Babylon Nights Tidbit #31 ~ Wikipediaing Wikipedia!

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Babylon Nights Tidbit #31 ~ Wikipediaing Wikipedia!

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:36 pm

We have Googled Google and now we Wikipedia, Wikipedia! Actually only a small amount of the following information is from Wikipedia, the majority of the information is from Harvard Business School.

This is our last tidbit for Babylon Nights. Be sure to join us tomorrow for Question #1!

pg. 275: Of course he'd chase Perec. That's what he'd done before im a situation like this, that's now what his brain was wired to do. A neural pathway, I think it's called. I read about it in Wikkipedia. The mind wants to follow the path of the things it's done before. Wikipedia, like Google, was wonderful.

Encyclopedias: Collecting the World's Knowledge

There have been many attempts to summarize in written form large amounts of knowledge. In the first century (CE), Pliny the Elder compiled a 37-volume account of the natural world, the Naturalis Historia. Ephraim Chambers published the Cyclopedia, or A Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, a book containing the "sum of human knowledge," in 1728.

The Cyclopedia's publication in France inspired the compilation, between 1751 and 1780, of the 35-volume Encyclopédie by Jean le Rond d'Alembert and Denis Diderot. The Encyclopédie contained 71,818 articles and 3,129 illustrations covering areas as diverse as economics, philosophy, literature, religion, music, and science.1 The Encyclopédie was the forerunner and direct inspiration for the creation of a comprehensive English-language reference work: the Encyclopedia Britannica. Published continuously since 1768, the Encyclopedia Britannica became the hallmark for factual authority on a vast range of subjects. The 2007 print version contained 65,000 articles; 23,000 biographies; and 24,000 photos, maps, and illustrations by over 4,000 contributors spanning 32 volumes. It sold for $1,653.85 (USD).

Encyclopedias, and the people behind them, did not have modest goals. Chambers, for example, wrote that the Cyclopedia was a work "containing the definitions of the terms, and accounts of the things signify'd thereby, in the several arts, both liberal and mechanical, and the several sciences, human and divine: the figures, kinds, properties, productions, preparations, and uses, of things natural and artificial; the rise, progress, and state of things ecclesiastical, civil, military, and commercial: with the several systems, sects, opinions, &c; among philosophers, divines, mathematicians, physicians, antiquaries, critics, and etc.: The whole intended as a course of ancient and modern learning."

Wikipedia's Birth

Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales had even greater ambitions than previous encyclopedists. He wanted not only to build a comprehensive reference work but also to make it freely available to as many people as possible. The Internet and World Wide Web were key to Wales's vision, since a free Web-based encyclopedia would be usable by anyone with Internet access.
Wales was born in 1966 and grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. He graduated with a degree in finance from Auburn University and then enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Alabama and later at Indiana University. In 1994, bored with writing his dissertation, he decided to become an options trader in Chicago. By 1998 he was financially independent and eager to explore new challenges.

Wales viewed himself as an "Enlightenment kind of guy" and was annoyed by the amount of misinformation and propaganda in the world. He felt that the promise of the Internet to provide free access to high-quality information was not yet being achieved.

While he was not always impressed by what the Internet produced, he was very impressed by how it was used as a means of production. He saw that participants in the open-source and free-software movements were using the Internet to create highly complex pieces of software, such as the Linux operating system and the Apache Web server. These products were developed by volunteer hackers around the world who donated their time, collaborated via the Internet, and coordinated their work with only small amounts of bureaucracy and hierarchy.

Wales's thinking was crystallized when he read Eric Raymond's 1998 essay, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar," which provided him with the blueprint for how hacker communities were organized. As a finance student, Wales had also read Friedrich Hayek's 1945 canonical article advocating free markets, "The Use of Knowledge in Society," which argued that most individuals only had partial knowledge and that "truth" was achieved when people pooled their knowledge via markets. Wales reasoned that since writing an encyclopedia was also an exercise in knowledge pooling, it was also work that should be opened up to many people.


In late 1999, Wales hired Larry Sanger, a Ph.D. student in philosophy at the University of Ohio, to drive the creation of Nupedia, a free, online encyclopedia. Sanger, Wales, and an advisory board consisting of Ph.D.s in a variety of fields set up a seven-stage content-creation process for Nupedia, as follows:

1. Assignment—Once an article topic had been proposed by a user, they identified the area editor (e.g., in philosophy, chemistry, sociology) and decided if that user was qualified to write such an article. If the user was not qualified, the area editor attempted to find someone else with the right qualifications to write the article.

