ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Thanks, Web 2.0 —

This entry filed on August 29th.

So a while ago, I wrote an essay about problems I saw with Wikipedia. Later, I gave a speech with the same name and some of the same general ideas, but in a different direction for a lot of details. It was well regarded.

By well regarded, I mean that I got a lot of positive feedback from people in mail, and I got a lot of weblog postings about it, and I got a lot of discussion that cropped up when I went to events. Because of it, I got flown to England to give a similar talk, and I’ve written some amount of stuff afterwards in the same subject and people said they would listen because here was the guy who wrote the previous speech. One of my buddies transcribed the speech and so it reached a lot of people that way. Anil Dash said some nice things about it.

This is all subjective, but it seems to be a pretty okay little speech.

The Internet Archive page is the easiest way to listen to me giving the speech to the audience. It has the audio file in a bunch of optional methods, including streaming it and downloading it. It went up there about April of 2006. It’s been downloaded over 4,000 times.

So over the course of the last year and four months, people have utilized the “review” function on the Internet Archive version 4 times. Once in December of 2006, and then three times on August 20, 2007.

The three esteemed reviewers of 20th the August, honors “clumpy”, “Don’t listen”, and “6JJJJJJ”, each provide a different insight into the talk. Here they are:


Reviewer: 6JJJJJJ – 1 out of 5 stars – August 20, 2007
Subject: No. it isn’t

Not really very good, as reveiwed, Jason doesn’t come across very well, kinda half baked. Best use your time for something else, I wish I had.

Reviewer: Don’t listen – 1 out of 5 stars – August 20, 2007
Subject: Dumb

Jason Scott is great? I don’t think so.. anyone that uses swear words, bad analogies and labels
(“Spain exports this crap…”, “liberals say this…”)
He tries to use an analogy that “superviruses” are developed through the use of anitbiotics, and they can;t be killed. Maybe he should use Wikipedia to find out that antibiotics have NEVER worked against viruses, only bacteria.
The orator is a clown, with flawed reasoning, poor thinking habits, and a potty mouth.
Skip this if you have a brain.

Reviewer: clumpy – 5 out of 5 stars – August 20, 2007
Subject: Wikipedia is no good!

Here is why! A must listen for any person with a brain that can read this sentence.


Fantastic. I’ll say it again. Fan-fucking-tastic. I’ve read a lot of verbiage involving criticism of the talk. I’ve read some stuff that does a pretty good job of tearing it apart, although often it’s because they don’t agree with my base premises instead of finding faulty logic within the actual construction of the speech. But here, on the speech itself, we now have three numbnuts who get to have the final word and commentary, right on the same page.

I say three because even “clumpy” isn’t doing any favors to my “side”; his declaration that this thing is good for everybody is about as ill-formed a declaration as saying my speech was filled with flawed reasoning and I’m a clown. But guess what! They’re on there, I can do little about it without being a complete mail-the-admins asswipe dork that any reasonable website hates, and there we go.

Contrast this with the amazon page for the BBS Documentary which contains 19 reviews of the work, with variant amounts of stars, and also ratings for the reviews themselves; top-rated reviews bubble to a prominent location, less-well-rated ones go to the side. Additionally, commentary is allowed on each of the reviews, a feature I utilized myself for one of them. The criticism was well-written, and my response treated it with the best respect that I could while fundamentally disagreeing.

Maybe it’s Amazon’s need to think of liability while balancing input from the audience that makes their forums feel better. Maybe archive.org’s just been focusing on handling the torrent of data and hasn’t had the resources to consider the implications of anyone-can-blort with regards to the items in the library. But when I spend weeks preparing a speech, deliver it to a crowd, and then go through the effort of cleaning it up and getting it uploaded and properly demarcated on the archive.org, the ease at which “6JJJJJ” can just say assery and walk away is a slap in the face.

The thing is, “Don’t Listen”‘s criticism about the “superviruses” versus bacteria mistake is accurate; it was a clear mistake, which I have been known to make. It doesn’t kill the underlying argument, that a hotbox environment for trolls produces more sophisticated and insidious trolling. But unfortunately this nuanced observation is wrapped in a useless review that represents the only one made by the person, using an account called “Don’t Listen” that doesn’t inspire confidence in further reviews of items.

The concept of “Web 2.0″ is apparently here to stay for a while. I can live with that, quite happily in fact, since I’m a fan of forum communication. But advances that are obviously being made across the field are not becoming default expectations for vital user-interfacing aspects, like commentary and reviews. That’s a real shame; we’ve learned a lot in the last 25 years and I think it’s time to start expecting more from people jumping into the fray.

Archive.org can expect to continue to get the items I’ve been preparing to upload to it, of course, but it’s a small stab at the heart to consider how easily a 24 hour period can turn a work of pride into a platform of abuse.


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6 Comments

  1. cassiel says:

    About the virus “mistake”.

    English is not my native language. In discussions about this speech I’ve been faced with this “argument” against it as well and despite the fact that it doesn’t matter anyway, but tells much about the lack of arguments of people, who are pro WP, my online dictionary http://www.leo.org told me that among even more meanings in English “virus” can mean all kind of pathogenic germ/etiologic agent/pathogen which includes bacteria. This is consistent with the latin origin of the word, which just means that it causes desease. In German the word “Virus” does not include bacteria.
    So I doubt it was really a mistake because if you did use the word in its narrow sense, you would have had more in-depth knowledge about “superviruses” in hospitals and therefore difference difference between virus and bacteria and therefore probably known that antibiotics don’t work with virus. So I’m pretty sure you did not want to exclude bacteria. If not it really would have been a mistake.

  2. Michael Kohne says:

    Actually, he did make a mistake (though almost anyone not looking to disagree understood what he meant and just went on to see if his underlying argument made sense).

    In the US normal usage, virus and bacteria refer to different classes of germs. A virus is generally a small bit of genetic material that gets a cell to reproduce it, while a bacteria is a cell in it’s own right.

    Antibiotics are effective against some bacteria, but not at all against a virus.

    Not a big deal, as I said most folk got his meaning and went on. But yea, he was wrong.

  3. anonymous says:

    learn to take criticism

  4. cassiel says:

    … then my dictionary is wrong either =:-}

  5. Brian says:

    There is one flaw in your original essay which you never address; Wikipedia is a ridiculously large and comprehensive resource. To call the gigabytes upon gigabytes of raw html information on that site a “failure” is silly. The fact that the “on screen” content is not the best it could be is certainly true. This in no way negates the phenomenal success that Wikipedia has been as a starting point for academic, or recreational research.

    I

  6. Jason Scott says:

    Your question is addressed pretty well in this weblog entry I wrote a bit of time ago.