User talk:Jimbo Wales

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The WP:SIGNPOST and inappropriate images[edit]

(Redacted) Jimmy, in this weeks Signpost Traffic Report User:Milowent published it with a section for Power Girl (#8). It read:

Power Girl is a DC Comics heroine. Though she has all the powers and abilities of Superman, the picture at left, which is substituted for the non-free images of Power Girl on her article, illustrates one of the primary reasons for her popularity. The ability to fight villians with a large chest is apparently another one of her powers. This article enjoyed a burst of popularity on August 11 and 12, probably in advance of the August 13 release of Worlds' Finest issue number 26, which finally substituted the male fantasy version of Power Girl with someone a bit more 21st century; a hoodie-clad African American woman named Tanya Spears.

An editor, unknown, has removed the image with the comment:

is this for real? what the fuck

What the fuck indeed. Although the Power Girl article does discuss her breast size under the "Physical appearance and costumes" section, do you think there is any need for Signpost writers to be inserting random photos of tits into their publication? (talk) 23:26, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

Just to clarify, the Signpost's editor-in-chief is currently on wiki-break this week. —Neotarf (talk) 23:39, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
OK. I see User:Tony1 copy-edited the publication too. He is a long-term contributor to Signpost and should have picked this up. Both Milowent and Tony1 could comment. With random use of imagery such as this, is it little wonder Wikipedia has a reputation for being misogynistic amongst its female editors. (talk) 23:46, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
Oh, the shock and horror, IP! And yet you insist on edit-warring to keep this image on Jimmy's talk page when you claim it does not belong in the Signpost. Misogynistic, indeed. —Neotarf (talk) 00:02, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
As a fellow woman, displaying the female body is not misogynistic. Additionally, how are we supposed to 'criticize' an image when we're not allowed to see it? Tutelary (talk) 01:23, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
No one really cares what you like to look at; if you feel the urge to conduct a more in-depth investigation of the image, it's still in the edit history. Continuing to revert an image that has already been removed several times is disruptive. Cullen is correct, a more level headed conversation would be useful here. —Neotarf (talk) 01:54, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

Proof, if any were needed, that Wikipedia's gender imbalance is no cause for concern. Formerip (talk) 23:55, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

No comment on the goings-on at Signpost, which are a mystery to me, but if you are suggesting that showing or talking about female breasts is inherently unsuitable or a sign of systemic bias, Formerip, then I suspect you are missing the point. That said, I guess your comment is cryptic enough to be viewed in half-a-dozen different ways. Which perhaps makes it pointless? - Sitush (talk) 00:37, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
No, this is proof. User:DangerousPanda, one of Wikipedia's esteemed administrators removing the image from this talk page with the comment "nice, but they do not belong here". What the hell is this place? A frat house? (talk) 00:38, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Did you read a different meaning into my statement? "Nice" as in "oh nice, someone is edit-warring to include this pic here when it doesn't belong", and "they do not belong here" refers to "inappropriate images do not belong on this page". Get your own mind out of the gutter the panda ₯’ 00:40, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
My mind is not in the gutter dear User:DangerousPanda. I don't have a problem with the image. What is wrong with a photo of a woman's cleavage that makes it so objectionable to be shown here? Is it you, who upon seeing the cleavage of a woman has their mind diving head first into the gutter? It would certainly explain your "nice" comment much better than the cocknbull reason you came up with just above. (talk) 00:51, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Actually, as the topic of this thread, including the photo here was quite appropriate. Reventtalk 00:52, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
I also don't see how the image of the female human body displaying is 'misogynistic', seriously. I am a woman and I'm not seeing the big deal here. It seems like a bunch of people are having a knee jerk reaction to something that isn't even that big of a deal. I've boldly restored it. Tutelary (talk) 01:19, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Why don't y'all mosey over to the Ice Bucket Challenge edit war, and leave the Signpost alone. —Neotarf (talk) 01:00, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
I copy-edited that page in edit-mode, and in the briefest of looks at the display mode didn't notice that unfortunate image. Every image of the subject on Commons shows an emphasis on breasts, so my search for a less gender-sensitive image of the subject failed. The substituted logo image solves the problem, as does the removal of one phrase in the accompanying text. Incidentally, an awful lot of non-free images are used in the article on this subject; I'm surprised that doesn't breach the non-free content policy. Tony (talk) 01:03, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
(ec) What is clearly inappropriate about the use of the image in The Signpost is that it has no direct connection with the Power Girl character. Also of concern is that the editor over-focused on one physical attribute and selected a close-up photo. I also wonder about an article with quite a few images, if all are non-free. It seems that improved editorial judgment is in order all around, and a more level-headed conversation about it here might be helpful as well. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 01:08, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
I've had enough of your criticism, Cullen, so don't push me. I'm contributing to the SP under duress, and I left partly because of your and Mr Wales's carry-on here, making me look like the enemy of every hearing-impaired person in the world. Tony (talk) 01:10, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
I did not criticize you, Tony1, as it is clear you were not responsible for choosing the image and did not defend it. Your comment above is just fine and helps immensely, the "Traffic Report" is much improved now, and I don't have a single negative thought about your role in this matter. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 01:21, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
"this matter", right. Just remember that I'm not well disposed now to either you or Wales because you both did your best to drag me through the mud last time. It will take very little for me to again walk out of what is now a temporary help-out-in-emergency role with the SP. It's thankless, it's astoundingly hard work, and it's only for the community, not readers. I'm brittle about it, and I don't want to talk about it any more at the moment. Tony (talk) 01:31, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
@Tony1: it's true Cullen328 didn't criticise nor attack you. Might you be able to apologise to Cullen328 for your rhetorical response to him. It would certainly help to lower the tension you are feeling. (talk) 01:34, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
  • That anon post is not worth replying to, and I note the sexual reference its writer has embedded invisibly in edit-mode. Tony (talk) 01:45, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
  • Do you realize that you just made certain that everyone who passes by here hits edit and reads it? Also, replying to a post just to say it's not worth replying to? Sheesh. Reventtalk 01:54, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
  • Since it's not there any more, I doubt it. —Neotarf (talk) 17:12, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
Looking at the sigs can I call this the "green ink" section? Face-smile.svg All the best: Rich Farmbrough20:43, 25 August 2014 (UTC).

Arbitrary break[edit]

  • My goodness this teapot is prone to tempests. The photo was not nearly as large and prominent in the Signpost as it is here; even so, sure, it wasn't really relevant to the article it illustrated, so somebody reverted and complained at the editor's talk page. Editing the Traffic Report is useful; beating ourselves up about it here, not so much. Credit the editors of the Signpost in total for doing yet another routine good job on the Traffic Report. Wnt (talk) 01:57, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Wnt, I wonder if someone such as User:Carolmooredc would agree with your comments on giving credit to the Signpost for another routine good job. (talk) 02:13, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Is there anything to complain about in the present version? The point is, it was handled (with help from the IP), and without the need for a process here. Wnt (talk) 02:23, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
No, the present version is fine, Wnt. Please also allow me to mention that Tony1 came to my talk page with some gracious comments, which I very much appreciate. I encourage other editors to leave Tony alone at this point. Let's try kindness every once in a while. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 02:32, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

