Parallel Wikipedia

by John Quiggin on April 1, 2007

The construction of the rightwing parallel universe is going on apace. In the course of an otherwise unremarkable whinge over errors in Wikipedia, Brent Bozell of Townhall.com, invokes the parallel-universe Conservapedia as an authoritative source.

Certainly, if you want info on the baraminological status of kangaroos, you’ll find it in Bozell’s preferred source and not in the liberal-controlled Wikipedia, which characterises the whole business as a pseudoscientific theory.

All of this, and the continuing sales of the Left Behind series, lead me to wonder if this construction effort will actually be successful. Maybe with sufficient will, the wished-for universe will be brought into existence, and the entire Bush support base raptured into it.

In anticipation, I’ll say farewell and good luck. Just don’t expect me to feed the cat.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius § Unqualified Offerings
04.01.07 at 1:38 pm
Bias in the bias « Cyberslacker
04.05.07 at 4:15 am

{ 63 comments }

1

bi 04.01.07 at 9:41 am

But seriously, Wikipedia’s process is screwed, and the problems surfaced by the “Essjay” scandal are very real.

And I might support one of the other competing projects, perhaps Citizendium or Wikinfo. But Conservapedia, no.

2

Timothy Scriven 04.01.07 at 9:42 am

Maybe they will eventually create an entirely self consistent and utterly parallel universe. They called themselves the reality based community, maybe they just were not talking about our reality.

The whole thing would have never happened if they had just read Hume: http://www.philosophersnet.com/cafe/archive_article.php?id=120&name=interrogations

3

Seth Finkelstein 04.01.07 at 11:18 am

Hmm … this could actually be a real problem.

If they can manage to do a take-over of Google like Wikipedia has done, that would be a very, very, bad thing.

Maybe I shouldn’t give them ideas … :-(

4

Rich B. 04.01.07 at 12:26 pm

On January 18, 2007, I read a Wikipedia article, and noted that an article mentioning “Dave Stewart” linked to a comic book artist of that name, rather than the former Eurythmic of the same name, whom the article should have properly been referring to.

Not wanting to try to figure out how to fix it myself, I put a note on the “discussion” page saying that the wrong Dave Stewart was being referenced, and could someone who knows how please fix it.

This post reminded me of it, since it was the last time I’d used Wikipedia, and I went to check. 11 weeks later, and the page hasn’t been changed yet.

It’s not even political — just an honest mistake made by whomever wrote the article. But there it sits. I think we’re reaching the point where the number of articles on Wikipedia is expanding faster than the world of editors, and more and more stuff is just getting forgotten, or ignored, or whatever.

5

greensmile 04.01.07 at 1:06 pm

Meanwhile over in the other alternate reality [once you can make one, whats to stop others from cropping up?] of The Globe (vol 53, no. 14, published by American Media Inc.) “Bush and Laura’s Darkest Secrets” revealed and, on the cover “inside whitehouse divorce”.

Yes, another fine source of information for the lonely folks who read three or four horoscopes per day.

This sort of “news”, like conservapedia, is crafted for an audience and based on a supposition of what folks want to read. What amuses me is that in 2003 these same rags were featuring photoshopped embraces of Saddam and Osama. One could infer that the editors believe Bush has lost his mojo in the astrology demographic.

6

Ben Alpers 04.01.07 at 1:06 pm

They called themselves the reality based community, maybe they just were not talking about our reality.

Actually, you have this backwards. The term “reality-based community” comes from an unnamed Bush aide quoted by Ron Suskind in an October 17, 2004, New York Times Magazine article:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Progressives seized on the term “reality-based community” precisely because the Bush White House was, bizarrely, using it as a pejorative.

(via Wikipedia, fwiw, which is apparently not much)

7

Jim Henley 04.01.07 at 1:30 pm

Maybe with sufficient will, the wished-for universe will be brought into existence, and the entire Bush support base raptured into it.

Worse than that: Tlön, Uqbar, Orbus Tertius.

(I get the first reference in!)

