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Wikipedia May Require Proof of Credentials 317

narramissic writes "According to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, a new policy is currently under discussion by the community of users who regularly write and maintain Wikipedia that would require contributors to the site who claim certain credentials to prove they really have them. The new policy comes after one of Wikipedia's most prolific and respected editors, who went by the pseudonym 'Essjay,' was found not to be the 'tenured professor of theology' he claimed to be but a run-of-the-mill 24 year-old from Kentucky. Said Wales, 'To discover that someone had been deceiving the community for a long time really was a bit of a blow to our trust. Wikipedia is built on the idea of trusting other people and people being honest and we find that in the most part everyone is, so it was a real disappointment.'"
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Wikipedia May Require Proof of Credentials

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2007 @11:49AM (#18289236)
    Citizendium is essentially a Wikipedia fork that requires you prove that you are who you say you are. (Even though they've elected to rewrite articles now...)

    If this gets adopted by Wikipedia, then I predict Citizendium will die, but many people will remember it for its influence on Wikipedia.

    Hurray! This can only be a good thing. (Ok, I'm a Ph.D. candidate so I'm biased.)
  • by epaulson ( 7983 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @11:49AM (#18289244) Homepage
    I don't know what everyone was so upset about in the first place. Why would anyone trust unverified claims in the first place? His claimed to be a tenured professor "at a private university." If you won't name your university, my bullshit detector goes off, and I assume you're from either a po-dunk univeristy that isn't accredited or is just completely made up.

    If it's not verifiable or reproducable, any scholar should automatically distrust it. Let people claim what they want.
  • by Oz0ne ( 13272 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @11:50AM (#18289252) Homepage
    Honestly, I think I'd value/trust what the 24 y/o said more. The fact he lied about it ruins this of course, but I'm much more likely to listen to Dan Everyman than I am someone who spent a good chunk of their life working towards a useless degree.
  • I saw this story on my Wii last night, and read the story here. But what I'm still not clear on is how Essajays "credentials" helped him? AFAIK, the current policy of Wikipedia is to cite an authoritive source for every bit of information added. Even if an MIT professor of Physics comes in and writes an article on Relativity, he's still required to cite some sort of professionally published and/or peer reviewed document to back up the claims he makes in the article. This is to protect against the possibility of original research. (A major no-no on Wikipedia.)

    Was this a breakdown in that process? Were other users trusting him "just because" he claimed these credentials?
  • Re:Somewhat odd. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by abscissa ( 136568 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @11:57AM (#18289404)
    Why would it matter if "credentials" were accurate, if the information provided by said person(s) was accurate and worthwhile?

    After going through Essjay's edits, it was clear that he was using his "tenured position" to influence edit wars.
  • by m0rph3us0 ( 549631 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:01PM (#18289478)
    While I wholeheartedly agree with the rest of your post, I do not see how running a porn site impugns ones honesty.
  • Re:Somewhat odd. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sobrique ( 543255 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:03PM (#18289516) Homepage
    If you post an opinion, then that's fine, it will be read and judged on it's own merits.

    This is fine.

    If you post an opinion, and point out that actually, you have some basis for your comment, such as an academic qualification, then you are assumed to know more about your relevant field than the 'Man on the Street'.

    If a friend of mine who has a PhD in Nuclear Physics is having a discussion with someone, and it strays into his subject area, I will tend to assume he's the one who's right, simple because he _has_ spent a lot of year studying the subject.

    If my workmate who flys a helpdesk tells me that I'm looking a bit funny, and might have cancer, I will give it a fairly minimal amount of credence. If my GP says the same, then I will listen.

    I don't care overly if you have a degree in theology or not, if I'm arguing religion down the pub. However, if you claim 'basis' for the weight of your arguments that don't exist, then I will be very annoyed, and feel as though I've been lied to.

  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:14PM (#18289708) Journal
    Of the many experts of all things Sonic the Hedgehog?

    How am I supposed to know for sure if Knuckles really is a "big fag with a boner for tails", or if Big the Cat is "totally awesome".

    Wikipedia is a joke. Look up Knuckles the Echidna, then look up William Shakespeare, and see where our society ranks on an intellectual level of 1-10.

    I used to think it was a great idea. At this point, I wouldn't trust anything I read in there to be true. I was looking up some stuff about hydrocarbons, alternate fuels, etc, out of pure curiosity w.r.t the science behind some of it, and found nothing but moronic defacement and rants about Bush, kyoto, etc.

    Require credentials and end Wikipedia. I sincerely doubt that any of the editors or contributors have any credentials. Those types of folks tend to get published in real world journals, magazines and books.
  • by popejeremy ( 878903 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:16PM (#18289744) Homepage

    I think you're missing the point. How can you tell if someone's information on a given topic is accurate and worthwhile if you yourself know nothing about the topic? You trust their credentials. That's how.

