The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Fred Bauder-2
> On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 3:57 AM, Mike Christie <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
>
>> Perhaps the policies can be improved, but they are written to stop bad
>> editing rather than to encourage good editing.  I don't think that can
>> be
>> changed.  It's impossible to legislate good judgement, and it's
>> judgement
>> that was called for with the Haymarket article.
>
> If policies don't encourage good judgment, or discourage bad judgment,
> then what are policies for?
>
> It seems worth discussing whether it would be good to revise the
> existing policy to restore its original (presumed) functionality.
>
> More generally, I've believed for a long time that WP policies have
> been increased, modified, and subverted in ways that both create a
> higher barrier to entry for new editors and that discourage both new
> editors and existing ones.
>
>
> --Mike

I think it probably seems to climate change deniers that excluding
political opinions from science-based articles on global warming is a
violation of neutral point of view, and of basic fairness. That is just
one example, but there are other similar situations.

Fred



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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Mike Godwin-2
In reply to this post by Achal Prabhala-2
Fred Bauder writes:

> I think it probably seems to climate change deniers that excluding
> political opinions from science-based articles on global warming is a
> violation of neutral point of view, and of basic fairness. That is just
> one example, but there are other similar situations.

This analogy is breathtakingly unpersuasive. Apart from the fact that
consensus about scientific theory is not analogous to consensus about
the historical records of particular events, climate-change-denial
theory is actually discussed quite thoroughly on Wikipedia. Plus, the
author of the op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education doesn't seem
at all like climate-change deniers.

If there is something specific you want to suggest about the author --
that he's agenda-driven, that his work is unreliable, or that the
journal in which he published the article is not a reliable source --
then I think equity requires that you declare why you doubt or dismiss
his article.

I read the article in the Chronicle pretty carefully. The author's
experience struck me as an example of a pattern that may account for
the flattening of the growth curve in new editors as well as for some
other phenomena. As you may rememember, Andrew Lih conducted a
presentation on "the policy thicket" at Wikimania almost five years
ago. The wielding of policy by long-term editors, plus the rewriting
of the policy so that it is used to undercut NPOV rather than preserve
it, strikes me as worth talking about. Dismissing it out of hand, or
analogizing it to climate-change denial, undercuts my trust in the
Wikipedian process rather than reinforces it.


--Mike

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Fred Bauder-2
> Fred Bauder writes:
>
>> I think it probably seems to climate change deniers that excluding
>> political opinions from science-based articles on global warming is a
>> violation of neutral point of view, and of basic fairness. That is just
>> one example, but there are other similar situations.
>
> This analogy is breathtakingly unpersuasive. Apart from the fact that
> consensus about scientific theory is not analogous to consensus about
> the historical records of particular events, climate-change-denial
> theory is actually discussed quite thoroughly on Wikipedia. Plus, the
> author of the op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education doesn't seem
> at all like climate-change deniers.
>
> If there is something specific you want to suggest about the author --
> that he's agenda-driven, that his work is unreliable, or that the
> journal in which he published the article is not a reliable source --
> then I think equity requires that you declare why you doubt or dismiss
> his article.
>
> I read the article in the Chronicle pretty carefully. The author's
> experience struck me as an example of a pattern that may account for
> the flattening of the growth curve in new editors as well as for some
> other phenomena. As you may rememember, Andrew Lih conducted a
> presentation on "the policy thicket" at Wikimania almost five years
> ago. The wielding of policy by long-term editors, plus the rewriting
> of the policy so that it is used to undercut NPOV rather than preserve
> it, strikes me as worth talking about. Dismissing it out of hand, or
> analogizing it to climate-change denial, undercuts my trust in the
> Wikipedian process rather than reinforces it.
>
>
> --Mike

We're talking past one another. It is obvious to me that the author of
the Chronicle article should have been able to add his research without
difficulty, at least after it was published.

We have material about climate change denial, but do not give political
viewpoints the status we give scientific opinion in articles on the
science, nor should we. What we would be looking for, and will not be
able to find, is substantial work showing that climate warming does not
result from an increase in greenhouse gases and other products of human
activity. We can't simply say, "According to Rick Santorum, there is no
scientific basis...."

Yes, please, lets discuss.

