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Monday, August 31, 2015

Why we need to replace Wikipedia

This technological innovator's experience is far from the only one of its type, and demonstrates that the Impossibility of Social Justice Convergence renders Wikipedia unfit for purpose:
My primary reasons for writing this article are to record a bit of personal history, describe programming before the personal computer, and reminisce a bit. But I have another reason — some of my regular readers know there's an article about me on Wikipedia, but that article is likely to be deleted (update: it's gone — see below). The stated reason for deleting it is because it doesn't have enough references for its claims — for example, that I wrote a solar system model that was used by JPL during the Viking lander mission. Wikipedia rightly requires documentation for any claims made in its articles, and until this article, the article you're reading, that claim wasn't documented. It is now, by this article and by its attached correspondence. Nevertheless, once I saw that the article was being considered for removal, I added my own vote in favor of deletion. Why? Because it had become a cheap sounding board for people annoyed at my positions on controversial topics, particularly psychology and stockbrokers.

That's the real reason the self-appointed editors over at Wikipedia moved to delete the article (remember that anyone can sign up and edit Wikipedia articles). I've been tracking the article since it first appeared in 2006, and there have been any number of efforts to delete or destroy the article by people of varying levels of skill. One of the cleverer tactics has been to delete the list of references, wait 24 hours, then argue for the article's deletion on the ground that the article's claims have no references — that's been tried several times.

What's behind this? Why does anyone care so much about a short article that describes my activities? Well, I've noticed a correlation between my publishing something about psychology (I'm a critic of psychology's theoretical basis and practice, example: The Trouble with Psychology) and a subsequent effort to delete the Wikipedia article. Apparently some psychologists or fans of psychology think it's an appropriate response to criticism of their field — not to debate the issues honestly in public forums — but to try to remove any references to the critic.

The single best thing about Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it. That's also the single worst thing. It was my hope that a Wikipedia editor, one who doesn't care that I'm a psychology critic, would add a footnote reference to this article's documentation in the Wikipedia article, thereby removing an excuse to delete the article. That wouldn't have solved the problem, because I plan to continue criticizing psychology, but it woiuld have made it harder to justify future attacks.

Update: Through a combination of my efforts and that of others, and since I couldn't protect it from vandalism, the Wikipedia article has been deleted. During my research on this topic, I encountered this almost identical incident:

    Seth Finkelstein reported in an article in The Guardian on his efforts to remove his own biography page from Wikipedia, simply because it was subjected to defamation:

        "Wikipedia has a short biography of me, originally added in February 2004, mostly concerned with my internet civil liberties achievements. After discovering in May 2006 that it had been vandalised in March, possibly by a long-time opponent, and that the attack had been subsequently propagated to many other sites which (legally) repackage Wikipedia's content, the article's existence seemed to me overall to be harmful rather than helpful. For people who are not very prominent, Wikipedia biographies can be an "attractive nuisance". It says, to every troll, vandal, and score-settler: "Here's an article about a person where you can, with no accountability whatsoever, write any libel, defamation, or smear. It won't be a marginal comment with the social status of an inconsequential rant, but rather will be made prominent about the person, and reputation-laundered with the institutional status of an encyclopedia."

    In the same article Finkelstein recounts how he voted his own biography as "not notable enough" in order to have it removed from Wikipedia.

As explained above, once I saw how often opponents of my views on psychology tried to rewrite or delete my Wikipedia article, I took the same action for the same reason. Those who want to read a short biographical note, one not subject to controversy or vandalism, may click here.

What does this mean about Wikipedia? It means that controversial issues and people won't be described fairly, or sometimes at all. The idea behind Wikipedia is that it's a people's encyclopedia, not an ivory tower production. The problem with this egalitarian ideal is that special interests can, and do, struggle to see their particular outlook become the only outlook in the pages of Wikipedia. And, since my view of psychology is quickly becoming the majority view, psychologists found themselves unable to argue against that position using reason and fair tactics. So, just as when they chose to study psychology in college, they took the low road, the easy path — they resorted to gangster tactics.
We're going to do this, the only questions are a) when, b) how much will it cost, and c) who is with me? I've had much the same experience. The three most notable and significant things I have done are completely absent from Wikipedia despite my being deemed notable by the editors and those three things being documented by reliable sources. And I'm far from alone in that.

