Posts Tagged ‘Wikipedia’
Saw this and thought it worth a read:
“Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that is written entirely by volunteers and allows anyone to edit its entries, is losing contributors, its founder complained Thursday.
Speaking with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the website’s annual conference, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said the nonprofit company that runs the site is scrambling to simplify editing procedures in an attempt to retain volunteers.
“We are not replenishing our ranks,” said Wales. “It is not a crisis, but I consider it to be important.”
Administrators of the Internet’s fifth most visited website are working to simplify the way users can contribute and edit material. “A lot of it is convoluted,” Wales said. “A lot of editorial guidelines … are impenetrable to new users.”
Wikipedia has more than 3 million entries but has been marred by subjective entries and pranks. Even so, Wikipedia cites studies that compare the website’s accuracy favorably to more conventional encyclopedias, while other studies give it lower marks.
Despite Wikipedia’s wide-reaching popularity, Wales said the typical profile of a contributor is “a 26-year-old geeky male” who moves on to other ventures, gets married and leaves the website. Other contributors leave because, 10 years after the website was launched, there are fewer new entries to add, he said. “
The comments at Slashdot are probably nearer the truth.
If you ever wanted an example of why Wikipedia is flawed, if occasionally informative then this Slate piece should do the job:
“This is a hell of a get by Charles Johnson. Starting on Sunday, as Sarah Palin kept explaining that her version of the Paul Revere “Midnight Ride” was historically accurate, Palin fans emerged on Wikipedia to “fix” the Revere biography. Palin’s taking heat for saying Revere “warned the British”? No problem: Just add the line in italics.
Revere did not shout the phrase later attributed to him (“The British are coming!”), largely because the mission depended on secrecy and the countryside was filled with British army patrols; also, most colonial residents at the time considered themselves British as they were all legally British subjects.
– I would strongly suggest locking this page until the Palin controversy blows over and her supporters lose interest in trying to rewrite the page to conform with her erroneous version of Revere’s ride.
– Wiki rules apply to Palin fans the same as anyone else; they are free to add material to the page as long as it is reliably sourced. IIRC, it does look like Palin’s supporters have a published source that partially agrees with her version of events, although the concept of relating Revere’s ride to gun control or 2nd Amendment rights is nonsense. However in her defense, I think Palin herself was using that as a metaphor – not a literal interpretation of this event. In any case,Palin doesn’t claim to be a professional historian so her words don’t belong on this page.
– If you mention Sarah Palin you’re doing it wrong. This article is about Paul Revere, a historical figure who died nearly two centuries before Sarah Palin came to prominence. She has absolutely nothing to do with the article. I would expect to see contemporary sources and theories proposed by modern historians, but Sarah Palin is neither here nor there.
– Sarah Palin is intent on destroying wikipedia, isn’t she? First we had huge wars over the blood libel article, now this. But Obama’s supporters do not support claim that there are 57 states! Amazing!
The original video, from Channel 7, really makes it look like Palin got a historical question she wasn’t expecting, and then flubbed it. The way she grits her teeth on the phrase “riding HIS HORSE THROUGH TOWN!” is agonizing, for all involved. And look, if someone asked me, on the spot, to explain exactly what happened during Paul Revere’s ride, I’d struggle a bit to access my elementary school memory banks. The twist, with Palin, is that she has a bona fide army of supporters who will sic themselves on anyone and anything that threatens to damage her image. One example: Last week I looked at the new CNN poll and made a mundane point about Herman Cain’s poll surge being more compelling than Palin’s narrow lead. This was interpreted in the Palinverse as “Exhibit A in the Stop Palin campaign.” “
Basically, Palin’s supporters wanted to change a Wikipedia entry to match the contents of one of her rants, then claim she was accurate as Wikipedia said so. Loopy.
I don’t think I did Zkharya’s post on Engage sufficient justice, after reviewing the links it is fairly clear that Wikipedia editors show bias. It takes forever to wade through the talk sessions and contributions, but that’s the way it looks to me.
Just wanted to thank you, (though I know this isn’t why you do it), for the really stunning job you have done on the “Development” and “Character” sections of this page. Beautifully written, very accurate and wonderfully well referenced, (if you don’t mind me saying so). Thank you for all the hard work. Really impressive.
I have some French national press cuttings, if that would be helpful.