8

bi 04.01.07 at 2:48 pm

Rich B.:

… and more and more stuff is just getting forgotten, or ignored, or whatever.

Aye, and the best part is, many people don’t seem to be bothered by that. After all, why bother with these low-level gruntwork of cleaning up stuff, when it’s more exciting to take part in all the Epic Battles between Inclusionists, Deletionists, Mergists, Eventualists, etc.? (No, I don’t know what an “Eventualist” is, and I don’t want to know.)

9

KCinDC 04.01.07 at 2:50 pm

You did, Jim, but you lose a point for misspelling “Orbis”. “Orbus Tertius” would be the third orphan.

10

abb1 04.01.07 at 3:10 pm

“And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

To be fair, though, it was actually Mr. Bush’s father who discovered this parallel reality: “America has a new credibility. What we say goes.”

11

DonBoy 04.01.07 at 3:16 pm

Bozell said:

The website Conservapedia.com has a long list of 41 allegations of bias and factual errors at Wikipedia.

Wikipedia currently claims 1.7 million pages in English. And Bozell calls a a list of 41 problems “long”?

12

JP Stormcrow 04.01.07 at 3:40 pm

The website Conservapedia.com has a long list of 41 allegations of bias and factual errors at Wikipedia.

But I think the most impressive thing about Conservapedia is that it is an intricately self-referential network of over 6,300 educational, clean, and concise entries which serve as unintentional meta-commentary on the bias and factual errors at Conservapedia.

Truly an achievement. Unintentional, but an acievement nonetheless.

13

Jim Henley 04.01.07 at 3:48 pm

‘You did, Jim, but you lose a point for misspelling “Orbis”. “Orbus Tertius” would be the third orphan.’

Give me a break, man. I don’t know any Latts personally, so I don’t get much practice with Lattin.

14

JP Stormcrow 04.01.07 at 3:53 pm

Truly an achievement. Unintentional, but an acievement nonetheless.

But not as impressive as misspelling a word spelled correctly earlier in the same line.

JP’s Law: Their Is Always One More Typo.

15

AF 04.01.07 at 4:43 pm

Mmmm….Baraminology – what clearly elevates conservapedia to another plane are entries that include the phrase “A group containing Negroes and wolves…” No real way to finish that phrase well but they try.

16

Charlie Whitaker 04.01.07 at 5:01 pm

From the ‘about Conservapedia’ section:

We do not allow liberal censorship of conservative facts

At least we now know where we stand.

17

roger 04.01.07 at 8:14 pm

Actually, the conservopedia is a natural outgrowth of the American desire for the totally controlled environment. In the future, you can homeschool your kids, send them to Pat Robertson’s university, they can graduate to a closed gate community and homeschool their kids, they can all travel to and fro to conservomalls in maximally a/c-ed Hummers, modified to emit a richer co2 load – we need the carbon in the atmosphere! – and – to relax – they can watch a cable tv package especially selected to show them all the delights of comedy, tragedy and song – comedy of course being the conservative daily show, tragedy Red Dawn 4: the Clinton years, and song – well, what gets your toes tapping more than Iraq and Roll by Clint Black? By this time, of course, there will be the progressopedia, and instead of homeschooling, the progressosphere will go to private schools in which they will meet a spectrum of multiple cultures (all, of course, selected by test!). Then the usual route up the meritocratic ladder, until at last some of the progressosphere can become contrarian or ‘decent’ and advocate humanitarian interventions and such. At that point, package tours to allow the conservoworld to view and photograph the progressoworld will be all the rage.

18

perianwyr 04.01.07 at 9:15 pm

Compare the article on cryptozoology with the baraminology article for a smidge of enlightenment.

19

Timothy Scriven 04.02.07 at 12:03 am

Actually this could be an illustration of a paradox for coherentist epistemology. If they can form a completely consistent set of beliefs which has no contact with the real world some forms of coherentism would identify it as rational.

Perhaps that’s how we should think of the conservopedia people, not deluded as such but extreme coherentists.

