I was one of the initial subject editors at Citizendium. One of its
key problems was the poor choice of subject matter experts. The
selection of which people to trust was ultimately in the hands of the
founder, and he was unduly impressed by formal academic credentials
without concerning himself about actual professional standing. But
even had he a much closer understanding of the actual hierarchies in
the academic world, the results would not have been much better,
because there is nobody of sufficient knowledge and authority across
the fields of all of human activity to select the true experts.
There are many subjects in which there would be multiple schools of
thought with little agreement; anyone following book reviews in the
humanities or social sciences or even some of the sciences would know
the intensity with which the highest level scholars attack the work of
those they disagree with. Appoint one as expert, and that field will
have a substantial bias. Appoint several, and they will endlessly
dispute with each other.
(Citizendium did appoint several in each discipline, and tried to
avoid disputes by dividing up authority on individual articles on the
basis of whichever editor got there first. When these experts
themselves wrote the articles, there was nobody with power to judge
them. I understand things are somewhat better now, but very few of the
original editors are active.) Even at Wikipedia, there is some fields
where there are two active experts, who take diametrically opposite
views, and try to decide things by trying to get each other thrown
out of the project.
We already have no problem with the true expert who is content to
learn our rules and work by them. We do have problems accommodating
the true expert who is right on his position but too impatient to
learn and work by our practices. We're a medium of a certain unique
sort, and what we need are the experts who can work within a communal
system of editing. Communal editing , however, does not require
rudeness: we can encourage those who could work here, but are
reluctant to engage in our schoolyard level of discourse. But there
will remain and ought to remain many who prefer to work within their
own well-developed peer-reviewed system, and not impose themselves on
What we do not want is the expert of whatever quality who intends to
work by authority rather than discussion. To destroy Wikipedia, make
it like Citizendium.
On Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 12:51 PM, Robin McCain <robin(a)slmr.com> wrote:
I think you have inadvertently hit upon something
Content has some relative value. Someone has always had to put energy into
creating content. More importantly for our current discussion, someone has
always had to make a decision to invest in the REPRODUCTION of content.
Printing (on paper) is historically an expensive process. Publishers could
not afford to waste time, materials & equipment on content of questionable
value. So submitted content was always subjected to some sort of review
process to weed out the trivial content. Someone made a value judgement.
Historically that person(s) had a vested interest in the subject of that
content. Whether peer reviewed or evaluated by a subject matter expert -
printed matter has always had some sort of editorial process.
That isn't to say we should necessarily trust the motives of that editorial
process. Propaganda is by its very nature NOT objective. But there is a big
difference between an article written for a local entertainment or business
daily and an advertisement in that publication. For example: a theatrical
publication pays for an advertisement (where they get to say what they will)
- but a '''review''' by that same publication is the result of
control and is trusted as far more objective by the reader.
Another example - the Reader's Digest - a publication trusted by millions,
has now become the advertising platform of choice for the pharmaceutical
industry. Every issue has multipage ads for expensive new drugs. The layouts
of these ads make them LOOK authoritative - as though the staff of RD
advocated their use. So the weight of RD remains about the same, though
actual content of value is less, and the subscriber pays for the increased
bulk mail costs.
So - by a roundabout we come to the meat of the content issue.
The reason we tend to trust printed material in general is because it is
perceived to have been through some editorial value judgement.
Most of the editing that is done in any publication process has noting to do
with the value of the content - it is ERROR CORRECTION. Only a subject
matter expert is qualified to do editing that is a VALUE JEDGEMENT.
For Wikipedia to combine the two functions in an "editor" is not productive.
We need a *two tiered* editorial process at work to become more efficient.
If there are not enough subject matter experts - more need to be recruited.
/Otherwise the trust level of the publication will suffer./ Presumably the
various portals are organized enough that they can serve as a funnel for
value judgements - but the general editorial volunteers have to learn to
refer the value judgements to the specialists in these portals and confine
themselves to error correction. This also means that we can then attract
more subject matter specialists as they do not have to deal with the error
correction task and their decisions will have more prestiege. (It should be
a BIG plus for a professor to be able to say that (s)he has been a subject
matter expert editor on the xxx portal of Wikipedia for yyy years on their
On 2/22/2012 5:08 AM, foundation-l-request(a)lists.wikimedia.org wrote:
Well actually, we use newspaper sources very frequently, as well as
non-scholarly (and therefore non-peer-reviewed) books, so in fact, we
rely on*printing* (or to put it more kindly, publishing) as a signal
for peer-review, not peer-review itself. In my opinion, this is a poor
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DGG at the enWP