This is like a post, only it's not.

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Every so often, I try to put into words just how Wikipedia has taken its mind numbingly huge potential and somehow managed to squander it. I do this in good faith, and also try to explain why it is I constantly use Wikipedia even though I think Wikipedia has wasted said potential.

(The answer to the latter is simple, for the record. Wikipedia makes a phenomenally good starting point for a journey. It just makes for a terrible destination.)

Anyhow, the most brilliant man on Earth, Lore Sjöberg, has managed to explain it vastly better than I ever could.

And been funny all at the same time.

In other news, I am recovering from the truly excellent run of the play, by rereading the complete works of Jeffrey Rowland. I'm into 2001 of When I Grow Up. It remains significantly better than many things that today I consider good, and yet Rowland considers it one of his weaker works. I take this to highlight the true and honest brilliance of Jeffrey Rowland, who is no Lore Sjöberg, but he does his best. And besides, who is Lore Sjöberg. Other, of course, than Lore Sjöberg. That old Legion of Super Heroes intelligence scale, which Brainiac 5 was a "12" on? Lore Sjöberg is a 20. In fact, the scale is called the "Sjöberg" scale and originally, Sjöberg was defined as a "1" and everyone else was defined thusly. However, it got depressing for people to be described as .02 intellects, so they finally multiplied everything by twenty and rounded to the nearest integer, so that people would feel better about all of it.

It was, of course, Lore Sjöberg's idea.

34 Comments

Jeez, man, watch it. You keep talking like that, Chuck Norris is going to be after my ass.

Thanks for the kind words, although the fact is that Steve Purcell is at least a 22. Pity his webcomic has an inexplicable, off-putting mouseover interface.

It is constitutionally required of me to mention why Wikipedia is really Jimbo's Big Bag o' Trivia. Which is kinda cool, except it's supposed to be an encyclopedia ... oh well.

Eh, the entire Internet is a black hole of vicous arguments. The founding of Wikipedia is just when we crossed the event horizon.

And now, I made the circle complete by making someone upset that I totally messed up the metaphor I was trying to use.

I dunno...I LIKE Wikipedia. I can find tons of stuff there. Almost anything I need to look up.
Is it the most reliable source in the world? Nah. But if I'm searching for ideas to incorporate in the physics of the sci-fi universe I'm working on, or if I need some Benjamin Franklin quotes, or want to look up some super-hero or anime...Well, Wikipedia's just fine.

I love Wikipedia for the rather dubious reason that 'cat' and 'dog' are two of the most regularly vandalized articles.

I can just see that vandalism.

'A housecat is any small member of the feline CATS ARE LAME DOGS RULE FUCK YOU CAT LOVERS!'

'A dog is a popular pet IN KOREA WHERE THEY EAT THEM DOGS SUCK DOGS SHOULD ALL GO TO HELL YOU SUCK DOG PEOPLE CATS ARE THE BEST!'

'One of the common properties of most cats is THAT THEY ARE JERKS WHO SHED EVERYWHERE AND ACT LIKE LITTLE ASSHOLES AND CLAW YOUR FACE IN THE NIGHT LIKE SERIOUSLY ONCE MY GIRLFRIEND HAD THIS CAT AND IT PUKED ON MY LAUNDRY AND THEN WHEN I WAS ASLEEP IT CLAWED MY ARMS!'

'Dogs are considered very loyal BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL RETARDED AND NOT NEARLY AS SMART AS CATS'.

Yeah.

Wikipedia rules.

I'll check out Wikipedia researching for Arthur, King of Time and Space. I figure, since I'm writing about myths and legends, it's as good a source as any. (In fact the article on the Wandering Jew has some great external links.)

For all its faults (and it has many) it remains a very useful resource. It is, however, an inconstant one.

There is no doubt of that, Paul.

If I've learned anything in my years on the internet, it's that every third person you meet is a folklore major at their local community college. Thusly, Wikipedia is shockingly complete in that aspect.

And this is where I point out how proud I am that I fixed a major factual error in a Wikipedia entry yesterday.

The entry on saltine crackers. The Wiki article thought they were an unleavened bread, like hardtack, but they're actually a yeast bread with a very long rise time.

That entry had sat there for years without anyone ever noticing the factual error. But I went in and corrected it, and now it's right. Sort of gives me the warm fuzzies.

I prefer the Larry Groznic approach to the situation, inasmuch as it's not unlike reading fucking everything else on the Internet.

