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A Compendium of Wikipedia Criticism

Once upon a time, Gomi of the late great Wikipedia Review compiled an introductory survey of criticism that is intended to provide the public with a range of different reasons to shun Wikipedia as an authoritative source of information.

Wikipedia Content

1. Wikipedia contains incorrect, misleading, and biased information. Whether through vandalism, subtle disinformation, or the prolonged battling over biased accounts, many of Wikipedia’s articles are unsuitable for scholarly use. Because of poor standards of sourcing and citation, it is often difficult to determine the origin of statements made in Wikipedia in order to determine their correctness. Pursuit of biased points of view by powerful administrators is considered a particular problem, as opposing voices are often permanently banned from Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s culture of disrespect for expertise and scholarship (see below) makes it difficult to trust anything there.

2. Wikipedia’s articles are used to spread gossip, abet character assassination, and invade the privacy of the general public. So-called “Biographies of Living Persons” are often the result of attempts by powerful but anonymous editors and administrators at humiliating or belittling those real-world people with whom they disagree. Wikipedia’s “anyone can edit” culture has allowed baseless defamation of various individuals to spread widely through the Internet. When the family, friends, associates, or subjects of these biographies attempt to correct errors or insert balance, they are often banned from Wikipedia for “Conflicts of Interest”. Subjects of these hatchet jobs usually must resort to legal action to get the articles removed or corrected, a course not available to all.

3. Wikipedia over-emphasizes popular culture and under-emphasizes scholarly disciplines.Wikipedia contains more articles, of greater depth, on television shows, toy and cartoon characters, and other ephemera of popular culture than on many prominent historical figures, events, and places. Massive effort is spent on documenting fictional places and characters rather than science, history, and literature.

4. Wikipedia violates copyrights, plagiarizes the work of others, and denies attribution to contributions. Wikipedia contains no provision to ensure that the content it hosts is not the work of another, or that content it hosts is properly attributed to its author. It contains thousands of photographs, drawings, pages of text and other content that is blatantly plagiarized from other authors without permission.

5. Wikipedia, frequently searched and prominently positioned among results, spreads misinformation, defamation, and bias far beyond its own site. Wikipedia is searched by Google and is usually one of the top results. Its database is scraped by spammers and other sites, so misinformation, even when corrected on Wikipedia, has a long life elsewhere on the net, as a result of Wikipedia’s lack of controls.

Wikipedia Bureaucracy and “Culture” 

1. Wikipedia disrespects and disregards scholars, experts, scientists, and others with special knowledge. Wikipedia specifically disregards authors with special knowledge, expertise, or credentials. There is no way for a real scholar to distinguish himself or herself from a random anonymous editor merely claiming scholarly credentials, and thus no claim of credentials is typically believed. Even when credentials are accepted, Wikipedia affords no special regard for expert editors contributing in their fields. This has driven most expert editors away from editing Wikipedia in their fields. Similarly, Wikipedia implements no controls that distinguish mature and educated editors from immature and uneducated ones.

2. Wikipedia’s culture of anonymous editing and administration results in a lack of responsible authorship and management. Wikipedia editors may contribute as IP addresses, or as an ever-changing set of pseudonyms. There is thus no way of determining conflicts of interest, canvassing, or other misbehaviour in article editing. Wikipedia’s administrators are similarly anonymous, shielding them from scrutiny for their actions. They additionally can hide the history of their editing (or that of others).

3. Wikipedia’s administrators have become an entrenched and over-powerful elite, unresponsive and harmful to authors and contributors. Without meaningful checks and balances on administrators, administrative abuse is the norm, rather than the exception, with blocks and bans being enforced by fiat and whim, rather than in implementation of policy. Many well-meaning editors have been banned simply on suspicion of being previously banned users, without any transgression, while others have been banned for disagreeing with a powerful admin’s editorial point of view. There is no clear-cut code of ethics for administrators, no truly independent process leading to blocks and bans, no process for appeal that is not corrupted by the imbalance of power between admin and blocked editor, and no process by which administrators are reviewed regularly for misbehaviour.

4. Wikipedia’s numerous policies and procedures are not enforced equally on the community — popular or powerful editors are often exempted. Administrators, in particular, and former administrators, are frequently allowed to transgress (or change!) Wikipedia’s numerous “policies”, such as those prohibiting personal attacks, prohibiting the release of personal information about editors, and those prohibiting collusion in editing.

