Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 374. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org  From: Ken Friedman
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.363: the question on Wikipedia (130)  From: Tim Smithers Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.363: the question on Wikipedia (82) -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: 2019-01-23 21:38:51+00:00 From: Ken Friedman Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.363: the question on Wikipedia Dear Colleagues, A few short comments may shed light on three recent replies to my notes and Willard's. 1) James Cummings wrote: "Although Encyclopedia Britannia has been mentioned I haven't seen much reference to the (now quite dated, I think) comparative studies which found wikipedia to be significantly more accurate on random sampling because of its ease of updating." There has never been a study to my knowledge that found a truly random sample of Wikipedia articles more accurate than a random sample of articles from the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. If anyone knows of such a study, I'd like to read it. All studies known to me show *selected* articles in Wikipedia to be nearly as accurate as *selected* articles in Britannica. No study known to me shows greater accuracy. James continues, "...on balance I'd rather choose the dumbed-down existence with wikipedia than the out-of-date existence of any print encyclopedias." To me, this is not the choice. To speak of a "dumbed-down" reference work suggests an accurate, up-to-date project that simply suffers from being badly written. To speak of a print encyclopaedia as inevitably out-of-date suggests that print encyclopaedias were written ten years prior to the latest scientific advances. In my experience, relatively few Wikipedia articles draw on current peer- reviewed literature. Wikipedia is as likely to be out-of-date as any major reference work. And Britannica, like many reference works, is no longer a print encyclopaedia. Britannica and many other works are now delivered online, and articles are updated far more often than was possible when editions were only available on paper. Some specialised print encyclopaedias continue to exist. In fields that do not update as often as technology or the natural sciences, this makes little difference. But despite the potentially rapid updates and frequent churn that mark Wikipedia articles, I don't see an advantage to articles in any field that are brought up to date with incorrect information. 2) Maurizio Lana's reply suggested an ideal solution: > hi ken, > i was thinking of addressing your question about the reliability of wikipedia, when speaking of articles about fascism and Resistance in the recent Italian history. > but your reply seems to explain that what you would like is one or more /solution/ to the problems of reliability of wikipedia. i think that the only solution is what i was recalling: that is a continuous (continual!) action of people who (re)build the knowledge content of the articles. > this is implicit in the openness of the contributions to wikipedia: various forms of lack of reliability (whole articles or part of articles) which are original (poor quality of knowledge of the contributor/s) or subsequent (defacement of previous correct content). > we need a constant abundant flux of good, correct content in order to minimize the relevance of bad content. what in turn implies a social responsibility towards the digital environment we all live in." In my view, Maurizio is quite right. This would be an ideal solution if Wikipedia were to work this way. The problem is that it doesnât happen. Wikipedia does not show a constant flux of correct content. Once an article reaches a relatively stable state, the Wikipedia system tends to revert back to the stable version of the article, rejecting good content and improvements as well as rejecting problem contributions. 3) Henry Schaffer mentioned the often cited Nature article on Wikipedia, (Giles, Jim. 2005. "Internet Encyclopaedias Go Head to Head." Nature, Vol. 438, pp. 900-901, 15 December.) The summary he quoted is from an index. The full article appears here: https://www.nature.com/articles/438900a The summary is mistaken in stating that "Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries." Giles's article did not compare all science entries. He compared 42 selected articles in Wikipedia with 42 articles in Encyclopaedia Britannica. The notion that this was a scientific study published in Nature is an often-repeated but incorrect myth. Gilesâs article was not a peer reviewed study published IN Nature. It was a speculative foray by a journalist working for Nature. It was comparable to John Bohannonâs sting project targeting predatory journals for the journal Science. These differ to the peer reviewed articles for which Nature and Science are famed. Many of the people who refer to the Wikipedia study seem, mistakenly, to believe that it was a peer reviewed study published in Nature. It was not. Giles's "head-to-head" title was misleading. He did not compare the encyclopaedias as a whole. Giles's survey compared only 42 articles out of what was then a corpus of 3.7 million articles in 200 languages. The sample size was so small that the article