The other Wikipedia editor, Nick Cooper, seems to be using internal rules or his interpretation of them to remove contributions that he doesn’t like.
But these Wikipedia editors are, in themselves, inconsequential. Their particular biases and desire to muffle criticism of The Promise won’t be successful.
An extract from The Promise: an exercise in British self-exculpation by Professor Cesarani:
“The series hinges on the story of a sergeant in the 6th Airborne Division, a veteran of Arnhem who saw the liberation of Belsen concentration camp, who arrives in Palestine in September 1945 with his unit. In the first episode a British intelligence officer explains to the new troops that Jews are flooding into Palestine in fulfilment of “a promise made by God”. This influx is troubling the Arabs who have lived in Palestine “since time immemorial”. The job of the British, he announces, is to keep the two sides apart. The paratroopers are like the “meat in a sandwich”.
But, hold on a minute. It was the British who promised Palestine to the Jews as a Jewish national home in 1917 and the British who flooded Palestine with troops to protect a vital piece of imperial real estate in 1945. Zionist aspirations, which the British had fostered, and Palestinian Arab opposition to them, were a problem only in so far as they complicated British planning for the cold war.
As the series unfolds, we see British soldiers torn between compassion for the Jews and sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs. Eventually, the Jews alienate them thanks to their relentless terrorist campaign. Kosminsky depicts the blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and the hanging of two British sergeants by the underground army of the rightwing Zionists. In one scene he shows three off-duty tommies bleeding to death after an ambush, while Jews in surrounding cafes callously sip tea and eat cream cakes.
The sergeant, through whose eyes we see the debacle unfold, also witnesses the massacre of Palestinian Arabs at the village of Deir Yassin in April 1948. By this time his allegiances are with the Arab population. On the eve of the British evacuation from Haifa he pleads with his superiors to use the army’s firepower to prevent the Jewish forces from overwhelming and driving out the Arab inhabitants. He protests that Britain can’t just walk away after “we’ve been here for 30 years keeping them apart”.
This is the central conceit, and deceit, of Kosminsky’s epic. The British were in Palestine for their own interests and when it no longer suited them they left. To conceal this fact he has to perpetrate a massive historical distortion. Although The Promise is insufferably didactic, no one mentions the Balfour declaration. Yet it was the British foreign secretary, AJ Balfour, who informed the English Zionist Federation in November 1917 that “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”. This was the only promise that mattered because it had the force of international law. It was subsequently incorporated into the mandate that the League of Nations gave Britain to authorise its possession of Palestine. In 1922 parliament voted to accept the mandate and all that went with it. “
The MP3 of Howard Jacobson in conversation with Jonathan Freedland at Jewish Book Week 2011.
Zkharya highlights the key bits:
“In a filmed conversation with Howard Jacobson during Jewish Book Week 2011 (see link), Jonathan Freedland, Guardian editor, journalist, author and BBC presenter, first of all says Kominsky panders to antisemitic tropes, such as that of wealthy Jews (00.52.50-58). He then brackets The Promise with works such as Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, which he and Jacobson consider antisemitic (00.55.58-00.56.00). In an extended discussion with Howard Jacobson (01.13.28-01.14.18), Freedland makes three fundamental criticisms of The Promise:
Jacobson: ..how many you would think educated journalists still talk about Israel as though it’s a consequence of the Holocaust. Which was The Promise, wasn’t it?”
Freedland: The premise of The Promise, so to speak (it lost me first of all at the girl on Business Class), but also these very long, lingering pictures, archive footage from Belsen, I felt three things about that.
One, you don’t have the right to use those pictures, you haven’t earned the right to use those pictures artistically.
Second, I just know looking at that that you’re making a down payment on what you want to say attacking Jews later on in this series. And you’re doing that as your insurance policy, to say, well, look, I was sympathetic on that.
Third, and it was actually explicitly said by a character, a brigadier, briefing the British troops in Palestine -you knew they were saying this was the premise of all Zionism-, the Arabs were here minding their own business for 2000 years, and suddenly, after the Holocaust, Jews arrive…
Jacobson: We drop in out of the clear blue sky, bang, we’ll have that! “
The video on vimeo, Howard Jacobson in conversation with Jonathan Freedland by Danny Bermant.
