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How Wikipedia is born Senior Learners Group 15/6/2011 Greg Myers

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1 How Wikipedia is born Senior Learners Group 15/6/2011 Greg Myers

2 Why should you want to know about this? Many people consult Wikipedia But few look more closely at the way it develops Even though it offers fantastic resources for studying this development And the way it develops tells us about knowledge And arguments. So – what have you looked up?

3 Web 2.0 The web is the plat form, not the computer The users provide the content, not a central author YouTube Flickr Trip-Advisor Facebook...

4 Technology and Wikis ‘A wiki is a collaborative website which can be directly edited by anyone with access to it.’ (‘Wiki’ in Wikipedia)collaborativewebsite Developed by Ward Cunningham for software development Html code that enables any reader to see the same page in browser Wiki software that enables and tracks editing: Further software tools on Wikipedia: templates, in-line citations, watchlists, anti-vandal bots...

5 Examples of wikis WikiTravel - WikiLeaks - Wikipedia And its imitators Conservapedia (for conservatives) and Metapedia (for racists, or as they put it ‘pro-Europeans’)

6 You can make a wiki There are various hosting sites for your own wikis, so you could use a wiki for groupwork dnL00TdmLY dnL00TdmLY We used Wikispaces in Linguistics to put together a departmental response to a document Other tools for cooperative work, such as Doodle

7 Wikipedia Developed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger Grew out of an on-line encyclopedia project called Nupedia First page UuUUuU 2003 – 100,000 articles in English 2005 – 1,000,000 articles ‘There are currently 3,658,453 articles in the English Wikipedia’ (last night).

8 Wikipedia history First version of article is typically a short ‘stub’. Changes include additions, changes, corrections, formatting, proofreading, vandalism and reversion Arguments develop about what should be included, emphasis and structure, references. There is often one topic of heated argument, leading to an uneasy consensus. The best articles achieve ‘Good Article’ and then ‘Featured Article’ status, usually after intense work by a team of editors collaborating to make it fit Wikipedia standards. See ‘Manchester’ examples

9 Who edits? Administrators – very experienced editors ‘who have access to technical features that help with maintenance’ Experienced editors who have done most of the work on a major article Newbies – sometimes self-declared, sometimes registered, some just temporary IP numbers Vandals and trolls Participation develops over time, with some participants returning only rarely Some work on style, some work on links, some fight vandals

10 Wikipedia Controversies Deletionists vs. Inclusionists Cyclical reverts: Charges of bias and calls for verification The controversy is often hived off into a separate entry (e.g., vaccines, global warming) Often a small group argues back and forth Arguments about the text become arguments about the argument The same disputes recur, as one can see from the archives Administrative controls: banning an address from editing, and temporarily protecting a page

11 Vandalism ‘The headmaster is Nazi Bastard’ Usually focused on a few articles, and on obscure articles that are not regularly checked ‘Archimedes is dead. He died. Other people will also die. All hail chickens. The Power Rangers say “Hi”. The End’ (example from Baker 2008) 'JOE IS FUCKING WANK' (from ‘Manchester’) Usually quickly reverted. But not always easy to tell what is vandalism.

12 My mini-study of the language of Wikipedia Looking at ‘History’ of some Featured Articles Looking at the ‘Talk’ pages where the editors justify changes 11 topics words each (some 100,000+ words long) Chose some from the ‘Controversial topics’ list* Plus other topics that might produce controversies Cloning* Copyright Historical Counties of England* Global Warming* Intelligence Lancaster University Lancaster Royal Grammar School Linguistics Regional Accents of English William Shakespeare Authorship* Vaccine controversy*

13 Principles Wikipedians use the full range of rhetorical tools: arguments by analogy, cause and effect, ad hominems, arguing from a negative, topic relevance I focus on the rhetorical use of the ‘Principles’ defined in Wikipedia (abbreviated with a WP:) Neutral Point of View (WP:NPOV) No Original Research (WP:NOR) Verification (WP:V) Be Bold

14 Neutral Point of View (WP:NPOV) The section on Estuary English is very POV. Whoever wrote it is trying to stating that such speakers don't understand grammar whereas it's quite clear that the writer doesn't understand it either. (Accents) The lead was POV without those additions, MC, and basically read as though written by a pro- vaccination campaigner. We have to describe the dispute, not engage in it. (Vaccination)

15 No Original Research (WP:NOR) Wikipedia is not a place for new ideas, like these by "Su Cheng Zhong." (Linguistics) I agree: digging up arbitrary graphs from among the thousands published and making an argument for the non-effecitiveness of vaccines is at least bordering on original research, and possibly more than just bordering on it. (Vaccines) One more thing: a graph is not "original research" if all it does is present data. The interpretation is the research, and here we are presenting both sides' interpretation. (Vaccines)