This is just one of those things that sooner or later someone's going to link to WP:NOTCENSORED. Oh whoops, looks like I just linked to it. The Signpost is part of Wikipedia, so quite naturally Wikipedia's policies and rules apply to it as well. Wikipedia is not censored. That's pretty much it. The only big issue I can see here is that the image had virtually no relevance to the entry, per Cullen328. --k6ka (talk | contribs) 02:29, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

It's not quite that simple. For example, if (recalling the Fuzzy Zoeller controversy) someone had made a similar substitution of a free image of collard greens for an article about a black superhero, it wouldn't be well received, even though there's nothing "offensive" about a picture of collard greens. (I don't know enough about the comic to know if this case is as clear-cut) Now this isn't a BLP, or even an article, just an internal communication, but we don't want to belittle women in general. Off-topic humor does need to yield to a more professional presentation, when we're talking about the final product; but that doesn't require us to make a big deal about every intermediate edit. Wnt (talk) 03:13, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
  • Hello, evil alleged-misogynist author here! The photo was a free wikimedia one showing some cleavage. Holy shit, half of internet traffic is porn, and sad blokes who love power girl no doubt wank to her. My commentary was pro-feminist, though I can handle disagreement, and I can live with the vanillaization of the entry to avoid misunderstandings. I encourage more female editors to weigh in, so I can judge if I badly erred. At least you learned some Latin this week if you read the Traffic Report.--Milowenthasspoken 03:19, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Quick, run! Before they get their mouses and their keyboards! Fellow female editor here, it's somewhat interesting to see that when we want to discuss the image, it's not even OK to have on this talk page so we can accurately comment on it without clicking on a revision lest we make some editors unhappy. I will be the first to say that Power Girl is known for her bust...heck, it's even in the article. The character is consistently depicted as a large breasted young woman, and her physique is one of her most recognizable attributes—-to the extent that various writers have acknowledged it in both serious and humorous ways. I actually think it was a funny joke, I chuckled. Maybe some other people see some ulterior motive here...evil editor decides to depict a woman's bust to represent a character known for her...big bust along with a humorous line of text. I don't think it was bad at all. People here are getting mad that a woman's breast is depicted and I'm not sure why. Tutelary (talk) 03:39, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
It didn't deserve a keelhauling, but the main thing is I don't get the connection between the picture and the superhero. I mean, if there's a comic strip about Adonis and we can't use the comic illustrations would we just slap in a picture of Eka Darville and call it close enough? There's a certain sense of authenticity (relevancy) that we want to keep up. Wnt (talk) 03:44, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
The Signpost often needs to be more cautious about gender (and race/culture/sexuality/impairment) sensitivities than WP articles, since it inhabits an unusual semi-official space in the WM movement (a burden and an advantage at the same time). The image was too out-of-context as a thumb in the Traffic report table to avoid offending people; so that's good enough reason to replace it. This should be the end of the story, and those of us who care about the gender gap should get on with the daunting job of attracting and retaining more women editors. Tony (talk) 03:50, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

Christ does no one actually review these things (or preview them outside of edit mode)? Nearly as stupid as the June 4 DYK. Focusing on the physical characteristics of a character and substituting an image with a pair of big tits was sexist. Though a running joke in the comic, it's a minor aspect of the comic. The lead of Power Girl doesn't mention it at all. WP:TROUT deserved here. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 04:06, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

  • Minor aspect? The whole comic is misogynistic in its historical format. That's what I tried to illustrate. My wife approved.--Milowenthasspoken 04:34, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
    • So you have a wife who approves of her husband's sexist editing of Wikipedia. Tell me User:Milowent, did she approve before or after she brought you a sandwich? (talk) 05:50, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
      • I think dropping this line of questioning would be a great idea, but some folks enjoy brawling even after the original issue has been resolved. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 06:01, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
        • Tony is to be commended for his prompt and professional handling of this matter. Let us hope that Wikipedia can benefit from his leadership in the days to come. —Neotarf (talk) 06:09, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Prompt and professional handling? After it was pointed out, he's not the one who fixed it... other people did. Just what 'prompt handling' do you think you are referring to here? While it's nice that he works on the Signpost, and he gave an explanation for leaving it in, don't try to give him credit for what someone else did, please. Reventtalk 07:04, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, some of us did some copyedits, and I don't mind doing some grunt-work on the Signpost now and then when they are short, but even though Tony unfortunately is no longer with the Signpost, he is the one putting everything together for publication this week in the absence of the regular editor. And now he has to deal with this tacky disturbance as well. He shouldn't have to listen to snarky remarks from individuals who use comic sans in their sigs. Is it really so unreasonable to expect a little professionalism here. —Neotarf (talk) 07:34, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Neotarf, would you like a tissue? You seem to have a brown spot left on the tip of your nose. This is an issue. For a long time now Wikipedia has had a reputation of being a website run by editors with a frat boy mentality. This incident is just a manifestation of that mentality. Regardless of how busy Tony is, or how upset he still is after the whole deafness episode, there is a severe lack of judgement on the part of people on the Signpost team. This is not the first time this has arisen. Quite honestly, I don't know why the Signpost even exists on Wikipedia. It should be moved off-site onto their own blog; just like everyone else. (talk) 07:47, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
If anything it is Jimbo's talk page that should be moved off site. This thread seems to have attracted all the riff-raff from Commons. If you will remember back to that unfortunate deafness episode (and I think we should stop doing so), and the even less fortunate off-site personal attacks against Tony, then you will also remember that I was not afraid to earn Tony's undying animosity by restoring the transcript link. Likewise I am not afraid to say that in this case, once Tony was made aware of the situation, his actions here were entirely correct, although I seem to be taking a considerable amount of heat for doing so. This one should be a no-brainer. —Neotarf (talk) 12:18, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
You're criticizing me over the font in my sig? Hilarious. Reventtalk 07:52, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Jebus and all the other Jews! I've got decent cleavage (older and mammary - sorry for mental image). I think it was a tacky Signpost addition, and, yes, sexist, pic to use. But its been removed and it isn't worth dragging the drama out. Can we move on, please? AnonNep (talk) 11:14, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

First, why is this here, of all places? There's several perfectly good talk pages, such as on the article itself, that are much better suited for this and far less drama-inducing.

Now, there's two sides here. I can see why Milowent would have wanted to include it, and I think there would have been a very large problem had he chosen to feature that image. However, it was a tiny thumbnail included to discuss a very real problem with the character's past depiction, so I think we can all agree that he wasn't looking to cause offense.

If I was not on a break (grad school starts shortly, combined with the aftermath of a car crash while driving across the country to get there), I would have removed it, as it's a real person and is therefore not really representative of the character as-drawn. But I can see what Milowent's (good) intent was, so I don't think there's any need to crucify him. The replacement image is great, and I really feel that this could have been handled far quicker and easier with a short discussion elsewhere, rather than trying to blow it out of proportion here. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 14:09, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

You mean this photo of a couple of near-naked breasts and nothing else illustrating Power Girl If it is considered sensible, we must have a lot of 13 year olds with one hand on the key board and the other on their "pene virgen" reading or editing. (No one commenting on this thread, of course.) I mean, SHOCKINGLY PUERILE! Carolmooredc (Talkie-Talkie) 15:51, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Whew! You almost missed your chance to pour kerosine on the fire... I was worried there for a minute... Carrite (talk) 14:21, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

WMF plans for mathematics III[edit]

I wanted to thank you for your interest in and support for the proposals that some mathematics editors put to you as a result of your challenge to us. Indeed, you were kind enough to "personally recommend that we allocate resources to this". Unfortunately, Lila tells me that, to her regret, she is unable to do that [1], and indeed it seems that mathematics is not "on the roadmap for the foreseeable future" [2]. Of course I find that hugely disappointing, not to say incomprehensible, and indeed personally I think it's quite offensive, but that's no longer the point. The decision is made, and we must work through the consequences.