Fred



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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Ray Saintonge
In reply to this post by Mike Godwin-2
On 02/19/12 12:04 PM, Mike Godwin wrote:

> On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 3:57 AM, Mike Christie<[hidden email]>  wrote:
>> Perhaps the policies can be improved, but they are written to stop bad
>> editing rather than to encourage good editing.  I don't think that can be
>> changed.  It's impossible to legislate good judgement, and it's judgement
>> that was called for with the Haymarket article.
> If policies don't encourage good judgment, or discourage bad judgment,
> then what are policies for?
>
> It seems worth discussing whether it would be good to revise the
> existing policy to restore its original (presumed) functionality.
>
> More generally, I've believed for a long time that WP policies have
> been increased, modified, and subverted in ways that both create a
> higher barrier to entry for new editors and that discourage both new
> editors and existing ones.
>
Policies in general tend to discourage judgement of any sort.  Even when
such policies are classified as guidelines there will always be those
who seek their rigid application. In criminal law, when an accused is
acquitted of a particularly heinous crime there will always be those who
believe that it's because the law was not tough enough. They often
succeed in making it tougher, and end up catching more fish than intended.

I just passed my 10th Wiki Birthday, and I'm certainly discouraged from
much substantial editing. I often leave material that I suspect to be
wrong because the emotional cost of making the correction is much too
high. If others do that too the reliability of the entire Wikipedia is
put in question.

As Mark has said, some subjects are highly vulnerable to recentism, but
one shouldn't expect that with a historical article about events from
1886. When crowdsourcing it is dangerous to assume that the majority
will always be right.  That perpetuates errors, and makes correcting
them very difficult.  Whatever we think of Stalin we want to spell his
name right. An English speaking majority in a Google ranking refers to
him as Joseph even if a stricter or more scholarly transliteration gives
Josef. Whatever spelling we choose alters the landscape; as a highly
popular source that is often quoted and copied we set the standard for
what is correct. Our errors will establish the norm. We become our own
uncertainty principle.

Ray

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Ray Saintonge
In reply to this post by Fred Bauder-2
On 02/19/12 7:31 PM, Fred Bauder wrote:

>> Fred Bauder writes:
>>> I think it probably seems to climate change deniers that excluding
>>> political opinions from science-based articles on global warming is a
>>> violation of neutral point of view, and of basic fairness. That is just
>>> one example, but there are other similar situations.
>> This analogy is breathtakingly unpersuasive. Apart from the fact that
>> consensus about scientific theory is not analogous to consensus about
>> the historical records of particular events, climate-change-denial
>> theory is actually discussed quite thoroughly on Wikipedia. Plus, the
>> author of the op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education doesn't seem
>> at all like climate-change deniers.
>>
>> If there is something specific you want to suggest about the author --
>> that he's agenda-driven, that his work is unreliable, or that the
>> journal in which he published the article is not a reliable source --
>> then I think equity requires that you declare why you doubt or dismiss
>> his article.
>>
>> I read the article in the Chronicle pretty carefully. The author's
>> experience struck me as an example of a pattern that may account for
>> the flattening of the growth curve in new editors as well as for some
>> other phenomena. As you may rememember, Andrew Lih conducted a
>> presentation on "the policy thicket" at Wikimania almost five years
>> ago. The wielding of policy by long-term editors, plus the rewriting
>> of the policy so that it is used to undercut NPOV rather than preserve
>> it, strikes me as worth talking about. Dismissing it out of hand, or
>> analogizing it to climate-change denial, undercuts my trust in the
>> Wikipedian process rather than reinforces it.
> We're talking past one another. It is obvious to me that the author of
> the Chronicle article should have been able to add his research without
> difficulty, at least after it was published.
>
> We have material about climate change denial, but do not give political
> viewpoints the status we give scientific opinion in articles on the
> science, nor should we. What we would be looking for, and will not be
> able to find, is substantial work showing that climate warming does not
> result from an increase in greenhouse gases and other products of human
> activity. We can't simply say, "According to Rick Santorum, there is no
> scientific basis...."
>
> Yes, please, lets discuss.

If we're ever going to get past these problems of Wiki epistemology it
won't be done by starting with such a heavily argued contemporary
problem as climate change. It has too many active vested interests.  Too
many people accept political statements as fact. NPOV started off as a
great concept, but sometimes when we try to explain it we end up
expanding beyond recognition.  Reliable sources are fine but deciding on
the reliability of a source itself requires a point of view. Calling
something original research ends up more a weapon than a valid criticism.

