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Wikipedia, Spartacus and the JFK Assassination


John Simkin
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<snip>

The site that always appears first when you type in a West Ham player is Wikipedia. It seems that someone has written a biography of every player and put it on Wikipedia. However, a closer inspection shows that what this person has done is to copy out the entries that appeared in Tony Hogg’s book, “Who’s Who of West Ham United” (2000). That is of course what happens with Wikipedia. I am always getting emails from my visitors pointing out that Wikipedia is stealing material from my website. So far I have done nothing about this but I am now reconsidering my position on this matter.

These pages included no photographs or links to other pages such as the West Ham Statistics site that I mentioned earlier. I therefore added a link to my individual pages as they did include photographs and links to other related material (including those that a part of the Wikipedia encyclopedia).

To my surprise, within 24 hours, the links that I placed on Wikipedia had been removed by the name:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Nzd

He/she claimed that the reason that the link had been removed was that I was guilty of advertising my own website. According to this person, you are not allowed to add links to sites you own yourself. This is of course ridiculous and is clearly not the real reason. I suspect the reason is Nzd is the person who copied the material from Tony Hogg’s book. He probably now plans to steal my photographs to go with the text he has stolen. If the link remained, others would have discovered what he was up to.

I have made the issue with the Tony Hogg book public in Wikipedia's wikien email forum. Any use of a book like that ought to stay within academic-style 'fair use'; and there is every reason to mention the source.

As for the West Ham photo links, two other editors agree with me that the links should stay, and between us we put them back. Technically John was in violation of something mentioned on Wikipedia:External links, at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:EL

where it is written that "You should avoid linking to a website that you own, maintain or represent, even if the guidelines otherwise imply that it should be linked. If the link is to a relevant and informative site that should otherwise be included, please consider mentioning it on the talk page and let neutral and independent Wikipedia editors decide whether to add it. This is in line with the conflict of interests guidelines."

But in this case the enforcement of this seems well over the top.

As for copyright beefs in general: reporting typical flagrant copy-and-paste violations has now been streamlined right down. Should take under a minute. Replace the whole page by {{copyvio|URL}}, where URL stands for the URL of the copied page. After saving, click where it says on the template, and follow the instructions on the page you reach. The matter will be looked into on a time scale of a few days. The relevant policy page is

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:COPYVIO .

Charles

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As for the West Ham photo links, two other editors agree with me that the links should stay, and between us we put them back. Technically John was in violation of something mentioned on Wikipedia:External links, at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:EL

where it is written that "You should avoid linking to a website that you own, maintain or represent, even if the guidelines otherwise imply that it should be linked. If the link is to a relevant and informative site that should otherwise be included, please consider mentioning it on the talk page and let neutral and independent Wikipedia editors decide whether to add it. This is in line with the conflict of interests guidelines."

But in this case the enforcement of this seems well over the top.

Thank you for doing that. Does that mean that other links that I add to these West Ham biographies will remain in place?

It seems to me that this policy about not linking to your own website is ridiculous. I provide links to other websites on every page in my encyclopaedia. My judgement is not based on who owns the site, but on the usefulness of the information that the page contains.

What I am interested in is what went on in the mind of the person who removed these links. I assume he visited these pages and saw the photographs of the people concerned. Why would he have thought that it was best that Wikipedia visitors to its page, for example, of Len Goulden, should not see those photographs of the footballer in the 1930s? Did he really think, the most important factor in this is who owns the site?

One cannot help assume that there were other factors involved in this decision. For example, the possibility that my page on Len Goulden, etc. will end up being ranked higher than that of Wikipedia’s with search-engines like Google.

I think this explains why most Wikipedia pages include very few external links. I dare say, like my example, they are being put in, however, Wikipedia’s editors are busy taking them out again.

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(1) Thank you for doing that. Does that mean that other links that I add to these West Ham biographies will remain in place?

(2) It seems to me that this policy about not linking to your own website is ridiculous. I provide links to other websites on every page in my encyclopaedia. My judgement is not based on who owns the site, but on the usefulness of the information that the page contains.