20

radek 04.02.07 at 12:49 am

If you type in Dave Stewart into Wiki you’re taken to a disambiguation page with 6 different Dave Stewerts. Wiki wins again!!!

21

sara 04.02.07 at 1:22 am

If they can form a completely consistent set of beliefs which has no contact with the real world some forms of coherentism would identify it as rational.

Hard-core libertarianism, e.g., Randism.

22

Timothy Scriven 04.02.07 at 3:30 am

Not really. Though Randians might deny it ( because they hate their ideas being described in traditional philosophical terms) “objectivism” is actually epistemologically foundationalist.

23

John Quiggin 04.02.07 at 3:43 am

Regarding Dave Stewart, ambiguous links are a fairly subtle problem, a lot of users don’t know how to fix them, and it’s hard to set up an organised procedure for identifying and fixing such links. So the fact that such a bad link survives for a few months is not so surprising.

All you need to do to fix the problem is find the page you actually want to link to, in this case Dave Stewart (artist), then replace the existing link to [[Dave Stewart]] with [[Dave Stewart (artist)|Dave Stewart]].

24

Doug Breckenridge 04.02.07 at 5:01 am

Off the topic, and please forgive my ignorance, but is “whinge” by any chance the British equivalent of “whine,” as we goobers in the U.S. spell it? (Akin to programme/program, etc.) Is it pronounced the same way? I spend entirely too much time visiting Brit-oriented websites, and of all the spelling oddities, this is the one that feels the most like rubbing my head and patting my belly … thanks!

25

jacob 04.02.07 at 5:31 am

The best part of Conservapedia is their sheer intellectual dishonesty. My previous favorite part was the article on judicial activism, highlighted in this post by Scott Lemieux It was highly amusing. Alas, it was also, apparently, deeply embarrassing. Not only has the article been changed (fair enough on a wiki), but the edit history has been doctored so as to hide the original version.

26

jacob 04.02.07 at 5:37 am

Acht. I see I was perhaps unfair. The cleaned up (and entirely unfunny) article is “Judicial activism.” The original, funny, article was “Judicial Activism.” The latter now redirects to the former, but you can see the edit history and get to the original article if you so chose. Of course, in the edit history there is ample evidence to decide whether, in fact, the original article was “parody.”

27

John Quiggin 04.02.07 at 6:29 am

The section on mathematics is pretty amazing, though it may all be an April Fools’ joke.

28

Ginger Yellow 04.02.07 at 7:26 am

“Wikipedia currently claims 1.7 million pages in English. And Bozell calls a a list of 41 problems “long”?”

It’s even more ridiculous when you consider that among those “problems” are such things as not always using American spelling on an avowedly global site. Liberal bias!

On the Left Behind thing, can we not take some comfort that the awful Left Behind: Tribulation Force game tanked, its specially created publisher lost $27m and is on the verge of bankruptcy?

29

Katherine 04.02.07 at 9:00 am

As to Wikipedia process being screwed, I’m sure I read/heard somewhere that someone had done research and concluded that Wikipedia was about as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica. Nope, no source. Wow, don’t I sound authoritative.

30

Seth Finkelstein 04.02.07 at 9:04 am

31

Katherine 04.02.07 at 11:58 am

Ah well, Seth, just goes to show I shouldn’t believe everything I hear as a vague rumour, hey?

Rather ironically, given the subject matter of this post, a Britannica spokesman referred to Wikipedia as a “faith based encyclopedia”.

32

Barry 04.02.07 at 2:52 pm

Seth, perhaps it’s an attack of Americanus Ignoramus, but what is The Register? (http://www.theregister.co.uk/).

The homepage looks like an IT rag.

33

Seth Finkelstein 04.02.07 at 5:38 pm

Barry/#33 – right. IT with “attitude”.

34

Dave MB 04.02.07 at 6:41 pm

#25:

As you should easily be able to find out from non-Wikipedia sources, “whinge” is a rough synonym of “whine” and the “j” is pronounced.