2. Finding a lead reviewer—After assignment, the editor found a reviewer in the field, someone who was an expert in that domain, to read and anonymously critique the article.

3. Lead review—The lead-review process was blind and confidential. The author, reviewer, and editor corresponded on a private website to determine if the written article met Nupedia's standards for inclusion.

4. Open review—Once an article passed lead review, it was then "opened" up to the general public for review. An article had to be approved by the section editor, lead reviewer, and at least one category peer reviewer before it was suitable for publication.

5. Lead copy editing—Once an article passed open review, an email was sent to Nupedia's copy editor's email list asking participants to sign up to copy edit the article. The author selected two volunteer editors and worked with them to get the article ready for the next stage.

6. Open copyediting—after lead copyrighting was finished an open copy editing period, lasting at least a week, was set aside for members of the general public to make changes. Final edits were approved by the two lead copyeditors.

7. Final approval and markup—After the category editor and two lead copy editors gave their final approval, the article was posted on Nupedia. At the end of this process the article's original author was eligible for a free Nupedia T-shirt or coffee cup.

Not everyone could participate in Nupedia; a policy document stated, "We wish editors to be true experts in their fields and (with few exceptions) possess Ph.D.s."

After 18 months and $250,000 in expenditures, Nupedia had 12 completed articles.

From Nupedia to Wikipedia

In the fall of 2000, concerned by the lack of uptake in Nupedia, Wales and Sanger started to investigate alternative models for content production. On January 2, 2001, Sanger learned from his friend Ben Kovitz about wikis, Ward Cunningham's technology to enhance collaboration among software developers.

Cunningham had found it difficult to share his innovations and knowledge about software development techniques with his colleagues. In 1995, he addressed this problem by creating Web pages that could be not only read but also edited by any reader. He called his creation "WikiWikiWeb," which was later shortened to "wiki."

Users can add, delete, or edit any part of a wiki. A wiki is typically supported by a database that keeps track of all changes this allows users to compare changes, and also to revert back to any previous version. With a wiki, all contributions are stored permanently, and all actions are visible and reversible.

Sanger thought that a wiki might help with the problems facing Nupedia. On the evening of his lunch with Kovitz he let Wales know about his new discovery and recommended that they experiment with a "wikified" Nupedia. Most of the members of the advisory board were not interested in a free-for-all encyclopedia project, but Wales and Sanger decided to proceed with the experiment.

On January 15, 2001, Wales and Sanger set up a separate website——supported by wiki technology. Sanger sent a note to the Nupedia volunteers list encouraging its members to check out this new attempt:
"Humor me. Go there and add a little article. It will take all of five or ten minutes."

At the end of January there were 617 articles on Wikipedia. March saw 2,221 articles on the new platform, July 7,243, and December approximately 19,000. On September 26, 2003, Nupedia was formally shut down.

Wikipedia remained largely true to the "wiki way" of user empowerment and equality. Registering to become a "Wikipedian" was as simple as selecting a username and password and required no qualifications and no payments. Any registered user could create a new article, and any Wikipedia reader, whether registered or not, could make changes to most existing articles.
Research indicated that many people around the world contributed content to Wikipedia and that this initial content was then refined over time by a relatively small group of editors.

Article Format

Every Wikipedia article consisted of a set of four interrelated pages: article, edit this page, discussion, and history). Article contained the contents of the most recent version of the entry. To make changes to this entry, users clicked on edit this page, which presented them with an editable version of the contents of the article page. Users employed special characters to format text, link to other pages and graphics, and so on. After a user made a set of changes to an article, the new version automatically and instantly appeared on the article page; the history page kept track of all previous versions of the page and allowed users to compare any two versions.

Policies and Guidelines

The discussion page was used by Wikipedians to debate, and hopefully reach consensus on, the appropriate content and structure of each article. To help with this, the Wikipedia community had over time formulated a set of policies and guidelines for editing. These had been summarized into the "five pillars of Wikipedia":

1. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia incorporating elements of general encyclopedias, specialized encyclopedias, and almanacs. All articles must follow our no original research policy and strive for accuracy; Wikipedia is not the place to insert personal opinions, experiences, or arguments. Furthermore, Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information. Wikipedia is not a trivia collection, a soapbox, a vanity publisher, an experiment in anarchy or democracy, or a web directory. Nor is Wikipedia a dictionary, a newspaper, or a collection of source documents; these kinds of content should be contributed to the sister projects, Wiktionary, Wikinews, and Wikisource, respectively.