(3) What I am interested in is what went on in the mind of the person who removed these links. I assume he visited these pages and saw the photographs of the people concerned. Why would he have thought that it was best that Wikipedia visitors to its page, for example, of Len Goulden, should not see those photographs of the footballer in the 1930s? Did he really think, the most important factor in this is who owns the site?

One cannot help assume that there were other factors involved in this decision. For example, the possibility that my page on Len Goulden, etc. will end up being ranked higher than that of Wikipedia’s with search-engines like Google.

(4) I think this explains why most Wikipedia pages include very few external links. I dare say, like my example, they are being put in, however, Wikipedia’s editors are busy taking them out again.

In reply to John's points:

(1) I can't guarantee that: there is really no centralised control. However I can do the same another time, and take it up on the site with anyone who disagrees.

(2) We do have to clean 'spam' off the site. People with something to sell, links to sites with heavy paid ads or intrusive pop-ups. There is a good reason to have a policy against abuse. Like much of our policy-making, there is a grain of salt or two to take with it: sometimes (as here) common sense ought to win out.

(3) I really doubt this was the reasoning. My experience is that editors apply policies pedantically.

(4) Well, I'm creating new articles at a rate of three or four a day, and they tend to have several external links. I'll not try to speak for anyone else, but there would be no basis for taking out links indiscriminately.

Charles

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Technically John was in violation of something mentioned on Wikipedia:External links, at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:EL

where it is written that "You should avoid linking to a website that you own, maintain or represent, even if the guidelines otherwise imply that it should be linked. If the link is to a relevant and informative site that should otherwise be included, please consider mentioning it on the talk page and let neutral and independent Wikipedia editors decide whether to add it. This is in line with the conflict of interests guidelines."

It seems to me that Wikipedia will never be accepted by the academic community until it provides some details of who has written the article that the student wants to use. The student also needs to know something about the people who remove passages of the original article and links.

History teachers always tell their students that when writing about “historical sources” you always need to consider the motivation of the person who created the source. That is not possible with Wikipedia. In fact, this raises the question of what might be motivating people to spend their free time writing or editing Wikipedia entries.

I often get emails from students asking me what my motivation is for producing the Spartacus encyclopedia (they have obviously been well-taught historians).

I reply that motivation is a complex issue that is not always fully understood by the person themselves. George Orwell wrote an article about this in September, 1946. In “Why I Write” he argued that:

I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:

1. Sheer egotism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in children, etc. etc.

2. Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed.

3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

4. Political purpose - using the word 'political' in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people's idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.

I agree with all those points. I would add one more motivation to this list. The need to earn a living. The same was true of George Orwell. For example, I could not afford to spend the day working on my website unless it brought me in an income. I suspect that if George Orwell was alive today he would have a website that included Google Ads. Why? Firstly, because it would have given him complete freedom to write what he wanted. Secondly, it would have created the maximum audience for his work. Thirdly, it would give him a very good income.

Yet, Wikipedia does not carry ads. According to Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales made his money from former business ventures:

“From 1994-2000, Wales served as research director at Chicago Options Associates, a futures and options trader in Chicago. By "betting on interest rate and foreign-currency fluctuations" he had soon earned enough to "support himself and his wife for the rest of their lives", according to Daniel Pink of Wired Magazine” In 1996, Wales founded a search portal called Bomis, which also sold erotic materials until mid-2005.”

The article then goes on to say:

"In mid-2003, Wales set up the Wikimedia Foundation, a St. Petersburg-based non-profit organization, to support Wikipedia and its younger sibling project. citation neededHe appointed himself and two business partners who are not active Wikipedians to the five-member board; the remaining two members are elected community representatives. Wales has explained his motivations about Wikipedia. In an interview with Slashdot, he said, "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing."

The internet might be able to do that but Wikipedia cannot do it. What it can do, and what it is doing, is to give one version of particular aspects of human knowledge.