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238 Comments:

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Blogger #6277Hammer September 01, 2015 4:13 AM  

I don't have any IT skills but I'm willing to contribute in other ways where needed.

Anonymous LurkingPuppy September 01, 2015 4:32 AM  

re forking: The biggest issue I see with forking Wikipedia's content is that plagiarism (probably including copyvios) has been allowed to run rampant in some of the topics there, and chances are that some of the people who put copyvios there are SJWs who will use their own misdeeds to incite lawsuits against the fork. I don't think a Wikipedia fork will be able to sue Wikipedia contributors for lying to Wikipedia about the copyright status of a contribution; you'll have to ask a lawyer about that.


@150: There is no feasible technical way to permanently ban a person from using a service. Bullshit. content authoring and editing rights are not a service. Those require verified ID Period, full stop

* Then why did you say ‘IP banned’ instead earlier?

* Who does the verification? Do you require that a lawyer or notary public (some of whom are SJWs) certifies that someone has presented a valid-looking photo ID of the sort issued by a particular (SJW-controlled) government agency? Or did you have someone else in mind? (This problem is hard, and both SJWs and spammers will have a strong incentive to break the system, so please provide more design details.)

If they will be treated better if they lie about their identity, then the system rewards evil instead of good. Fuck you, we don't care what would make you feel better about banning an SJW.

I sense rhetoric in your voice.

Basically, I think the ban policy for Ilkipedia should be the same as for this blog. Commenters may be banned for various misbehaviours; they may be unbanned if they convince the BDFL that they will not misbehave again. They may be hounded all the way to a criminal court if they keep trying to evade a ban in order to misbehave.

Legally, my understanding is that you are much better off if your policy states that a ban may, in exceptional cases, be lifted, and then you never actually lift a ban in practice, than you are if your policy states that all bans are permanent, and then you decide to lift one.


@153: I just took a look at the talk page for the speed of sound article and the debates are mostly centered on the correctness of the formulas and whether the explanations are clear, not what kinds of content are permitted.

There is a debate over the correctness of the formulas because they have no derivations of the formulas to refer to, either to check their correctness or to learn what the assumptions were. (Note that if a formula is derived empirically, then you need to report the range of inputs for which it appears to hold, and reference some difficult-to-tamper-with source for the raw data and experiment design.)

There is no debate over whether a derivation is permitted because there is no need for a debate— WP policy explicitly states that a derivation is not permitted as the source for a formula, and that if a derivation is lengthy, then it must be on a separate page if it is in WP at all. (IIRC, the derivation for the speed of sound in an ideal gas is lengthy.)

Blogger Shimshon September 01, 2015 4:55 AM  

I sent a message to Mr. Lutus notifying him of the attention he has been given here. Maybe he has some ideas to contribute?

I think the OAuth idea (@17 Mike) makes sense when thinking about how to keep SJWs out. But you gotta be careful here, because you're putting a key aspect of the service at the control of others.

Although requiring some proof of existence in the wider world using the identity you present as does make sense. And OAuth2 can help with that. We want to see that you have a Facebook history. Even if you just lurk, are your friends real and do they post? That sort of thing. At Google, I imagine there are lots of things we could be authorized for. It's not that we even want to see specific emails. But we'd want know that emails are being sent and received that are not spam.

I agree about ads with those who called for having them.

It sounds like it is quite possible to flag most or all SJWs who are gate-keeping articles at Wikipedia. Applying various heuristics to article edit histories, you can narrow down the list of articles that need further scrutiny, and simply copy the rest. Also, as some people noted, huge swaths of content can be ignored if you'd prefer.

I like the name Metapedia. Bummer it's already taken.

Blogger parselmouth September 01, 2015 6:28 AM  

@189

OAuth is a protocol for 3rd party verification of claimed identity. It in and of itself is not a complete solution to the problem. If you penalize an editor for page abuse, what prevents them from creating a clean identity (it's just another gmail account, etc.) and doing it again?

