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How to handle our point of view?

Hope you don't mind my starting a talk page here. Thought it would be better to comment than directly edit. Given the institutional setting, it seems to me that we should bend over backwards to be/sound balanced and neutral. That said, I would point out that many sentences are structured like: "It seems good but...." Left-handed compliments etc. For example, quoting from the current draft:

  • Wikipedia allows anyone to edit, unless...
  • While contributors are encouraged to create accounts at Wikipedia, [BUT] people may edit anonymously.
  • ... history for every Wikipedia page is available, [BUT] exceeding
  • Wikipedia grew exponentially in its first 4 to 5 years, thougharticle growth slowed...
  • While the English Wikipedia boasts well over one million articles, [BUT] many articles are on relatively trivial ...

I recommend giving them a nice, clean description up front, composed of unqualified (true) statements. Then a separate section with criticisms. Make the criticisms crisp, not nitpicky, and cite credible outside (non-CZ) critics, and that's not hard to find! (I've got some links if you need them...) Overall, the upfront description should be longer and more thorough, the criticisms would be the most significant but not overwhelm the look of the entire article. You may not like Wikipedia, but it's one of the most successful computer ventures of the decade. David Hoffman 18:50, 11 May 2007 (CDT)

I agree completely--although I'm not sure about the heading; is it really "our point of view" that we care about, or the neutral truth?
Anyway, there's room for negative information that's not weasel-worded, and for positive information that's not immediately negated by back-handed quasi-contradiction. For example, it's worth mentioning that MediaWiki is used by a variety of other projects, and it's worth talking about the Brittanica-vs.-Wikipedia study; it's also worth mentioning some of the controversies (as well as the criticisms of Wikipedia that are listed on Wikipedia itself).
Also, it's not true that "... the editing history for every Wikipedia page is available." (Doesn't Larry Sanders' blog talk about this?) --Andy Barnert 02:56, 17 May 2007 (CDT)
Part of the weasel-word problem is that those statements are generally true of Wikipedia, and are related to principles by which Wikipedia runs itself, but there are exceptions. Anyone may edit, unless they've so abused that privilege that they've been banned. WP has banned somewhere around 100 people, but anyone else can edit. Etc., etc. The problem is how to fairly indicate that certain things are mostly, but not entirely, true. Anthony Argyriou 09:32, 17 May 2007 (CDT)
You're right. The challenge is to give a neutral picture of the overall situation when our own project aims to capitalize on some of the liminal problems. Or, even if we think the problems are significant, not to allow our POV to overwhelm the article. David Hoffman 11:16, 17 May 2007 (CDT)
We could even have a section where criticisms of Wikipedia are listed, including those criticisms of Wikipedia which Larry is trying to correct in Citizendium. By reporting the criticism, it's easier to be neutral when describing the thing. Anthony Argyriou 12:20, 17 May 2007 (CDT)

Criticism section

The "criticism" section merely listed some characteristics on Wikipedia, which may be undesirable according to some but good according to others. I think the "criticism" should focus on true negative aspects of Wikipedia, such as vulnerability to vandalism, libel, and such, and maybe give some mention to the Essjay incident and the Kennedy assassin libel incident. Yi Zhe Wu 17:01, 20 May 2007 (CDT)

I don't think Seigenthaler was accused of being an assassin of anyone, but merely that he was once under suspicion of being somehow involved--and only Robert F. Kennedy. Look up the quote again, please. --Larry Sanger 14:38, 25 May 2007 (CDT)

Just changed it, thanks. Yi Zhe Wu 14:45, 25 May 2007 (CDT)

"Larry Sanger, the disputed Wikipedia co-founder": the only people that I'm aware of "disputing" that I was co-founder is Jimmy Wales, and Wikipedians that he has convinced. I don't believe anyone else disputes it, and Wales himself released three Wikipedia press releases, including two after I left, that stated that I was a founder of Wikipedia. Calling me "the disputed Wikipedia co-founder" is like saying that evolution is "a disputed theory of how species are formed." Sure, there's a dispute; but how important is it? --Larry Sanger 15:00, 25 May 2007 (CDT)

I understand you, but since you are Larry Sanger himself I'd like to wait for another author/editor to change it. And yes, evolution is not proven yet :-). Yi Zhe Wu 15:05, 25 May 2007 (CDT)
Larry, is it acceptable to say that you are a former co-founder? As a subject matter reference, what should be said to accurately describe your position? --Robert W King 15:11, 25 May 2007 (CDT)
I don't see how anyone can be a former "co-founder" of something. Someone can be a "former Yankee first basemen," sure. Or a "former owner of the Yankees." But Smith and Jones remain the "co-founders" of the Yankees, whether one of them is no longer associated with the team or not. Pedantry lives! Hayford Peirce 15:20, 25 May 2007 (CDT)
Is ostracized okay?--Robert W King 15:19, 25 May 2007 (CDT)
I wouldn't use it myself -- I think it implies that *many* people are ignoring the ostracized victim. Which in this case I don't think is true -- unless you're saying, perhaps, that the entire Wikipedian establishment, and their press agents, are ostracizing him. And it has a sense of banishment about it which I also don't think is appropriate. Hayford Peirce 15:25, 25 May 2007 (CDT)
I was never ostracized or banished. When I was still involved, I was one of the few who could do the banishing myself. --Larry Sanger 15:30, 25 May 2007 (CDT)
That's what I thought. I will remove that adjective and leave the noun unadorned. Hayford Peirce 15:33, 25 May 2007 (CDT)
How about "exiled"? :P Yi Zhe Wu 15:34, 25 May 2007 (CDT)
I exiled myself. I was laid off because Bomis's ad-based business model collapsed at the end of 2001, and they couldn't pay me. A month later, I resigned; I could have stayed on as a volunteer, but I had other things to do. Nine months later, without announcing it to anyone other than Jimmy Wales, I permanently distanced myself from the project over management differences. --Larry Sanger 15:35, 25 May 2007 (CDT)
If we *have* to have an adjective, how about "Larry Sanger, the self-exiled co-founder of etc etc."? I'll stick it in if other people think it's appropriate. Otherwise, I suggest just leaving things alone. Hayford Peirce 16:02, 25 May 2007 (CDT)