Check the wikipedia weird al article. Looks like other wiki contributors read the Onion. :)

And so here I am, inspired by all this talk about Wikipedia, to look up "Lemurs". And on the Talk page, I see that someone moved a mention of post-Malagasy Schism lemur migration theory to Talk because it "sounded wrong". People! Please! Improbable as it sounds, the fossil record confirms that Madagascar had been separated from the African continet for a hundred million years before lemurs show up in the fossil record! Clearly, this was not a simple case of speciation by introduced geographic isolation!

...this is what goes on all the time, right? And that's the problem, yes?

Wikipedia is INDISPENSIBLE if I need to know immediately what event of cosmic significance happened in the second episode, fourth season of B5.

That's crucial info. If, you know, I'm arguing with a nerd.

ghetto edit: indispensAble... stupid english language.

PEBKAC.

1. Wonder if anyone has made the connection between what is consider "worth knowing", "what most people actually know" and Wikipedia? It would certainly explain things like Jay Leno's "Jaywalking."

2. Disturbing discovery about Chuck Norris. I had trouble sleeping one night, and about 5 am (CST), I went into the common area to watch a little television. There on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, they were showing a Chuck Norris Cartoon from like 1990. 1990! Which makes me wonder if there ever was a Chuck Norris/GI Joe crossover? At any rate, Chuck Norris would have defeated Cobra single-handedly.

3. See, I thought you were talking about Larry Gonick, the famed Cartoon History of the World guy (note to self: Must get volume 3 and pre-order volume 4). He's much better than most Wikipedia articles. And more entertaining. (Vol. 1, Masterpiece. Although I think we've discussed this before.)

That article is further proof that Lore is one of the funniest people that's ever decided to grace the internet with his presence, as well as proof that buying that copy of The Book of Ratings when it came out was a hell of a smart move, even if the Brunching Shuttlecocks didn't last for much longer after I bought it.

As for Wikipedia, it's a good enough place to get information for inconsequential projects for school and a decent enough place to find links to more authoritative sites if said project is actually important. Also if I just want to quickly look something up, it's a fine source as long as I remember not to believe everything I read. I definitely don't see it as being a BEST AND MOST AUTHORITATIVE SOURCE IN THE UNIVERSE sort of site, though, and I think I actually agree more with anti-Wikipedia sentiment than anything else.

Thing to is, I can't really say that I personally have ever heard anything anti-Wikipedia that didn't boil down to 'Wikipedia would be awesome except for these serious flaws with the methods'.

I don't know if you can really call that anti...

Of course, I could be missing large amounts of sentiments, too.

What potential? As far as I can tell, Wikipedia has lived up to its full potential; few at its creation expected that an unmoderated collection of information from random people could even hope to produce something of general use. You've got your dancing bear; do you really believe with a little more practice would could have it dancing like Frank Sinatra?

Dncing like Frank Sinatra? It probably does that already, now had you said Fred Astaire...

I think the best comparison I've heard is that Wikipedia is basically the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy--both have information added by whomever, although editing for relevance will sometimes lead to the entire article on the planet earth consisting of one word: "Harmless."

Also like the Hitchhiker's Guide, it's more popular than traditional encyclopedias for slap-dash research.

Terrible comparison.

The HHGTTG has paid reporters and paid editors. People whose job it is to work for the HHGTTG. The reporters turn in work and the editors determine what's important about it and boil it down. Thus when Ford Prefect turns in a decade and a half's worth of experience with the planet Earth, the editors wisely cut it 'due to space constraints' to 'Mostly harmless'.

On Wikipedia the less important the world, the faster and more bloated the article would get. Then there'd be a revert war about whether Earthlings have two arms or three arms or perhaps those are legs and shut up damn you you don't know anything about Earthlings oh yes well I went to Earth once and I met several of them PLEASE STOP REVERTING THE ARTICLE HAVEN'T YOU READ WP:NO ORIGINAL RESEARCH YOU GOING TO EARTH DOESN'T COUNT BECAUSE IT IS ORIGINAL RESEARCH oh and by the way on Earth they have comics please link to this picture of Power Girl. Boobs!

And then someone would come along and change every instance of the word 'of' to 'Hi Joe!'. Then it would be angrily reverted back to a version of the page where it just said 'Earth is a planet in the Milky Way galaxy.' Finally it would be put up as a non-notable AFD, everyone would get their friends to come and vote on it, the whole thing would be a huge debacle and finally Jimbo would step in, change it to 'Mostly harmless.' with a justification of WP:OFFICE and that would be that.

