Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bashing Wikipedia-Bashing

One thing that generally annoys me is the aggressive attitude that many people seem to have towards Wikipedia, which I describe as - I don't know where the term originates - Wikipedia-bashing. Besides the normal horde of individuals raving about how Wikipedia is inaccurate, a bane to teachers, contains inappropriate content, etc., now some people claim that it is overtly biased, and have gotten to the point of creating a whole new wiki in an effort to combat an alleged "liberal bias" existent in Wikipedia. Although such sentiment is noble, it has the unfortunate consequence of making the viewpoint supposedly supported, in this case conservatism, look supremely ludicrous. As a conservative myself, albeit one with many "liberal" views, I find such idiocy quite disturbing. One of the most prided pages on the website "Examples of Bias in Wikipedia", contains the claim:

Polls show that about twice as many Americans identify themselves as "conservative" compared with "liberal", and that ratio has been increasing for two decades. But on Wikipedia, about three times as many editors identify themselves as "liberal" compared with "conservative". That suggests Wikipedia is six times more liberal than the American public.

Unfortunately, this has been demonstrated to be mathematically inaccurate, as can be revealed from close inspection, multiple times. In addition, the referenced sample of Wikipedians is so miniscule in comparison to Wikipedia's total membership that it is virtually immaterial. The individuals in charge of Conservapedia refuse to change this, however, and justify it with an absurd definition of "liberal bias" as "the ratio of liberals to conservatives in a group, such that no liberals would equate to absolute zero." (emphasis added) Sadly, this is sociologically fallacious, and simply serves to put off those of us who are not rabidly, reflexively conservative. Furthermore, "liberal bias" is not determined by the ratio of liberals to conservatives in a group, but by bias present in their behavior. If all liberal editors on Wikipedia articles were writing in a biased manner, then that would result in bias; however, this does not appear to be the case.

The complaint that Wikipedia uses permalinks to Conservapedia articles, which decreases its, already weak, status, is also made, and proffered as an example of bias. The article then proceeds to use permalinks to Wikipedia articles to support other claims of bias, in an excellent example of selective application of principles, severe hypocrisy.

Another "example of bias" is the fact that Wikipedia allows the British spelling of words to be used in its articles. This is interpreted as an anti-American bias. Conservapedia's insistence on American spelling can just as, if not more, easily be interpreted as anti-Anglicism.

Also mentioned are inaccuracies and poor English in Wikipedia articles, when Conservapedia is rife with these. Apparently, gossip is also pervasive in Wikipedia, and much of it is written in a National Enquirer-esque style. However, the same article decrying these in Wikipedia is written in the immature, rumormongering style that they accuse Wikipedia of using.

Examples of Bias in Wikipedia also rants about the Seigenthaler incident, and make reference to "Wikipedia editors savaging Seigenthaler on afterwards on a Wikipedia talk page for publicly criticizing the falsehoods about him." The referenced comments,

Mr. Seigenthaler's attitude and actions are reprehensible and ill-formed… [He] has the responsibility to learn about his own name and how it is being applied and used, as any celebrity does on the Internet and the world-at-large. Besides, if there is an error whether large or small, he can correct it on Wikipedia. Everyone fails to understand that logic."


"Rather than fixing the article himself, he made a legal threat. He's causing Wikipedia a lot of trouble, on purpose.

are perfectly accurate in many respects, particularly about the ability to correct articles, although they may be written in an overly insensitive manner.

While accusing Wikipedia of a liberal bias that, if even present, is quite small, Conservapedia ignores the conservative bias rampant in its pages. Women contained, until recently, when I corrected it, a seeming insinuation that all passages in the Bible concerning women were to be taken literally, including those directing them not to speak in church and to submit to their husbands. I've seen people talking about not introducing the "pro-science bias" present on Wikipedia into Conservapedia. Incidents like these are prevalent, although there are a few shining examples of reasonably good articles on controversial topics, like Vaccine, which was actually not a rant about the evils of preventative medicine, but a fairly well-reasoned discussion of vaccines.

In addition, Conservapedia has a problematic power structure, with rabidly conservative editors holding a great deal of influence. A sysop with the username Conservative (that tells you something about his viewpoint) has apparently decided that he's the only individual qualified to edit certain controversial articles, has "protected" them, and is virtually the only person with influence over these unfortunate files. The project's founder, Andrew Schlafly who holds a position analogous to that which Jimbo Wales' used to hold on Wikipedia, only he actually is the supreme ruler of Conservapedia, appointed Conservative as an admin, and has done nothing to curb his behavior, even though it has been repeatedly brought to his attention. His rulership, at this point in the project, is not necessarily undesirable, especially in the absence of a strong body of editors, and strong guidelines. In cases such as this, however, and others, he is simply using his influence to force his viewpoint.

However, Conservapedia does have the benefit of being a Wikipedia-like project where it's still easy be helpful, which can be difficult on the real Wikipedia. Conservapedia is also inhabited by a group of individuals, mostly (myself included) Wikipedia imports, who are not necessarily the most conservative individuals in existence. Many hold conservative views, but digress from those of the mainstream to some extent.

So, I've joined the project in an attempt to bring some portion of peace to its ravaged pages. I'm active on both Wikipedia and Conservapedia, and hope to be helpful on both.

Link of the day: The best website currently around.

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