5. Wikipedia’s quasi-judicial body, the Arbitration Committee (ArbCom), is at best incompetent and at worst corrupt. ArbCom holds secret proceedings, refuses to be bound by precedent, operates on non-existant or unwritten rules, and does not allow equal access to all editors. It will reject cases that threaten to undermine the Wikipedia status quo or that would expose powerful administrators to sanction, and will move slowly or not at all (in public) on cases it is discussing in private.

6. The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), the organization legally responsible for Wikipedia, is opaque, is poorly managed, and is insufficiently independent from Wikipedia’s remaining founder and his business interests. The WMF lacks a mechanism to address the concerns of outsiders, resulting in an insular and socially irresponsible internal culture. Because of inadequate oversight and supervision, Wikimedia has hired incompetent and (in at least one case) criminal employees. Jimmy Wales’ for-profit business Wikia benefits in numerous ways from its association with the non-profit Wikipedia.

 

Photo credit: This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

46 comments to A Compendium of Wikipedia Criticism

  • Tim Davenport (Carrite, Randy From Boise)

    And here’s my take, speaking as a frequently critical Wikipedian that supports the project and thinks that it SHOULD be widely used, on the validity of the above specific criticisms…

    Content:
    1. Accuracy. No published work should be accepted blindly. Wikipedia, depending on the subject area concerned, is good to excellent in terms of veracity. In general, it’s information may be used with confidence.
    2. Gossip. This is a valid criticism. In short, Wikipedia’s coverage of contemporary biographies is a function of the published press. The spread of People magazine-type fluff coverage and the propensity of the commercial press to obsess on the saucy events of the day rather than comprehensive biography is reflected in WP articles on controversial contemporary figures, without doubt. This does not seem a mortal flaw, however, in the same way that crap articles in your local newspaper don’t render that publication unworthy of use.
    3. Popular culture v. Hard scholarship. This depends upon the topic. Certainly, popular culture is covered exhaustively. Over time, persons with expertise are filling in hard scholarship topics nicely. I tell people that WP is two things, a serious encyclopedia and a compendium of popular culture. The latter is unrivaled. The former is generally good and improving. Again, this duality is no excuse not to use the former just because the latter has many times more contributors floating in and floating out over the years.
    4. Copyright violation. This is a completely bogus argument. Wikipedia takes copyright violation very seriously, searches for it, removes it, and deals with violators harshly.
    5. Google juice. “Don’t hate us because we’re popular.” If there are problems with articles, fix the articles; don’t tilt at windmills because WP happens to have juice with Google, Bing, etc. searches.

    Culture:
    1. Disrespect of scholars and scholarship. Another bogus argument. Scholarship is respected and good edits do stand. There are periodic dust ups with academics that come in feeling superior to the project and who don’t follow editing procedures, those who dive into controversial topics and expect to remake Rome in a day. This describes a small minority of academic and specialist participation, however.
    2. Anonymous editing = irresponsibility. Valid criticism. I am in favor of real name registration and sign-in-to-edit as a mechanism of quality control and to insure that those contributing are doing so above board, with biases exposed, and with the prospect of binding severance from the project hanging over their heads for non-compliance. This is a minority view at WP, sadly. However, again, this is a flaw but not a fatal flaw.
    3. Clique Power of Administrators. Another valid criticism but a problem of declining magnitude. The number of rogue administrators is small and declining, those who abuse automation are being weeded out, there are systemic checks upon arbitrary action. The situation at English-Wikipedia is entirely dissimilar to that at Wikimedia Commons, where the problem is a real one. But that’s another kettle of fish…
    4. Unequal enforcement of rules. Cops don’t enforce traffic laws equally either, but it doesn’t mean one shouldn’t drive a car. Of course not every violator of the rules is going to be brought to justice, while others will be nitpicked with obscure regulations. It is inevitable. That guy gets away with driving 45 in a 25 zone and I get pegged for a lousy rolling stop. That’s show biz. Welcome to life.
    5. ArbCom. Calling ArbCom corrupt implies there is some financial incentive to their actions. I see none. They are occasionally incompetent, generally bureaucratic, always slow. Much like the real life court system, I suppose. This issue is a red herring.
    6. Wikimedia Foundation insufficiently separate from Wales’ enterprise. Fair criticism, work to be done in this regard. There are legal reasons for keeping an arm’s length away from content management. As the budget increases, so should scrutiny of finances. And there are legitimate reasons to keep the connection between WMF and Wikia under close observation, to ensure that no financial abuse takes place — which would be harmful to The Project.

    • David Wainwright

      To Tim Davenport: I editted at Wikipedia for several years, and dealt a lot with policy-making, and I largely agree with your assessment of Wikipedia. Here’s what I observed.

