[Taxacom] Wiki vs EOL - simple question
dyanega at ucr.edu
Mon Feb 8 19:16:03 CST 2010
Mike Ivie wrote:
>OK, based on these arguments, I just went and checked out a group I know.
>First thing, on the page itself, the casual 7th grader doing a report just
>sees what is last entered. No caveat about who did the work, or how valid
>it might be. Just presented as fact.
Editors are entitled to insert caveats, as long as these are
published by others, and cited. See below.
> Checking the history page, the
>contributors are hiding behind false names, and in fact, within minutes I
>found a case of 2 (two!) dunces battling it out over 2 (two) idiotic
>ideas, neither of which reflect modern concepts. Looks like the good
>workers just threw their hands up and went to EOL.
I'd first ask whether you saw any evidence of "good workers" who had
been there during this battle and then left afterwards. In my
experience, pages can start bad and then become good, or start good
and become better, but rarely do they become *worse*. Again, I've
found that Wiki resources are ratchet-like, in that once an
authoritative improvement has been made, it almost never gets
reversed (temporary reversals aside). The more editors that visit a
page, the LESS likely any "back-sliding" will creep in.
The second question is the same basic thing I asked Chris Thompson:
when you saw the content was outdated, did you try to edit it
yourself, so it DID reflect modern concepts, with appropriate
citations? Unless you've experimented with it, and seen what happens
AFTER you make an authoritative improvement, you aren't getting a
realistic sense of how the process works. Why not try it on a few
select pages? See what happens, and if someone comes along and tries
to muck with it, see if they're well-intentioned (and can be reasoned
with) or malicious (and cannot). You can always call for arbitration,
if it's a technical but irreconcilable difference of opinion, or
censure, if it's actual vandalism.
>Thus, the 7th grader should use EOL, not WikiSpecies.
If the 7th grader had been instructed to only trust pages that have
links to primary peer-reviewed literature, and the page you're
criticizing did NOT, then the 7th grader would presumably avoid it.
>Elitism is a good thing when it comes to quality of information. Surely
>you don't let some anonymous source named "medicusmagnus024" provide your
>diagnosis of a the skin rash you have, and then prescribe the treatment?
>Why would our diagnosis and prescription information be any less rigorous?
If "medicusmagnus024" provided a link to an authoritative medical
source that backed up the diagnosis, then HIS opinion wouldn't
matter; authority belongs to the source he is referencing! The
fundamental Wikipedia concept is that editors are supposed to be
*referencing* existing, authoritative sources, and NEVER interjecting
their own opinions. It's one of the BIG policies, with its own
well-known acronym: "NOR" - "No Original Research". This goes
hand-in-hand with the "RS" policy: "Reliable Sources". Contributions
which violate these policies are subject to deletion by any editor
who challenges them.
> Professional training is the same way. We award a degree for a level of
>achievement, not just "hey, I think I am pretty good, so I'll award myself
>a Ph.D. AND an M.D." We bestow respect on an amateur because of a history
>of achievement tied to her name. You can find a citation to support
If there is a debate in the primary literature, then THAT itself is
citable, and both sides of the debate are represented according to
how they are treated by the relevant authorities. In other words, if
someone wants to promote a crackpot theory, then they might insert a
citation to support it, but it ALSO gets a caveat inserted along with
it that explains "This alternative explanation has met with
substantial criticism, and is not presently considered viable by the
scientific community". All citations, all viewpoints, may indeed be
fair game for inclusion, but so is the meta-analysis that places
these citations and viewpoints *into context*! When taxonomic
disputes or alternatives are involved, then entries are supposed to
be explicit. For example, look at the Wikispecies entry for
"Classification System: APG II (down to family level)
Familiae: Alliaceae [+ Agapanthaceae + Amaryllidaceae ] -
Asparagaceae [+ Agavaceae + Aphyllanthaceae + Hesperocallidaceae +
Hyacinthaceae + Laxmanniaceae + Ruscaceae + Themidaceae ] -
Asteliaceae - Blandfordiaceae - Boryaceae - Doryanthaceae -
Hypoxidaceae - Iridaceae - Ixioliriaceae - Lanariaceae - Orchidaceae
- Tecophilaeaceae - Xanthorrhoeaceae - [+ Asphodelaceae +
Hemerocallidaceae ] - Xeronemataceae
Note: families between square brackets "[...]" are optional in APG II
Asparagales Bromhead (1838)
Then look at the corresponding Asparagales entry in Wikipedia; it
gives four complete alternative classification schemes, and discusses
them. Why do both Wikispecies and Wikipedia adopt the APGII system?
Because that's the system in use by the majority of relevant
authorities. In this particular case, there are no citations on the
Wikispecies page, and there *should* be, to prevent mucking around -
the "dunces" have no say in the matter, unless the door is left open.
>It is the value added of the interpreter that makes information
>worth the trouble. If the information is wrong, and leads to damage, who
>is responsible? Bugdude78?
Wiki editors are not supposed to be interpreting; they are supposed
to be summarizing. Some of the most well-known misconceptions about
the Wiki resources center upon what the "NPOV" policy means ("Neutral
Point of View"). An editor with a neutral stance does NOT summarize
both sides of a debate by automatically giving them *equal weight*,
nor by simply mentioning the most popular view; as I noted above,
viewpoints are supposed to be accorded exactly the same relative
weights that the relevant community of authorities accord them.
That's the system, and it seems pretty reasonable to me. The issue
here is that no matter how good the system is, it only works as
intended if people who have familiarity with, and access to,
authoritative source material - people like Mike Ivie - care to
contribute to it, and help *maintain* it. The authority and identity
of the editor - be it Bugdude78 or anyone else - shouldn't come into
play, but rather the source material they are citing. The gap between
theory and practice is a function of neglect. If we collectively
neglect the Wiki resources, then they'll be crappy, relative to their
potential. But self-fulfilling prophecies tend to work that way.
Doug Yanega Dept. of Entomology Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314 skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
"There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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