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Dr. Peikoff has put up a request regarding Wikipedia's position to take off pro-Ayn Rand material from their entires regarding Ayn Rand and Objectivism. I think there are a lot of people out there, both in academia and out of academia, who do not want to give Objectivism a fair hearing. I don't know that much can be done about this, as I think this entry war has been going on for quite some time.
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Nothing can be done. I've seen Wikipedia articles that I've put a great deal of work into (e.g. "Atheism") revert to crap after only a couple months. If you don't put 100% of your time into an article for all eternity, there is no guarantee it won't degrade (as with anything).

Peikoff's appeal to Wales is about the only thing that might have any effect. I've seen Wales enforce personal decisions on Wikipedia, and as a supporter of Oism, this might be the only chance Oists have.

The only other chance would be if Wikipedia ever incorporates an edit validation system. The mediawiki code already supports it - it's just disabled on the English Wikipedia. This would prevent people from just coming along and rewriting an article that was previously deemed high quality. So Oists could put a lot of one-time effort into making an article high quality, and not worry as much about it getting obliterated.

Edited by brian0918
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Speaking as a Wikipedia editor that is currently involved with this issue, I will say that Peikoff is pretty much making an issue out of a non-issue. Throughout the Objectivism articles, Valliant's work is only referenced maybe a handful of times. And out of those few times the facts are pretty trivial (in fact, for sake of article brevity most of that content has been removed).

A few notes on Peikoff's letter:

  • The decision to remove Valliant's work from our list of reputable sources (I was with the minority of editors who voted against this measure), was a decision made by the editors within the Objectivist WikiProject. It is not a formal Wikipedia policy and can be changed at any minute. It would be improper if the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, were to interfere with this decision since Wikipedia is user edited and user created. If the moderators and administrators were to start imposing their personal preferences and prerogatives upon the editors, Wikipedia would lose the very essence of why it was started.
  • I do not believe Barbara Branden was, in any way, involved with the decision to remove Valliant's work as a reputable source.

As for one's Wiki content being "obliterated", I suppose with something as general as 'Atheism' there is more potential for you work to be changed and altered. However, as I have found working on Objectivist-related articles, most editors are clear-headed and rational when it comes to changes. I have yet to reach the same level of disgust.

Edited by brandonk2009
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Brandon: I'm probably just suffering from Wiki-burnout - years of edit wars, 3RRs, AFDs, RFCs, etc. Obviously the more specific the article, the less attention it gets, and the less chance it has of being rewritten almost monthly. I guess in retrospect picking "Atheism" as the article to bring to featured status was a hefty order with little return - except for that one day when it was on the main page... that was a nice day.

Edited by brian0918
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  • I do not believe Barbara Branden was, in any way, involved with the decision to remove Valliant's work as a reputable source.

I think Peikoff's understanding is that the only people who have enough motivation to kill Valliant's book are Barbara Branden or her "claque". If that is true, he is right in persuading and motivating his listeners to speak up and prevent injustice to Ayn Rand. For example, what could be worse than the fact that under 'Philosophy' section on Wikipedia's article about Ayn Rand, there is a quote from Nathanial Branden that completely misrepresents what it means to be an Objectivist:

Ayn always insisted that her philosophy was an integrated whole, that it was entirely self-consistent, and that one could not reasonably pick elements of her philosophy and discard others. ... This insistence turned Ayn Rand’s philosophy, for all practical purposes, into dogmatic religion, and many of her followers chose that path.

  • The decision to remove Valliant's work from our list of reputable sources (I was with the minority of editors who voted against this measure), was a decision made by the editors within the Objectivist WikiProject.

So it all boils down to the fact that Wikipedia's standard of relevance is that which is reputable (which they decide by vote), not that what is true.

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I think Peikoff's understanding is that the only people who have enough motivation to kill Valliant's book are Barbara Branden or her "claque". If that is true, he is right in persuading and motivating his listeners to speak up and prevent injustice to Ayn Rand. For example, what could be worse than the fact that under 'Philosophy' section on Wikipedia's article about Ayn Rand, there is a quote from Nathanial Branden that completely misrepresents what it means to be an Objectivist:

That is pathetic. The standard for wikipedia should be the truth, not propaganda. This is not original with me, but it has been noted that wikipedia is being used as a propaganda tool to spread all kinds of left wing causes, from global warming to animal rights. Jimbo Wales should not allow his tool to be used to spread evil ideas.

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So it all boils down to the fact that Wikipedia's standard of relevance is that which is reputable (which they decide by vote), not that what is true.

