Wikipedia Idiots - Why Crowd Wisdom is Oxymoronic

wikidiots.jpgAssholes on wikipedia are a dime a dozen, so staff writer Mary Spicuzza cashed in some dollar bills for a huge stinking pile of them in Wikipedia Idiots, this week's feature. Here's some extra info for those who can't get enough.

Since part of the article addresses issues of anonymity, and various Wikipedians have commented on the benefits and limitations of anonymous users what are the thoughts from Wikipedia exec Jimmy Wales?

"Anonymity is a powerful and useful tool in a free society, but one which brings with it complications and problems as well. We want people to be able to speak the truth freely and openly without fear of retaliation, and yet we want people to be accountable.

Pseudonymity is a neat solution which helps bridge the gap between the benefits and risks. By "psuedonymity" I mean a stable identity over time, but one which protects ones real life identity from harassment. A psuedonym can be banned or ostracized from a community.

--Jimbo"

Writer: Also, because my story deals quite a bit with some of our local editors and edit warring-types (Griot and others), I'd love to get his thoughts on if & how his work with Wikipedia has changed his view of the concept of "the wisdom of the crowds."

Jimmy - I have always been firmly opposed to the notion of "the wisdom of crowds" and nothing about Wikipedia has changed my views there. Good work is the product of individual human minds. That's not to say that collaboration is not good... obviously it is. But "crowds" is the wrong analogy and causes people to fail to understand why this all works as well as it does.

Writer: Much like in the real world, I've talked with some wonderful Wikipedians. Then there have been some real cranks...

Jimmy: Be careful to note that merely editing Wikipedia does not make someone a Wikipedian. There is the community of editors, and then there are random people lurking around who we have to deal with.

LINKS:
1. Link to Phoebe Ayers, librarian & avid Wikipedian
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Phoebe

Link to more information on her upcoming book, How Wikipedia Works
http://www.amazon.com/How-Wikipedia-Works-Phoebe-Ayers/dp/159327176X

2. Link to the recently-debated Matt Gonzalez entry
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Gonzalez
And its talk page
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Matt_Gonzalez

3. Link to the much-fought over Supervisor Chris Daly entry
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Daly
And its talk page
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Chris_Daly

4. Link to user page for Bay Area-based Wikipedia administrator Michael C. Berch
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:MCB

5. Link to web site for Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture
http://andrewkeen.typepad.com/

For more on the Wikipedian mentioned, Bill T. Fried: www.myspace.com/bfb
Direct link to video on myspace:
http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=6429042


My Voice Nation Help
20 comments
Creepster987
Creepster987

Request a (highly principled, impartial) admin to assist with article Jeanne Marie Spicuzza. My own contributions per box instructions are in vain. User Antaeus Feldspar appears to have a negative history with the article, COI, and seems to be acting out of some sort of anomosity towards the subject, and any/all of its contributors and/or editors, WP:POINT, WP:CREEP, WP:BITE (see edit notes and talk page) violating WP:AGF, WP:FAITH, WP:DR bordering on WP:CIV, WP:EQ. Thanks for your assistance.

ElExigente
ElExigente

"This is where your movies are going to happen from"? No, that's all wrong. God doesn't talk like that. Not at all. God doesn't talk like a new age palm reader in a strip mall. It would be more like "'From whence cometh your movies? This,' sayeth the Lord." Or something like that. Anyhow, that's what He would say, although we do need to keep in mind that when you talk to God it's called prayer, but when God talks to you it's called schizophrenia. 

Xxxxxxxxxx_54
Xxxxxxxxxx_54

 From what small town cometh your state of mind, mam?

Chatterwocky
Chatterwocky

I'm not Telogen, I'm not heI'm a true celebrity!Or whoever I want to be!I'm an abbess, a funky drummerA late riser, an early cummerA winter spring fall or summerMe, I can be whoever I want!A poet, mom, baptismal font!'Cause I'm the greatest dilettante!It's so much fun to be this way!I'm who I think I am today!And every day's a field day!

JobberQue
JobberQue

"Please forward to all parties involved for prosecution."

[chuckle]

Anonymous
Anonymous

Dear Mr. Harper,

Please check the IP of Marc Salomon's recent comments under "Party Crashers 08" and the IP of the comment above, as well as those by JohnnyBiz and Billy T. Shakespeare, appearing in the comments section of "Wikipedia Idiots" article. Please forward to all parties involved for prosecution.

Thank you.

The Pope
The Pope

Hey godammit. Jeanne Marie Spicuzza's work was blessed by the Pope!

Anonymous
Anonymous

I count five votes "Keep" and twelve to "Delete." I suspect several of twelve are sockpuppets or Griot and Calton. It's obvious that these users were doing things they shouldn't and it came back to bite them.

Dr. Keeping It Real
Dr. Keeping It Real

Curious readers may want to see what started this whole mess. Jeanne Marie Spicuzza's vanity article about herself was deleted from Wikipedia by a vote of 18 to 1 (taking her sockpuppets into consideration):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W...

Griot voted to delete the article, "This is a poorly written, self-serving article about somebody who isn't worthy of being in an encyclopedia of any kind."

To which Telogen, one of Spicuzza's sockpuppets wrote, "And here we have Griot, the instigator, who was embarrassed and angry at being outnumbered by a bunch of editors on the Ralph Nader article. In all his spite, Griot, SPPs, failed to pick up any current copy of Who's Who, including Who's Who in the World, which carry articles on Spicuzza."

Who's Who Who was that? Was it Mary Spicuzza's hoo-haa or her sister's hallabalou. It's hard to tell...

Anonymous
Anonymous

I'm assuming "Dr. Lovemuscle" is Griot. Nice to see that as of 3/18/2008 Telogen is a member of Wikipedia and Griot is "tossed out".

