|The Treachery of Images
La Trahison des images
(Ceci n'est pas une pipe)
|Medium||Painting, oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||63.5 cm × 93.98 cm (25 in × 37 in)|
|Location||Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California
Purchased with funds provided by the Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection (78.7). On public view: Ahmanson Building 2nd Floor].
After more than a decade here, and more than 10,000 registered edits (>50 created pages, edits on >1700 unique pages)—96% of which, edits with summaries—and less than 60 total hours blocked over that time, this former faculty contributor has taken indefinite leave of Wikipedia, over differences in educational philosophies and priorities, and fundamental objections over the empowerment of small groups of individuals to make far-reaching decisions (for individuals, and for the encyclopedia) without clear paths for decision review/appeal.
The matters culminating in disagreement here are being taken forward through channels to the Foundation, and only if arguments made find purchase there, is there chance for return of this contributor.
Meanwhile, substantiated trends at the English encyclopedia—toward (i) hiding informed judgments regarding the quality of articles from viewers, and (ii) allowing for appearance of unsubstantiated visual and textual material as valid content—will undoubtedly continue.
Readers in general and educators in particular are therefore encouraged to apply increasing caution, as this institution has failed to show itself to be transparent about itself and the quality of its products.
It is with deep regard for those who labour hard in support of content fully sourced to appropriate and reputable sources, and in doing so rise above the deeply flawed status quo standards of fairness required here, to a standard more adequately deemed just—to these I wish a fond farewell. Leprof 7272
I am a professional with training that allows for new content generation and for editing scholarly content. I began editing while in a professional (professorial) position that had associated public service, and have continued as my real-world work became focused on the reliability of information (and as my circle, youth especially, have raised questions on widely varying subjects germane to their interests and lives).
I edit articles with a view to accuracy of article scope, emphasis, and details, based on the preponderance of scholarly information available—per WIkipedia policies on verification, derived from secondary sources as much as possible. This is true whether I edit out of professional concern in my areas of scholarly training and experience, or respond to a reader concern about an article (where my editing is based on general scholarly training, and often in consultation with others that are subject matter experts). See Biographical and Wikipedia interests, below, for more information.
In general, I am deeply committed to the notion that we as editors are expected to be editors, and not authors—presenting not our own ideas and intellectual constructions, but instead accurately representing verifiable information from the best published sources (see Wikipedia policies/guidelines… below). Our failure here, to hone to this foundational policy expectation of the encyclopedia, alongside other major scholarly transgressions—e.g., our tolerance of plagiarism, and our failures in transparency with the public—will commit us to mediocrity, if a way forward is never found. (And the very structure of this information space, with its bottom-up, consensus-driven mode of decision-making, seems to make this lowest common denominator quality commitment a certainty.)
A particular concern when editing within my professional area of drug discovery is reader safety in relation to articles that present information about medicine, science and technology. For instance, in articles relating to recreational drugs, natural products, etc., I will edit to make clear toxicologic information, the consequences of chemical/pharmacologic experimentation or indulgence, and the like.
Finally, consistent with the above, and au courant, I am committed to calling attention to the widely acknowledged principle that images are simply a different, but still clear form of data and information, to which Wikipedia policies regarding the need for verification and the prohibition of original editor research should apply—i.e., that Wikipedia should not, on the sly, be publishing novel ideas, slipped in because current, firm policies/interpretations do not require that the information content contained in images to be based on verifiable sources. This effort began in the subject areas that currently allow self-publication of scientific and medical imagery (because of the potential for inaccurate medical information, and the issue of patient privacy and consent involved).
The matters mentioned in this lede are mentioned because of their currentness, but also to encourage contact from others with similar convictions. They also introduce the formal, more thorough statements regarding my biography and interests, presented below.
I am a former research faculty member from a major university, a mid-career scientist with broad experience, and more recently a technology entrepreneur, seeking to bring some theoretical business and technology models into practical being.
