Ideas are totally different. If I give you an idea - I still have the idea. In fact, now we BOTH have the idea. Even if you pay me for the idea, I still have the idea too. My knowledge of the idea doesn't vanish when I transfer it to you. Thomas Jefferson said it best [uchicago.edu]: "He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me."

    The marketplace metaphor is therefore completely inappropriate to ideas. You can't exchange ideas in the same way you can physical goods. It just doesn't work that way.

    • Perhaps it is a flawed metaphor (as all metaphors by definition are) but can you think of a better one? A love fest perhaps (wherein you give something, love, but still possess it after you give it, and soon there are a lot of children who all have your eye color...no, wait...)? In the marketplace, ideas are like money trees, the ultimate renewable resource (though with logarithmically decreasing value potential over time and use); but they are, in fact, traded, and the closest system we have to describe s

      • Perhaps it is a flawed metaphor (as all metaphors by definition are) but can you think of a better one?

        Yep. In fact, your own post suggests it: trees. Forestry. Or "environmental management" if you prefer. In a forest, you find many different species of trees. They are all in competition with one another for access to sunlight, water, and nutrients. Since they are in competition, and may not be equally suited to current conditions, some types of trees are more common than others. Trees begin from seeds,

        • At the very least, very interesting. I suppose what both metaphors have in common is they attempt to describe vast systems of resource distribution; money (and capital) for the first, and life and food (at least, energy) for the second. I think to a wolf hunting for deer, the forest is just as much about scarcity as the marketplace is to us. I suppose my only quibble with the enviornmental metaphor is that humans generate ideas, that is abstractions about experiences, they do not pre-exist us. Sure, the

          • I love it when Slashdot produces an actual conversation. ^_^ You're going on the friends list.

            I suppose it is a created environment, in that everyone has to grow their own forest of ideas from scratch. I'm inclined to resist the adjective "artificial" though, since it implies that the process is unnatural in some way. If you ask me, developing ideas is a completely natural thing for a human being to do.

            A problem with my metaphor is that it doesn't draw sharp distinctions between individuals and groups.
            • I love it when Slashdot produces an actual conversation. ^_^ You're going on the friends list.

              Ditto. It's always a breath of fresh air to talk (type?) with a person who likes to grapple with ideas.

              I tend to resist artificial in the sense you point out at well; like you say, there is nothing 'unnatural' about producing ideas. Rather, I mean artificial in the basic sense of artifice, a device for making or giving order. I tend to think of the whole map of a person's ideas as a tool for comprehending e

    • don't think of the trading of ideas, but the use of ideas. ideas that are used more often are more valuable than those that are not. the market then becomes which ideas are used more often, those that are not are not as valuable and fall by the wayside.
    • Perhaps the 'marketplace' is a bad analogy, but maybe a 'democracy' of ideas is better: with Wiki, essentially you have a democracy of knowledge along with the (potentially) dangerous consequences that TFA is talking about: the tyranny of the majority, for example.

      Because "most" people* agree on something as a fact, doesn't mean it's true.
      * and particularly when "people" in this case is defined as narrowly as individuals who care about the issue to edit it on Wiki...arguably, the only people that are going
  • collect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stalyn ( 662 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:16PM (#15710014) Homepage Journal
    There is a difference between a collection of facts and a collective of facts. Wikipedia is a collection. Anyone who has read the discussion pages and reviewed history logs knows wikipedians often disagree with one another. This makes wikipedia more representative of human knowledge, which is fluid. A collective is more like a traditional encyclopedia which is a specific group of people who share the same ideas. A traditional encyclopedia is lifeless in the sense it removes discontent from its pages.

    • Anyone who has read the discussion pages and reviewed history logs knows wikipedians often disagree with one another. This makes wikipedia more representative of human knowledge, which is fluid.

      Well, if this article has any value for me, it's in eliciting the above comment. Wikipedia is indeed representative of human knowledge; whether it's representative of the truth is another matter. Often it will be, sometimes it won't, but it will be guaranteed to be representative of human knowledge. Nicely analyse

  • I love Wikipedia. It's more than an ideal source for a "starting point." It's probably one of the biggest collective sources of information that's available to the largest number of people in the world and should be treated as such. It has had information on most of what I've wanted to search for, and the information is accurate and detailed.

