ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Swastikipedia —

Some days, I feel like I should have never written anything about Wikipedia, positive or negative. Like many cults, it has extreme members or well-meaning folks who do not understand what they are part of, and who take me on personally and then fall back into the ranks should I respond poorly. Some of them, should I respond within the confines of Wikipedia, point to the rules of discourse on Wikipedia and how I am breaking them.

Fine. It is not hard to post here and have people reference my ideas here; Wikipedia now sends hundreds of folks to my site on a regular basis, all wondering about looking at the strange fellow who does not love Wikipedia. I wave to you, from behind my glass.

But I am not really the “Anti-Wikipedia Guy”. I like to think I have more important things to do. Wikipedia will not live or die by my words, so I will not waste words easily aimed at the betterment of my own sites for the sake of proving my own thoughts to people who fundamentally disagree with me.

But I can spare a few words.

I was asked… well, demanded, really, to show an example of my general belief that “a low barrier leads to crap”, which has been misinterpreted a number of ways (and really, my entire essay has been misinterpreted, but that’s the way of life online). The tautology, which is flawed, is that if I can’t find an article on Wikipedia that is poorly written, my contentions are false. Well, that depends on what you think my contentions are.

Therefore, I will rest my case on a single entry: That of the Swastika.

Here, contained in one entry, is everything that I have issues with regarding the implementation of Wikipedia as it currently stands with its rules. A person could look at the first entry and then the last one, see how big and fluffy and full of photos the last entry is, and go “success!”.

But dig deeper under the surface of this entry, and then you start to see the cracks in this “success”.

With over 1,500 edits done to this entry over its 3 year lifespan, the process of becoming even slightly familiar with the editing pattern could be a full day’s work. I spent some time with it and my analysis is nowhere near complete, but here’s some interesting points along its journey.

The Swastika entry starts its life in March of 2002. By the end of 2002 it has gotten 11 edits, mostly minor nips and tucks trying to get a grip around what it exactly is a symbol of and what way to format the image.

In January of 2003, someone coming from an IP address makes a selection of changes over the course of a few days. His revision history shows someone who was big in 2002 and 2003 and then faded away (or they got an account, but it’s strange they would feel no need for an account for nearly half a year and then suddenly decide they need one). It also highlights one of my issues; without asking people to at least register in some way before making changes, it devalues all the other people willing to be tracked and cited when working on entries. It’s not like it costs money or that you can’t have a billion accounts… it just makes it that more disheartening when your stuff is changed by someone who you hope is on a static, non-shared IP address.

By July of 2003 there have now been roughly 30 edits to the Swastika entry, resulting in a bit of change but basically the same information.

And something happens in July of 2003. It gets over 50 edits during that month from roughly 15 different people. And then the troubles begin.

If you start going through the edits, one by one, and only a maniac would at this point, you see points raised, links created, statements made, and then slowly, over time, they’re removed.

A link between the Nazi Symbol and Socialism is put up, and later, someone called “Nlight” calls it “presumed nonsense” and removes it. Why? Who the heck is Nlight? Well, someone who couldn’t take it anymore, apparently. But if you go look back at his older entries about himself, you see he’s a computer geek from the northwest. Why did he remove the link between socialism and nazism? Because he felt like it. Because he “presumed” it was “nonsense”, according to the edit. So now the socialist guy has to become a content defender, pulling back his socialism link with a citation of it. But now here comes Rasmus_Faber, about 20 minutes later, to undo the socialist guy’s work and return it to the non-socialist link. What is called a “revert war” then occurs, with Socialist guy trying desperately to keep his entirely valid Socialist Party link about the Swastika alive while Rasmus Faber (who is, as his page says, a software engineer) repeatedly stops his changes from staying.

Throughout “The Battle of January 31”, the changes go back and forth between Socialist Guy, Rasmus Faber, Nlight, and Mrdice, who, as far as it can be surmised, simply jumps into the Melee to “help” Nlight’s valiant attempt to not link Socialism with the use of it by the Nazi Party. (Mrdice, by the way, gives up on editing Wikipedia in early 2004, leaving behind a legacy of zip-and-run edits where he accuses, demands, dictates and runs away, with none of that boring, time-wasting need to show any authority or reputation with his subject.)

And lo and behold, that little nugget of information is lost, the work of four people working at odds with each other over a battle, all of them located all over the world, fighting over what actually might be a real fact.