      “1. Wikipedia contains incorrect, misleading, and biased information.”
      Mostly false. With articles that get a lot of web traffic, mistakes are quickly fixed. Lower-traffic articles can be more problematic in that false or biased information may go undetected for a long period of time, but in general, I find that most Wikipedia articles are fairly accurate. Wikipedia’s insistence on verifiability makes it much easier to detect mistakes than in other encyclopedias. A lot of the content disputes on Wikipedia have more to do with how much weight a given issue should be given in an article, rather than the actual accuracy of the material.

      2. “Wikipedia’s articles are used to spread gossip, abet character assassination, and invade the privacy of the general public.”
      Completely false. I have never seen a BLP article created with the primary purpose of humiliating a person. Sometimes libelous material is added to existing articles, but it is usually removed quickly. Wikipedia is very sensitive to BLP issues, and Wikipedia now utilizes a lot of bot technology to reverse vandalism.

      3. “Wikipedia over-emphasizes popular culture and under-emphasizes scholarly disciplines.”
      Partially true. There is a bit of an imbalance in articles at Wikipedia, and in some areas, the standards of notability (i.e., what’s entitled to an article) are vague or badly enforced. However, I find that even though there are too many articles on TV shows, Internet stories, and other pop culture topics, there are still plenty of scholarly articles. English-language Wikipedia has four million articles, and you’d be hard pressed to find a scientific, historic, artistic, or other scholarly topic of any importance that is not covered by Wikipedia.

      4. “Wikipedia violates copyrights, plagiarizes the work of others, and denies attribution to contributions.”
      Completely false. Wikipedia has become extremely strict about copyright, particularly with images. Many images that are allowed by other websites are not accepted by Wikipedia.

      5. “Wikipedia, frequently searched and prominently positioned among results, spreads misinformation, defamation, and bias far beyond its own site.”
      Irrelevant. Wikipedia does often lead Google and Yahoo searches, but that’s a sign of its success.

      Wikipedia Bureaucracy and “Culture”

      1. “Wikipedia disrespects and disregards scholars, experts, scientists, and others with special knowledge.”
      Largely false. The whole basis of Wikipedia is verifiability. No person, regardless of background, can add material without some evidence of its accuracy. Any disrespect of experts only comes if they violate that premise. That being said, I have found that there many topics on Wikipedia are largely dominated by people knowledgable in that field. Furthermore, a very large percentage of Wikipedia editors are academics.

      2. “Wikipedia’s culture of anonymous editing and administration results in a lack of responsible authorship and management.”
      Completely true. IP editting should be banned, as it serves no legitimate purpose, and causes approximately 80% of the vandalism on Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the Wikimedia Foundation and many editors are opposed to eliminating IP editting because of some almost quasi-religious devotion to the idea that “Wikipedia must be free.”

      3. “Wikipedia’s administrators have become an entrenched and over-powerful elite, unresponsive and harmful to authors and contributors.”
      Partially true. The vast majority of administrators are very devoted to Wikipedia, and do not abuse their power. However, I have seen editors blocked unfairly, and Wikipedia policies are not uniformly enforced. From what I have seen, the problem with blocking is less one of rogue admins, and more one of bad policies. Some of Wikipedia’s policies (e.g., sockpuppetry) make a person guilty until proven innocent.

      4. “Wikipedia’s numerous policies and procedures are not enforced equally on the community — popular or powerful editors are often exempted.”
      Partially true. Wikipedia policy enforcement is erratic. However, from what I saw, the problem is not favortism of certain editors over others, but an imbalance between how different policies are enforced. For example, copyright violations are dealt with swiftly and severely, but pervasive bias and edit warring can go on for years with minimal sanctions.

      5. “Wikipedia’s quasi-judicial body, the Arbitration Committee (ArbCom), is at best incompetent and at worst corrupt.”
      Partially true. ArbCom is slow-acting and often cannot get out of its own way. However, I wouldn’t call them corrupt.

      6. “The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), the organization legally responsible for Wikipedia, is opaque, is poorly managed, and is insufficiently independent from Wikipedia’s remaining founder and his business interests.”
      Partially true. I found the WMF to be overly ideological, and often out of touch with reality. For example, anonymous IP editting must be allowed, and optional pornography filters are unacceptible because of the WMF’s zealous adherence to “freedom”. However, the WMF manages a huge amount of information on a very small budget. Furthermore, I’ve dealt with other non-profit organizations, and the WMF’s behavior is not that bad in comparison.

