What Wikipedia means to me
I often wonder what it is like for most people who try to learn MediaWiki markup. One day I watched a new editor spend several minutes and many edits trying to create a new external link. I finally stepped in and did it. I'm not sure that most web surfers find it easy to become Wikipedians. Wikipedia naturally selects for certain types of people and that means as a group Wikipedia editors have biases.
When I think about the youngest Wikipedia users, I feel like they and I are from different universes. Some Wikipedians seem to have little interest in making an encyclopedia; they seem to view Wikipedia as a MMORPG (for example, see: Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2007-01-02/Experanza). I hate to imagine what might have happened had I been exposed to Wikipedia at a young age.
Wikipedia user JWSchmidt has been around the sun more than 45 times. That means that I am old enough to have lived through the whole personal computer age. I became interested in computers by reading science fiction such as that of Isaac Asimov. The first electronic computer I ever used was a Wang that had no CRT. Still, I was able to imagine a day when computers would change the world, including the way people learn about the world we find ourselves in. In less than 30 years I've gone from wishing to be able to get my hands on a computer with a CRT monitor to currently hoping that I never have to buy another CRT for a computer. Some computer technology like CRT monitors come, have their day in the sun and then fade away. The 3½-inch microfloppy diskette is another example.
I learned chemistry in the age of the slide rule. The first computer program I ever wrote got stored on a cassette tape. And just to not keep you in suspense, I only had to walk 1 mile through the snow to get to school. I learned to do serious programming on an IBM 360 time sharing system and fell in love with the mathematically oriented APL programming language. The first computer I used for word processing was a NorthStar; absolutely not WYSIWYG! While I cursed the arcane markup code that I had to use on the NorthStar, little did I know that I was getting training for future technologies like MediaWiki.
The first computer I ever bought was a Macintosh Plus which provided my entry into the age of the Graphical User Interface. The first computer I ever connected to the internet was a Macintosh IIcx. As a scientist, access to the internet was as much of a relief as had been graduating from the command line to GUI. Today, we take for granted online resources such as those provided by the United States National Library of Medicine (see Entrez PubMed), but when I started using Entrez it was a gene sequence database that came by snail mail on CD-ROMs. When the internet boom started I quickly learned to use the World Wide Web and HTML, but I also soon discovered the limitations of conventional websites, particularly the constraints imposed on collaboration by the convention that few people are permitted to edit most webpages. Lucky for us all, these sorts of frustrations led to new software technology that allows for a distributed group of online editors to collaborate on the creation of webpages. Wiki technology is not something that will pass from use in one or two decades. I do expect dramatic evolution of wiki technology, but the basic power of distributed online group editing is no flash in the pan.
It was by way of Wikipedia that I first learned about wiki as a technology that allows open access to webpages for multiple editors. I've been trying to grow my concepts so as to understand how to build communities in wiki user spaces. Wikipedia grew out of Nupedia, a frustrated effort to make an encyclopedia using conventional ("first generation") online tools for document construction and peer-review. The main problem with Nupdia was low throughput. Wikipedia used wiki technology to create a community where it was fun for volunteers to supply input and now there is a flood of content. Now we are in the process of harnessing that input and trying to move towards systems that will allow careful citation of sources and the production of higher quality articles.
Towards that end, Wikipedia continues to evolve and to spin-off sister projects. I am very much concerned with how to promote higher quality in Wikipedia articles, and I am interested in the idea that a Wikiversity project could help.
I worry about the fact that WikiMedia projects are trying to provide to the world for free what many companies are trying to sell (see: "The Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource" by Richard Stallman) and, in some cases, what some powerful individuals and organizations would like to hide. How many people come to edit WikiMedia projects like Wikipedia just for the purpose of trying to disrupt them and prevent them from competing with commercial websites? How many editors are here in order to push a particular agenda? How many technical articles are edited by well-meaning students (and other amateurs) and how can Wikipedia involve experts in the editing process when existing errors are so off-putting?
I support the philosophy of "gently nudging participants in the direction of more appropriate behavior". Sometimes I feel that while I have been busy "gently nudging", I have been trampled by a stampede. I worry that some Wikipedians I respect have left Wikipedia because of this continuing problem. If we view Wikipedia as an experiment, we have to accept the possibility that it contains the seeds of its own ultimate failure. It is possible that Wikipedia will be remembered as an example of how not to run a wiki.....is it possible that the best we can hope for is that other wikis will learn from the failings of Wikipedia and do better? Jimmy Wales said, "I think we should run small experiments, tests, see what works, what doesn't, and be prepared to be flexible and change, and not be too locked into stone about how things should work." I wonder if this can be applied to Wikipedia? Has Wikipedia become an institution that is not able to examine its own problems and fix them? Does this force those Wikipedians who want to fix things to abandon the project?