Wales clearly has got a lot of money and does not need to work again. Well, that is great for Jimmy Wales, but what about all those others who contribute their labour free of charge? What could their motivation be? Does it not seem a little strange that one of their tasks should be to remove links to other sources of information who are trying to make money from producing information free at the point of delivery (websites that include advertising). At the same time they allow links to websites which do not carry advertising. Why, because they are produced by governments or wealthy individuals. Now, why should these websites be more reliable than those with adverts? In fact, isn’t there more reason that these websites are attempting to push "political propaganda”.

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<snip>

(1) It seems to me that Wikipedia will never be accepted by the academic community until it provides some details of who has written the article that the student wants to use. The student also needs to know something about the people who remove passages of the original article and links.

<snip>

(2) I often get emails from students asking me what my motivation is for producing the Spartacus encyclopedia (they have obviously been well-taught historians).

I reply that motivation is a complex issue that is not always fully understood by the person themselves. George Orwell wrote an article about this in September, 1946.

<snip>

(3) According to Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales made his money from former business ventures:

<snip>

(4) The internet might be able to do that but Wikipedia cannot do it. What it can do, and what it is doing, is to give one version of particular aspects of human knowledge.

(5) Wales clearly has got a lot of money and does not need to work again. Well, that is great for Jimmy Wales, but what about all those others who contribute their labour free of charge? What could their motivation be? Does it not seem a little strange that one of their tasks should be to remove links to other sources of information who are trying to make money from producing information free at the point of delivery (websites that include advertising). At the same time they allow links to websites which do not carry advertising. Why, because they are produced by governments or wealthy individuals. Now, why should these websites be more reliable than those with adverts? In fact, isn’t there more reason that these websites are attempting to push "political propaganda”.

Taking up John's points:

(1) Jimmy Wales himself often says the making of Wikipedia is like the making of sausages: you really don't want to know the details. That's a slight misquote of something always attributed to Bismarck, on sausages and laws (Wurst und Gesetze). Jimmy was saying that again on Tuesday evening, in London (he'd been talking to the LSE, and had an LSE researcher in tow, who is looking at the management of Wikipedia). I really don't think that Wikipedia articles (though some of them are good) can replace academic monographs. If someone does five years of a doctorate, they will come up with something that differs in kind. But those writings are read by very few, and are prohibitive to buy, unless you know exactly why you are looking at them. A good Wikipedia article provides very quick, accessible reading on a topic.

(2) I think Orwell is quite shrewd, at least in his own terms. Most active Wikipedia writers treat it as a hobby, in fact. (You can tell from the statistics that many people access Wikipedia at work, and mostly, one guesses, as an alternative to actual work.) My own motivations are not quite that.

(3) There is a fair amount on the record about Jimmy Wales; but (as usual) the media often don't have it quite right in parts. Basically he dropped out of graduate school to become a day trader, and did very well. Wikipedia was a surprise development out of Bomis, his dotcom. It was not the first plan for an online encyclopedia, but it succeeded where others had failed. Basically, I think the acceptance of the provisional naure of the articles was a breakthrough.

(4) Not quite how I see it at present. Of course Wikipedia articles are not the last word on anything. Thy are developing now a kind of dual nature, with a basic text kept deliberately simple, and many notes hanging off it.

(5) Wikipedia is now a big voluntary organisation (it has a paid skeleton staff). In fact Jimmy Wales has founded Wikia, which is a regular for-profit company hosting wikis, and so is back in business. On the business of links to sites with ads: the latest I hear is that there is a big rise in people 'spamming' Wikipedia with unsuitable links. All removals of links ought to be on a case-by-case basis; but there is quite a blacklist of sites that take advantage. In reply to the point about who is tasked with this: there is the group of admins (1000+ strong) who take on such things, under agreed guidelines (there is a WikiProject Spam). I would prefer to be writing articles, myself, but there is a division of labour on such things, and admins find their niches.

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<snip>

(1) It seems to me that Wikipedia will never be accepted by the academic community until it provides some details of who has written the article that the student wants to use. The student also needs to know something about the people who remove passages of the original article and links.

<snip>

(2) I often get emails from students asking me what my motivation is for producing the Spartacus encyclopedia (they have obviously been well-taught historians).

I reply that motivation is a complex issue that is not always fully understood by the person themselves. George Orwell wrote an article about this in September, 1946.