      Overall, Wikipedia content is good, but its culture is problematic. It’s good to read Wikipedia, but not to edit Wikipedia.

      • Oz

        If you have never seen a BLP article created with the primary purpose of humiliating a person, you must be new to the project.

        • David Wainwright

          Oz, I editted thousands of Wikipedia articles, and was heavily involved with reviewing articles flagged for deletion. I think if creating BLP articles for the purpose of defamation was a major issue, I would have seen it. The creation of articles for the purpose of self-promotion, and the vandalism of legitimate articles by anonymous IP editors were the biggest content issues that I saw at Wikipedia.

          I dealt with one case where a former entertainer didn’t like the fact that a Wikipedia article was created without their consent, and contacted the Wikimedia Foundation. However, there was nothing false in the article, and we kept it. If you believe that BLP articles are created for the purpose of defaming or humiliating people, please provide examples of this behavior.

          • Tim Davenport (Carrite, Randy From Boise)

            Agreed that defamatory attack pages are actively addressed.

          • Oz

            SlimVirgin’s creation of the Daniel Brandt bio comes to mind. There was clearly some malice involved.

      • Andreas Kolbe

        Well, copyright violations are not addressed promptly at all, and thousands are undiscovered. User:Moonriddengirl, one of Wikipedia’s main copyright experts (and an employee of the Foundation now), regularly puts out appeals for people to help with the amazing backlog of contributor copyright investigations – sanctioned contributors known to have been serial copyright violators and plagiarists, whose contributions, numbering thousands in some cases, all have to be checked. Last I looked, the backlog stretched back to 2009.

        As for malicious biographies, simply spend time at the BLP noticeboard ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:BLPN ), and you will not fail to encounter such cases. They come up with depressing regularity, and are only the tip of the iceberg.

        For some specific examples see pp. 485f. in the following submission to a UK parliamentary committee: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/joint-committees/Privacy_and_Injunctions/JCPIWrittenEvWeb.pdf or see the essay http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:ADAM in Wikipedia itself.

        Lastly, note that multiple arbitration findings by Wikipedia’s arbitration committee have noted that biographies of living people have become the worst casualties in battles between opposing activists and ideologues.

        Regards,

    • Sterling Ericsson (Silver seren)

      I agree with everything you said, Tim. +1, good summary response.

    • No, veracity is not good on en.Wikipedia. Almost every article I skewer on my blog has made up science in it. We have rocks that were never molten, intruding rocks that won’t exist for another hundred million years; made up types of photosynthesis; a trinomial converted into a species and the final epithet made into an imaginary genus.

      No, “good” is way too high for the ridiculous biology and geology DYKs on Wikipedia’s main page; and I don’t go looking for bad ones, I just take whatever is there.

  • I got a chuckle out of Tim’s placement of “following editing procedures” on a higher intellectual rung than “academics who know more than what a Wikipedia article says”. No wonder he doesn’t properly tally the disrespect of scholars and scholarship on Wikipedia.

    Maybe Tim and others who don’t understand how expertise is mistreated by Wikipedian amateurs should read this (with their eyes open, this time):
    http://chronicle.com/article/The-Undue-Weight-of-Truth-on/130704/

    • David Wainwright

      Greg, I had previously had read the Chronicle article about the Haymarket Riot, and I think this is more a content dispute than a disrespect of expertise. The professor’s book didn’t just conflict with Wikipedia, but also with a history textbook, and much of what had been previously published about the Haymarket Riot.

      The problem is that for many issues, even experts disagree with one another. I don’t know any topic where the consensus of Wikipedia editors conflicted with the consensus of experts in a given field. The tough cases are the ones where there is not general agreement about a historic event, scientific concept, etc, and where editors have to balance coverage of competing theories.

      • Tim Davenport (Carrite, Randy From Boise)

        I didn’t have problems with the content the professor was inserting and think the page minder was out of line, but it’s a small ripple in the pond. Despite the huge ruckus kicked up at the time of the content dispute, I don’t think there are ongoing feelings of rage on either side. I haven’t followed up too closely on this, I might be wrong, but my belief is that things have resolved themselves satisfactorily.

      • Volunteer Marek

        ” I don’t know any topic where the consensus of Wikipedia editors conflicted with the consensus of experts in a given field.”

        Just of the top of my head, Bengal famine of 1943, which has managed to put the “consensus of experts in a given field” into a section labeled “Revisionists”. If I felt like putting a bit more effort into this, I could name a few more.

