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The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

 

 

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aprabhala at gmail

Feb 13, 2012, 7:39 AM

Post #1 of 65 (4819 views)
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The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

There's an interesting article out in the current issue of the Chronicle:

http://chronicle.com/article/The-Undue-Weight-of-Truth-on/130704/

It's behind a paywall, but in the spirit of fair use and in keeping with
the author's intent (the article is on Wikipedia, and I believe the
author would want to have us discuss it) I reproduce it here:


The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia

By Timothy Messer-Kruse

For the past 10 years I've immersed myself in the details of one of the
most famous events in American labor history, the Haymarket riot and
trial of 1886. Along the way I've written two books and a couple of
articles about the episode. In some circles that affords me a
presumption of expertise on the subject. Not, however, on Wikipedia.

The bomb thrown during an anarchist rally in Chicago sparked America's
first Red Scare, a high-profile show trial, and a worldwide clemency
movement for the seven condemned men. Today the martyrs' graves are a
national historic site, the location of the bombing is marked by a
public sculpture, and the event is recounted in most American history
textbooks. Its Wikipedia entry is detailed and elaborate.

A couple of years ago, on a slow day at the office, I decided to
experiment with editing one particularly misleading assertion chiseled
into the Wikipedia article. The description of the trial stated, "The
prosecution, led by Julius Grinnell, did not offer evidence connecting
any of the defendants with the bombing. ... "

Coincidentally, that is the claim that initially hooked me on the topic.
In 2001 I was teaching a labor-history course, and our textbook
contained nearly the same wording that appeared on Wikipedia. One of my
students raised her hand: "If the trial went on for six weeks and no
evidence was presented, what did they talk about all those days?" I've
been working to answer her question ever since.

I have not resolved all the mysteries that surround the bombing, but I
have dug deeply enough to be sure that the claim that the trial was
bereft of evidence is flatly wrong. One hundred and eighteen witnesses
were called to testify, many of them unindicted co-conspirators who
detailed secret meetings where plans to attack police stations were
mapped out, coded messages were placed in radical newspapers, and bombs
were assembled in one of the defendants' rooms.

In what was one of the first uses of forensic chemistry in an American
courtroom, the city's foremost chemists showed that the metallurgical
profile of a bomb found in one of the anarchists' homes was unlike any
commercial metal but was similar in composition to a piece of shrapnel
cut from the body of a slain police officer. So overwhelming was the
evidence against one of the defendants that his lawyers even admitted
that their client spent the afternoon before the Haymarket rally
building bombs, arguing that he was acting in self-defense.

So I removed the line about there being "no evidence" and provided a
full explanation in Wikipedia's behind-the-scenes editing log. Within
minutes my changes were reversed. The explanation: "You must provide
reliable sources for your assertions to make changes along these lines
to the article."

That was curious, as I had cited the documents that proved my point,
including verbatim testimony from the trial published online by the
Library of Congress. I also noted one of my own peer-reviewed articles.
One of the people who had assumed the role of keeper of this bit of
history for Wikipedia quoted the Web site's "undue weight" policy, which
states that "articles should not give minority views as much or as
detailed a description as more popular views." He then scolded me. "You
should not delete information supported by the majority of sources to
replace it with a minority view."

The "undue weight" policy posed a problem. Scholars have been publishing
the same ideas about the Haymarket case for more than a century. The
last published bibliography of titles on the subject has 1,530 entries.

"Explain to me, then, how a 'minority' source with facts on its side
would ever appear against a wrong 'majority' one?" I asked the
Wiki-gatekeeper. He responded, "You're more than welcome to discuss
reliable sources here, that's what the talk page is for. However, you
might want to have a quick look at Wikipedia's civility policy."

I tried to edit the page again. Within 10 seconds I was informed that my
citations to the primary documents were insufficient, as Wikipedia
requires its contributors to rely on secondary sources, or, as my critic
informed me, "published books." Another editor cheerfully tutored me in
what this means: "Wikipedia is not 'truth,' Wikipedia is 'verifiability'
of reliable sources. Hence, if most secondary sources which are taken as
reliable happen to repeat a flawed account or description of something,
Wikipedia will echo that."

Tempted to win simply through sheer tenacity, I edited the page again.
My triumph was even more fleeting than before. Within seconds the page
was changed back. The reason: "reverting possible vandalism." Fearing
that I would forever have to wear the scarlet letter of Wikipedia
vandal, I relented but noted with some consolation that in the wake of
my protest, the editors made a slight gesture of reconciliation—they
added the word "credible" so that it now read, "The prosecution, led by
Julius Grinnell, did not offer credible evidence connecting any of the
defendants with the bombing. ... " Though that was still inaccurate, I
decided not to attempt to correct the entry again until I could clear
the hurdles my anonymous interlocutors had set before me.

So I waited two years, until my book on the trial was published. "Now,
at last, I have a proper Wikipedia leg to stand on," I thought as I
opened the page and found at least a dozen statements that were factual
errors, including some that contradicted their own cited sources. I
found myself hesitant to write, eerily aware that the self-deputized
protectors of the page were reading over my shoulder, itching to revert
my edits and tutor me in Wiki-decorum. I made a small edit, testing the
waters.

My improvement lasted five minutes before a Wiki-cop scolded me, "I hope
you will familiarize yourself with some of Wikipedia's policies, such as
verifiability and undue weight. If all historians save one say that the
sky was green in 1888, our policies require that we write 'Most
historians write that the sky was green, but one says the sky was blue.'
... As individual editors, we're not in the business of weighing claims,
just reporting what reliable sources write."