The story of the swastika’s entry continues after this, for over 1,200 edits. Dozens of people are involved, lots of facts are lost, many are gained… and you would be hard, hard-pressed to show why many of these folks should be editing the Swastika entry in the first place. Calling this “open source” and comparing it to programming projects is borderline insane: open-source programming projects have a core team with goals in mind that they state clearly, who then decide what gets in and what does not get in. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it does not, but people with anonymous IPs can’t just come in and fundamentally redo the graphics code on the program and then disappear, never to be seen again.

This is what I mean; you have a brick house that, from a distance, looks decently enough like a house that people say “see, community building works”. But what isn’t obvious on the surface is how many times those bricks have been pulled apart, reassembled, replaced, shifted, modified, and otherwise fiddled with for no good reason other than battling an endless army of righteous untrained bricklayers who decided to put a window there… no, there… wait, no window at all. If you declare the final brick house a “victory” while ignoring the astounding toll of human labor required to get it so, then you are not understanding why I consider Wikipedia a failure.

And all of this wouldn’t be important at all, if we didn’t start to see the Wikipedia definitions propogating throughout the internet, being something you get automatically on a lookup from Trillian or Yahoo using it as a way to get facts. That goes beyond scary.. it borders on negligent.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a documentary website to take care of. It’s waiting for me, and nothng gets done unless I work on it… which is just fine with me.

Categorised as: punditry

Comments are disabled on this post


  1. Slac says:

    Jason Scott, you either think that it’s impossible for humanity to acsend to the level where large groups of complete strangers can collaborate, or you think that such ascension is not worth the trouble.

    Am I incorrect?

  2. Jason Scott says:

    Slac, you present me with two straw man arguments, and then ask me to choose between them, or reject them entirely lest I admit to something un-positive. This is a poor way to phrase a question.

    My issues are not that humanity is incapable of this virtue or that virtue; or that, given time or certain societal situations, humanity will do good things. My issue is that the current flat-plane structure of Wikipedia causes a needless waste of energy far beyond the benefits of opening every single entry to whoever comes down the road. Perhaps when Wikipedia was a small, experimental Wiki with the need to “take all comers”, this all made sense, but now the situation is that newcomers are repelled, politics rules the day, and good ideas have, ultimately, as much chance as craftily-submitted bad ideas of pervading.

    If I don’t like the way a brand of car has been built, that is not me judging the incapability of humanity to ascend to a smooth, quiet ride with good gas mileage.

  3. SummerFR says:

    From Jason re Wikipedia:

    “[T]he situation is that newcomers are repelled, politics rules the day, and good ideas have, ultimately, as much chance as craftily-submitted bad ideas of pervading.”

    How true. (And, well worth repeating.)


  4. anonymous says:

    Just to point out that posting on Wikipedia as an IP can be a way to avoid being watched, tracked or retaliated against by others who wish to escalate edit wars by going after other work. Believe it or not, some people are crazy enough to threaten this.

    The WikiInfo page criticizing Wikipedia also claims that admins regularly put users on watchlists to track “problem users”, ie. anyone who goes against the groupthink grain. I’d feel better keeping a single pseudonym permanently if the admins were more responsible and protected users from harrassment.

  5. Lir says:

    Although not mentioned above, I was part of the general wiki war over Nazism and Socialism — a large group of Wikipedians were adamantly denying that Nazis ever even CLAIMED to be socialists.

    Editing the Wikipedia is too much of a hassle, its a goddamn waste of time. I wrote a criticism of the Wikipedia at:
    if you want to know more about my opinion of the site.

  6. Mark says:

    “Isn’t the basic premise of Wikipedia that users write it for the owners for free and the owners get fat from the profits? One of the initial attractions of the Wikipedia idea must have been the free labour, and all I can say is – YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.”

    The Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, is a non-profit organisation registered in the United States. Before the foundation was established, the operating costs of the service were borne by the founder, Jimbo Wales.

    Also, the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, under which all Wikipedia article text is released, pretty much prevent people from making money out of the content. So no one is getting fat from profits arising out of Wikipedia.

  7. Aaron Kinney says:

    This is nonsense. Wikipedia is not a cult! You are a liar. I love Wikipedia, and I don’t see what, frankly, is so cultic about it. Go people, and you will see it is not what they make it out to be.