      • “I don’t know any topic where the consensus of Wikipedia editors conflicted with the consensus of experts in a given field.”

        The consensus of Did You Know writers is frequently enough made-up science that it does conflict with the consensus of not just experts, but also with amateurs in the field.

        Or, are you confining your comment to the non made-up information?

    • Sterling Ericsson (Silver seren)

      You do realize that the reason why his edits were rejected was because he believed that, since he published a book, all of the history on the subject should then conform to his viewpoint, as if he was the absolute truth on the matter.

      This was clearly inappropriate and there was a reason why the ultimate decision was to wait until reviews came out for his book in scholarly journals related to the topic, so it could be determined whether the historian community agreed with his viewpoint or not.

      And, as you know, he got all upset that everything he wanted wasn’t immediately done and then went and wrote that article and complained in a bunch of interviews.

  • Tim Davenport (Carrite, Randy From Boise)

    Actually, Greg, that’s an area about which I have some expertise, having previously edited the page and bumped into the editor that the professor had difficulty with on another matter. The main issue, not that you want to actually understand the reality of the situation rather than the one-sided remonstrations of someone launching a new book, was that the professor was attempting to insert unpublished documentary material ahead of publication of his book, which drew objection from the page’s minder/owner.

    Now, to the best of my knowledge, the book is out and all problems are resolved.

    Sorry to rain on your jihad against Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia.

    • Tim, you describe my having a “jihad” against Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia. You, on the other hand, have a love affair with the two, it seems. You describe as “a small ripple in the pond” something that was deemed worthy of further dissemination to the public by The Atlantic, National Public Radio, the Chronicle of Higher Education, TechEye, and On The Media. Strange that so many news outlets would independently report on this “small ripple”.

      I will grant you this, however: Because I interact with clients and prospects who have met with opposition and became frustrated by any of many various idiots on Wikipedia, I probably do have a more jaundiced outlook on the project that you do not share.

  • Eric Barboour

    You also forgot to mention “Flickr washing”, the practice of using a throwaway Flickr account to relicense images for upload to Commons. No one knows how often this was done, although we can point to a few people who have done it (Van Haeften, take a bow). There could easily be hundreds of thousands of copyright violations on Commons, and most of them will never be detected, much less fixed.

  • Geo Swan

    My poster child for shockingly disingeneous interpretations of BLP was an article about a grandmosther from Arkansas. In the early 2000 her eldest daughter, a minor, had premarital sex, and became pregnant. Her daughter appealed to her — “Mom! I love the father of my unborn child! He wants me to bear this child, and to marry me! Will you let him move in here, so he can save money, to marry me?”

    Our grandmothers choice was not that different from that made by Sarah Palin, who allowed her daughter Bristol to continue to see the father of her unborn grandchild.

    Our grandmother allowed the grandchild’s sire to move in. Here is the key point. She did not keep the young man from continuing to have sexual relations with his fiance — her daughter.

    Under Arkansas law, at that time, failure to take steps to prevent her underage daughter from having sexual relations meant the grandmother had herself committed a sex crime. She was convicted and sentenced, and listed on Arkansass list of sex offenders.

    No, I am not making this up.

    At that time Arkansass laws were draconian. The grandmother was prohibited from seeing her grand-daughter, the daughter in question, or any of her other children. Further, she had to move. Individuals on the sex offender list could not live within 1000 yards of a stop where a child was picked up a school bus. In some counties in Arkansas there were no residences that were not within 1000 yards of a bus stop. Our grandmother had to move to a trailer, in the middle of no-where, in order to live more than 1000 yards from a school bus-stop.

    OKay, none of this would make our grandmother notable. What made her notable was that, rather than tuck her tail between her legs, and accept the badge of shame of being listed as a sex offender our grandmother outed herself and served as a vocal spokesperson and advocate for reform of Arkansas laws on sex offenders — so it did not list individuals like her who could only be listed as sex offenders under bizarre interpretations of sex offender.

    Our grandmother had appeared on panels on PBS show Religion and Ethics Weekly, and was extensively interviewed by the Economist, a UK magazine of equivalent stature to Time or Newsweek. It was the coverage of her advocacy that I think firmly established her notability.

    I hadnt known of this article, or contributed to it, prior to its nomination for deletion.

    Her listing as a sex offender relied on a bizarre twisting of the meaning of sex offender. And, it seemed to me, those who cited BLP when calling for the articles deletion were relying on a twisted and disingeneous interpretation of the BLP policy. The article described her as a registered sex offender, and being described as a sex offender had to be damaging to her, so they argumed, the article did not comply with BLP.