I guess this gives me a glimmer of hope that someday, perhaps before
another century goes by, enough of my fellow scholars will adopt my
views that I can change that Wikipedia entry. Until then I will have to
continue to shout that the sky was blue.

Timothy Messer-Kruse is a professor in the School of Cultural and
Critical Studies at Bowling Green State University. He is author of The
Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists: Terrorism and Justice in the Gilded
Age (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and The Haymarket Conspiracy:
Transatlantic Anarchist Networks, to be published later this year by the
University of Illinois Press.

---

Two things that the article relates to, currently happening/ in proposal:

A discussion on oral citations (recently revived):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard#Oral_Citations

A proposal to examine citations, including the use of 'primary sources':
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Fellowships/Project_Ideas/InCite

---

Cheers,
Achal



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davidrichfield at gmail

Feb 13, 2012, 10:02 PM

Post #2 of 65 (4783 views)
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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

Relevant:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Haymarket_affair#.22No_Evidence.22

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Haymarket_affair#Dubious

--
David Richfield
[[:en:User:Slashme]]
+27718539985

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tstarling at wikimedia

Feb 14, 2012, 2:12 AM

Post #3 of 65 (4787 views)
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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On 14/02/12 02:39, Achal Prabhala wrote:
> The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia
>
> By Timothy Messer-Kruse
>
[...]
> My improvement lasted five minutes before a Wiki-cop scolded me, "I
> hope you will familiarize yourself with some of Wikipedia's policies,
> such as verifiability and undue weight. If all historians save one say
> that the sky was green in 1888, our policies require that we write
> 'Most historians write that the sky was green, but one says the sky
> was blue.' ... As individual editors, we're not in the business of
> weighing claims, just reporting what reliable sources write."

There are lots of places on Wikipedia where misconceptions have been
summarily dealt with, respectable sources criticised and facts brought
to light. Unfortunately, most academics don't have time for the edit
wars, lengthy talk page discussions and RFCs that are sometimes
required to overcome inertia.

The text of Messer-Kruse's article doesn't show much understanding of
this aspect of Wikipedia. But publishing it could be seen as canny. It
should be effective at recruiting new editors and bringing more
attention to the primary sources in question. The article is being
actively edited along those lines.

-- Tim Starling


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dggenwp at gmail

Feb 14, 2012, 7:36 PM

Post #4 of 65 (4782 views)
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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

There are a number of interesting relies. As they too undoubtedly
intended the material to be available, (I'm one of them & at any rate
I did,) I include them here; if additional come in, I shall post
them.

operalala 1 day ago
In your 2011 edit:
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/inde...
instead of providing a counterargument to a cited quotation, you
removed and replaced it.

From the research that went into your book, you should have a wealth
of material to draw on to support your edits.
You need to cite your sources, just like a term paper, or not complain
when it gets handed back to you.



marka 7 hours ago in reply to operalala
Wait a minute. He claims to have cited primary sources - but
potentially erroneous secondary sources are the standard? By these
measures, Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin, etc., wouldn't have been
mentioned in their own time - but Biblical entries should get top
billing because they have been cited by many? Or Stalinist & Maoist
propaganda, because they have been cited many times?

And as his student says, if the prosecution spent numerous days at
trial, what, indeed, were they talking about? On its face, the Wiki
entry is clearly erroneous. A judge & jury found the evidence
'credible.' Who says it wasn't, and what is their evidence?



jwhab309 1 day ago
Thank you. I was not aware that quality research was unacceptable in
Wikipedia land. Very unfortunate indeed.
6 people liked this. Like Reply



See Kuhn, Thomas, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," with
Wikipedia playing the role of gatekeeper of hegemonic paradigms in the
place of scientific journals. Although "in the place of" may not be
correct -- perhaps "in addition to" is more accurate.



marka 6 hours ago
And now that I've gone to the primary sources cited in the Wiki article,
the author of this Chron article is correct - the citations do NOT
support the assertions in the Wiki. For example, the assertion that
'friendly fire' was the cause of police wounds, the very sources cited
say exactly the opposite - primary gunfire was from the crowd - also
noted in Wiki footnote 5. Yikes! Looks like Wiki 'editors' are
adhering to some ideological point of view, rather than actually read
the footnotes and follow the links. Operalala, who .... are you?


dgoodman 6 hours ago
Qualified experts prevail at Wikipedia when they rely on their
expertise, not their qualifications. A true expert will be able to
give the best arguments and know the best sources. If they also write
in a style understandable by non-specialists, and not condescend to
them, they will have their edits accepted. It is intended to be
different from the academic world; there is no respect at Wikipedia
for status, but only for evidence.
People however qualified or expert who have done original research
that is not yet accepted by their profession will not have their ideas
accepted at Wikipedia as the mainstream view, precisely because their
views are in fact not yet mainstream. How could they expect it, for
who at Wikipedia will be able to judge them? For that they need other
experts, and the world of peer-reviewed publication is the place for
them.



22067030 4 hours ago
Wikipedia is presumably not authoritative so much as a place to start.
The gatekeepers are often inexpert, and may be unaware of who the
experts are, and at any rate are not maintaining a citable source.
Wikipedia is the place to START research. That means, for example, if
there is a squabble over, say, climate change, then the squabble
itself is a topic that should have citations for people who want to
explore the squabble further. But Wikipedia's mission will be
undercut if experts - or people who imagine themselves to be experts -
start deleting stuff.

I would recommend that if this is a place where the conventional
wisdom is very wrong, you start a new page on the controversy itself,
with citations to as wide a variety of points of view as you can find,
and then link current pages to your new page.

My experience with Wikipedia is that you can tell if you are having an
impact by what you initiate, not what you inscribe in stone.

