Tag Archives: wikipedia

Wikipedia to author: we need a secondary source

This is broken. Wikipedia won’t take an author’s word for what his novel is about… The beauty of this piece on the New Yorker has become the secondary source Wikipedia requires.

“I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel “The Human Stain.” The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed. This item entered Wikipedia not from the world of truthfulness but from the babble of literary gossip—there is no truth in it at all.

Yet when, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the “English Wikipedia Administrator”—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” writes the Wikipedia Administrator—“but we require secondary sources.”

Here’s the Wikipedia article incorporating Roth’s denial.

“On September 7, 2012, Roth wrote, in the The New Yorker, an open letter to Wikipedia in which he stated that his novel was based on an incident in the life of his friend, Melvin Tumin, professor of sociology at Princeton. According to Roth, Tumin noticed midway through the semester, that two students enrolled in one of his courses had not attended class or contacted him. He asked the class (as does the character Coleman Silk) about the missing students: “Does anyone know these people? Do they exist or are they spooks?” Tumin then learned the students were African-American; he spent several months providing depositions to clear up suspicions regarding his use of the sometimes racially charged term “spooks“. Roth notes the irony that Tumin was a noted specialist in race relations.[12] In response to the claim that The Human Stain was inspired by the life of the Anatole Broyard, Roth wrote that he barely knew Broyard, and, “Neither Broyard nor anyone associated with Broyard had anything to do with my imagining anything in ‘The Human Stain.'”[12]

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On wikipedia philosophy really is the starting point of knowledge

One of the things I’m increasingly realising as I engage in more critical interaction with people’s thoughts (particularly in scholarship, but also on the Internet and in person) is that it is one’s presuppositions, or philosophical framework, that produces one’s conclusions. It’s true in just about all areas and it’s one of the reasons (essentially operating alongside confirmation bias) that trying to change people’s minds online is entirely pointless.

You can take almost every conclusions somebody draws about the world back to that underlying framework. So you’d expect to see this born out in the way articles are linked in wikipedia (the web of interlinked connections between articles in wikipedia is, in my opinion, the most useful thing about it). And you do. According to this new webapp thingo by Xefer. Which illustrates the truth that all articles will eventually link to Philosophy. Which is kind of like my fairly ancient game 6 Degrees of Wikipedia.

“This sounded like a reasonable assertion, one that makes a certain amount of sense in retrospect: any description of something will typically use more general terms. Following that idea will eventually lead… somewhere.”

Like everything good on the Internet,this concept began in the hovertext of an XKCD comic.

Via FlowingData

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Two wikipedia articles that simultaneously restore and diminish my hope for humanity

Now, Wikipedia didn’t think Jeremy Wales was suitable subject matter for an article, but they do think that Fart Lighting and Goldfish Swallowing deserve entries. I’m not sure what Jeremy should think about this. He is less newsworthy than flammable flatulence. Though perhaps the problem with my article about him was that it was somewhat embellished.

In case you’re wondering:

Fart Lighting

Fart lighting, or pyroflatulence, is the practice of igniting the gases produced by human flatulence, often producing a flame of a blue hue. The fact that flatus is flammable, and the actual combustion of it through this practice, gives rise to much humourous derivation. Other colors of flame such as orange and yellow are possible with the color dependent on the mixture of gases formed in the colon.
Although there is little scientific discourse on the combustive properties of flatus, there are many anecdotal accounts of flatus ignition and the activity has increasingly found its way into popular culture with references in comic routines, movies, and television; including cartoons.

You can read more about the science involved at the BBC.

Goldfish Swallowing

Goldfish swallowing was an American school fad starting in the 1930s, where a live goldfish is swallowed.
It is not clear how it became a fad: various people have made claims. A 1963 letter to the New York Times claimed that the fad began in late 1938 when Lothrop Withington Jr., a Harvard freshman with “[class] presidential aspirations,” was encouraged by his “campaign managers” to do so as a publicity stunt: “Reporters and photographers were inadvertently present in the Harvard Freshman Union when Withington swallowed his live goldfish (with a mashed potato chaser) and started a nationwide fad in the spring of 1939.” The editor replied that “unless the Editor’s memory is deceiving him, the goldfish-swallowing craze among school and college boys had begun at least as early as 1930.”[1] However, a Time magazine noted in a 1939 article, “Harvard Freshman Lothrop Withington Jr., son of a onetime (1910) Harvard football captain, started the fad sweeping U. S. campuses…”

The Breakdancing breakdown: do the “Coffee Grinder”

So, hands up if you want to be a breakdancer? No, too busy busting a move all over those polished floorboards hey…

Apparently breakdancing is one of the four components of the hip-hop lifestyle – so says one of my friends when I asked what the difference between rap and hip-hop is. The answer “rap is something you do, hip-hop is a lifestyle”… the other two components (in addition to rap and breakdancing) were, from memory, graffiti and DJing… anyway… if the above shirt (one of my favourites) doesn’t do it for you, perhaps you’ll appreciate this list of breakdancing moves on wikipedia. Seriously. Hundreds of them.