Given that mathematics is not on the roadmap, there must be a significant risk that mathematics rendering and editing will not be sustained: that changes made elsewhere in the software to support the changes towards the more modern user experience desired by the Board will degrade or just break mathematics editing or rendering unexpectedly and that resources will not be available to fix it. Of course, I don;t know that's going to happen, I just see no reason for it not to, so there's no way you or I can affect that at present.

Here is one question which you might be able to help with. An academic body is currently in preliminary discussions over whether to institute a Wikimedian-in-Residence programme, which would involve mathematics content. Before committing resources, a question is bound to be asked, and quite properly so, by a sceptical member of their board about the sustainability of Wikipedia in general and mathematics on Wikipedia in particular: in essence, will Wikipedia still "doing maths" in five years time? I don't see how I could honestly encourage them to allocate resources to a project requiring mathematics editing and rendering when there is no commitment to support for those on the part of WMF. What answer would you give to that board member if you were asked?

I'm trying to find the way forwards here, but allow me to express my personal view to you for the moment. Mathematics is one of the oldest continuing human intellectual traditions, with a connected history of over two thousand years. It is fundamental to the sciences in general: no technological endeavour could succeed without it. It is an indispensible part of the sum of human knowledge. It also happens to be the subject I have spent almost all of my career so far advancing in one way or another, including writing dozens of Wikipedia articles. To suggest that it isn't important enough to allocate resources to, when WMF has over 200 staff and tens of millions of dollars at its disposal, is a decision I find both incomprehensible and, personally, indigestible. It seems that WMF would rather allocate its resources to make it easier for readers to view the pornography on Commons than the formulae on Wikipedia. It certainly tells me that the views and values of WMF and myself are now radically divergent. I thought it was about the sum of human knowledge. Apparently that sum does not involve mathematics. Deltahedron (talk) 19:29, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

I think the WMF take on this is basically that Math doesn't generate enough page views (and thus potential donations) to be worthwhile investing in more than they are already doing. I'm not sure if WMF-paid devs or other contributors are behind mw:Extension:Math. Suffice to say that most of the heavy-duty infrastructure under that like MathJax, dvipng, or Mathoid does not appear to be WMF-sponsored at all. The only thing that was Mediawiki-specific was texvc, a sanitization/adapter program basically; and I think even that was written by someone not paid by the WMF. Someone from the WMF will surely correct me if I missed giving them some due credit on some Math-related infrastructure. JMP EAX (talk) 21:22, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Ok, Mathoid was forked/written by a WMF employee [3]. JMP EAX (talk) 21:30, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Also this is of some relevance: Math typesetting over the web is still sucky in general. According to [4] none of the browsers makers actually paid their devs for any MathML-related work. So it's not only the WMF which doesn't find it worthwhile much... JMP EAX (talk) 21:50, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Maybe people would find this more worth their while if any of our mathematics articles were even remotely comprehensible, but I don't see that happening anytime soon either. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 02:19, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
That would be an old chestnut even if it were true. Some of the articles are specialised and some are not. Like all topics of any intellectual depth, some of the articles are hard for non-specialists to read, and that is the way it should be. See Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Mathematics/FAQ for the standard answer. Deltahedron (talk) 08:39, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Take our article on Graham's number. There are explanations for its use that are much more approachable, and are quite readily available (check YouTube for a video explaining the concept). Why it needs to be written in impenetrable language exclusively using esoteric examples eludes me. I'm currently working on an article which contains some fairly dense linguistics, and it's certainly not the easiest thing to read, but it doesn't take an M.A. in linguistics to at least get a basic understanding of things. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 15:22, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
The current article seems to me to be well within the range of an intelligent 18 year old mathematics A-level student. Deltahedron (talk) 15:29, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Actually significantly better than many Wikipedia articles (which is not a really ringing endorsement). Collect (talk) 15:43, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Umm. Thirty-odd years ago, I would have been the equivalent of "an intelligent 18 year old mathematics A-level student", and I can't understand much of this article. Its most pressing weakness is an explanation that is understandable by a more general readership; I don't have much of a problem with the more sophisticated information being included, but there's nothing there that helps someone with limited mathematical skilo understand the concept. Risker (talk) 15:40, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Then we must agree to disagree as far as that goes. Neither of us seems to have a view of this article consistent with the suggestion that none of our mathematics articles is even remotely comprehensible, or that the language of the article is impenetrable exclusively using esoteric examples. Indeed the first sentence begins "Graham's number, named after Ronald Graham, is a large number" and I think that's fairly clear. If you or Blade wishes to improve this article, then this is the encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. Deltahedron (talk) 15:50, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
If linguistics is under discussion, let me take a look at Antisymmetry which I came across by chance today in the course of a discussion at WT:WPM. It begins "In linguistics, antisymmetry is a theory of syntactic linearization". How many non-experts have the faintest idea what syntactic linearisation is? Curiously, syntactic linearization is a red link, and linearization is a mathematics article. The only two occurences of the phase "syntactic linearization" are in this article, and in Dynamic antisymmetry which also uses it without further explanation. It appears to be connected with "surface linearization", also not explained. So which of these is "impenetrable language exclusively using esoteric examples", "syntactic linearization" or "a large number"? But I don't follow people writing articles on linguistics around complaing about how hard it is. Deltahedron (talk) 16:00, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, our linguistics articles are far from ideal as well; I'm not trying to dispute that. But I hardly go around complaining about how hard math is; search my contributions for the last year and a half, it should be obvious where I spend my time. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 20:35, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Two points: I myself find linguistics articles to be worse written (more impenetrable) than math ones too (how much do you understand from dependency grammar for instance?), but it may be a case of expertise as well. As for the Graham number example: c'mon a lot of graduate students in computer science (a sufficiently connected field) have trouble grokking Ramsey theory (just ask anyone teaching TCS classes.) So I don't see why you expect that article to be easily digestible. I'm more curious how far into composition of functions the average reader can get. (That's a "level-4 vital article", for what that's worth.) I'm curious if you'd rather read abstract machine (also a "level-4 vital article"), which is a very bad article from a specialist perspective actually, but it may be easily understandable as is it's mostly a copy of the FOLDOC material. JMP EAX (talk) 22:44, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
The article on Graham's number is badly written, but for a different reason: it waffles too much in the lead (which almost entirely a history section) and fails to state the problem there, which is amusingly relegated to a sections called "context" that actually doesn't provide anymore context but just blurts out the problem statement. JMP EAX (talk) 23:06, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
By the way, this has everything to do with who watches/maintains such articles, a major issue that's being discussed elsewhere eon this page. See Talk:Graham's_number#.22all_sorts_of_poorly_chosen_words.22 for the concrete disputes. JMP EAX (talk) 23:40, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Also, it's not practical in an Wikipedia article to repeat the definitions from Knuth's up-arrow notation everywhere they are used, but that's clearly a prerequisite to read/grok Graham's number, even if you don't care about the Ramsey theory problem that led to it. And most people probably aren't familiar with Knuth's notation either. I should note that in this respect the Graham number article is compliant with Wikipedia:Make_technical_articles_understandable#Write_one_level_down. JMP EAX (talk) 23:30, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

What the WMF needs (for this to happen) is a Murray Sargent [5] or an Eliyezer Kohen [6]. JMP EAX (talk) 04:26, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

A lot of our math pages are actually very useful. One should not compare page views of math pages to page views of other pages. Rather one should look at links to our math pages from websites known for high quality academic content. Our math and physics pages are very often used as a de-facto reliable reference by stackexchange. Articles like Gaussian quadrature may look like one giant mess to people who are not into math, but they are very useful to people who need to look up something about the topic. Count Iblis (talk) 16:15, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

I would not take the use on stackexchange as much of an endorsement. The unwritten but well known rule there is that whoever posts something first wins the most points. As such pasting stuff directly from Wikipedia is often practiced, even when it's not really (the most) appropriate answer to a particular question. JMP EAX (talk) 01:16, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

The trustworthiness of Wikipedia[edit]

Hi Jmmy.