  8. Seth Kurtzberg says:

    It is hard to believe that anyone would deny that the Nazis claimed to be socialists, since the name of their party was “national socialist workers …” It certainly also true that Hitler never believed in socialism, and that the people within the original Nazi hierarchy who believed in socialism ended up very dead very quickly.

    To deny the original _claim_ of socialism by the Nazis is certainly very very disturbing.

  9. Seth Kurtzberg says:

    I should point out one thing, which is that I navigated to this page from a link on wikipedia.

  10. FBNS says:

    interesting discussion… until SummerFR gets going.

    All I can say is… please continue to hate wikipedia and stay away! the community doesn’t need you, or people like you.

    You have an agenda of your own, and categorise the entire world as falling into black and white groups warring over your chosen bugbear.

    You say that you were “harrased” off of the wikipedia site, then go on to explain that your stay was only TEN DAYS long?

    Jason has some serious points to make (I would rather see a mechanism within wikipedia which saw any article that gets reverted between two versions within a short space of time locked until a moderator gets to it)

    You, on the other hand… well, you are just a troll – an incredibly verbose and annoying troll. Wikipedia is better without you. 😀

    Bear in mind – as Seth points out above, this page is linked from the wikipedia site itself as part of an extensive section on “criticisms of wikpedia”. Dissent is not quashed, and criticism is not swept under the carpet.

  11. Thomas says:

    Of course the problem with trying to favour experts in an area so vast as this is that, except perhaps in maths, in the upper levels of any subject there will be disagreement between the experts themselves just as there is between those who are not the experts and so the exact same problem of infighting will occur. So any attempt to produce a genuinely up to the minute document will go back and forth and waste effort too no matter how much help you get. A real encyclopedia can enforce consent on its authors, since they are paid and have to work to a deadline. Wikipedia cant.

    The second problem is that what do you do about the unknown expert? The person who actually has the specialised knowledge in a small area but has no real obvious way of prooving that knowledge. Take for example someone who worked in childcare in the 1990s, they might be the ideal person to write an article about childcare law and policy in that era but how do you know they really have the expertise? A traditional encyclopedia can interveiw and check references, wikipedia cant if it wants to remain anything like what it is.

    So the ‘only experts’ shared encyclopedia model has a similar set of problems due to infighting and unrecognised talent as the ‘anybody’ encyclopedia does, and the ‘only experts’ encyclopedia will reproduce a resource that already exists in conventional encyclopedias since it will naturally produce a well researched set of documents on a comparatively narrow set of topics.

  12. I understand the misgivings people have about the Wikipedia, but I also believe that there’s no perfect resource on the planet, and as far as imperfect resources go, Wikipedia is amongst the best–for _beginning_ your research into a particular topic. Nobody in their right mind would view an encyclopedia of any type as a final resource.

    With regards to the quality of articles on Wikipedia, I have personally found the vast majority of articles developed beyond a stub to be of sufficient quality to begin research into a topic. And there’s a great many articles that hold enormous amounts of useful information and even better, refined points that you just won’t find in a bound encyclopedia. Also very useful is the immediacy of event coverage, and the breath of topic coverage in general.

    However, I certainly acknowledge the problems with particular articles, especially political ones, where it is particularly difficult to arrive at a consensus. Edit wars are not fun. And lots of energy is expended before a consensus is arrived at. But is it worth it? I think so. And that’s because I’ve seen these conflicts arise on only a small minority of articles. Most articles I work on have great cooperation and harmony amongst the editors.

    I won’t accuse you of this Jason, but there are indeed some people who will trash the Wikipedia after their injection of bias into an article is rejected by a consensus of other editors. There was somebody complaining about the “Jeb Bush” article earlier–I don’t know the details very well, but oftentimes content perceived to be important by a highly biased individual will be seen as not notable by other reasonable individuals. And when said person continues to create conflict over their content not being accepted, then it is indeed best for the Wikipedia that they drop out or are pushed out. I’m sure most people understands that when you play on a team, you have to be a team player.

    Don’t get me wrong–I’ve been disappointed and very angry by content I’ve wanted to add not getting in. However, the vast majority of my entries are still there and living. As long as you’re committed to adding useful, notable material, you’ll generally do well there. On the other hand, if one is committed to foisting their bias on others as if it’s final truth, they are in for a heaping amount of trouble.

    Those who are leftist or rightist have problems living within the requirements of Wikipedia. Don’t let any extremist fool you into believing that the other side has control. It just isn’t the case. The Wikipedia goes to great pains to achieve balance, even if not always successful.