<snip>

(3) According to Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales made his money from former business ventures:

<snip>

(4) The internet might be able to do that but Wikipedia cannot do it. What it can do, and what it is doing, is to give one version of particular aspects of human knowledge.

(5) Wales clearly has got a lot of money and does not need to work again. Well, that is great for Jimmy Wales, but what about all those others who contribute their labour free of charge? What could their motivation be? Does it not seem a little strange that one of their tasks should be to remove links to other sources of information who are trying to make money from producing information free at the point of delivery (websites that include advertising). At the same time they allow links to websites which do not carry advertising. Why, because they are produced by governments or wealthy individuals. Now, why should these websites be more reliable than those with adverts? In fact, isn’t there more reason that these websites are attempting to push "political propaganda”.

Taking up John's points:

(1) Jimmy Wales himself often says the making of Wikipedia is like the making of sausages: you really don't want to know the details. That's a slight misquote of something always attributed to Bismarck, on sausages and laws (Wurst und Gesetze). Jimmy was saying that again on Tuesday evening, in London (he'd been talking to the LSE, and had an LSE researcher in tow, who is looking at the management of Wikipedia). I really don't think that Wikipedia articles (though some of them are good) can replace academic monographs. If someone does five years of a doctorate, they will come up with something that differs in kind. But those writings are read by very few, and are prohibitive to buy, unless you know exactly why you are looking at them. A good Wikipedia article provides very quick, accessible reading on a topic.

(2) I think Orwell is quite shrewd, at least in his own terms. Most active Wikipedia writers treat it as a hobby, in fact. (You can tell from the statistics that many people access Wikipedia at work, and mostly, one guesses, as an alternative to actual work.) My own motivations are not quite that.

(3) There is a fair amount on the record about Jimmy Wales; but (as usual) the media often don't have it quite right in parts. Basically he dropped out of graduate school to become a day trader, and did very well. Wikipedia was a surprise development out of Bomis, his dotcom. It was not the first plan for an online encyclopedia, but it succeeded where others had failed. Basically, I think the acceptance of the provisional naure of the articles was a breakthrough.

(4) Not quite how I see it at present. Of course Wikipedia articles are not the last word on anything. Thy are developing now a kind of dual nature, with a basic text kept deliberately simple, and many notes hanging off it.

(5) Wikipedia is now a big voluntary organisation (it has a paid skeleton staff). In fact Jimmy Wales has founded Wikia, which is a regular for-profit company hosting wikis, and so is back in business. On the business of links to sites with ads: the latest I hear is that there is a big rise in people 'spamming' Wikipedia with unsuitable links. All removals of links ought to be on a case-by-case basis; but there is quite a blacklist of sites that take advantage. In reply to the point about who is tasked with this: there is the group of admins (1000+ strong) who take on such things, under agreed guidelines (there is a WikiProject Spam). I would prefer to be writing articles, myself, but there is a division of labour on such things, and admins find their niches.

Interesting...but does not address John's suggestions of CIA interference, or other undue pressure

about what is acceptable.

For myself...I frequently find the service great on non-controversial historical subjects. For instance I just

finished excerpting and paraphrasing a paragraph concerning LESLIE'S WEEKLY magazine, founded in 1852.

It was very helpful. I do a website on the history of Fort Worth: http://www.fortwortharchitecture.com/oldftw/oldftw.htm

Jack

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Interesting...but does not address John's suggestions of CIA interference, or other undue pressure

about what is acceptable.

Given the scale of the operation, 'proving a negative' would be even harder than usual. The production of Wikipedia is equivalent to around 1000 full-time editors, by now. The site has been growing at around 1% per week, for an extended period. Now, as far as I'm concerned, there is no 'central' mechanism at all in this. It is not hard to get an account, to build up a reputation as a solid editor, just by putting in some hours. Therefore there _could_ be all sorts of entryism going on. But since everyone's edits are logged, it is hard to put many fast ones.

On the other hand I'm in a position to know something about the disputes on the site. Anything and everything does get contested; but rarely do we see anything subtle or suggestive of a well-concealed agenda.

