(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Wikipedia

“It is the nature of humankind to idealize, to indulge in excessive praise as well as unjust condemnation”*…

 

Polarization

 

In 2013, James Evans, a University of Chicago sociologist and computational scientist, launched a study to see if science forged a bridge across the political divide. Did conservatives and liberals at least agree on biology and physics and economics? Short answer: No. “We found more polarization than we expected,” Evans told me recently. People were even more polarized over science than sports teams. At the outset, Evans said, “I was hoping to find that science was like a Switzerland. When we have problems, we can appeal to science as a neutral arbiter to produce a solution, or pathway to a solution. That wasn’t the case at all.”…

Looking at the polarized results, Evans had an idea. What would happen if you put together a group of diverse people to produce information? What would the results look like? Evans knew just the place to conduct the experiment: Wikipedia. Evans and Misha Teplitskiy, a postdoctoral fellow at the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard, and colleagues, studied 205,000 Wikipedia topics and their associated “talk pages,” where anybody can observe the debates and conversations that go on behind the scenes.

The scholars judged the quality of the articles on Wikipedia’s own assessments. “It’s based on internal quality criteria that is essentially: What do we want a good encyclopedia article to be? We want it to be readable, comprehensive, pitched at the right level, well-sourced, linked to other stuff,” Teplitskiy explained.

In their new Nature Human Behaviour paper, “The Wisdom of Polarized Crowds,” Evans and Teplitskiy concluded that polarization doesn’t poison the wells of information. On the contrary, they showed politically diverse editor teams on Wikipedia put out better entries—articles with higher accuracy or completeness—than uniformly liberal or conservative or moderate teams.

A way to pop filter bubbles? Evans and Teplitsky unpack their surprising– and encouraging– findings: “Wikipedia and the Wisdom of Polarized Crowds.”

* Peter Ackroyd, Venice: Pure City

###

As we celebrate diversity, we might send exploratory birthday greetings to Sir Richard Francis Burton; he was born on this date in 1821.  An explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. He was famed for his travels and explorations in Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures (according to one count, he spoke 29 European, Asian and African languages).

An exception to the pervasive British ethnocentrism of his day, he relished personal contact with human cultures in all their variety.  His best-remembered achievements include: a well-documented journey to Mecca in disguise, at a time when Europeans were forbidden access on pain of death; an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights (commonly called The Arabian Nights in English, after early translations of Antoine Galland’s French version); the publication of the Kama Sutra in English; and a journey with John Hanning Speke as the first Europeans to visit the Great Lakes of Africa in search of the source of the Nile.

 source

 

“The Encyclopedia – the advance artillery of reason, the armada of philosophy, the siege engine of the enlightenment”…

 

42985744371_2d2152c476_z

Encyclopædia Britannica occupies a special place in the annals of publishing and the history of the West. Although its full influence, like that of any great work of literature, is ultimately immeasurable in concrete terms (the number of units sold is never the best barometer), its larger social and cultural impact—as a reference work, a spark to learning, a symbol of aspiration, a recorder of evolving knowledge, and a mirror of our changing times—has been extraordinary…

From George Bernard Shaw to Keith Richards, a few of Encyclopædia Britannica’s famous readers– and their fascinating tales– on the occasion of its 250th anniversary: “Encyclopedia Hounds.”

* Peter Prange

###

As we look it up, we might we might recall that it was on this date in 2007 that Apple released the first iPhone….  the device that ushered in the smartphone and that, with Wikipedia (which dates from 2001), contributed to the decline of Encyclopædia Britannica, which ceased print publication in 2012.

28117516167_320a47faca_n source

 

Written by LW

June 29, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties”*…

 

Enter any two nouns or nominative/descriptive phrases; if (as is likely) there’s a Wikipedia article on each, Six Degrees of Wikipedia will track and map the links that connect the two, first as a network diagram:

… then as paths like these:

… all with active links to the underlying articles.

Try it.

* Friedrich Nietzsche

###

As we agree with E.M. Forster that we should “only connect,” we might spare a thought for Jean Baudrillard; he died on this date in 2007.  A sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer, he is best known for his analyses of media, contemporary culture, and technological communication, as well as his formulation of concepts such as simulation and hyperreality.  He wrote widely– touching subjects including consumerism, gender relations, economics, social history, art, Western foreign policy, and popular culture– and is perhaps best known for Simulacra and Simulation (1981).  Part of a generation of French thinkers that included Gilles Deleuze, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jacques Lacan, with all of whom Baudrillard shared an interest in semiotics, he is often seen as a central to the post-structuralist philosophical school.

 source

 

Written by LW

March 6, 2018 at 1:01 am

“I am convinced that the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones”*…

 

There are over five million articles in the English Wikipedia. These are the ones that Wikipedians have identified as being a bit unusual. These articles are verifiable, valuable contributions to the encyclopedia, but are a bit odd, whimsical, or something you would not expect to find in Encyclopædia Britannica. We should take special care to meet the highest standards of an encyclopedia with these articles lest they make Wikipedia appear idiosyncratic

Odd and amusing photos and text: Wikipedia’s article on “Unusual Articles.”  Hours of fun!

* The Scarecrow (L. Frank Baum)

###

As we wallow in the weird, we might recall that it was on this date in 1712 that the Bandbox Plot unfolded. An attempt on the life of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, the British Lord Treasurer, it was foiled by the perspicacity of Jonathan Swift (author of “Gulliver’s Travels”), who happened to be visiting the Earl.

A bandbox was a lightweight hat-box; this particular one– an ancestor of the parcel bomb–  had been rigged to fire a number of loaded and cocked pistols on opening. Swift, spotting the thread to which the triggers were attached, seized the package, and cut the thread, thus disarming the device.  The attack was laid at the door of the Lord Treasurer’s political rivals, the Whig party, and threw enormous popular sympathy behind Harley.

