[Foundation-l] Has Wikipedia changed since 2005? How is it in other language projects?

Andreas Kolbe jayen466 at yahoo.com
Sat Oct 2 15:59:35 UTC 2010

Sarah, this goes back to our discussion at en:WP:V a couple of weeks ago -- when it comes to humanities, en:WP doesn't emphasise the need for scholarly sources enough, and instead produces something that is more like a press mirror. This starts a vicious circle.

In de:WP, the [[WP:BLG]] policy (the German equivalent of [[WP:V]]), 


states the following: 

As a matter of basic principle, scientific sources should be preferred, especially standard works and review articles that are relevant to the subject area in question. 

It adds that where scientific sources are not available, or not available in sufficient quantities, other secondary sources that can be considered as having been well researched may be used as well. 

It adds that where scientific sources and lay sources disagree, scientific sources should generally be preferred.

I would be interested in hearing from other projects how you handle scientific and journalistic sources!

Now, I do the major part of my work in en:WP, but my impression is that in de:WP, poor humanities coverage is far less of a problem. To provide some anecdotal evidence, the German article on Plato is a featured article that runs to the length of a small book:


Socrates is a GA. Philosophy itself is a featured article. 

All in all, the WikiProject Philosophy page on the German Wikipedia 


lists 33 featured philosophy articles, and 62 good articles. (And that appears to be an incomplete list. I will ask the author of the Platon article to have a look at this discussion, perhaps he can add some background.)

In comparison, en:WP has a total of 12 featured articles in the areas of philosophy and psychology *combined*. They are:

Attachment theory · Conatus · Confirmation bias · Free will · Getting It: The Psychology of est · Eric A. Havelock · Philosophy of mind · Hilary Putnam · Reactive attachment disorder · Transhumanism · A Vindication of the Rights of Woman · Bernard Williams

There are 18 English GAs in Philosophy, and they are:

Adelman, Howard – Al-Kindi – Ayn Rand – Eckhart Tolle – Fodor, Jerry – Ramasamy, Periyar E. V. – Ramprasad Sen – Sanger, Larry – Shah, Idries – Sun Tzu – (10 articles)

Philosophies and movements:
CrimethInc. – Cynicism – Power: A New Social Analysis – Two-level utilitarianism – (4 articles)

Philosophical topics:
Alvin Plantinga's free will defense – Conscience – Consolation of Philosophy – Eliminative materialism – (4 articles)

Eckhart Tolle, Larry Sanger and CrimethInc are not exactly ... how shall I put this ... I shan't bother, you probably guess what I mean.

I do believe the fact that there is less of a culture of scholarly source research in en:WP, and a preference of press sources over scholarly sources, especially in the humanities, impacts very negatively on en:WP's performance in this area. 

I accept that en:WP may have the opposite problem in some areas, where editors seek to exclude notable views "because they were not written by scholars", but on the whole I prefer the German system. The level of coverage becomes more serious, more intelligent, and more encyclopedic. 

This attracts like-minded contributors. The en:WP culture attracts a different kind of editor, a type of editor who doesn't like scholarly sources very much, making the problem self-perpetuating. Beyond a certain signal-to-noise ratio, knowledgeable people will simply vote with their feet, as your colleague did.

If en:WP wants competent, intelligent coverage in the humanities, it needs to teach editors the value of researching the most competent, most intelligent sources. These are not generally found in the daily press.


--- On Sat, 2/10/10, SlimVirgin <slimvirgin at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: SlimVirgin <slimvirgin at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] Has Wikipedia changed since 2005?
> To: "Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List" <foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org>
> Date: Saturday, 2 October, 2010, 11:01
> > From: "David Gerard" <dgerard at gmail.com>
> >> That [...] doesn't answer the question I asked:
> >> *what* about the approach in this paper wouldn't
> work for philosophy,
> >> in your opinion? Please be specific.
> David, I think one of the reasons that biologists and
> others may be
> happier than philosophers to edit Wikipedia is that
> everyone assumes
> they know something about the latter and don't need to
> study for it,
> whereas editors are at least a little hesitant about wading
> into a
> subject that clearly requires a specialist vocabulary.
> Looking at an area I edit in, animal rights, I'm aware of
> only two
> editors in that area since 2004 who have studied ethics at
> postgraduate level. You don't need an academic background
> to edit all
> those articles, but it helps for the articles where the
> philosophical
> arguments have to be explained.
> One of the editors with a background in ethics was a
> professional
> philosopher who specialized in animal rights, and who
> stopped editing
> after deciding that "raving loonies" were in charge, as he
> put it. And
> the other is me. Expertise in that area is not recognized,
> because
> everyone who has ever read a newspaper thinks they
> understand it. So
> it is very frustrating, and if it's an area you specialize
> in
> professionally, editing those articles feels like a
> complete waste of
> time.
> Academics don't have the time or patience to explain basic
> points for
> years on end to people who feel that reading books or
> papers about the
> subject is unnecessary. I'm sure the biology experts would
> give up too
> if their area of expertise were undermined in such a basic
> way.
> This is just one of the reasons I think it will always be
> harder to
> recruit and keep philosophers.
> Sarah
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:SlimVirgin
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