gave no valid information on the reliability of Wikipedia as a whole. The articles in the study were selected among the larger, more complete and comprehensive Wikipedia articles. These could not have been a representative sample chosen from amongst all of the 3.7 million articles then available. Itâs as if a journalist were to select 42 high performing amateur athletes from the top Olympic teams, and compare them against professional athletes in the same sports. These athletes would compare well against professionals. A representative selective of the world's millions of amateur athletes would not compare well, not even against a selection of professionals from the minor leagues of any sport. Some Wikipedia articles are useful. But they change all the time. Itâs more than a matter of broken links. There seems to be no way to hold the content. The Wikipedia system often interprets genuine improvements as disruptions, with editors -- and bots -- reverting better states to worse states without reading the content. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion on the value of Wikipedia. Even so, the information in some comparative studies is flawed. Yours, Ken Ken Friedman, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | è®¾è®¡ She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/she-ji-the- journal-of-design-economics-and-innovation/ Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| Email email@example.com | Academia http://swinburne.academia.edu/KenFriedman | D&I http://tjdi.tongji.edu.cn -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: 2019-01-23 21:05:47+00:00 From: Tim Smithers Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.363: the question on Wikipedia Dear Willard, I am, I fear, going to be somewhat polemical here. Not because I want to be (I don't) but because it's going to be hard not to be. Comparing Wikipedia to the Encyclopaedia Britannica is, as I see it, like comparing wild apples to privately and carefully cultivated oranges. This is unfair, and indicates a basic confusion, I think. Wikipedia is Common, (mostly) built by and for ordinary folk, not by or for well trained and well practiced researchers and scholars. Encyclopaedia Britannica is Posh, built by a well educated and pre-selected few, and (mostly) used by the similarly, or, also-wanting-to-be, knowledgeable and scholarly. To have the idea that Wikipedia would be better if it were made to match the reliability of Encyclopaedia Britannica, is to be ignorant of, or ignoring of, this difference. Any suggestion that Wikipedia should be as reliable as Britannica would be the Posh talking down to the Commoners. Now, I admit, Wikipedia likes to make its entries look like the Posh entries of Britannica, but we should not be taken in by this superficial likeness. It's natural for Commoners to want to dress up like the Posh, and, in so doing, occasionally take-the-piss. And, I would say, it's _not_ for the Posh to denounce this, nor complain about it. Not unless they want to have some rotten apples thrown at them for being so stuck-up. If Wikipedia really isn't good enough for what you need, either don't use it, or start mending it, and get others to mend it too: lots of others. This might be a way to (eventually) have Wikipedia be better, and more reliable, but it'll never equal the Great Britannica. Supposing, that is, that the Encyclopaedia Britannica is indeed as reliable as the Posh who built it say it is. Being Common, Wikipedia can be "improved" by any and all who inhabit the Commons. Being Posh, Britannica can only be changed by a very select few, who are also the only people who can tell if these changes improve it or not. That's the important difference. Things can only be made as reliable as those making them can judge what it takes to make the something reliable. And this, of course, for many things, takes considerable knowledge and expertise, and a mind that cares about doing this, and people who appreciate the importance of doing so. Posh things are needed for good research and scholarship, but not all things need to be Posh to work well enough. To end: I deliberately chose this way of saying things so that I could use 'Posh.' I did this 'cos the Wikipedia [English] page for Posh is useless: it doesn't explain that Posh is an acronym, standing for, as I'm sure all here know, "Port-side Out Starboard side Home" -- the Port side of the ship out to India, or beyond, was the shady side, and thus the more comfortable side to have your cabin, and the Starboard side was the shady side on the way Home. Like I said, Posh reliability needs sound knowledge and expertise and disciplined practises. And doing good research requires one to dress properly for dinner, know how to use the different cutlery correctly, and sustain honest well informed conversation. Eating carry-out Fish and Chips just doesn't. Best regards, Tim PS: Oh, and, yes! I use Wikipedia too ... to look up the size of A4 paper, who wrote the film score for Transformers, when 1984 was written, what are the first several prime numbers, what day was Beethoven born. Stuff like that. _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: firstname.lastname@example.org List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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