An extract from Howard Jacobson: Ludicrous, brainwashed prejudice:
“Myself, I wouldn’t bet heavily on there being good times ahead for Jews. Anti-Zionists can assure me all they like that their position entails no harm to Jews – only witness how many Jews are themselves anti-Zionist, they say – I no longer believe them. Individually, it is of course possible to care little for Israel and to care a great deal for Jews. But in the movement of events individuals lose their voice. What carries the day is consensus, and consensus is of necessity unsubtle. By brute consensus, now, Israel is the proof that Jews did not adequately learn the lesson of the Holocaust.
Forget Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is old hat. The new strategy – it showed its hand in Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, and surfaced again in Channel 4’s recent series The Promise – is to depict the Holocaust in all its horror in order that Jews can be charged (“You, of all people”) with failing to live up to it. By this logic the Holocaust becomes an educational experience from which Jews were ethically obliged to graduate summa cum laude, Israel being the proof that they didn’t. “Jews know more than anyone that killing civilians is wrong,” resounds an unmistakably authorial voice in The Promise. Thus are Jews doubly damned: to the Holocaust itself and to the moral wasteland of having found no humanising redemption in its horrors.
It matters not a jot to me that the writer/director of The Promise is a Jew. Jews succumbing to the age-old view of them and reviling what’s Jewish in themselves has a long history. Peter Kosminsky would have it that his series is about Israel, not Jews, but in The Promise Israel becomes paradigmatic of the Jews’ refusal to be improved by affliction.”
So remember when you read The Promise’s entry on Wikipedia that you are only getting part of the story and the criticism of this flawed TV series has been deliberately blunted by Wikipedia’s editors.
Anyone familiar with Zkharya will know he is a serious fellow, highly educated and exceedingly well read on these topics.
The gist of the post at Engage is that he tried to improve the quality of an article on The Promise and his helpful additions were removed.
Further, he was warned that he was committing vandalism.
Now anyone familiar with Wikipedia and the exodus of contributors will recognise Zkharya’s criticisms. These have been going on for years, that basically a small coterie of Wikipedia editors patrol and enforce their own diktats on articles.
Should someone find a particularly egregious entry and correct it then their work may be disposed of, unless it pleases those Wikipedia honchos, who don’t like admitting they’re wrong or that they don’t know something terribly well.
I think Zkharya and other Wikipedia contributors need to remember Lord Acton’s quote, updated for the 21st century:
“Power corrupts, absolute virtual power corrupts absolutely, particularly on the Internet.”
Readers might remember how previously Bob had similar issues with Wikipedia on its CounterPunch entry.
Bob From Brockley has a superb post on CounterPunch, a well known ‘anti-imperialist’ rag with a propensity for publishing antisemites and their friends.
Bob details how criticism of Counterpunch has vanished from its Wikipedia entry.
It seems that CounterPunch can dish it out, but can’t take it.
Their attempt at censorship is a bit silly, as all of it is kept on the Way Back machine, and can be read at your leisure.
Below is a snapshot from the Beta version of 15th September 2011, for the record:
A number of writers, such as Franklin Foer of The New Republic and political commentator Steven Plaut, have written articles charging CounterPunch of being biased against Israel and antisemitic. Plaut cites the controversial anti-Zionist Gilad Atzmon in particular, and alleges that, “Almost every self-hating Jew on the planet capable of banging on a keyboard is today either a columnist for the anti-American web magazine Counterpunch … or is an object of Counterpunch’s celebration.”
CounterPunch has also been criticised by anti-Zionist activists Tony Greenstein and Roland Rance of Jews Against Zionism, for its practice of publishing articles by writers such as Gilad Atzmon and Israel Shamir which they describe as “blurring the distinction” between Zionism and Judaism, and failing to publish responses to these articles. 
- ^ McKinney, Cynthia; Cynthia McKinney (September 18 2002). “Goodbye to All That”. counterpunch.org. http://www.counterpunch.org/mckinney0918.html. Regarding COINTELPRO
- ^ Race encyclopedia’s flawed compromise, Ben Cohen, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 4, 2009. 
- ^ Plaut, Steven (June 21 2005). “CounterPunch’s Self-Hating Jews”. frontpagemag.com. http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=18477.
- ^ Taranto, James. “The Devil You Know”. The New Republic Online. https://ssl.tnr.com/p/docsub.mhtml?i=express&s=foer040902.
