Thales

Wikipedia Activism

16 posts in this topic

I’ve come up with an idea for intellectual activism that is pretty easy to do.

I often read Wikipedia articles, because they have proven to be such a great resource for short descriptions of many and varied topics. However, not infrequently, I see what I consider to be left wing commentary, or a left wing slant on an issue. For instance, when I read an article on global warming I’ll often see those scientists who disagree with global warming marginalized as fringe, without evidence to show it. I see them linked to the energy industry, in order to smear them, that sort of thing.

Today I struck upon an idea, when a Wikipedia explanation has philosophically bad points within it, why not counter it with a philosophically good point? I was sufficiently irked when I looked up something as innocent as “foie gras” and found a comment about how animal rights groups consider its production to be cruel. So I decided to create an account (simple to do) and write a counter point, giving a general description of the Objectivist position.

Now, one counter argument is that an encyclopedia should not be used for philosophic activism, and for a typical encyclopedia I agree, but the fact is the Wikipedia is already being used by leftists (perhaps others) to spread bad ideas and I think given this it is fair play to counter them. In other words, I would never inject Objectivism out of the blue, rather only when there are bad ideas that require countering.

You can find my comment here: foie gras Someone already edited out my comment, so I put it back again. I’m going to be vigilant on this for a while to see where it goes, and try to ensure the comment stays. The wording could be improved, so perhaps someone here can do that. My username on Wikipedia is “ORagnar”.

If I do this whenever a point is especially philosophically bad, it will provide a large number of reads of Wikipedia with the Objectivist alternative.

I'd be interested in feedback from others on The Forum concerning this idea!

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Someone already edited out my comment, so I put it back again.

Nothing personal towards you, but I find the idea of others editing my words to be so offensive that I would never make an entry in Wikipedia.

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Nothing personal towards you, but I find the idea of others editing my words to be so offensive that I would never make an entry in Wikipedia.

Well, it was done again. Keep in mind that there is a version history, which allows you to see earlier versions in their original text.

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Nothing personal towards you, but I find the idea of others editing my words to be so offensive that I would never make an entry in Wikipedia.

Well, it was done again.

Which only goes to show the vile nature of Wikipedia -- anarchistic.

Keep in mind that there is a version history, which allows you to see earlier versions in their original text.

I'm not sure why that matters. Do people characteristically look through pages and pages of past history in the development of a Wikipedia page, or do they look at what is directly presented?

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Which only goes to show the vile nature of Wikipedia -- anarchistic.

I've often found Wikipedia to be very useful. I use the articles, for instance, when looking up technical specs for various things I work with, such as graphics cards. I often get very good insight very quickly, where otherwise I'd have to read through much more voluminous material. So, I think it has real value as an in initial source.

The down side is the fact that anyone can edit it, but I think so long as you know that going in, if it is clear this is how it works, that's not a problem. I find it amazing it works as well as it does.

I'm not sure why that matters. Do people characteristically look through pages and pages of past history in the development of a Wikipedia page, or do they look at what is directly presented?

Probably not, but my name is only connected with what I edited, nothing else.

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...You can find my comment here: foie gras Someone already edited out my comment, so I put it back again. I’m going to be vigilant on this for a while to see where it goes, and try to ensure the comment stays.

I'd be interested in feedback from others on The Forum concerning this idea!

Well, the foie gras article is interesting both for the culinary history and for the illustration of the depth and pervasiveness of bias and the penetration of environmental Intrinsicism into Western culture.

I found the EU article that contested the claims that force-feeding process was "cruel." It's even worse than the out-and-out editorializing of the Wikipedia article, because it so implicitly assumes anthropomorphic qualities in the birds; attempting to psychoanalyze bird behavior as to motivation for birds "avoiding" or "moving away from" the feeder (p.37 of EU article). By these criteria, changing an infant's diaper, or taking away a dangerous toy, could be seen as "cruel." The implicit assumption is that Man, in those cases where he takes on the raising of animals, becomes their nanny, their caretaker, in the identical sense in which we would expect him to care for a human child. There is even the analogy to Child Protective Services, in which these EU civil servants inspect and observe and dutifully note any apparent distaste of the animals for their caretakers as evidence of malfeasance requiring regulation.