2. Wikipedia has a neutral point of view, which means we strive for articles that advocate no single point of view. Sometimes this requires representing multiple points of view; presenting each point of view accurately; providing context for any given point of view, so that readers understand whose view the point represents; and presenting no one point of view as "the truth" or "the best view". It means citing verifiable, authoritative sources whenever possible, especially on controversial topics. When a conflict arises as to which version is the most neutral, declare a cool-down period and tag the article as disputed; hammer out details on the talk page and follow dispute resolution.

3. Wikipedia is free content that anyone may edit. All text is available under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) and may be distributed or linked accordingly. Recognize that articles can be changed by anyone and no individual controls any specific article; therefore, any writing you contribute can be mercilessly edited and redistributed at will by the community. Do not submit copyright infringements or works licensed in a way incompatible with the GFDL.

4. Wikipedia has a code of conduct: Respect your fellow Wikipedians even when you may not agree with them. Be civil. Avoid making personal attacks or sweeping generalizations. Stay cool when the editing gets hot; avoid edit wars by following the three-revert rule; remember that there are 1,495,425 articles on the English Wikipedia to work on and discuss. Act in good faith, never disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point, and assume good faith on the part of others. Be open and welcoming.

5. Wikipedia does not have firm rules besides the five general principles elucidated here. Be bold in editing, moving, and modifying articles, because the joy of editing is that although it should be aimed for, perfection isn't required. And don't worry about messing up. All prior versions of articles are kept, so there is no way that you can accidentally damage Wikipedia or irretrievably destroy content. But remember—whatever you write here will be preserved for posterity.

Wikipedia's AfD (Articles for Deletion) debates typically revolved around the policies of suitability verifiability, no original research and neutral point of view. Wikipedia also had a guideline that articles had to be "notable" and stated that "a subject is notable if it has been the subject of multiple non-trivial published works, whose sources are independent of the subject itself".


In addition to developing policies and guidelines over time, the Wikipedia community evolved a set of specialized roles for registered users. The most common of these was administrator. As explained in Wikipedia:
Administrators, or sysops, are active and regular Wikipedians who have access to technical features that help with maintenance. Administrators are expected to respect and be familiar with Wikipedia policy as they are known and trusted members of the community. They can protect and delete pages, block other editors, and undo these actions as well.

From early on, it has been pointed out that administrators should never develop into a special subgroup of the community but should be a part of the community like anyone else. However, they are equipped with a few more tools to do some chores that would potentially be harmful if everyone were entrusted with them.

The community does look to administrators to perform essential housekeeping chores that require the extra access administrators are entrusted with. Among them are watching the Articles for deletion debates and carrying out the consensus of the community on keeping or deleting these articles...Since administrators are expected to be experienced members of the community, users seeking help will often turn to an administrator for advice and information. In general, administrators acting in this role are neutral. They do not have any direct involvement in the issues they are helping people with.

Any registered user could nominate themselves to be provided with administrator status. However, most applicants had significant experience on Wikipedia before they considered themselves ready has a sample RfA (Request for Administrator). The decision to grant an applicant administrator status was based upon the following:

A RfA is a very open voting process where your record will be looked at by experienced (and sometimes opinionated) users who have already made up their minds about what kinds of people they want as administrators. An RfA is open to everybody, including anyone you may have had disagreements with in the past, as well as new and inexperienced users you may be disagreeing with at the time. Some users find the level of scrutiny and frankness very difficult. Some editors have left Wikipedia as a consequence of an RfA that has gone poorly.

As of November 26, there were 1,065 users with administrator status. In a 2003 email, Wales provided some perspective on the administrator role in Wikipedia:

"I just wanted to say that becoming a sysop is *not a big deal*.

I think perhaps I'll go through semi-willy-nilly and make a bunch of people who have been around for awhile sysops. I want to dispel the aura of "authority" around the position. It's merely a technical matter that the powers given to sysops are not given out to everyone.

I don't like that there's the apparent feeling here that being granted sysop status is a really special thing."

Bureaucrats had more privileges than administrators. They could promote other users to administrator or bureaucrat status, rename a user account, and grant or revoke a user's bot status. As of November 24, 2006, there were 15 active bureaucrats in the Wikipedia community. Stewards could give and remove arbitrary user access levels including administrator, bureaucrat, steward, and bot on any Wikipedia project, in all languages. Stewards were elected annually; in late 2006 there were 16 of them.

