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Author Topic: Does the wikipedia bother anyone else?
Portabello
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quote:
It's only useful if it can be trusted.
I trust it enough for it to be useful in many situations.
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fugu13
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Yes, it is trustable enough as a quick reference, particularly if you find it high in the google results (another egalitarian method of achieving quality), because it is likely then both regularly edited and considered by many to be a good source on the subject.

At that point, assuming no significant controversy is obvious in the edit history, I would "trust" the facts mentioned about as far as I would trust a traditional encyclopedia: not very far, but something to work with.

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twinky
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quote:
So, it comes down to: who do you trust more, large numbers of anonymous people writing for free, or small numbers of paid editors?
Small numbers of paid editors. Hands down. Every time.
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Morbo
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quote:
So, it comes down to: who do you trust more, large numbers of anonymous people writing for free, or small numbers of paid editors?
Exactly Annie. BTW, when is your landmark due.

Twinky, which do you think is more likely to have bias: a paper encyclopedia revised once a year (if that--most articles aren't revised every year) edited by a small group; or a continually edited open project, with thousands of contributers and a neutral point of view as an explict goal?

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Morbo
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You already answered me. [Razz]
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twinky
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I believe I addressed that in the post directly above yours. I tend to trust the people who are trained to do something to do that specific something. Perhaps it has something to do with being in a discipline -- engineering -- whose name gets tossed around all the time outside of the scope where it is actually applicable.

Edit: At least in the case of, say, Linux, members of the contributing community have to have a measure of expertise in the area in which they wish to contribute. In the case of wikipedia, no expertise -- indeed, no knowledge, beyond how to use a computer and the internet -- is necessary.

[ April 19, 2005, 04:19 PM: Message edited by: twinky ]

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fugu13
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Think of it perhaps this way: you have a group of a dozen or so people, all brainstorming on a topic, bringing together what they know and think they know. This is a valuable resource, though it has no definitive "outcome" or "endpoint". The notion of a finished product is one that wikipedia rejects. Instead, wikipedia is a network of pages filled with constant brainstorming and back and forth -- which is valuable, just as a workgroup brainstorming is valuable. It is not a report from a meeting, and should not be judged in the same way.
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twinky
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That's fair enough until you get to the "should not be judged in the same way" part. I'm not willing to go that far.

I also don't think that it's as good as "a report from a meeting," but I recognize this as my opinion.

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Morbo
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quote:
n the case of wikipedia, no expertise -- indeed, no knowledge, beyond how to use a computer and the internet -- is necessary.
This is true for each individual contribution or edit. But as a dynamic process, the articles get better and more accurate.

Besides, would the stuffy Britannica have an article about exploding whales , complete with photos and a Dave Berry reference?

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twinky
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quote:
But as a dynamic process, the articles get better and more accurate.
And the people who used it as a reference early on, trusting it to be accurate, are out of luck. The least they could do is have a minimum number of contributors write about something before posting an article about it. That might help.
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Jon Boy
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Fugu, I don't think the problem is with what Wikipedia is, but rather with what it makes itself out to be. Many uninformed users may assume that it is comparable to "real" encyclopedias in terms of accuracy, and therein lies the problem.
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fugu13
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There will be some reports from meetings that will be better, but there will certainly be many that are worse -- meeting reports in many places tend towards a lowest common denominator nature. Similarly with traditional encyclopedia entries, often. Controversial issue? Avoid it all together and only have the bland aspects.

Wikipedia is a dynamic entity, and should be evaluated as such, and treated as such.

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fugu13
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*shrug*

Encyclopedia has only meant "mostly inerrant source of knowledge" to the ignorant, as far as I can tell. Wikipedia (accurately) calling itself an encyclopedia should not be restricted by that ignorance.

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Susie Derkins
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quote:
Exactly Annie. BTW, when is your landmark due.
I keep trying to write it in evenings and keep getting thwarted.
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Beren One Hand
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quote:
Many uninformed users may assume that it is comparable to "real" encyclopedias in terms of accuracy, and therein lies the problem.
But is that the user's problem or Wikipedia's problem? [Smile]
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Zalmoxis
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quote:
in the case of wikipedia, no expertise -- indeed, no knowledge, beyond how to use a computer and the internet -- is necessary.
That's vastly overstating things. Wiki contributors are part of a community -- which is the whole point of a wiki. That community may not have the expertise that a small group of editors has [or in some cases it may have more]. But it does have some level of self-selection, self-policing, discourse parameters, editing standards, etc.

Wiki corrects some of the problems associated with publications run by a small group of editors. Of course, in turn it creates it's own set of problems.