    That the grandmother had made the conscious decision to out herself was not addressed by those claiming the article violated BLP.

    What I think we had were individuals with opinions from the extreme right-wing fringe of US opinions on sexuality, who, privately, agreed the grandmother should have prevented her daughter to continue to have sexual relations with her fiance, because they disapproved of premarital sex, under all circumstances. However, publicly, they presented themselves as advocates trying to protect the grandmother.

    Was I personally sympathetic to the grandmother? Sure. Would I have been in the keep camp if her situation had not been extensively covered by reliable sources? No. But reliable sources had covered her situation, in detail.

    Eventually Arkansas’s policies on who should be a registered sex offender, and what restrictions should be imposed on them, was relaxed. So the grandmothers side won. Would her side have won if she hadn’t sacrificed her personal privacy, and outed herself, so she could serve as an advocate for reform? No one can say for sure.

    BLP is described in the splash page for this site as a non-controversial policy. But, in my experience, it is a policy that is routinely subjected to wild interpretations.

    • I have edited Wikipedia from various IPs over the years (mainly to fix typos and the like), some of which are probably or have probably been used by other random editors at computer labs and libraries, and have followed its editing history quite extensively as well out of academic interest, although I am not using an account to edit (I do not really have a need). Anyway, with regards to your mentioning of people nominating articles for deletion, it seems that a large number of articles people put up for deletion are for topics the nominators are either totally ignorant of or for whatever personal reason simply do not like. I see one account called TTN that goes about trying to purge Wikipedia of various fictional articles. He apparently writes the exact same almost bot-like “rationale” for characters that are covered in major entertainment media and who are main characters that appear in not just one movie or show, but sometimes in multiple movies, shows, games, comics, etc. as he writes for characters who are indeed minor. It is as if he just does not believe Wikipedia should cover fictional characters at all, regardless of their significance. His edit history shows no effort to ever look for sources or improve articles, but just to get rid of them. Wikipedia covers plenty of topics I have no real interest in, but if it is sourced and is relevant to someone else, so be it. It mind-boggles me how some devote so much time to trying to remove material that interests others, especially when they are clearly ignorant of that subject matter. As a historian, I find one of the most important lessons in history being that of what happens when self-appointed judges try to stifle knowledge based on what they arbitrarily and personally deem “notable”. The kinds of ilk that do that are usually only a step away from doing worse…

      In any event, was the article you mentioned about the grandmother ultimately kept? I apologize if I missed that in your post.

  • “Overall, Wikipedia content is good” I don’t know about other subject areas, but content in my own specialist area (linguistic philosophy and medieval philosophy) is very poor. I regularly point this out to Wikipedians like Tim Davenport and they either go quiet or insist that such subjects are not really very important. OK, but why do Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy deal with such subjects if they are not important? These projects are organised on traditional lines – formal peer review, specialists only, not anyone can edit – and it shows.

    I’ll one example that combines both plagiarism and inexpert editing. The section “Authority; reinterpretation and context changes to circumvent it” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_philosophy#Authority.3B_reinterpretation_and_context_changes_to_circumvent_it in the Wikipedia article is a clumsy plagiarism from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, article “Literary Forms of Medieval Philosophy” http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/medieval-literary, section “Role of Authorities”. It has been altered enough to evade the Wikipedia plagiarism detector, but that has only made it incoherent.

    As another example, see the Wikipedia article “Durandus of Saint-Pourçain” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durand_of_St._Pour%C3%A7ain , which is a mixture of material indiscriminately copied from the Catholic Encyclopedia, and some incoherent nonsense added by a Wikipedia editor.

    To quote Dr Johnson “your work is both original and good. Unfortunately the parts that are good are not original, and the parts that are original are not good”. This sums up Wikipedia, at least in my area of specialism. I can’t speak for anything else, and why should I?

  • Zionist and Proud

    One of the cancers of Wikipedia is its anti-Jewish systemic bias. Anti-Israel activists like User:Carolmooredc are allowed to run amok on Wikipedia, spreading their hateful defamation and propaganda. For example, see http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Separation_barrier&diff=541176624&oldid=540747366

  • Greg

    > Wikipedia’s administrators have become an entrenched and over-powerful
    > elite, unresponsive and harmful to authors and contributors
    > Wikipedia’s numerous policies and procedures are not enforced equally
    > on the community — popular or powerful editors are often exempted.

    I gave up on wikipedia years ago, back in 2008, for these very same reasons.