Gresham's law

I wish that someone besides me had said, notably, that "Wikipedia is proof positive of Gresham's law that the bad drives out the good." Then I could put that in this article. Hayford Peirce 15:04, 25 May 2007 (CDT)

Criticisms In France

"Copillage" == "Copyracy" by Pierre Assouline,_la_col%C3%A8re_de_Dieu

Diffamation = defamation,39020774,39293524,00.htm (Steingenthaler case)

Randian Objectivism?

Based upon Randian objectivism, Wikipedia's undergirding philosophy...

Oh really?

Anthony Argyriou 14:08, 27 July 2007 (CDT)

I think actually WP is the opposite of objectivism. Rand's philosophy is that everyone is selfish and should be selfish, and WP would be considered to be "socialist" in Rand's point of view, IMHO. Yi Zhe Wu 14:19, 27 July 2007 (CDT)

It's a complicated subject, but I think it's ultimately silly to say that the project is "based upon" any broad philosophical view, much less any one person's philosophy; if anyone caused it to be so, it would be me, because I was leading the project when it developed its basic principles, and I'm not aware of following Ayn Rand's philosophy in guiding it. But the only reason anyone says this is that Jimmy Wales is an avowed follower of Rand (and has been since I've known him--since 1993). But this means very little. If there is any connection at all, on such grounds, it lies in the fact that WP at least began with a minimum of "government," and Rand is a minimal statist. But I think that has much less to do with any explicit Rand connection than simply that I (and Jimmy) saw that lack of rules and control would encourage people to take bold action, and actually build the thing. That's why I came up with the injunction "Ignore all rules." --Larry Sanger 05:51, 28 July 2007 (CDT)

I wrote that a good while ago, sort of writing while thinking aloud, and added it with full knowledge that it would be mercilessly edited. Have at it, anyone; I doubt I'll be too involved in writing this article. I'd say that Wales currently thinks of WP as philosophically based upon whatever is that economic theory of highly distributed activity, can't remember the name right now, and says so in his speeches. I think, however, that there is most certainly a "Wikipedia philosophy" that exists and that can be articulated, but it is doubtful, as Larry says, that it can be rooted in any one "school" but is its own thing.  —Stephen Ewen (Talk) 06:18, 28 July 2007 (CDT)

You're thinking of Hayek. That's a little more plausible, I admit; but Jimmy is implying that he had very much to do with the design of Wikipedia's guiding philosophy. He didn't. --Larry Sanger 05:01, 29 July 2007 (CDT)

"Sanger left the project in late 2001" -- no, March 1, 2002. --Larry Sanger 05:03, 29 July 2007 (CDT)

"Reason" magazine has an interview with Jimmy Wales that says this: "Hayek's work on price theory is central to my own thinking about how to manage the Wikipedia project," Wales wrote on the blog of the Internet law guru Lawrence Lessig. "One can't understand my ideas about Wikipedia without understanding Hayek." (...) Hayek's arguments inspired Wales to take on traditional encyclopedias, [1]--José Leonardo Andrade 05:57, 29 July 2007 (CDT)

Fair enough. Wales is an authoritative source about what is central to his own thinking. --Larry Sanger 06:59, 29 July 2007 (CDT)

I didn't say he was an "authoritative source" (or that he wasn´t) --José Leonardo Andrade 10:00, 2 August 2007 (CDT)

I seem to recall one fellow somewhere calling Wikipedia's philosophy, in so far as the bulk of its contributor base is concerned, "radical egalitarianism".  ;-) I think a section on WP's philosophy would be great to add to this article, especially to show how it has (d)evolved over time.  —Stephen Ewen (Talk) 14:16, 2 August 2007 (CDT)
How has it changed for the worse? Much of the wikipedia infighting seems to be over pop articles that will get very very few hits from an encylopedia reader. In many ways they need all the pop stuff as a way to protect the good stuff. The vandals love to vandalise the pop stuff whereas many of the science articles receive fairly low levels of vandalism. Only those of a political nature seem to get hit hard, such as cloning or evolution. Imagine if there was a higher wheat to chaff ratio on wikipedia, i think the vandalism and wikipolitics might be a real problem then. Chris Day (talk) 14:26, 2 August 2007 (CDT)
I haven't been on Wikipedia for terribly long, but I don't see any significant change in the philosophy over time, just in the consequences of that philosophy. Anthony Argyriou 15:11, 2 August 2007 (CDT)


Hi, Jerry, glad to have you aboard. I think, however, that regarding anything we say about Wikipedia, we have to be super-cautious. What you have added is, of course, very interesting, but I think you had better give at least one reputable source for your information. Thanks! Hayford Peirce 10:50, 16 May 2008 (CDT)

Wikipedia Foundation?

