[Foundation-l] Has Wikipedia changed since 2005?

David Goodman dgoodmanny at gmail.com
Sun Oct 3 08:49:07 UTC 2010

On Sat, Oct 2, 2010 at 8:30 AM, Marc Riddell <michaeldavid86 at comcast.net> wrote:
> on 10/2/10 6:01 AM, SlimVirgin at slimvirgin at gmail.com wrote:
>>> 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,
>> <snip>
>> 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.
> Very well said, SV. I encounter the same thing in my field. You cannot teach
> someone who will not be taught. You cannot teach someone something they
> think they already know.

Sure you can, if you can just get their attention. This is the basic
method behind good instructional and popular writing, as well as such
specific genres as biography. You need to provide an especially
attractive format and very  clear presentation in a manner that
implies that the presentation is expected to be entertaining, to get
people started reading or listening, and then  to keep them going
provide intrinsically interesting material and clear dramatic verbal
and pictorial illustration,  and write or speak in language and manner
that is at the right level of sophistication--a slightly better
informed friend is usually the right level, and aim at an overall
effect when finished that w;il give people a feeling of satisfaction
and increased confidence.

It's not easy. Few people can do this really well, and they are only
occasionally professional academics. Good advertising people can do
it; good journalists can do it; masters of popular non-fiction can do
it; some fiction writers can even do it.  It may be beyond practical
levels of community participation to expect it in Wikipedia, at least
on a routine basis. (Though we do have one additional factor--the
attractive browsing effect. )

People do change their mind. People can be persuaded.  But there are
almost no articles in Wikipedia written well enough to  could persuade
people to pay attention to the arguments. Probably that should not be
our goal. for I don't think we can accomplish it by an assortment of
amateurs.  Probably our basic principle is right:aim for NPOV, for
those people who want it. We're always going to be dull reading--even
the best professional encyclopedias usually have been.   Anything more
than that belongs in other media.

David Goodman, Ph.D, M.L.S.

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