Including:

Coffee Grinder/Helicopter: Go down on one bent leg standing on your toes with your hands on either side of your bent knee. Other leg is lying flat out on the floor beside you. Swing the leg that’s on the ground. To avoid being hit by your swing leg; you pick up your hands and put them back on the floor, then use them to pick the rest of your body up lifting it over your swing leg. Drop your body and repeat.”

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Wikipedia is ten, and a haven for atheists

Interestingly – half of all english language wikipedia editors have no religion. No wonder the Christian Right wanted to start their own (see Conservapedia) More interestingly, wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (not to be confused with Jeremy Wales), thought that statistic was worth including in a ten year summary of the site.

And look. An infographic:

Via TechCrunch.

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There’s an Internet Law that describes why you people don’t comment…

It’s called the 1% Rule. It has its own wikipedia article. And getting a wikipedia article is more difficult than you might think. So it must be true.

But here:

“The 1% rule states that the number of people who create content on the internet represents approximately 1% (or less) of the people actually viewing that content (e.g., For every one person who posts on a forum, there are at least ninety-nine other people viewing that forum but not posting).

The “90-9-1″ version of this rule states that 1% of people create content, 9% edit or modify that content, and 90% view the content without contributing.”

That explains it.

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Wikipatrol with Nicholson Baker

Nicholson Baker wrote the Mezzanine (the book I reviewed yesterday). He also wrote this article about Wikipedia, where he details time spent protecting obscure articles from deletion. A worthy cause.

He thinks Wikipedia is worth protecting because its checks and balances work well…

“Some articles are vandalised a lot. On January 11 this year, the entire fascinating entry on the aardvark [7] was replaced with “one ugly animal”; in February the aardvark was briefly described as a “medium-sized inflatable banana”.

This sounds chaotic, but most of the time the “unhelpful” or “inappropriate” changes are quickly fixed by human stompers and algorithmicised helper bots. Without the kooks and the insulters and the spray-can taggers, Wikipedia would just be the most useful encyclopedia ever made. Instead, it is a fast-paced game of paintball.”

Except sometimes these bots and human stompers want to stamp out whole articles. That’s where Baker and a team of anti-deleters step in…

“At the same time as I engaged in these tiny, fascinating (to me) “keep” tussles, hundreds of others were going on, all over Wikipedia. I signed up for the Article Rescue Squadron, a small group that opposes “extremist deletion, having seen it mentioned in John Broughton’s invaluable guide, Wikipedia: The Missing Manual. And I found out about a project called WPPDP (for “WikiProject Proposed Deletion Patrolling”) in which people look over the PROD lists for articles that should not be made to vanish. Since about 1,500 articles are deleted a day, this kind of work can easily become life-consuming. I was swept right out to the Isles of Shoals [13]. I stopped hearing what my family was saying to me – for about two weeks I all but disappeared into my screen, trying to salvage brief, sometimes overly promotional but nevertheless worthy biographies by recasting them in neutral language, and by hastily scouring newspaper databases and Google Books for references that would bulk up their notability quotient. I had become an “inclusionist”.”

It’s a tremendous article. Read it.

“Still, a lot of good work – verifiable, informative, brain-leapingly strange – is being cast out of this paperless, infinitely expandable accordion folder by people who have a narrow notion of what sort of curiosity an online encyclopedia should be able to satisfy in the years to come.”

Don’t you just hate it when you need to sneeze but can’t

Having a sneeze stuck somewhere in your head has to be one of the worst feelings.

Me, I’m lucky. I can just look at the sun, or any bright light. And wallah – a sneeze appears. Like magic.

I am blessed with a condition shared by 18-35% of the population – photic sneeze reflex.

I told someone about this once and they didn’t believe me. But there’s a wikipedia article. So it must be true. Here are the facts ensconced in medical lingo to enhance credibility…

“Photic sneeze reflex is a genetic autosomal dominant, which causes sneezing (due to naso-ocular reflex) when exposed suddenly to bright light, possibly many times consecutively. It is also referred to as photic sneeze response, sun sneezing, photogenic sneezing, the photosternutatory reflex, being photo sensitive, allergic to the sun, ACHOO syndrome, and Achooism, named after the sound made when sneezing, along with its related backronym Autosomal dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst syndrome.”

