[Wikipedia-l] Easton's Bible Dictionary

Toby Bartels toby+wikipedia-l at math.ucr.edu
Fri Aug 9 13:49:44 UTC 2002

Several thoughts on the issues involved:

== Blocking IPs ==

I think that KQ did what needed to be done, or might have been needed.
I'm going to post another letter about 24 soon,
where I express disapproval of blocking IPs without clear policy guidelines.
But this case was different; from the reports here,
it seems that there were downloads coming every few seconds.
Regardless of the inappropriateness or POV bias of some of the downloads,
it was reasonable of KQ to place a temporary ban to avoid what
was a possible attack that humans haven't the speed to cope with.

As it turned out, Neil's intentions were the best,
and KQ didn't really have to react so quickly.
But there was no way to know this at the time.
That said, we're lucky that Neil understood so readily,
and all of his suggestions about how to improve IP blocking
seem to be good ideas.  He's probably the only person on this list
ever to have their IP blocked at Wikipedia, so we should listen to him.

== Copying old public domain works ==

This is a bad idea, whether 1897 Bible dictionaries or 1911 encyclopaedias.
A human needs to go over all of these *before* they appear in our articles,
or it lowers our average quality while falsely making it appear
as if articles already exist and don't need to be written now.
(I have the same opinion about most cases of stubs, too,
and would rather delete nonsense pages than replace them with stubs.)

It's unreasonable for people to copy in these old texts,
include a warning that the material may be biased or out of date,
and then expect somebody watching Recentchanges to fix them.
If I create or edit an entry, then *I* am responsible
for checking that the material is netural and accurate.
This isn't asking for perfection, a standard that I don't meet anyway,
but for a reasonable human judgement that the material is good.
Mass copying, whether by a script or not, whether filtered or not,
doesn't provide this.

This means that I'm coming out against Neil's plan entirely.
As I mentioned under the last heading, his intentions were good,
but the plan itself, not just the execution, was IMO flawed.
If we want to use the EBD to write Biblically themed articles,
then that's great, and I don't expect Neil to do it all himself,
but we should set up a Bible article writing group to do it,
with human editing for each entry before it appears (in the [[:]] namespace).

== Automatic downloads ==

Both of the above comments combine to show that
automatic downloads are bad and should be deprecated.
They inspire the reasonable suspicion of an attack,
however false that may be, and prevent human intervention.
Fast downloads coming every few seconds are worst,
because humans have no chance of keeping up with them,
but any automatic system is bad.  Articles meant to be read by humans
must be written by humans, and at a human speed.
At best we can automatically download what has been written offline,
but even this should be done slowly.

== Easton's Bible Dictionary itself ==

As for this particular reference work, I only saw one entry,
[[Spritual Gifts]] (now [[Spiritual gift]]), which was voted for deletion.
That vote was wrong IMO, and I moved and edited the article.
I did notice that it had a strong bias, and one that might be hard to spot,
which was against Pentecostalism.  Pentecostalists believe that
the gifts of the Spirit are still given to Christians today,
while this dictionary made a point of denying that possibility.
There was no mention of dissent; judging by our [[Pentecostalism]] article,
it was written 6 years before Pentecostalism began anyway.

I myself only noticed this because my roommates are Pentecostals.
So if we use this resource (and we probably should),
then we should watch out not only for Christian and 19th century biases,
but for biases *within* Christianity as well.

-- Toby Bartels
   <toby+wikipedia-l at math.ucr.edu>

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