The Wikimedia Foundation envisions a world in which everyone can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. [7] But "knowledge" of something implies well-founded confidence in its accuracy. While Wikipedia is untrustworthy, it is sharing something other than knowledge. This is a problem for the foundation, since it is failing to realise its vision, but also for humankind, who deserves an encyclopaedia it can trust.

At Wikimania 2014 you said, "We're trusted slightly more than the BBC. Now, that's a little scary, and probably inappropriate. ... We all know it's flawed. We all know we don't do as good a job as we wish we could do ... People trusted Encyclopedia Britannica - I think it was, like - 20 points ahead of us. ... I'm not going to rest until people trust us more than they ever trusted Encyclopedia Britannica in the past." [8]

Are you doing anything at the moment aimed at either improving the public's understanding of Wikipedia's reliability or improving its actual reliability? If so, would you like to share those initiatives here? --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 11:14, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

Everything I do related to Wikipedia is aimed at those things, so I'm afraid I don't quite understand the question. I think one of the biggest changes is the hiring of Lila as CEO coupled with her intention to radically increase investment in software development to help make it easier for us to get our jobs done. There are many ideas that have been floating around for years but we haven't had sufficient developer resources to do them. (It is my view that in the past 5 years we have significantly underinvested in engineering.)--Jimbo Wales (talk) 12:56, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. Could you please elaborate on how technological fixes will solve the unreliability problem? --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 13:03, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
I think there are many ways but let's just talk about one example. Watchlists are a very primitive way to surface new edits to experienced users. A more sophisticated "news feed" style watchlist could take into account a variety of factors to do a better job of showing us edits that need to be scrutinized and as well as new users who are writing in areas that we care about so that we can evaluate them, greet them, welcome them, coach them. Imagine if edits to articles that you personally care a lot about (medical articles say) were scanned and highlighted to people who are part of the relevant Wikiproject if they contain certain "likely problems" (for example, a link to a tabloid newspaper is probably not the best link in a serious medical article, but that's an editorial judgment that could, in some cases, make sense).
That's just one example and a random brainstorm by just one person (me) on some ideas that people have proposed over the years. But I hope it is indicative of the kinds of things that I have in mind.
Here's another one: I set up a link in my browser to go to a random female British author whenever I click it. I click it and see if there is some small thing I can improve. But this is very very primitive. What if, instead, the system could take me to an article which based on several factors is likely to need attention. (For example, if readers have expressed displeasure, or if someone recently posted on the talk page, or if an ip address recently edited it, or...)--Jimbo Wales (talk) 13:27, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
It is worth noting that Wikipedia:Verifiability policy rates as "questionable" any sources that "lack meaningful editorial oversight", and that this class includes Wikipedia itself. Deltahedron (talk) 13:39, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. How do you feel about scholars reviewing our medical content for accuracy, and us putting a prominent badge at the top of those articles, linking the reader to the fact-checked version? --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 13:41, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