  13. Holy Mackerel! How did this turn into a 20+ page thread about Jeb Bush?

    I empathize with your comments, Jason. Following some experiences I had there a few months ago, I decided to never again waste my time contributing anything to Wikipedia.

    The problem as I see it is not that there’s a low barrier to entry. I personally like the low barrier to entry. If the barrier were higher, a lot of people who actually have something to contribute wouldn’t bother. There have been many times that I was led to a Wikipedia article from a search engine, and while I was there, decided to correct spelling and grammar mistakes, or smooth out ackward sentences and paragraphs, simply because it was easy to do and I could see the results immediately. I would not have bothered otherwise.

    The problem is that, unlike what Frank previously suggested in his comment, there really is no system of “checks and balances” to speak of.

    SummerFR appears to be a crackpot in many regards, but she does make a valid point when she states that there is a marked left-wing/liberal bias at Wikipedia. It’s perfectly acceptable to kick someone off of Wikipedia for allegedly being a racist, a neo-Nazi, or just a “right-wing crank”; it’s practically unheard of to kick someone off for being an avowed Marxist or Zionist attempting to inject bias of that persuasion into the articles.

    Wikipedia claims to be “democratic” in its approach, but in reality, there is a huge double standard at work there. The contributions of someone who is not part of the Wikipedia herd, ideologically speaking, is judged by a whole different set of standards than that of “the majority” (and “the majority,” of course, is merely a clique which has succeeded in driving off any dissenting views, either through sheer tenacity or by flat-out harassment.) To put it succinctly: when you’re politically incorrect, the normal rules don’t apply to you, even if your scholarship and your manners have been impeccable.

    The response immediately above mine perfectly illustrates just about everything that I think is wrong with Wikipedia. Steve Magruder writes:

    ” . . . articles I work on have great cooperation and harmony amongst the editors . . . there are indeed some people who will trash the Wikipedia after their injection of bias into an article is rejected by a consensus of other editors. . . . when said person continues to create conflict over their content not being accepted, then it is indeed best for the Wikipedia that they drop out or are pushed out. I’m sure most people understand that when you play on a team, you have to be a team player.”

    First of all, the notion that truth can be arrived at by consensus strikes me as being distinctly Wikipedan. If I say “1+1=2,” and twenty other editors disagree with me, does that mean my statement is wrong? Well, it does on Wikipedia!

    Steve’s comments about being “a team player” and so on speak for themselves. To me, they reveal the groupthink which is pervasive at Wikipedia. If you read between the lines and look past such euphemisms as “harmony” and “cooperation,” what Steve is really saying is – anyone who rejects “The Consensus” on Wikipedia and doesn’t “go along to get along” will be “pushed out,” that is, if they don’t leave voluntarily.

    Steve moves on to say: “Those who are leftist or rightist have problems living within the requirements of Wikipedia. Don’t let any extremist fool you into believing that the other side has control. It just isn’t the case.”

    That’s bulls**t, Steve. Even your use of the word “extremist” to describe people who fall outside of your presumably “neutral” center betrays the prevailing bias of the Wikipedia herd. Who decides what is “extremist” on Wikipedia? The majority? Who are the majority? Those who team up and form cliques? Those who go along to get along? Those who don’t have a life outside of the Internet and can therefore afford to spend months and even years waging tedious edit wars over their pet articles?

    Let’s take the controversial subject of white supremacy as an example. It speaks volumes about the much-vaunted “neutrality” of Wikipedia to note that such organizations as the ADL (Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith) and the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center), who could hardly be described as disinterested parties, publish biographies of white supremacist leaders which are a thousand times more balanced and accurate than their counterparts on Wikipedia.

    There is no diversity of political opinion on Wikipedia, Steve. The consensus is left-of-center masquerading as center, with lots of tolerance for the far-left. The far-right has been completely shut out, and those who are right-of-center had better watch their step. Many Wikipedans use the word “bias” as a way of attacking others who don’t happen to share *their* bias. In other words, they are hypocrites. This type of hypocrisy, this selective implementation of rules in order to impose the ideology of “the consensus,” runs rampant at Wikipedia.

    “I understand the misgivings people have about the Wikipedia, but I also believe that there’s no perfect resource on the planet, and as far as imperfect resources go, Wikipedia is amongst the best–for _beginning_ your research into a particular topic. Nobody in their right mind would view an encyclopedia of any type as a final resource.”