35

Dave MB 04.02.07 at 6:42 pm

Duh, I mean the “g” is pronounced as a “j”. Why does one always make stupid mistakes when correcting others? The answer to that age-old puzzle has implications for the quality of Wikipedia…

36

John Quiggin 04.03.07 at 12:33 am

Just to be clear, Orlowski is anything but a neutral or reliable source – even more than The Register in general he has axes to grind, and dislike of Wikipedia is one of them.

The Nature study held up pretty well to Britannica’s criticism.

37

Seth Finkelstein 04.03.07 at 2:12 am

John/#37 – Unfortunately, almost all of the reporting was extremely credulous in favor of Wikipedia. Actually, the study had a very bad design problem, but that was subtle enough that once the sound-bite headline was generated, it was all over. The methodology was virtually guaranteed to yield the result “Wikipedia almost as a good a Britannica”, because every quibble and dispute was counted as an error against both. So there was a huge mass of, basically, nitpicking, that then turned into a claim of Wikipedia’s relative accuracy.

38

John Quiggin 04.03.07 at 3:35 am

Seth, that was certainly the claim made by Brittania, but the Nature response (behind a paywall unfortunately) made a pretty good case that there was no significant difference in the kinds of errors discovered in the two sources. I haven’t seen anything by a neutral third party that would lead me to reject the basic Nature finding. Do you have anything like this you can point to?

39

Seth Finkelstein 04.03.07 at 4:24 am

Given the nature of Wikipedia’s stance against experts, and its crowd-populism rhetoric, I think anyone who would invest the effort to write a detailed examination could be said almost by definition not to be “neutral”. That is, anyone who was motivated to go to the trouble to dig through the original, and the replies, and the replies to the replies, almost certainly has beliefs strong enough so that they could be said not to be neutral on the topic.

The problem comes down to what’s an *error*, versus what’s an *editorial choice*. If someone said that both “Wikipedia and Britannica have an equal number of editorial choices for articles of equal length”, that would almost be belaboring the obvious. But distinguishing the two categories is very specialized work, and certainly won’t travel well in the media.

40

bi 04.03.07 at 4:55 am

When someone stitches together Britannica “articles” from fragments of different articles, fragments a children’s version of Britannica, and even some original material, it’s simply dishonest. And responding to this kind of accusation with “Orlowski has an axe to grind” is just plain Bad Form.

If the charge is that Orlowski was lying, then I’d like to know about that.

41

John Quiggin 04.03.07 at 4:55 am

I’m not really looking for strict neutrality, just someone other than the immediate participants or obvious partisans like Orlowski.

As regards the difficulty of the problem, there would be none if you attempted a comparison of Wikipedia and Conservapedia for example. Even looking at Wikipedia as of, say, 2003, I think it would have been easy to show that Brittania was more accurate. Conversely, Wikipedia has tightened things up a lot since 2005 – much less tolerance for unsourced factual claims for example – so a repetition of the Nature study, applied to articles that were around at that time [not the exact same sample of course], would almost certainly come out more favourable.

Of course, there have been another million or so articles added since then, and that presumably means more errors, but that doesn’t seem like a good basis for criticism.

42

Seth Finkelstein 04.03.07 at 5:49 am

John, but my point is that the amount of work and the politics means anyone involved heavily is likely going to be “obvious partisans”. There just isn’t the incentive for anyone else. Not that it’s utterly impossible, but it’s a very contentious topic.

Now, contrary to some caricatures, Wikipedia’s accuracy problems are not at the cartoon level of
Conservapedia. Wikipedia tends to select to the level at around the popular press. It’s more like if you took a bunch of science articles written by journalists, it’d probably be very easy to do the same sort of study and proclaim that a decent newspaper is almost as accurate as Britannica.

I’m not convinced you’re correct about Wikipedia of 2003 – the difference is that by matching length, that has the effect of selecting well-developed Wikipedia articles. There were certainly a much smaller number of well-developed Wikipedia articles in 2003 – but if a sampling system was applied which only let pass well-developed articles, then that difference wouldn’t matter.