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Interesting...but does not address John's suggestions of CIA interference, or other undue pressure

about what is acceptable.

Given the scale of the operation, 'proving a negative' would be even harder than usual. The production of Wikipedia is equivalent to around 1000 full-time editors, by now. The site has been growing at around 1% per week, for an extended period. Now, as far as I'm concerned, there is no 'central' mechanism at all in this. It is not hard to get an account, to build up a reputation as a solid editor, just by putting in some hours. Therefore there _could_ be all sorts of entryism going on. But since everyone's edits are logged, it is hard to put many fast ones.

On the other hand I'm in a position to know something about the disputes on the site. Anything and everything does get contested; but rarely do we see anything subtle or suggestive of a well-concealed agenda.

This waffling reply does not address the question about the CIA or why

some writing is censored or deleted.

?

Jack

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Charles Matthews and the other four panel members representing Wikipedia voted for to ban editor RPJ from the publication because: [Editor] RPJ regularly cites information from unreliable sites dedicated to a propagandistic point of view, one is spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk, . . . .”

Matthews and the other four panel members of Wikipedia need to retract that finding of fact because it is not true.

The point could have been made better: the formulation was somewhat telegraphic. That much is I think common ground, wiith my Arbitrator colleagues. We normally rule on editor behaviour, and do not relish getting involved in content matters. I'm going to explain below why the issue was actually forced in this case. (ArbCom cases are discussed once; further talk about them is only explanatory. Appeal to Jimmy Wales is the only way that the ArbCom gets over-ruled. Requests to look again are sometimes entertained.)

That being said, I have reviewed some of the edits on Wikipedia that led up to the bringing of the case. I would make the following points:

- I have already mentioned the use of 'progandistic' here in relation to our guideline Wikipedia:Conflict of interest, 1.5 Campaigning, which I think is directly applicable.

- It is not true that this finding of fact is the sole reason the ArbCom made the decision it did. The finding is illustrative of the behaviour that led User:RPJ to be banned, but is not the whole story by any means.

- User:RPJ made much of an idiosyncratic reading of Wikipedia:Neutral point of view (NPOV), one of Wikipedia's charter policies. I have been looking at discussion of this between User:RPJ and User:Gamaliel. The point under debate is the clause (explicit on the NPOV page) about 'undue weight'; while all significant points of view should be mentioned, and 'consensus' should not be invoked to exclude a point of view that is arguably significant, it is not envisaged that all points of view are equally addressed. Put it this way: there is no doctrine of 'equal time' or 'balance' attached to NPOV. It is quite acceptable to claim that a page exhibits NPOV when it deals at quite unequal length with different perspectives. What is more, editors are supposed to be collegiate rather than adversarial in dealing with such questions.

It is in this context that this (one out of several) points in the case needs to be seen. When editors involved in the page or pages dealing with JFK assassination topics object to excess weight given to a point of view, they are not necessarily being obtuse or defensive about the material. We wouldn't use a crude term like 'hard sell' in proper Wikipedia on-site discussions, because it is not respectful of others, but going into what that might mean gives some clues:

- editors don't like constructed narratives (what we term 'original research' in Wikipedia jargon)

- editors don't like one-sided pressure on article content

- editors don't like the kind of 'getting the word out' that assumes that articles are a vehicle for some attitude

- editors don't like selective use of sources to make a case

- editors don't like disproportionate emphasis.

Now, 'editors' here means typical good and experienced Wikipedians. I would never rule out the existence of partisans, in a group of editors, but actually assuming that there are no fair-minded people around is a basic mistake. (I have seen this lead other editors into deep trouble, in other cases.) It is for that reason that we also have 'assume good faith' as a policy; which sounds aspirational only, but is actually very sound advice. To say that X, Y and Z are resisting changes to an article because of something (in this case, attachment to the Warren Commission/official history) gets that all wrong. Forcing the issue of Spartacus as a source has not succeeded in 'winning' the desired shift in content. A fundamental point is that engagement and compromise works much better.