    Frankly Steve, this comes off as more excuses for why Wikipedia isn’t better than it is. Your attitude is perfectly in line with the liberal/leftist “consensus” on Wikipedia (i.e. egalitarianism at all costs, mob rules, competition is bad, quantity over quality, go along to get along, “one standard for me, another for you,” etc). How about raising the bar a little bit?

    I subscribe to Jason’s pessimism. Wikipedia is doomed to failure, and the herd mentality of its core participants will be its unravelling. Groupthink leads to mediocre product, which Wikipedia already is. There is no place for a mediocre encyclopedia like Wikipedia when there are several well-produced commercial ones and a growing number of specialized “Wikipedias” to choose from.

    Wikipedia could have carved out a unique niche for itself as “the alternative encyclopedia” or “the people’s encyclopedia,” but instead blew it by refusing to acknowledge its own strengths and weaknesses.

    Anyone who wishes to discuss this topic further, or just let off steam, is invited to my new message board, The Wikipedia Review, at:

  14. (Hmmm….I’ve just noticed that you’ve updated this page on Wikipedia, so this may just get lost in cyberspace…but here goes anyway…)

    As a couple of others have mentioned, I came to this page from a link on Wikipedia:Criticisms of Wikipedia.

    I think there’s some valid points raised here, mostly by Jason), but it’s rather distressing to see that the vast majority of it consists of a rant from ONE ex-user, on ONE topic.

    I refer of course, to SummerFR.

    First off, your idea, Summer, that Wikipedia and Co. are somehow going to lead to the rise of
    another Hitler, (presumably with Jimbo Wales as the next Fuhrer), is plainly BATTY, if not SICK.

    As for Wikipedia somehow polluting the web, coming out in search pages, hey, type -Wikipedia in your search, problem solved. Is it really that hard?

    Whenever I do a search, I’m often annoyed as to how many results are merely just adverts, say or Amazon, who want to sell me a book on the subject. I can always type -amazon, but I still get loads of other booksellers.

    Still, does it mean I think that Amazon should be banned? Or that Amazon are the next Hitler? Nope…

    Or I do a search and I get a whole screed of blogs, where all varieties of nut-job, answerable only to themselves, wax lyrical for page after page on their pet subject.

    Still, should blogs be banned? Nope.

    I kinda think that SPAM is a rather more insiduous problem on the web. Still, I can live with it.

    The idea that Wikipedia as an organisation, or Jimmy Wales, have some kind of tight censorship
    over the site, seems rather preposterous to me, and doesn’t reflect my experience.

    According to Wikipedia, there are over 800,000 entries on WP, with 600,000 contributors from all over the world.

    Could Jimmy Wales really vet all of this?

    Currently there’s a debate going on on WP regarding whether or not adverts should be allowed.

    I’ve stuck a {{noads}} tag on my user page to show a banner saying that I don’t want ads, and
    automatically adding my name to the WPians who don’t want ads.
    There’s a discussion page on the subject, where lo-and-behold, JW appears as one of the few
    who’s not entirely against ads. But his contribution is just in there as one of many. Hardly dictatorial.

    And as for JW being some kind of lib dem fanatic: doesn’t seem to tally with his stated admiration for Ayn Rand…

    It appears to me, Summer, that you just went about the whole thing the wrong way.
    After posting, I’ll have a look at the Jeb Bush page and see what is left of your suggestions.
    I’ll also have a look at the discussion page to see if you have left any remarks there. (Unless
    of course evil Hitler-Wales has deleted them all {evil laugh}).
    And I’ll add a link on the discussion page to this site, so that future editors can see the your criticisms, if they feel so-inclined.

    All the stuff you wanted about the school project could have gone on a separate page, dedicated to the school.

    IMO, Your contributions would go down well on an election sheet for Mr. Bush, or a hagiography,
    but they do strike this reader as very point-of-view.

    I DO agree with you that WP is NOT an encyclopedia in the full sense (I don’t care what JW says – I’m free to ignore him).
    To me, it’s a tremendous forum for the exchange of ideas – the discussion pages are sometimes
    every bit as interesting as the articles.
    Reading them, one sees that there is a huge range of points of view – but there also appears to be a solid core of contributors who ensure that anything added has to be backed up by solid
    references, and a general consensus that stuff isn’t deleted without prior discussion, and that
    solid factual stuff isn’t deleted at all.
    (The facility to add pages to your personal watch list is useful, as is the ability to check the history of edits).
    I do agree with Jason that WP shouldn’t allow anonymous editors – it doesn’t cost anything – and it’s my experience that they’re the ones who add the POV stuff, plain ridiculous stuff, or just silly vandalism.

