Deze positing mocht ik van Crownest, een criticus van het Amerikaanse forum Wikipedia Sucks, overnemen. In Amerika, immers de bakermat van de volksencyclopedie bestaat in tegenstelling tot Nederland en de rest van Europa namelijk wel een kritische beweging. Weliswaar is deze tamelijk gefragmenteerd maar net zoals in The Wiki Cabal zijn er daar regelmatig goede postings te vinden zoals deze. Luister en huiver naar deze keigoede beschrijving van de inktzwarte Deep State die achter het fenomeen Wikipedia schuilt geschreven door iemand die deze door en door kent.
1. It doesn’t save you time
If you’re doing it right (which means you probably aren’t), the time it takes to ascertain whether you can trust the contents of a Wikipedia article, never mind whether it is complete and unbiased, is equal to the time it takes to write it. The larger the article, the more screwed you are. The same goes if you’re just looking for a single fact, and you will waste a lot of time even trying to locate it in their tangled web, with its useless search function and spotty manual curation (this inefficiency being the one and only thing in this list most Wikipedia users should already be aware of, unless they have literally never used anything else to find knowledge).
2. The disclaimer(s)
Normally an inconsequential piece of cover your back legalese on most sites, the disclaimers on Wikipedia are essentially the only truthful user manual they have. They’re the only documents that explicitly state that you cannot trust a single word written on Wikipedia, not even if it has a source provided (you gotta read the source). And they make it clear, this is by design. These warnings are intentional, like any grave warning of serious risk should be. But they are also, by contrast, not very prominent. You get more warning about the mere possibility your lunch may have occupied the same spacetime continuum as a nut. Despite admittedly being linked from every page, it’s scary how many Wikipedia editors aren’t even aware they exist. Noticing you haven’t noticed the link tends to be a holy shit moment for anyone.
These documents, whose actual legal status isn’t even clear as they are open to editing by anyone, show Wikipedia takes the idea of divorcing themselves entirely from any legal or moral responsibility to be what people quite erroneously think they are, namely an encyclopedia, to heart. If you haven’t read the disclaimers, or have but not properly thought through what they mean for those a potential consumer of their service or product, you’re the mug Wikipedians are writing for. Not reading them or properly understanding their implication, is what makes people not realise 1. Of course, if we assume they have legal standing, it is these disclaimers which show Wikipedia is not a product or service at all, and so even if they wanted to, they could not reasonably charge anyone for it. Even the notoriously liberal US legal system, which Wikipedia hides behind, recognises deceptive advertising is not protected free speech. Wikipedia may be free, it not a free encyclopedia.
3. They’re filthy rich
To be fair, not even most Wikipedia editors realise this, but the people who own Wikipedia are absolutely rolling in money. They’re sitting on a huge cash pile, extracted by deception from gullible people who don’t know a lot about Wikipedia. They have so much cash, they can cover their basic operating costs simply from the interest it generates. You may not have even noticed the subtle shift in emphasis in Wikipedia’s begging letters, which have stopped arguing that if you don’t donate, Wikipedia will die. You might have hoped this was the result of negative media attention or even legal advice, but in reaity it was a rare case of the inner circle of Wikipedians themselves acknowledging their pants were on fire.
4. They hide their own truth
Take 3. as an example. Google “operating cost of Wikipedia”. Because the world has stupidly accepted Wikipedia is an information source (reliable or otherwise), and because they are in bed with Google (a substantial Wikipedia donor), and because they don’t let Google index their internal pages, you basically need to be a Wikipedia expert to know the truth of what it really is. The Register article that keen eyed searchers will find midway down those results, has been dismissed by Jimmy Wales as tabloid rubbish.
5. Jimmy Wales doesn’t run it
Perhaps their least well known truth, is the real status of Jimmy Wales. When he speaks for or about Wikipedia today, officially, he is doing so only as one of eleven Trustess on the Wikipedia Board, and he’s not even the Chair or Vice-chair. And the Board has little power over what the encyclopedia contains anyway (this is their legal get out, see 2.) The volunteer Wikipedians, the real hard core, mostly feel apathy toward him, a relic of a past age. A significant proportion hate his guts, and say it openly on Wikipedia (see 4.). His lack of power is seen in how often his wishes and desires for what Wikipedia should be, are just ignored, whether they be sweeping statements or positions in specific issues.
This hasn’t stopped him acting as some kind of official spokesperson in the media (see 3. and 4.), although that is largely the media’s fault, of course. Not that the media doesn’t happily carry the message the Executive Director of the body that owns the Wikipedia domain (logically the person with the most legal and ethical responsibility for they day to day running of Wikipedia), but you’ve still likely never even heard of her, and you’ll be lucky if you ever spot her being half as truthful or honest about Wikipedia’s many faults as Jimmy tends to be. Cast by many as an evil genius who is in it for the money and power, in truth Jimmy, while obviously fond of the perks, is just an idealistic optimist who stumbled on Wikipedia by accident. Not for nothing was the current Executive Director promoted from within the Wikipedia of 3. and 4., and from their PR department no less. She’s the one with real skin in the game.
