As one of those responsible for associating the phrase "low-hanging
fruit" with Wikipedia, perhaps I should say a few words.
I won't argue that there is no end to what articles Wikipedia could be
written, or can be written with a surprisingly small amount of work.
For example, a few weeks ago I thumbed through my copy of the
Petersen's Field Guide to the Sea Shells of the Pacific coast,
intending to compare the species it describes to unwritten articles.
I began -- & stopped -- with Abelone, having found in 10 minutes a
few dozen candidates. These articles would be stubs, but fairly
informative ones. I could probably take at random any 5 books from
my own collection and use them to create a dozen non-stub articles.
I don't write that as a boast; I suspect that most of you on this
mailing list could do the same thing.
But we're different from the average person who wants (or is told)
to write an article for Wikipedia. For one thing, most of them are
high-school students or undergraduates, & the information that
Wikipedia has already is far more comprehensive than what the average
teenager could identify, research and write about in an afternoon --
let alone knows exists. Further, it is probably far more comprehensive
than the average adult in those respects. I'd say that the average
subject coverage in Wikipedia has reached the level where anyone who
wants to improve it either has to know something about the subject
(in contrast to the usual research technique of a Google search,
consulting an encyclopedia, or half-heartedly looking through the
card catalog of a public library), or is motivated to actually learn
something about the subject.
Maybe this is an indictment of the educational system, but I think
it is, in one sense, an affirmation of an observation Jimbo once made,
years ago: writing an encyclopedia is an unusual hobby. Not everyone
is interested in actually learning about a subject: most people, I
have found, are content to use the first hit on Google, the news report
from their favorite television channel, the definition in their
dictionary, the current revision of a Wikipedia article.
I suspect this is related to the fact that although the English language
has upwards of 400,000 words, the vocabulary of the average fluent
English speaker is around 15,000 words. One can't expand that number
by harvesting a few thousand words from a dictionary; one has to
actually learn the meanings of these words & learn how to use them.
But one can get along quite well with those 15,000 words.
That is the reason for my metaphor; most people are willing to settle
for the low-hanging fruit & wind-falls; only a few will bother to use
a ladder to get to more of the fruit, & even fewer are willing to climb
to the tops of the trees to get every last one. I'd like to think that
this majority at least will do a good job of gleaning, & maybe help
improve the most read subjects to FA status. This is a more positive
vision than one where, because writing an encyclopedia is such an
unusual hobby the finite & small number interested in that hobby
scratches has joined Wikipedia, the stress caused by the free-for-all
Wikipedia can often become has driven most away, & the community has
dwindled to one Admin & five malcontents working to get him banned
for 3RR violations.
> Earlier post: ... We're getting swamped
> with fan-writing on all sorts of topics,
> much of it related to popular culture ...
Peter Blaise responds: Swamped? That's called: success! That's the
reason to have Wikipedia. There's no such thing as too much content!
The computer searches and brings you the stuff you want, and me the
stuff I want, and him the stuff he wants, and her the stuff she wants
... and so on. In other words, if everything's in there, then we all
want to go to Wikipedia. If someone culls out or blocks what they
themselves think is inappropriate, then we start going elsewhere, and
eventually, no one goes their anymore!
If you don't like any Wikipedia page, I can't stop you from not reading
it. But please, don't waste your time trying to prevent me from being
able to avoid it, either! ;-)
-- Peter Blaise
> Earlier: ... When there is noise on a
> discussion list, the list itself suffers.
> Not just the people who have to read it ...
Peter Blaise responds:
I hear your pain. I do not, however, want a moderator to act on your
pain as their reason to express banning powers over other wiki or list
members. I've not seen positive results from expecting moderators to
relieve other people's personal sense of suffering by banning. I have
seen such powers directly cause damage to other members of the
community, such as banning alternative sharing styles because the
moderator or another member felt uncomfortable.
Instead, I suggest scrolling past any content we're not interested in,
and not commenting on the content of such posts that do not interest us.
Moderators and members alike can contact the authors of what they may
think are offensive posts, and try to resolve the problem with the
author on or off wiki/list. If this takes three days or three years to
resolve the misunderstanding ... then either don't do it, and don't
complain to others ... or do it, and don't complain to others. Either
way, the common denominator is: don't complain to others!
I suggest not banning anyone. Delete spam and vandalism, but since they
usually move on from an email or IP, banning spammers and vandals just
wastes admin time and system resources by keeping a list of dead emails
In other posts, I share other reasons to prohibit admins from having
-- Peter Blaise
>> Earlier post:
>> ... Power corrupts.
>> Absolute power (to ban) corrupts absolutely ...
> Earlier response:
> ... We're talking about moderating a mailing list here. Let's cut the
Peter Blaise responds:
Actually, I'm talking about wiki or list admin powers to ban.
Wikipedia is becoming significantly influential.
The admin banning power draws people who would use that power
for non-wiki, non-list purposes: governments, business, religions,
politics, lobbyists, and others, have a reason to sneak their agents
into a position of trust as an admin so they can start to control
information and influence. They're not stupid, and they're not going to
do it blatantly, nor tell you what they are doing.
Wikiscanner allows us some overview of *contributors*:
Who's watching the *admins*?
By removing their power to ban, we remove ulterior reasons for
becoming an admin.
Hyperbole? Look, this is not "just" another of a thousand "I
like Chevy/Elvis/et-cetera"-style chat groups; this is the word-wide
influential Wikipedia and it's support wikis and mailing lists. There's
incredible power of greed marketing at stake for people who see
Wikipedia as a way to get their own agenda served surreptitiously. They
want to be admins because admins have power. So, I propose that the
power for an admin to ban at any level be removed, and alternative
measures be brought to bear on spammers, vandals, and especially not
banning people who just differ in their contribution styles from one or
more admins or other contributors.
-- Peter Blaise
And here we go again
Over the last many months, there's been heavy, acrimonious debate over
the removal of overuse of fair use images from a variety of classes of
articles. Such classes have included album covers from discographies,
screenshots from episode lists. Another class where this work has been
ongoing has been the removal of character images from "List of characters
in ..." type articles. For examples;
Recently, yet another debate has erupted over the similar removal of
images from a variety of anime articles. For example,
In a nutshell, the disputants are split into two camps; those supporting
removal based on WP:NFCC #3(a) and #8 and the Foundation's licensing
policy resolution (
A subset of disputants have suggest a compromise position of allowing some
characters to be displayed (with an arbitrary metric as to which ones should
allowed to have an image). Opponents to this compromise have noted that
if a character is so minor as to not be worthy of an article on its own,
no reason we must have a copyrighted, fair use image to depict the character
in violation of our philosophy on being a free content encyclopedia.
Debate on this issue has roughly centralized into two locations:
Frankly, and bluntly, I'm tired of fighting these battles. There are a few
who are fighting in these trenches, and there are many times when myself
and others feel like we're at the Battle of Verdun, only the people who are
trying to uphold the core philosophy of Wikipedia do not have thousands
on our side, we only have perhaps a dozen.
It would sure be nice if someone more intelligent than I were to craft a
point (such as
only better) and put the voice of God behind it, along with heavy
penalties threatened for continued violations.
These debates keep springing up, over and over and over again. The
same tired arguments keep being trotted out in favor of retaining the
fair use images. We fight the same battles, over and over and over again.
The people working to support the reduction of fair use images are
being worn down. It's not sexy work. It's work that guarantees you will
be attacked in a variety of ways. I can't tell you how many times people
have threatened me with being banned from the project. Recruiting people
to do it is second cousin to impossible.
I've made a plea here before. It ended up in yet another long winded debate
on the issue.
Please, if you want such abuses to end we need better support.
We can't keep fighting these battles over and over again.
I've noticed that in Google results, Wikipedia articles sometimes get
summaries that aren't the page content but are descriptions of it. For
instance, when I search Google for "Australia", the Wikipedia article
(which is at #2 in the results) has this:
"Hyperlinked encyclopedia article covers the country's history,
government and politics, geography, economy, demographics, language
Has Google put these summaries into place itself, or is it something
we've done on our end?
I must be strange - perhaps friends and family have been right about this, all along. I actually turn with relief to adding articles to enWP, from all other related activities. I find a good bit of gnoming relaxing. I love to add redirects.
The "low-hanging fruit" argument deserves further analysis. The number of missing topics is just huge. There are new current events every day. My interest is in quite other areas, some of which I find not exactly untouched but in need of attention at the most basic level (Irish bishops, anyone?). There is a rather different point, which is that the 'media' model, very obvious in the blogosphere, is that people assume that talking about what everyone else is talking about is how the Internet works. In some sense WP contradicts that, by being both in advance and behind the main conversations. We have some antiquarian stuff, and some science and technical topics ahead of mainstream media interest. It doesn't really follow that, from the taking in of each other's washing that goes on in the media, that this is our main job.
There is still such a vast collection of information in a typical academic library that we don't cover. I can't imagine ever running out of things to write.
Email sent from www.virginmedia.com/email
Virus-checked using McAfee(R) Software and scanned for spam
"Example is not just another way to teach. It's the only way."
-- attributed to Albert Einstein.
Hello fellow Wikipedia-users,
> Earlier: ... Am I the only one here annoyed with such messages? Why
can't we be more cordial and polite towards one another? It's gotten to
the point where I may unsubscribe ...
Peter Blaise responds:
No. But, I suggest that we all use our down-arrow or delete
keys, instead of using all those other keys to show our objections.
There's noise, and then there's echo, and if the noise bothers us,
echoing that noise in the form of objecting to that noise is not helping
reduce the noise much.
I put it to you: what's the alternative?
And in who's hand?
A moderator? Voted in, or self-appointed?
And who gets banned?
Vandals and spammers?
Seems simple enough.
How about off topic contributions?
Occasional or extended off topic contributors?
In my experience, the more powers we give to an arbitrary
moderator, the more we then ask that moderator to do our thinking and
censoring for us. And for what? The convenience of avoiding the pain
of cleaning our own inbox, of scrolling our own down-arrow keys by
And then the moderator starts reading content on their own, and
deleting or banning based on their own sensibilities of what they think
is personally offensive.
Then the criteria migrates even further to reviewing content for
what the moderator thinks is constructive, or in line with their
philosophy, culture, or whatever personal whims.
It becomes the moderator's blog, and that's NOT the purpose of
someone tasked with supporting the community as a whole. The moderator
themselves become the destructive force within the community.
Absolute power (to ban) corrupts absolutely.
So, I suggest that if we object to noise, then we ourselves set
an example of low-noise contribution, and merely scroll on past whatever
we personally think is noise.
Democracy is messy. Patience, tolerance, acceptance, and
equivalent consideration are tough virtues to attain, but I think, worth
goals to ascend to. Why not here? Why not now?
> Earlier: ... contributing to Wikipedia. Why bother anymore? I still
like the ideals behind the project and wish to continue, but would
really like it if we can please tone down the drama and be more civil
and cordial towards one another? If people can't control themselves,
then maybe this list could use moderation. Though if the moderator is
engaging such language, that's not good ...
Peter Blaise responds:
I vote for all avenues of contribution to be:
- free and open for all
- multiple co-moderators
- no banning
I hope my contributions set an example, and I'll scroll past
other's contributions if they are not a good match for my interests at
the moment. But I do not desire that anyone get banned because they
contribute something I don't like. I can control my own inbox, just as
I control what I toss when my physical mail arrives at home. I don't
cry and wail when I get junk mail and unsolicited crap in my physical
mail at home, so why do so on the Internet?
Love and hugs,
We are not immune from group dynamics. Fight or Flight remains an option for us, although it is seldom the optimal response.
It is hard to get down to work and craft a sane response, but that is our job.
Even in the context of circled wagons.
>From: Marc Riddell [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
>Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 06:08 AM
>To: 'English Wikipedia'
>Subject: Re: [WikiEN-l] Jayjg is not AWOL
>on 8/28/07 11:56 PM, Jimmy Wales at jwales(a)wikia.com wrote:
>> John Lee wrote:
>>> Might not be fair, but it reflects the perception of how we deal with
>>> whistle-blowers. Arguably we haven't had a serious case of something rotten
>>> in the state of Wikipedia being exposed, but is there any assurance that how
>>> we deal with false whistle-blowers will not be the same way we deal with
>>> real ones?
>> I don't think we really have "whistle-blowers" because we are vibrant
>> open community which is constantly engaged in honest self-assessment and
>> internal dialog, in an atmosphere where respectful dissent and diversity
>> of viewpoints is not just tolerated but actively encouraged.
>> And yes, this is never perfect, but I think we do a pretty good job of it.
>Much of what you say here is, unfortunately, purely theoretical. There is a
>strong (if misguided) blind loyalty factor which causes many to take any
>dissent or criticism of the Project personally; and their reactions reflect
>this. Critics are seen as enemies at the gate; even when they are behind
>"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it
>takes to sit down and listen."
>"Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same
>function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state
> Winston Churchill
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