Reliability of the information found here has to hinge on the verifiability of that information. Reliable sources...references...all of that tedious, unexciting stuff. It's quite frustrating when you know that something is true - to be unable to say it here because you need to reference reliable sources. But that's the only way we've ever found to increase both our reliability - and the perception of our reliability. When people tell me that Wikipedia can't possibly be reliable because any idiot can come by and put falsehoods here - I always tell them that if some fact really matters to you, then don't believe what Wikipedia says, click on the little blue number and read the original source of where we got that fact from. If there isn't a blue number - then forget that we ever said that. HOWEVER, if you just need to know something trivial, for idle curiosity - then Wikipedia is pretty darned reliable (and we have studies that show that we're at least as reliable as Encyclopedia Brittannica.
The problem is not our actual reliability (which seems to be pretty amazingly good) - but the perception of our reliability (which is kinda terrible). The bizarre part about that is that while our editor community is shrinking - our readership is climbing. That's'd think that if this perception of unreliability was prevalent, that fewer people would be reading Wikipedia. I suspect (without evidence) that convenience trumps perceived reliability for most people. If I want to know "Will there be another series of Crossbones (TV series)?" (!) then being able to tap the "W" icon on my phone and type one word into the interface to get the answer is ASTOUNDING. The fact that the answer might be wrong...0.1% of the actually less critical. If I were instead researching how people used dockyard cranes in Medieval Europe (which I was actually doing last week) - then I still use Wikipedia - but not for the answers it contains, rather for the curated links it gives me to the source documents. In that regard, Wikipedia is more like a highly effective version of Google-search than it is an encyclopedia. It gives me the links to the source material, and functions kinda like the Brittannica "propedia" that summarizes and organizes the knowledge that can be found elsewhere.
The general public are also unaware of the fact that for any common question you're likely to be searching for the answer to, there are likely to be dozens of reliable editors watching articles and deleting incorrect information added by random idiots within a very short span of time...and those same random idiots don't get much fun from putting garbage into very obscure subject matter where it might linger for a while before being removed. Even when you point out this undoubted truth to people, we're faced with the problem that people are not good at estimating probabilities and risk. If a junk edit happens in (say) Theory of relativity - then it's going to be fixed in a matter of minutes. Since those changes happen maybe weekly - the probability of you landing on that page while the information is incorrect - multiplied by the probability that the change actually affects you - is a very, very small number. But people are bad at estimating that's a hard line to sell to people.
I'm not sure we need technological changes, or even changes to editing rules or habits to make us more reliable (although greater reliability is obviously desirable). Mostly we need public awareness of how reliable we already are - combined with education in how to use Wikipedia when the answer really matters...and when it doesn't.
SteveBaker (talk) 13:56, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
So your argument would be that we are right and everyone else, including all the people who use the encyclopaedia, are wrong? Deltahedron (talk) 14:05, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
More seriously, any useful risk assessment should include an estimate of the impact as well as the probability. While the probability of being misinformed about medical information may be low (I couldn't say), the impact of that misinformation may be very high. We regard that as an acceptable risk simply because we don't have to take it. Deltahedron (talk) 14:08, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Sadly, Deltahedron, no one knows the probability of being misinformed about medical information. No one has done a rigorous systematic review of the various small studies into the reliability of our medical offering. I've looked at all of those studies, I think, and in my opinion, a rigorous systematic review is likely to conclude nothing can be inferred from them about the reliability of our medical content. Most have fatal design flaws including tiny sample size, dubious measure of reliability and opaque selection criteria. What's really needed is a large enough, well-enough designed study. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 14:21, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
But that's my point. For something as important as medical advice, you really shouldn't trust Wikipedia - you should use it as a curated set of links to documents that are presumed trustworthy (or at least more trustworthy than Wikipedia). It's very easy for some random idiot to change the name of a drug as treatment for some condition - but much MUCH harder for them to point the references that back this up. We need to educate people that they really shouldn't take our information as "The Truth" in any situation where it deeply matters. So I'm quite prepared to take the risk that there really is a second season of Crossbones (TV show) in the pipeline (despite Wikipedia saying that there isn't) - because it's just not that important to me. In that situation, convenience trumps absolute reliability. But in deciding whether the drug my doctor just prescribed my kid has side-effects that might concern me, then I'm still going to go to Wikipedia - but I'll pretty much ignore what it says and follow the little blue numbers to the actual medical journals that report the studies done on the drug. SteveBaker (talk) 23:35, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. I'm asking you to imagine a Wikipedia you can trust. Actually, I'm asking Jimmy to imagine a Wikipedia we can trust. I'd really like to know where he stands on the question of a prominent link on our medical articles to versions of those articles that meet WP:MEDRS. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 02:02, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
While I want Wikipedia to be as accurate as we can manage, I hope we never ask people to trust us. People shouldn't ever trust Wikipedia. They shouldn't ever trust Britannica, or the New York Times either; hopefully we can push that into the public consciousness as we try to make a point about how trustworthy (or not) we are. A stable version, which represents our best work? Perhaps a good idea. A version of Wikipedia we tell people they can trust? A truly awful idea. WilyD 13:19, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Are you against the concept of people trusting all possible sources of information? Or are there some you think people should trust? Deltahedron (talk) 14:16, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Well, okay we can have a long discussion of how we're talking about trust like it's a boolean quantity when it ain't. There are no sources of information people should trust completely, or distrust completely. But "Oh, you can trust this" reeks of "Oh, you can trust this completely", which is awful, yes. Of course, one could be using "trust/not trust" differently. WilyD 15:30, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
The foundation is the one talking about sharing knowledge. And, yes, I agree, trust should not be blind. And it is a thing of degrees. But there are some sources about which it is possible to say "I trust this". We can and should be one of those. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 12:49, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
I'm sure you're right. However, even with the most perfect information about the risk, it would remain true that while we lay that risk off onto other people, it will give us little incentive to get things right. Deltahedron (talk) 14:25, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
I think we agree, we have a moral responsibility to minimise that risk as much and as quickly as possible. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 14:36, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I think I was too compressed about risk. I'm not suggesting that WP or WMF accept legal responsibility for medical or other information in the same way as a doctor or othe rprofessional. What I am suggesting that that WP/WMF aspire to get things right and be reliable, say so in public and accept the reputational damage if we are not. If I publish an academic paper and it proves to be wrong, my reputation suffers, and I may fail to get a job or promotion. Fortunately in my area of mathematics, people will not be killed in the ruins of a collapsing theorem, but it could happen to others. If we absolve ourselves from all blame in advance by saying "you should have known how to use our encyclopaedia", then we insulate ourselves from all those real-world consequences. I would argue that WP's position should be: yes, we are an encyclopaedia, we aim and claim to be the best, most accurate and most reliable there is, and if we screw up then tell us so and shame on us. That way we take a risk and have an incentive to Get It Right. Technological tools are part of that; so are processes and culture. Have we got any of those right at the moment? Deltahedron (talk) 14:39, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
In his state of the wiki address this year, Jimmy said with regard to our biographical assertions, we need to do more than the minimum required by law in portraying our subjects. I think that applies to the reliability question, too. The trustworthiness of Wikipedia is a moral vision thing, not a legalistic ass-covering maneuver.
I'm working on a strategy for this, and I'm in email discussion with another user devising another strategy. Both of our strategies involve the "current" or "dynamic" Wikipedia article sporting a prominent badge, linking the reader to the reliable version. So, I'd like to know where Jimmy stands on that. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 15:00, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
I agree on the moral point as well: we have an obligation to get things right. Deltahedron (talk) 15:16, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
A system like Watson (computer) could perhaps be trusted to not just highlight problems but also correct them. We would then only need to check if the correction made are appropriate. Count Iblis (talk) 14:56, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
  • Think software is the least important factor in improving reliability. I would venture that reliability is a function of the degree of expertise of editors in the topic they are editing. There is no bot that can recognize an article that makes wrong or otherwise problematic statements, or uses bad sources. There is also no bot that point out missing content and add it. That makes the key problem finding out how to attract and retain expert editors in different topic areas. I personally think that the biggest obstacle to retaining expert editors is that they are not generally willing to monitor what they write indefinitely nor to defend it in endlessly recurring discussions with laypeople with all kinds of different personal or partial perspectives. The idea of identifying certain revisions as reliable would certainly be one way of making it easier for expert editors to justify spending their time on writing for wikipedia. User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 20:12, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
    I think that's absolutely right. What expert in their right mind would choose to spend the rest of their life riding shotgun? Eric Corbett 20:19, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
I endorse this view. Partially-informed enthusiasts will generally outlast more broadly informed laymen or experts in most topics, with the result that there's widespread content which sounds plausible and may appear to be properly-sourced but in fact reflects oversimplified, biased, or misinformed views of highly motivated but unqualified editors. This appears to occur irrespective of the underlying topics or categories. SPECIFICO talk 20:43, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
A good example would be the the article Mass–energy equivalence. Which tells us in no uncertain terms that "mass cannot be converted to energy,[citation needed]". (I added the tag.) Of course the matter is actually of some fairly deep physical and philosophical debate as the SEP entry on the topic will show. JMP EAX (talk) 22:17, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Another example is Quantum teleportation which assures us that quantum computers are useless basically as " For example, a qubit cannot be used to encode a classical bit (this is the content of the no-communication theorem).[citation needed]" (I have added the tag.) As to the persistence of some: that text was added by an editor who is blocked indefinitely, after the block... JMP EAX (talk) 07:18, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
Another example is just about any humanities article.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 20:21, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

Place a prominent link on an article to the version that has passed rigorous independent expert review?[edit]

In my opinion, it all hangs on the quality of the reviewers and their rigor. If this goes ahead, we need to have the highest standards; higher than any existing encyclopedia, journal or textbook review process. We should be the benchmark against which those are measured.

