"The problem with Wikipedia..."

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"The problem with Wikipedia..."

Sue Gardner-2
"The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in theory. It could
never work in practice."

I've seen that quote attributed to Jimmy, and also to Miikka Ryokas,
quoted by Noam Cohen in his NY Times story about Virginia Tech. But
neither of them, I think, originated it.

Does anyone have a good attribution for first use of that quote?  (I'm
using it in a presentation and want to attribute if I can.)

Thanks,
Sue




--
Sue Gardner
Executive Director
Wikimedia Foundation

415 839 6885 office
415 816 9967 cell

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in
the sum of all knowledge.  Help us make it a reality!

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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

Dan Rosenthal
Isn't the quote backwards? "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. It could never work in theory"?

-Dan
On Jun 17, 2010, at 4:03 PM, Sue Gardner wrote:

> "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in theory. It could
> never work in practice."
>
> I've seen that quote attributed to Jimmy, and also to Miikka Ryokas,
> quoted by Noam Cohen in his NY Times story about Virginia Tech. But
> neither of them, I think, originated it.
>
> Does anyone have a good attribution for first use of that quote?  (I'm
> using it in a presentation and want to attribute if I can.)
>
> Thanks,
> Sue
>
>
>
>
> --
> Sue Gardner
> Executive Director
> Wikimedia Foundation
>
> 415 839 6885 office
> 415 816 9967 cell
>
> Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in
> the sum of all knowledge.  Help us make it a reality!
>
> http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l


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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

Jon Harald Søby
Yes, it's communism that works in theory but not in practice. :-)

2010/6/17 Dan Rosenthal <[hidden email]>

> Isn't the quote backwards? "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only
> works in practice. It could never work in theory"?
>
> -Dan
> On Jun 17, 2010, at 4:03 PM, Sue Gardner wrote:
>
> > "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in theory. It could
> > never work in practice."
> >
> > I've seen that quote attributed to Jimmy, and also to Miikka Ryokas,
> > quoted by Noam Cohen in his NY Times story about Virginia Tech. But
> > neither of them, I think, originated it.
> >
> > Does anyone have a good attribution for first use of that quote?  (I'm
> > using it in a presentation and want to attribute if I can.)
> >
> > Thanks,
> > Sue
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Sue Gardner
> > Executive Director
> > Wikimedia Foundation
> >
> > 415 839 6885 office
> > 415 816 9967 cell
> >
> > Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in
> > the sum of all knowledge.  Help us make it a reality!
> >
> > http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > foundation-l mailing list
> > [hidden email]
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>



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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

Pharos-3
This is the best source of the "zeroth law" of Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Raul654/Raul%27s_laws#Laws_by_others

I believe people have tried to track down the original coiner, but
noone really knows.

Thanks,
Pharos

2010/6/17 Jon Harald Søby <[hidden email]>:

> Yes, it's communism that works in theory but not in practice. :-)
>
> 2010/6/17 Dan Rosenthal <[hidden email]>
>
>> Isn't the quote backwards? "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only
>> works in practice. It could never work in theory"?
>>
>> -Dan
>> On Jun 17, 2010, at 4:03 PM, Sue Gardner wrote:
>>
>> > "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in theory. It could
>> > never work in practice."
>> >
>> > I've seen that quote attributed to Jimmy, and also to Miikka Ryokas,
>> > quoted by Noam Cohen in his NY Times story about Virginia Tech. But
>> > neither of them, I think, originated it.
>> >
>> > Does anyone have a good attribution for first use of that quote?  (I'm
>> > using it in a presentation and want to attribute if I can.)
>> >
>> > Thanks,
>> > Sue
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > --
>> > Sue Gardner
>> > Executive Director
>> > Wikimedia Foundation
>> >
>> > 415 839 6885 office
>> > 415 816 9967 cell
>> >
>> > Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in
>> > the sum of all knowledge.  Help us make it a reality!
>> >
>> > http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate
>> >
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > foundation-l mailing list
>> > [hidden email]
>> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>>
>>
>> _______________________________________________
>> foundation-l mailing list
>> [hidden email]
>> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>>
>
>
>
> --
> Jon Harald Søby
> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Jon_Harald_S%C3%B8by
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
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> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>

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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

David Gerard-2
In reply to this post by Dan Rosenthal
On 17 June 2010 21:07, Dan Rosenthal <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Isn't the quote backwards? "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. It could never work in theory"?


I vaguely remember it on wikien-l many years ago. I have no idea if
that was its first use.


- d.

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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

Michael Snow-3
In reply to this post by Dan Rosenthal
Dan Rosenthal wrote:
> Isn't the quote backwards? "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. It could never work in theory"?
>  
It can be formulated various ways. Raul's Laws has yet another variation:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Raul654/Raul%27s_laws

I'd note that in the history of that page, it dates back to March 2006
and even then the original author was listed as unknown. That makes it
exactly the sort of quote that is easily misattributed to Winston
Churchill or Abraham Lincoln.

--Michael Snow

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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

David Gerard-2
Here's the phrase in a 1988 sociology paper:

http://jpart.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/pdf_extract/1/1/19

I'd call it a pretty obvious play on words, though, so I really doubt
we got it from that.

Anyone got a complete wikien-l archive to grovel through?


- d.

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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

geni
In reply to this post by Michael Snow-3
On 17 June 2010 21:14, Michael Snow <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Dan Rosenthal wrote:
>> Isn't the quote backwards? "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. It could never work in theory"?
>>
> It can be formulated various ways. Raul's Laws has yet another variation:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Raul654/Raul%27s_laws
>
> I'd note that in the history of that page, it dates back to March 2006
> and even then the original author was listed as unknown. That makes it
> exactly the sort of quote that is easily misattributed to Winston
> Churchill or Abraham Lincoln.
>
> --Michael Snow

"The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. In
theory, it's a total disaster"

goes back to jan 2006

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Gareth_Owen&oldid=35978744

--
geni

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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

phoebe ayers-3
In reply to this post by David Gerard-2
On Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 1:19 PM, David Gerard <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Here's the phrase in a 1988 sociology paper:
>
> http://jpart.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/pdf_extract/1/1/19
>
> I'd call it a pretty obvious play on words, though, so I really doubt
> we got it from that.
>
> Anyone got a complete wikien-l archive to grovel through?
>
>
> - d.

going back that far it might be on wikipedia-l, I think, and Joseph
Reagle has done quite a bit of work analyzing that -- maybe he can
help. We're looking for the orgins of the quote: "The problem with
Wikipedia is that it only works in theory. It could
never work in practice."

:)
-- phoebe

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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

phoebe ayers-3
On Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 1:37 PM, phoebe ayers <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 1:19 PM, David Gerard <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> Here's the phrase in a 1988 sociology paper:
>>
>> http://jpart.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/pdf_extract/1/1/19
>>
>> I'd call it a pretty obvious play on words, though, so I really doubt
>> we got it from that.
>>
>> Anyone got a complete wikien-l archive to grovel through?
>>
>>
>> - d.
>
> going back that far it might be on wikipedia-l, I think, and Joseph
> Reagle has done quite a bit of work analyzing that -- maybe he can
> help. We're looking for the orgins of the quote: "The problem with
> Wikipedia is that it only works in theory. It could
> never work in practice."
>
> :)
> -- phoebe

Actually, the other way around, as others have stated.

Now that you mention it, I've seen that quote attributed to Gareth
Owen before, so that may actually be the origin of it. I think it's
quite a bit older than 2006 though.

-- phoebe

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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

mike.lifeguard
In reply to this post by Jon Harald Søby
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

> Yes, it's communism that works in theory but not in practice. :-)

But isn't Wikipedia Communism?

It must be true, I saw it written so on Wikipedia! :D

- -Mike
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iEYEARECAAYFAkwaiLoACgkQst0AR/DaKHvUXgCbBY+yHj/W+Z5slPOBMLhCfyxs
XYoAn18fKr6W3bX3O3y8Csw3STMY0ZUW
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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

geni
In reply to this post by phoebe ayers-3
On 17 June 2010 21:37, phoebe ayers <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 1:19 PM, David Gerard <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> Here's the phrase in a 1988 sociology paper:
>>
>> http://jpart.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/pdf_extract/1/1/19
>>
>> I'd call it a pretty obvious play on words, though, so I really doubt
>> we got it from that.
>>
>> Anyone got a complete wikien-l archive to grovel through?
>>
>>
>> - d.
>
> going back that far it might be on wikipedia-l, I think, and Joseph
> Reagle has done quite a bit of work analyzing that -- maybe he can
> help. We're looking for the orgins of the quote: "The problem with
> Wikipedia is that it only works in theory. It could
> never work in practice."

Well I can search wikipedia-en-l as far back as 13.09.04 and I'm not
coming up with anything. Running google searches for mentions pre 2006
doesn't turn up anything however use explodes in 2006 which is rather
fast if than jan 2006 use is the first.



--
geni

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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

Ziko van Dijk
Hello,

I could imagine that such a statement, in a different form, comes
originally from socialist or anti-socialist circles.