Wikipedians fight whenever possible to make it about consensus, not about voting, but as Wikipedia gets larger, voting has a greater presence in decision-making (see "brian0918's law" here).

Edited by brian0918
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I think the Wikipedia would be well-served if certain articles (and not just controversial ones) are turned over to the control of some type of expert panel. From Brandon's post, it sounds like there is already some such system in place, with perhaps Objectivist enthusiasts in control, as opposed to Objectivist experts. I figure that's the best one is going to get. In our day of "let all voices be heard" this system will likely ensure that the articles are always mixed enough that the intelligent reader will have some leads to the right (and some to the wrong) avenues.

But, Wiki is "outside my context-diagram". Accepting it as given, here's an idea: I know there is a way to subscribe to change-notifications for a page. These come by email. Does anyone know if these can come via RSS (I know the email can be wrapped and so on, but I wonder if there is an existing, simple way, allowed for by the Wikipedia). If this exists, such an RSS feed monitoring a few (perhaps not more than 10) pages can be fed and re-published into a forum, ending up as a new post whenever a page is changed (ideally, with the brief before/after that Mediawiki's diff utility provides, and with the link to the page. Basically, there would be a single topic for "Objectivism-related Wiki changes", which would get a new post each time a page was changed.

That way, all changes are presented to a forum well-populated by enthusiastic and internet-savvy Objectivists, and perhaps one or two might, from time to time, go correct something that they see as a misrepresentation. (Not just our forum, if it works well, we can suggest other forums monitor it as well.)

Edited by softwareNerd
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One thing you have to keep in mind however, is that articles on Wikipedia need to keep a neutral point of view. What this means is that Objectivists cannot create a page, on let's say Ayn Rand, and avoid any criticism of her or her philosophy. There needs to some sort of mention of what her critics say. The key is to not present the criticism as fact, but as a (neutral) presentation of the critics positions.

The quote used above is a highly contentious part of the Ayn Rand article. Many editors, including myself, would like to see a much more neutral tone throughout that article. However, there are a few editors who brainlessly worship Rand, a few editors who respect her genius and her ideas but who acknowledge (but not agree with) her critics, and there are a few editors who brainlessly dismiss her and deride her with disgust. The best thing that can happen is that we reach some sort of consensus in the Talk pages on how to best present neutral information.

It's best to keep in mind that it is a continuous process, striving towards high quality work. Right now, the Objectivist articles are in shabby condition. The "best" articles in the Objectivist Project at the moment are these: Ayn Rand, Objectivist Movement, and Objectivism. As anyone can see, these are horrible.

It's true that we need more Objectivist editors. At the moment, we only have maybe three or four who consistently work on the articles. Yet these are undermined by the Objectivist dogmatists and the Objectivist villifiers. We need more editors who are level-headed, and who fall in neither category.

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I think the Wikipedia would be well-served if certain articles (and not just controversial ones) are turned over to the control of some type of expert panel. From Brandon's post, it sounds like there is already some such system in place, with perhaps Objectivist enthusiasts in control, as opposed to Objectivist experts. I figure that's the best one is going to get. In our day of "let all voices be heard" this system will likely ensure that the articles are always mixed enough that the intelligent reader will have some leads to the right (and some to the wrong) avenues.

This is an excellent idea, and I'm not sure how many people know this but there is a precedent for it, as some academics are starting to expend some effort to improve certain articles in areas of specialized knowledge such as the natural sciences. For example, one of my professors this term who is an expert on wolves did a very nice primer on basic wolf behavior and characteristics for a wiki (though I'm not sure it was Wikipedia proper).

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Perhaps it's relevant to note, that there is already a Wiki about Objectivism in existence that can be 100% free of all criticism and anti-Objectivist propaganda. The best part about this Wiki? It's right here on ObjectivismOnline. Perhaps if this Wiki was cleaned up, referenced, and polished it could be used as an example of what the Wikipedia articles should aspire too. But in order for that to happen, we need people dedicated to writing and perfecting it.

The best thing about this Wiki would that it would potentially be free of all hampering from those who despise Ayn Rand and Objectivism. I'd be willing to work on this project, but I need assurance that others will as well.

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This is an excellent idea, and I'm not sure how many people know this but there is a precedent for it, as some academics are starting to expend some effort to improve certain articles in areas of specialized knowledge such as the natural sciences. For example, one of my professors this term who is an expert on wolves did a very nice primer on basic wolf behavior and characteristics for a wiki (though I'm not sure it was Wikipedia proper).