I think we should reverse the usual process, and have anonymous writers and named reviewers. We have to have anonymous writers - it's the way of this wiki and that's not going to change. Naming the reviewers would offer the readers transparency, and (if our reviewed versions become the gold standard of reliability) offer the reviewers prominent kudos. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 02:24, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

I'm curious how many experts you think it'll take to review 4.6 million articles, and how all those experts will be recruited and paid for. How strict would this review be? Would it be like GA? FA? Higher? And how would this system be integrated with the actual wiki? What happens to articles that don't pass this (presumably extremely stringent) review? --Jakob (talk) 13:04, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
Jakob, I shall ask the relevant scholarly societies, ones with decades (some with centuries) of experience in peer review, to manage this independent external review process. And I'll ask medical charities with public education as part of their mission to fund it. The Wikimedia Foundation should not fund it, to avoid any semblance of undue influence over the process. Critical review of all our current best medical articles, and rigorous fact-checking of all our other medical articles should cost less (probably a lot less) than $10 million.
I'm personally only interested in making our medical content reliable. The idea is scalable, though, to any field well-covered by serious scholarship.
This won't affect any of our existing practice, but we will need to agree whose reviewed versions we should link to. That will require discussion (not here please) and a new policy or guideline governing that decision-making process.
Articles that don't pass fact-check won't get a badge with a link to the fact-checked version, and errors will be listed on their talk pages. Class As and FAs that fail critical scholarly review won't get the badge linking to the critically-reviewed version until they pass a critical scholarly review. The societies managing the review process should have most say in how the review and fact-checking processes work. Wikipedia's role here is to put a prominent badge at the top of articles, linking the readers to the most recent rigorously fact-checked or critically reviewed versions.
I'm curious to know Jimmy's position on that proposed practice. Obviously, it will affect my confidence going forward with this if Wikipedia's most prominent evangelist is enthusiastically supportive, indifferent or actively opposed to the proposal. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 14:18, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
I would be interested in helping you discuss proposals with learned bodies in Mathematics. Perhaps you could email me? Deltahedron (talk) 10:30, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
The "most read" ten thousand articles account for a huge percentage of usage, and we can remove "popular culture" as being intrinsically non-reviewable, alas. The 2010 list of "most read" pages shows the ones at the 10,000 level has only 2% of the readership of the top actual articles (about 90K down to under 2K views per day). I suspect that, barring web-crawlers, the top 10,000 actual articles account for well over 95% (possibly quite a bit more) of total page views. [9] confirms this a bit. Collect (talk) 13:36, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
I agree, it would be easy to identify specific fields of knowledge that require expert level knowledge of somekind to assure reliability. And starting with the 10,000 most vital would be obvious.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 20:21, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
  • The key to recruit expert editors would be to find some way to make it relevant for them as a career move, for example by having their name officially attached to specific articles so that they could put it on their CVs as a public outreach kind of thing.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 20:21, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
    • I disagree. I think the key to recruiting expert editors is to ensure that they don't spend all of their time locked in circular arguments with ill-informed obsessives. (I know you've had this experience, on the race & intelligence articles). The Randy-from-Boise essay nailed it. Unfortunately, the problem has gotten worse over time, as we've steadily lost non-insane editors and maintained a constant number (and thus an increasing proportion) of obsessives and cranks. It's really dispiriting, and I'm speaking as someone who (let's say, for the sake of argument) has some real-life expertise but no longer writes much, if any, content. I don't know that c.v. credit will help; most of the people who'd be in a position to review my c.v. would laugh at me if I included my Wikipedia work on it. MastCell Talk 04:12, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
      • MastCell, I don't see any way for Wikipedia writers to get public credit under the current editing model - and that model is unlikely to change. But if our reviewed versions were the gold standard of trustworthiness, public credit for reviewing a reliable version would be worth something to your academic reputation. If we begin by selecting only the masters/mistresses of their fields, then being chosen to review an article will be seen as a significant accolade. I should repeat: an essential element of this strategy is the cast-iron rigor of its review process. You and I are painfully aware of the curate's egg that passes for peer-review in the journals right now. Wikipedia's reviewed versions can be the standard against which the journals and textbooks are measured, absurd as that sounds in today's context.
I'm imagining the next wave of innovation in the free distribution of knowledge, at least as important as the first, with Wikipedia and the academic communities driving it in concert.
This may not be the final solution to the Randy problem, but knowing their work won't be washed away by some POV-pusher, troll or well-meaning amateur once it's passed expert review may encourage more experts to edit. I'm confident it will, actually, if, once the process is in place, we can get the word out loud and clear to the scholarly community through their journals and the public through public evangelism. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 04:38, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
With regard to medical content, are the people commenting here aware of meta:Wiki Project Med and its project Wikipedia:WikiProject Medicine/Translation Task Force? But there are also several expertly edited free online sources, including the US National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus, the Mayo Clinic's site,]the Professional and home editions of Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, and WebMD, -- all of which usually rank higher in a Google search than Wikipedia. They too have their limitations, but everything is not up to us alone.
with respect to expert editing in general, in my opinion one of the many reasons for the relative failure of Citizendium was the difficulty in getting changes approved. The "expert" editors there (of which I was one) were much more interested in writing and approving new articles than the routine work of incorporating and improving changes. I put "expert" in quotes to indicate my opinion that another cause of failure was the difficulty (and sometimes errors) in actually selecting the volunteer experts. DGG ( talk ) 15:42, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
A lot of it is up to us. Many of the obvious, broad topics are covered to some degree by sites such as those you mention, but most topics are not. We have more than 30,000 medical articles so far. I would estimate no more than 5,000 of those topics are covered by Mayo, NIH, etc. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 16:49, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

Although this documentary suggests that false medical information can be useful :) . Count Iblis (talk) 18:56, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

WP:MEDICAL. Now, please don't perform 5th grade surgery with an iPad next to you showing a Wikipedia article about how to cut your victim patient open and find the bullet that's somewhere in him. --k6ka (talk | contribs) 21:25, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

  • The issue that is that the so-called reviews in Wikipedia which lead to GA/FA status are often conducted by people whose main qualification is that they know a lot of wikirules. The content is seldom actually reviewed. A good example is the extremely sophomoric Commutative property article. The reviwerer was of course extremely excited he could understand all of it: Talk:Commutative_property#GA_Review (unlike other math articles being discussed above...) JMP EAX (talk) 00:38, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Since someone mentioned stackoverflow above, let me quote from a somewhat well known critique of that [10] a portion that applies to Wikipedia as well, in my opinion:

It surely applies to the so-called reviews (GA/FA) in Wikipedia. JMP EAX (talk) 01:25, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Reviewing articles and forking Wikipedia are two commonly proposed solutions that are actually the same thing, or should be. As I started to suggest in m:Usenetpedia (I wasn't even the first to think of that, it turns out) if we have freely distributed versions under no central control, from which multiple authorities can choose "the latest version" independently of one another, we could abolish the authority games that go on here. True, that is in favor of authority games at the authorities, but if they have to compete for readers they will be subject to limitations. Wnt (talk) 11:01, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
One reliable Wikipedia and one unreliable but possibly more up-to-date Wikipedia. I suppose you could call that "forking" but it's not forking. They'll both be Wikipedia. If Wikipedia refused to allow a badge at the top of the dynamic version linking to the reliable version, then we'd need to arrange a fork, but I'm hoping that won't be the case. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 11:51, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
I fear I won't have time to engage in a very long discussion of this, at least not this week, but I wanted to make two quick points. First, I'm interested and generally positively inclined to agree that if we had a serious peer review process to run medical articles (or others, but medical is a good place to start) through some recognized expert process, then we should link prominently to that reviewed version. But second, and this is a matter for empirical study in the long haul, I think that within a very short period of time (shortness depending on the topic) the peer reviewed article will NOT be the better article because it will be out of date. The truth is, the majority of edits to most articles (particularly on serious topics) are improvements over what was there before, particularly if the edit isn't vandalism. What I'm saying is "the most recent version edited by Anthonyhcole (or some other trustworthy editor)" is likely to be better than a 3 month old peer reviewed version. That doesn't make peer review a useless exercise, though, not by a long shot! The point of the peer review is to bring in someone with specific expertise in some specific sub-topic to look for errors or subtle problems that even a highly experienced Wikipedia editor in the general field of medicine might miss.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 12:11, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. Yes, I think both versions - current and last reviewed - will be valuable to the reader. I hope readers will get into the habit of reading the reviewed version and viewing the diff to see what's new. Just for the record, good Wikipedia medical articles are very stable, and one review a year would be more than adequate for most. But frequency is probably best determined by the societies running the review process, and will vary from topic to topic. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 13:49, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
But by "good medical articles" you mean articles that don't discuss recent primary research results, even in top-notch journals, nor link to lists of ongoing clinical studies. Correct? Wnt (talk) 16:11, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
Here, by "good" I mean WP:GA and WP:FA. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 23:47, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
I think that's a great idea, Anthony. Too often I find myself having to go to the talk page, pulling down a menu or two, looking for the "milestones", before I can get the "official" FA version. Drmies (talk) 04:41, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
I've long thought there should be a prominent link on our GA/FAs to the version that passed GA/FA. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 10:20, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