    I wrote up some suggestions for what might fix some of the systemic problems, much of which boils down to an implicit quid-pro-quo among editors and especially among administrators. Maybe someone will find this helpful.

    http://www.greglondon.com/swp/SavingWikipedia.pdf

    It doesn’t fix the problem of anonymous editors smearing articles of people they don’t like, but if you break the quid-pro-quo cycle among administrators, you would go a long way to fixing some of the big systemic problems in wikipedia.

  • Sesquiculus

    I have edited the bios of people I know personally, naturally complete with ample documentation. Stuff got reverted, changed, with admin cooperation.

    Likely, many admins are elected by sock and meatpuppets. Once in, they perpetuate.

  • Jeh

    I can’t say I have trouble believing stories about feuding creative types, but I’ve been more disturbed by articles on current technology that are edited to reflect commercial “hype” instead of facts.

    Back in 2007 we were an editor on Wikipedia and were trying to use it as a reference for communications and IT technologies. We found “editors” would post opinions as truth and change what we had posted to reflect their commercial message. It would happen overnight!

    We gave up and advised everyone we knew to forget Wikipedia and go straight to manufacturers websites where at least you knew the slant of the message.

  • Dragos

    To: Tim Davenport, David Wainwright

    I also edited Wikipedia for several years. I edited mostly articles related to history, linguistics, archaeology, etc. I stopped that, because I realized it’s a waste of time.

    On content:

    Wikipedia contains incorrect, misleading, and biased information and it’s true: many articles (even those with FA or GA status) are like that. There are two reasons for this: a) experts and educated persons are driven away by trolls and b) many people think they “know” something, add it to Wikipedia and then fight to keep it.

    On copyright violations:

    The “completely false” verdict is groundless. Most of the Wikipedia users simply do not check the sources, not even when the articles are reviewed. The copyright violations are a real issue. I identified several articles with most of their text copied verbatim from various books and scholarly articles. No one noticed it for years, moreover some of those articles had a GA status! After my report much of the text was rewritten, and yet there are still issues and certainly there are other articles with plagiarized text (see Edward’s reply for some examples)

    On bureaucracy:

    The scholarship is hardly respected in the areas I edited and there’s a small number of academics making consistent edits (because these people don’t have time for reverts, endless discussions, mediation, etc.) I can list hundreds of articles on scholarly topics which were never edited or at least reviewed by a scholar.
    Verifiability is a red herring. Many of the claims are not supported by sources and many of the sources are not reliable.

  • [...] of Wikipedia . . .” suggests that Qworty may not be an anomaly so much as representative of some systemic problems within the Encyclopedia [...]

  • Einar

    I was recently surprised to find info put out by UC Berkeley that used wikipedia as a source. http://livingnewdeal.berkeley.edu/map/ then click on Toledo Ohio and find the Macomber High School – Toledo OH article. Thre is no direct link to it. i find this food for thought. Einar

  • Drew Carter

    To see what a “Joke” Wikipedia is.. type in either: Richard Andrew Grove, Meria Heller, or Jack Blood.

    The 3 have been active in internet media for 10 years.. and their names have been entered many times.. but somehow get erased the same day.

    Wikipedia is so heavily edited by those who trust the Status Quo that it’s unusable by anyone with an Inquiring Mind!

  • On the basis of my experience, I’d very largely go along with the ‘Wikipedia Bureaucracy and “Culture” ‘ section of this article, §§1 and 3 particularly. Mainly WP is OK but there are areas where the content is taken over by a ‘cabal’ who use the rules to bolster up their ‘PoV’ (WP jargon for ‘point of view’!). Anonymous editors can in fact be a help here, since they are not afraid to criticise the methods of the cabal.

  • [...] to the point that trying to edit it is a complete waste of time.  Wikipediocracy has compiled  A Compendium of Wikipedia Criticism.  It’s worth reading.  Rupert Sheldrake’s biography is no better than when I started [...]

  • kwyjibo

    Will there be a Wikipediocracy Arbcom elections guide? I’m more interested in sane candidates who won’t go on some fuckcrusade if elected, but I’m also aware that “sane candidate” is an oxymoron.

  • This was a very good analysis, all points true but to a greater or lesser extent. For instance BLPs can be used to run a campaign, a bit like attack journalism. The subject here is not the person, they are a means of pursuing some other cause.

    Steps are taken to correct BLPs if for no other reason than they might all get sued.