Under "Criticisms and controversies" I found the following "In June, 2007, the Wikipedia Foundation hit the ...". Shouldn't Wikipedia Foundation be Wikmedia Foundation? -- Alexander Wiebel 08:29, 13 June 2008 (CDT)

New World Encyclopedia

Cut from footnote:

  • Identity and credentials of those experts rest undisclosed.

I have met most of the Editors of NWE, and their identities are not "undisclosed". If anyone wants to start an article on the New World Encyclopedia, I'm sure we can get as much information as we need from Frank Kaufmann, its editor in chief. Anyway, just about all of the Editors have a PhD in their respective fields.

I would start the article myself, but I think that might be a conflict of interest for me. I helped them get started with technical advice based on my (then) 4 years of experience working with Wikipedia. --Ed Poor 18:19, 24 January 2009 (UTC)

Legal aspects of wiki collaboration

...are discussed in Wikipedia, Collective Authorship, and the Politics of Knowledge by Matthew Rimmer. --Daniel Mietchen 21:24, 9 March 2009 (UTC)

Most popular article

Interestingly, this is the most popular article on Citizendium in terms of page views as of June 2010. John Stephenson 08:55, 11 June 2010 (UTC)

WP editing environment

I'd like to see some discussion of the Talk page environment on WP and its dysfunctional nature. IMO this is the most discouraging aspect of WP, and one it is trying to change by its appeals to Academia to improve the representation of subjects of interest to Academia.

I am not sure how to get across the horrible atmosphere at WP short of directly quoting the back-and-forth. Any suggestions about this topic? John R. Brews 17:20, 28 September 2011 (UTC)

For perspective, see this:
Jones 16:45, 29 September 2011 (UTC)
Hi Russell: This source suggests that bullying is so subjective that it is hard to substantiate. However, the WP editing environment is clearly dysfunctional, and it is affecting articles. John R. Brews 13:58, 5 October 2011 (UTC)
Hello John, Part of what I got out of it was the perspective that a small snipe here and there, while may not being perceived as bullying by the recipient, forms a pattern of behavior when delivered to hundreds. In other words, one's collective comments identify one as a bully, even though no two comments are ever directed at a single victim. Victimless crime, then? (Trolls?) Also there was his point that because comments may have been discrete enough—and worded "properly" as gamers of the system will do—that bullies can legitimately deny that they are bullies. I've seen that sort of thing happen ....
I've also been "following" an edit war that seems to have ended, but a reflection on the situation here shows some of the dysfunctionalism. A collaborator's responses are quite limited and none are good. Russell D. Jones 15:33, 5 October 2011 (UTC)

outdent Russell: Arguments like this have a pattern. They begin with specifics like "Statement x is wrong." They then proceed to generalities and personalities and the substantive remark x is forgotten altogether. Then ArbCom or some Admin is invited, which has no interest in x at all, and judges the participants' behavior as "inappropriate" or not. Depending upon who they believe, which is largely decided by background conversation not in the open, previous alliances, and so forth, some participant is decided to be at fault and clobbered. The question of whether x is actually in error is not pertinent, and in fact, often explicitly is excluded from consideration as a technical subject issue beyond the expertise of the Admins.

So one would conclude that the conduct of the discussion of "Statement x is wrong" is the main concern, but there is actually very little conduct control exercised. As you'll notice in your example, reference is made to WP guidelines about "POINT"y discussion and so forth, but these things become missiles to upset the opposition, by attacking the manner of the dispute, and distract from what the dispute is about.

There are guidelines about using sources, neutral point of view, and on and on, but they are perverted in these discussions. If you object to a point, you request a source. When the source is provided, you say it has been misinterpreted or taken out of context, or it is not a "secondary" source but a "primary" source, and therefore disqualified. Or it is not in a "reputable" source. And on and on.

CZ tries to avoid all this by emphasizing experts. However, it is the culture of the site that guides debate, and I am not sure how that is kept fertile. John R. Brews 17:36, 5 October 2011 (UTC)