    Maybe it might seem a trivial example (though no more trivial than “Swastika”), but I’m from
    Glasgow, Scotland, and the fact that the articles on Celtic and Rangers, (who’s fans almost hate each other) remain 99% factual, despite constant discussion and/or vandalism, testifies to the dynamic of arrived-at group consensus.

    And Summer – as for your idea that future generations, suffering under the heal of Hitler-Wales, will look back and say “Remember that woman teacher who tried to tell us all about this way back when?”, well – don’t flatter yourself, I don’t really think you’ll make such a huge blip on the radar.

    Update: Had a look at the Jeb Bush Wiki, and lo-and-behold, a lot of Summer’s stuff is STILL

  15. S.R. Prozak says:

    Good point. WikiPedia is a popularity contest, not a useful resource.

    You can see their paranoiac worldview in action in response to an ANUS page someone (not I) created:

    I find this article very revealing as well:

    There’s an anti-WikiPedia board here:

    WikiPedia is bullying by the crowd. WikiPedia is a popularity contest. WikiPedia is disorganized, oversocialized garbage. Whatever it is, it’s not an encyclopedia.

  16. GregW says:

    I stumbled on this page from Wikipedia. I think that if there is a political bias on Wikipedia, it’s probably best characterized as libertarian. It could be libertarian socialist, or libertarian capitalist, or some other variety. Rebublicans, Democrats, and Greens will probably all find something to disagree with libertarians about. Of course, there are also the ongoing specific fights that are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon (try getting a Turk and an Armenian to agree on anything). But I think accusing Wikipedia of left-wing bias is not terribly accurate. Check out these links:

    I would think if the “liberal elite” controlled Wikipedia, they would do a better job 😉 Actually, they probably wouldn’t get anything done, as they would continually be going to sensitivity seminars, ordering lattes, and doing whatever else it is that alleged liberal elites do.

  17. alex says:

    It seems to me that the claim about the connection between socialism and the swastika was not well sourced. Merely because someone puts something up on a website does not mean that it merits inclusion in an encyclopedia. I think that if a better source was found, with supporting evidence, then that bit would have been included, and the edit war avoided.

    As for your main criticism – my response is, so what? Yes, the swastika article required a tremendous collaborative effort. It took a lot of time from a lot of people. So what of it?

  18. Jason Scott says:

    My policy on this thread has not been to reply to stuff in it, as it became quite a mess. But I’ll respond to yours.

    The connection between socialism and the swastika (or more accurately, the use of the swastika in a way that referenced the socialist party of Germany) was plenty well sourced on that website. You can’t just say “this isn’t valid, it’s just on a website” when there are a million other edits that go “this is valid, I got it from a website”. That very lack of standards is what I am referring to.

    In the Swastika article, the guy who deleted it called it “nonsense”. But he’s just a guy. Any guy, in this case just someone who came along, decided all by himself it was garbage, and then deleted it. He was worse than “something up on a website”. He was just a random person undoing someone else’s work.

    Your response of “so what” is a very effective method to dispel anyone’s opinion without having to, you know, regard it. So to you, I say “You don’t see what I see. So what?”

  19. Louis Epstein says:

    I’ve just read this through (and had email from Jason on another topic in the middle).I am “User” of Wikipedia and am preparing to announce my permanent departure from it as a New Year’s Resolution.I’d like to point out that SummerFR was wrong about Jeb Bush having Florida’s first website ( was there before he was elected,under Governor Chiles).Also,I NEARLY left years ago (I was mollified by a misapprehension that my concerns were taken into account) over edits of mine drawing attention to a certain anti-Zionist bias in the diplomatic community were reverted by those who considered an absolutely unique diplomatic slap should not be remarked on as in any way unusual…so I don’t see that the community bias supports Zionists.(Anyone who tries to be less than positive about the increase in acceptance of homosexual relationships,however,is in for a rough ride).