    Unless you're a medical doctor, you have no way of knowing if what your doctor tells you about your body is true or meaningful other than the fact that you trust him. The same goes for most other topics.

    We can't all be experts on everything. For the things we aren't experts in, we trust credentials.

  • by Churla ( 936633 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:24PM (#18289882)
    If I understand the philosophy underlying Wikipedia is that it's SUPPOSED to be an encyclopedia everybody can change. Admittedly this is an inherently flawed belief since it does require you trust people not to lie, slander, and vandalize it.

    This change, whereas it will make Wikipedia a far more reliable tool for information, would also as I see it destroy a fundamental principle on which it was founded.
  • Theology (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amdurak ( 994897 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:25PM (#18289888)
    The discovery of this deceit implies how difficult theology in reality is.
  • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:35PM (#18290080)
    As a long time member of the human race, I can attest that stereotyping is seldom a good method by which to judge someone.
  • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:53PM (#18290360)
    To my mind, it's not so much that he didn't have any credentials, as it is that he lied and claimed that he did. If he lied about that, what else has he lied about? How can I trust the article now?
  • by nefarity ( 633456 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:00PM (#18290464)
    Your post lacks citations.
  • Re:Somewhat odd. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:03PM (#18290504)
    And if you're writing a Wikipedia article, I couldn't care less what your PhD is in. All statements of fact in Wikipedia (or any other publication) are worthless unless sourced.

    Sure, there's a lot of general knowledge that doesn't require a source so much ("the sun is mostly hydrogen" sort of stuff) but it doesn't take PhDs in the first place to write those.
  • Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether a degree in theology is worthless, would you really believe "Dan Everyman" over the doctor when the question was one of theology--that is, the area that he had spent several years researching deeply?

    I can understand not giving any extra weight to his opinion when the matter at hand is international politics, particle physics, or comparative programming languages, but if you wouldn't trust a doctor in his own field, then I think you have a really warped view about knowledge, its worth, and how it's obtained...

    Dan Aris

  • by Flying pig ( 925874 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:22PM (#18290766)
    (As a tenured professor in theology at the University of Outer Fencepost, Wyoming...)

    Seriously, theology is a useful subject. You may believe that religion is bunk (and if you really are a professor of theology, you probably know WHY you believe it) but millions of people do not, and understanding the background to their beliefs and probable behavioural patterns can be very useful. It's just like a marketing man for a burger chain might believe the product is horrible and never want to eat there, but can influence people's behaviour by making use of knowledge about their psychology and beliefs, and so get more footfall.

    You only have to look around at things like abortion laws, education, attitudes to other cultures etc. to see that an understanding of the belief patterns of many Americans is an important subject. Why do so many Americans believe garbage like Creationism despite the sheer hugeness of the knowledge base of modern science, and the way that all the different disciplines (astronomy, geology, biology) reinforce one another? If any Government decided to try and find out, instead of kowtowing to the idiots, I would expect them to have a few liberal theologians as well as psychologists and sociologists on the panel.

    And no, Bible study is not theology and more than playing stone,paper,scissors is experimental psychology.

  • Re:Somewhat odd. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <plugwashNO@SPAMp10link.net> on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:22PM (#18290774) Homepage
    Is this a tacit admission that the "content over credentials" philosophy doesn't actually work in the real world? There is certainly an argument to be made.
    anyone who has edited wikipedia for a while and claims it works is either deluded in denial or lying.

    FACT: on the vast majority of subjects the authoritive sources are not freely availible on the public web. Acessing them takes significant time and/or money.
    FACT: wikipedia very rarely (if ever) cites non web based sources, sometimes they are mentioned in a general references section but not cited. Even in the unlikely event that they are cited then almost noone can check up on them without either a long wait and/or payment neither of which most wikipedia editors would be likely to do for wikipedia alone.
    FACT: while there has been a push for more citation on wikipedia in recent times all this results in is citations of websites that are not authoritive and often contain misinformation (have a look at howstuffworks.com for a while and see how much misinformation you can find). Even if a website is authoritive how do you know this without subject area knowlage?
    FACT: even if you were to cite books and journals without knowlage of the field you can't know if the journals and articles cited are respectable or not. The effort of publishing reduces the ammount of junk but it doesn't eliminate it.

    lets try 10 clicks on random page

    1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terpsichori_Chryssoul aki-Vlachou [wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kentucky_Route_11 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C4%93len http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Dixon_Murray http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peruvian_national_ele ction%2C_2006 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nayif_Abdallah_Ibrahi m_Al_Nukhaylan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Muti http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevenson_and_Higgins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Est%C3%A1dio_do_Reste lo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrestling_at_the_1952 _Summer_Olympics -- once again no citations or external links

    i bet most of theese articles could be edited by anyone but especially a self proffessed expert in the field to say anything that person wanted with little resistance.

    wikipedia is great for certain things (computer geek subjects are VERY well covered) but you really need to take care if using information from it for anything important, especially once you go outside of its core subject area or when you delve into anything controversial.