I have doctoral, masters, and undergraduate degrees in my area of specialty, the graduate degrees from a global top-10 university, the undergraduate from a top 25 (Times Higher Education/Thomson Reuters world university rankings, Nov 2011, both rankings vis-a-vis the overall universities and their physical sciences). Research training experiences at both venues were with recognized leaders in their fields. I have always been fully employed in my field of training, doing teaching and discovery-oriented research (and its associated writing tasks). As well, I am married to and collaborate with a partner who is a Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS)-certified editor (one of about 1000 or so globally), and so one that I periodically consult on matters of grammar, etc.
My historic work emphasis is on small molecule therapeutics, natural products chemistry, and aspects of medicinal and organic chemistry, structural biology, and cheminformatics. I often write and correct in these areas, i.e., in areas related to my degree or ongoing scholarly research work. However, as expert subject reversions and associated non-productive dialog (e.g., with chemistry hobbyists, and poorly trained individuals) has resulted in significant wasted time and effort, this emphasis may well change. Because of my recent efforts in new business development, start-up creation, and entrepreneurship, and because drug discovery is a business and involves the life sciences and team approaches to problems, I have some associated interests in proximate areas of the life sciences and the pharmaceutical industry related to business and organizations, and their processes (and so read and sometimes edit in these areas).
My undergraduate was a strong liberal arts education, with a "great books" type of approach to areas of the humanities and social sciences (including the philosophy of science, ethics, sociologies of science and medicine, and history, broadly speaking). I therefore also read and raise questions, and sometimes correct clear errors, in these areas, generally in consultation with parties more knowledgeable. Finally, I grew up in the home of a jurist and legal scholar and so have some fundamental interests in the fairness of procedures within organizations; I will occasionally raise questions on Wikipedia procedures and process, based on my education and these early-derived and long-honed instincts. None of the preceding experiences guarantee correctness of my content or writings (and so challenge is invited). The training and related experiences are stated, simply, so that those who wish to challenge what I offer also understand what has informed the scope, content, and process of my writing.
As will become clear, because of the confidence that comes from these professional and other experiences, I am not averse to defending my positions regarding content or procedures, nor to challenging other content in need of correction even if errors are of emphasis or nuance.
These are laid forth in the lede, and in the foregoing biographical section. My strong interest is in editing-as-content-creation-and-correction, and much less in formatting or other stylistic aspects. While I am competent in creating high quality and scientifically accurate scientific images, I have very limited time to do so, and remain somewhat limited in my interest and knowledge about bringing them into Wikipedia. I therefore work very well with wikipedians that understand the technical aspects of online encyclopedic styles and formatting, and the same aspects relating to image use.
Five significant scholarly concerns in my editing are:
- the lack of sources in many article sentences, paragraphs, subsections, even whole sections and articles—particularly when the lack extends past 6 months of its creation or being flagged;
- the wide prevalence of sources deriving from post hoc referencing via a "citation-mining"—connecting article content to a citation by shared title or search keywords, rather than by reading and nuanced understanding of the source article and its field;
- the regular practice, related to citation mining, of resolving the problem of unreferenced content by finding a source "close enough", and tacking it to the end of a paragraph, thus muddying the editorial waters (i.e., obscuring what unit content is, and is not sourced);
- the failure to appreciate that images are data and information, the use of which currently constitutes an end around-mechanism for entry of information into the encyclopedia that violates Wikipedia's prohibitions on original editor research and unverifiable content; and
- failure while writing and referencing to differentiate professional, organization-approved or otherwise justifiable scientific nomenclature from definitions and understandings of science as they appear in rapidly evolving online and/or other non-reviewed sources (i.e., to navigate the nomenclature vs. lexicography divide).
With regard to the opening numbered points above: Wikipedia, in its policies—WP:This and WP:That, see active links in the points above—makes clear that
- that information that is not known to the layman, scientific and otherwise (i.e., essentially all of advanced, non-"sky is blue" scholarly content) should be accompanied by citation indicating its source; and
- that because it is unverifiable, unreferenced material may be removed (especially if suspected inaccurate, or involving biographies of living persons).