I agree with your portrayal here above. I'd also point out that the process that WP uses to arrive at knowledge is the same process that all human societies use to arrive at knowledge. The Sociology of Scientific Knowledge is pretty persuasive on this point (to me at least). The only difference between WP and the International Association of Mathematical Physics, the American Economics Association, or the American Historical Association (to name a few) is that in the one case they are (mostly) amateurs and in the others they are experts. Which is not to say that experts don't engage in disciplinary "edit wars." I've seen some nasty exchanges between experts at conferences where basic definitions are called into question. How is knowledge arrived at? I'd say that, to quote you (and you can claim "out of context!" if you like), knowledge "is largely decided by background conversation not in the open, previous alliances, and so forth...." The difference is that we "experts" get to "club" (bully?) the "amateurs" with our expertise. <Sorry, I seem to be morphing the convo.> Russell D. Jones 16:17, 6 October 2011 (UTC)
So let's imagine for a moment that CZ really catches on and all the experts sign up as Editors. Will we then see them fighting the same sorts of wars here that amateurs do on WP? Will the comparative amateurs of the EC have to adjudicate all sorts of technical disputes? Peter Jackson 09:57, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
Uh, no, Peter. The EC should defer to the experts on technical matters; I thought Part I of the Charter does a pretty good job protecting expertise. Do you really expect CZ to cast aside its devotion to expertise? And yes, experts do fight the same sorts of wars that amateurs do on WP. Nowadays, experts are just a lot more polite about it. But back in the really old days, we used to burn the heretics. How do experts resolve their disputes? They publish, gather support at conferences, call in old favors from friends who now happen to be editors at leading journals, etc., etc., etc. It's humanity all over again.... Look how long it took helio-centrism to become the accepted theory. Copernicus just didn't write his little pamphlet and everybody all of a sudden said, "yup, sounds right! The sun's the center of the universe <solar system>." Nope. We experts had to hound the promoters, imprison some, torture others, kill some of the really daft believers <maybe>. Basically, we had to bully these amateurs who had the gall to think that the best scientific experts of their generation, the men who held that the earth was the center of the universe, had got it wrong; we had to bully those amateurs into confessing to the errors of their ways .... Knowledge building is a messy business, a lot is at stake: personal reputations, individual identity, state power, personal power, wealth, etc. Russell D. Jones 17:05, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
Peter & Russell: Yes, the experts have horrible disputes. And, yes that is part of the establishing of new ideas. But on CZ we have only to report the ideas, not invent them. And the conduct of constructing a CZ article need not involve deciding whether, for example, dark energy really exists or is a cop-out by the unimaginative. So, authors on CZ really should be disputing things like whether a particular choice of words clearly describes the situation, whether two articles is better than one, whether the "dark energy" critics need a new section, or just a sentence to say there is not full agreement on the subject? In my opinion, those kinds of debate should be less heated than those fighting over establishing concepts. But on WP that is not the case: people get very heated over things like "What is classical vacuum?" and they will not engage in a comparison of sources and exposition, but instead attack each other as to motive, character, and alliances. These stupidities are what CZ has to avoid, and so far it has usually a better record than WP, although the forces at work in a wiki to degrade this atmosphere are clearly present, and not always resisted. John R. Brews 17:28, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
In my judgement, many of these WP arguments begin with people assuming they know what is going on without looking into it, and then becoming affronted when their preconceptions are challenged. There is a presumption that one knows more about something than the common herd, and that one has a duty to correct "superstition" (perhaps best accomplished by a slap across the face), and those presumptions are magnified by the sense that one is an expert. Instead of searching for sources that might support the opposition, one looks for sources to support one's initial position, and as the literature often is conflicting or confusing, a bitterness develops as tomes are hurled to and fro as missiles. That nastiness is added to when an expert, by virtue of their specialized knowledge, is unaware that their expertise is basically an island isolated from other islands all with their own terminology and definitions. So they sneer at those that don't know their use of technical terms, or don't use them properly, and take such lack of their "in" vocabulary as prima facie evidence of the willful ignorance of the critic, best dealt with by a disdain for civility. John R. Brews 21:03, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
Avoidance of such unpleasantness seems to me to be largely a question of understanding what the goal of CZ is, and to see an article as a community creation with objectives related to the readership, rather than as an artistic expression of one's self. Can that be expressed in terms of rules, or is it conveyed mainly by the traditions of the community? Can an author glean sufficient satisfaction from a joint effort to want to contribute? As it says below the edit panel: "If you don't want your writing to be edited by others..., then don't submit it here." John R. Brews 21:26, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
I notice mass exodus of authors in the 2007-2008 time frame: many articles were made at that time and nothing changed since. It appears that the experts got disgusted. In some cases they didn't like being edited by others, or didn't like explaining things to audiences with limited background. In some cases, they wanted only to get a larger audience for their personal views, and had no other interest than providing some articles that suited their purposes. In yet other cases, there was conflict with what was seen as a hostile pseudo-scientific bias on CZ. I think the environment here today is a good one. The big uncertainty is whether CZ will be around long enough to recruit. John R. Brews 21:46, 7 October 2011 (UTC)

outdent: Russell, you've misunderstood. I was talking about the EC having to adjudicate disputes between expert editors. Peter Jackson 09:56, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

Peter: On WP disputes between experts are ostensibly settled by Admins or ArbCom on the basis of conduct, not subject. So the status of a litigant as an expert is not supposed to be a factor.
Of course that doesn't always work out: one faction is liable to call the others out for "Original research" or having a "Fringe viewpoint" , or, in the event things are supported by sources, "Using primary sources", or another favorite "Synthesis". (That last is applied when one source that says A=B and another source says that says A=C are used jointly to say B=C. Normally such things aren't noticed, but in a dispute this objection is raised against even mathematical manipulation.) There exists a convenient general list of critiques to apply to sources.
There are a host of subject related criticisms included in "What WP is not", whose use is mainly to castigate the opposition and make them unworthy of being heard. They are very rarely examined for validity by ArbCom or Admins, who instead take them as indicators of antisocial behavior. A failure to follow guidelines is misconduct, of course, but then how do we know if the guidelines are being followed if we're not experts? So the "Where there's smoke, there's fire" rule is applied. I'm unsure how CZ views these issues; it may not have been tested yet. John R. Brews 15:38, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
I think it is important that CZ separate itself from WP in regard to editing environment, because a sweet editing environment is an inducement to write for CZ. Particularly for academics who have more on their minds than arguing over content with nitpickers or ignoramuses, some clear advantage would be a great sales point. What can we say or do to make such an advantage more real and more obvious? In this WP article the toxic environment on WP can be described. The next step is to contrast this WP fiasco with CZ. John R. Brews 15:46, 8 October 2011 (UTC)


I really can't speak much about the hierarchy issues, but I do know that a lot of people would disagree that Jimmy Wales is "at the top" any more.