This is like the whole "blogs" vs. "mainstream journalism" thing. Blogs can act as a corrective to the MSM as well as providing interesting commentary and specialized expertise. They are nimble and polyphonic. The MSM provides newsgathering and writing and editing expertise as well as (in many cases) some sense of professional standards. It tends to be slow and monophonic.

It's a complementary relationship even when it is adverserial and/or filled with contempt.

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Portabello
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quote:
And the people who used it as a reference early on, trusting it to be accurate, are out of luck.
Yup. So are those people that bought shares of the Golden Gate Bridge.
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Morbo
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Jon Boy, let the uninformed take care of themselves. People that don't take EVERYTHING they read on the internet with a grain of salt are beyond help. And the 3 major paid online encyclopedias don't hold themselves to 100% accuracy either.
quote:
Trustworthiness

One great source - if you can trust it. [1]
It should be noted that the three other leading online encyclopedias have disclaimers and provide no warranty as to their accuracy - Britannica http://corporate.britannica.com/termsofuse.html , Encarta http://privacy.msn.com/tou/ and Bartleby http://www.bartleby.com/sv/terms.html . Sometimes the staff of those encyclopedias forget this fact http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30326-2004Sep17.html .

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Replies_to_common_objections#Trustworthiness

[ April 19, 2005, 04:43 PM: Message edited by: Morbo ]

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TMedina
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It's a matter of just how much are you depending on the information to be accurate?

Based on your need for veracity, you either use a more reliable source or you don't.

With respect to high school history professors, you might be able to wing the poor-man's encyclopedia. But you can't blame anyone but yourself if you get an F on your weekly report.

However, if you do your Doctoral Thesis research based on the poor man's encyclopedia, then Megan is going to laugh at you. A lot.

-Trevor

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Morbo
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Good comparison between blogs and wikis, Zal.
A few minutes ago, I saw on wiki where the two forms have been merged: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bliki

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Chris Bridges
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I trust wikipedia, generally, as much as I trust an Encyclopedia Brittanica from 10 years ago. With certain exceptions it is still useful to me, as long as I double check facts that may now be inaccurate. In some situations -- especially up-to-the-minute items -- I prefer Wikipedia.
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Jon Boy
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Let met say that I am a big fan of Wikipedia. It is a great source of knowledge, and it often goes into much more depth and breadth than a regular encyclopedia.

But as an editor, I cringe at the thought that any idiot can "publish" their knowledge without having to go through a real peer review and editing process first.

What if I had the power to make changes in every single copy of Encyclopaedia Brittanica around the world? What if I went into everybody's homes and tore out pages, crossed out parts I didn't like, and inserted my own stuff? You can essentially do that on Wikipedia. The fact that there are people (who are not necessarily experts themselves) there to check your work and fix it doesn't change that.

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twinky
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quote:
But is that the user's problem or Wikipedia's problem?
I think it's both. If you're going to bill yourself as a source of information, it behooves you to ensure the information you supply is as accurate as possible.

I don't believe in "caveat emptor" as an excuse for corporate misdeeds, either.

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TMedina
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I don't think we should be required to protect the stupid from themselves either.

Well, I draw the line at following them around with first aid kits and emergency equipment.

-Trevor

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twinky
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No, and if someone believes in, say, the Time Cube, they'll get no sympathy from me. But if someone trusts a wikipedia entry that is factually incorrect, I think a significant portion of the blame (though not, obviously, all) rests on wikipedia.
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Portabello
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quote:
What if I went into everybody's homes and tore out pages, crossed out parts I didn't like, and inserted my own stuff? You can essentially do that on Wikipedia.
No you can't -- at least not the tearing out part. Even though the page is edited, you can go and see how it was edited.

[ April 19, 2005, 05:02 PM: Message edited by: Portabello ]

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Jon Boy
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Yeah, but you can still see the torn-out pages that I've strewn all over your floor. [Razz]
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twinky
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[ROFL]
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Portabello
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I think it is now time to resort to name-calling.

JB, you're just being a snob. [Razz]

edit: Twinky, I'll throw you in that pot for good measure.

[ April 19, 2005, 05:03 PM: Message edited by: Portabello ]

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Jon Boy
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No, I'm just being difficult. There's a difference.
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Portabello
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OK, it was wrong to say that you were just being a snob.

You a difficult AND a snob.

evidence:
quote:
But as an editor, I cringe at the thought that any idiot can "publish" their knowledge without having to go through a real peer review and editing process first.