- ^ “Reply to Gilad Atzmon’s ‘What is to be Done?’”. What Next Magazine. http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Politics/Atzmonreply.html.
- ^ “Open Letter to CounterPunch: Who’s Afraid of Gilad Atzmon and the Holocaust Deniers? or Why Alex Cockburn Refuses to Print a Reply to Mary Rizzo”. What Next Magazine. http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages///Politics/Counterpunch.html.
- ^ http://www.antisemitism.org.il/eng/articles/43907/Whyleftwinganti-ZionismisantisemitismByDanielGreenfield
Anyway enjoy Bob’s post, Counterpunch: for the record.
“By way of background, Wikipedia’s 2.3 million-plus unvetted entries are contributed by anonymous users known only by colorful and sometimes bizarre and shadowy pseudonyms, often in a sort of “anything goes” perpetual intellectual wrestling match. In the 2008–2009 period, an estimated 132 million edits were logged and viewed by 342 million unique visitors worldwide. A pillar of Wikipedia doublespeak establishes this rule: “Wikipedia has no firm rules.” But actually, there are rules—and many of them. Original research is forbidden. For example, the world’s leading experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls, sea turtles or methanol could not contribute their knowledge based on their peer-reviewed findings. But anyone with an ax to grind on either topic could.”
Update 1: Thanks to Bob for pointing out this book review from LRB (not my favourite publication!):
“Part of the reason the astonishing growth of Wikipedia took even its founders by surprise was that this wasn’t their first attempt to set up an online encyclopedia. Wikipedia was an offshoot of something called Nupedia, which Wales had established in 2000 with the aim of using online volunteers to produce a new work of reference that would be free to use. The mistake Wales and his Nupedia collaborators made was to assume that any encyclopedia has to go through a formal editing process if it’s going to be reliable. Editors were appointed whose job was to decide on appropriate topics, open them up to online editing and then approve final versions once an agreed standard had been met. The editing process had seven stages from ‘assignment’ to ‘mark-up’, and was a slow, frustrating and ultimately fruitless business. By the end of the first year about two dozen articles had been completed, while the drafts of a few hundred more were still being fretted over. It looked like the vast additional resources and manpower that the internet had made available for checking reference books was going to overwhelm the capacities of anyone trying to process the information.
Hence the Wikipedia solution, stumbled on more by chance than by design: don’t try to process the information. It is generally assumed that what is distinctive about Wikipedia is that it is open to anyone to contribute, but that was true of Nupedia too. Wikipedia is different in that it doesn’t try to frame the creation of new entries with commissioned beginnings and fixed endpoints. It is open to anyone to initiate an entry on Wikipedia, and no entry is ever formally closed, since it is also open to anyone to keep editing and altering whatever is already there. Wikipedia still uses a large volunteer army of editors and ‘janitors’ to oversee the whole process, looking out for flagrant abuses and sounding the alarm when disputes get out of hand. But it is not the job of any editor to decide what counts as an entry. If there is any doubt about whether something is too trivial to take up space even in so limitless a space as Wikipedia it is put to the vote of others users (and any vote can always be overturned by another vote further down the line); otherwise, if you don’t like an entry it is up to you to change it. The editors are there to try to ensure this is done in as non-abusive a way as possible. But it is not up to anyone to call time on anything.”
I am not unduly worried that I was not credited. I won’t cry or moan, but what struck me was more what they chose to leave out of the Wiki entry.
I appreciate that Wiki is trying to achieve some neutral point of view. They are up front about it and I can see why that might be a good idea.
The evidence is there for everyone to see, his own comment:
“Stephen Sizer says:
January 16, 2010 at 5:45 PM
You must take a little more care who you brand as anti-semitic otherwise you too will be receiving a caution from the police as the young former student of Leeds did recently. One more reference to me and you will be reported.
[Even if it is subsequently denied, which I would doubt, then the Internet record can be pulled up to verify that Rev. Sizer did, in fact, leave that threat.]
Still, I suppose if Wiki had included that information then it would take the polish off of Rev. Sizer’s halo.
I think there’s a tendency for some of the biographical sections to come out like hagiographies.
Certainly, those of a religious persuasion (or not) would probably see why such an approach is not a good idea, and a bit unlikely under these circumstances, as few of us really have halos and most assuredly they do not need any on-line polishing!