There's one error of fact: I didn't leave (as "chief organizer") at the end of 2001 but on March 1, 2002. I didn't permanently distance myself from the project until the end of 2002 or January 2003.

--Larry Sanger 15:30, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

Section on Editing environment

I've added a subsection Editing environment that describes how editing controversies are handled administratively. I have not included the use of the many WP brickbats, like "Original research" or having a "Fringe viewpoint" , or, in the event things are supported by sources, "Using primary sources" that are flung between disputants in a non-constructive manner.

I have tried to keep things objective, but I suspect I may have leaned over backward toward making things sound better than they are. John R. Brews 20:35, 14 October 2011 (UTC)

The section lacks any reference to sources. There are plenty of sources on Wikipedia (check Wikipedia's own article on criticism of Wikipedia). It currently reads like a rant from a disgruntled Wikipedian. CZ:Neutrality Policy says to "Assert facts, including facts about opinions--but don't assert opinions". —Tom Morris (talk) 08:26, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
Tom: Sorry you find this section a rant. It would be helpful if your reaction could be made more specific.
In particular, paragraphs 1 & 2 are sourced and unobjectionable.
Paragraph 3 states that guidelines are often replaced by the judgment of Admins, and justifications usually are not related in detail to guidelines. That is a statistical remark. That it happens is undeniable, but "frequently happens" could be changed to "sometimes happens" in lieu of an actual analysis, if you like. The occurrence of such vague rulings can be supported by (say) citing particular examples, but no study has been made to establish the frequency of such rulings. Although, I could supply "original research" on statistics, it probably wouldn't serve your purpose.
For paragraph 4, if you like, I can quote ArbCom member Carcharoth who says: “ArbCom retains jurisdiction over the cases it hears. This may not always be clear, but anyone who fails to resolve matters at the community level and comes to ArbCom is running the risk of not getting the case or result they wanted. We define the scope of the case and the possible remedies, and have wide latitude to impose what we see fit.”
Paragraph 5 seems unobjectionable to me, and is sourced.
Paragraph 6 is a caution about what can happen. It is not presented as a description of an actual event, but is presented as hypothetical. I've experienced it personally, so it isn't fantasy, but I believe it is phrased so the reader will understand its purpose as a kind of Aesop's fable.
Please suggest some alternatives. John R. Brews 12:37, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
What I would like to convey in this section is the the inhospitable editing environment at WP. I wonder if you doubt the truth of that situation yourself? In my view, a major advantage of CZ over WP is exactly this point, and so a presentation of the situation that doesn't sound cranky is useful. John R. Brews 12:45, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
I've made a few changes that may make the discussion more palatable. John R. Brews 13:10, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
I agree with what Mr. John R. Brews has written. I myself was going to add my share of input after putting together some time and materials. You can say it reads like a rant but it's true.
Admins say consensus is not about poll numbers, but they rely on what are essentially opinion polls to break disputes. They run the poll asserting it will not be a decisive factor in assessing consensus, but if it's in their favor they close the case. I had a case when they carried out sock puppet check on the votes I sided with right before the poll deadline and rigged the poll completely without checking the other side as well. And then they say what's final is final, and there is no "side" in Wikipedia because it's not a war game. When I tried to get going on my share of sock puppet checks, the admins rejected my requests because there was apparently no substantial evidence on one-time users even though the first thing they did mysteriously was to edit or discuss on disputed articles, but the admins would preach "assume good faith" in order to discourage me from carrying out any further requests and to build a bad reputation for me to undermine me in my future endeavors. There was also a case when two users were confirmed to be sock puppets, but the admins negotiated behind the scenes and decided they were not. One of them claimed he was a Korean, but, when I insisted chatting with him in Korean, he brushed it aside but rather accused me of bad faith and essentially turned the situation 180 degrees up-side down, even though it was he who always sided against the Korean point of view with pro-Japanese admins and sockpuppets in the disputes. And that must make him someone with role of a truly "npov" and unbiased Korean who contrasts with other pro-Koreans who were fewer than pro-Japanese or pro-Chinese groups and were under siege by both and therefore always angry and obsessed about history, while pro-Japanese are cool and celebrate Japanese anime and culture. But they do occasionally throw in completely false and laughable items like Korean war crimes (because there is an article on Japanese war crimes) and claiming Korean nationalist activist during colonial rule was a "terrorist." (Then how do you resist colonial oppression without being a terrorist?) I've found it so amazing and realistic to see innocent "npov" users who so happen to make small helpful edits on a wide range of subjects without showing a special interest or bias. They casually come into disputes, pick on some point about WP policies made by sock puppets and admins, and entirely dismiss the intricacies and the clashing points requiring critical understanding of the dispute. They go about displaying higher moral ground by virtue of their "npov" while suggesting the besieged side closer to capital T truth is obsessed and not intelligent enough to understand the legalistic intricacies of the policies, if not the materials of the dispute. All this happens while they mix in occasional snubbing, indirect jabbing based on contest of understanding WP's policies and showing greater ideological clarity, and coordinated moves involving 3 reverts and sock puppet who just happened to be on and watching when the reverting takes place between me and another old-timer. Of course, I can't be paranoid and assume bad faith, can I? (Chunbum Park 16:18, 16 October 2011 (UTC))
Chunbum: I can see from your remarks that you have been rubbed raw by proceedings on WP, and I feel the same way about the arbitrariness and one-sided use of excuses to suit a purpose. As in your example, I could not fathom any reason for the side that ArbCom decided to back. In my case, the fact that the speed of light was defined and not measured in SI units is now part of their article, but at the time when I pointed that out I was accused of being a fringe ranter and misinterpreting sources.
However ridiculous the procedures are on WP, however, this article has to take a more moderate stance, and that is what I am aiming at here. So if it looks like a rant, I'd like some advice on how to get the point across and still seem sane. John R. Brews 16:35, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
I'd suggest that the Editing environment section contain a sub-section titled "criticisms," and all critiques of WP should be contained in there, but not elsewhere. Controversies should be titled "Public controversies." Other sections should simply describe the organizational structure and internal functions of WP, but not criticize from the very introduction of the article. (Chunbum Park 16:54, 16 October 2011 (UTC))
Hi Chunbum: I'm a bit alarmed at the notion that as it stands the article has criticisms sprinkled throughout. For example, is it a criticism to say in the lead that WP is run by an oligarchy? I'd say that is an obvious fact. Is it a criticism in the Administration section to say Bureaucrats have almost complete control over who becomes a Bureaucrat? The page on that subject in WP says "the threshold for consensus is 85%" and refers for more details to the case of Administrators, where the relevant page says "This discussion process is not a vote (it is sometimes referred to as a !vote, using the computer science negation symbol). At the end of the discussion period, a bureaucrat will review the discussion to see whether there is a consensus for promotion." In the case of Administrators, "Consensus at RFA is not determined by surpassing a numerical threshold. As a rule of thumb, most of those above 80% approval pass; most of those below 70% fail; the judgment of passing is subject to bureaucrat discretion (and in some cases further discussion)." In my mind, and with cynicism born of experience on WP, Admins can drive a truck through these requirements.
Anything you'd like to point out as criticism that should be moved? John R. Brews 18:26, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
I think the editing environment should first describe all the policies and rules of engagement and discussion. Then there should be a sub-section titled criticisms where all the problems and flaws and discussed. I think the titling of the section concerning public controversies as "criticisms and controversies" sounds a little redundant when problems are pointed out in the editing environment section, and so it should be titled as "public controversies." But overall I think what have been written are good additions to the article. (Chunbum Park 18:42, 16 October 2011 (UTC))