I also can’t burp. People struggle to believe that one too.

Teens like Wikipedia too

If the 100 most read wikipedia articles of 2009 teach us anything it’s that teenage boys use the online encyclopedia just like teenage boys have always used dictionaries… to look up rude words. You’ll notice that various articles about sex and genitalia made it in.

Here’s the list.

Of course it also features dead celebrities, living politicians, and some movies.

Five cool wikipedia articles

In the spirit of Ben’s listmania here are five cool Wikipedia articles – most of which have been pulled from this blog I discovered called Best of Wikipedia.

  1. Wrap Rage Wrap rage, also called package rage, is the common name for heightened levels of anger and frustration resulting from the inability to open hard-to-remove packagingWrap Rage Wrap rage, also called package rage, is the common name for heightened levels of anger and frustration resulting from the inability to open hard-to-remove packaging
  2. Erdős–Bacon Number A person’s Erdős–Bacon number is a concept which reflects the small world phenomenon in academia and entertainment. It is the sum of one’s Erdős number—which measures the “collaborative distance” in authoring mathematical papers between that person and Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős—and one’s Bacon number—which represents the number of links, through roles in films, by which the individual is separated from American actor Kevin Bacon. The lower the number, the closer a person is to Erdős and Bacon.
  3. Nocebo The adjective nocebo is used to label the harmful or unpleasant reactions that a subject manifested as a result of administering a placebo drug, where these responses had not been chemically generated, and were entirely due to the subject’s pessimistic belief and expectation that the inert drug would produce harmful, injurious, unpleasant, or undesirable consequences.
  4. The Turk The Turk was a fake chess-playing machine constructed in the late 18th century. From 1770 until its destruction by fire in 1854, it was exhibited by various owners as an automaton, though it was explained in the early 1820s as an elaborate hoax. With a skilled operator, the Turk won most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for nearly 84 years, playing and defeating many challengers including statesmen such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.
  5. I found this one by myself when I was looking up this thing called “Poe’s Law” that I hear atheists mentioning all the time when talking about satire about Christian stuff… it’s a list of eponymous laws – from the Famous (like Murphy’s Law, to the obscure internet phenomena – like Godwin’s Law).

Share any favourites of yours in the comments…

Hard copy Wikipedia: the next edition

I’ve tracked down the original home of the printed out Wikipedia (or at least what I think is the original post). Turns out it was only the “featured articles” that were printed.

Here’s what it would look like if the whole thing was printed using this criteria…

“If you were to print out the whole thing (not just the featured articles), this is what it would look like based on volumes 25cm high and 5cm thick (some 400 leaves), each page having two columns, each columns having 80 rows, and each row having 50 characters.”

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Guerrilla Evangelism

I’ve been toying with the idea of how Christians can use emerging technologies and the public sphere to conduct “guerrilla evangelism” (not to be confused with gorilla evangelism).

I know gospel proclamation occurs best in the context of an actual person to person relationship – but that doesn’t discount the idea of keeping Christianity in the public eye.

Here are five ideas I think are perhaps worth considering if you’ve got some time on your hands:

  1. Calling talkback radio – there are myriad talkback topics that lend themselves to Christian content – if I had a job that allowed me to call radio stations during the day, I would. 
  2. Writing letters to the editor – but not the angry “religious right” type, or the terrible capitalising on current events type – more the classy Christian commentary where appropriate… this already happens to a degree in Sydney – but not enough elsewhere. Those are the low hanging fruit though… here are some evangelism 2.0 ideas…
  3. Find contentious Wikipedia entries and edit them as often as possible to present orthodox evangelical views on particular hotbed issues – or even the basics. Given that Wikipedia is both the primary source of information for most people and user generated it lends itself to this sort of concerted effort… 
  4. Comment on popular blogs – and major media outlets – but again, not in the “flame an atheist” or condemn people to hell kind of way that has been made popular by theological ingrates.
  5. Share/bookmark/vote for good Christian articles – this one’s for the technologically literate – Digg, Reddit, Delicious, and Google Reader shared items are all popular sources of information for people – they tend to have a thoroughly atheist bent. Particularly Digg. I’ve seen one Driscoll article make it into the “What’s hot on Google Reader” feed – and not many turning up on the main page for Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon – or any of the other services that are out there. 
  6. Putting evangelistic comments in your status on Twitter and Facebook is a bit cliched – but at least in some cases it satisfies the relational criteria of evangelism. 

Any other ideas?