[Taxacom] Wikispecies as an open alternative to Catalogue ofLife

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Fri Dec 16 13:41:01 CST 2011

Paul wrote:

>I would not want to present myself as any kind of expert on
>the taxonomy of nitwits, but this classification of "two kinds
>of nitwits" strikes me as wrong; obviously the situation is
>more complex than that, which is why I was glad to use
>the quotation.
>Probably it is safe to postulate that a nitwit is somebody
>who operates outside his area of competence, without being
>aware of his limitations?

Those are the ignorant nitwits. There are a few, however, who know 
exactly what they are doing, and - as Stephen suggested - manipulate 
the rules to suit their own agendas. They are competent, but what 
they are doing is wrong, and done for the wrong reasons. The one who 
has made the biggest nuisance of himself on Wikipedia is probably 
Andy Z. Lehrer, but he violated so many of WP's policies (including 
using pseudonyms in order to pretend to be other people) that he got 
himself banned, and his postings are summarily wiped clean whenever 
he pops up on another dial-up IP. He is fully aware of his 
limitations, he either simply refuses to acknowledge them, or claims 
to be too important a scientist for the rules to apply to *him*.

Which brings me to the following comment:

>   * " ... incompetent nitwits ... deleting or vandalizing
>   legitimate contributions - but you may need to act
>   as the enforcer yourself!" is highly unrealistic; anybody
>   doing so is likely to have the OWN-policy thrown in his
>   face. Actually, the " ... incompetent nitwits ... deleting or
>   vandalizing legitimate contributions ..." are the reason
>   most commonly given by competent, long-time editors
>   who leave Wikipedia.

Competent long-time editors could, and should, build some kind of 
rapport with administrators, and leverage that to address issues with 
persistent troublemakers. This is how I eventually dealt with Andy 
Lehrer; I learned the rules, followed the procedures, and got the 
admins to back me up when I had built my case. I did not *personally* 
do anything to Lehrer, I worked within the system and had others with 
the auhority take the appropriate actions. I think, however, that 
interpreting my actions to be those of an enforcer is not inaccurate.

The issue remains, though, that it requires active involvement to 
police any sort of wiki; you cannot simply make your contributions 
then ignore what happens afterwards, and not many people are willing 
to invest *any* effort in doing so. Most importantly, perhaps, is 
that the actual amount of effort involved is far, far less than 
people imagine, so again the perception is blinding people to the 
reality. It isn't that hard to keep a wiki clean.


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

More information about the Taxacom mailing list