[ April 19, 2005, 05:07 PM: Message edited by: Portabello ]

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Beren One Hand
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quote:
I think it's both. If you're going to bill yourself as a source of information...
You would be right, if Wikipedia bill itself as a community of experts. But it doesn't. It clearly states that it is a community project that can be edited by anyone.

quote:
it behooves you to ensure the information you supply is as accurate as possible.
With what, their vast monetary resources acquried via their paid subscriptions to their service? [Smile]

quote:
I don't believe in "caveat emptor" as an excuse for corporate misdeeds, either.
Unlike corporations, Wikipedia is not selling anything. And unlike corporations, Wikipedia's editing process is completely transparent. Anyone can check which portion of the text is edited, who edited it, and the editing history of a particular editor.

[ April 19, 2005, 05:09 PM: Message edited by: Beren One Hand ]

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Chris Bridges
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Not really. Twinky is demanding (I think) that someone who publicly claims to be an encyclopedia on par with the Brittanica has a responsibility to be as accurate as possible. Fair enough.

I even agree. But I think that the post above on blogs and journalism points out exactly how useful Wikipedia can be.

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Jon Boy
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quote:
OK, it was wrong to say that you were just being a snob.

You a difficult AND a snob.

I like my facts to be checked first. So sue me.
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TomDavidson
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Oddly, I was always told that an encyclopedia, by its very definition, was not considered a primary source and could not be used as a scholarly cite.
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twinky
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Basically, I'd want to see some a priori editing of wikipedia entries before I'd be willing to trust it as a source of information.

Edit: "Of," not "to."

[ April 19, 2005, 05:28 PM: Message edited by: twinky ]

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Jon Boy
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How is that odd, Tom? That sounds right to me.
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TomDavidson
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"Basically, I'd want to see some a priori editing of wikipedia entries before I'd be willing to trust it as a source of information."

Why? You link to blogs, and there's even less accountability there.

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katharina
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I use wickipedia for things that can't be found in regular sources.

For instance:
What about that situation in the Middle East?
NOT a question for Wickipedia.

What the heck does "All your base are belong to us." mean?
A question positively DESIGNED for Wickipedia.

What were the effects of Vatican II?
No Wickipedia.

Where did that video with the kid and the song and the arm waving come from?
Yes Wickipedia.

[Smile]

It works really well that way.

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twinky
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quote:
Why? You link to blogs, and there's even less accountability there.
No, I don't. I also don't read blogs, apart from (sporadically) a couple of friends' livejournals.
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JonnyNotSoBravo
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quote:
Oddly, I was always told that an encyclopedia, by its very definition, was not considered a primary source and could not be used as a scholarly cite.
I think there is an illusion that a "primary source" exists. Take any event that happened. Do you include witness testimony to that event? How long ago had the event happened when the witness was interviewed, and how has time passing altered and skewed that witness' memory of what has happened? Memories are very fallible.

Now let's look at something a little more solid, like population (as was suggested earlier in this thread). When dealing with small populations, we can be fairly accurate about the number of people and even their names, although some hermits may be hiding in the hills. As the population gets larger, the quantity of errors (i.e. the uncounted population) grows, although the percentage of loss may seem reasonable to us. We grow accustomed to the fact that these things are not exact and accept the errors. We may even estimate the amount, based on the amount of error we expect to receive from our data.

Video is about the closest thing we have to a primary source. But even that is limited by viewpoint, clarity of input (sound, visual) and subject matter (i.e.what you happen to have video of). We'd need something like OSC's pastwatch technology to have a true primary source.

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rivka
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*is highly amused by kat's spelling of wikipedia*

*wonders if it is Freudian*

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Desdemona
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Encyclopaedia Britannica Online article on Microsoft:

quote:
Microsoft Corporation

Encyclopædia Britannica

leading developer of personal-computer software systems and applications. The company also publishes books and multimedia titles and offers electronic mail services. It has sales offices throughout the world but does virtually all of its research and development at its corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, U.S.

In 1975 Bill Gates and Paul G. Allen, two boyhood friends from Seattle, converted BASIC, a popular mainframe programming language, for use on an early personal computer (PC), the Altair. Shortly afterward Gates and Allen founded Microsoft, deriving the name from the words “microcomputer” and “software.” During the next few years they refined BASIC and developed other programming languages. In 1980 International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) asked Microsoft to produce the essential software, or operating system, for its first personal computer, the IBM PC. Microsoft purchased an operating system from another company, modified it, and renamed it MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System). MS-DOS was released with the IBM PC in 1981. Thereafter, most manufacturers of personal computers licensed MS-DOS as their operating system, generating vast revenues for Microsoft; by the early 1990s it had sold more than 100 million copies of the program and defeated rival operating systems such as CP/M, which it displaced in the early 1980s, and later OS/2. Microsoft deepened its position in operating systems with its Windows graphical command program, whose third version, released in 1990, gained a wide following. By 1993, Windows 3.0 and its subsequent versions were selling at a rate of one million copies per month, and nearly 90 percent of the world's PCs ran on a Microsoft operating system. In 1995 the company released Windows 95, which for the first time fully integrated MS-DOS with Windows and effectively matched in ease of use Apple Computer's Macintosh OS. It also became the leader in productivity software such as word-processing and spreadsheet programs, outdistancing long-time rivals Lotus and WordPerfect in the process

Microsoft dramatically expanded its electronic publishing division, created in 1985 and already notable for the success of its multimedia encyclopedia, Encarta. It also entered the information services and entertainment industries with a wide range of products and services, most notably the Microsoft Network and MSNBC (a joint venture with the National Broadcasting Company, a major American television network).