Ray

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Fred Bauder-2
In reply to this post by Ray Saintonge
I have initiated a discussion at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:Neutral_point_of_view#The_.27Undue_Weight.27_of_Truth_on_Wikipedia

It is there that any refinement of the policy and how it is properly
applied can possibly be resolved. I note that the article in question
still does not contain information regarding the evidence presented at
the trial.

Fred


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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Mark
In reply to this post by Ray Saintonge
On 2/20/12 10:39 AM, Ray Saintonge wrote:
> As Mark has said, some subjects are highly vulnerable to recentism,
> but one shouldn't expect that with a historical article about events
> from 1886.

I agree it's more of a problem in some areas than others, but I think it
also often applies as a heuristic to history as well: many revisionist
proposals never succeed in revising the mainstream historical narrative.
The fact that they're published in a journal simply means that several
peers thought it was a legitimate proposal worth publishing, not
necessarily that it's going to become the new majority view.

I even ran into a recent example in classics while editing on Wikipedia.
A paper was published in 1985 challenging the standard account of a
Roman fellow's death, [[en:Marcus Marius Gratidianus]], which I dug up
and suggested we use it to revise our (older) traditional narrative. But
then some more searching dug up late-1980s and early-1990s papers that
defended the traditional narrative, and from what I can tell that 1985
paper is now considered an intriguing suggestion but unlikely to be
correct, or partially correct at best.

But what if the year were 1985 and those responses hadn't come out yet?
How do we determine if that paper's new findings are the new mainstream
narrative, or just an interesting proposal, worth mentioning as a
minority view, but ultimately unpersuasive? In hindsight, updating the
article in 1985 to anoint this as the new scholarly view would've been
premature, because it never did get accepted by the rest of the field.
The only real answer seems to be "wait a few years and let it percolate
through the literature", and my only guess at a faster alternative is to
have experts in the field who can make some kind of educated guess as to
which revisionist proposals are likely to ultimately succeed. I think
it's a hard problem in general.

-Mark


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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

David Goodman-2
The one thing experts in a field are not good at, is predicting the
success of innovative material. If it were of predictable value, it
wouldn't be revisionist. Experts can tell is something fits into the
accepted paradigms; they can tell if something is so wrong with
respect to soundly known facts that is is very unlikely to be true,
they can even tell if they individually agree with a new proposal--but
they cannot tell what is outside the current boundaries but the field
as a whole will accept, or how many years or decades it will take for
such acceptance, or how long the acceptance will last until the next
reversal.

To the extent experts can judge the new work, we do not need them to
tell us on Wikipedia directly, overturning the principle that all
editors are equal; a new work of any importance will have reviews and
commentaries on it, and that's where the experts will have their say,
and where any editor can find and cite them, as is the established
practice.  We do need to cover such reviews more than we currently do;
if experts come to a talk page and indicate these to us, we can
include them.

Unfortunately, in the humanities such reviews can take several years
to arrive--though sometimes there will be an immediate discussion in
academic magazines,whether specialist ones or  general sources such as
 the (UK)  Times Higher Education or the  (US) Chronicle of Higher
Education. Perhaps we should even consider the use of some of the most
accepted blogs for the purpose also.

But we should at least give some mention to peer-reviewed materials
published by a major academic publisher--so at least the readers can
know of it and examine it for themselves.

