[Wikipedia-l] Re: wikispecies

Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales jwales at wikia.com
Thu Sep 16 13:54:28 UTC 2004

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.

Perhaps it _could_ be interpreted that way, but that interpretation
would not accord with my meaning.

> I am *very* much against that

Yes, of course, I think everyone is 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.

I don't think the term "general audience" implies any such thing.

I have here a book on stochastic differential equations from my old
days in hardcore mathematical financial theory.  When I open the book
and start to read, I immediately notice that the book assumes a
certain context that I, sadly, no longer have.  The book is
inappropriate for a general audience.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_mathematics on the other hand,
is a list of articles which, by and large, are appropriate for a
general audience.  Many of them are quite challenging, to be sure, but
they are all written quite differently from a text on the subject
which assumes that you already know what you need to know to get

This is not (entirely) a matter of detail, it is also a matter of
style, of the particular needs of a particular audience.

> 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).

I read that it is estimated that there are 30-50 million species on
earth.  (Other estimates are "between 2 and 100 million" - the
question is fairly unsettled).  But just focussing on named species,
there are between 1.5 and 1.8 million, about half insects.

It would be inappropriate *for wikipedia*, and I think you will agree,
for us to have a "Rambot for species" to go through and add all of
those in one fell swoop.  This does not imply that such information,
collected in some place with an eye towards the needs of professional
biologists, would not be very valuable.  It just says that, hey, in a
general interest encyclopedia, a massive dump of stubs or
auto-generated articles which would make en: *4* times as big
overnight, is not a good idea.

> I consider some of my detailed geology articles to be good enough to
> be considered professional reference material for geologists while
> at the same time being accessible to any reasonably educated (high
> school or higher) and interested layperson. But the point that
> *should* be made is that they are *encyclopedia articles* - not
> books, not definitions, not source material and not quotes. 

Exactly, I understand completely what you are saying.  And Wikipedia
should be for *encyclopedia articles*.  But this should not blind us
to exciting opportunities to empower people to work on different kinds
of reference works.


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