We can add to this the standard academic understanding, regarding the performance of honest academic work, that plagiarism is not just unattributed quoted material, but also includes any presentation of content that is not common knowledge, underived from ones own scholarship (and since WIkipedia prohibits original research, this closing exception "goes to zero"). Included in this is the need to source ideas rather than take them unacknowledged from sources, and the need to attribute verbatim-quoted and paraphrased-but-unacknowledged blocks of content from public domain sources—a widely violated principle, e.g. form the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica (see for instance Charles Lipson). (Resolving just this one type of plagiarism would be a commitment of at least one person-year.)
Hence, my unpopular opinion is to hold us to addressing the plagiarism problem, in whatever way is best suited to an article. But I would note I am restrained from doing so, in large part, by a consistent editorial counter-commitment, that having some content, even if dishonest, is better than having no information at all. That is, if I remove, or mark-up plagiarized material, I am often reverted (so that the text is returned to its problem state, or at least that any flagging of its problems are removed).
Finally, I would note that in responding to unreferenced material, I generally reject calls to perform forensic referencing, and discourage editors other than the one(s) originally posting from doing so, either. To add references to scientific content of another editor after the fact is fraught with issues of misinterpretation, inaccuracy of sourcing, etc. (It is much better to remove the content, and replace it with a comparable block of text, derived by the new editor, accurately and precisely, from 2-3 secondary sources.) As well, and frankly, doing the sourcing for someone else's content is often "throwing good money after bad", and only serves to encourage the initial sloppy scholarship (if the initial can be called that). In the case of an excellently presented and argued scientific text I may be tempted otherwise, but I have never found—apologies, my esteemed maths and classics colleagues—content of true encyclopedic quality here that is not already decently referenced. (The correlation, there, I think, is suggestive.)
Five further significant and more general Wikipedia policy concerns are:
- the ways in which content and policy conflicts are negotiated and, when consensus is unachievable, are thereafter adjudicated, with special reference to whether the outcomes are actually just by any real-world standard;
- the ways in which wikipedia policies are applied or ignored, in part or in whole, during particular Wikipedia disagreements, and the extent to which practical hierarchies of policy exist in deciding these disagreements, and in any adjudications that follow;
- relatedly, the ways in which longstanding editors and administrators make use of social networks at Wikipedia, overtly, tacitly, or covertly, to accomplish their editorial or social ends;
- the interaction of all of these in wikipedia conflict, and the question of whether these in total are sufficient to explain the outcome of Wikipedia conflicts (e.g., versus the existence of something approaching the legal concept of indeterminacy, Lawrence B. Solum, "On the Indeterminacy Crisis: Critiquing Critical Dogma," Univ. Chicago Law Rev., 54(462), 1987; Ill. Publ. Law Res. Paper 09-10, see , accessed 8 March 2015); and
- the ways in which technological tools aid or hinder by impacting the foregoing, and thus impact the achievement of just outcomes of conflict at Wikipedia.
As a result of these interests, I should note that I will protest outcomes of conflict resolutions regardless of adherence to Wikipedia principles if a "bottom line" of the resolution is not rigourously accurate content (regardless of consensus, or other positive wikipedia considerations), and whether the outcomes of conflict are arguably just and reasonable on the basis of general standards (i.e., would be found so by an informed jury of laypersons unsteeped in Wikipedia practice). Hence, I am apparently not as deeply committed to Wikipedia basic principles as many.
Finally, because life is short and the time that I can spend on this effort much, much shorter, I will press for timely acceptance of new articles I write, and for inclusion of changes that I know to be correct and accurate. If the opportunity cost of seeing accurate, well-referenced material make its way into the encyclopedia becomes too high—if contributions do not remain, if quick reversions and Wikipedia politics ensue, etc. I will generally wash hands of a matter after a cycle or two, having externally saved rejected drafts. (To warn, on a rare occasion, when the article is of seminal importance, I will stand and fight. Lor' he'p us all.)