GLMcColm





On Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 5:12 AM, Tim Starling <tstarling [at] wikimedia> wrote:
> On 14/02/12 02:39, Achal Prabhala wrote:
>>  The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia
>>
>> By Timothy Messer-Kruse
>>
> [...]
>> My improvement lasted five minutes before a Wiki-cop scolded me, "I
>> hope you will familiarize yourself with some of Wikipedia's policies,
>> such as verifiability and undue weight. If all historians save one say
>> that the sky was green in 1888, our policies require that we write
>> 'Most historians write that the sky was green, but one says the sky
>> was blue.' ... As individual editors, we're not in the business of
>> weighing claims, just reporting what reliable sources write."
>
> There are lots of places on Wikipedia where misconceptions have been
> summarily dealt with, respectable sources criticised and facts brought
> to light. Unfortunately, most academics don't have time for the edit
> wars, lengthy talk page discussions and RFCs that are sometimes
> required to overcome inertia.
>
> The text of Messer-Kruse's article doesn't show much understanding of
> this aspect of Wikipedia. But publishing it could be seen as canny. It
> should be effective at recruiting new editors and bringing more
> attention to the primary sources in question. The article is being
> actively edited along those lines.
>
> -- Tim Starling
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> foundation-l [at] lists
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l



--
David Goodman

DGG at the enWP
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:DGG
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:DGG

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andrew.gray at dunelm

Feb 18, 2012, 2:02 PM

Post #5 of 65 (4752 views)
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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On 14 February 2012 06:02, David Richfield <davidrichfield [at] gmail> wrote:
> Relevant:
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Haymarket_affair#.22No_Evidence.22
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Haymarket_affair#Dubious

As with so many cases, causing a stink gets the giant searchlight
directed on the article, and things get worked out... it's just a pity
it doesn't scale well!

This followup may be of some interest:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/02/does-wikipedia-have-an-accuracy-problem/253216/

I particularly liked this comment:

"Digging into Wikipedia's logs on the changes, it's clear that the
entry's gatekeepers did not handle the situation optimally, chiding
Messer-Kruse for his manners and not incorporating the new research
into the article, even as a minority viewpoint. But it's also worth
noting that the expectation that Wikipedia would quickly reflect such
a dramatic change in a well-known historical narrative is a very, very
high bar. (...) we hold this massive experiment in collaborative
knowledge to a standard that is higher than any other source. We don't
want Wikipedia to be just as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica:
We want it to have 55 times as many entries, present contentious
debates fairly, and reflect brand new scholarly research, all while
being edited and overseen primarily by volunteers."

--
- Andrew Gray
  andrew.gray [at] dunelm

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cimonavaro at gmail

Feb 18, 2012, 5:29 PM

Post #6 of 65 (4753 views)
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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

The key problem here is that WP:UNDUE was expressly written to address
the problem of genuine ongoing controversies, and fringe views. In
this case there is no ongoing controversy, but the use of the policy
has for long been used to remove new research no-one has even refuted,
much less there being an intractable controversy over the issue.

It is equally clear that some portions of the policy have been
wilfully wordsmithed so it could be used outside the original intent.
There is plenty of meticulously sourced new information that has been
challenged and removed from wikipedia because of this. It is only now
that this subverted use of the policy runs headlong into this kind of
glaringly obvious example of it's misuse that people are taking
notice. And taking notice of it in the wrong way.

Correcting the act, but not the root cause. In fact, if I wanted to
retain the ability to use the policy in precisely this manner, I would
be very quick about making sure the issue were quickly settled, so
there never arose a genuine review of the policy and its uses. The
fact that the policy is used in this fashion daily if not hourly.
Those (ab)uses just haven't been as glaringly obvious. I suspect we
all know that deep within our hearts, but loathe to go through the
tedium of overhauling a policy page with such deep devotees.


--
--
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen, ~ [[User:Cimon Avaro]]

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fredbaud at fairpoint

Feb 18, 2012, 5:42 PM

Post #7 of 65 (4747 views)
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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

> The key problem here is that WP:UNDUE was expressly written to address
> the problem of genuine ongoing controversies, and fringe views. In
> this case there is no ongoing controversy, but the use of the policy
> has for long been used to remove new research no-one has even refuted,
> much less there being an intractable controversy over the issue.
>
> It is equally clear that some portions of the policy have been
> wilfully wordsmithed so it could be used outside the original intent.
> There is plenty of meticulously sourced new information that has been
> challenged and removed from wikipedia because of this. It is only now
> that this subverted use of the policy runs headlong into this kind of
> glaringly obvious example of it's misuse that people are taking
> notice. And taking notice of it in the wrong way.
>
> Correcting the act, but not the root cause. In fact, if I wanted to
> retain the ability to use the policy in precisely this manner, I would
> be very quick about making sure the issue were quickly settled, so
> there never arose a genuine review of the policy and its uses. The
> fact that the policy is used in this fashion daily if not hourly.
> Those (ab)uses just haven't been as glaringly obvious. I suspect we
> all know that deep within our hearts, but loathe to go through the
> tedium of overhauling a policy page with such deep devotees.
>
>
> --
> --
> Jussi-Ville Heiskanen, ~ [[User:Cimon Avaro]]

Actually, there is an ongoing controversy, the whitewashing of radical
history which is what the language, paraphrasing, "no evidence was
presented but the defendants were found guilty", is all about.

The policy, misused in the course of POV struggle, is a way of excluding
information with interferes with presentation of a desired point of view.