Administrators, bureaucrats, and stewards were not paid for their work on Wikipedia. In fact, in August of 2006 the Wikimedia Foundation had only five full-time employees. Wales initially paid for all of Wikipedia's hardware and bandwidth, but in 2005 the Wikimedia Foundation launched the first of multiple fund-raising campaigns to cover these costs. The foundation also sponsored the development and refinement of the open-source MediaWiki software that supported Wikipedia.


Since January 15, 2001, when Wikipedia went online, it has grown in popularity exponentially. The turning point in its popularity occurred when writer-journalist John Siegenthaler's Wikipedia biography was tampered with to imply that Siegenthaler had a pivotal role in the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Siegenthaler wrote an editorial in USA Today that called Wikipedia a "flawed and irresponsible research tool." While the editorial brought mostly negative attention to Wikipedia, the attention allowed it to grow and improve in quality. It now has more than six million articles in 250 languages including 1.5 million English articles. In the wake of this incident Wales and Wikipedia's parent, the Wikimedia Foundation, made it impossible for anonymous or newly registered users to create new pages and made it easier to track pages devoted to living persons.

In late 2005, the scientific journal Nature, the top-ranked science journal, conducted a study comparing the accuracy of science entries in Wikipedia and the online version of Encyclopedia Britannica. The research involved examining the same set of 42 science articles from each reference work. It revealed that Encyclopedia Britannica had 123 errors while Wikipedia had 162 (for averages of 2.9 and 3.9 errors per article). Timo Hannay, a blogger on Nature's website, noted:

"Going through the subject-by-subject results, I make the final score 22-10 in favour of Britannica, with 10 draws. ... If you believe that an encyclopedia should be judged by its weakest entries (in general I don't), or if you're the subject of an error or slur (thankfully I'm nowhere near famous enough), then the anecdotal outliers might be more important to you than averaged results. But most readers simply want to know whether a source can generally be relied upon. What these results say to me is that Wikipedia isn't bad in this regard—and that if it's really important to get your facts right then even Britannica isn't completely dependable ... A key outstanding question is whether or not Wikipedia can ever surpass Britannica in quality. Since it evidently already does in some subjects, I think the answer is yes, but we will have to wait and see. Frankly, I still can't get over the fact that it works at all."

Expertise, Authority, and Anti-Elitism

Robert McHenry, a former editor-in-chief of Britannica, called Wikipedia "the faith-based encyclopedia." His concern was the lack of formal expertise within the Wikipedia content-production process.

To put the Wikipedia method in its simplest terms:

1. Anyone, irrespective of expertise in or even familiarity with the topic, can submit an article, and it will be published.

2. Anyone, irrespective of expertise in or even familiarity with the topic, can edit that article, and the modifications will stand until further modified.

Then comes the crucial and entirely faith-based step:

3. Some unspecified quasi-Darwinian process will assure that those writings and editings by contributors of greatest expertise will survive; articles will eventually reach a steady state that corresponds to the highest degree of accuracy.

Does someone actually believe this? Evidently so. Why? It's very hard to say........Superimpose on this intellectual preparation the moist and modish notion of "community" and some vague notions about information "wanting" to be free, et voilà!

Larry Sanger, who left Wikipedia in March 2002 because the funding for the Nupedia project ran out, wrote an online article in 2004 in which he expressed concern about Wikipedia's lack of respect for experts:

"As a community, Wikipedia lacks the habit or tradition of respect for expertise. As a community, far from being elitist (which would, in this context, mean excluding the unwashed masses), it is anti-elitist (which, in this context, means that expertise is not accorded any special respect, and snubs and disrespect of expertise is tolerated). This is one of my failures: a policy that I attempted to institute in Wikipedia's first year, but for which I did not muster adequate support, was the policy of respecting and deferring politely to experts. (Those who were there will, I hope, remember that I tried very hard.)

I need not recount the history of how this nascent policy eventually withered and died. Ultimately, it became very clear that the most active and influential members of the project -- beginning with Jimmy Wales, who hired me to start a free encyclopedia project and who now manages Wikipedia and Wikimedia -- were decidedly anti-elitist in the above-described sense.

Consequently, nearly everyone with much expertise but little patience will avoid editing Wikipedia, because they will—at least if they are editing articles on articles that are subject to any sort of controversy—be forced to defend their edits on article discussion pages against attacks by nonexperts. This is not perhaps so bad in itself. But if the expert should have the gall to complain to the community about the problem, he or she will be shouted down (at worst) or politely asked to "work with" persons who have proven themselves to be unreasonable (at best).