Medical warning[edit]

Hi Jimmy. At WikiProject Medicine we're trying to find a form of words for a prominent warning on our medical articles ... something that conveys that anyone can edit but that also conveys the inherent effect on trustworthiness, without scaring the readers unduly. The discussion has just started - but any suggestions you may have for concise, elegant language to that effect would be very welcome. This pertains to your comment quoted in the opening post, above, where you acknowledge our readership may have a poor understanding of our reliability. It is an attempt to plainly, straightforwardly appraise the readers of the inherent risk in the anyone-can-edit-live model. I think, if we acknowledge our UK readers have an inflated perception of our reliability, we have a duty to clearly, plainly inform them. I think you've spoken in favor of a prominent disclaimer on our medical content. Possibly on this page - I can't remember. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 09:55, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

The founder's opinions on Superprotect and MediaViewer[edit]

Dear Jimmy, since days now there are big discussions and huge irritations following the rollout of Superprotect and Media Viewer against the communities' will. I am interested in what your personal views of these happenings are. In my eyes they are clearly against your own original project principles (esp. #4). Did you change them, without publishing it? I didn't find any statemets by you on these issues yet. --Trofobi (talk) 07:02, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

I share the concern about MV and SP, and I think this is a SNAFU where input from Jimbo might be one of the few things that can have a positive influence on a very divisive issue. A significant part of this happens on the German Wikipedia, where there is serious talk about strikes, passive resistance, and even forks. I think the WMF has made a big mistake here, in trying to force issues via decrees and technical means that should have been addressed via communication and dialogue. --Stephan Schulz (talk) 07:26, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Oh, it's here on en:wp for long, too:
... --Trofobi (talk) 07:59, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
I never knew the MV caused such serious conflict between the community and the WMF until I read those archived discussions. I don't have any statistics to prove my point, but as a long term Wikimedian, I can sincerely say that the MV is just a waste of time, money and user's computer power. It is not useful to either the editor or reader. It's so silly (yet funny) to see how much WMF staffers try to sugarcoat this gadget). IMHO WMF/MediaWiki should instead improve the media description page to satisfy both the reader and editor. -- Sameboat - 同舟 (talk) 23:36, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

I think Lila Tretikov has posted some conciliatory steps/moves on her meta-wmf talk page: [11] (although some have described them as "California-speak" IIRC.) JMP EAX (talk) 04:04, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Honestly I'm still a bit sore about the patronizing non-action on the solution we fucked-up en-wiki crackheads (don't you just love that?) came up with, and since then I've seen absolutely no change in attitude. It's somewhat tempting to spaz out (in the American English sense, I'm aware it carries a very different meaning in the UK) and unleash a torrent of profanity here, but instead I'll put it this way. Since the rollout of these two changes, I've noticed essentially no difference in my editing experience. If these were changes that were essential to keeping all WMF projects online, or something of equivalent importance, I could see why the WMF would push them this hard. Since they're not, though I'm failing to see how these changes were worth the amount of rancor they've generated. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 04:51, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
As a small side note, it is unclear to me why a comment from someone who doesn't work at the WMF is something you are taking as a matter of attitude from the WMF. In terms of thinking about this issue and trying to understand and feel everyone's perspective clearly, understand that there are those who are just as bewildered that such a minor software change ("essentially no difference in my editing experience") is causing so many people to man their battle stations. It is my considered opinion that this fight (in the German Wikipedia and elsewhere) isn't really about the MediaViewer at all, except in the most superficial ways.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 12:00, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
Partially because I'm a bit bitter about it, but mostly because their comments were, while not as explicit, along similar lines (I don't have it in me to track all the discussions down blow-by-blow, but they're there). I also see where you're coming from, in my view the reaction does seem to me to be at least a bit excessive. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 02:31, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
The "excessive reaction" has been accumulated since the implementation of VisualEditor and Typography Refresh. MV itself isn't a deal breaker (if it came before VE), but Superprotect only worsens the mistrust between WMF and experienced Wikimedians. All in all, WMF should instantly retract the implementation of SP and politely dissuade German admins from reverting any change imposed by WMF. -- Sameboat - 同舟 (talk) 03:11, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
I'm preparing a comment on this to be posted tomorrow at the earliest. I'm reading and studying all that I can in preparation for that, and I have a call scheduled with Lila this afternoon.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:56, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Ways forward for Wikipedia and the WMF[edit]

Rather than complain about things I don't like but can't change, I thought I would run some ideas past you for where Wikipedia in particular and WMf in general might be going. Jan-Bart has expressed the view [12] that the movement is at a crossroads, and that change is needed. I certainly agree with that, but question the implied suggestion that we cn only go down one road at a time. It seems to me that there are various things we could and should be doing which are not contradictory but rather are complementary. For example, Jan-Bart also says [13] "It is one thing to build an encyclopedia of high quality, and quite another to get it into the hands of every human being on the planet, in their own language" and again [14] "Our entire approach on knowledge dissemination is based on the western idea of an encylopedia and referencing other written sources in order to back up articles. Yet a lot of cultures around the world have a different way of disseminating (and consuming) knowledge." What do these mean for Wikipedia, and especially the English-language version, which is perhaps one of the most mature, even if it is not quite finished yet. Here are a couple of ideas to kick off with.

  • What a mature encyclopaedia needs is to stabilise and establish its reliability: cf the neighbouring discussion
  • What a less mature encyclopaedia needs is more articles. The large language encyclopaedias have them. Where are the tools that allow automatic or semi-automatic translation? Can Wikidata, or other knowledge management tools, be used to generate stub articles across language barriers?