I probably should disclaim/disclose I’ve been a Wikipedia critic, especially in the matter of how it handles biographies of living people.

43

abb1 04.03.07 at 6:12 am

When Britannica (online) was free I used it. If it becomes free again, I’ll probably use it again, although clearly in many respects it loses to Wikipedia – Wiki being always up to date, featuring popular culture references and things like that.

But Britannica isn’t even free, so what are we talking about here? Sure, of course, I could also hire a bunch of nobel laureates to answer any question that might pop up into my head and replace wikipedia this way. But let’s consider some basic cost/benefit analysis too.

44

John Quiggin 04.03.07 at 7:27 am

Orlowski gives a tendentious summary of the Brittanica response, imputing deliberate dishonesty on the basis of claims of error, taken from an obviously biased source, that he hasn’t checked. I’d call that reckless disregard for the truth – others might not be so charitable.

The main claim cited in #41 comes down to the fact that Nature selected what came up on a search of the Brittanica website, which is certainly a defensible procedure if you’re comparing online encyclopedias. Brittanica said they should only have used the main encyclopedia. Arguable, but it doesn’t support rhetoric like Orlowski’s.

The other main point is that Brittanica disputed lots of points where the reviewers (doing the job blind by the way) said they were in error. But, as Nature pointed out, Wikipedia could have done the same thing. There was no attempt by Brittanica to show that the reviewers were harder on its articles than on Wikipedia’s.

I hate to pour oil on the fire, but the best source for all this is

here

45

John Quiggin 04.03.07 at 7:40 am

As regards Seth’s comparison with newspapers, they’re riddled with errors on topics like global warming and evolution, even when they are trying to get it right (which excludes the entire Republican media machine).

And they simply don’t cover most scientific issues in any depth (not that they are expected to). Check out any current topic of interest, say string theory or quantum computation and see if you can get any more than vague metaphorical descriptions (try Google News). Then look at Wikipedia.

46

Seth Finkelstein 04.03.07 at 8:35 am

Hmm, you sure sound like you have an axe to grind :-).

Regarding: “The other main point is that Britannica disputed lots of points where the reviewers (doing the job blind by the way) said they were in error. But, as Nature pointed out, Wikipedia could have done the same thing. There was no attempt by Britannica to show that the reviewers were harder on its articles than on Wikipedia’s”

As I said : The methodology was virtually guaranteed to yield the result “Wikipedia almost as a good as Britannica”, because every quibble and dispute was counted as an error against both. So there was a huge mass of, basically, nitpicking, that then turned into a claim of Wikipedia’s relative accuracy.

It’s not a good reply to say they could equally nitpick both Wikipedia and Britannica – that’s in fact the restatement of my point. When someone comes up with a bunch of quibbles, which is virtually certain to happen for *both*, this will then be scored as *equal* *accuracy* – in effect, masking serious errors under an avalanche of trivia.

Here, simple example: Say a Wikipedia article has 2 real errors and 8 quibbles, while a Britannica article has 1 real error and 8 quibbles. The reviewers were equally hard on them. But there’s a big difference between reporting an error rate of “2 to 1” versus “10 to 9”. And Nature’s methodology was going to drive the headline soundbite toward the latter sort of number.

47

Katherine 04.03.07 at 8:52 am

Well, I have to say that if I wanted an authoritative statement on something requiring expert knowledge and expertise, for the purposes of, say, academic study, I sure as heck wouldn’t go to Wikipedia. But for the things I use it for – general information, a starting point – it is more than adequate and of course easily accessible. It is also incredibly useful for its onward links and referencing structure. And free. Let’s not forget free.

Whilst I read the Register article, I rather thought that it sounded like Britannica’s side of the story, but since I didn’t really know enough about either side to express and informed opinion, I thought I’d keep my mouth shut. And I see that others, more informed than I, have taken up the subject. Thanks – all very interesting, although I can’t honestly say it has changed my opinion or use of Wikipedia that much.