The Right Honorable Robert Harley, The Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer KG

source

 

Written by LW

November 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

“You don’t get explanations in real life. You just get moments that are absolutely, utterly, inexplicably odd”*…

 

A warning sign in Coober Pedy, a town in northern South Australia

There are over five million articles in the English Wikipedia… These articles are verifiable, valuable contributions to the encyclopedia, but are a bit odd, whimsical, or something you would not expect to find in Encyclopædia Britannica.

Wikipedia: unusual articles

* Neil Gaiman

###

As we wonder at the weird, we might send dissolute birthday greetings to the poster boy for oddity and excess, Caligula; he was born on this date in 12 CE.  The third Roman Emperor (from from 37 to 41 CE), Caligula (“Little Boots”) is generally agreed to have been a temperate ruler through the first six months of his reign. His excesses after that– cruelty, extravagance, sexual perversity– are “known” to us via sources increasingly called into question.  Still, historians agree that Caligula did work hard to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor at the expense of the countervailing Principate; and he oversaw the construction of notoriously luxurious dwellings for himself.

In 41 CE, members of the Roman Senate and of Caligula’s household attempted a coup to restore the Republic.  They enlisted the Praetorian Guard, who killed Caligula– the first Roman Emperor to be assassinated (Julius Caesar was assassinated, but was Dictator, not Emperor).  In the event, the Praetorians thwarted the Republican dream by appointing (and supporting) Caligula’s uncle Claudius the next Emperor.

 source

Written by LW

August 31, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.”*…

 

As of earlier this week, the English-language Wikipedia contains 4,985,975 articles. If these were printed and bound into books — each 25cm tall by 5cm thick, like Britannica — there would be 2,207 volumes, each containing 1,600,000 words…

All of this content is, of course, user-submitted. It is also user-policed: the site requires constant maintenance from a massive pool of unpaid editors, who do things like fix typos, remove instances of vandalism (like de-categorizing George W. Bush as a “sexually-transmitted disease”), and improving the breadth and accuracy of each and every page.

Of Wikipedia’s 26 million registered users, roughly 125,000 (less that 0.5%) are “active” editors. Of these 125,000, only some 12,000 have made more than 50 edits over the past six month. And of these selfless few, one man is king of the domain.

Since joining Wikipedia a decade ago, 32-year-old Justin Anthony Knapp (username “koavf”) has established himself as the the site’s most active contributor of all time. He has made an astonishing 1,485,342 edits (an average of 385 per day), ranging in topic from Taylor Swift to the history of blacksmithing.

What’s life like as Wikipedia’s most prolific editor? And what has compelled this man to dedicate thousands of hours of his time, knowledge, and energy to an online encyclopedia for absolutely no compensation?…

Find out at “The Most Prolific Editor on Wikipedia.”

* Dalai Lama XIV

###

As we contribute to the commonweal, we might recall that it was on this date in 1760 that Denis Diderot, Enlightenment paragon and co-founder, chief editor, and contributor to the Encyclopédie, wrote to his friend Sophie Volland of the very phenomenon that koavf has devoted so much of his life to avoiding…

Diderot transcribed the words of Galiani, who seized the occasion to shine before his audience: “My friends, I recall a fable. Listen to it.” The story tells of a contest between two birds of different species, the cuckoo (supposed to be the representative of method) and the nightingale (the spokesman of genius). Which voice is more beautiful? The dispute is submitted to the ass for judgment. He is lazy and, without investigating the case or listening to the litigants, declares the cuckoo the winner. The story came from an Italian work, the burlesque epic Ricciardetto (1738), by Niccolò Fortiguerri (1674–1735), which Diderot also knew, having recently read it and found cause in it “to weep alternatively from pain and from pleasure.” The ass’s iniquitous judgment in favor of the cuckoo is a perfect example of resorting to antiphrasis: the good response, in a case of this sort, is obviously the contrary of the one given by a bad judge, that is, a judge who does not listen

Diderot

source

 

Written by LW

October 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Wikipedia is a victory of process over substance”*…

 

The earliest extant version of the entry on Switzerland in Wikipedia

Wikipedia was born in January of 2001.  Initially only in English, it quickly became multilingual; the English version is now one of more than 200 Wikipedias, but remains the largest one, with over 4.6 million articles. Wikipedia is the sixth-most popular website and the Internet’s largest and most popular general reference work.  As of February 2014, it had 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors each month, and more than 22 million accounts…  But of course the site had much humbler beginnings.

First Drafts of History collects the earliest extant versions of Wikipedia entries– allowing users to compare, say, the entry above with the current article on Switzerland.

My, how we’ve grown!

* Ethan Zuckerman

###

As we ruminate on reference, we might send gilded birthday greetings to William Henry “Bill” Gates III; he was born on this date in 1955.  Among his many accomplishments as the head of Microsoft, Gates oversaw the 1993 launch of Encarta, a disc-based encyclopedia.  Microsoft created Encarta by purchasing non-exclusive rights to the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, using it as the basis for its first edition.  Microsoft had originally approached Encyclopædia Britannica, the gold standard of encyclopedias for over a century, in the 1980s; but Brittanica’s owners, the Benton Foundation, declined, believing its print media sales might be hurt; in the event, the Foundation was forced to sell Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. at below book value in 1996 when the print sales could no longer compete with Encarta and the Microsoft distribution channel, which focused on bundling copies with new computer systems.  In 2009, Microsoft stopped updating and supporting Encarta, which had migrated to the web; it had been overwhelmed by Wikipedia.

 source

 

Written by LW

October 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: