Wikipedia on Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia with the aim to allow anyone to edit articles.
Notice that the “aim” is presented as fact. I will cover how Wikipedia attempted to create a level of reliability. It failed for lack of clarity and, most of all, enforcement. With a volunteer labor force that strenuously avoided structure (“bureaucracy”), reliability was likely impossible.
So, fact (and interpretation, for that matter) is, by policy on Wikipedia, to be verifiable. Interpretation should be attributed to source, and Wikipedia requires, for most purposes, reliable secondary sources. This is because, even though Wikipedia advertised itself as the “sum of all human knowledge,” in fact, that knowledge was to be filtered by notability, and notability is, in theory and by policy established by coverage of the “knowledge” by independent sources with a motive to be accurate, to appeal to their audiences. This typically means a responsible publisher, either for-profit, or an academic nonprofit or other source where reliability is important to the publisher.
“Passing reference” in a reliable source, is not enough, in theory. Note 3 is:
3. Brandom, Russell (September 4, 2015). “Wikipedia founder defends decision to encrypt the site in China”. The Verge. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
This is hilarious. The “source” does not state the “aim” of Wikipedia. A sourced lede is, by guidelines, only a neutral statement of what is established in the body of the article, which is where sources would be given. The claim of “aim” is an example where a primary source would be allowed: Wikipedia can state what its aim or purpose is, and this would be attributed, for example, “The Main page states, ‘Welcome to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.'”
However, they could also cite a Reliable Source. In this case, the source doesn’t support the text. Rather, the source is about Chinese access and may or may not relate to the goal.
As of March 2017, Wikipedia has about 40,000 high-quality articles, known as Featured Articles and Good Articles, that cover vital topics. In 2005, Nature published a peer review comparing 42 science articles from Encyclopædia Britannica and Wikipedia, and found that Wikipedia’s level of accuracy approached that of Encyclopædia Britannica.
That’s certainly interesting. However, that Nature article is a primary source. It is not a “peer review.” It is a study that involved reviews of articles, and was narrowly confined. Wikipedia looks for secondary sources because the significance of primary sources can be unclear. How has this study been received?
The body of the article is more nuanced than the lede and covers the controversy to a degree. However, the dominant faction will insist on its view being represented in the lede, knowing that many readers will just look at the lede (and Google often just cites the lede).
Wiki theory has it that so many users are monitoring articles that errors will be quickly discovered. So, above, in moments, I found an error, a source cited as evidence for text that is not supported by the source. In order to discover that error, a reader has to actually look at the source (though I was suspicious that there might be a problem just from looking at the title of the source.) If it “looks okay” to Recent Changes Patrollers (who commonly are searching desperately for vandalism to be the first to revert it, and actually reading a source will only be done by a small fraction of them) it can last a long time. When was this introduced? September 19, 2015. The user, editing since 2008, is actually a “reviewer” ironically, that being an aspect of Flagged Revisions, an effort to create more reliability that was shot down by the “community,” meaning the insane portion of the community that follows such things. That user has gotten into some trouble, but the problem here is not the user, but the structure, with unreliability built-in, unless addressed by corrective structure, which has always been resisted.
That’s not a particularly important “fact,” but, as stated, it’s simply wrong. At one point I studied global locks, and there were about 5000 accounts being globally locked when I looked, a few years back. Most of those were spammers, but a few were not. And there are many, many users blocked at any given time. Some for obvious necessity, but some not. “Anyone” must be qualified to be true.
Wikipedia Rule Number One, it was called, “Ignore all rules.”
If a rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it.
I wrote at one point, about Wikipedia, that a corollary of this Rule was “If you have not been blocked yet, you are not trying hard enough to improve the project.” The reason is obvious. There are administrators who will block anyone who ignores rules. One might be able to then get unblocked, but the block log will then forever show the block, and future administrators will look at it. However, if one is an administrator, the application of the rule changes. Administrators may, with relative impunity, block users on their own opinion, without actual rule violations; there is almost no accountability unless a pattern becomes so obvious and someone actually takes this to the Arbitration Committee, and if “someone” is not an administrator, this is practically wiki-suicide. I demonstrated that! Even if the user wins, they lose, because the “cabal” — what Wales called the administrative corps when he formed it — will be looking for excuses to get rid of the “troublemaker.” And they are generally administrators-for-life. There are plenty of administrators who would never pass a confirmation vote, but to remove them is extremely difficult. There is almost no responsibility. That’s the wiki structure! And that is why Wikipedia is unreliable.
But I get ahead of myself.
The Wikipedia article on Cold fusion was a Featured Article at one time. Then it became a battleground, with administrative interference — avoiding actual dispute resolution process. I came into the picture long after this started, massive damage had already been done. I was a neutral editor, but was treated as a “POV-pusher.” I only later developed a deeper knowledge of cold fusion research, to the point of being able to write an article published under actual peer review.
So what happened to me on Wikipedia? The story: Wikipedia/Bans/Abd.
A study of the edits to the Wikipedia cold fusion article by JPS.
A general coverage of Wikipedia bans, case histories and comparisons.