If the editing situation at an article becomes hopeless, and I depart, I will annotate the article in Talk as to its not being reliable/verifiable from this contributor's perspective, thereafter checking on it from time to time to see if the situation has changed. Meanwhile, I will use the drafts, rather than Wikipedia, in my teaching and my communications to other academicians. In the preceding two regards, I am admittedly a "Wikipedian in Protest", believing that consensus and other wikipedia processes do not always arrive at accurate, scholarly content. When we so fail, I will seek other online venues for placing content before those who might need it.
|The Barnstar of Diligence|
|For your talk page comments and alerting on the talk page before doing anything. Though I encourage you to be bold, it's incredibly satisfying that you went to the talk, first. Tutelary (talk) 14:59, 15 May 2014 (UTC)|
|The Defender of the Wiki Barnstar|
|In recognition of your many years of quality Wikipedia contributions while assisting and building morale among other editors in both small and large ways. Market St.⧏ ⧐ Diamond Way 09:47, 13 June 2014 (UTC)|
|The Defender of the Wiki Barnstar|
|For your fortitude and faithful observance of NPOV and COI when all others capitulated! FeralOink (talk) 18:20, 4 March 2015 (UTC)|
|This user is a member of the Association of Non-Idiocratic Wikipedians.
All Animals Are Equal, / But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others. [Why?] Orwell
I reside somewhere between these two levels, by longevity and edits. My scorn for these these things is in large part why I do not take greater care to re-log, when my local sec systems do their auto-logouts (i.e., why I am fine by editing from IP address). Some of the best Encyclopædia Britannica articles have been formally revised less than a dozen times, and so those esteemed author/editors would appear, to us, as near useless (with edit counts of near zero). We need, in my opinion, as much of that—small number, high quality, long-in-substance, scholarly edits—as anything else. The notion that large numbers of small edits is a hallmark of quality editing is so much nonsense.
- 1 Content of which I am inexplicably proud, along with date posted
- 2 Completely missed boats: How, apart from condoning plagiarism, we oft get it wrong
- 3 Wikipedia policies/guidelines on source selection, web citation use [reminder]
- 4 Futile attempt by this scholar, to argue that WP images are data/content
- 5 Regarding plagiarism and the tagging that it, and related poor scholarship, demands
Content of which I am inexplicably proud, along with date posted
- Flippin–Lodge angle, 12 September 2013-present.
- Bürgi–Dunitz angle, 30 November 2014-present.
- Paul Julian_(meteorologist), 3 June 2014.
- Sophie's Choice (novel), section "Controversy" and section "Themes", 9 November 2015.
- Epes, Alabama, section "18th_century", 2 December 2015.
- Lytta vesicatoria (Spanish fly), 14-20 December 2015.
- WikiProject_Medicine: Is a picture worth a thousand words, or not, 23 March 2017-present.
Completely missed boats: How, apart from condoning plagiarism, we oft get it wrong
Section on "Controversies" surrounding the novel, at Sophie's Choice, prior to edits first week of Nov. 2015:
Section on "Controversies" surrounding the novel, at Sophie's Choice, after edits first week of Nov. 2015:
In short, prior to November 2015, the article on this important novel failed completely to capture the chief reason for its controversial reception and continued academic and broad cultural interest—that it presented a markedly different view of a Jewish author regarding the causes and implications of the Holocaust. Granted, Sophie's Choice (novel) was not designated a Good Article—we at WP were making no claim of it being a quality piece of encyclopedic work. But for the article to have "missed the boat" on this very central and widely discussed aspect of the novel, an aspect presented in many citations (see Styron's related works and the article's Further reading section, and the Sylvie Mathé article cited above), and for the omission to have persisted for over a dozen years (2003-2015), is to suggest a serious flaw in the process by which we evaluate articles, and move them along toward being acceptable for public use. My opinion. [Le Prof]
Wikipedia policies/guidelines on source selection, web citation use [reminder]
Per the policy section, WP:SOURCE, we are to:
Per WP:CITE and WP:CITEVAR guidelines, it is considered helpful (aiding the quality of the article) to
Finally, per WP:BAREURLS, see , we are advised, toward "Helping to prevent future link rot":
Thank you for your kind consideration, as you do these things, and tolerate me as I push to see them done consistently, here. [Le Prof]
Futile attempt by this scholar, to argue that WP images are data/content
For what appears to have been a fully futile attempt to encourage one WikiProject to come to grips with its presentation of self-published information—that it cannot possibly, in the long run, ensure accurate and legally compliant content when editors can post complex, self-generated images with medical content without checks for patient consent, and clear attribution or citation support, see . This is a problem, consensus or no consensus, that will not go away. Le Prof, March-April 2017.
