Thursday, August 16, 2007

 

A Defence of Wikipedia against Oliver Kamm

For some reason Oliver Kamm seems to have it in for the online world. A few months ago he was berating political bloggers for wrting nonsense, in spite of being one himself. Now he has turned his unwelcome ire on wikipedia.

Critics of the web decry the medium as the cult of the amateur. Wikipedia is worse than that; it is the province of the covert lobby. The most constructive course is to stand on the sidelines and jeer at its pretensions.

'Jeering' seems to be something Mr Kamm does rather too well, in addition to writing his splenetic and pompous articles in The Times. I am a huge fan of the free online encyclopedia which I think one of the most amazing products of the internet. It has 7.5 million articles written in 253 leanguages. At peak times it is visited 15000 times a second and has 1700 new articles added each day.

It is written by the users, yes, but it is for the most part accurate as various respected authorities, writing in The Guardian a few months back could find little wrong with its entries in their areas of expertise. Wikipedia is web democracy astonishly at work.

In my own field I occasionally find something with which I disagree but never, to date, anything which is wrong. I explain to students the limitations of the service but am happy for them to use it when researching essays. Kamm's piece might have carried more weight if he had cited a few examples of how 'appalling' inaccurate this service can be, but he merely throws rotten eggs and displays spoilt petulance.

There is one final thing why I value wikipedia above most things on the web: unlike so many other online services, it is completely free. Its founder, Jimmy Wales, a bit like intrernet founder Tim Berners-Lee, seems to be that rare person, a genuine idealist who has spurned great riches in exchange for defending his principles. Oh, and I note that wiki even carries a (no doubt inaccurate and biased entry) on no less a subject than Mr Kamm himself.

Comments:
Actually, Kamm has previously given examples of unacceptable inaccuracies on Wikipedia, including in his own entry which he refuses to update.

The problem with Wiki, as I see it, is not that it has the capacity to be wrong, but that it has an aura of definitiveness which is just not merited when it comes to controversial subjects or figures who engender strong feelings.
 
Excellent post Skip! And you are quite right to defend Wikipedia - a wondeful example of collective democratic effort which is helping to transform the digital world.

It provides a reliable resource for us all. And those people who think that old-fashioned encyclopedias printed on dead trees were somehow completely impartial need to wake up to the real world.

Rockingham (and of course Oliver Kamm) are wrong. Wikipedia is self-correcting. If you think something you know about is incorrectly recorded on Wikipedia, you are at liberty to edit the entry.

But of course if you are wrong, your own edit will be edited - and quite right too!

I followed up all the links to Oliver Kamm. He sounds like a complete pillock - someone who is quite obviously NOT left-wing, but who having started out in his younger days as a bit of a radical, is now heading at vertiginous velocity towards the far-right.

Maybe class will out?
 
Kamm is good enough to explain exactly why I admire Wikipedia:

"Wikipedia combines the free-market dogmatism of the libertarian Right with the anti-intellectualism of the populist Left."

Or, to put it in slightly more amenable words,

"Wikipedia combines libertarianism's belief in the genius of individual spontaneity with the anti-establishmentarianism of the radical left."
 
The issue that all of you are failing to address is... what constitutes "right" and "wrong" on a contentious article? Sure, Wikipedia is great at recapping an episode of The Simpsons, or discussing the density of Mars -- but what about the articles on the Arab-Israeli conflict, abortion, and animal testing? Who is the final arbiter of "truth", when those who disagree with the story being told by Wikipedia administrators (most of whom lack an advanced degree or a salaried management position anywhere in their vitae) are simply blocked from ever editing Wikipedia again?

Somebody ask your favorite Wikipedia supporter -- how many accounts have been indefinitely banned from editing? That's democracy?
 
Uhmmmmm--you have NEVER found anything you knew to be "wrong" on Wikipedia?? EVER??? Obviously, you have spent rather little time on WP, or you restrict your viewing to a very particular type of article (Pokemon articles, perhaps). I was active as an editor on WP for some 16 months, and in that time I often found things on WP I knew to be wrong, or so incomplete as to be quite misleading. I may not have found such things every day, but certainly often enough that it was in no wise unusual. My suggestion would be that the next time you are possessed of an urge to plant a wet one on Jimbo's ass, you at least familiarize yourself with what you are commenting on.

--Cedric
 
Kamm may be a twerp, but don't be fooled by Jimbo Wales. Wales is a right wing Ayn Rand objectivist. With a very nasty streak. Whilst Jimbo travels the planet lording his "democratisation of knowledge" and reaping naive praise, real people's reputations are getting trashed and slandered on his site. And knowledge is being debased at an hourly rate.
See http://wikipediareview.com/index.php?showtopic=11810&st=0&#entry44077 for discussion of Kamm's post. You may also get a view of the darker side of Wikipedia.

Kato
 
Is there anything wrong with being an Ayn Rand Objectivist? Sure, Rand and her followers got a bit cultish in their activities, and hypocritical in doing authoritarian stuff (e.g., excommunicating people) in the name of individual liberty, but I still basically agree with the major ideas of her philosophy.

Unfortunately, as with Rand, Wikipedia is something I generally like, but have a few problems with the people running it... my biggest beef lately is in how they try to suppress criticism by idiotic policies like the one against linking to so-called "attack sites".
 
Wikipedia is retarded information written for retards by retards. You can defend it, but this makes you retarded.
 
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