outdent OK, I'll take a whack at that later today. John R. Brews 19:22, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

I didn't do much. I added a header Some issues with arbitration to separate off the last three paragraphs. I guess they are criticisms, but they are also flaws in the system as it is set up. John R. Brews 19:44, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
As we're getting into autobiographical stuff, let me summarize my own experience. I've never been anywhere near ArbCom. I've never been blocked. My problems were of a different nature. When I tried to get Buddhism articles to follw Wikipedia policy of being based on publications of scholars who'd actually studied Buddhism as a whole, I ran into endless obstruction from propagandists for various Buddhist factions. The theory of Wikipedia is that such situations are to be dealt with by calling in the "community" to enforce neutrality, but experience shows the community often just isn't interested. Peter Jackson 09:26, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
Peter: That you never "went to court" is a tribute to your equanimity, I'd guess. For example, if you kept up a discussion on the Talk page advancing your views and insisting upon representation on the Main page, the dissident factions could take you to AN/I on some pretext and things would go downhill from there. The "community" on WP does nothing anywhere, what happens is controlled by push and shove between factions, and their connections with the ArbCom members. Where there are no factions, and an article has one author or only a few that happen to agree with each other, everything goes swimmingly and the "community" not only doesn't participate, they don't even know the page exists.
Where a gang polices a topic, revisions by an outside editor take delicate baby steps to insure no toes are stepped on. Tentative "maybe xxx, please, I know you all know best, and I am not really an expert, but maybe ...?" probes on the Talk page. If the gang becomes aroused, there is no change going to happen, and the temeritous one is going to get whacked by ArbCom. John R. Brews 15:16, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
I'd like to echo that point. The community really doesn't know a dispute is going on or what kind of ridiculous assertions are being put on mainspace. I was one of few that took notice, and it was strange how it always ended up 5v3, 4v2, or 3v1, and how when i tried the RFC (request for comment) these innocent looking japanophiles with edit history consisting of random formatting and spelling checks always side with the other side, ignoring common sense and weight of the evidence while citing some policy. (Chunbum Park 17:38, 17 October 2011 (UTC))

WP as a peer-directed project

I find that a major conclusion based upon my exploration of the dispute process and WP structure is that WP is absolutely not a "democratic" or "peer-directed" project, as suggested in the introductory sentence of this article. Rather, it is an oligarchy, governed by an ingrown and ever more narcissistic cadre of so-called Bureaucrats that have no need to represent the WP project or its community. As things work out, any democracy that accidentally happens to exist is there only where the governing Admins happen to have no interest.