Of course, our problems could be even worse than just being unable to improve; the project could attract so many POV pushers that they will take control. In my view Wikipedia:Attribution as a replacement for Wikipedia:Verifiability is an example of a downward trend. This policy change was supported by POV pushers who love to cite unverifiable sources such as propaganda web sites and include unverifiable content in Wikipedia because they can attribute it to a source. These people display a concept of "reliable source" that amounts to "it supports my point of view". These folks seem to live on Wikipedia and behave like paid propagandists citing their own websites in order to spread their propaganda on Wikipedia. At one time, there were good examples of reliable and unreliable sources at Wikipedia:Reliable sources. That has been eliminated now so that mostly bland generalities remain that deter nobody from citing sources that are unreliable because they cannot be verified. It will be interesting to see the response to Jimbo's objection. The policy "wonks" who have nothing better to do have taken policy merging to the logical extreme (see: Wikipedia:Overlapping policies and guidelines). "Proposals" to merge policies can now be routinely made without there actually being a proposal explaining the benefits. "I have nothing useful to do today so I'll merge some policy pages".
"We tried to get in contact with you almost a year ago, detailing our desires to utilise your account to help rid Wikipedia of the corruption and bureaucracy at every level that continues to plague it to this very day. We are hoping that, almost a year on, your circumstances may have changed and you may be more willing to aid us in achieving our goal. At the end of the day we all want the same thing - an encyclopedia that is informative and accurate, but one that is also run in a fair manner so all can contribute on an equitable level."
The Wikipedia Freedom Fighters
Wikipedia projects I support
See the guide to WikiProjects.
- Molecular and Cellular Biology WikiProject - improvement of molecular and cell biology articles at Wikipedia.
- Cell Signaling WikiProject - example: Cell signaling
- Neuroscience WikiProject - example: Action potential
- Science pearls WikiProject - see: Molecular structure of Nucleic Acids
- History of Biology WikiProject - Monera, Carl Sagan, Francis Crick, Eric R. Kandel
- Wikipedia podcasting project - see also: Introduction to GarageBand
- Should work closely with Wikiversity:
- LiquidThreads - will be useful for Wikiversity - Wikicite.
- Science collaboration of the week - example: RuBisCO
- Scientology WikiProject - I have a general interest in pseudoscience and New Age religions (see). Further, I think that the scientology-related articles provide a good example of one of the serious problems facing Wikipedia. It is instructive to look at the earliest versions of the scientology article, the earliest edits of the original version of the article (such as this), and how the scientology-related articles have evolved during the past five years. I would love to obtain some information about how the original version of the Wikipedia scientology article was produced.....I'm guessing it may have originated in nupedia. In any case, it was a fairly scholarly and NPOV article and it is sad to see how the article went down hill when it came under the influence of Wikipedians. It is clear that from its earliest moments scientology came under attack by an army of determined opponents. Some open questions to ponder: which is the more interesting phenomenon, scientology or anti-scientology? Will it ever be possible for Wikipedia to produce scholarly and NPOV articles about topics such as scientology or is Wikipedia perpetually doomed to suffer from its editors' biases?
Examples of places I work
- My Image:Three cell growth types.png illustration got listed as a Featured picture candidate by Finlay McWalter.
- Carl Sagan - the featured article where I first learned to add Footnotes to Wikipedia articles.
- Helicobacter pylori - It is nice to have articles like this ready for the day when the Nobel Prize is announced.
- I watch for vandalism to biology-related articles, particularly subtle vandalism. my request for adminship
"Wikipedia is not a place to assess the morality of a person, their beliefs or their orientation, neither is it the place to advocate for or against a political or religious point of view." -(source, origin)
Other Wiki projects
- My Meta-wiki user page - About.
- My Wikiversity user page - History and visions
- My Wikibooks user page
- My Wikinews user page - Interview with Jimbo Wales
- My Wiktionary user page.
- My Wikiquote user page.
- My Wikispecies user page - Placentalia.
- My Wikimania 2006 user page.
- My Wikicities user page.
- my old user page - pre-2006
- User:Memenen - One day I found myself on a strange computer without my Wikipedia password. I started a new user account. Sometimes I still use the Memenen account since it has a much leaner watch list than does my User:JWSchmidt account.
- In order to see what information is given to new users, I just made User:JohnWSchmidt.
- In order to test single user login I created User:JWSurf.
- As part of a Wikiversity learning project I created User:Beetlebaum.
- maintenance - my list
- Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2006-10-09/Eloquence interview
- Wikipedia problems: well said
- What is pending changes? What does it do?
