[Taxacom] Wikipedia rewrites [was: Species Pages - purpose]

Nadia Talent nadia.talent at utoronto.ca
Wed Feb 4 10:03:30 CST 2009

Hi Fred,

I've found it worthwhile to contribute a little to Wikipedia.  
Initially this was in self-defense when teaching, to fix some of the  
most egregious statements that my students were certain to find. More  
recently I've put in a couple of "nobody knows this" type of things  
that I wished more people understood, and photos as suitable ones arise.

Wikipedia allows you to put a "watch" on the pages that you are  
interested in, and then at your leisure you can check the activity  
logs on those pages. I've been pleasantly surprised when vandalisms  
have been corrected by other people; it is easy to do, just reverse a  
particular change. The vandalisms have generally been statements  
inserted that are intended to be offensive; there's even a person who  
has an offensive sign-on (a religious reference) who repeatedly hits  
pages that have to do with sexual reproduction. I haven't experienced  
mistakes being inserted by subsequent people. I fear that this is  
because few people care about the material that I've added and are  
happy to leave it to me, but if you were working on more popular  
topics, perhaps that would be more of a problem. Also, I have not  
contributed a lot to Wikipedia, and doing that might bring more risk.  
There is also the problem of infringing someone's copyright (not  
legally, but in spirit).

A couple of times I've been delighted to see that a small change to  
correct something horrid has been followed by substantial and quite  
acceptable changes by others. That has really felt like being part of  
a cooperative effort to design a new kind of reference work.

I have had a couple of run-ins with the Wikipedia nerds, the minority  
who make the majority of the edits. These are people who fret about  
the format of pages, complain that I haven't fixed all the errors on a  
page, or run "bots" that detect that I've just added a page that is a  
copy of another page as a first step in renaming something. One can  
always ignore their email and "chat", but some day I'll probably tell  
one of them that a complicated new way of moving a page is not  
something that a knowledge contributor wants to deal with.

I do think that it has huge potential for publicizing biodiversity. My  
third-year university students live and breathe Wikipedia, and I'm  
sure that younger students do likewise.
Nadia Talent
ROM Green Plant Herbarium (TRT),
Department of Natural History,
Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen's Park,
Toronto, M5S 2C6, Canada

On 4 Feb 2009, at 09:44, Frederick W Schueler wrote:

> Lyn.Craven at csiro.au wrote:
>> The big negative about this approach is "information that can be  
>> corrected and/or confirmed by experts"... I thought about  
>> contributing to Wikipedia but when I realised that anyone could  
>> rewrite my text, I thought why bother.   ...I'm not sure that  
>> putting up something that might only last a few weeks before some  
>> zealot gets to it is worth the time investment.
> * has anyone had the experience of having errors subsequently inserted
> into something they've put up on wikipedia? This is often mentioned,  
> but
> I wonder how often it occurs (I've thought of contributing to  
> wikipedia,
> but I've been spooked by the fear that it could become a full-time
> activity).
> fred.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
>             Bishops Mills Natural History Centre
>           Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad
>        RR#2 Bishops Mills, Ontario, Canada K0G 1T0
>     on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain 44* 52'N 75* 42'W
>       (613)258-3107 <bckcdb at istar.ca> http://pinicola.ca
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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