RE: WIKIPEDIA

Subject: RE: WIKIPEDIA
From: Ed <hamonwry12 -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: 'RÃdacteur en chef' <editorialstandards -at- gmail -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2011 15:29:18 -0500

So what's the alternative? Only let "qualified" writers with "life experience" edit Wikipedia? Democracy often ain't pretty.

For the record, I've been paid by an organization (non-profit) to update their Wikipedia page, which was flagged as biased and needing references. I've not checked in a few months, but last time I did, the content was not changed, and it was no longer flagged.

-=Ed.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: techwr-l-bounces+hamonwry12=hotmail -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+hamonwry12=hotmail -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On
> Behalf Of RÃdacteur en chef
> Sent: Thursday, February 10, 2011 2:28 PM
> To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com >> TECHWR-L
> Subject: WIKIPEDIA
>
> Does Wikipedia count as technical writing?
> If not, stop reading here, and Admin can spank me (no permission
> needed, just sayin'...)
>
> If so, well, a recent newspaper article warned women, and men of
> sensibility,
> that Wikipedia - used more and more, by more and more people (and
> reporters)
> as an authoritative reference - is being written largely by 25-year-old
> males.
>
> This is problematic for many reasons, but here are two:
>
> - 25-year old men are lacking in life experience in general, and the
> geeky ones
> who are most likely to sit at computers for endless hours [re-]writing
> Wikipedia
> pages are least likely to have wide educational and experiential
> backgrounds.
> Certainly, they don't have a woman's perspective on any topic.
>
> - many (most) of them are not very good writers
>
> The first is a problem because they don't even know they HAVE biases,
> let alone where those biases fit in the various spectra and axes. And the
> people most likely to edit their submissions are other young, narrowly
> educated geeks. Yeah, all that "history" in all those war games you've
> played for years is real and accurate and complete...
>
> The second is a problem because reasonably good writers (who also
> have wide and deep experience in many cases) are discouraged from
> writing submissions, because of what will happen to their work.
>
> As an example, I basically wrote-the-book on skydiving/parachuting
> in Wikipedia, early this century. Some of the middle section is still
> recognizably my writing. But somebody - or several successive
> somebodies - did some necessary updating of the first section and
> other sections, and made the writing choppy, childish and ugly.
> They also introduced some editorial compression - as if space were
> a consideration - that brought factual inaccuracies and reduced
> clarity.
>
> Early material that I wrote about libertarians and libertarianism
> has been totally obliterated and, depending on what day I
> revisit, has lost much in the translation.
>
> I've often recognized different writing styles within single Wikipedia
> pages on other topics, but I'm reminded how spotty and irregular
> the standards can be.
>
> If the newspaper article is right about the demographic description
> of the average Wikipedia writer/contributor, then much is explained.
> But these days, chances are the author cadged her article from ...
> Wikipedia.
>
> I can see a Wiki becoming legitimately authoritative on hard
> technical subjects, but I'm not so sure about anything to do
> with culture, history, or anything that has a subjective component,
> or where anybody's livelihood (or profit margin) is at stake.
>
> An example of the latter would be cases where large companies
> [no names, but they live in Redmond] employ significant staffs
> to re-write Wikipedia pages to suit the corporate take on any
> given topic, and then to keep watch and prevent repairs from
> being made. All the dedicated amateurs in the world aren't
> going to beat a paid staff that works night and day and has
> programming staff to assist in their watching and "correcting"
> duties... as well as resources to make their contributions
> appear to come from different people all over the world.
>
> Of course, even if a Wikipedia page is relatively accurate,
> and reasonably free of bias, there's the likelihood that many
> people will never see it. If they happen to be using the
> wrong search engine (rhymes with ping), they might be served
> a cached version that says what the engine owners want
> it to say, rather than what the real wiki page says most
> of the time.
>
> Do other list members post and edit Wikipedia pages?
> How successful are you at maintaining editorial consistency
> and accuracy of content - or do you bother to go back
> and police your submissions?
>
> Probably your contributions to (say) Wikipedia might not
> be a good item for your resume. The prospective employer
> might visit on the day when the 25-year-old male "contributor",
> with an ax(e) to grind, has just "improved" the content.
>
> </kevin>
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WIKIPEDIA: From: RÃdacteur en chef

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