Jamal
Jamal

I suppose the "good 'ole days" of the internet are long gone. The positive aspect of anonymity on the internet (as I learned of it in the late 80's early 90's) was that individuala were to be judged by the quality of their ideas and not their identity. Race, ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, sexual orientation etc. were to be considered irrelivent to the logic (or illogic) of an individual's argument. Perhaps that's a bit utopian?

Of course in any social sphere there will be bad actors. This, of course, didn't start with wiki's. "Flame wars" with "trolls" such as Griot are at least as old as Usenet, BBSs, and email itself. The encyclopedia is beside the point. The behavior seems to exist in all electronic forums that I am aware of. As such, local custom and (usually sparing use of) administrative controls attempt to keep this to an acceptable level.

I suppose there is some portion of the population that gets off on this type of behavior. Some do it anonymously, but many do it without as well. And some will even do it in public. Shouting matches in public places, on TV talk shows, between political pundits, etc. There is no need for a pseudonym or high technology for some folks to loosen their screws.

I think that the few bad actors do make a noticable mess of things. It may put off most normal people from time to time. However, people with an interest in participating in online forums put up with it anyway, if they reap the benefits of that activity. And they keep those results in perspective.

I gather from the comments above and the article that, coming from a journalistic or academic research perspective, Wikipedia is something of a failure. As a more casual researher who wants an easy place to find info, I can't fault it. I can find out how a quantum computer works, find out which way individual super delegates are leaning in the Democratic primaries, and the premise of next weeks Lost.

Sure, Britannica probably has a better article on quantum computers. But, I don't have to drive to the library to scratch a passing intellectual itch. I would doubt the super delegates would be listed. And, I wouldn't even dream looking up Lost in Britannica.

I think I fully understand why this "Hitchhiker's Guide" is far more popular than standard "Encyclopedia Galactica" types.

Cole Reber
Cole Reber

Pseudonames, Pseudonymity, anonymity, meritocrocy are all pretty much worthless to me.For the most part, I believe in this statement, "If someone has a sincere contribution, they should be able to sign their real name to it and stand by it - regardless. Masking people is all well and good in some scenarios, but when the information can easily be tainted it stands to reason that people have a right to see who edited the article."They *could* change to that format, although they would have to leave all the old contributions as-is. No way to keep track of all past written contributions.People's *reactions* never correspond that way though. The reason, it can boil down to according to observation, for all this anonymity is because of fear. The reason for fear is because anytime one stands up for something, he is either verbally or directly, metaphorically(but not *always* metaphorically) set at the foot of the steak. Steaks are usually meant to keep something down while you burn. That or you eat it. Fact is that if anyone knows who you actually are and you submit 'facts' to a topic you are in danger. Society needs to be pushed to a point where things that enrage you are talked about openly without harm to individuals. I mean any harm too. Most people know what stigmatization means and is. I could point out specific cases, but I'll just hope your imaginations can bring up some examples.I don't really see Wikipedia at that level of a frontier or cultural/societal battleground, but maybe in the future.

Larry Thiel
Larry Thiel

Wonderful article. Unfortunatly for the internet, you will run into a Griot anywhere and everywhere you go. The internet seems to be their entire lives. And arguing with people, their way of life.

Dr. Lovemuscle
Dr. Lovemuscle

Link to the Wikipedia page that demonstrates how the author's sister, Jeanne Marie Spicuzza, attempted to use Wikipedia as a multiple-personality romper room, and how she got tossed out on account of it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W...

Taran Rampersad
Taran Rampersad

Pseudonymity is a fancy term for anonymity. For all intents and purposes, they are one and the same - the difference being highlighted as good is really a part of a meritocracy.

If someone has a sincere contribution, they should be able to sign their real name to it and stand by it - regardless. Masking people is all well and good in some scenarios, but when the information can easily be tainted it stands to reason that people have a right to see who edited the article.

The real truth is that it would be very difficult to verify the identities of real people on the Wikipedia. Plus, grandfathering in all the content would be a task that would make Sisyphus grin. Clouding the issue into pseudonymity simply means, "we ain't gonna fix it". OK, well - say that. ;-)

Wikipedia Review
Wikipedia Review

Spicuzza's article was illustrative of the problems surrounding Wikipedia, which seems to be on the point of meltdown. This is in large part due to Jimbo Wales's continued bad judgment and the site's poor governance procedures.

Thanks for highlighting the article.

A. Pseudonym for Mr. Wales
A. Pseudonym for Mr. Wales

Mr. Wales' asserts that he values "psuedonymity" [sic]. He finds it "powerful." Ironically, Wales' redefinition of the term is in direct contraposition to its original meaning from the Greek, "falsely named," for which there is no influence or credibility. It is Wales' version of pseudonym that is perhaps the worst of all possible worlds, especially across the Internet. That such "pseudonymous" misidentifications might find this opportunity to "speak the truth freely," as opposed to spewing endless falsity, is at best, naive and presumptuous, and at worst, irresponsible justification for slander without repercussion or accountability.

Wales' statement that "'crowds' is the wrong analogy and causes people to fail to understand why this all works as well as it does" is preemptive. The article "Wikipedia Idiots" illustrates why, and how, "it" does not work.

Wales' distinguishes a "Wikipedian" from "the community of editors," but fails to explain the parameters that differentiate them. What is clear is, with users like Calton, whose contributions at times number nearly two hundred per day, and who appears as a bitter if not disturbing mouthpiece for the project, it becomes very difficult to find any respectability in Wikipedia, both as a foundation and as a corporation.

Sorry, Mr. Wales, we're not buying it.

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