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Guest Mark Valenti

I think as long as you deal with controversial subjects - and which one isn't these days - you'll be compelled, from an abundance of caution, to insert caveats on every page.

It's the Roger Maris syndrome - he broke a home run record yet the record books include an asterisk by his name because of certain circumstances.

Information is the essential ingredient. Asterisk Management is the way we have to live.

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Charles Matthews and the other four panel members representing Wikipedia voted for to ban editor RPJ from the publication because: [Editor] RPJ regularly cites information from unreliable sites dedicated to a propagandistic point of view, one is spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk, . . . .”

Matthews and the other four panel members of Wikipedia need to retract that finding of fact because it is not true.

The point could have been made better: the formulation was somewhat telegraphic. That much is I think common ground, wiith my Arbitrator colleagues. We normally rule on editor behaviour, and do not relish getting involved in content matters. I'm going to explain below why the issue was actually forced in this case. (ArbCom cases are discussed once; further talk about them is only explanatory. Appeal to Jimmy Wales is the only way that the ArbCom gets over-ruled. Requests to look again are sometimes entertained.)

That being said, I have reviewed some of the edits on Wikipedia that led up to the bringing of the case. I would make the following points:

- I have already mentioned the use of 'progandistic' here in relation to our guideline Wikipedia:Conflict of interest, 1.5 Campaigning, which I think is directly applicable.

- It is not true that this finding of fact is the sole reason the ArbCom made the decision it did. The finding is illustrative of the behaviour that led User:RPJ to be banned, but is not the whole story by any means.

- User:RPJ made much of an idiosyncratic reading of Wikipedia:Neutral point of view (NPOV), one of Wikipedia's charter policies. I have been looking at discussion of this between User:RPJ and User:Gamaliel. The point under debate is the clause (explicit on the NPOV page) about 'undue weight'; while all significant points of view should be mentioned, and 'consensus' should not be invoked to exclude a point of view that is arguably significant, it is not envisaged that all points of view are equally addressed. Put it this way: there is no doctrine of 'equal time' or 'balance' attached to NPOV. It is quite acceptable to claim that a page exhibits NPOV when it deals at quite unequal length with different perspectives. What is more, editors are supposed to be collegiate rather than adversarial in dealing with such questions.

It is in this context that this (one out of several) points in the case needs to be seen. When editors involved in the page or pages dealing with JFK assassination topics object to excess weight given to a point of view, they are not necessarily being obtuse or defensive about the material. We wouldn't use a crude term like 'hard sell' in proper Wikipedia on-site discussions, because it is not respectful of others, but going into what that might mean gives some clues:

- editors don't like constructed narratives (what we term 'original research' in Wikipedia jargon)

- editors don't like one-sided pressure on article content

- editors don't like the kind of 'getting the word out' that assumes that articles are a vehicle for some attitude

- editors don't like selective use of sources to make a case

- editors don't like disproportionate emphasis.

Now, 'editors' here means typical good and experienced Wikipedians. I would never rule out the existence of partisans, in a group of editors, but actually assuming that there are no fair-minded people around is a basic mistake. (I have seen this lead other editors into deep trouble, in other cases.) It is for that reason that we also have 'assume good faith' as a policy; which sounds aspirational only, but is actually very sound advice. To say that X, Y and Z are resisting changes to an article because of something (in this case, attachment to the Warren Commission/official history) gets that all wrong. Forcing the issue of Spartacus as a source has not succeeded in 'winning' the desired shift in content. A fundamental point is that engagement and compromise works much better.

Again the questions asked by Simkin are ignored: Why censorship? What about CIA?

Jack

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Again the questions asked by Simkin are ignored: Why censorship? What about CIA?

Jack

That was answering something quite else, wasn't it? This is not all one thread.

The following are not John Simkin's words, but ones he cited on 28 December:

"The idea that the CIA was using it for something bigger, to then create an information database, a Wikipedia, makes a bit more sense. That CIA made Google so as to prepare the internet to be taken over by Wikipedia.

We know that the CIA uses Wikipedia, that much is obvious (they use Google too). We know that they are in there trying to manipulate articles. But how effective are they? Is Wikipedia complying with this? Or are they just unable to stop it?

