[Foundation-l] Has Wikipedia changed since 2005?

Peter Damian peter.damian at btinternet.com
Sat Oct 2 06:58:23 UTC 2010

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "David Gerard" <dgerard at gmail.com>
To: "Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List" <foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org>
Sent: Friday, October 01, 2010 9:43 PM
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] Has Wikipedia changed since 2005?

> I predict Wikipedia's biology articles will far outshine its
> philosophy articles for the simple fact that the biologists bother:
> http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1000941
> They bothered paying author's fees for publication in a peer-reviewed
> specialist journal in their field, just to increase the quality of
> Wikipedia articles in their field. They're hardly going to rack up
> citation credits for an article on how to teach biology to the general
> public.
> With some fields going to this effort and not others, ultimately it's
> up to the specialists in the fields themselves to bother. So what do
> the biologists have that the philosophers - or other fields that are
> ill-represented in Wikipedia - lack?
> (That article is great, by the way. It gives strong reasons for
> experts to put in the effort to bother.)

So here am I looking for systematic reasons why philosophy, and humanities 
in general are under-represented in Wikipedia and you are saying that it is 
because philosophers - and by implication specialists in humanities - don't 
bother?  Interesting.  I once got puzzled why certain plants wouldn't grow 
in my garden.  I got frustrated and thought perhaps the plants weren't 
bothering.  Then I found that because my garden is north facing and has acid 
soil, the plants that like sunlight and don't like acid soil, weren't 

Anyway David, I said earlier that there are several stages to the process. 
The first is to see whether Wikipedia does have a problem with the 
humanities in general.  There needs to be a scientific methodology to assess 
what counts as 'under represented', there needs to be a survey to determine 
whether certain subjects are under-represented, and perhaps a paper in an 
appropriate journal.  That's step 1.

Step 2 - if the answer to step 1 is that there is a problem - is to 
determine whether there are underlying reasons (similar to sunshine, acidity 
of soil) that certain subjects are under-represented.  It could be the 
reason is chance (this seems to be what you are saying, that in certain 
subjects experts bother, in others they do).  If it is not chance, what are 
the reasons.

Step 3 - is there anything the WMF can do - either directly or by persuading 
the community - to address the problem.


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