[Wikipedia-l] Re: wikispecies

Stirling Newberry stirling.newberry at xigenics.net
Thu Sep 16 11:50:10 UTC 2004

On Sep 16, 2004, at 2:04 AM, Daniel Mayer wrote:

> --- "Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales" <jwales at wikia.com> wrote:
>> I would put it a different way.  "The needs of a general purpose,
>> general audience encyclopedia differ from the needs of a professional
>> reference work, so we should move forward in exploring solutions that
>> meet the needs of both users while minimizing duplication of efforts."
> That could still be interpreted as meaning that [[biology of ...]] and
> [[geology of ...]] articles should not be hosted on Wikipedia and 
> instead on
> separate projects. I am *very* much against that and don't agree with 
> usage of
> the term 'general audience' since that implies (to me at least) a 
> forking of
> content based on detail alone. Sidenote: A general encyclopedia is one 
> that is
> not specialized; since we don't have size limits that is a statement 
> without
> much distinction since we can - and do - go into detail on a great 
> many topics
> - just not all on the same page (and with summaries in appropriate 
> places).

Let me put this differently still. Would you prescribe a medication out 
of wikipedia? Or perform a surgical procedure from it? Would you check 
drug interactions from it?

Articles that people are going to stake their professional reputations 
on, or base new work on. That is, works that must carry authority, have 
different needs from general reference, and cannot simply be 
watchdogged on the "well if the article is important someone will 
monitor it" basis. This isn't knock on general wiki editing, this is 
recognizing that as more and more money rides on internet information, 
there will be more and more incentive to skew the results. This has 
already happened in many professional fields, and many professional 
journals out there in the paper world.

Dealing with the more complex issues of authority, credibility and 
accuracy represent a large step forward for wikimedia, they are serious 
issues and need to be addressed. I am firmly on the side of the 
believers that they can be addressed within this framework. But it 
isn't merely a matter of content. It is a matter of intent. Wiki 
clearly states "no original research" for wikipedia, it is using 
consensus to slowly reach the state of "settled knowledge", with 
coverage of POVs within that context. Any professional quality project 
will have to hit that moving target which is the state of research. The 
paper world has these problems, and in fact, is right now thrashing 
around under the weight of them. Electronic knowledge offers ways of 
solving these problems in a better way. But that is very different from 
making these problems disappear.

It's a question of what is called "apparatus". Footnoting is apparatus, 
so are textual notes - these are means by which people who read check 
and use that which is written. Wiki needs to begin developing more 
sophisticated apparatus for professional users. In turn, such articles 
will feed, not fork, the main project. The apparatus of bibliography, 
footnote, reproducibility of tables, textual analysis and documentation 
didn't get created at once for paper - it took decades. Ignoring the 
question won't make it go away here.

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