Hello from Sheffield, in Great Britain.
I think Wikipedia is a marvellous resource and I use it quite a bit myself. In fact my own website (www.aerialsandtv.com) is even influenced by Wikipedia, I use many hyperlinks from words/phrases that I think readers might require more information on. Readers can follow these or not as they wish. I think this liberal use of hyperlinks is part of the reason my site is so successful, so, for that, Wikipedia thank you !
My own area of expertise is TV radio transmission and reception (the aforementioned website is quite influential in that area), but I`m also quite well read on railways (mainly British) and World War Two, my other main interests.
In my opinion information on Wikipedia should fulfill three criteria :
- Be relevant to the subject.
- Be interesting.
- Be accurate.
Personally I wouldn`t object to a bit of humour but I may be in the minority on this !
I`m of the view that Wikipedia should work by people putting on information, then those with expert knowledge of the subject leave it on (if it`s correct), or take it off if it`s incorrect (but always with an explanation, never just a brusque deletion ! ), that`s it. I occasionally think some Wikipedians are too hung up over whether information comes from "official sources" (whatever they are), or if it`s "own research" (see below). The fact is that if everything on Wikipedia which wasn`t from "official sources" (or was "original research") was deleted, most of it would end up in the recycle bin. Personally, so long as information fulfills the three criteria mentioned above, I don`t have a problem with it. I feel some interesting facts and links are deleted from articles, even when they`re correct, and provable, by editors being too pedantic. And I don`t understand the negative attitude of some Wikipedians to external links (see below). But the worst aspect of all these pedantic rules is when they`re inconsistently bought into play just to delete a piece of information that the particular editor doesn`t like, and that`s just censorship.
I don`t ever like to see a Wikipedian`s list of contributions which is nearly all deletions or reverts, add don`t take away !
As contributors to Wikipedia we should always remember why we`re here. Wikipedia shouldn`t be some academic ego trip, "dotting all the i`s and crossing all the t`s down Wikipedia Way". We should constantly ask ourselves, "why are we here" ? We`re here to provide information and interest to our readers, after all, it`s for them, not for us.
But enough of this, I like Wikipedia, in fact I put my wallet where my mouth is, which, I think everyone should do, even if it`s just a few Quid. The internet might make some people think otherwise, but information does actually have a value !
Sad to say my contributions are few and far between these days, I`m a little disillusioned, basically "pedantic editors" (often with an agenda), more below :
Why I think the concept is flawed.
I think the whole concept of original research being inadmissible is flawed, particularly if applied without flexibility.
Let me give two examples to illustrate my point, always bearing in mind why we`re here, to provide information, so long as it`s accurate, relevant and/or interesting.
The first involves the Virgin class 390 Pendolino train. It has very small windows, certainly in comparison with other rolling stock on British railways, in fact the trains are infamous for it, as any trawl of the internet will prove. Now I`m always happier talking objectively rather then subjectively, and reading that the Pendolino has small windows is correct, but subjective. So it occurred to me that all one had to do was measure the window sizes on a Pendolino and compare them to other rolling stock. This I did, so we then have objective (provable) facts rather than subjective argument. This data was removed from the article as not cited and not officially sourced, but also "original research". The fact that 90% of the rest of the article wasn`t cited (from official sources or not) was deemed irrelevant, thus, in addition to pedantry, we have inconsistency of application. As for "original research", the facts on Pendolino window sizes can be checked by anyone with a tape measure, they were correct and provably so. Worse, they were deleted by a contributor with an agenda, and that`s censorship. So we have correct and objective facts which Wikipedians are stopped from accessing not because they`re incorrect or unprovable, but because they`re not from "official sources". But the train`s manufacturer will never publish those facts, so Wiki readers will never get to read them. How is that a positive ? And remember, just because something is in a book (or on a website) which is cited that doesn`t actually prove it`s correct anyway ! ? !
The second involves aerials. I do a lot of research on aerials (e.g. aerial positioning, aerial gain, aerial mast tests etc etc), mainly because, contrary to the commonly held belief, not all information is actually available on the internet...... The research is influential and quite widely cited. Now, if I was to cite my own research it`d be deemed inadmissible, because it was "original research", but if someone else was to cite it that would be OK. Now that would be eccentric enough on its own, but most Wikipedians use pseudonyms, the implications of the latter are obvious !
An excellent example of the above.....
I don`t agree with Wikipedia`s official dislike of external links, there, I`ve said it, and what`s more I really think it ! As far as I`m concerned if the external links are relevant, I say put them in. On my own site I add any external link that I think my own readers might find interesting, in fact I`ve got dozens, literally, onto Wikipedia ! It goes without saying that the link has to be to a relevant site (though as far as I`m concerned the relevant site does not have to be "official" (whatever that means)), though the link does obviously need to be correct and accurate in the information it publishes. Whether it stays in the article or not is no different to any other information on Wikipedia, it stays on if it`s correct and relevant, it`s deleted if it isn`t, which is how Wikipedia works, or should do as far as I`m concerned.
I`d actually go further, not only do I disagree with the official Wikipedia attitude to external links, I also disagree with the rule that external links should never be placed in the body of the text, and I feel an example will illustrate this very well. One of the pages I regularly contribute to is Operation Sea Lion and a famous wargame was conducted (at Sandhurst in 1974) as to its chances of success had it been mounted. There is a website giving a pretty accurate summary of the wargame, so I put an external link (in the main body of the text) to that site. However it was moved (not removed to be fair) to the bottom of the page, the problem being that hardly anyone will bother flicking to the bottom of the page to see the link, thus the visitors will not realise that they could click onto a site giving the full summary of the wargame !
How can that be a positive ? ! ?
Update : After the above was written "Operation Sea Lion : The Wargame" gained its own page (in August 2012), but the above is still relevant as a general argument.
What are we really here for ? How Wikipedia shouldn`t work.....
Are we here to inform and interest people ?
Or are we here to stick to every esoteric Wikipedia ruling so that an article doesn`t risk losing some arcane ranking ?
I`d have thought this was a rhetorical question, but then again, maybe it isn`t.....
Some other contributor put some info on the Rolls Royce Merlin page and this was taken off with the comment "Remove unsourced and misplaced information". Hold on I thought, I know for a fact, that info is correct, so I put it back on again, complete with a link to a picture of an information board at the major Industrial Museum of Sheffield Kelham Island informing amongst other things, that the Merlin crankshaft was actually stamped out flat, then twisted to get the finished item. A museum information board was deemed an inaccurate source, apparently it`s only acceptable if it`s from a book ! Now, quite apart from anything else, we all know that not every thing you read in books is correct (even I, as someone with an amateur interest in Military History, knows that...), in fact I actually think a museum information board is more likely to be correct, but we`ll move on. I then put a link to a picture of one of the original dies used for the production of Merlin engines (on display in the museum) thus proving the information board was actually right. This, apparently, was considered insufficient evidence (i.e. actually seeing something with your own eyes) because it contravened some guideline about what can be considered an acceptable source !
Now there are two points here :
1 The guidelines are patently absurd.
2 Why are some Wikipedia contributors more bothered about rigidly sticking to absurd guidelines than informing and interesting people ?
Sadly the examples just keep coming : How not to help inform those wanting to view the Severn Bore. That`s at best, at worst, how to put surfers or power boaters interests over those who want to view a natural spectacle. You see, it`s funny how often these arcane editing rules are used to restrict information which some people may not want others to read.......
Also see my Talk page.