48

bi 04.03.07 at 9:35 am

Nature selected what came up on a search of the Brittanica website, which is certainly a defensible procedure if you’re comparing online encyclopedias

Eh, but it still doesn’t explain why Nature had to paste stuff together and present the stuff as a single “article” in one case, as Orlowski reports. Why?

= = =

But again, what especially irks me now is that even after the “Essjay” scandal, there are still Wikipedia fundamentalists who are defending Essjay’s lies left and right, saying that his lies are “reasonable” and all that.

And the Three Big Lies of Wikipedia:

Wikipedia is -not- a soapbox. Indeed, those Inclusionists, Deletionists, Mergists and whoever, they were totally _not_ using Wikipedia to pimp their views on How Things Ought To Be.

Wikipedia is -not- an indiscriminate collection of information. Now, guess who decides what information is suitable for inclusion in Wikipedia. Answer: “current consensus”. Isn’t that great? And the “current consensus” is being dominated more and more by Simpsons fans, webcomics fans, and other similar characters. You can guess where all that’s heading.

Wikipedia is -not- a bureaucracy. Hell yeah. Slow-acting and sometimes non-acting administrators who refuse to find out any cases presented to them unless it’s shoved right into their face, and try to find every excuse to do nothing; and when they do act, they brainlessly enforce rules based on what they don’t find out. Oh, and there are those big fat _backlogs_ too! If that’s not a bureaucracy, I don’t know what is.

49

bi 04.03.07 at 9:40 am

s/find out/find out about/

50

John Quiggin 04.03.07 at 10:10 am

Given that Essjay was effectively thrown out, and that policy was changed to prevent a recurrence of his actions, those who defend him can scarcely be described as apologists for Wikipedia. What exactly is your complaint here?

51

John Quiggin 04.03.07 at 10:15 am

Seth, your hypothetical example is a good one, but it is, as I already pointed out, entirely hypothetical. You assume that more of the Wikipedia errors were serious, but no-one (certainly not Britannica) has claimed this.

If I have an axe to grind, it’s mainly that I don’t think Orlowski should be taken seriously. His stuff reminds me too much of global warming/Lancet/evolution denialism.

I agree with the implied view that Wikipedia needs to take more notice of real expertise. I think that changes over the last couple of years have moved things in that direction, but there is still a fair way to go in some fields.

52

Seth Finkelstein 04.03.07 at 2:02 pm

John: The example I gave was to show how a big accuracy discrepancy could be converted into a headline of nearly-as-good. Note also in #45, you yourself wrote “The other main point is that Brittanica disputed lots of points where the reviewers … said they were in error.”

Look, I think I’ve offered as much as can reasonably be done for this level of discussion. I can’t review the entire dataset, and even if I could, anything I said would be dismissed as a partisan critique. I think I’ve raised legitimate methodological issues that are apparent in an initial inspection of the data.

The analogy to global warming/Lancet/evolution denialism is rather the reverse, since Wikipedia generates a lot of rhetoric about how ordinary people can triumph over the ivory-tower intellectuals.

[Further disclosure – Orlowski has quoted me a few times in his stories]

53

Michael Mouse 04.03.07 at 3:09 pm

In anticipation, I’ll say farewell and good luck. Just don’t expect me to feed the cat.

I’ve always thought the Talmudic injunction against millennialism and apocalyptic excess was extremely sound. The rabbinical sages advise that if you’re about to plant a tree, and someone comes rushing up to tell you that the Messiah has come, you should first finish planting the tree and *then* go greet the Messiah.

Transposing the point for this audience: If you are about to feed the cat, and someone comes rushing up to tell you that The Rapture is at hand, you should first finish feeding the cat and *then* go greet the Apocalypse.