As a result, by the mid-1990s Microsoft, which became a publicly owned corporation in 1986, had become one of the most powerful and profitable companies in American history. It consistently earned profits of 25 cents on every sales dollar, an astonishing record; net income topped $2.1 billion in the company's fiscal year ending June 30, 1996. However, its rapid growth in a fiercely competitive and fast-changing industry spawned resentment and jealousy among rivals, some of whom complained that the company's practices violated U.S. laws against unfair competition. Microsoft and its defenders countered that, far from stifling competition and technical innovation, its rise had encouraged both and that its software had consistently become less expensive and more useful. A U.S. Justice Department investigation concluded in 1994 with a settlement in which Microsoft changed some sales practices that the government contended enabled the company to unfairly discourage OS customers from trying alternative programs. The following year, the Justice Department successfully challenged Microsoft's proposed purchase of Intuit, the leading maker of financial software for the PC.

Partly because of its stunning success in PC software, Microsoft was slow to realize the commercial possibilities of network systems and the Internet. In 1993 it released Windows NT, a landmark program that tied disparate PCs together and offered improved reliability and network security. Sales were initially disappointing, but by 1996 Windows NT was hailed as the likely standard for PC networking, challenging Novell's NetWare. Microsoft did not move into Internet software until a new venture, Netscape Communications Corp., had introduced Navigator, a Web “browser” program that simplified the once-arcane process of navigating the World Wide Web. In a violent change of course, Microsoft quickly developed its own browser, Internet Explorer, made it free, and moved aggressively to persuade computer makers and Internet service providers to distribute it exclusively. By 1996 Microsoft was bundling Explorer with Windows OS and had begun the process of integrating Explorer directly into Windows. In response, Netscape accused Microsoft of violating its 1995 consent decree and sued; these efforts helped to persuade the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen a broad investigation of Microsoft.

In 1999, following a trial that lasted 30 months, a judge found Microsoft in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and ordered the breakup of the company. In 2001 an appeals court overturned the breakup order but still found the company guilty of illegally trying to maintain a monopoly.



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dkw
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quote:
I think there is an illusion that a "primary source" exists. . . . We'd need something like OSC's pastwatch technology to have a true primary source.
Well, for a history paper, yes. But if your research paper is on, say, the work of a particular philosopher or scientist, then reading something actually written by that person is a primary source. Or for a paper on 4th century literature, then any literature actually written in that century is a primary source.
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JonnyNotSoBravo
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quote:
Well, for a history paper, yes. But if your research paper is on, say, the work of a particular philosopher or scientist, then reading something actually written by that person is a primary source. Or for a paper on 4th century literature, then any literature actually written in that century is a primary source.
I would agree with the literature point, but not with the work of the philosopher/scientist. You're assuming that the writing of the philosopher/scientist accurately reflects their work. Really, they could be working on something that they don't fully comprehend and their work might only be fully understood in a historical context. And people lie, exaggerate and censor themselves. Their actual work would be a primary source, but not their writing about it.

Either way, your point is definitely made and there are such things as primary sources for non-historical work. Thanks. [Smile]

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twinky
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The Britannica MS entry is an interesting contrast to the wikipedia entry.
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Zalmoxis
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quote:
a real peer review and editing process
You mean the real peer review system that is breaking down and in many cases may have not been that much of a safeguard in the first place.

This is not to say that I want to do away with peer review and editing --- in fact, it's a critical part of what I do [albeit not on the same level as an academic paper].

Indeed, what would be awesome would be a wikipedia that through some sort of authentication process and/or through an aggressive, seriously self-policing community managed to have all of its contributors be people who really knew their stuff -- academics, grad students, freelance scholars, working professionals, etc.

What I envision is mini-subject-based wikipedias that had some barriers to entry for contributors that are part of a collective of affilliated wikis that share the same standards but are on different subject areas.

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ElJay
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Anybody else notice today's Foxtrot?
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Goody Scrivener
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bwahahahaha!!!!! It's been so long since I followed Foxtrot. Looks like the kids haven't aged a bit.
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Alcon
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Hehe, I love Foxtrot, I can't wait to see what else he does with this line of thinking.
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