Fred



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cimonavaro at gmail

Feb 18, 2012, 7:06 PM

Post #8 of 65 (4743 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 3:42 AM, Fred Bauder <fredbaud [at] fairpoint> wrote:
>> The key problem here is that WP:UNDUE was expressly written to address
>> the problem of genuine ongoing controversies, and fringe views. In
>> this case there is no ongoing controversy, but the use of the policy
>> has for long been used to remove new research no-one has even refuted,
>> much less there being an intractable controversy over the issue.
>>
>> It is equally clear that some portions of the policy have been
>> wilfully wordsmithed so  it could be used outside the original intent.
>> There is plenty of meticulously sourced new information that has been
>> challenged and removed from wikipedia because of this. It is only now
>> that this subverted use of the policy runs headlong into this kind of
>> glaringly obvious example of it's misuse that people are taking
>> notice. And taking notice of it in the wrong way.
>>
>> Correcting the act, but not the root cause. In fact, if I wanted to
>> retain the ability to use the policy in precisely this manner, I would
>> be very quick about making sure the issue were quickly settled, so
>> there never arose a genuine review of the policy and its uses. The
>> fact that the policy is used in this fashion daily if not hourly.
>> Those (ab)uses just haven't been as glaringly obvious. I suspect we
>> all know that deep within our hearts, but loathe to go through the
>> tedium of overhauling a policy page with such deep devotees.
>>
>>
>> --
>> --
>> Jussi-Ville Heiskanen, ~ [[User:Cimon Avaro]]
>
> Actually, there is an ongoing controversy, the whitewashing of radical
> history which is what the language, paraphrasing, "no evidence was
> presented but the defendants were found guilty", is all about.
>
> The policy, misused in the course of POV struggle, is a way of excluding
> information with interferes with presentation of a desired point of view.

I think you are being way too generous. The misuse of the policy is far wider
than mere POV issues. The issue is that the policy as currently employed and
systematically construed, is not fit to use. It is not enabling us to
work together
on issues that are controversial in the world outside wikipedia. It is
exacerbating
problems within the Wikipedia editorship. Let me repeat in more concise form.
The policy was written to enable serious work on hard topics, it as it
stands, hinders work, making it hard to edit simple facts.

--
--
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mnemonic at gmail

Feb 19, 2012, 1:44 AM

Post #9 of 65 (4746 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

Jussi-ville writes:

>> The policy, misused in the course of POV struggle, is a way of excluding
>> information with interferes with presentation of a desired point of view.
>
> I think you are being way too generous. ... Let me repeat in more concise form.
> The policy was written to enable serious work on hard topics, it as it
> stands, hinders work, making it hard to edit simple facts.

I think the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education is a
must-read. Here you have a researcher who actually took pains to learn
what the rules to editing Wikipedia are (including No Original
Research), and who, instead of trying to end-run WP:NOR, waited years
until the article was actually published before trying to modify the
Haymarket article. To me, this is a particularly fascinating case
because the author's article, unlike the great majority of sources for
Wikipedia articles, was peer-reviewed -- this means it underwent
academic scrutiny that the newspapers, magazines, and other popular
sources we rely on never undergo.

I think the problem really is grounded in the UNDUE WEIGHT policy
itself, as written, and not in mere misuse of the policy.


--Mike

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coldchrist at gmail

Feb 19, 2012, 3:57 AM

Post #10 of 65 (4747 views)
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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 4:44 AM, Mike Godwin <mnemonic [at] gmail> wrote:

> I think the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education is a
> must-read. Here you have a researcher who actually took pains to learn
> what the rules to editing Wikipedia are (including No Original
> Research), and who, instead of trying to end-run WP:NOR, waited years
> until the article was actually published before trying to modify the
> Haymarket article. To me, this is a particularly fascinating case
> because the author's article, unlike the great majority of sources for
> Wikipedia articles, was peer-reviewed -- this means it underwent
> academic scrutiny that the newspapers, magazines, and other popular
> sources we rely on never undergo.
>
> I think the problem really is grounded in the UNDUE WEIGHT policy
> itself, as written, and not in mere misuse of the policy.
>

Perhaps the policies can be improved, but they are written to stop bad
editing rather than to encourage good editing. I don't think that can be
changed. It's impossible to legislate good judgement, and it's judgement
that was called for with the Haymarket article.

Mike
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fredbaud at fairpoint

Feb 19, 2012, 5:12 AM

Post #11 of 65 (4744 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

> On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 4:44 AM, Mike Godwin <mnemonic [at] gmail> wrote:
>
>> I think the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education is a
>> must-read. Here you have a researcher who actually took pains to learn
>> what the rules to editing Wikipedia are (including No Original
>> Research), and who, instead of trying to end-run WP:NOR, waited years
>> until the article was actually published before trying to modify the
>> Haymarket article. To me, this is a particularly fascinating case
>> because the author's article, unlike the great majority of sources for
>> Wikipedia articles, was peer-reviewed -- this means it underwent
>> academic scrutiny that the newspapers, magazines, and other popular
>> sources we rely on never undergo.
>>
>> I think the problem really is grounded in the UNDUE WEIGHT policy
>> itself, as written, and not in mere misuse of the policy.
>>
>
> Perhaps the policies can be improved, but they are written to stop bad
> editing rather than to encourage good editing. I don't think that can be
> changed. It's impossible to legislate good judgement, and it's judgement
> that was called for with the Haymarket article.
>
> Mike

The policy had its roots in the effort to deal with physics cranks, see

http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikien-l/2003-September/006715.html

It it is misapplied when rigorous new research is excluded. What is
needed is capacity make judgements based on familiarity with the
literature in the field. You can have that, as a academic in the field
might, or you can learn about it by reading literature in the field and
finding how how new research was received, reviewed and commented on.