    I think the violations are a little more subtle, after all, who could question the wisdom of the press as a source? (unless you have experienced the paucity of their research on a subject you are familiar with). And even academics can be used in this way when they hold rabid views that are off their area of expertise. As I have previously mentioned before in this forum some of the biggest cat fights there are, are between academics. All is not just logic, some of them are fruit cakes.

    I support Wikipedia’s purpose and I think it does more good than harm, its the rotten core thats the problem. In doing an analysis like this a few extra steps are needed. Having given a good over view of the problems, and lets not forget always even if we are enemies to have the humility to consider their good points.

    So, needs to add in the good points to be a full review of Wikipedia.

    Needs to review the purpose of the activity, (to create a compendium of unbiased accessible knowledge utilising a vast resource of unpaid editors?)

    Then after looking over all these factors, identify the major departure from the ideal situation, lets say a cabal of biased editors mostly hiding behind pseudonyms but many actually known, have taken over the encyclopedia for their own purposes.

    Now its very important to state this correctly because if done so it opens the door to a handling. And its necessary to name actually who we think is at the bottom of all of this through tracing down all the various real events to their sources and finding the common point.

    Then comes the feather touch we need (not a sledgehammer), the step in the right direction to make an improvement, something than can be done.

    (A rough outline based upon my training and years of experience in Scientology public affairs.)

  • [...] A compendium of criticism of Wikipedia from Wikipediocracy. [...]

  • [...] is a disaster, start to finish.  It violates copyrights; it’s articles are convoluted and horribly written, the information is often flat out wrong; [...]

  • Wikipedia is the repository of all the world’s knowledge and, if that needs proof, it is everywhere on the internet. It is the new way, the new truth. Best of all – anyone can edit it. Except the dispossessed. Speaking as one of the dispossessed (I have been indefinitely blocked), I endorse the Compendium here. It accords with my personal experiences as an editor. I declare myself to be an honest man, a sane man, a citizen of Australia accustomed to the rule of law, a man without any criminal record. Many other dispossessed citizens of the new order should speak up too but I guess they are embarrassed by Wikipedian accusations against them as editors. Maybe also they are wary of the public bias in favour of Wikipedia. Wikipedia hands out mountains of beautifully packaged free ‘information’, making research for the slightly curious wonderfully easy. So of course world opinion is biased in its favour. I agree that parts of Wikipedia function the way they are supposed to – the parts the world most often sees. But open the door, step inside and try to fix just some of the many broken things! You are then in danger of vanishing through a hole in the floorboards or getting mugged by the vagrants that live there. My advice to everyone is – don’t go there. If you do, don’t stay there for long. Or you could wake up some morning as one of the newly dispossessed.

  • I left out the website address: http://eye.am.ross.com. The moderator might fix that for me or leave as is. Thanks.

  • I want to add to the Compendium. The worst thing about Wikipedia is the way it takes people captive. Think of all the conscientious people who edit it only because they feel a need to correct mistakes. Think of all the ‘notable’ people who feel they must edit it merely to protect themselves against slander. Think of all those editors who become captive to the powerful groups at Wikipedia in a desperate effort to negotiate proper outcomes. Think of all those editors who become captive to dishonesty and corruption when there seems to be no other way to secure the proper outcomes. Think of all those who have been blocked from editing the encyclopaedia anyone can edit, the encyclopaedia that is inescapable. They are captives too, locked outside. Think of the poor lunatics that keep trying to edit the encyclopaedia anyone can edit and who get thrown out regularly. Insult is added to their injury. Think of the critics who are captive to the need to fight this juggernaut, dedicating years to it when there is so much else they could be doing.

    Wikipedia’s tendency to misinformation is a running sore. Its tendency to inhumanity is an open wound in the collective conscience of humankind. I can’t find words to describe its hypocrisy. I don’t know how anyone can justify its existence. The best it can offer is an inherently unstable, unreliable body of ‘information’ that no serious researcher would ever use. It is a smorgasboard for the blowfly of idle curiosity – that’s all. The worst thing about it could be this – thousands of conscientious people toil there daily, captives to a system that doesn’t really value them as people and which has no secure future for their achievements. Humanity is not anonymous.

  • [...] placed on users in regards to creating posts, as well as editing posts. For example, the article “A Compendium of Wikipedia Criticism” makes a point in saying that Wikipedia’s policies and procedures are not equally enforced on [...]

  • [...] se encuentran posts como ‘¿Por qué participa la gente en la Wikipedia?‘, ‘Un compendio de críticas contra la Wikipedia‘ o ‘Pornografía infantil en Wikimedia Commons‘, además de relatos sobre hoaxes, [...]

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