I know, of course, that Wikipedia works because it is radically open. I recognized that as soon as anyone; indeed, it was part of the original plan. But I firmly disagree with the notion that that Wikipedia-fertilizing openness requires disrespect toward expertise. The project can both prize and praise its most knowledgeable contributors, and permit contribution by persons with no credentials whatsoever. That, in fact, was my original conception of the project. It is sad that the project did not go in that direction."

Inclusionists vs. Deletionists vs. AWWDMBJAWGCAWAIFDSPBATDMTDs

As the encyclopedia grew, a tension appeared between Wikipedians who had broad and narrow definitions of notability, or what made a topic worthy of a Wikipedia article. Inclusionists adopted the slogan "Wikipedia is not paper," reflecting their belief that since new articles consumed no scarce resources, they should be encouraged and welcomed because they would help make Wikipedia more comprehensive. Their Wikipedia page stated:

Inclusionism is a philosophy held by Wikipedians who favour keeping and amending problematic articles over deleting them. Inclusionists are also generally less concerned with the question of notability, and instead focus on whether or not an article is factual.

If, for example, an article has some good content and some substandard content, the inclusionist will see the good content as reason to keep the article and, like eventualists, will have faith that the wiki process will improve the substandard content in time.

Deletionists, in contrast, maintained that "Wikipedia is not a junkyard." Their page stated:

"Deletionism is a philosophy held by some Wikipedians that favors clear and relatively rigorous standards for accepting articles, templates or other pages to the encyclopedia. Wikipedians who broadly subscribe to this philosophy are more likely to request that an article that they believe does not meet such standards be removed, or deleted.

Deletionists' two central goals were to "1) Outpace rampant inclusionism and 2) Further our goal of a quality encyclopedia containing as little junk as possible."

Somewhere between these two communities was the Association of Wikipedians Who Dislike Making Broad Judgements About the Worthiness of a General Category of Article, and Who Are in Favor of the Deletion of Some Particularly Bad Articles, but That Doesn't Mean They Are Deletionist. Their motto was: "It is generally difficult to judge the worthiness of a particular topic for inclusion in an encyclopedia considering that there is no certain way to know what interests people, but some topics nevertheless are not fit for an encyclopedia."

Initial Wikipedia Article

On May 26, 2006, Wikipedia user Pedant17 created the first short entry on Enterprise 2.0 in Wikipedia. On June 27, user ArtW recommended that the article be deleted, stating: "Neologism of dubious utility. I can find examples of it's use online but there doesn't seem to be a consensus on what it means other than 'sort of like Web2.0, but businessy.'" Three other users also chimed in that day with a recommendation for deletion. Wikipedia administrator aeropagitica then decided to delete the entry on July 2, 2006.

The Wikimedia Foundation

Despite its popularity, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales only employs five people. The non-profit parent company of Wikipedia, Wikimedia, runs on less than $750,000 per year obtained exclusively from donations. According to their website: "The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual content, and to providing the full content of these wiki-based projects to the public free of charge. The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects. It is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization with offices in San Francisco, California, USA. Our mission is to empower a global volunteer community to collect and develop the world's knowledge and to make it available to everyone for free, for any purpose. We work together with a network of chapters in many different countries to achieve this goal."
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Wow! What a ride!

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Re: Babylon Nights Tidbit #31 ~ Wikipediaing Wikipedia!

Unread postby gemini » Thu Jan 06, 2011 10:04 pm

I like Wikipedia almost as much as I like google. I find myself there looking up many of the characters in our books. I don’t always take everything there for gospel but it is usually pretty informative. I think the longer its online the better it gets because so many people view each item and add to it if they know more about it. It’s the editing that seems complicated because who knows enough about everything to do it. I have noticed over time that it has improved. It was certainly a groundbreaking idea! :cool:
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Re: Babylon Nights Tidbit #31 ~ Wikipediaing Wikipedia!

Unread postby fansmom » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:07 am

Inclusionists vs. Deletionists vs. AWWDMBJAWGCAWAIFDSPBATDMTDs
;-) At least some of them don't take themselves too seriously!

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Re: Babylon Nights Tidbit #31 ~ Wikipediaing Wikipedia!

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Jan 07, 2011 1:22 am

Needless to say Liz and I use them frequently but I generally look up our tidbit subjects elswhere to verify as much as possible. Sometimes Wikipeida has more info, sometimes less but I do agree they have become more reliable. I thought the process they use to put the whole thing together was really interesting as well as the philosophy/intent of sharing the information globally for free. Well done, it could be a huge global library.

fansmom, when I saw the topic heading for that section I thought :perplexed: but it gave me a laugh too.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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