On Mon, Feb 20, 2012 at 11:32 AM, Delirium <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 2/20/12 10:39 AM, Ray Saintonge wrote:
>>
>> As Mark has said, some subjects are highly vulnerable to recentism, but
>> one shouldn't expect that with a historical article about events from 1886.
>
>
> I agree it's more of a problem in some areas than others, but I think it
> also often applies as a heuristic to history as well: many revisionist
> proposals never succeed in revising the mainstream historical narrative. The
> fact that they're published in a journal simply means that several peers
> thought it was a legitimate proposal worth publishing, not necessarily that
> it's going to become the new majority view.
>
> I even ran into a recent example in classics while editing on Wikipedia. A
> paper was published in 1985 challenging the standard account of a Roman
> fellow's death, [[en:Marcus Marius Gratidianus]], which I dug up and
> suggested we use it to revise our (older) traditional narrative. But then
> some more searching dug up late-1980s and early-1990s papers that defended
> the traditional narrative, and from what I can tell that 1985 paper is now
> considered an intriguing suggestion but unlikely to be correct, or partially
> correct at best.
>
> But what if the year were 1985 and those responses hadn't come out yet? How
> do we determine if that paper's new findings are the new mainstream
> narrative, or just an interesting proposal, worth mentioning as a minority
> view, but ultimately unpersuasive? In hindsight, updating the article in
> 1985 to anoint this as the new scholarly view would've been premature,
> because it never did get accepted by the rest of the field. The only real
> answer seems to be "wait a few years and let it percolate through the
> literature", and my only guess at a faster alternative is to have experts in
> the field who can make some kind of educated guess as to which revisionist
> proposals are likely to ultimately succeed. I think it's a hard problem in
> general.
>
> -Mark
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l



--
David Goodman

DGG at the enWP
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:DGG
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:DGG

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

George William Herbert
In reply to this post by Mike Godwin-2
On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 5:48 PM, Mike Godwin <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Fred Bauder writes:
>
>> I think it probably seems to climate change deniers that excluding
>> political opinions from science-based articles on global warming is a
>> violation of neutral point of view, and of basic fairness. That is just
>> one example, but there are other similar situations.
>
> This analogy is breathtakingly unpersuasive. Apart from the fact that
> consensus about scientific theory is not analogous to consensus about
> the historical records of particular events, climate-change-denial
> theory is actually discussed quite thoroughly on Wikipedia. Plus, the
> author of the op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education doesn't seem
> at all like climate-change deniers.
>
> If there is something specific you want to suggest about the author --
> that he's agenda-driven, that his work is unreliable, or that the
> journal in which he published the article is not a reliable source --
> then I think equity requires that you declare why you doubt or dismiss
> his article.
>
> I read the article in the Chronicle pretty carefully. The author's
> experience struck me as an example of a pattern that may account for
> the flattening of the growth curve in new editors as well as for some
> other phenomena. As you may rememember, Andrew Lih conducted a
> presentation on "the policy thicket" at Wikimania almost five years
> ago. The wielding of policy by long-term editors, plus the rewriting
> of the policy so that it is used to undercut NPOV rather than preserve
> it, strikes me as worth talking about. Dismissing it out of hand, or
> analogizing it to climate-change denial, undercuts my trust in the
> Wikipedian process rather than reinforces it.
>
>
> --Mike

Let me make an observation -

The post-facto probability of 1.0 that the researcher was in fact
professional, credible, and by all accounts right does not mean that a
priori he should automatically have been treated that way before the
situation was clarified.

By far the majority of people who come up and "buck the system" or
challenge established knowledge in this manner are, in fact, kooks or
people with an agenda.  This started - as others have pointed out -
with a few fields where this is narrowly but clearly established, but
has been successfully generalized.

Let us acknowledge some obvious truths here, that we had bad info in
an article, that we had a scholar unfamiliar with WP process whose
first attempt to correct it went somewhat (but not horrifically)
wrong, that the engagement of a number of WP editors/administrators
failed to identify the credibility of the scholar and wrongness of the
info.

To simply toss UNDUE in response seems a mistake.  UNDUE is, every
day, actively helping us fight off crap trying to fling itself into
WP.

Valid questions, to me, seem to include whether the editors simply
failed to notice they were arguing with a subject matter expert
history professor and asking for a shrubbery rather than assisting the
guy through the rats nest of WP policy, whether the editors had any
preexisting biases that may have slanted their engagement here,
whether the editors had histories of inappropriate responses to less
experienced editors.

I think the answers to the last two are no; I don't know about one.

If the answer to one is "yes", then "These things happen" is an
explanation but not an excuse, and should be a prompt to help us all
get better at detecting that.  These things do happen, but should not.
 These things do happen, but we should expect better on the average.


--
-george william herbert
[hidden email]

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Mike Godwin-2
On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 6:35 PM, George Herbert
<[hidden email]> wrote:

> If the answer to one is "yes", then "These things happen" is an
> explanation but not an excuse, and should be a prompt to help us all
> get better at detecting that.  These things do happen, but should not.
>  These things do happen, but we should expect better on the average.