People'd bitch about it on their userpages and especially on the Wikipedia Review, a forum designed specifically for people to cry like little girls about the problems they see Wikipedia having. Someone would create a little Wikipedia userbox with a planet Earth in it and people who supported the reversion of the Earth article to its previous seven hundred GB version would put it on their userpages, alongside their userboxes that proclaim 'This editor can speak Garblakkian with advanced proficiency.' and 'This editor is proud to be a triskasexual.' Eventually the furor would die down and people would eventually forget about the whole situation. I mean, there's a revert war going on in the Brian Peppers article, people! We can't get caught up in this Earth nonsense anymore! It's BRIAN PEPPERS, the UGLY SEX OFFENDER! He's NOTABLE!

See? Huge difference.

Oh, also the Guide is small, easy to use and has DON'T PANIC written in big soothing letters on the cover. If Wikipedia had a cover, it'd say 'OH SHIT!'.

Big friendly letters.

So they aren't soothing in any way?

I think the weariness some feel for Wikipedia versus other reference materials is that Wikipedia's faults are much more evident. Honestly, I have no idea how much bias goes into, for example, the Encyclopedia Britannica; people just take it on faith that it's balanced. I wouldn't be surprised at all to discover that Wikipedia is just a macrocosm of the way most reference materials are put together. We're only noticing the flaws because they're writ large.

To expand the stub, Wikipedia would have "Oh shit!" on it in tiny, nervous letters. Some sort of fake handwriting font.

Or possibly it would say 'Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia", but someone crossed out 'The Free Encyclopedia' and wrote in 'Jeff Flersher loves da cock' in Comic Sans and then that was crossed out and underneath in a sort of angry version of Times New Roman, 'The FREE ENCYCLOPAEDIA' and there's a little asterisk where someone wanted to use the A-E ligature character and were voted down, then, on the inside cover, a long argument about the merits of UTF-8 versus url-encoded special characters.

That being said I really like Wikipedia... but it seems to me inevitable that it will eventually split off into a number of 'baby Wikipedias' as people with differing interests fork it into their own mould.

When it comes to die-hard Wikipedians, thomas, I think that they can all go fork it.

...

HAHAHAHAHA! Get it?

My "favorite" part of wikipedia is all the biology articles that have discussion pages featuring someone claiming that treating evolution as fact violates NPOV.

Wikipedia has taken its mind numbingly huge potential and somehow managed to squander it.

This should suprise no-one, since the sentence is equally true if you substitute "Wikipedia" with "Humanity".

Someone's bitter. Then again, potential doesn't mean squat when you consider all the opposing forces working on these potentiates.

For instance, humanity:

* Predators
* Not knowing what the fuck to do
* Evil people
* Dogmatic religion
* The tiny area of land that can sustain life abundantly enough to boost societal evolution (if you've ever wondered why the Israel-Iraq area is the cradle of civilisation, well, it's because it was the largest of these areas)
* The tiny area of land compared to water

So really humanity not living up to its potential is not much of a surprise, because potential is a best-case scenario and best-case scenarios only really happen in trivial cases.

Now, Wikipedia:

* Being on the Internet
* Created by humans
* See the entire list above

So, who's really surprised?

After reading for a bit, I've noticed: the critics of Wikipedia are collectively really getting their shit together. I'm sure if it wasn't one in the morning I could make a great point about how it's constant refining and editing that got the arguments to this point and how the difference between that and Wikipedia is that the actual point of the argument pretty much stays the same or else it collapses into childishness, whereas with Wikipedia so much time is wasted in working out what the point of the article should be that they forget to actually write it. But it's one o'clock in the fucking morning so I couldn't really give a shit. Write your own damn comment.

Who the hell preys on Wikipediae?

The difference between the discussion on a Wikipedia article and the discussion on a traditional encyclopedia article?

I'll admit I've not delved deeply into WP. But in college I assisted with the creation of a single entry in an encyclopedia. It involved three of my professors arguing via hardcopy letters with professors at a number of other schools. The topic of the article was rarely, if ever, referenced, mostly the arguments had to do with who was qualified to write the article. In the end, the text preferred by the profs at Princeton was used. From what I can tell, the deciding factor was that the staff author of the encyclopedia was a Princeton grad.

So. It really does seem that Wiki is the normal encyclopedia generation system, only with the arguments you never see preserved for posterity.

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