The real reason you can’t trust a single word written on Wikipedia, even if it has a source provided, and even if that source seems to back it up. In an ideal world, this would be number 1. in this list, but sadly it takes knowledge of the preceding entries before you can really understand it.
Wikipedia has polluted the world to such an extent, in many cases it has corrupted the contents of the very sources it claims are what supports its own content (but often don’t anyway, hence 1.). I hesitate to call this Wikipedia’s fatal flaw, because in theory it is fixable, with time and effort, and usually lots of both (waaay more than 1., which I wrote without even taking citogenisis into account, so as to not freak you out). The passage of time (Wikipedia is seventeen years old now) means some cases will now never be resolved, unless you can prove or disprove the dubious fact from first principles.
Not that fixing this problem, or putting place active measures to prevent further pollution, is remotely a priority. Editors are told to simply watch out for it, even though most don’t even know about it, much less how to spot it. Others understandably just can’t be bothered, given how time consuming it is to be certain you aren’t importing freshly laundered disinformation. And why properly fix a problem, even a fatal flaw, if the customer isn’t even aware of it? It’s not like anybody will die because of it………(history tells us a Wikipedia caused fatality is a statistical inevitability)
7. They’re rubbish even by their own measure
A lot has been written about the accuracy of Wikipedia, and whether it even is an encyclopedia. Not much of this coverage, if any, talks about how the Wikipedians rate their own product. They have two internal quality measures, the Featured Article, which means it is accurate, neutral, comprehensive, illustrated, and otherwise confirms to their Manual of Style. Their lesser standard of Good Article ostensibly measures the same things, while substituting “comprehensive” and “well researched” for merely covering the main topics with no immediately obvious issues with research being present. Casting FA as their “best work” and reflecting the subtle difference in criteria, GA is only assessed by a single reviewer, compared to a panel for FA. Only an FA is eligible for the prime spot of “Today’s Featured Article” on the Wikipedia front page.
The Wikipedia model would have us believe their approach to qualifications and remuneration of editors (none required and none offered) is immaterial to their likely ability to produce a quality encyclopedia. The truth of that error is laid in stark relief by two simple figures that they won’t dispute (for they are their own). Only around 0.1% of Wikipedia’s nearly six million articles is an FA, and only 0.5% is even a GA. And that’s just the start. This love of volunteerism means that there is little to no sense of priority or proportionately in what they choose to build up to GA or FA. Carrying on the theme of not even meeting their own aspirations, there’s little to no correlation in what becomes an FA/GA when measured against Wikipedia’s own self-generated lists of the top 10, 100, 1000 and 10000 “Vital Articles”, the ones deemed most important. Perhaps understandably, and with a mind to 1., other than the TFA slot, which is more about rewarding editors than informing readers, Wikipedia makes little effort to ensure readers are aware of what pages are an FA/GA, much less which specific version passed. Quite a bit of Wikipedia probably meets their GA criteria already, just not enough to remotely make it an encylopedia by any reasonable measure. Arguably, expecting 100% FA, or at least FA/GA with a clear differentiation, in the immediately accessible portions of their free encyclopedia, with those that are not being accessed only by affmirmation you have read and understood the disclaimer). On the flipside, it is also acknowledged internally that much of what was once an FA, is likely no longer because articles degrade, knowledge advances and oddly enough, their own standards have risen over time. The latter is arguably less about the reader and more about maintaining Wikipedian’s own sense of who among them are the elite. Elite editors being given wide leeway in the editor community, c.f. 9. There is of course a backlog in reassessment activity, as there is in any necessary but unrewarding aspect of Wikipedia maintenance.
8. They’re swimming in garbage
Perhaps partly explaining 7. is the stark realisation of just how much of Wikipedia is potentially pure garbage, content that is virtually worthless when approaching the task of raising it to the level of GA or FA. Not for nothing do those who do, often approach the task as one of a complete rewrite, not even taking any regard of the current article, except as a source list. I’ve deliberately focused on issues of sourcing, as this is the supposed bedrock of Wikipedia (again, if we ignored citogenisis), but you will plenty of other sources of alarm in these figures. This isn’t about the well understood prevalence of vandalism or even bias, since these problems exist regardless of the presence/absence of sources, because of how Wikipedia works.