Apart from the question of whether this particular article -- on the
Haymarket bombing -- has been hurt by editors' ill-considered
application of UNDUE, there's the larger question of what it means for
our credibility when a very respected journal, The Chronicle of Higher
Education, features an op-ed that outlines, in very convincing detail,
what happens when a subject-matter expert attempts to play the rules
and is still slapped down. If I thought this author's experience is
rare, I wouldn't be troubled by it. But as someone who frequently
fielded complaints from folks who were not tendentious kooks, my
impression is that it is not rare, and that the language of UNDUE --
as it exists today -- ends up being leveraged in a way that hurts
Wikipedia both informationally and reputationally.


--Mike

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Mike Godwin-2
In reply to this post by George William Herbert
I should add a response on this point:

On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 6:35 PM, George Herbert
<[hidden email]> wrote:

> The post-facto probability of 1.0 that the researcher was in fact
> professional, credible, and by all accounts right does not mean that a
> priori he should automatically have been treated that way before the
> situation was clarified.

Should we declare that "Assume Good Faith" is now a dead letter?

> By far the majority of people who come up and "buck the system" or
> challenge established knowledge in this manner are, in fact, kooks or
> people with an agenda.

To me the interesting thing is that this author did not "buck the
system." It seems clear he attempted to learn the system and abide by
the system's rules. If someone goes to the trouble he went to, getting
an article published in a peer-reviewed journal, then citing it in his
editing of the Wikipedia article, what else could he have done,
precisely?

If we pass over this and classify it as an anomaly, then I think the
very best thing that can be said is that this is a missed opportunity
to review UNDUE specifically, and, more generally, the problem of
policy ambiguity and complexity as a barrier to entry for new,
knowledgeable, good-faith editors.


--Mike

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

George William Herbert
In reply to this post by Mike Godwin-2
On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 6:48 PM, Mike Godwin <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 6:35 PM, George Herbert
> <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>> If the answer to one is "yes", then "These things happen" is an
>> explanation but not an excuse, and should be a prompt to help us all
>> get better at detecting that.  These things do happen, but should not.
>>  These things do happen, but we should expect better on the average.
>
> Apart from the question of whether this particular article -- on the
> Haymarket bombing -- has been hurt by editors' ill-considered
> application of UNDUE, there's the larger question of what it means for
> our credibility when a very respected journal, The Chronicle of Higher
> Education, features an op-ed that outlines, in very convincing detail,
> what happens when a subject-matter expert attempts to play the rules
> and is still slapped down. If I thought this author's experience is
> rare, I wouldn't be troubled by it. But as someone who frequently
> fielded complaints from folks who were not tendentious kooks, my
> impression is that it is not rare, and that the language of UNDUE --
> as it exists today -- ends up being leveraged in a way that hurts
> Wikipedia both informationally and reputationally.

Any policy - or policy change - we can think of will have unforseen
consequences.  It will somewhere between partly and largely be
interpreted, on the fly, often alone, by editors who are tired or not
paying 100% attention when they apply it.  Some of the applying
editors will have a lack of long-term Wikipedia history and knowledge
to draw on, a lack of insight into the policy implications, etc.  Some
will have personal agendas or biases.

I am not you, and neither have worked for the Foundation nor been
quite as intimately involved in the higher level "public policy"
around internet information and academia as you have for the 20-plus
years ...  That said, I have somewhat of a grounding in these issues
and am comfortable with calling for help or wider attention if I reach
my comfort zone on individual issues; I've been on OTRS (and
technically still are, though I'm inactive at the moment), and a
number of on-and-off wiki contacts of some sort.

Is it possible that you being Mike Godwin is leading to a selection
bias, where a large fraction of the actual experts with actual
problems with process who did anything about it came to or through you
on their way to solving or reporting the problem?

I believe that we're seeing legitimate experts driven away.  Perhaps
its as often as daily.  I know is that I see something (that usually
gets eventually resolved constructively) about once a month, a few of
which (annually?) get big press of some sort.

On a roughly daily basis, when I'm active on-wiki, I run into people
in the less qualified to outright kook realm who are attempting to
impersonate a legitimate expert.