By the way, I am not such a big fan of this seemingly witty remark. If
there is a conflict between theory and practice, that means that your
theory is bad and has to be adjusted to practice. (In Soviet Union it
was the other way round, reality had to be shaped conforming to the
theory, that's why I believe the idea comes from somewhere there.)

If your theory is that Wikipedia is anarchy and creative chaos and
swarm intelligence etc., then, of course, Wikipedia does not work in
theory. :-)

Kind regards
Ziko


2010/6/17 geni <[hidden email]>:

> On 17 June 2010 21:37, phoebe ayers <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> On Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 1:19 PM, David Gerard <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>> Here's the phrase in a 1988 sociology paper:
>>>
>>> http://jpart.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/pdf_extract/1/1/19
>>>
>>> I'd call it a pretty obvious play on words, though, so I really doubt
>>> we got it from that.
>>>
>>> Anyone got a complete wikien-l archive to grovel through?
>>>
>>>
>>> - d.
>>
>> going back that far it might be on wikipedia-l, I think, and Joseph
>> Reagle has done quite a bit of work analyzing that -- maybe he can
>> help. We're looking for the orgins of the quote: "The problem with
>> Wikipedia is that it only works in theory. It could
>> never work in practice."
>
> Well I can search wikipedia-en-l as far back as 13.09.04 and I'm not
> coming up with anything. Running google searches for mentions pre 2006
> doesn't turn up anything however use explodes in 2006 which is rather
> fast if than jan 2006 use is the first.
>
>
>
> --
> geni
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>



--
Ziko van Dijk
Niederlande

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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

Sue Gardner
In reply to this post by Dan Rosenthal
Ha. Yes, of course :-)

-----Original Message-----
From: Dan Rosenthal <[hidden email]>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2010 16:07:59
To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List<[hidden email]>
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] "The problem with Wikipedia..."

Isn't the quote backwards? "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. It could never work in theory"?

-Dan
On Jun 17, 2010, at 4:03 PM, Sue Gardner wrote:

> "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in theory. It could
> never work in practice."
>
> I've seen that quote attributed to Jimmy, and also to Miikka Ryokas,
> quoted by Noam Cohen in his NY Times story about Virginia Tech. But
> neither of them, I think, originated it.
>
> Does anyone have a good attribution for first use of that quote?  (I'm
> using it in a presentation and want to attribute if I can.)
>
> Thanks,
> Sue
>
>
>
>
> --
> Sue Gardner
> Executive Director
> Wikimedia Foundation
>
> 415 839 6885 office
> 415 816 9967 cell
>
> Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in
> the sum of all knowledge.  Help us make it a reality!
>
> http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l


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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

Platonides
In reply to this post by geni
geni wrote:
> Well I can search wikipedia-en-l as far back as 13.09.04 and I'm not
> coming up with anything. Running google searches for mentions pre 2006
> doesn't turn up anything however use explodes in 2006 which is rather
> fast if than jan 2006 use is the first.

I grepped for it in foundation-l, wikien-l and wikipedia-l archives but
found nothing.

BTW, it seems we dropped our archives of intlwiki-l.
Info-de-l, spamtest-l and the odd jason-l and jason2-l lists.



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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

Sue Gardner
In reply to this post by phoebe ayers-3
Thank you all! Very helpful. I'll attribute it to Gareth, and note that it's passed into widespread use.

Thanks,
Sue
-----Original Message-----
From: Joseph Reagle <[hidden email]>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2010 18:39:41
To: phoebe ayers<[hidden email]>
Cc: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List<[hidden email]>; Sage Ross<[hidden email]>; Sue Gardner<[hidden email]>
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] "The problem with Wikipedia..."

On Thursday, June 17, 2010, phoebe ayers wrote:
> Actually, the other way around, as others have stated.
>
> Now that you mention it, I've seen that quote attributed to Gareth
> Owen before, so that may actually be the origin of it. I think it's
> quite a bit older than 2006 though.

A wonderful question and one I've been interested in since I think such aphorisms have an interesting normative power (e.g., some others include [a]). Of course scholars, at least, like it so much *because* it shows that the theory is incomplete and hence is grist for their mills, i.e., new theory! :-)

I can't provide a provenance any more specific than already noted (i.e., appearing on Gareth Owen's user page) and I always found it ironically apt that such a prominent statement about Wikipedia is attributed to an anonymous. (If anyone knows Owen, please ask!) However, here's a bit of a time-line, I think it certainly spread as a meme in wider circles thanks to Cohen at the NYT.

20060120: Gareth Owen's user page [1].
20060321: Raul654's adds it to his laws [2].
20070423: Noam Cohen reference in NYT [3].
20070501: Quoted in Wikizine [4].
20070613: Sage Ross refers to it as old hat a few months later in response to popular Britannica blog entry [5].
20080106: Cohen references it again [6].

[a]:http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/archived_content/people/reagle/inet-quotations-19990709.html
[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Gareth_Owen&oldid=35978744
[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Raul654/Raul%27s_laws&oldid=44834502
[3]: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/23/technology/23link.html
[4]: http://en.wikizine.org/2007/05/year-2007-week-18-number-69.html
[5]: http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2007/06/authority-of-a-new-kind/
[6]: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/06/books/06cohenintro.html
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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
In reply to this post by Pharos-3
Pharos wrote:
> This is the best source of the "zeroth law" of Wikipedia:
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Raul654/Raul%27s_laws#Laws_by_others
>
> I believe people have tried to track down the original coiner, but
> noone really knows.
>
>
>  

The "original" original of the concept itself is of course
"The Flight of the Bumblebee", with a related concept
being the centipede losing track of it's legs, when it
begins trying to "think through" what it is doing with
them.

<old skool anecdote warning>

In actual fact I employed this kind of formulation to
rebut New Media pundit Teppo Turkki (think of him
as the Finnish equivalent of Andrew Keene, and you
won't go too far wrong) in a debate here in Finland,
in the mid 1990's, on the subject of the future of the
Internet.

My opinion was that eventually, with the passage of
time the Internet would not be "The Net of a Million
Lies" anymore, at least in terms of any idea that had
been debated exhaustively on the web, though new
lies would regularly sprout of course.

Teppo Turkki attempted to just completely pooh-pooh
the very idea, saying "That might be the way it works
in theory, but in practise... "

To which I replied lightning fast that in fact, "It could
never in fact work in theory, but practical experience
has showed otherwise."

</old skool>


Yours,

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen


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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
In reply to this post by Platonides
Platonides wrote:

> geni wrote:
>  
>> Well I can search wikipedia-en-l as far back as 13.09.04 and I'm not
>> coming up with anything. Running google searches for mentions pre 2006
>> doesn't turn up anything however use explodes in 2006 which is rather
>> fast if than jan 2006 use is the first.
>>    
>
> I grepped for it in foundation-l, wikien-l and wikipedia-l archives but
> found nothing.
>
> BTW, it seems we dropped our archives of intlwiki-l.
> Info-de-l, spamtest-l and the odd jason-l and jason2-l lists.
>
>
>
>  

My guess would be anyway that it wasn't on the lists, but in
an IRC chat.

Might even have been by me, since I had used a similar
formulation about the internet as a whole, over a decade
before. But I am certainly not claiming affirmatively to
be the originator, since as others have said, the play on
words is pretty obvious.


Yours,

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen


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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

John Mark Vandenberg
In reply to this post by Sue Gardner
On Fri, Jun 18, 2010 at 8:51 AM,  <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Thank you all! Very helpful. I'll attribute it to Gareth, and note that it's passed into widespread use.

"The popular observation is that Wikipedia only works in practice. In
theory, it can never work."

Sheizaf Rafaeli and Yaron Ariel, "Online Motivation Factors:
Incentives for Participation and Contribution in Wikipedia", published
in "Psychological aspects of cyberspace", Cambridge University Press.
ISBN 0521694647  p.243

http://gsb.haifa.ac.il/~sheizaf/cyberpsych/11-Rafaeli&Ariel.pdf
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=2NaSFhCAU0oC&q="Wikipedia+only+works+in+practice"

--
John Vandenberg

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Re: "The problem with Wikipedia..."

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
In reply to this post by Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen wrote:
> The "original" original of the concept itself is of course
> "The Flight of the Bumblebee", with a related concept
> being the centipede losing track of it's legs, when it
> begins trying to "think through" what it is doing with
> them.
>

The concept of "Information Wants to be Free" has been
authoritatively shown to have roots in thinkers as ancient
as Aristotle. I would guess here too, that the instance
of scientists calculating the amount of energy it took to
keep the bumblebee up in the air, and measuring the
amount of food it actually consumed, is likely not the
earliest form of this paradox.

Not precisely the same, but much older, is of course the
following passage from Tertullian:

'Natus est Dei Filius, non pudet, quia pudendum est;
et mortuus est Dei Filius, prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est;
et sepultus resurrexit, certum est, quia impossibile.'

(De Carne Christi V, 4)

"The Son of God was born: there is no shame, because it is shameful.
And the Son of God died: it is wholly credible, because it is unsound.
And, buried, He rose again: it is certain, because impossible."

( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credo_quia_absurdum )


Yours,

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen


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