54

bi 04.03.07 at 5:40 pm

John Quiggin:

I don’t see any policy “changes”. At most there’s a proposal to verify credentials — I understand it was tabled at the beginning of March, and it’s now April. With so much apologetic rhetoric around, I highly doubt the proposal will even begin to fly. And remember, “Essjay” wasn’t promoted to the Arbitration Committee by normal procedure in the first place: what’s the use of changing policy, given that Jimbo promoted “Essjay” by overriding policy in the first place?

Also, let’s not forget that the enforcement of existing policies is already a total mess — wheel wars, backlogs, all that.

And you really can’t beat this for sheer apologetic bull:

“The ethos of Wikipedia is that anyone can contribute, regardless of status, argues Dr Platt. What’s relevant is their knowledge as judged by other readers, not whether they are professors or not – and the fact the student [“Essjay”] was exposed shows it works.”

Man… isn’t it great? If “Essjay” was exposed, the process obviously works; if “Essjay” wasn’t exposed, nobody’ll know about it and there’ll be nothing to complain about, so the process definitely works too! And of course, it took only 9 months to expose “Essjay” surely inspires great confidence in the Wikipedia process…

= = =

As I said, I don’t like Conservapedia either. I might get behind Citizendium or Wikinfo (or even Encyclopaedia Britannica, if I’m that desperate).

55

Chris Andersen 04.03.07 at 11:31 pm

I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “In case of rapture, can I have your car?”

56

porgy tirebiter 04.04.07 at 12:05 am

Sorry, I’m just an occasional lurker, but I can’t help express my utter amazement at the sentence: “As I said, I don’t like Conservapedia either. “

Carry on.

57

bi 04.04.07 at 8:56 am

“I can’t help express my utter amazement at the sentence”

(I wonder what porgy tirebiter means by this statement. Maybe this statement is just some sort of grand philosophical pronouncement. As in, something along the lines of “You just proved my point! (and no, I’m not going to tell you which point it was, and how it was proven)”. Or “Krispy Kream Doughnuts: So good, you’ll **** ****.” All you need to know that porgy tirebiter just said something profound, even if you don’t quite know what exactly it means.)

Now, back to our regularly scheduled treasonous facts.

58

John Quiggin 04.04.07 at 11:04 am

bi, you’re obviously much more closely involved in this than I am – all I know about Essjay is what I read in the NY Times.

Although I contribute to Wikipedia, and have been involved in some of its disputes, the arcane details are beyond me. I have enough trouble remembering the secret Crooked Timber passphrase, not to mention the order of the seventeen circles of initiation.

59

Jon Swift 04.04.07 at 11:49 am

When I first wrote about Conservapedia I included a number of examples of its fine scholarship.

60

abb1 04.04.07 at 12:43 pm

I wonder what porgy tirebiter means by this statement.

It’s like hearing someone criticizing (reasonably and fairly, perhaps) design flaws in, say, Boeing 747, and finishing it by saying: “but I don’t like Yugo either.” I think that’s what tirebiter meant.

61

Virginia Dutch 04.04.07 at 6:20 pm

We shouldn’t take Wikipedia too seriously. It’s a great resource, but it’s the electronic equivalent of something a cab driver told you. Use it as a starting point, but you’re crazy if you don’t check and double check everything in it.

As for Conservapedia, I’m glad they’ve made clear the distinction between “conservative facts” and “facts.”

62

Cyrus 04.05.07 at 2:07 pm

The remarkable thing about Conservapedia is that, for a certain range of content, it cannot be determined whether an editor was sincere or trolling. The proper response is not, Wow, someone actually thinks this, but, Wow, enough people think enough sufficiently weird things that we cannot tell whether someone actually thinks this.

63

bi 04.06.07 at 4:04 am

abb1:

(Well, I’d rather not “think” what porgy tirebiter meant. If he can’t be bothered to tell us what exactly he meant, then I can’t be bothered to respond to his words.)

More on the wonders of Wikipedia policy and policy enforcement: administrator HighInBC, seeing that his blocks on users engaging in personal attacks are being undone, says:

“Perhaps we should rename `Wikipedia:No personal attacks’ to `Wikipedia:Only a few personal attacks, as long as they are not too bad’.”

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