    My camel-breaking straw was the treatment of two articles I created from nothing about areas I have a specific expertise and international reputation in.Enough people insisted on adding duplicative or unsubstantiated material and formatting conceits that I was considered to be “vandalizing” the article for repairing the damage done by the “consensus”.Coupled with a lot of other gripes…I’ve had it!!

  20. alex says:

    Thanks for your response.

    To answer the points in order:

    I. If it was the sources on that webpage – rather than the webpage itself – that documented the socialism-swastika connection, that editor should have cited those sources (reading them first, of course) – and not the website – in his justification.

    Yes, there are millions of edits which cite a website and do not get reverted. What separates them from this edit is that this edit is: a) controversial b) not widely known. It is quite natural that if you want to insert such a piece of information into the article, you need to have a stronger case than if you inserted an inoffensive/widely known piece of information.

    II. I’m not dispelling your opinion. And I see exactly what you see: wikipedia articles are A LOT of work, and a large part of this work is NOT content generation.

    What I don’t understand is why you think this is a major criticism. Yes, producing wikipedia articles is a lot of work. Do you have a model for a wiki to follow which would generate content of comparable quality with smaller amounts of work?

  21. Jason Scott says:

    These and many other answers will be given at my Notacon speech in April.

  22. SummerFR says:

    To Louis Epstein, re your post above:

    I have not been to this page since last May, 2005, but stumbled upon it today. And, I did not know the late Gov Chiles had a FL website, but if he did — thank you for telling me.

    I do still recall the first website Gov Bush had in FL, but not any website prior to it. However, again, you may be right.

    I have to tell you I really chucked when I read what you wrote in your above post, as it summed up my experience exactly. However, I regret having made a good faith effort on this thread to explain to others what happened to me, because as soon as one discloses the fact she is a) a woman AND b) a teacher, then, some people immediately conclude c) she must also be a jerk. I already know teachers in this country do not get much respect!

    But, since what happened to you is the same as what happened to me, I think what you said is worth repeating:

    “…My camel-breaking straw was the treatment of two articles I created from nothing about areas I have a specific expertise and international reputation in.Enough people insisted on adding duplicative or unsubstantiated material and formatting conceits that I was considered to be “vandalizing” the article for repairing the damage done by the “consensus”.Coupled with a lot of other gripes…I’ve had it!!”

    BTW, I never use Wikipedia for anything, and I do not miss it at all. I trust you will indeed have a much happier new year without it!!!

    SummerFR 🙂

  23. James says:


    Thanks for the thoughts. I’m new to wikipedia, and am dealing with controversial content. It’s been a bizarre experience. Hope you keep it up. I totally agree with:

    “And all of this wouldn’t be important at all, if we didn’t start to see the Wikipedia definitions propogating throughout the internet, being something you get automatically on a lookup from Trillian or Yahoo using it as a way to get facts. That goes beyond scary.. it borders on negligent.”

  24. I found your website only now, because I was looking for material to support my thesis that Wikipedia is actually quite problematic, because it supports hegemony, or a “tyranny of the majority”, if you wish. Therefore I am quite benevolent towards your argument, BUT your example is a very poor one. Why? Because in this particular case the majority was actually correct:

    The idea that the Swastika was chosen, because it contains two “s” for “socialism” is not only “presumed nonsense”, but actual hogwash. While it is indeed true that National Socialist ideology contained strong socialist elements, all credible sources trace the choice of the swastika back to the idea that the German “race” stems from India, an idea that was purveyed by 19th century historians long before Nazism existed. In fact, the Thule Society, a right-wing authoritarian group of intellectuals, who were contemptous of socialism, used it before the Nazi party was founded as a symbol for their voelkish ideas.

    I think your theoretical points are entirely valid, but you shoot yourself in the foot by not checking your sources properly.

  25. Jason Scott says:

    Always good to know people are finding the website, Thomas.

    The example I chose was perfectly fine. First of all, it gets attention, as it obviously did for you and for the thousands of others who read it.

    But in the case of the Nazi-Socialist/SS link, the point of the paragraph the guy had in was backed up with posters and a linked webpage. Whether it was true, ultimately or not, there was at least, at the germ of it, a conspiracy or other type theory regarding that link.

    With no doubt, any amount of research could encapsulate and then dispel the strength of the paragraph. But you see, that’s not what happened. An entirely random person, from a random background, deleted (not refuted it) with a tiny note. And when the original person returned it, he was attacked for doing an “edit war”.

