[Foundation-l] Has Wikipedia changed since 2005?

Noein pronoein at gmail.com
Mon Oct 4 15:06:55 UTC 2010

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Thank you, your answers reveal quite clearly your vision. (I disagree,
though, but that's not important).
A few comments below...

On 04/10/2010 15:58, Peter Damian wrote:
> How is the problem of making a difficult subject clear different in the case 
> of editors than readers?  That's an interesting one.  Good teaching and 
> communication is about getting the maximum number of interested people to 
> get the intended idea across.  This is very difficult.  Even in the best 
> case, I estimate only about 20% of people will understand in any way what 
> you are saying.  A simple proof of this is exam results. In any exam (an 
> exam being a method of test which aims to assess how well some one has 
> understood the teaching) there is a neat dispersion of results.

> There is always a bottom 10 percentile of those who sadly don't get it, and 
> frankly probably ever aren't going to get it.
I disagree about the "never". I think it depends greatly about the
methods and means to reach them.

>  I'm a realist. 
Your realism seems strongly context-dependent, with a narrow set of
contexts considered. Your conclusions are probably valid for it, but
you're not talking about the world at large, in my point of view. IMHO
you're talking, maybe without realizing the range of your ideas, about a
specific occurrence of knowledge communication (university teaching
between 1980 and 2010, say) and I don't think this is all there is to
understand about it.

If this discussion was about the contexts of teaching and communicating
instead of the statistical results in already known environments, I
wonder if you would still bear a fatalist (elitist?) point of view about
mankind's intellectual capacity.

Personnaly I think there is only a bottom 10 percentile of those who are
born mentally limited, whatever the education and communication they
receive, they're doomed. The difference with your stats shows what we
CAN do something about.

> Now most of 
> those bottom 10% realise this, and will go away to study something more 
> congenial.  Most of them. There is a tiny tiny fraction of those who don't 
> get it, who believe they are fundamentally right, and that the teachers are 
> wrong, and that they have been done some injustice, and the world owes them 
> something.
> Now the problem: in the old days that bottom percentile fraction would 
> self-publish some rant or other, or would just go away.  But now there is 
> this thing called Wikipedia which is practically inviting them to edit.  It 
> says "anyone can edit".

It seems that you think that Wikipedia is behaving as a magnet for
obtuse people, for one hand.
On the other hand, you seem to think that what the wiki system does
about the heterogeneity of the editors is filtering out the quality.

This may well be true in some cases. But I think that the opposite can
also happen, and that changes everything. I have the belief that on the
long term, open people and high quality have a higher potential on
Wikipedia, if we aim to set the conditions for their thriving.

Let's go back to your example: "I estimate only about 20% of people will
understand in any way what you are saying."
Somewhere, sometime, there is certainly someone that can make 21% of
people understand a specific topic. It's not necessarily an expert,
though he should be able to understand them. So imagine we find him and
make an article out of his "teaching". Then we have gain 1% of audience
and consensus of understanding (you may disagree but you understand and
respect what is said).
With this reductio ad minimum I just want to show that levelling up
quality is possible: thus putting the failure on the idiots is not
giving our best shot.

> I had an experience with such an editor in late 2006.  He fundamentally 
> wrecked the Philosophy article 
> http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Philosophy&offset=20061228033655&action=history, 
> drove away a fine bunch of editors, and the article has never really 
> recovered since (a group of us act as caretakers but on the principle of 
> preventing any change, not improving it. I quote again from Mel Etitis (who 
> himself was a casualty of this incident)
> "Philosophy: I'm a philosopher; why don't I edit the article on my subject? 
> Because it's hopeless. I've tried at various times, and each time have given 
> up in depressed disgust. Philosophy seems to attract aggressive zealots who 
> know a little (often a very little), who lack understanding of key concepts, 
> terms, etc., and who attempt to take over the article (and its Talk page) 
> with rambling, ground-shifting, often barely comprehensible rants against 
> those who disagree with them. Life's too short. I just tell my students and 
> anyone else I know not to read the Wikipedia article except for a laugh. 
> It's one of those areas where the ochlocratic nature of Wikipedia really 
> comes a cropper".

I've read this text like 3 or 4 times in this discussion now. Why are
you repeating this argument? Do you wish specific comments about it?

> So in summary.  Most people who aren't very good, know they aren't very 
> good.  A tiny proportion of those, don't realise this.  Quite a large 
> proportion of those end up on Wikipedia.
I am sincerely asking you, without insinuation: how do you know you're
not one of them? What's the difference between the one who knows he
knows and the one who doesn't know he doesn't know if it's only about
self-perception (or social perception)?
Where is the universality of knowledge in this conception if it boils
down to intimate convictions ?

Wouldn't self criticizing, openness of mind, intersubjective references,
shared arguments, and the empathic capacity to understand what the other
see a better approach to star a discussion?

>  Some disciplines have more of a 
> problem than others. 'Hard sciences' have less of a problem.  Philosophy, 
> however, is a crank magnet.
> Does that explain the difference you were asking for?  There will sadly 
> always be a communication failure.  Some people will never 'get it'. 
> However, in the case of readers, you are remote from this and they don't 
> give you a problem.
That's putting the dust under the carpet. The universality of your
knowledge is not achieved through the silence of those who don't
understand it, in my opinion.

>  In the case of editors, they are there in your face, 
> with their rambling barely comprehensible rants against those who disagree 
> with them.  That is the difference, and that is the problem.
I understand your point of view of the problem, but do you think that's
a one-sided point of view? Could you think from others point of view for
a broader understanding, before coming back to your convictions?
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