Unfortunately, the actions of Admins are colored by an anxiety that actual knowledge of a topic exerts a power over WP separate from and more powerful than organizational authority in some contexts. They deal harshly with that challenge, as indeed have all such oligarchies throughout history. John R. Brews 22:12, 14 October 2011 (UTC)

I have re-written this introduction to remove the reference to "peer-directed'. I've introduced several links to WP and added footnotes. John R. Brews 16:31, 15 October 2011 (UTC)
I think that's an excellent rewrite -- mine was just a stop-gap measure. Hayford Peirce 16:32, 15 October 2011 (UTC)
Wikipedia, for the most part, belongs to that peculiar variety of "democracy" where the vast majority of those entitled to vote don't bother, so decisions are made by the small number who do. Peter Jackson 09:28, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
Wikipedia makes no claim to being a democracy. In fact, it explicitly states it is not a democracy. (Nor, indeed, should wikis be democracies.) —Tom Morris (talk) 10:13, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
Tom: The article now agrees with you, and has removed such statements. The link you offer, which is also linked in the article says:
Wikipedia is not an experiment in democracy or any other political system. Its primary, but not exclusive, method of determining consensus is through editing and discussion, not voting.
It happens sometimes that "consensus" on WP means "last man standing" in practice, and it sometimes becomes a no-holds barred scrap, without regard for WP or facts, when actual controversy arises. Ultimately, "consensus" is what the Admins and ArbCom says it is, as decided by Wikipedia:Arbitration/Guide to arbitration ArbCom resolution.
This may be water under the bridge. The important question here is whether you have any specific changes to suggest to this article on WP? John R. Brews 14:11, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
I have one major change to suggest: stop using the Citizendium article as an anti-Wikipedia soapbox, or at the very least, cite some sources. There have been studies done on Wikipedia and expert involvement etc. Your edits strike me as being akin to an editor who was bitten by a dog and who now wants to get his own back by editing the article on dogs to point out that they are all aggressive and need to be wiped out for the protection of human beings. How is this an encyclopedia entry at all? It reads more like a rant. —Tom Morris (talk) 16:20, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
Hi Tom: I am impressed with the impact of the article as recommending wiping out WP for the protection of humanity. That may be an extrapolation on your part. However, accepting your view that I am not terribly objective about this topic, what would you specifically suggest (chapter and verse). My apparently jaundiced opinion is that most of what is said that requires sourcing is directly supported by direct links to WP itself. John R. Brews 17:15, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
Mr. Brews, the story or the content of the criticisms is valid material, but the language seems a bit too obsessive or blatant. It should discuss a wide range of flaws in depth rather than jumping onto the issues with the arbitration committee the first thing. And the things that you or I experienced don't happen all the time, so it should be written as "doing such and such may lead to this and that. while the policies are sufficient in maintaining order and produce consensus in many cases there are flaws that can be exploited resulting in poor experiences for some users..." (Chunbum Park 17:46, 17 October 2011 (UTC))

outdent Hi Chunbum: Your point about bad events not occurring for everyone are valid. Perhaps introducing some caveats along the lines of "WP is great, but sometimes it isn't so great for some users" would make it more palatable. I'd be inclined at the moment to say something a bit different. So maybe I'll take a rest for a while and see how things evolve. John R. Brews 18:07, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

Mr. Brews, taking a vacation is always not a bad idea. One great thing about writing for Citizendium is that we don't have set deadlines (except maybe write-a-thons). You may want to look at the introductory section of Dokdo/Debate Guide that I wrote because I did the exactly the same thing in describing the problems in Wikipedia in an objective and neutral tone. (Chunbum Park 18:11, 17 October 2011 (UTC))

Your Dokdo/Debate Guide discussion makes some very important general points, particularly the issue of a general reader coming to a correct assessment of a debated situation. I've tried to help the reader here to make that assessment. I've quoted WP policies verbatim that would shock anyone interested in due process, and outlined exactly how the formalities work.
I suspect that one could make the matter more agreeable by placing greater emphasis upon WP guidelines toward rationality, upon their so-called mediation process, and upon the formal outline of how an ArbCom case is supposed to be handled by fact-finding and statements of position by involved parties. These things have been mentioned, and on paper they read well. However, my direct experience shows them to be completely corruptible whenever there is real opposition to what is to be said, which case is the only one that is ever pursued to arbitration. So simple honesty makes me unwilling to stretch matters to put on a good face. John R. Brews 19:37, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
IMO, the reason the policies fail is that they explicitly articulate an exemption from principles as a priority and directly espouse the use of opinion and perceptions as a basis for action. That leaves no restraint upon Administrators whatsoever, and leaves everything up to their personal integrity and their acumen. Unfortunately, this confidence is misplaced, and the system is so rigid that poor Administrators hardly ever can be unseated. Despite on-going efforts to implement due process to remove poor Administrators, almost from the conception of WP, no change in policy or methods has ever made it past unending debate to adoption. John R. Brews 19:54, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
There is one exception to this failure to evolve, the Restriction on arbitration enforcement activity passed by ArbCom, which removes any Admin that acts to overturn another Admin's decision without written consent from ArbCom. This policy encourages sloppy Admins by making any corrective action less likely, making the system even less responsive than before. John R. Brews 12:16, 18 October 2011 (UTC)