Fred



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slimvirgin at gmail

Feb 19, 2012, 7:12 AM

Post #12 of 65 (4742 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 6:44 AM, Mike Godwin <mnemonic [at] gmail> wrote:
> Jussi-ville writes:
>
>>> The policy, misused in the course of POV struggle, is a way of excluding
>>> information with interferes with presentation of a desired point of view. ...
>>
>
> I think the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education is a
> must-read. Here you have a researcher who actually took pains to learn
> what the rules to editing Wikipedia are (including No Original
> Research), and who, instead of trying to end-run WP:NOR, waited years
> until the article was actually published before trying to modify the
> Haymarket article. To me, this is a particularly fascinating case
> because the author's article, unlike the great majority of sources for
> Wikipedia articles, was peer-reviewed -- this means it underwent
> academic scrutiny that the newspapers, magazines, and other popular
> sources we rely on never undergo.
>
> I think the problem really is grounded in the UNDUE WEIGHT policy
> itself, as written, and not in mere misuse of the policy.
>
>
> --Mike

I agree. It's the way UNDUE is written that is problematic, and it has
led, for years, to significant-minority viewpoints being excluded --
on the grounds that the views are not sufficiently well-represented by
reliable sources; or that the reliable sources, even if peer-reviewed,
belong to the wrong field.

Sarah

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cimonavaro at gmail

Feb 19, 2012, 7:40 AM

Post #13 of 65 (4745 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 11:44 AM, Mike Godwin <mnemonic [at] gmail> wrote:
> Jussi-ville writes:
>
>>> The policy, misused in the course of POV struggle, is a way of excluding
>>> information with interferes with presentation of a desired point of view.
>>
>> I think you are being way too generous. ... Let me repeat in more concise form.
>> The policy was written to enable serious work on hard topics, it as it
>> stands, hinders work, making it hard to edit simple facts.
>
> I think the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education is a
> must-read. Here you have a researcher who actually took pains to learn
> what the rules to editing Wikipedia are (including No Original
> Research), and who, instead of trying to end-run WP:NOR, waited years
> until the article was actually published before trying to modify the
> Haymarket article. To me, this is a particularly fascinating case
> because the author's article, unlike the great majority of sources for
> Wikipedia articles, was peer-reviewed -- this means it underwent
> academic scrutiny that the newspapers, magazines, and other popular
> sources we rely on never undergo.
>
> I think the problem really is grounded in the UNDUE WEIGHT policy
> itself, as written, and not in mere misuse of the policy.
>

Yes, that is what I said in my previous posting, the policy as it
originally was written was fine, but people deliberately edited the
policy in such a way that the letter of the policy in the strict sense
makes this kind of abuse possible, and not merely possible, but
commonplace. Some of the editors might have had excusable motives of
not only removing fringe beliefs from wikipedia but also things they
considered too inconsequential to be in an encyclopaedia. I think they
were fundamentally and comprehensively wrong to take this view, but I
cannot deny that from their philosophical perspective, removing what
they consider dross but others might not, is from their perspective a
good thing no matter how much they must twist the original intent of
the policy document.

A collateral of this and a few other policies similarly co-opted and
edited beyond the original aims and intent of the policy in effect was
to leverage power to the experienced editors who knew how to quote
chapter and verse from the policies, and to dissuade new editors from
protesting the validity of their case. I do believe this might have
some relevance to the low retention rate of new editors.


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cimonavaro at gmail

Feb 19, 2012, 7:43 AM

Post #14 of 65 (4744 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 1:57 PM, Mike Christie <coldchrist [at] gmail> wrote:

>
> Perhaps the policies can be improved, but they are written to stop bad
> editing rather than to encourage good editing.  I don't think that can be
> changed.  It's impossible to legislate good judgement, and it's judgement
> that was called for with the Haymarket article.

A cop pulls over a black man and and follows the usual procedures. It turns
out he was a Harvard Professor. He failed to exercise good judgement.

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cimonavaro at gmail

Feb 19, 2012, 7:58 AM

Post #15 of 65 (4748 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 1:57 PM, Mike Christie <coldchrist [at] gmail> wrote:


>
> Perhaps the policies can be improved, but they are written to stop bad
> editing rather than to encourage good editing.  I don't think that can be
> changed.  It's impossible to legislate good judgement, and it's judgement
> that was called for with the Haymarket article.
>

As of now they do not merely allow, but require the removal of
various kinds of good editing. And though it is impossible to
legislate good judgement, it is possible to supply enforcers with
equipment far in excess of what doing their job properly requires.


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delirium at hackish

Feb 19, 2012, 9:16 AM

Post #16 of 65 (4744 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On 2/19/12 4:12 PM, Sarah wrote:
> On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 6:44 AM, Mike Godwin<mnemonic [at] gmail> wrote:
>> I think the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education is a
>> must-read. Here you have a researcher who actually took pains to learn
>> what the rules to editing Wikipedia are (including No Original
>> Research), and who, instead of trying to end-run WP:NOR, waited years
>> until the article was actually published before trying to modify the
>> Haymarket article. To me, this is a particularly fascinating case
>> because the author's article, unlike the great majority of sources for
>> Wikipedia articles, was peer-reviewed -- this means it underwent
>> academic scrutiny that the newspapers, magazines, and other popular
>> sources we rely on never undergo.
>>
>> I think the problem really is grounded in the UNDUE WEIGHT policy
>> itself, as written, and not in mere misuse of the policy.
>>
>>
>> --Mike
> I agree. It's the way UNDUE is written that is problematic, and it has
> led, for years, to significant-minority viewpoints being excluded --
> on the grounds that the views are not sufficiently well-represented by
> reliable sources; or that the reliable sources, even if peer-reviewed,
> belong to the wrong field.