When it is considered that these animals are to be slaughtered as soon as they reach the desired weight, that they are not being groomed for college and a career, such concerns about their long-term survival seem certifiably insane.

The same animal rights activists call for the spaying of animals, from which I would expect a groundswell of outrage from dogs deprived of the opportunity to bear children in every alley and street corner. Perhaps there is a Catholic animal rights group that opposes spaying and recommends the rhythym method?

This needs to be addressed at a level more fundamental than the proper method of raising geese.

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I edit Wikipedia (though I would prefer that it not exist) for the reason that, unfortunately, MANY people get their information from it. I try to keep articles on subjects that I care about (such as those related to Ayn Rand and Objectivism) objective.

Strangely, Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales claims to be an Objectivist.

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Which only goes to show the vile nature of Wikipedia -- anarchistic.

I've often found Wikipedia to be very useful. I use the articles, for instance, when looking up technical specs for various things I work with, such as graphics cards. I often get very good insight very quickly, where otherwise I'd have to read through much more voluminous material. So, I think it has real value as an in initial source.

What do you mean by "initial source?" You yourself have indicated that you have firsthand knowledge and experience of non-factual, non-objective writings made to wiki pages by agenda-driven people whose focus is not on objective truth, so how "useful" would that be for anything of value?

[The down side is the fact that anyone can edit it, but I think so long as you know that going in, if it is clear this is how it works, that's not a problem.

I don't understand. If you know that your source of information may be factually wrong, that is not a problem? It is only by checking the wiki against what you yourself know, or with an authoritative source, that you will discover in any particular case if the wiki is right or wrong. But, then, if your purpose is to get at the truth, then why not just go with the authoritative source?

I find it amazing it works as well as it does.

My own firsthand experience tells me otherwise. On subjects I know with certainty, especially those subjects that I particularly value, the wiki is tainted with distortion and error. (I know that there exist contrary reports, but I go with my own firsthand experience.)

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What do you mean by "initial source?" You yourself have indicated that you have firsthand knowledge and experience of non-factual, non-objective writings made to wiki pages by agenda-driven people whose focus is not on objective truth, so how "useful" would that be for anything of value?

By "initial" I mean something I look at to start with, because it's fast and easy to find, and provides good information. I've double checked on many occasions.

As to non-objective commentary, I spot these were there is political or philosophical commentary and so I have no problem, as a rule, separating out the wheat from the chaff

Believe me, I have hard evidence of the value of the source, because when you're programming what you do won't work if you're getting bad information.

I don't understand. If you know that your source of information may be factually wrong, that is not a problem?

Yes, but I can usually spot this. Often a political slant stands out like a sore thumb from the rest of the description. Truely, I've found on my own reading Wikipedia to be quite good.

It is only by checking the wiki against what you yourself know, or with an authoritative source, that you will discover in any particular case if the wiki is right or wrong. But, then, if your purpose is to get at the truth, then why not just go with the authoritative source?

Have you ever waded through Microsoft technical documentation? It's atrocious, as is the documentation of lots of technical companies. As an initial source Wikipedia gives me an over view and leads, which allow me to do better further research. Realize that the big problem is where there is some philosophical or political axe to grind. This is where you have to be more vigilant.

There is the risk of bad information, but I find the risk low enough that it's worth my while. It's a little better, for instance, than wading through an online forum full of devotes to some technical subject matter, because that takes more effort, and you're more likely, in my experience, to get bad information that way. Still, I use them as well.

My own firsthand experience tells me otherwise. On subjects I know with certainty, especially those subjects that I particularly value, the wiki is tainted with distortion and error. (I know that there exist contrary reports, but I go with my own firsthand experience.)

