Submissions/Where Wikipedia has gone wrong, what we can do to bring it back on track

From Wikimania 2011 • Haifa, Israel

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Title of the submission
Where Wikipedia has gone wrong, what we can do to bring it back on track
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
Author of the submission
Dror Kamir
E-mail address or username (if username, please confirm email address in Special:Preferences)
Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
Member of Wikimedia Israel, but the organization has no connection to this presentation.
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (please use no less than 300 words to describe your proposal)

In its 11th year, Wikipedia, particularly the English-language Wikipedia, experiences some serious problems, that, in my opinion, have not been adequately addressed. The relations among the problems, though exist, are not direct, hence the discussion I would like to develop might spread on several fields, some of which touch the the Knowledge and Collaboration track (rather than the People and Community track). I would like this presentation to take the form of a symposium, in which members of the audience could share their insights and suggest possible solutions. These are the points that I am going to raise:

  1. Scope - Wikipedia is defined as an encyclopedia, while other projects, namely Wikinews, Wiktionary etc, are supposed to address other purposes. This definition is supposed to limit the topics, format and style of Wikipedia articles. In practice Wikipedia goes beyond its scope quite often. The most striking example is probably the recent events in Egypt. An article about the protests in Egypt was written a few hours after they began, when information about the events was still scarce. In fact, it seems as if the article was written to serve the protests rather than to describe them encyclopedically. Other examples will be brought to further illustrate the issue.
  2. Conflict of Principles - The three principles that underlie Wikipedia are: Neutrality (NPOV), Verifiability and No Original Research. These principles often contradict themselves. For example, in heated issues, sources usually use terminology that reflects the author's opinion or the organization on behalf of whom he speaks. In conventional encyclopedias or other sources of information, an editorial decision is made regarding terminology and style. In Wikipedia, such process is impossible, and the introduction of neutral terminology is usual regarded as violation of the verifiability or "no original research" rules. So far, Wikipedia failed to achieve a solution to the problem either by hierarchizing these principles (e.g. usage of neutral terminology is preferred even when it cannot be sourced), or by creating a system of negotiation in order to reach consensus (though many attempts in this direction have been made).
  3. Facts vs. opinions - The verifiability principle requires editors to source their contributions, however, too often do editor confuse facts and opinions in the sources they use. For example, the current policy allows saying in an article that certain activity is "dangerous" if many sources so claim, and yet this is only an indication to this opinion being widespread (an important thing for itself), while the term "dangerous" does not refer to a fact. Also, bringing UN resolutions or government decisions have recently become popular as sources, while ignoring the fact that most of them express opinions (i.e. a desired reality) rather than facts on the ground.
  4. Excessive bureaucracy and adoption of legal language - The English-language Wikipedia, which often sets a model to other projects, has developed a huge corpus of rules and pseudo-juridic decisions. While Wikipedia adopted a pseudo-legal system, it did not develop the checks and balances of such system, e.g. transparent due process, the benefit of the doubt, the right to appeal etc. Even if some of these checks and balances exist in practice, they are poorly implemented. And yet, the very adoption of the legal language and processes, and the excessive use of rules and bureaucracy, are questionable. Wikipedia started with the principle of "ignore all rules", meaning that the general goals of gathering accurate information and working collaboratively are to sought even on the expense of keeping the rules. This has long been forgotten.
  5. Adminship - Administrators possess too much power, and too much is dependant on their personality and common sense. Many of the influential admins do not contribute to articles anymore, namely they do not participate in the collaborative work. In case of edit wars, they usually interested in the sanctions that should be imposed on the "belligerent" editors, rather than to suggest solutions that would serve the content of the article.

Each of these issues is worthy of a separate workshop, but it is important for me to bring all of them forth for discussion, even if this discussion is not during the workshop itself.

Track (People and Community/Knowledge and Collaboration/Infrastructure)
People and Community
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Slides or further information (optional)
File:DrorK Where Wikipedia has gone wrong, what we can do to bring it back on track.pdf (some of the arguments that will be brought up); File:An interview with DrorK Johanna Niesyto.pdf (some background material); File:Dror Kamir Where Wikipedia has gone.pdf (the slides of the presentation)

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  1. Hindustanilanguage 08:41, 3 March 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  2. CT Cooper · talk 11:35, 3 March 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  3. Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington 18:00, 3 March 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  4. Ironholds 17:16, 15 March 2011 (UTC) if only to stand up and explain why you're completely wrong :P.[reply]
  5. Helder Ribeiro 18:07, 15 March 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  6. Tinucherian 23:44, 26 March 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  7. Dfg13 15:18, 27 March 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  8. Bejinhan 10:52, 1 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  9. MetalBrasil 17:48, 12 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  10. odder 11:54, 3 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  11. Nahum 04:56, 13 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  12. Grenouille vert 06:55, 14 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  13. Millosh 14:18, 20 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  14. JanPaul123 21:47, 26 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  15. Erik Zachte 14:27, 29 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  16. Blahma 12:51, 1 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  17. Vibhijain 11:24, 5 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  18. ~ Seb35 [^_^] 11:11, 7 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  19. Jewbask 13:35, 2 June 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  20. Amir E. Aharoni
  21. Shovel 12:03, 25 July 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  22. Mzk1 21:00, 31 July 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  23. Waldir 23:01, 31 July 2011 (UTC)[reply]