My User Boxes
A silly, but cute, Wikipedia mechanism. I really shouldn't but...
I am Rick Smith, Ph.D., CISSP., an inactive Wikipedian. I remain a "member" of various Wikipedia projects simply as a reflection of the fact that I'll occasionally fix a factual nit in one or another of those subjects.
Founder and principal of Cryptosmith LLC, a modest information security consultancy.
Why I Am No Longer A Wikipedian
I expect that I will continue to make minor edits and changes to Wikipedia entries as I come across reasons to make them.
Every so often I come across a Wikipedia entry that is simply broken. Many complex subjects have a strain of "conventional wisdom" that substitutes for substantive understanding. Such subjects often end up with Wiki entries shot through with well meaning assertions masquerading as facts. You can't fix such an entry by patching errors piecemeal, or even with demands for citations, since the other author(s) feel "everyone agrees with this."
(No, I don't intend to point to examples of Wiki entries that, in my no so humble opinion, fall in this category. The recent contributors to those entries often do so for the purest of Wikipedia motives: to add information and improve the quality of Wiki entries. I'm not going to discourage them by dissing their contributions, even though their work discourages me from making my own contributions.)
My complaint isn't just that such entries exist, it's that such things have sprung up out of articles that I myself created, or extensively edited.
One way to fix such a thing is to bury the other authors in counterstatements that carry citations: essentially teaching them the subject they feel expert in. This would be the Wiki way. Unfortunately, it's labor intensive and it's not clear how much of the improved content will survive editing by other contributors.
I love to write.
One of the elements of writing I value is the process of structuring a set of ideas. I like one idea to lay the foundation for the next, yielding a solid statement of the subject. I see an "article" as a way to do this. You present a complex idea in clear, coherent, and accurate stages leading to its complete exposition. Each piece contributes its part, no more no less.
I can honestly say I learned the craft of technical writing by taking part in lively e-mail discussions on the old Firewall-Wizards e-mail list, kept by Brent Chapman in the 1990s. I composed technical statements, got them shot down, refined them, and learned a lot myself as I tried to get my ideas across to other people. Each step in an argument required a short, clearly written article that provided evidence, support, and a solid argument.
This is not the Wikipedia way.
The communal structure encourages a staccato of individual ideas and facts, each individually added and subject to individual verification. People can drop in, add a new fact, or correct an existing invalid one.
Of course, it's possible for people to write great Wikipedia entries. They have Featured Articles and such as a way to encourage quality writing in terms of style, structure, and factual content.
But it's all a bit too much like building a prizewinning sand castle. If a Big Wave comes crashing through "your" topic, your quality contribution will get swamped by piecemeal corrections and rewrites.
I no longer believe editing Wikipedia is a valuable use of my time. I'd rather edit information on my own Web sites, narrow though they may be.
My Own Wiki Help
I'm finding that I need to keep my own list of 'help' links since I can't always find things I need. Once I'm satisfied that I know what this list means, I might try to fix the Wiki help page(s) directly.
- Format for US currency: [[United States dollar|US$]]
Computer Security, especially evaluations, assurance, policy, and password sanity
Cryptography, especially cryptographic engineering and assurance
Smith, Richard (2013). Elementary Information Security. Jones and Bartlett. ISBN 978-1-4496-4820-6.
Smith, Richard (2001). Authentication: From Passwords to Public Keys. Addison Wesley. ISBN 0-201-61599-1.
Smith, Richard (1997). Internet Cryptography. Addison Wesley. ISBN 0-201-92480-3.