||Look up Vicarious in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
This is my little soapbox. This page will probably offend so if you don't want to be offended please don't read. Currently the first four sections are non offensive, so if you hold your hand over the later ones you should be alright.
A coworker of mine recently pointed out an example of how Wikipedia is flawed. A webcomic writer decided to test Wikipedia by nominating one of the comics he wrote for deletion including misleading statements, then created several puppet accounts and voted to delete, and succeeded in getting the article deleted. My coworker used this as an example of what's wrong with wikis, however this is the very nature of wikis. I don't mean it's typical for users to make several puppets to vote for them, but that in all cases any user can make Wikipedia worse. If a person is trying to make the argument that anyone can make Wikipedia worse, it's not a difficult conjecture to prove, in fact anyone with the internet can blank a page or add a fallacy in about 10 seconds. The reason wikis work is not that they're impervious to negative forces, but that their are more positive forces than negative. The proof of this is self evident in how good Wikipedia is currently, and that it's improving.
On a related note, many wikipedians that saw this story responded by pointing out policies against doing bad things to Wikipedia, or made the argument that the author could choose to get proactive and make the article better. Although this particular user might someday help Wikipedia, it's just silly to ask a vandal to follow the rules, and unnecessary to ask the vandal to help improve Wikipedia.
How Wikipedia Works
Wikipedia does not require people with doctorates or Nobel prizes (although it gladly welcomes them) it simply requires that every change be at least a slight improvement (and bad changes get reverted). If a perfect article is a score of 100, and an example newly created article is a 1, it doesn't need to be replaced by a better article, it needs improved. Even if it's only increased by .1 at a time, 900 edits later it will get there. Think of it is an English paper where instead of the teacher marking off points with a red pen, she fixes the mistakes. A random word generator and enough members to revert incorrect words would eventually make Wikipedia complete. Better editors only make that progression faster.
My Genius Ideas to Improve Wikipedia
My first idea, many pages have a spoiler alert tag, which I appreciate, but they don't have an 'end of spoilers' tag, and even if they did it's be difficult to scan the page for that tag without reading something you don't want to. The solution, hiding that text. The current technology already supports this ability. I personally think all page's spoilers should be hidden by default, however if anyone disagrees with this, no problem, we can make it a user preference for registered users. And, if that's not acceptable (or feasible) then being able to click hide on the spoilers is enough for me.
Idea two, again this one would probably be best as an option for registered users, rather than a default for everyone. Make the links to disambig pages another color. When reading an article a user that cares about fixing these kinds of problems can spot the link to a disambig page and point it to where it should go. This works better than finding a disambig page and checking "what links here" because you're already reading the article, so you know
the context and therefore what page it should link to.
Idea three isn't as brilliant as the first two, but it's still pretty decent. Have teachers punish students by fixing links to disambig pages (or other menial wiki tasks). This one is not a policy type issue so much as an idea for wikipedians who have teacher friends. Teachers commonly punish students by making them do pointless things, like Bart Simpson writing something on the board 100 times, or sitting in detention staring at the wall. Why not have the kids do something productive? It's not like the teacher is encouraging a company, wikipedia is non profit. The teacher could check up on the kid by glancing at the contributions page and perhaps checking a couple of them at random.
Accurate vs Comprehensive
Eventually wikipedia will be both comprehensive and accurate however on the path to getting there it will inevitably favor one of the two. Either time will be spent creating articles and then moving on to create more, or each article created will be perfected then another created. This is of course an oversimplification however I think currently 70% of the focus is on creating articles. I've felt the disappointment of looking for a subject and not finding an article, however not finding an article is far better than finding an article was falsehoods, especially if you don't notice them.
Part of the reason people move on is a short attention spans, people create an article, or make a small improvement on an article and then move along. Of course by the nature of a wiki it takes editors as they come and them how they edit cannot be controlled. I'm not suggesting an overregulated method where we force people to do it the way I want them to, but I think it would be worthwhile to encourage people to improve articles rather than create them, even if it's as simple as the welcoming committee saying, "Consider improving articles rather than creating new ones". (I'd be happy to provide examples of false statements that have been in articles for a long time if anyone doesn't believe it happens).
Validity of Wikis
There is common concern about the veracity of Wikipedia articles, because anybody can say anything. However correctly written article (which includes citations) carries MORE weight than a leading expert discussing a topic. An expert provides as proof of what he's written his years of experience on the subject, however he may have misunderstood something, or misspoken in writing an article. Wikipedia on the other hand doesn't claim to be perfect, but instead says, 1000 eyes have seen this and 100 hands have improved this, and if that's not enough, you can see behind the curtain and find out for yourself.
||This user is against hating. Don't hate!
I've noticed many people have both of these userboxes on their user page. The problem is, these userboxes contradict each other. You can't tell me to say whatever I want, but not say something hateful. This logic only works in a magical world where nobody wants to speak hate. When these two items do conflict, I choose free speech. I'm opposed to hate crimes but I’m fine with hate. My policy is say what you want but don't make me listen, and listen is both literal and figurative. Create any website you feel like, i just probably won't visit it. Write any book you want, I just probably won't read it. And quite frankly, I'd prefer reading a book that spewed hate but was cogent than one that contradicted itself like these userboxes.
My favorite (non)rule is Wikipedia:Ignore all rules. Rules are useful for simple format things like Wikipedia:Manual of Style which among other things specifies that section titles be in lower case (I know this page doesn't follow that rule); things like this are not even an issue of right or wrong, but simply how it's done for the sake of consistency. I'm also ok with applying the rules in clear cut circumstances, like if someone reverts a page 12 times in an hour. The problem with rules (that has a much larger scope then Wikipedia) is that in hazy situations people use rules to defend their view when they should use reasoning. When it's difficult to see which side the rules support it's important to consider the intention of the rule. |An example of this is my idea that Joss Whedon is a fan of Donnie Darko because in weedon's TV show Firefly there are two key parts of Donnie Darko that characters refer to. I suggested mentioning this in the article and was rebuffed with the rule NOR. No original research is meant to stop people from saying that atoms are actually made of Leprechauns rather than leptons. It is not made to stop people from saying that Brad Pitt is a white guy without citing a source. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the rules were on my side; and in fact on further thought I decided that it is possible that the connections between Firefly and Donnie Darko are a coincidence and that it therefore shouldn't be in an encyclopedic article, but that is the argument that should have been made, not appealing to a rule that doesn't apply.