One thing that might resolve several of these issues. How can WP/WMF develop the relationship with academic bodies such as learned societies and universities? The WIR programme seems to work well for some of these, but WP has a pretty low reputation in mainstream academia still. How can WP present itself as a body of knowledge looking to stabilise and raise its standards? Can it connect with and been seen to enhance or complement the very well-developed peer-review mechanisms that have existed for centuries in academia? That's what a western-style encyclopaedia should be doing, and is in no way contradictory to the notion of exploring alternative ways of disseminating knowledge. Deltahedron (talk) 16:18, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

IMHO, collaboration (and in a formalized way) with universities and other traditional knowledge institutions is the future of Wikipedia. There is simply no other way to get the kind of quality knowledge that an encyclopedia which aims to have the "sum of human knowledge" needs. However, this kind of collaboration may mean attacking a few sacred cows such as limiting editing access to various types of articles. There are few experts on subjects who would be willing to write a) for free and b) with no visible credit and c) to watch a bunch of people take their work apart. Heck, "c" is part of the reason why I stick to relatively obscure topics.Thelmadatter (talk) 19:29, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Oral knowledge is all very well, but it leads to all sorts of problems that the written word doesn't have (or has ways around). If we want to create a work that records the There is no Ebola "knowledge" of some groups in Sub-Saharan Africa, then we can, but it won't be an encyclopaedia if it is done without editorial commentary. It will be a (spoken?) corpus, as such well within WikiMedia's remit.
It is a capital mistake to jump from ideals to implementation without a great deal of thought, and pilot processes. A good example is the Google "paid articles" for the Swahili Wikipedia. Many others will spring to mind I'm sure.
The current cost of accessing a site such as Wikipedia (as it was) is extremely low, and falling all the time. If we pursued embedded snapshots preloaded on phones, it could drop to almost nil - a suitable cost for third world countries.
All the best: Rich Farmbrough21:05, 25 August 2014 (UTC).
Just a quick answer to the original two points quoted from Jan-Bart. First, there is of course no contradiction between pursuing high quality and getting Wikipedia into the hands of every single person on the planet, at least not in general. In terms of specific investment by the Foundation (with limited funds) of course some investments will be more productive for one than the other to some degree. But I actually think they tend to go hand-in-hand. For example, an investment in caching servers to get Wikipedia load times down to a more reasonable level in India is *both* a way to improve readership *and* to make it reasonable for quality editors to participate from there.
Second, I think the question of oral citations and oral knowledge is an interesting and complex philosophical question especially in the languages of the developing world where traditional sources are lacking for all kinds of reasons. But in terms of our primary work, even in those languages, I think it's a secondary issue. There's much work that can be done even without a good solution to that sort of thing.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 12:06, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
@Jimbo Wales, with regard to your second point, perhaps the Foundation could assist with fundraising or even just increasing general awareness for the oral history projects and organizations? The goal of many of these projects is to interview, document, and make available information that would otherwise be lost forever. There are a myriad of them trying to document everything from the experiences of Vietnam war veterans to the earliest drag racers and hot rodders. Just a thought... --Scalhotrod - Just your average banjo playing, drag racing, cowboy... (Talk) ☮ღ☺ 18:38, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Some falafel for you![edit]

Falafel award.png thank you for founding wikipedia :)
ᔕGᕼᗩIEᖇ ᗰOᕼᗩᗰEᗪŽ╦ 19:05, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
  • On behalf of Mr. Wales, for whom I think I can speak on this occasion, thank you. As a reminder to our audience, falafel is fried and delicious and requires no dead animals. Drmies (talk) 21:26, 26 August 2014 (UTC)


This article and those of all the personalities mentioned are going to be checked for errors and omissions by the expert members of the Pre-Raphaelites Society, hopefully without editor interference. In the unlikely event of 'editorial interference', Jimmy Wales will be advised. This Article and several others look as though they need to be comprehensively checked. (talk) 21:06, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Goodness me, Jimbo. What a dark horse! Who knew?? Martinevans123 (talk) 21:09, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Status of Flagged Revisions in German Wikipedia?[edit]

Can someone tell me how flagged revisions is used in German Wikipedia?--Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:01, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

What Wikipedia is in the Eyes of the World[edit]

This comment is the epitome of Wikipedia's philosophy:

what Wikipedia has become in the eyes of the world, is the place on the internet where the people who express opinions like the above about the "other guy's" religious beliefs, are encouraged to label all the practitioners whom they are persecuting as "cultic types, not very wikifriendly" etc in his appeal for like-minded souls. The whole world by now knows this is the kind of place wikipedia "Fringe Theory Noticeboard" openly is and that these are the very same editors who typically get backslapped, rewarded and promoted, because the range of permissible world views tolerated among wikipedia editors seems to be getting more and more restricted to only those who see the world your way. (talk) 11:33, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

I think it unfortunate to refer to other editors in that way, but it sounds like he's legitimately asking for help in improving some decidedly poor articles. If Wikipedia has a reputation for taking a pretty hard nosed approach to cults and fringe theories, then I am proud.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:56, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Most people see their beliefs as something very personal and private, nobody wants to see their own firm beliefs or religion wind up on the wikipedia official "fringe theory" list, and the origin of the term is from "lunatic fringe", is inherently pejorative, and should never have been embraced by a "neutral" or professional project. If editors want a blog where they can plot and scheme whom they are going to anathematize next, at least it should not be on-wiki with wiki endorsement. (talk) 12:00, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
You are mistaken. The term 'lunatic fringe' would be pejorative, of course. But 'fringe' is not inherently pejorative and conveys information that the reader needs. Do you have a specific page that you think has been categorized unfairly or incorrectly?--Jimbo Wales (talk) 12:05, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
In fact the phrase "lunatic fringe" is far earlier, and the use of "fringe" in that sense is derived as an abbreviation of that expression. (talk) 12:10, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Oxford Dictionaries: "The outer, marginal, or extreme part of an area, group, or sphere of activity:" [15]. Not necessarily pejorative in any way. Martinevans123 (talk) 12:23, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
I'm sorry, when I said "in that sense" I meant in the sense of the phrase "fringe theory". The phrase "fringe theory" and "lunatic fringe theory" was unheard of before the 70s at the earliest and was slang avoided by balanced works; the earlier phrase it is derived from, "lunatic fringe", dates to Theodore Roosevelt. (talk) 12:41, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Language evolves? We're not all stuck in the 1970s? Personally, I think Roosevelt was perfectly sane. Martinevans123 (talk) 12:44, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Pretending that a pejorative or disparaging term is not, isn't the same as language evolving. (talk) 12:50, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
You're quite right, it's not. But why should I pretend? Is this all full rubbish or lunatics too? Or is it just not on the main stage? Martinevans123 (talk) 13:23, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Our real problem here is that there any mild epithet like "fringe" or "lunatic" ought to pale in comparison to our epithet for people who take reliable, relevant sources out of Wikipedia articles. We try calling them deletionists, vandals, POV warriors, censors... it's all somewhat accurate but there's always some defect in the word that they use to say "oh, no, that's not us, and there really isn't such a thing!" We need to craft a decently offensive epithet that can lock onto that particular behavior like a missile. Wnt (talk) 13:50, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Edinburgh is definitely full of lunatics and rubbish. -mattbuck (Talk) 14:01, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
I trust Alistair can count on your vote. Martinevans123 (talk) 14:12, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

Biographies of politicians created as part of election campaigns[edit]

In the course of working at AfC I quite frequently see attempts to create advertorial biographies of politicians who are busy campaigning for election. Sometimes the article authors are quite blatant about their intentions to use WP as a campaign vehicle while others seem to try to do it "under the radar". Now AfC has the ability to filter out blatantly promotional articles but I presume many such articles may be created directly in mainspace too. So I'm thinking maybe we could institute a prohibition against the creation of new biographies of politicians while they are busy campaigning. Though some of the subjects might already be notable, such as a former large city mayor running for a state or national level office or their notability is for something else prior to their political career, some are first time candidates who would actually only become notable if they were to win the election, except that the media attention generated by the campaign itself sometimes does push them over the GNG threshold. If an prohibition against such article creation for the duration of electioneering is not acceptable to the community, perhaps we could devise a variant of the "COI editor" tag that says something like "This article may have been created in furtherance of the subject's election campaign" which stays on the page until the election is over. Roger (Dodger67) (talk) 14:09, 27 August 2014 (UTC)