    There's all this talk about how biased it is because of some controversy surrounding people editing articles based off of an agenda like the Ken Lay thing, but as has b
  • Ask Slashdot: Wikipedia and the Collective Hive Mind?

    I'm confused.. is that an offer?
  • wiki bashing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by illuminatedwax ( 537131 ) <<ude.ogacihcu.inmula> <ta> <egnardts>> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:31PM (#15710080) Journal
    Man, is Wikipedia bashing in vouge!

    The reason Wikipedia works is not because it is the "intelligence of the masses." Each article is usually edited by a relatively small fraction of the masses, a good portion of which are qualified to edit the article: those who know about the subject matter, those with good grammar skills, etc. With the masses viewing it, those interested in contributing from the masses will find the right place to do it, and thus it will naturally separate the many into the few. Assuming no one is malicious, people who are unqualified to write will generally stray away from writing, and those that are qualified can catch minor errors. Assuming people are malicious, malicious edits are either obvious or subtle. Obvious vandalism is kept in line by those of the masses drawn to stoping vandalism. Subtle vandalism is indistinguishable from well-meaning errors.

    Wikipedia works not because of market forces or anything, it works because there are enough people using the encyclopedia. There is enough "manpower," and I define "manpower" to mean the number of people working on it who will provide a positive contribution. And by "positive contribution" I mean something that will make the article more correct. It works because of the same reason open source works. If you look at it, there is very little difference between a central organization checking patches into a repository and an "edit first, ask questions later" style on a system designed to be easy to correct mistakes in. The only difference is when the quality is checked. With central control, you can control what version users see so bad patches never make it in. This is important in software where complete correctness is extraordinarily vital. The downside is that you can't get new features for a while, and the social barrier to contributing is higher. With Wikipedia, you are on the 'bleeding edge' - so you have to be careful of bugs. The upside is that information is processed more quickly, and if you are capable of contributing, you can do so immediately.

    What people don't realize is that because of this, Wikipedia is not the most correct it could be. Assuming an ideal Wikipedia where experts contributing to Wikipedia could cover a subject 100% correctly, Wikipedia's correctness would be less than 100% - maybe 85% or 95% depending on manpower. The more manpower, the closer that number gets to 100%. (Imagine an asymptotic curve.) The surprising thing about Wikipedia is that the manpower to "chaff" ratio of visitors remains constant as the number of visitors increase. Will this change in the future? I think that's impossible to tell. My guess is that it won't unless the popularity of vandalism protection goes down.

    Point of course being, USE WIKIPEDIA AS A STARTING POINT. It's amazing if you want to learn basic facts about things - who the fuck Jethro Tull really was, etc., but always check references. Wikipedia is quite thorough in its referencing, but a proper researcher should be more thorough. Of course, it's better than most political non-fiction out there now, anyway.

    It's quite reminiscient of American government - the basic desires of the masses are communicated to a select few who are (in theory) smart enough to know how to legislate, lead, or judge to make those desires a reality in addition to keeping the country in line.
    • Re:wiki bashing (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cfeedback ( 467360 )

      Point of course being, USE WIKIPEDIA AS A STARTING POINT. It's amazing if you want to learn basic facts about things - who the fuck Jethro Tull really was, etc., but always check references. Wikipedia is quite thorough in its referencing, but a proper researcher should be more thorough. Of course, it's better than most political non-fiction out there now, anyway.

      A starting point for infinite knowledge, if you ask me. Where else can you begin by looking up a movie, get sidetracked into the crusades, and end

    • Man, is Wikipedia bashing in vouge!

      Yes, especially by people who can spell "vogue"

      [SNIP CRAP]

      Point of course being, USE WIKIPEDIA AS A STARTING POINT. It's amazing if you want to learn basic facts about things - who the fuck Jethro Tull really was, etc., but always check references. Wikipedia is quite thorough in its referencing, but a proper researcher should be more thorough. Of course, it's better than most political non-fiction out there now, anyway.

      Wikipedia's referencing go from poor to non-existent.
      • Wikipedia's referencing go from poor to non-existent.

        As thought by people who can't conjugate their verbs correctly.

        [SNIP CRAP]

        First of all, Wikipedia's citations tend to be excessive rather than lacking.