We need to implement trust networks (or metrics) and couple those with an identity that has a non-zero cost. Otherwise, you'll get spammed with new identities.

Blogger Shimshon September 01, 2015 6:54 AM  

OAuth doesn't just authenticate. It authorizes access to data. Like Facebook friend lists, GMail contacts, etc. This is how you can prevent "clean" identities from being used. They must be "real" identities (using some reasonably simple heuristics along with information that is required). Otherwise, it's just one method in the arsenal. I expect that a number of techniques will need to be utilized to combat entryist attempts.

Blogger Unknown September 01, 2015 7:49 AM  

Every encyclopedia's gotta make choices.

Not really on the Internet, at least not in the way a print version does. If someone wants to write reams of stuff about his favorite 1980s video game, there's no reason to stop him, as long as it's true.

For starters, what country would the proposed servers be based in?

Why, they'd be in The Cloud, of course! The Cloud makes everything better.

Blogger Redd September 01, 2015 8:07 AM  

This minion calls for a pause: Vox has a small but committed army, fairly well organized. However, SJW's control the commanding heights everywhere, especially cultural redoubts. We've had one or two preliminary victories, not yet strongly consolidated (look at the Hugo awards). Is Wikipedia the best place to commit limited resources at this point? Remember, SJW's are motivated by hatred, an extremely strong emotion that is visceral and constant (it is how they eliminated millions who resisted in the 20th century). They also have more time and arguably more commitment than us (we have competing responsibilities such as work and family). I'm not saying nix on Wikipedia. Just calling for strategic reflection: Sun Tsu says locate and attack the enemy's weakest points.

Blogger parselmouth September 01, 2015 8:08 AM  

@192

In the cloud? I don't know ... seems kind of risky given all of those falling spiky turtle things.



Blogger Unknown September 01, 2015 8:29 AM  

I won't get too far into the details, but I think on top of the crowd-sourcing for new content (which appears to me to be a necessity, to get the necessary volume of content and expertise), you can put an old-fashioned chain of command, with consequences for a captain when one of his lieutenants turns out to be an entryist. For the tech, something like public key encryption's trust model.

That way you don't have to count on anything third-party, or try to tell whether someone's Facebook profile is for real. To be a lieutenant, you have to get a captain to vouch for you and share responsibility for your work. If you don't know any captains, well, you have to get to know one through whatever other channels and earn his trust.

True, that would make it harder to get editors/admins. But I think it could be pretty much foolproof against entryists.

Blogger Unknown September 01, 2015 8:37 AM  

I don't have any numbers to prove it, but it seems to me that quite a lot of content on WP is filler.

And I was surprised to see how small the actual volume is. When you consider how much of that is not really original content, but data that was and could be pulled from other places, the idea of replacing it starts to seem a lot more manageable.

Blogger Unknown September 01, 2015 9:01 AM  

As others have noted, vast swaths of [Wikipedia] are ok.

While that's true, the problem is that you never know where SJWism will show up. Something that seems completely uncontroversial may have SJWism injected into it.

Here's a fer-instance: you're reading articles about classic 80s computer games, and you hit the one on M.U.L.E. It says the lead designer was Danielle (Dani) Bunten, and mentions "her" death. So you think, "Hey, cool, she was one of those great woman programmers we keep hearing about," and you click on to the next game to read about.

Here's the problem: "Danielle" Bunten was Daniel Bunten, a man, who later -- well after M.U.L.E. -- got a sex change, and then regretted it and told others not to do it. You won't know that from Wikipedia unless you click through to his own page and read through all the stuff calling him female -- even the stuff about his childhood -- and get to the part about the surgery 2/3 down the page. But you're not going to do that if you're reading about games, not programmers. I only know it because I'm an old C64 guy.

With that kind of thing going on, I think it's naive to think you could police the content well enough to keep out that kind of stuff. No group of admins is going to have enough expertise in every possible field to spot that kind of thing (though this group might come close). If there's an article about Nowheresville, BFE, and it says their president is a woman, how are we gonna know that's a lie? So the defenses against entryism have to be at the level of the people, not the content.

In other words, it has to run like a spy ring or the Mafia, not like a democracy or an open-source project.