The history of why it's written that way is interesting to keep in mind.
As far as I recall and can reconstruct, the main three targets were: 1)
fringe-physics advocates; 2) alternative-medicine advocates; and 3)
advocates of heterodox theories of WW2 and the Holocaust. There was an
influx of all three circa 2003-05, once Wikipedia started getting
internet-famous (featured on Slashdot, etc.).

WP:NOR was a first-cut reaction to exclude the totally fringe stuff,
like some Usenet people who had migrated to Wikipedia and were trying to
make it their own personal original-physics playground. But what about
minority views that *are* published somewhere, just not widely held? The
response was WP:UNDUE, that those should indeed be covered, but in an
appropriate, limited sense--- it should not be the case that every
single article on a subatomic particle would include a section
explaining the heterodox view according to $very_minor_fringe_theory,
even though the theory itself should have an article, and perhaps a
brief mention in one of the top-level articles (e.g. in some sort of
"alternative views" section of a particle-physics article). Same with
including minority historical views in every single article on the
Holocaust, or on the Civil War, even in the case of minority views held
by respectable scholars.

What I find discussing this is that, put in that context, the majority
of people (at least that I've talked to) think the policy is correct and
makes sense in that context. So the trick seems to be that it makes less
sense in other contexts.

-Mark


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delirium at hackish

Feb 19, 2012, 9:25 AM

Post #17 of 65 (4743 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On 2/19/12 2:29 AM, Jussi-Ville Heiskanen wrote:
> The key problem here is that WP:UNDUE was expressly written to address
> the problem of genuine ongoing controversies, and fringe views. In
> this case there is no ongoing controversy, but the use of the policy
> has for long been used to remove new research no-one has even refuted,
> much less there being an intractable controversy over the issue.
In some cases I think *that* is also the correct response, though it's
difficult to sort out how to distinguish when it is and isn't. In my own
field (artificial intelligence), there is a certain amount of excessive
recentism in Wikipedia articles--- some new paper will come out with a
grand new result or critique, will get a flurry of coverage in New
Scientist and similar publications, and the Wikipedia article will be
updated with this "cutting-edge AI" result.

But, this often ends up being premature, because the grand result will
not really turn out to be as grand as initially claimed (or perhaps even
accepted by the field at all), the critique may be responded to in six
months in convincing fashion, etc. In many cases, when editing myself, I
prefer to be skeptical of the past 1-2 years of journal articles and
conference papers, except those that I know to be rock-solid (admittedly
a judgment call). It's not clear with very recent papers to what extent
they constitute consensus of the field, when the field hasn't had a
chance to process them yet; though if it's a literature you're familiar
with, you can sometimes make educated guesses as to which are
flash-in-a-pan versus genuinely major new results. I suppose that's
where I'd agree with the frequent calls for more "experts" on Wikipedia;
one thing someone expert in a field can do well is give some context to
and evaluate recent publications.

-Mark

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cimonavaro at gmail

Feb 19, 2012, 9:26 AM

Post #18 of 65 (4743 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 7:16 PM, Delirium <delirium [at] hackish> wrote:
> On 2/19/12 4:12 PM, Sarah wrote:
>>
>> On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 6:44 AM, Mike Godwin<mnemonic [at] gmail>  wrote:
>>>
>>> I think the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education is a
>>>
>>> must-read. Here you have a researcher who actually took pains to learn
>>> what the rules to editing Wikipedia are (including No Original
>>> Research), and who, instead of trying to end-run WP:NOR, waited years
>>> until the article was actually published before trying to modify the
>>> Haymarket article. To me, this is a particularly fascinating case
>>> because the author's article, unlike the great majority of sources for
>>> Wikipedia articles, was peer-reviewed -- this means it underwent
>>> academic scrutiny that the newspapers, magazines, and other popular
>>> sources we rely on never undergo.
>>>
>>> I think the problem really is grounded in the UNDUE WEIGHT policy
>>> itself, as written, and not in mere misuse of the policy.
>>>
>>>
>>> --Mike
>>
>> I agree. It's the way UNDUE is written that is problematic, and it has
>> led, for years, to significant-minority viewpoints being excluded --
>> on the grounds that the views are not sufficiently well-represented by
>> reliable sources; or that the reliable sources, even if peer-reviewed,
>> belong to the wrong field.
>
>
> The history of why it's written that way is interesting to keep in mind. As
> far as I recall and can reconstruct, the main three targets were: 1)
> fringe-physics advocates; 2) alternative-medicine advocates; and 3)
> advocates of heterodox theories of WW2 and the Holocaust. There was an
> influx of all three circa 2003-05, once Wikipedia started getting
> internet-famous (featured on Slashdot, etc.).
>
> WP:NOR was a first-cut reaction to exclude the totally fringe stuff, like
> some Usenet people who had migrated to Wikipedia and were trying to make it
> their own personal original-physics playground. But what about minority
> views that *are* published somewhere, just not widely held? The response was
> WP:UNDUE, that those should indeed be covered, but in an appropriate,
> limited sense--- it should not be the case that every single article on a
> subatomic particle would include a section explaining the heterodox view
> according to $very_minor_fringe_theory, even though the theory itself should
> have an article, and perhaps a brief mention in one of the top-level
> articles (e.g. in some sort of "alternative views" section of a
> particle-physics article). Same with including minority historical views in
> every single article on the Holocaust, or on the Civil War, even in the case
> of minority views held by respectable scholars.
>
> What I find discussing this is that, put in that context, the majority of
> people (at least that I've talked to) think the policy is correct and makes
> sense in that context. So the trick seems to be that it makes less sense in
> other contexts.
>

You are missing the point, the original wording of the policy was
fine, in any context, closely read. But the language has been tweaked,
so the original intent is completely clouded and replaced by a vastly
expanded ambit of applicability.


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cimonavaro at gmail

Feb 19, 2012, 9:33 AM

Post #19 of 65 (4751 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 7:25 PM, Delirium <delirium [at] hackish> wrote:
> On 2/19/12 2:29 AM, Jussi-Ville Heiskanen wrote:
>>
>> The key problem here is that WP:UNDUE was expressly written to address
>> the problem of genuine ongoing controversies, and fringe views. In
>> this case there is no ongoing controversy, but the use of the policy
>> has for long been used to remove new research no-one has even refuted,
>> much less there being an intractable controversy over the issue.
>
> In some cases I think *that* is also the correct response, though it's
> difficult to sort out how to distinguish when it is and isn't. In my own
> field (artificial intelligence), there is a certain amount of excessive
> recentism in Wikipedia articles--- some new paper will come out with a grand
> new result or critique, will get a flurry of coverage in New Scientist and
> similar publications, and the Wikipedia article will be updated with this
> "cutting-edge AI" result.

I completely agree that *sometimes* it the correct response. I
completely disagree that it is a WP:UNDUE issue. Maybe we should have
a WP:SPECULATIVE policy page.

--
--
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mnemonic at gmail

Feb 19, 2012, 12:04 PM

Post #20 of 65 (4743 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 3:57 AM, Mike Christie <coldchrist [at] gmail> wrote:

> Perhaps the policies can be improved, but they are written to stop bad
> editing rather than to encourage good editing.  I don't think that can be
> changed.  It's impossible to legislate good judgement, and it's judgement
> that was called for with the Haymarket article.

If policies don't encourage good judgment, or discourage bad judgment,
then what are policies for?

It seems worth discussing whether it would be good to revise the
existing policy to restore its original (presumed) functionality.

More generally, I've believed for a long time that WP policies have
been increased, modified, and subverted in ways that both create a
higher barrier to entry for new editors and that discourage both new
editors and existing ones.


--Mike

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fredbaud at fairpoint

Feb 19, 2012, 12:10 PM

Post #21 of 65 (4752 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

> On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 3:57 AM, Mike Christie <coldchrist [at] gmail>
> wrote:
>
>> Perhaps the policies can be improved, but they are written to stop bad
>> editing rather than to encourage good editing.  I don't think that can
>> be
>> changed.  It's impossible to legislate good judgement, and it's
>> judgement
>> that was called for with the Haymarket article.
>
> If policies don't encourage good judgment, or discourage bad judgment,
> then what are policies for?
>
> It seems worth discussing whether it would be good to revise the
> existing policy to restore its original (presumed) functionality.
>
> More generally, I've believed for a long time that WP policies have
> been increased, modified, and subverted in ways that both create a
> higher barrier to entry for new editors and that discourage both new
> editors and existing ones.
>
>
> --Mike

I think it probably seems to climate change deniers that excluding
political opinions from science-based articles on global warming is a
violation of neutral point of view, and of basic fairness. That is just
one example, but there are other similar situations.

Fred



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mnemonic at gmail

Feb 19, 2012, 5:48 PM

Post #22 of 65 (4740 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

Fred Bauder writes:

> I think it probably seems to climate change deniers that excluding
> political opinions from science-based articles on global warming is a
> violation of neutral point of view, and of basic fairness. That is just
> one example, but there are other similar situations.

This analogy is breathtakingly unpersuasive. Apart from the fact that
consensus about scientific theory is not analogous to consensus about
the historical records of particular events, climate-change-denial
theory is actually discussed quite thoroughly on Wikipedia. Plus, the
author of the op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education doesn't seem
at all like climate-change deniers.

If there is something specific you want to suggest about the author --
that he's agenda-driven, that his work is unreliable, or that the
journal in which he published the article is not a reliable source --
then I think equity requires that you declare why you doubt or dismiss
his article.

I read the article in the Chronicle pretty carefully. The author's
experience struck me as an example of a pattern that may account for
the flattening of the growth curve in new editors as well as for some
other phenomena. As you may rememember, Andrew Lih conducted a
presentation on "the policy thicket" at Wikimania almost five years
ago. The wielding of policy by long-term editors, plus the rewriting
of the policy so that it is used to undercut NPOV rather than preserve
it, strikes me as worth talking about. Dismissing it out of hand, or
analogizing it to climate-change denial, undercuts my trust in the
Wikipedian process rather than reinforces it.


--Mike

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fredbaud at fairpoint

Feb 19, 2012, 7:31 PM

Post #23 of 65 (4735 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

> Fred Bauder writes:
>
>> I think it probably seems to climate change deniers that excluding
>> political opinions from science-based articles on global warming is a
>> violation of neutral point of view, and of basic fairness. That is just
>> one example, but there are other similar situations.
>
> This analogy is breathtakingly unpersuasive. Apart from the fact that
> consensus about scientific theory is not analogous to consensus about
> the historical records of particular events, climate-change-denial
> theory is actually discussed quite thoroughly on Wikipedia. Plus, the
> author of the op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education doesn't seem
> at all like climate-change deniers.
>
> If there is something specific you want to suggest about the author --
> that he's agenda-driven, that his work is unreliable, or that the
> journal in which he published the article is not a reliable source --
> then I think equity requires that you declare why you doubt or dismiss
> his article.
>
> I read the article in the Chronicle pretty carefully. The author's
> experience struck me as an example of a pattern that may account for
> the flattening of the growth curve in new editors as well as for some
> other phenomena. As you may rememember, Andrew Lih conducted a
> presentation on "the policy thicket" at Wikimania almost five years
> ago. The wielding of policy by long-term editors, plus the rewriting
> of the policy so that it is used to undercut NPOV rather than preserve
> it, strikes me as worth talking about. Dismissing it out of hand, or
> analogizing it to climate-change denial, undercuts my trust in the
> Wikipedian process rather than reinforces it.
>
>
> --Mike

We're talking past one another. It is obvious to me that the author of
the Chronicle article should have been able to add his research without
difficulty, at least after it was published.