I've made a number of changes to the Editing environment section to distance the discussion further from anything argumentative. In particular, the mechanisms for dispute resolution are given more prominence. Emphasis is upon description of the environment, not commentary. John R. Brews 15:40, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

Some useful stuff at [2]. Peter Jackson 10:16, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
I've posted the section Editing environment on Wikipedia as Wikipedia: Editing environment and have incorporated a few changes that occurred to me as a result of discussion at WP. John R. Brews 21:09, 10 March 2012 (UTC)

Section Organization

I have posted the section Wikipedia#Organization as a separate article on WP, Wikipedia:Formal organization, and various suggestions made by editors there have been used to improve the text and its documentation. These improvements have been brought to this article here on CZ. John R. Brews 16:44, 4 January 2012 (UTC)


[3] may be useful. Peter Jackson 09:50, 28 March 2012 (UTC)

Table of content

I think the table of content should be at the very top of the article. I had hard time finding the table of content because of where it is located. (Chunbum Park 07:17, 2 September 2012 (UTC))

Done. Ro Thorpe 12:49, 2 September 2012 (UTC)

Chelsea Manning

It might be worth mentioning somewhere the almighty row over the naming of Wikipedia's article on Chelsea Manning, as it reveals quite a bit about how Wikipedia works. (At the moment, the article places Manning's chosen female name first and uses feminine pronouns throughout to refer to her, but the title is still 'Bradley Manning', having been reverted from 'Chelsea Manning'.) A blog post by Sue Gardner of the WikiMedia Foundation might be a good place to start. John Stephenson 12:17, 12 September 2013 (UTC)


Interesting one: [4]. Peter Jackson 11:37, 12 December 2013 (UTC)

Thanks, yes. Ro Thorpe 15:43, 12 December 2013 (UTC)

This article asserts in Wikipedia's own voice the religious belief that President Obama is not the Antichrist. This seems to me an obvious violation of their own neutrality policy. What's wrong with just saying hardly anyone believes this? So far, attempts to change this have failed. Odd. Peter Jackson (talk) 12:00, 24 November 2016 (UTC)

Indeed. I suppose they'd say it's in the 'the sun is not square' category. But it isn't. Ro Thorpe (talk) 17:12, 24 November 2016 (UTC)
Yes. I vaguely remember policy discussions where they didn't seem capable of distinguishing two different questions:
  1. Whether there's a nearly universal consensus among "reliable sources"
  2. Whether the question is intrinsically one of fact (science, history (some aspects anyway) etc.) or one of opinion (religion, aesthetics)
By their logic, the policies for the former apply to the latter too, so they could describe any very small religion as false: "Juju is a false god worshipped by the Bongo-Bongo tribe ...". Similarly, if there happens to be nearly universal consensus that, say, Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the English language, they could assert that he is. Peter Jackson (talk) 18:18, 24 November 2016 (UTC)
Yes, the policy has its limits. Common sense is required. I thought of putting a "citation needed" tag against the assertion that Obama is not the Antichrist, but only for a moment. Ro Thorpe (talk) 18:49, 24 November 2016 (UTC)
It appears to me, since I've now been contributing to them for several months, stuff that I've written here at CZ and then tweaked for WP, mostly, that they have cleaned up their act considerably since I left in high dugdgeon, what, 10 years ago. The "vandals and cretins" that used to destroy ANY article as soon as it was created seem to have largely disappeared. At least from the edits that *I* have been making. So I'm interested to see that imbecility still reigns in certain areas of the ballpark, as per your above discussion. What can I (or anyone else) say except: sigh! Hayford Peirce (talk) 03:10, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
To oversimplify, I think there are two main types of problems:
  1. Controversial articles, religion and politics mainly, where there's a lot of biased editing
  2. Simple logistical incapacity to keep up with all the sources, made worse by increasing numbers of articles and declining numbers of contributors.
Peter Jackson (talk) 10:00, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
  1. Regard number two above, then I am GLAD that there are declining numbers of contributors -- maybe the ones who are left are more *responsible* than the earlier ones. As long as they leave *me* alone, I'm fine with that.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 00:08, 26 November 2016 (UTC)
But for number 1, who do you think are more likely to be giving up, the honest editors or the propagandists? Peter Jackson (talk) 10:51, 26 November 2016 (UTC)
Based on my OWN experiences,both here and at WP, in MOST cases, I think the honest editors will give up first. They just get worn down by the unrelenting attacks of the others. If you have TEN editors, say, as we did here at CZ, against ONE homeopathic idiot, then there was strength in numbers, BUT, if you recall, we never REALLY wore down Ramen or whatever his name was -- we finally simply approved the article and closed it to outside edits. At THAT point, he FINALLY went away. But suppose there had been TWENTY of him?! Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:28, 26 November 2016 (UTC)
Exactly. Peter Jackson (talk) 15:42, 28 November 2016 (UTC)