What would be stopping the US government from calling Jimbo and demanding for him to cooperate with the CIA, or else he'd be framed as a terrorist? They could easily do it, and he'd have no choice in the matter. "

My answers. This is pretty much absurd. Even if Jimmy Wales had to 'co-operate' with the CIA, he can only exhort people to do things. I was not 'waffling' when I said 'entryism' is easy on WP. Anyone can come and edit: so the CIA can come and edit. I was not waffling in saying that the edit logs are transparent, and editors who are trying subtle manipulation can be exposed.

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Again the questions asked by Simkin are ignored: Why censorship? What about CIA?

Jack

That was answering something quite else, wasn't it? This is not all one thread.

The following are not John Simkin's words, but ones he cited on 28 December:

"The idea that the CIA was using it for something bigger, to then create an information database, a Wikipedia, makes a bit more sense. That CIA made Google so as to prepare the internet to be taken over by Wikipedia.

We know that the CIA uses Wikipedia, that much is obvious (they use Google too). We know that they are in there trying to manipulate articles. But how effective are they? Is Wikipedia complying with this? Or are they just unable to stop it?

What would be stopping the US government from calling Jimbo and demanding for him to cooperate with the CIA, or else he'd be framed as a terrorist? They could easily do it, and he'd have no choice in the matter. "

My answers. This is pretty much absurd. Even if Jimmy Wales had to 'co-operate' with the CIA, he can only exhort people to do things. I was not 'waffling' when I said 'entryism' is easy on WP. Anyone can come and edit: so the CIA can come and edit. I was not waffling in saying that the edit logs are transparent, and editors who are trying subtle manipulation can be exposed.

Thanks for answering about the CIA...they are free to "edit" like anyone else, right?

But you have not answered Simkin's question about the REMOVAL of topics on certain subjects.

Jack

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Again the questions asked by Simkin are ignored: Why censorship? What about CIA?

Jack

That was answering something quite else, wasn't it? This is not all one thread.

The following are not John Simkin's words, but ones he cited on 28 December:

"The idea that the CIA was using it for something bigger, to then create an information database, a Wikipedia, makes a bit more sense. That CIA made Google so as to prepare the internet to be taken over by Wikipedia.

We know that the CIA uses Wikipedia, that much is obvious (they use Google too). We know that they are in there trying to manipulate articles. But how effective are they? Is Wikipedia complying with this? Or are they just unable to stop it?

What would be stopping the US government from calling Jimbo and demanding for him to cooperate with the CIA, or else he'd be framed as a terrorist? They could easily do it, and he'd have no choice in the matter. "

My answers. This is pretty much absurd. Even if Jimmy Wales had to 'co-operate' with the CIA, he can only exhort people to do things. I was not 'waffling' when I said 'entryism' is easy on WP. Anyone can come and edit: so the CIA can come and edit. I was not waffling in saying that the edit logs are transparent, and editors who are trying subtle manipulation can be exposed.

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Could you tell me what credentials your contributors are required to hold, and if they are, in fact, college or university degreed academicians?

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(1) It seems to me that Wikipedia will never be accepted by the academic community until it provides some details of who has written the article that the student wants to use. The student also needs to know something about the people who remove passages of the original article and links.

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(2) I often get emails from students asking me what my motivation is for producing the Spartacus encyclopedia (they have obviously been well-taught historians).

I reply that motivation is a complex issue that is not always fully understood by the person themselves. George Orwell wrote an article about this in September, 1946.

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(3) According to Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales made his money from former business ventures:

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(4) The internet might be able to do that but Wikipedia cannot do it. What it can do, and what it is doing, is to give one version of particular aspects of human knowledge.

(5) Wales clearly has got a lot of money and does not need to work again. Well, that is great for Jimmy Wales, but what about all those others who contribute their labour free of charge? What could their motivation be? Does it not seem a little strange that one of their tasks should be to remove links to other sources of information who are trying to make money from producing information free at the point of delivery (websites that include advertising). At the same time they allow links to websites which do not carry advertising. Why, because they are produced by governments or wealthy individuals. Now, why should these websites be more reliable than those with adverts? In fact, isn’t there more reason that these websites are attempting to push "political propaganda”.