"Pending changes protection" can ensure the most recent changes to a troubled page are not displayed to the wider (non-editing) readership until checked by a more experienced user for obvious vandalism and similar clear issues (although they can see it if they choose). It only affects pending changes and only by holding them back from wider non-editor viewing until checked (can someone check this for full "pending changes protection"?). It doesn't affect logged in users. All autoconfirmed users are automatically reviewed except in some rare cases. Reviewer rights, the ability to review other users' edits, are expected to be widely handed out and require roughly the same trust as rollback.
It is useful for persistent vandalism, BLP tabloid news, and other inappropriate edits that cannot easily be prevented from some exposure using existing tools, and on high sensitivity articles and issues. It can be applied to prevent IP/non-autoconfirmed editing or editing by all users (except admins) the same as semi- and full- page protection.
- What is the purpose of the trial?
One aim of the trial is to test in practice that the delay can be kept short and see what impact it has and how it works in practice.
- When would it be appropriate to use it?
See the page protection policy section. Its primary targets are pages with "hard to address" vandalism and inappropriate editing, such as very variable IP vandalism, breaking news with high visibility/high vandalism risk issues, BLPs with persistent rumors or internet gossip, or other activity that has usually needed permanent protection. Pending changes should be used during the trial for pages that have a clear requirement that edits need checking before being readable by the wider world, and when normal existing tools cannot resolve the problem, or where the disruption to good faith editing would be severe. In terms of policy, use of pending changes protection level 1 is subject to the same conditions as semi protection, and use of pending changes protection level 2 to the same conditions as full protection.
- Persistent ongoing vandalism that cannot be prevented by usual means without much disruption
- Repeated insertions of BLP violation/internet gossip/tabloid news/urban myth insertions, etc
- Edit warring by large groups that cannot be controlled by usual sanctions
- High profile articles with a high risk of inappropriate editing (requiring both editing and an absence of vandalism), especially those on permanent, long term, or very repeated protection.
The trial only allows 2000 pages - use judiciously.
- How does the tool impact editors and readers?
See the help page. Editors (logged in) are not affected at all. Non-editor readers are not affected except on "pending changes protected" pages, where they see the latest version that is marked as vandalism/abuse free. In effect "anyone can still edit", but "pending changes protected" pages have a delay before non-editors see the latest versions.
No material is hidden and non-editors can still see the latest revisions (if any) at the click of a tab. The trial is starting slowly in order to test whether we can in fact do this without significant delay.
- How are reviewer rights obtained and removed?
See the help page. Database reports will be used to automatically generate lists of users likely experienced enough and they will be granted the rights. Administrators can grant the rights, in the same way as rollback (which has a very similar trust level). There's also a page to individually request the right linked from there.
- What is the policy?
The policy on usage has been largely incorporated into page protection policy and processes.
That's because of a pragmatic point about time (trial rolls out in a few days). More specifically, the reviewing aspect is different but the scope, usage and requests (ie WP:RFPP aspects) are likely to be nearly identical to semi-protection and can usefully go on the same page. It keeps it simple to have all forms of page protection and their requests in one place, and describe it as "pending changes protection" (which is intuitive and fits existing wordings), even if they are in fact 2 tools. Also treating it as "another form of protection" means we don't need to copypaste 2/3 of all PP and RFPP pages, guides and processes, we can just update those pages to include mention and coverage of this new method, and it's a lot less change and disruption, and much more likely to fit into "what people already know".
In other words, current protection policy and requests are close enough to be adopted for a lot of it, and doing so brings this immediately into the "realms of the familiar" for anyone who uses protection already, rather than making entire new processes and pages.
Other aspects of the policy such as granting of rights etc and guidance are still at Help:Pending changes and Help:Pending changes review process. The main page Wikipedia:Pending changes ("WP:PEND") is outdated and until rewritten, best ignored for a day or two.
- How are requests for "pending changes protection/unprotection" made for a page?
See Wikipedia:Requests for page protection. Ie, in the same way as other forms of protection, or by any administrator. A time limit can be defined, as for all other forms of protection.
- Help:Pending changes (and related Help:Pending changes review process · Request rights)
- Wikipedia:Protection policy has a section on "Pending changes protection" now (section link) covering usage policy.
- Wikipedia:Requests for page protection is being updated to reference requests for pending changes protection and its removal.
- Category:Wikipedia pending changes protected pages
- June 18 - 92 pages
- Mark pages referencing other proposals, possible implementations etc as "historical"
- Create necessary templates similar to semi-protection
- Check if "reviewer" and "autoreviewer" need distinguishing anywhere
- Inform users if needed (non-editor readers will probably rely on templates as for existing protection)(source)