        Wikipedia points you to almost all points of view on any given subject. Chances are extraordinarily high that the Holocaust in fact happened, but truth is not so easy to find as you might think. Therefore, if you want to check out the opinions of groups or individuals who think that the Holocaust did not ha

  • Digital _Maoism_!? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Maoism is an atheistic form of government responsible for the death of millions. Part of the reason it didn't work is that it was horribly mismanaged for the benefit of a few, rather than the benefit of all, and the other part of the problem is that there simply wasn't enough to go around. Honestly, the government is neither virtuous enough nor smart enough to control that much of society.

    With information, however, there's always enough to go around--the more you share, the more everyone has. Moreover, I
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:59PM (#15710201) Journal
    to wikipedia. The hivemind is everywhere. Slashdot is the easiest example offcourse where its moderation system is often used by people to mod things down that don't agree with their opinion and mod things up that do agree with their opinion. This "rewards" only saying what the hivemind of slashdot agrees with. If you care about karma points, here is a simple test, how many posts off you been labelled flamebait/troll? If it is none then either you have been well modded (yeah right) or you only say what the hivemind wants you to say. Not in itself bad, your opinion is as valid as anyone elses but if everyone only says what everyone else says then what is the point of having a forum. Surely it is to get discussion going?

    And that really is the problem with hiveminds. They tend to supress discussion. This can be very dangerous.

    At least part of the current race problems in western europe can be blamed on the fact that for several decades discussing race issues was stiffled by political correctness. The hivemind of politically correct media comes down like a ton of bricks on anyone who dares to say something that isn't PC. The truth doesn't matter (either way) what matters is what the group thinks.

    This is extremely dangerous because it tends to close you off from the real world. Several countries have been suprised by the emergence of new parties wich suddenly get a huge amount of votes because they dare to say the things the public thinks but that the "mainstream" parties have ignored because in their own circles there hivemind thinking have made it seem the issues were non-existant.

    A very simple example. There is a dutch radio program with a couple of male presentors kinda of the type of top-gear presentors. Jobbo's I think they are called by the brits. They are strong supporters of the tuftuf club wich a is an illegal group that targets speeding camera's.

    They reacted pretty suprised when a newspaper reported that a poll indicated that speeding camera's have the support of the majority of people. How could this be? All the people they know are against them.

    Well, yeah. They would. Hivemind. You make friends with the people that agree with you and ignore those that don't. It is very easy to then start to believe that all those people around you that agree with you are "all the people". Since all your friends think speed camera's are the devils tool surely that is the opinion of the entire country?

    Slashdot is the same, everyone here thinks DRM is evil so surely the entire world feels the same?

    The problem is very real. Mario Antionette who commented on the poor not being able to afford bread said, "let them eat cake". Could this be simply because she existed in her own little world where that was indeed an option? That she existed in the hivemind of the superrich?

    That mentality still exists. "Just get a job", is what business leaders say on the subject of social security because the superrich who never ever get fired live in their own little world where they reinforce their own ideas by making sure to only ever associate with people who share their own ideas.

    And offcourse the "left" is the same when you look at some nature lovers who propose schemes that just can't work in the real world. Banning all meat products? Just because all your friends are vegans doesn't mean everyone in the world wants to become one.

    Hell it is as simple as soccer. Soccer is huge it was watched by millions! Yes and it is NOT watched by even more people. If you are in the pro-soccer on tv 24/7 camp you will find yourselve surrounded by people who agree while watching the latest world cup match. If you don't like soccer you will also find yourself surrounded by people not watching the latest world cup match during the latest world cup match.

    Two groups, each convinced they right and getting it confirmed by everyone around them.

    So how can Wikipedia possibly hope to only publish the aboslute truth? It even starts with the basic idea of wich articles need to be

  • I think both have their uses and both need to be used appropriately. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia (like any other common reference) is (or should be) written by "experts" on the subject which is then peer-reviewed. While I am an overall expert in the computer world and my preference is for Mac & Linux, I also know a lot about Windows, AIX, Unix, BSD. My view is without a doubt biassed towards the *nix world but I have a general knowledge about a lot of subjects. Thus my views might be
  • Which is better, Google or Wikipedia?

    Well, Google lets you search for Wikipedia articles :-)

  • Google & Wikipedia both do exactly the same thing; they cross-reference a massive set of otherwise inexplorable data and provide a means by which to intelligently navigate it.

    The key (and essentially only effective) difference is that one is a machine and the other is human.

    Google: the machines interpretation of the world with all the brute-force power that machines offer but no real intelligence. Ever tried searching for the anti-thesis of a given topic? Google can't help you because it can't

    • Wikipedia: the humans generalised (and hopefully averaged) interpretation of the world with all the wonderful lateral cross-links that humans do so well but all the same mistakes (and opinions) that humans are known for.

      Hopefully averaged? You hope that history tends towards the mediocre? How appropriate.

      Let me quote Richard Dawkins:

      "When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly half way between. It is possible for one side simply to be wrong
  • by Belgand ( 14099 ) <belgand@planeDAL ... om minus painter> on Thursday July 13, 2006 @03:49AM (#15711120) Homepage
    Personally I've been a big fan of E2 for many, many years. Sure Wikipedia has some advantages (typos and small bits can easily be changed, it's easier to update and modify something when someone leaves the site and never comes back, it has links and images), but E2 manages to do away with many of the disadvantages as well. Users individually own their writeups so unless an editor changes something (and I've never seen it happen aside from very light proof-reading or wholesale, and typically justified deletion) it's not going to be changed just because someone comes along and disagrees with you. Individual pieces tend to take on much more of a personal voice rather than being the bland, monotone of multiple users slowly working away at something over time. If something is wrong it's likely corrected by someone else. Multiple views are presented on topics giving them greater depth and perspective. Finally errors and poor writing tend to be worked out through a process of survival of the fittest. As better writeups are entered into the system they tend to push out weaker, older ones creating a constant evolutionary process. While Wikipedia evolves unless significant forking is done it tends to be much more convergant while E2 tends to be parallel or divergent most of the time.

    Do I still use Wikipedia? Yeah, on occasion I'll want images or more information than I find listed on E2, but I typically use Wikipedia as a sort of study guide and an aide to doing further searching. E2 tends to function much better as a primer.
    • E2 is great for getting perspective on things, because it has the same high standards as Wikipedia but offers the things that Wikipedia doesn't:

      • You keep the rights to your work
      • You are encouraged to voice your opinions and take a stand on things
      • Original research is thoroughly welcomed
      • You can put up information you'd never find in a Wikipedia article, such as advice

      And that's just the factual stuff. The fact that E2 allows fiction, poetry etc. takes it another quantum leap away from Wikipedia. They a

  • Pop Culture (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @10:20AM (#15712379)
    I use Wikipedia as my pop culture dictionary. If there is a term I'm not aware of, or a movement, I can check it out there.

    Topics I would check on Wikipedia:

    Who was the Green Lantern Rough statistical facts or histories Basic guidelines for brewing beer. or learning the terminology.

    Things I would not rely on Wikipedia for:

    Anything that I would want to be correct when presented to the public.

    Wikipedia is basically my electronic Guiness book of world records. Nice for trivia, risky for research.
  • The amount of venom expended on Wikipedia is quite bizarre. The complaint that it's not authoritative is utter bullshit. By nature, no encyclopedia is authoritative. An encyclopedia is meant to provide brief summaries of subjects that are covered elsewhere by entire volumes, preferably with citations so that the reader can get at those primary sources. It's a starting point for research or, if you're so inclined (I am), a good way to pass the time browsing idly. Outside of high school and remedial undergrad
    • Guys like this that bash Wikipedia are laughably ignorant; they don't seem to know what an encylopedia actually is in the first place.

      As any librarian will tell you, an encyclopedia is NOT a "be all, end all" resource. It's meant to give you a brief overview and a place to start further research. In fact, once most school kids hit junior high, most good teachers won't even allow you to use an encylopedia as a reference in a paper, and if they do allow it they limit it severely.

      Wikipedia fills these needs,
  • One on the points in the article is that you just can't trust Wikipedia. Is their any source on the internet or elsewhere which is completely trustworthy? Could you trust Microsoft for an independent view of windows? Could you trust slashdot? Could you trust Britannica to give a balanced view on american activities in central America?

    Jason is also more very keen on Google in preference to Wikipedia. But again the results of Google are the result of a hive mind: that of the collective set of all links by p

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