Again, the Wikipedians can’t dispute this truth because I’m going to use their own figures, automatically generated from how many articles have been “tagged” for a certain maintenance issue, which involves a large notice (the tag) being placed at the top of the page. The figures speak for themselves for any kind of online encyclopedia, but you should also read them with 1. and 2. in mind to appreciate what they mean for Wikipedia’s readers.
At time of writing, out of a total.of 5.72 million articles, Wikipedia has…..
~195,000 articles that need references (i.e. they have none)
~337,000 articles that need more references
~69,000 articles that need reliable references
Sampling by critics has consistently shown that for every article issue that the Wikipedians manage to identify with a tag, there will be another one that has the same issue, but just hasn’t been tagged. And while anyone can place a tag, meaning they don’t necessarily reflect an actual problem, anyone can remove them as well. And since you need to be reasonably familiar with how to edit Wikipedia to even place a tag, it is unlikely they are awash with incorrectly placed tags that won’t have been noticed and removed by an editor familiar enough to make that judgement (likewise, to stop someone illegitimately removing a tag, someone else has to notice them and stop it). The fastest way to reduce these embarrassing figures of course, is to simply remove those which are obviously erroneous, or rendered moot by later edits (which does happen, itself a sign even many Wikipedia editors don’t understand how Wikipedia works, readily assuming it is someone else’s job to assess and remove the tag advertise fix – it is not).
Look closely, and you will even notice a disturbingly persistent trend where certain experienced Wikipedians will remove legitimately placed tags without even resolving the issue, simply because they feel they are ugly, they serve no purpose (because clearly tagging isn’t leading to timely fixes) and are otherwise covered by the disclaimer. Furthermore, they view editors who simply tag articles, as lazy.
9. Their toxicity is ingrained and immovable
There’s a nice myth outside of the Wikipedia bubble (but propagated by many insiide it) that holds that, sure, while there are some nasty people who write nasty things in the back office areas of Wikipedia, this is just a by-product of their open editing model, where “anyone can edit” (that claim is of itself false, on both technical and social grounds, and could have been an entry in this list, but it is likely reasonably well known by now, if not widely known). The implications for the gullible public is that if they get involved with Wikipedia as an editor, or even just as a dissatisfied customer, is that while they might see nasty words, they will be removed swiftly and the miscreant blocked by the more experienced Wikipedia editors, their nominal goal being a civil environment for editors and readers. The truth is starkly different, as solid research has demonstrated. It found that a significant percentage of personal attacks came from experienced users, and a signifier proportion of those attacks came from a hard core minority. They therefore concluded Wikipedians are either incapable or unwilling to moderate their own. The researchers probably didn’t know, because of 4., that the Wikipedians were already well aware of this truth. Not for nothing do they see their own policy on civility as unenforceable when it comes to established users, especially when they are otherwise seen as productive and loyal to the cause. These are the notorious “unblockable” editors. And these findings aside, not for nothing do they routinely treat the utterance of personal attacks as if it is the only form of unacceptable incivility on Wikipedia, despite the police saying different. At the end of the day, if you have achieved the right social standing, and you choose the right target, you can be as rude and disrespectful as you like to another editor, or someone directly affected by Wikipedia, and you’ll suffer no consequences. You may even be praised.
10. Their record of failure is impressive
If you’re reasonably familiar with soap opera that is Wikipedia, and if you’re reading this list it means you probably aren’t, over the years you will have seen the owners of Wikipedia acknowledge a lot of their faults and make grand pronouncements about how they will be fixed. Not 1., 6., 7. or 8., because obviously given 2. and 4. and despite 3., being a serious, trustworthy, or even just broadly accurate reference work, is not their goal, merely convincing the public this is their aim, is. And certainly not 6., for the reasons stated. But they’ve said they want to fix 9., and other serious issues like their horrifically complex interface and massive issues with gender bias (in editors and content). But if you do the math, despite all their efforts, after several years, the effects of all these attempted fixes, are negligible. There is a simpler inferface, but it is still hard to use and is off by default, and consequently, it has not had desired transformational effect. Efforts at gender rebalancing and reducing toxicity have followed similar paths. What seems to connect all the failures, is a lack of buy in fro the volunteers editors. But the owners of Wikipedia chose this model, so they can take the blame for it’s obvious failures. Ultimately, given 3. and 4., the they actually keep failing doesn’t really matter to them. All that matters is they gave you the impression these were things they wanted to fix. Their skill in manipulating the press to be their PR arm did the rest. Only gender still seems to be a priority, which is understandable, it not easily being brushed under the carpet now. They’ve since gone on to claim other causes as their own, namely stopping the scourge of fake news and protecting democracy. You will see similar negligible results.
*Written by Crownest. De tekst mag zoals te lezen is door iedereen overgenomen, mits voorzien van de naam van de auteur en de oorspronkelijke bron. (Behalve door Wikipediocrazy)