The following was adapted via minimal editing from a response given to a reasonable and thoughtful editor and colleague here, who called attention to the active concern others have expressed over my leaving articles tagged, even heavily, at the end of editing sessions. One principle tag in this case called attention to material cut-and-pasted from a source without attribution. Here, in largest part was my response to being challenged about my tagging behaviours.
I [can only] begin to address [in this challenge to my tagging] the generally prevalent academic concern [I and others share over the paired issues of, first, unsourced, and therefore unverifiable content, and second, the very significant degree of plagiarism that infests Wikipedia together, which are at the root of much that I tag]; these are subjects far too broad for brief attention.
Suffice it to say that WP has created a perfect intellectual conundrum and morass, having:
- (i) no easily used internal tools for plagiarism detection,
- (ii) low [overall community standards regarding the acceptability of including unsourced and therefore unverifiable material in initial edits (leaving sourcing to later, follow-on editors), and also regarding the more egregious] cribbing of material from sources, and
- (iii) perfect ease [established] for outsiders to replicate (mirror) its content, thus making external plagiarism checking a lifelong vocation should anyone be so foolish as to commit to it.
[The fact that Wikipedia has a policy prohibiting and responding to the use of unverifiable information (however weakly enforced), but only a guideline prohibiting and responding to plagiarism, is telling in my opinion. From the persective of one committed to "Doing..." (and teaching about doing) "Honest..." academic work, it's noteworthy that] even sources with Creative Commons status, and out of copyright status, available for free use, carry the implicit legal or ethical stipulations that the source be acknowledged where its information is re-used. One needn't look far here at Wikipedia to see these standard intellectual expectations being broadly, generally ignored.With regard to [my] use of tags here: Editors have differing philosophies regarding tagging. The preponderant philosophy appears to be,As an academic and a person devoted to openness in intellectual endeavours, and one committed to the survival of WP in its next stages of evolution, I oppose this preponderant view, and fight for articles appearing tagged, if there are clear, unequivocal reasons for tagging them. (An unsourced section is an unsourced section. A long section completely drawn from a single source is just that. URL-only citations are a clear problem. Etc., etc.)
"We need to hide article imperfections from general readers—making an article appear 'fine' is important, regardless of the issues associated with it, large or small."
[With regard to the overused "just fix it" mantra: In editing articles I come to, as a first interest, or those related articles to which the primary interest is linked,] I always do what I can, quickly, to fix what I see [as being problematic]. But I do not leave an article with issues that will take many tens of hours to address without tags, just because I cannot fix all myself, in one session or set of sessions. We are a community. If we are an honest one, we can endure tagged articles, for the very simple reason that they reflect the real status of the encyclopedia, rather than an impression we would wish to create in a reading, public group of WP users. (Benign and malignant growths that are present in a body need attention called to them, even if they cannot be seen by the casual, external observer—so that intervention takes place.)
Otherwise... I am always committed to seeing tags consolidated, their messages shortened, etc. The truth is, long messages in tags are sometimes the only way to quickly convey issues to a population of editors, first, [where] many are ready to revert at an impulse, and second, where even if more patient, many are fairly ready to act [editorially] without thoroughly reviewing relevant Talk sections.
The bottom line, from me: I will always take concerns of other editors seriously, and attempt to accommodate them, but I will not submit to the notion [that persistence of unverifiable material is acceptable], or that it is acceptable to overlook when information written by others is misappropriated; moreover, neither will I submit to a fundamental philosophy that says that appearance is more important than reality—that readers should be allowed to perceive an article as being without flaws, when in truth it is substantially out-of-compliance with Wikipedia's own limited standards for academic honesty and scholarly attribution, as appear in its policies and guidelines.
I will do further work on this, but it is adequate to refer to, so that I do not have to repeatedly explain and defend, as I involve myself with WP activities. Cheers. Le Prof. [Last edit, June 2017]