I would, if my experience were as bad as yours, use Wikipedia much less frequently.

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When it is considered that these animals are to be slaughtered as soon as they reach the desired weight, that they are not being groomed for college and a career, such concerns about their long-term survival seem certifiably insane.

Now that's a funny line.

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Strangely, Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales claims to be an Objectivist.

Jimbo Wales was a regular on Usenet about ten years ago and was a Kellyite then. I don't know what he is now. He was a nice enought guy, but, I think, wrong on some of the fundamentals of Objectivism.

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I edit Wikipedia (though I would prefer that it not exist) for the reason that, unfortunately, MANY people get their information from it. I try to keep articles on subjects that I care about (such as those related to Ayn Rand and Objectivism) objective.

Strangely, Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales claims to be an Objectivist.

Just curious, how bad do you think the articles on history are?

My knowledge of world history, dates and geography is embarrassing pitiful, but through Widipedia I am getting a better grasp of at least dates and locations. I like being able to click a link within an article.

Lady Brin

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Have you ever waded through Microsoft technical documentation? It's atrocious, as is the documentation of lots of technical companies. As an initial source Wikipedia gives me an over view and leads, which allow me to do better further research. Realize that the big problem is where there is some philosophical or political axe to grind. This is where you have to be more vigilant.

I have used MS documentation many times and heard that same critique many times as well. But, I rarely have problems with it. I find it clear and direct to the point actually so I like the Microsoft docs. I occasionally encounter the odd annoying typo, but one typo in several hundred pages isn't a terrible error rate.

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I find Wikipedia to be an excellent resource. I use it to look up information quickly, and quite often as a starting point when I am researching a topic. I also especially like the "hyper-link" capability that an electronic encyclopedia has that paper resources do not have. If a concept, person or event comes up in the article that I want to learn more about, if it is hyper-linked, I can just click on it and go to an explanatory article.

As to the issue of the veracity of the material in Wikipedia, it is "reader beware". However, just like another blogger described, I have no trouble spotting ideologically slanted or questionable material inserted in an article. As to the issue of many editors having their hands on the material, I have no problem with that. All in all, I think it has produced an excellent reference resource, with a breadth of coverage that the editors of Brittanica can only dream about.

Understanding how these articles are produced and constantly revised by anyone, I would never rely on a Wikipedia article as a definitive source. However, as a starting point, or simply a quick reference article, I find it invaluable and an incredible time-saver. If the topic is important, I will always corroborate and extend what I read through additional research from conventional sources.

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I don't like Wikipedia for anything even the least bit political. However, when I find myself wanting some simple fact quickly and there aren't any significant consequences if it's wrong, Wikipedia can be a nice time-saver that makes information available I wouldn't have spent time looking for otherwise.

For example, I was recently curious while watching a spacewalk how frequently the ISS orbited Earth. Wikipedia was the first search result, and there was a nice table off to the right that included orbital period. Sure, I could have opened up a pdf document (the 2nd search result) that might have had the answer, dug through a whole page of math exercises, or scroll down to the fourth result (some site I've never heard of) and read that page...but I was pretty certain that Wikipedia would both have the value and that it would be right.

I would never go to Wikipedia and start searching there, but if it comes up at the top of a search engine's results and it's not important for me to be absolutely certain of the information I'm getting, it does a pretty good job.

I also use it occasionally to get selling points for a product I've heard of when I don't really know what features it has. People interested in selling something (or users who like it) tend to keep these sorts of pages up-to-date with the important selling points even if there's some disagreement openly left on the page. So by glancing at a Wikipedia article I can get a ballpark estimate of whether a particular product might be worth buying (and then I'd typically look more into it if so).

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As to the issue of the veracity of the material in Wikipedia, it is "reader beware".
Reader beware, indeed. I looked up the Wikipedia article on "Nintendo DS" the other day, and was greeted with an enormous picture of a man's penis.

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