[Foundation-l] "The problem with Wikipedia..."

susanpgardner at gmail.com susanpgardner at gmail.com
Thu Jun 17 22:51:14 UTC 2010

Thank you all! Very helpful. I'll attribute it to Gareth, and note that it's passed into widespread use.

-----Original Message-----
From: Joseph Reagle <joseph.nyu at reagle.org>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2010 18:39:41 
To: phoebe ayers<phoebe.wiki at gmail.com>
Cc: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List<foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org>; Sage Ross<ragesoss at gmail.com>; Sue Gardner<sgardner at wikimedia.org>
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] "The problem with Wikipedia..."

On Thursday, June 17, 2010, phoebe ayers wrote:
> Actually, the other way around, as others have stated.
> Now that you mention it, I've seen that quote attributed to Gareth
> Owen before, so that may actually be the origin of it. I think it's
> quite a bit older than 2006 though.

A wonderful question and one I've been interested in since I think such aphorisms have an interesting normative power (e.g., some others include [a]). Of course scholars, at least, like it so much *because* it shows that the theory is incomplete and hence is grist for their mills, i.e., new theory! :-)

I can't provide a provenance any more specific than already noted (i.e., appearing on Gareth Owen's user page) and I always found it ironically apt that such a prominent statement about Wikipedia is attributed to an anonymous. (If anyone knows Owen, please ask!) However, here's a bit of a time-line, I think it certainly spread as a meme in wider circles thanks to Cohen at the NYT. 

20060120: Gareth Owen's user page [1].
20060321: Raul654's adds it to his laws [2].
20070423: Noam Cohen reference in NYT [3].
20070501: Quoted in Wikizine [4].
20070613: Sage Ross refers to it as old hat a few months later in response to popular Britannica blog entry [5].
20080106: Cohen references it again [6].

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Gareth_Owen&oldid=35978744
[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Raul654/Raul%27s_laws&oldid=44834502
[3]: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/23/technology/23link.html
[4]: http://en.wikizine.org/2007/05/year-2007-week-18-number-69.html
[5]: http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2007/06/authority-of-a-new-kind/
[6]: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/06/books/06cohenintro.html

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