[Wikipedia-l] Easton's Bible Dictionary

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Wed Aug 7 17:32:49 UTC 2002

Neil Harris wrote:

> That was me, pouring in entries from Easton's Bible Dictionary.
> Is your objection
> a) the bias in many of the articles (in which case I can add a
> disclaimer, saying "This is from an old Bible Dictionary, and it has the
> biases of its author and period -- please use this material as a basis
> for a new article")
> b) the rate of the scripted additions
> c) auto-addition of any material, even when filtered for stubs and 
> nonsense?
> I can also set the threshold higher, or do more filtering.
> There's lots of good encyclopedic material in EBD, as the Bible is a
> major cultural source.
> Regards,
> Neil

This incident says more about some of our sysop members than it does 
about the person uploading the material.  Perhaps Neil should have 
logged on just as any regular, but he didn't and there's no rule against 

In the past he challenged the technical tree by attempting to shake the 
bugs out of it.  Now, he may have unwittingly done the same to its human 
resources.  If he had identified himself in the first place I doubt that 
we would ever have had this fuss.  Instead some sysops saw this as the 
irresponsible actions of a newbie, and went straight into panic mode. 
 There is nothing wrong with looking at a newbie's contributions more 
carefully than you would at those of a known contributor, but the 
yardstick that you apply in evaluating those contributions must remain 
the same one.

Had these automated entries been been overwriting existing articles 
(which they weren't) there would have been a serious problem, but more 
in the nature of a system bug than anything that can be attributed to a 

The presumed newbie did draw attention with the rate of his downloads, 
but he did nothing wrong.  Much of the material was very much out of 
date, but we all have the right to edit out the errors.  At the rate 
that he was dowloading it would have been impossible for him to enter 
into edit wars on all the subjects.

By our continuing participation in Wikipedia it is fit and proper that 
we assume some sense of guardianship, and there are times when "pig 
ignorance" and charging rhinos will try anybody's patience.  Still, 
hasty bans, and other drastic action strike me as abusive.  Maybe what 
we need is a means of reviewing the actions of sysops that will limit 
the perception that they are acting as a cabal.

I like the concept of a knowledge commons and the democratization of 
knowledge, but I believe that there is a lot of work yet to be done on 
that philosophical concept - and some of that may involve re-inventing 
the wheel ..... over and over and over again.  "Owning knowledge" is a 
far broader concept than one that involves merely protecting the 
financial benefits that flow from that ownership. That aspect only 
stands out because it can be so easily codified in copyright laws.. 
 Institutions are huge repositories of knowledge, but simply opening the 
doors of the libraries and inviting the public to view whatever they 
want is not likely to accomplish anything.  The tools (as opposed to the 
prejudices) required to evaluate the material are just not there.  Their 
erosion began in the first grade, or even earlier in the TV generation. 
 Of the many on-line communities my view is that the one that has come 
closest to building a knowledge commons is the genealogical community. 
 Enough philosophy ...

Although it may not have come out as you intended, I still say the test 
was a job well done.  Maybe next time it can be from an "@aol" address.


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