  • Re:Somewhat odd. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gkhan1 ( 886823 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <nossdravgisrakso>> on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:24PM (#18290806)
    This is exactly the point. Wikipedia is built on the idea that anyone can add information, as long as it is accurate. If you want to debate something, you should use real arguments instead of your own credentials. This is a big part of why it works, and it also a big turn-off for "real" academics. For this very reason, I would deem it unlikely to pass, there is simply to much opposition. Even the chairwoman of the Wikimedia Foundation has voiced considerable opposition to it (although, I should note, this is fundamentally a decision for the community to make, not the foundation).
  • by StarvingSE ( 875139 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:46PM (#18291088)
    And who are you to say what is a valid field of study and what isn't. Do you think there is no place for philosophers in our world (studying theology, to me, seems very close to philosophy, please correct me if I'm wrong).

    Just because engineering and science degrees will land you a career making lots of $$$ doesn't mean that all other disciplines are useless, or as you say, a group of morons.

    Are History profs useless? Ancient literature profs? Art profs? Human society values all knowledge, not just scientific. To deny entire schools of thought as "moronic" is incredibly narrow thinking.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:51PM (#18291184)
    The funny thing about elite, self-selected academic fields is that they tend to offer almost no opportunity for employment outside the academic realm. This does a great job of weeding out the idiots very quickly. Anyone who stays in must feel they have at least some chance of success after grad school, and since we're already calling it an elite field, that makes them pretty smart. Nice, huh?

    But did you consider any of that? No. I guess I should expect no less than to find such arrogant left-brained snobbery on a site like this, but rarely is it made so blatant. I happen to know someone who did a PhD in theology at an elite ivy-league, met others in her department at social functions, etc. They were all incredibly smart in ways that you silly dilettantes here can barely dream of. Imagine if, instead of wasting 5-9 hours a day staring into a screen, jerking off, watching YouTube, and updating your blog, you spent all that time reading and discussing classic works of philosophy and history by some of the greatest minds in both the eastern and western tradition. For years on end. Uhh, yeah ... you'd be pretty formidable in conversation, to say the least. So let me just give a round "fuck you" to parent poster and anyone else who buys into the whole math/science/quantitative dominance complex thing, because it's crap. The smartest mathematicians and physicists I know freely admit that high-level mathematics and proofs have a whole lot more to do with creativity and expression than boring, rote, quantitative numerical ability.
  • Less is More (Score:3, Insightful)

    by James_Aguilar ( 890772 ) <aguilar.james@gmail . c om> on Friday March 09, 2007 @02:01PM (#18291344) Journal
    I don't understand the problem here. Wikipedia is like Unix. Since the last ten percent (verifying credentials) requires massive effort compared to the status quo, don't worry about it. What you're already doing works in the majority of cases.
  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @02:29PM (#18291798)
    Misusing and abusing any credentials, real or imagined, like that is not acceptable in any forum of discussion. Not even Wikipedia.

    Fixed that for you.
  • by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @04:00PM (#18293080)
    The problem of admins pushing their own agenda should be tackled by other admins.

    No, other admins are precisely who shouldn't be judging this, because other admins are as likely as not to be doing the same thing. Admins by their nature are the powerful, and power corrupts. In the case of wikipedia, the "good" administrators are silent for fear of causing a "wheel war" or provoking the naughtier admins into a flamefest; the bad admins, meanwhile, stand up for each other when their abuses are caught, claim they are not really abuses, claim the abusing admin has a "right" to do so, attack anyone who points out their abuses as a "troll", and quickly ban or eliminate that person from wikipedia.

    It's very similar to trying to suggest publicly that the Communist system didn't work in 1980 East Germany. You know what the result would have been for anyone saying so: they'd be dragged off to prison, their written works banned, their communication with the outside world stopped.

    Wikipedia's administrators, as a whole, behave in a manner entirely similar to how "the Party" quashed dissent there and still does in places like China and Cuba. Anyone who catches an administrator engaging in untoward behavior, and reports it, is blocked/abused/banned from the site.
  • by the phantom ( 107624 ) * on Friday March 09, 2007 @07:08PM (#18295328) Homepage
    So, in essence, your argument is that quantitiy > quality ? It doesn't matter that the articles are non-authoritative, so long as they exist?

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman