[Foundation-l] Academic article review

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Sat Mar 7 19:14:45 UTC 2009

Delirium wrote:
> I don't think that's actually true. I think some areas, like evolution 
> that you mentioned, are covered reasonably well, because there are 
> enough Wikipedians who have an interest in and reasonably decent 
> knowledge of the field to write a good article, and perhaps more 
> importantly to fend off non-good contributions or edits to the article. 
> In many areas of science this is not true.

There's an irony in that there are sufficient "non-good contributors" to 
ensure that the attention of the reasonable contributors is maintained.

> Oddly for a computer encyclopedia, our computer science articles are 
> largely quite poor, except in "pop computing" types of articles like 
> discussions of the Linux kernel or tech companies, which are decent. My 
> personal area of professional expertise is artificial intelligence, and 
> our articles on *that* subject are so bad that I'm embarrassed to try to 
> introduce academics in my field to Wikipedia, since I know they'll 
> probably look those articles up first and be turned off by the 
> AI-kookiness that pervades them.

That's no solution to the problem.  I grant that it is difficult to 
compete with those for whom artificial intelligence is a personal 
attribute, but there are areas where expertise is essential.  The 
challenge is to immunize them from swarms of killer wasps dedicated to 
protecting the hive.

> I think if the humanities on average are worse than the sciences on 
> average, it's mostly down to who we have as contributors versus don't. 
> Of course, complex fields with a variety of scholarly opinion are harder 
> to cover, but we cover them fairly well where we have a lot of dedicated 
> contributors with detailed knowledge of all those opinions, and badly in 
> areas where we don't, or where they're outnumbered by people who don't 
> really know what they're talking about.

The difference is often simply that the humanities are more accessible 
to plain language writing.  Even within the sciences it's easier to come 
up with plausibly idiotic statements in the biological sciences where 
little mathematical knowledge is required.  Those who flunked out of 
high-school mathematics tend to back away from the simplest of 
equations; those who failed in the humanities wear that as a badge of 


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