It seems that there are a large surplus of the latter, and only a few
of the former, statistically.  Assuming that's accurate, that should
inform the policy discussion.


--
-george william herbert
[hidden email]

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Mike Christie
In reply to this post by Mike Godwin-2
On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 9:48 PM, Mike Godwin <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Apart from the question of whether this particular article -- on the
> Haymarket bombing -- has been hurt by editors' ill-considered
> application of UNDUE, there's the larger question of what it means for
> our credibility when a very respected journal, The Chronicle of Higher
> Education, features an op-ed that outlines, in very convincing detail,
> what happens when a subject-matter expert attempts to play the rules
> and is still slapped down. If I thought this author's experience is
> rare, I wouldn't be troubled by it. But as someone who frequently
> fielded complaints from folks who were not tendentious kooks, my
> impression is that it is not rare, and that the language of UNDUE --
> as it exists today -- ends up being leveraged in a way that hurts
> Wikipedia both informationally and reputationally.
>

Do you have specific ideas either as to what is wrong with the current
language, or what it should be changed to say?

Mike
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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Mike Godwin-2
In reply to this post by George William Herbert
On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 7:06 PM, George Herbert
<[hidden email]> wrote:

> Any policy - or policy change - we can think of will have unforseen
> consequences.

I agree with you. But we can't let this paralyze us in responding to a
problem that is no longer "unforeseen," but that in fact has occurred.
At minimum, the Haymarket article ought to edited to accommodate a
well-documented minority scholarly analysis -- surely we agree about
that.

> Is it possible that you being Mike Godwin is leading to a selection
> bias, where a large fraction of the actual experts with actual
> problems with process who did anything about it came to or through you
> on their way to solving or reporting the problem?

It's entirely possible. But it happens with enough frequency for me to
be able to articulate a credible hypothesis that this is happening too
often. Certainly there's no "selection bias" problem associated with
the sheer fact of the Chronicle of Higher Education article itself --
its existence is something that nobody here disputes, regardless of
how we interpret it. And I think there is a second hypothesis that is
also credible, which is that the Chronicle article very likely hurts
Wikipedia reputationally.

> It seems that there are a large surplus of the latter, and only a few
> of the former, statistically.  Assuming that's accurate, that should
> inform the policy discussion.

Certainly.


--Mike

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Fred Bauder-2
In reply to this post by Mike Christie
> On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 9:48 PM, Mike Godwin <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>> Apart from the question of whether this particular article -- on the
>> Haymarket bombing -- has been hurt by editors' ill-considered
>> application of UNDUE, there's the larger question of what it means for
>> our credibility when a very respected journal, The Chronicle of Higher
>> Education, features an op-ed that outlines, in very convincing detail,
>> what happens when a subject-matter expert attempts to play the rules
>> and is still slapped down. If I thought this author's experience is
>> rare, I wouldn't be troubled by it. But as someone who frequently
>> fielded complaints from folks who were not tendentious kooks, my
>> impression is that it is not rare, and that the language of UNDUE --
>> as it exists today -- ends up being leveraged in a way that hurts
>> Wikipedia both informationally and reputationally.
>>
>
> Do you have specific ideas either as to what is wrong with the current
> language, or what it should be changed to say?
>
> Mike

Would any of you consider joining the discussion at

Wikipedia_talk:Neutral_point_of_view#The_.27Undue_Weight.27_of_Truth_on_Wikipedia

I've probably gotten it off to a bad start, and perhaps that is not the
place to discuss the policy, but I suspect it is.

Fred



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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

George William Herbert
In reply to this post by Mike Godwin-2
On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 7:04 PM, Mike Godwin <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I should add a response on this point:
>
> On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 6:35 PM, George Herbert
> <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>> The post-facto probability of 1.0 that the researcher was in fact
>> professional, credible, and by all accounts right does not mean that a
>> priori he should automatically have been treated that way before the
>> situation was clarified.
>
> Should we declare that "Assume Good Faith" is now a dead letter?

No.  But in day-to-day operations, AGF has fallen somewhat in
prominence for the simple reason that a lot of the time someone brings
it up, it's after credible evidence is already in hand of bad faith
actions.