Blogger Were-Puppy September 01, 2015 9:06 AM  

@179 rho
Quick question, which is more likely? Control of the Hugos, or control of Wikipedia
----------------------------------

I don't think control of either is the end goal. As we see, the Hugo is fast becoming irrelevant.

Regarding WP, it would seem to be a monolith that will never change. But recall, there used to be a Myspace, there used to be an Alta Vista. Those are pretty much toast now.

Not saying any of this is easy, but it's not impossible.

Blogger Were-Puppy September 01, 2015 9:13 AM  

@182 ScuzzaMan
Ther's some awesome irony in that rationalwiki page on Dunning-Kruger. It is worth reading for these alone:
-quoying Darwin on ignorance conveying certainty, when his entire argument against fhe fossil evidence was based on ignorance, and his followers could not be more certain, even tho we know he was wrong.
-referencing other pages, such as the groupthink page, without a shred of self-awareness or irony.
-etc

Every klk should read that article, for the educational benefit of identifying such elements.
--------------

I don't know much details about the subject matter, but simply seeing one of the bullet points was Vox Day indicated another lame attempt at a personal smear. For me, that throws the light of a hatchet job over that article, and the entire website.

Blogger Matamoros September 01, 2015 9:25 AM  

@52 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Someone actually has done it:
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/1911_Encyclopædia_Britannica

See for example:
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/1911_Encyclopædia_Britannica/Negro

Blogger Were-Puppy September 01, 2015 9:26 AM  

193. VFM bot #188
Just calling for strategic reflection: Sun Tsu says locate and attack the enemy's weakest points.
------------

I believe their weakest point is their rejection of logic.

Blogger Matamoros September 01, 2015 9:33 AM  

Might add that I tripped over this anti-SJW site some time ago which describes itself as "– an electronic encyclopedia about culture, art, science, philosophy and politics."

http://en.metapedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Anonymous Quartermaster September 01, 2015 9:44 AM  

Replacing Wikipedia is doable. Trying to change Wikipedia would be akin to tilting at windmills.

Blogger Redd September 01, 2015 10:14 AM  

I believe their weakest point is their rejection of logic.

Not if MPAI.

Anonymous Jack Amok September 01, 2015 10:29 AM  

True, that would make it harder to get editors/admins. But I think it could be pretty much foolproof against entryists.

Yep. We have to accept that the cost of keeping out entryists is turning down a lot of free help.

And I was surprised to see how small the actual volume is. When you consider how much of that is not really original content, but data that was and could be pulled from other places, the idea of replacing it starts to seem a lot more manageable.

Remember, Wikipedia discourages (some even say prohibits) original content. Everything is in theory supposed to be supported by outside sources. Perhaps questionable sources, but...

Blogger Danby September 01, 2015 12:10 PM  

@Quartermaster,
Read the tile We don't aim to fix WP, we aim to replace it.

@Shimson
Although requiring some proof of existence in the wider world using the identity you present as does make sense. And OAuth2 can help with that. We want to see that you have a Facebook history. Even if you just lurk, are your friends real and do they post? That sort of thing. At Google, I imagine there are lots of things we could be authorized for. It's not that we even want to see specific emails. But we'd want know that emails are being sent and received that are not spam.

No online-only identities for editors. You fax a copy of your friggin driver's license before you get editor rights. Or maybe you send your snail mail address and we send you a paper mail with a login key.

For contributors, OAuth2 doesn't really verify who a person is. Yes you can link several identities, but if someone goes outside those to create a new one, you won't have any way of knowing.
And a great many people, all of the smart ones, have no facebook account.

@Puppy Lurker.
Go stick your useless head in a bucket of hydrochloric acid.

Blogger SciVo September 01, 2015 2:32 PM  

maniacprovost @199: "Groot, so "Pediafiles" is also out? Hmm."

No, that's great! Our logo could be a flock of Predators (drones) with the motto "We Are Everywhere." We could focus on homeschooling outreach, with one of those quotes sometimes attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, such as, "Give me a boy before the age of 7 and he will be mine forever."

There are no flaws in this plan.