    Regardless of the ultimate accuracy of the “fact”, the methodology for removing it was inherently flawed. That is my problem in that specific context.

    If someone shoots into a crowd randomly, the fact he hit a known criminal instead of a baby does not obviate the issue with his punishment/crowd control method.

    It wasn’t about checking sources, it was about how arbitrary and energy-inefficent the process was as of the writing of the essay.

    My feet are entirely fine.

  26. ‘Its not like you cant have a billion accounts’

    Well, actually, accounts take up database space, which takes up server hard drive space, which costs the Wikimedia Foundation money, therefore forcing people to register for accounts they won’t use is stupid from a practical point of view.

  27. Dear Friends, I read the statements being spread by people posting in this message database about Wakipidia and the Taino people. I found them to highly insultive to my Taino people. Ms. SummerFR, your foolish statements about the Taino people are without validity. I am refering to the postings that you made on, “Posted by: SummerFR at May 6, 2005 02:02 PM” FYI: For your information, the Jatibonicu Taino tribal band of New Jersey, is a magratory band and a part of the Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation, that is based in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In Wakipedia, we are only correcting the lies that have been historically told about our Taino people, by Spanish Europian colonials and spread by some academics who have been misinformed due to the history writen by some bias-historians. I think that Wakipedia is a great educational tool and a way to better inform the public as to the truth and not the stories of the colonizors.

    Ms. SummerFR, next time, please keep us out of your Wakipedia propaganda campaign.

  28. Car Loans says:

    It is always better to repair then to replace.

  29. Deathunter says:

    Wikipedia is good, it is useful for research and homework.

  30. mike says:

    Why don’t you program a system to view wikipedia articles that maps out edit wars and contested sections. That way a marked up text could show the history that you describe with high contended sections showing up bright red while others less contested areas are have different highlight to show community condenses. Wikipedia should be thought of as a social information base from which a dialectic can be observed.

    There is not such thing as authoritative and absolutely true for everyone. There will always be differences of opinion either on the “extreme” margins or front and center. Wikipedia should be applauded for making this history of back and forth available and more people should consider this history as part of the “article” they are reading. Accepting the current state of any piece of information as the end all on the subject is just blissfully ignorant of how Knolege systems work and propagate.

  31. J Scott says:

    Right. Your linking the swastika and/or the Nazi Party to true political socialism indicates EXACTLY the same amount of logical rationality as linking The American Republican Party to Saddam’s Republican Guard, to the Soviet Socialist Republic and to the People’s Republic of China. You just got your little panties in a twist because you got stone-cold busted and embarrassed trying to pass-off a commonly used right-wing meme-driven lie (about the Nazis being “socialists”) as legitimate information. Get over it and go apply for a job as one of Rove’s Flying Monkeys, because FOX “News” NEEDS some new talent.

    I have MY problems with the Wiki censors too, but not on THIS case. Pull your head out of your asscroft, get some therapy and get over yourself. This is a ‘big people world’ for ‘big pants people’. Now wipe those tears, wipe your butt and wipe that smile off your face, little man. Thaaaaaaaats a good lil’ feller.

  32. Andy Dyer says:

    You don’t appear to mention Wikipedia’s heavy domination by the supporters of Israel. In the last few months, the guys doing this seem to be semi-literate idiots. They’d have no place on the project and no credibility whatsoever were it not that they’re protected by admins.

  33. Andy Dyer says:

    You don’t appear to mention Wikipedia’s heavy domination by the supporters of Israel. Strangely, in the last few months, the guys doing this seem increasingly to be semi-literate idiots. They have no sources other than hate-sites, and they’d have no place on the project were it not that they’re protected by admins. It’s sad to see real scholars being knocked back and driven off by these people, and it cannot be an accident.

  34. Brian says:

    Love the ‘community-built brick house’ analogy. Brilliant!

    Sums up why I quit Wiki, and know of many other contributors who quit for similar reasons.

    And just don’t even think about contributing id your specialism is even just a teeny weeny bit controversial

  35. Oyunlar says:

    I should point out one thing, which is that I navigated to this page from a link on facebook.

  36. […] A whole entry on Jason Scott’s issues with the Wikipedia article on swastika can be found here and a more technical analysis […]

  37. […] Waltham, Mass.) has often criticized Wikipedia not for the accuracy of its final product, but for the system by which that product is developed: This is what I mean; you have a brick house that, from a distance, looks decently enough like a […]