AGF is not a suicide pact; we cannot insist that each and every kook
or fringeist gets to waste a man-days worth of Wikipedian senior
volunteer time every day that they're active.  There simply aren't
enough senior volunteers to go around to do that.  The policy - as
implemented, if not as written - has to acknowledge that reasonable
provisions for defending the encyclopedia, that work and are
sustainable over months, years, and heading into decades are a
necessary function of the encyclopedia.

If you unbalance the defense of the encyclopedia attempting to right
another wrong, we all lose.

>> By far the majority of people who come up and "buck the system" or
>> challenge established knowledge in this manner are, in fact, kooks or
>> people with an agenda.
>
> To me the interesting thing is that this author did not "buck the
> system." It seems clear he attempted to learn the system and abide by
> the system's rules. If someone goes to the trouble he went to, getting
> an article published in a peer-reviewed journal, then citing it in his
> editing of the Wikipedia article, what else could he have done,
> precisely?
>
> If we pass over this and classify it as an anomaly, then I think the
> very best thing that can be said is that this is a missed opportunity
> to review UNDUE specifically, and, more generally, the problem of
> policy ambiguity and complexity as a barrier to entry for new,
> knowledgeable, good-faith editors.

I don't think this is an anomaly, in terms of being rare (I think it
happens dozens of times a year at least, perhaps daily-ish) or
unusual.

I think it is an anomaly, in the sense that 3,000 senior editors dealt
with 10,000 problems that day, and got one (all things considered)
slightly horribly wrong.

Again, it's balance.  If we just twist the knob the other way, we
start to let crap in.  Some of the crap in - such as the Seigenthaler
fabrications - is as much or more of a problem than good or fixes kept
out.

You can say "Just turn the response quality level up", which is all
fine and good, but it's a volunteer organization, done again by people
with free time (or after work, on breaks, etc; and often tired, or
working fast).  Realistically, either we turn the knob on number of
problems reviewed, or on the threshold for handling something; either
of those lets more crap in.

Again, this is not an excuse for someone having gotten it wrong here.
But real life activities accept error rates.  Some journalists in war
zones step in front of friendly fire bullets; police in the US shoot
innocent people at a non-zero rate.  Surgeons make mistakes and kill
people.  Journalists make errors of fact or citation.  Scientists make
data collection, logical, or other errors.

We need to be aware going into a deeper discussion of what tradeoffs
are involved.

That should not lead to paralysis.  The discussion is useful and
change may be beneficial.  The problem you're calling out is real.
But it should be informed discussion and change.


--
-george william herbert
[hidden email]

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

David Gerard-2
In reply to this post by Mike Godwin-2
On 22 February 2012 03:04, Mike Godwin <[hidden email]> wrote:
> On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 6:35 PM, George Herbert
> <[hidden email]> wrote:

>> The post-facto probability of 1.0 that the researcher was in fact
>> professional, credible, and by all accounts right does not mean that a
>> priori he should automatically have been treated that way before the
>> situation was clarified.

> Should we declare that "Assume Good Faith" is now a dead letter?


It's been dead for new editors for a while. New editors are assumed to
be a problem, to be processed as quickly as possible with Twinkle or
similar in the manner of a processed cheese slice. "Assume good faith"
is what the processors then say when the newbie protests at being
treated in this manner.


- d.


- d.

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Peter Gervai-5
In reply to this post by George William Herbert
On Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 03:35, George Herbert <[hidden email]> wrote:

> By far the majority of people who come up and "buck the system" or
> challenge established knowledge in this manner are, in fact, kooks or
> people with an agenda.  This started - as others have pointed out -
> with a few fields where this is narrowly but clearly established, but
> has been successfully generalized.
>
> Let us acknowledge some obvious truths here, that we had bad info in
> an article, that we had a scholar unfamiliar with WP process whose
> first attempt to correct it went somewhat (but not horrifically)
> wrong, that the engagement of a number of WP editors/administrators
> failed to identify the credibility of the scholar and wrongness of the
> info.
>
> To simply toss UNDUE in response seems a mistake.  UNDUE is, every
> day, actively helping us fight off crap trying to fling itself into
> WP.

Okay, I preacknowledge that this is not a "solution" but for me it
seems that the problem is to differentiate kooks from experts in
regard of not widespread information or selfmade but published
research which is important for the articles etc.