Any chance of getting a link? As a dog owner (he prefers "host"), I'm a wolf buff.

thx

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Regarding people's suspicions that Barbara Branden may have instigated the Wikipedia investigation into whether or not Valliant's book is a reliable source by Wikipedia's standards, here is what Barbara has had to say on the subject:

May 26, 2009

I do go to Wikipedia occasionally, but not very often, and I have not been reading references to Rand and Objectivism. So I was not aware of what I now understand to be the many references to PARC and Valliant. Thus I have not been in any way, shape, or manner involved, either directly or indirectly, in the banning of Valliant by Wikipedia.

Barbara

It turns out that Barbara had sent an e-mail to others in which she quoted this post by Michael Stuart Kelly.

Someone apparently misinterpreted Barbara's e-mail as not being a quote, but as being Barbara's own words, and then somehow jumped to the unwarranted conclusion that she had instigated the whole Wikipedia issue rather than merely reported Kelly's reporting of it after the fact.

I and others have made efforts to inform Dr. Peikoff that, contrary to the suspicions that he mentions in his letter to Wales which is now publicly posted on his website, Barbara Branden did not instigate the Wikipedia investigation into PARC's reliability as a source.

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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If the moderators and administrators were to start imposing their personal preferences and prerogatives upon the editors, Wikipedia would lose the very essence of why it was started.

What do you mean? It is nowhere clear to a casual reader why wikipedia was started. Your opinion alone, that moderators and admins should not interfere, because that would interfere with the site's unmentioned purpose, is tough to understand without first looking up what that purpose is.

Here's what I found on what the purpose of wikipedia is, as it appears on wikipedia:

Wikipedia's purpose is to act as an encyclopedia, a comprehensive written compendium that contains information on all branches of knowledge.

“ Our goal with Wikipedia is to create a free encyclopedia; indeed, the largest encyclopedia in history, both in terms of breadth and in terms of depth. We also want Wikipedia to be a reliable resource.—Larry Sanger[1](co-founder of wikipedia)

It is nowhere near clear (in fact I think it is false) that the way to create a reliable encyclopedia is to leave everyone willing to edit it, to their own devices. I also think it is false to say that being non-judgmental, impartially cataloging opinions presented by all comers, will lead you to the truth.

And this method is in fact clearly failing to accomplish the purpose that's stated in the quote. I can run through wikipedia and present you with dozens of blatant factual errors, in a matter of minutes. Even in popular culture, wikipedia is routinely referenced as one of the least reliable resources in the World, second only to the generic "bloggers".

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Any chance of getting a link? As a dog owner (he prefers "host"), I'm a wolf buff.

thx

Sadly I do not think the manuscript I was privileged to read is available anywhere yet. It was still in draft stage and Jane was still working on it. She's very busy (including, hopefully, collaborating on a paper with me woohoo!) so I'm not sure when she's going to find the time to finish it. But when she does I'll certainly let you know. Actually, what I can do is send you an excellent book chapter she wrote on some interesting aspects of wolf behavior in PDF form. It's about 30 pages and pretty readable for a primary source.

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Ellison, I encourage you to read parts of this page (the table of contents will lead you to where you would like to go): Wikipedia - About

Your criticism of course is valid. But perhaps you don't know that there is an article assessment system in place. A few articles on Wikipedia achieve "Featured Article" status, or "Good Article" status. In order to achieve that assessment there needs to be certain criteria including references to sources, citations, neutral point of view, and most importantly stability. An article that is not stable shows that editors are not satisfied with the facts presented or in the manner in which they are presented. Stability shows that there is less content that is questionable and it can be assumed more content that is accurate.

___________________

A note on where the discussion on the reliability of PARC as a source on wikipedia: Currently there is a search for third-party books, works, journals, etc. that cite PARC as a source. If anyone knows of those works send me an email and I can get those to where they need to be. What is also desperately required are published reviews of the book. Reviews posted in blogs, I'm sorry, do not count.

These are the primary reasons why the book is not allowed to be used as a source.

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It is nowhere near clear (in fact I think it is false) that the way to create a reliable encyclopedia is to leave everyone willing to edit it, to their own devices. I also think it is false to say that being non-judgmental, impartially cataloging opinions presented by all comers, will lead you to the truth.

And this method is in fact clearly failing to accomplish the purpose that's stated in the quote. I can run through wikipedia and present you with dozens of blatant factual errors, in a matter of minutes. Even in popular culture, wikipedia is routinely referenced as one of the least reliable resources in the World, second only to the generic "bloggers".