Taking up John's points:

(1) Jimmy Wales himself often says the making of Wikipedia is like the making of sausages: you really don't want to know the details. That's a slight misquote of something always attributed to Bismarck, on sausages and laws (Wurst und Gesetze). Jimmy was saying that again on Tuesday evening, in London (he'd been talking to the LSE, and had an LSE researcher in tow, who is looking at the management of Wikipedia). I really don't think that Wikipedia articles (though some of them are good) can replace academic monographs. If someone does five years of a doctorate, they will come up with something that differs in kind. But those writings are read by very few, and are prohibitive to buy, unless you know exactly why you are looking at them. A good Wikipedia article provides very quick, accessible reading on a topic.

(2) I think Orwell is quite shrewd, at least in his own terms. Most active Wikipedia writers treat it as a hobby, in fact. (You can tell from the statistics that many people access Wikipedia at work, and mostly, one guesses, as an alternative to actual work.) My own motivations are not quite that.

(3) There is a fair amount on the record about Jimmy Wales; but (as usual) the media often don't have it quite right in parts. Basically he dropped out of graduate school to become a day trader, and did very well. Wikipedia was a surprise development out of Bomis, his dotcom. It was not the first plan for an online encyclopedia, but it succeeded where others had failed. Basically, I think the acceptance of the provisional naure of the articles was a breakthrough.

(4) Not quite how I see it at present. Of course Wikipedia articles are not the last word on anything. Thy are developing now a kind of dual nature, with a basic text kept deliberately simple, and many notes hanging off it.

(5) Wikipedia is now a big voluntary organisation (it has a paid skeleton staff). In fact Jimmy Wales has founded Wikia, which is a regular for-profit company hosting wikis, and so is back in business. On the business of links to sites with ads: the latest I hear is that there is a big rise in people 'spamming' Wikipedia with unsuitable links. All removals of links ought to be on a case-by-case basis; but there is quite a blacklist of sites that take advantage. In reply to the point about who is tasked with this: there is the group of admins (1000+ strong) who take on such things, under agreed guidelines (there is a WikiProject Spam). I would prefer to be writing articles, myself, but there is a division of labour on such things, and admins find their niches.

Thank you once again for replying in this debate. The reputation of Wikipedia has been much enhanced by your willingness to answer your critics in an open forum. I wrote to all the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee about the dispute about providing links on Wikipedia articles, but you were the only one who had the decency to reply. You are also one of the few editors who is willing to provide a photograph and biography on Wikipedia (something that this forum tries to enforce). I would have thought this was the bare minimum that was needed in order to provide some sort of credibility for writing and editing Wikipedia entries. I hope Jimmy Wales is aware of your importance to the public image of Wikipedia.

I like most people who use the web, consult Wikipedia on a daily basis. In fact, every new page I create includes numerous links to Wikipedia pages. I genuinely believe that Wikipedia enhances the experience I give to my visitors. In most cases, the pages I visit give a fairly balanced view of the subject. The problem comes when the page is about a politician or an intelligence agent who has been involved in illegal and covert activities. I suppose the main reason is that the original writer is not aware of these events. After all, I spend my life studying this subject. When I come across examples like this I rarely edit the narrative of the page. Instead, I add a link to my own page on the person where I provide a referenced account of their past behaviour. I therefore get a bit angry when one of your editors removes this link on the grounds that I am spamming. I get even angrier when I get emails from people who claim they have been banned for providing links to my website. One cannot help but get suspicious when the people I am writing about are former CIA officials, agents or associates.

I can fully understand why you need to take action against spammers, but it is vitally important that you allow links to pages that contain alternative interpretations or provide supplementary information on the subject.

In many ways Spartacus and Wikipedia are rivals. When I have created a page on a subject, we often rank 1st and 2nd on search-engines. I think it is healthy that we provide different interpretations of past events. Students can then decide for themselves which one has got closest to the truth.

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