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Re: Wikipedia and Wikispecies



Hello everybody,

I'm new to Wikipedia, too, and I had many of the same doubts, so I
hope I can assuage them as they come along.  That being said, I do not
work for Wikipedia (no one does), am not an administrator, nor do I
represent Wikimedia's interests.  I am friends with a founder, have
become very enthused about the possibilities granted by this project,
and especially by its conjunction with this very community of
dinophiles.

Having said that, before I further address any points raised by the
list, I'd like to point out that most of these answers can probably be
easily found on the site itself.  Check out the policies and
guidelines page:

> "Free info" for the masses is cool.
> But to allow another author to @$&^ with someone's intellectual property
> is NOT cool.

I believe a basic disconnect here is the idea that there is such a
thing as "intellectual property."  As far as Wikipedia is concerned,
knowledge is free.  Your Wikipedia entry on, say, the evidence for or
against gigantothermy in sauropods is not "yours."  It is knowledge
that is available to be shaped by anyone.  Philosophically, Wikipedia
(seems to me) to run counter not only to the idea that knowledge is
for everyone, but also that knowledge can be property.

This does not mean that information should not be cited properly, for
indeed there are rules governing use of photographs and information,
rules against "independent research" (i.e. writing a paper on my tea
party with Bigfoot and then citing that as "independent research"
proving Bigfoot's existence) preventing plagiarism, and etc.  Just
because the info is free does not in any way mean that it can be
plagiarized, distorted, or fabricated.  But don't take my word for it:
read the Wikipedia policies and guidelines page.  And if you don't
like their policies, edit them!!

> I see nothing productive, either from a scientific point of view, or from
> a free speech point of view, for  Wilkipedia to allow Alan Feduccia, PhD
> to come in and edit or delete a prior contribution on bird evolution
> written by Mark Norell, PhD (or visa versa).

We know, because we are in the know, that it would be tragic for
Feduccia to be able to erase the work of Norell.  Wikipedia, on the
other hand, is not the scientific arena in which Norell's work should
be preserved without fear of contamination.  Wikipedia is a space for
anyone to edit knowledge.  Feduccia has something to say, so let him
say it.  We all see him quoted fairly frequently, thought thankfully
less so as time goes by, in major press sources, yet I didn't see any
question that dinosaurs evolved into birds in Wikipedia.  Rather than
worry about what would happen if Feduccia got his hands on Wikipedia,
go find out if he did!  You won't be disappointed, and the great thing
is, if he's there, you can edit him out!

> Maybe I'm missing something from your  posts.  If so, please correct me.

I don't think you've missed a thing.  Every con mentioned so far has
made good sense.  But I hope every pro has, too!  Let me say this: 
Wikipedia is refreshing (to me) because it acknowledges knowledge as
abstract (yet made real by journals/books/readers' imaginations) and
for anyone.  We (the DML) are very emotionally (like it or not) tied
to Feduccia v. reality, but consider for a moment the debate between
Greece and Macedonia over national nomenclature.  As an outside
observer, determining which nationality (another abstract concept made
real by passports) is correct is nearly impossible, considering the
relativity of the discussion.  I have no idea how Wikipedia
adminsitrators dealt with that hairy issue, but I'm sure it got more
people up in arms than Feduccia would!

Once ideas have been disseminated through some medium, competing
interpretations always butt heads.  In Wikipedia, the head-butting
(flank-butting?) happens WITHIN the medium.

The basic motivation behind my endorsement of Wikipedia is that it
allows any person to access knowledge and to disseminate what they
know all for free.  Everyone loves dinosaurs, and at some age they'll
probably try to find out about them without having to pay for a book. 
Wikipedia is a chance for us to tell them what we know and why we know
it.  It's great!

FYI, Wikimedia, the larger group behind both Wikispecies and
Wikipedia, is working on (has published?) books for adults and
children, to be distributed for free around the world, so it's not
just for those with an internet connection.

Re: TOL and Wikispecies.  I don't know much about Wikispecies, but it
certainly would be great for it to depend upon the former.  Wikipedia
is a great way to make TOL more popular.

Re: ICZN.  If the ICZN doesn't recognize websites as valid for new
species, then Wikispecies must be relied upon for only previously
published species.  Since I don't know much about Wikispecies, I don't
know if they pay attention to ICZN.  I am underqualified to introduce
ICZN, but there are those onlist who aren't!

Also, HP Marjanovic is completely correct re: being bold.  Put as much
info on Wikipedia as possible!  It's not going to just get thrown out,
and it'll make people smarter.

I can't believe I'm still online.  I have to go to bed!

Take care, everyone.

Demetrios