Past studies came to the conclusion that the Encyclopedia Britannica made roughly as many errors as Wikipedia did. Original research is not allowed on Wikipedia; everything written should come from reliable sources and cited accordingly - if this is done, why does it matter who writes it? Home enthusiasts are bound to sources to the same degree scholars editing Wikipedia are.

There's no need to theorize about the results of having a wiki where pages can only be edited by a "panel of experts", because it already exists. It's not doing very well.

I find it very hard to believe that you can find dozens of blatant factual errors in a matter of minutes. And if you know where they exist, why don't you tell a group of people, who are all too eager to make the encyclopedia more reliable, about them?

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  • 2 months later...
Original research is not allowed on Wikipedia

I just edited a page, without ever even logging in, five minutes ago. It was some nonsense about how "pancritical rationalism" , which only relies on immediate observation of reality, is the only way to correctly gain knowledge. I added in a completely unsubstantiated comment (one that's true, but still, I did not substantiate it at all) that this is in fact a rejection of principles. I haven't even spell checked the thing, and yet, there it is. The next person who's going to look up that term, is going to fond two completely baseless, contradictory statements.

So how exactly is your rule that "original research is not allowed" being enforced?

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Jake, you are being rather childish I'm afraid. What you've just said amounts to a kid walking past a sign that says "Don't step on the grass" and does it, then sticks his tongue out and says "I thought you couldn't do it!" without really knowing if someone saw him or if there's a park gardener walking behind him to give his bratty ear a well-deserved tugging.

I just edited a page, without ever even logging in, five minutes ago. It was some nonsense about how "pancritical rationalism" , which only relies on immediate observation of reality, is the only way to correctly gain knowledge. I added in a completely unsubstantiated comment (one that's true, but still, I did not substantiate it at all) that this is in fact a rejection of principles. I haven't even spell checked the thing, and yet, there it is. The next person who's going to look up that term, is going to fond two completely baseless, contradictory statements.

So how exactly is your rule that "original research is not allowed" being enforced?

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Has it been erased? I don't see anything.

No, it's there:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority (bottom of the page--mine is the last paragraph)

My point is that it's practically a forum, like this one, except the part where you know who said what and trolls are excluded.

Jake, you are being rather childish I'm afraid. What you've just said amounts to a kid walking past a sign that says "Don't step on the grass" and does it, then sticks his tongue out and says "I thought you couldn't do it!" without really knowing if someone saw him or if there's a park gardener walking behind him to give his bratty ear a well-deserved tugging.

And what you're doing is like a grown man not paying attention to my post. Exactly like that, not "ammounts to".

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Well, I would have paid attention to your tantrum, but seeing as how there is no such paragraph

what.png

So what did it amount to?

I didn't write that. My stuff was deleted in the mean time ( I guess by whoever felt like deleting it).

But still, calling it a tantrum is an attempt at insulting me, since you thought I did write it, and it's not a tantrum, it's some guy saying something in a completely calm manner.

I'm sure I would be able to insult you back in far more imaginative and acccurate ways than that, but that's against site rules, so I'll just add you to my ignore list.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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My point is that it's practically a forum, like this one, except the part where you know who said what and trolls are excluded.
Alright, I understand the situation (all too well). Anyhow, this is a good example of how useless Wikipedia is. There are actually some useful entries (medical, zoological, legal) but they tend to be shepherded by professionals.

AA's comments above have no merit, but I'd like to clarify the truth about not allowing original research. It is not as though there is any mechanism for preventing the smuggling in of original research in a Wikipedia article or, for that matter, a laxly-edited encyclopedia. Rather, this prohibition is an ethical principle that should be followed by authors. The difference between a real encyclopedia and Wiki is that any jackass can edit and unedit any article (as we have just seen, not that anyone here is a jackass), whereas with a real encyclopedia, entries are written by specifically-selected specialists who adhere to standard professional ethics, who will know that the purpose of an encyclopedia entry is to impartially state the commonly-known facts. Original research, by definition, isn't a commonly-known fact.

However, your entry didn't count as research. No offense intended, it's just that you didn't put anything out there that could by any stretch be considered to be "research". The thing is, as the article itself admits, that sucker is sorely in need of some actual citations. In other words, the entire article is just personal beliefs by the various "authors", whose Frankenstein written object haunts the planet now. When I write an article and summarize the state of the art in some fashion, my name is attached to the article, and people can answer the question "Is he believable? Is that an objective evaluation?" based on what I have said before. This is totally impossible with Wikipedia.

The actual professional ethics of Wikipedia is the cause of the problem that we see. That, plus the whole new-age kumbaya sharing thing.

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