We have material about climate change denial, but do not give political
viewpoints the status we give scientific opinion in articles on the
science, nor should we. What we would be looking for, and will not be
able to find, is substantial work showing that climate warming does not
result from an increase in greenhouse gases and other products of human
activity. We can't simply say, "According to Rick Santorum, there is no
scientific basis...."

Yes, please, lets discuss.

Fred



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saintonge at telus

Feb 20, 2012, 1:39 AM

Post #24 of 65 (4736 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On 02/19/12 12:04 PM, Mike Godwin wrote:
> On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 3:57 AM, Mike Christie<coldchrist [at] gmail> wrote:
>> Perhaps the policies can be improved, but they are written to stop bad
>> editing rather than to encourage good editing. I don't think that can be
>> changed. It's impossible to legislate good judgement, and it's judgement
>> that was called for with the Haymarket article.
> If policies don't encourage good judgment, or discourage bad judgment,
> then what are policies for?
>
> It seems worth discussing whether it would be good to revise the
> existing policy to restore its original (presumed) functionality.
>
> More generally, I've believed for a long time that WP policies have
> been increased, modified, and subverted in ways that both create a
> higher barrier to entry for new editors and that discourage both new
> editors and existing ones.
>
Policies in general tend to discourage judgement of any sort. Even when
such policies are classified as guidelines there will always be those
who seek their rigid application. In criminal law, when an accused is
acquitted of a particularly heinous crime there will always be those who
believe that it's because the law was not tough enough. They often
succeed in making it tougher, and end up catching more fish than intended.

I just passed my 10th Wiki Birthday, and I'm certainly discouraged from
much substantial editing. I often leave material that I suspect to be
wrong because the emotional cost of making the correction is much too
high. If others do that too the reliability of the entire Wikipedia is
put in question.

As Mark has said, some subjects are highly vulnerable to recentism, but
one shouldn't expect that with a historical article about events from
1886. When crowdsourcing it is dangerous to assume that the majority
will always be right. That perpetuates errors, and makes correcting
them very difficult. Whatever we think of Stalin we want to spell his
name right. An English speaking majority in a Google ranking refers to
him as Joseph even if a stricter or more scholarly transliteration gives
Josef. Whatever spelling we choose alters the landscape; as a highly
popular source that is often quoted and copied we set the standard for
what is correct. Our errors will establish the norm. We become our own
uncertainty principle.

Ray

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saintonge at telus

Feb 20, 2012, 2:17 AM

Post #25 of 65 (4739 views)
Permalink
Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions [In reply to]

On 02/19/12 7:31 PM, Fred Bauder wrote:
>> Fred Bauder writes:
>>> I think it probably seems to climate change deniers that excluding
>>> political opinions from science-based articles on global warming is a
>>> violation of neutral point of view, and of basic fairness. That is just
>>> one example, but there are other similar situations.
>> This analogy is breathtakingly unpersuasive. Apart from the fact that
>> consensus about scientific theory is not analogous to consensus about
>> the historical records of particular events, climate-change-denial
>> theory is actually discussed quite thoroughly on Wikipedia. Plus, the
>> author of the op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education doesn't seem
>> at all like climate-change deniers.
>>
>> If there is something specific you want to suggest about the author --
>> that he's agenda-driven, that his work is unreliable, or that the
>> journal in which he published the article is not a reliable source --
>> then I think equity requires that you declare why you doubt or dismiss
>> his article.
>>
>> I read the article in the Chronicle pretty carefully. The author's
>> experience struck me as an example of a pattern that may account for
>> the flattening of the growth curve in new editors as well as for some
>> other phenomena. As you may rememember, Andrew Lih conducted a
>> presentation on "the policy thicket" at Wikimania almost five years
>> ago. The wielding of policy by long-term editors, plus the rewriting
>> of the policy so that it is used to undercut NPOV rather than preserve
>> it, strikes me as worth talking about. Dismissing it out of hand, or
>> analogizing it to climate-change denial, undercuts my trust in the
>> Wikipedian process rather than reinforces it.
> We're talking past one another. It is obvious to me that the author of
> the Chronicle article should have been able to add his research without
> difficulty, at least after it was published.
>
> We have material about climate change denial, but do not give political
> viewpoints the status we give scientific opinion in articles on the
> science, nor should we. What we would be looking for, and will not be
> able to find, is substantial work showing that climate warming does not
> result from an increase in greenhouse gases and other products of human
> activity. We can't simply say, "According to Rick Santorum, there is no
> scientific basis...."
>
> Yes, please, lets discuss.

If we're ever going to get past these problems of Wiki epistemology it
won't be done by starting with such a heavily argued contemporary
problem as climate change. It has too many active vested interests. Too
many people accept political statements as fact. NPOV started off as a
great concept, but sometimes when we try to explain it we end up
expanding beyond recognition. Reliable sources are fine but deciding on
the reliability of a source itself requires a point of view. Calling
something original research ends up more a weapon than a valid criticism.

Ray

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