Anonymous Mr. Rational September 01, 2015 3:11 PM  

@ 164 At least in Wikipedia, one could argue for TENS being given a much more prominent spot by the fact that there are way more "reliable sources" (i.e., textbooks and articles) by professional scientists who believe in TENS.

Forget belief, look for evidence.  The professional scientists have exactly that evidence, and if you're serious about verifiability you will find and cite specific papers.  Doing THAT gives you a chance to (a) look for anomalies in the process, and (b) catch things like retractions of papers which remove the support for a claim (e.g. the retraction of Wakefield's paper on the connection of autism to vaccines, and Michael Bellesisles' "work" on the history of guns in the USA).

That's actually a good front of attack on the left and SJWs.  So much social "science" is supported by faulty methodology or even made up, citing the errors and fraud is enough to show entire fields to be untrustworthy.

@ 169 It will eliminate huge swaths of topics that server no intellectual purpose ... biographies of fictional TV characters, backstories for television shows

Those still have a use for documenting e.g. SJW themes in the media.

Anonymous Anonymous September 01, 2015 3:19 PM  

I think you should make a rather slim encyclopedia with only entries from Wikipedia that are deceitful or misleading, which you then rewrite or write from scratch. Perhaps you could add a few extra entries that aren't included in Wikipedia but should have been. Parasitism is probably the best option if you are not yet strong enough.

If reasonably succesful, I think this encyclopedia might lead to the habit of people checking both Wikipedia and your encyclopedia on the same subject.

Blogger Benjamin McLean September 01, 2015 8:12 PM  

I'll support an alternative to Wikipedia if they'll agree to use B.C. and A.D. dates. There's nothing common about "Common Era." It was a political move to censor Christianity out of the Christian calendar while keeping the other religions and cultures represented in the calendar because they have more Social Justice victim points.

Blogger newanubis September 01, 2015 10:15 PM  

Projects cost money and bigger projects even bigger money...volunteer work not withstanding.
Toward this end , id love to see and would readily invest in a real company with real shares, even in the pinks, to have the other 400,000,000 million people of like mind assist in setting this ship a-sail. Working capital, or lack thereof, is the true prince/plebe maker.

Blogger newanubis September 01, 2015 10:15 PM  

Projects cost money and bigger projects even bigger money...volunteer work not withstanding.
Toward this end , id love to see and would readily invest in a real company with real shares, even in the pinks, to have the other 400,000,000 million people of like mind assist in setting this ship a-sail. Working capital, or lack thereof, is the true prince/plebe maker.

Blogger newanubis September 01, 2015 10:34 PM  

Q: is there enough agenda driven content at Wikipedia to build a new engine simply by setting the record straight? Perhaps folks would start sending crooked pages for review and when done honestly, both word and reputation rise. Not to mention abovementioned share price.

Blogger The Redactor September 02, 2015 12:00 AM  

The key here is that anything we do will have to be demonstrably better than Wikipedia. And by better, I don't simply mean more accurate. It's not enough to be the $philosophical alternative to Wikipedia either, as demonstrated by Conservapedia (whom I'd never heard of before today).

Blogger Doc Rampage September 02, 2015 2:46 AM  

I'd be willing to help with this. I have some experience in big data.
Some thoughts:
0. Traffic is king. Every decision should be aimed at maximizing traffic.
1. Advertise in a non-offensive way and use the money for promotion and to pay a few professional editors.
2. Pay search engines 50% of ad revenues for all traffic they send. This will probably get the smaller search engines to replace Wikipedia with Veripedia.
3. Copy the entire Wikipedia. Don't forward traffic to Wikipedia You want everything on your own site so Google will rate the site higher.
4. Don't be strictly an encyclopedia, but a general goto site for information. Have different styles of pages to avoid confusion, but have categories like this:
4a. traditional encyclopedia (usually sourcing rules)
4b. detailed or specialist information (refereed or edited)
4c. commentary (with some sort of voting system for quality control).
5. Replace the bad content over time instead of trying to start with it all fixed on day one. Give users the options to flag an article as false. Come up with algorithms to find SJW crap. You'll get better at finding it as you go along.
6. Editors by invitation only like gmail first started. If X invites Y and Y turns out to be an SJW, then not only does Y get banned, X goes on probation and may be banned as well.
7. Move to anonymous certified IDs later.