So far editors have a tool, UNDUE, to hush away kooks. I'd envision an
IAMEXPERT template which would inform the editors that the expert in
question considers himself an acknowledged expert (and therefore there
are other experts who consider him one), the information was in fact
peer reviewed and would kindly ask the editors to allocate a bit more
consideration.

What if the template is used by kooks? Well, they should somehow back
up the facts, how are they acknowledged as experts, what kind of peer
review happened, and most importantly establish why the "minority
fact" is important. Do the kooks they fight against possessing proof
of their expertise in the field? Do they have reviewed sources? If
yes, this hack wouldn't even work. But if all the kooks are just
selfmade evangelists of kookery they'll simply fail to prove their
right. The template would be just a request for the editors to
strongly consider the appropriateness of UNDUE. Could be nicely
phrased and offer the background. A tool for the other side.

grin

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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Achal Prabhala-2


On Wednesday 22 February 2012 01:36 PM, Peter Gervai wrote:

> On Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 03:35, George Herbert<[hidden email]>  wrote:
>
>> By far the majority of people who come up and "buck the system" or
>> challenge established knowledge in this manner are, in fact, kooks or
>> people with an agenda.  This started - as others have pointed out -
>> with a few fields where this is narrowly but clearly established, but
>> has been successfully generalized.
>>
>> Let us acknowledge some obvious truths here, that we had bad info in
>> an article, that we had a scholar unfamiliar with WP process whose
>> first attempt to correct it went somewhat (but not horrifically)
>> wrong, that the engagement of a number of WP editors/administrators
>> failed to identify the credibility of the scholar and wrongness of the
>> info.
>>
>> To simply toss UNDUE in response seems a mistake.  UNDUE is, every
>> day, actively helping us fight off crap trying to fling itself into
>> WP.
> Okay, I preacknowledge that this is not a "solution" but for me it
> seems that the problem is to differentiate kooks from experts in
> regard of not widespread information or selfmade but published
> research which is important for the articles etc.
>
> So far editors have a tool, UNDUE, to hush away kooks. I'd envision an
> IAMEXPERT template which would inform the editors that the expert in
> question considers himself an acknowledged expert (and therefore there
> are other experts who consider him one), the information was in fact
> peer reviewed and would kindly ask the editors to allocate a bit more
> consideration.
>
> What if the template is used by kooks? Well, they should somehow back
> up the facts, how are they acknowledged as experts, what kind of peer
> review happened, and most importantly establish why the "minority
> fact" is important. Do the kooks they fight against possessing proof
> of their expertise in the field? Do they have reviewed sources? If
> yes, this hack wouldn't even work. But if all the kooks are just
> selfmade evangelists of kookery they'll simply fail to prove their
> right. The template would be just a request for the editors to
> strongly consider the appropriateness of UNDUE. Could be nicely
> phrased and offer the background. A tool for the other side.
>
> grin


Jokes aside :) the problem here is exemplary of what Wikipedia *doesn't*
do well, which is to find ways to assess the legitimacy of
not-yet-legitimised knowledge - whether the 'truth' is new analysis
backed up by serious scholarship (as in this case), or things that have
not yet made it to reliable print scholarship (knowledge that's
circulated orally, whether in conversations or social media). The core
of the problem would appear to be our insistence on the narrowest and
smallest possible definition of 'legitimate knowledge'. And I'd imagine
that the solution is to find a workable, sensible and cross-culturally
translatable version of legitimacy that is a lot better, bigger and more
generous than what we have.


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Re: The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Peter Gervai-5
On Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 09:32, Achal Prabhala <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Jokes aside :) the problem here is exemplary of what Wikipedia *doesn't* do
> well, which is to find ways to assess the legitimacy of not-yet-legitimised
> knowledge - whether the 'truth' is new analysis backed up by serious
> scholarship (as in this case), or things that have not yet made it to
> reliable print scholarship (knowledge that's circulated orally, whether in
> conversations or social media). The core of the problem would appear to be
> our insistence on the narrowest and smallest possible definition of
> 'legitimate knowledge'. And I'd imagine that the solution is to find a
> workable, sensible and cross-culturally translatable version of legitimacy
> that is a lot better, bigger and more generous than what we have.

Thank you, that is a well phrased description of what I wanted to write.

--
 byte-byte,
    grin

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