16 Verifiability (WP:V) To expand on the above: the cited source (Hep B product insert) clearly states that no causal relationship between Hep B vaccine and MS is known. The article makes sweeping statements which are just not backed up by the citation, and I'll tag them as such. (Vaccines) I am not arguing against verifiability, just making a suggestion about how the verifiability of the whole early life of Shakespeare, all of which is basically unverifiable by any provable source, be presented to our readers. (Shakespeare)

17 Verifiability: sources Have to have an external source Can’t be a blog Preference for sources with internet links Questions in Talk pages: Is a medical journal a source if it exists solely to campaign against vaccination? (Vaccination) Are tabloids a source? SkyNews? The Telegraph? (McCann) Is the Guardian a valid source? (Fluoxetine)

18 Be Bold If you feel a change is needed, feel free to make it yourself! Wikipedia is a wiki so anyone (yourself included) can edit any article by following the Edit this page link.... Wikipedia convention is to be bold and not be afraid of making mistakes. (Linguistics) Add what you deem approprate. Let's see where that takes us. (Accents)

19 Conflicts Things are not always as they seem (to you). -- BozMo To you as well. Could you explain to me why your opinion is more valid than mine? Because you follow what everyone else says? And also, who's that idiot who deleted my contributions to the page without even mentioning it in the talk page? So now global warming followers have more rights than I do? The Person Who Is Strange (Global Warming)

20 Civility Hedges Just for the record, absolute zero is probably unattainable (thanks to quantum mechanics). Absolute zero IS unobtainable. This is a consequence of the third law of thermodynamics. (Lancaster University)

21 Civility Concessions But I agree that the vocabulary is necessarily technical. Still, accessibility is a worthwhile aim, and it's not too hard to produce glosses for most things that point the layman in the right direction, like: "Homorganic consonants (consonants pronounced using the same parts of the mouth)...". (Linguistics)

22 Civility Conversational features (well, hmm, ahem) Accents and dialects vary more widely within the U.K. itself than they do in other parts of the world owing to the longer history of the language within the countries of the U.K. Um, perhaps in the English language, but hardly true of all countries? (Accents) Ahem. In the Signet Classic Shakespeare (edited by Sylvan Barnet of Tufts University), in several volumes weight is given to the theory that Fletcher wrote part of several "Shakespearean" plays, including The Two Noble Kinsmen and Henry VIII. This makes sense to me, as parts of these plays are in Fletcher's distinct style. (Shakespeare)

23 Wikipedia and the news Wikipedia is not a newspaper But it is updated very quickly So editors wind up arguing about current events and living people




27 What they argue about on the McCann page POV in presenting Portuguese media POV in presenting the McCann’s as subjects Using Kate’s and Gerry’s first names Tenses Theories being quoted in blogs, tabloids, discussion pages Whether there should be an article at all (AfD)

28 What they argue about on the 7 World Trade Center page firedemolition gash was caused by debris gash is not visible in this picture video shows the building fell slowly video shows the building fell quickly FEMA found no evidence of demolition FEMA director said he was puzzled 'Pull it' could mean take the firefighters out of the building Building owner said in a documentary later that he said then 'pull it' List of tenants includes many corporations List of agencies includes the CIA Diesel fuel may have fed the fire Each fire burned only 20 minutes Building was cantilevered over an electricity substation Building fell into its own footprint instead of falling over

29 What they argue about with Fluoxetine The value of Prozac Studies of the value of Prozac Report in The Guardian of studies of the value of Prozac Critique of report in The Guardian of studies of the value of Prozac The whole chain on the Talk pages reveals much more about the studies than any reports in mainstream media

30 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami First pot by Gnuismail at 6:18 am on 11 March An earthquake occured on 30 km (80 miles) E of Sendai, Honshu, Japan. The earthquake possible to create regional tsunami on the zone. Thousands of edits in four days Argument about the name, sources, images, comparisons, interpretation Cf Indian Ocean Tsunami Wiki 2004

31 The Rhetoric of Wikipedia Allows for maintenance of a page over time Socialises new members Encodes a view of knowledge as consensual, rational, discursive Based on verifiability – which is perhaps its weakness

32 Using Wikipedia It can be an overview of terms and different perspectives and issues Avoid the most-edited and least-edited articles Remember that it can be vandalised at any time Check the ‘Discussion’ pages for controversies Try editing it yourself to learn about the processes Editing leads to bullet-point structure; single author texts may be more readable

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