Blogger Doc Rampage September 02, 2015 2:46 AM  

I'd be willing to help with this. I have some experience in big data.
Some thoughts:
0. Traffic is king. Every decision should be aimed at maximizing traffic.
1. Advertise in a non-offensive way and use the money for promotion and to pay a few professional editors.
2. Pay search engines 50% of ad revenues for all traffic they send. This will probably get the smaller search engines to replace Wikipedia with Veripedia.
3. Copy the entire Wikipedia. Don't forward traffic to Wikipedia You want everything on your own site so Google will rate the site higher.
4. Don't be strictly an encyclopedia, but a general goto site for information. Have different styles of pages to avoid confusion, but have categories like this:
4a. traditional encyclopedia (usually sourcing rules)
4b. detailed or specialist information (refereed or edited)
4c. commentary (with some sort of voting system for quality control).
5. Replace the bad content over time instead of trying to start with it all fixed on day one. Give users the options to flag an article as false. Come up with algorithms to find SJW crap. You'll get better at finding it as you go along.
6. Editors by invitation only like gmail first started. If X invites Y and Y turns out to be an SJW, then not only does Y get banned, X goes on probation and may be banned as well.
7. Move to anonymous certified IDs later.

Blogger McChuck September 02, 2015 4:16 AM  

See this article in The Independent about corruption and blackmail in Wikipedia.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/wikipedia-rocked-by-rogue-editors-blackmail-scam-targeting-small-businesses-and-celebrities-10481993.html

Blogger Leatherwing September 02, 2015 7:45 AM  

Are you familiar with stack exchange and the reputation model they use. It has flaws, but could probably be modified to work with wiki editing.

Blogger Were-Puppy September 02, 2015 10:22 AM  

@231
From the article:
"Wikipedia, which has grown to nearly five million English articles since 2001, uses a team of more than 250,000 people to protect the authenticity of its content. However the scam has underlined the weakness in the website’s reliance on volunteers to create and edit its online content, leaving it vulnerable to abuse."

That's a lot of people - I wonder if large groups of these are not simply "rouge editors" but actually in collusion?

Perhaps in the effort of creating an SJW hunt algorithm, some really interesting things would be revealed in Wikipedia itself. Usually getting to the SJW heart of a matter involves peeling an onion, and this looks like the mother of all onions.

What exactly is the purpose of Wikipedia, if they aren't a reliable encylopedia? This is the fruits of SJW that Vox pointed out. It's really plain to see here.

A couple other things I noticed from that page:

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/russia-creating-its-own-encyclopedia-to-rival-unreliable-wikipedia-9862683.html

Beside the issue of government control of information, maybe it can be investigated what they are doing to try and replicate Wikipedia.

Blogger CM September 02, 2015 10:42 AM  

I'm late on this, but I'm in. I like research.

Blogger BG September 02, 2015 11:22 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger cavalier973 September 02, 2015 12:59 PM  

Forkapedia

Anonymous VFM #330 September 04, 2015 6:32 AM  

I think the idea of replacing Wikipedia is technically doable, but humanly difficult.

My take is that if you want to make progress, eat the elephant a bite at a time. Create FOCUSED COMPETITORS IN SPECIALIZED FIELDS. You can start with products of a fork, then move on to remediation for launch. The site will attract enthusiastic endorsements from experts who will finally have a reliable source to refer people to. Then build traffic and participation within those fields via partnerships, and let the virtuous circle build.

Wikipedia will be replaced over time in the specified fields. Once you have a few of those going well, have learned the lessons at a manageable scale, and have thrown out some publicity to highlight La Wik's unreliability, go for the Big Fork and draw on your constellation of specialty sites to create a visibly better total product.

Behind all of this is a set of controlling organizations that are rather opaque. This helps defeat the kind of top-level entryism that stole Wikipedia, and also creates a much smaller media cross-section for SJW journalists to poke into.

Blogger evolutionisbunk June 29, 2016 7:26 AM  

I saw that you were looking for people with Wikimedia and PHP skills. Is your alternative to Wikipedia imminent?

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