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The Longest Now

“What Wroth Roth Wrought” by Virginia Hefferman and Oliver Keyes
Saturday September 15th 2012, 5:51 pm
Filed under: international,metrics,Uncategorized,wikipedia

We may have a national drought, but a bumper crop of brilliant essays of, by, and for Wikipedia are turning up this weekend.

Oliver Keyes / Ironholds turned out this gem of an essay deconstructing, line by line, how many claims and statements in the original New Yorker piece fell somewhere between confused and false.  In particular, he highlights that Roth has already been cited in the article at the time as disputing the claims by many critics that Broyard’s life was an influence on his character.

And he points out how credulous our traditional media are, when dealing with respected authors: how few outlets made an effort to check statements Roth made before repeating them, and often assumed they were true in coming up with social and factual analyses.

But these are the institutions that we – Wikipedians an everyone else – look up to for fact-checking and peer review in the first place.   How to make sense of this communication gap?

Enter Virginia Hefferman, stage right.  She published an insightful piece, with stylish patter to match the subject matter, on how the Rothroversy illustrates a digital culture war. An excerpt:

At least two Americas, then. Each with its own civilizations, its own holy artifacts, its own shamans. For contrast: Wikipedia is an open-source encyclopedia, born in 2001; it has some 365 million readers in 265 languages. The New Yorker is an American general-interest weekly, born in 1925. It has a circulation of almost 1.05 million, in a single language. Wikipedia America and New Yorker America are so dug into their hierarchies of values that, really, they can only cultivate blindness about the other lest they implode in madness.
The East Coast establishment, for its part, is still so sure of itself that when Roth, one of its most esteemed denizens, finds himself narcissistically bugged in the usual way with something on Wikipedia, he doesn’t do what the rest of us do when Wikipedia narcissistically bugs us: learn the supremely learnable procedures for submitting changes to that populist and infinitely flexible document.
Roth doesn’t read enough on the site to learn that at Wikipedia, nothing is left “on author” (as we used to say of the very rare uncheckable fact when I did my own time at The New Yorker). Everything must be sourced… 

“The Human Stain,” as a novel, might rise or fall on its status as a fictionalization of the life of this or that obscure intellectual. But Wikipedia, as the near-miraculous open-source document that defines knowledge on the Web, lives or dies on the strength of its traditions of anonymity, proceduralism, humility and collaboration. Once it knuckles under to power—literary, political, any kind—it cracks. Wikipedia as it stands is chaotic and error-ridden, although anything but soulless: It breathes with the intelligence of the hundreds of millions of people, around the world, who use it and contribute to it and take pride in it and maintain it.
Hefferman was recruited away from the New York Times to the increasingly impressive Yahoo! News earlier this year.
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Europeana uses CC-0 for huge data exchange
Thursday September 13th 2012, 9:21 am
Filed under: international,metrics,Uncategorized,wikipedia

Huzzah! (HT to Jill & team)

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Society memepool – how different societies define norms for life
Thursday September 13th 2012, 1:00 am
Filed under: fly-by-wire,Uncategorized

On sworn virgins, and other recurring social rules and accomodations.   A beautiful blog.

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What really happened: Philip Roth snark rebutted, new knowledge relished
Wednesday September 12th 2012, 2:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Short thorough coverage by the Wikipedia Signpost.

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Burning glory reels
Wednesday September 12th 2012, 2:59 am
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,poetic justice,Uncategorized

Extraordinary shots of Black Rock City (w/ a Cinestar 8)

See also: A daytime tour of the city, methodical rather than artistic (w/ a homemade Ozone plane + GoPro + DragonLink)

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Sexiest github: White House’s We The People
Tuesday September 11th 2012, 10:07 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire,Glory, glory, glory,poetic justice

Both code and roadmap!

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Open Letterer: Philip Roth hopes his op-ed will serve as a cite
Friday September 07th 2012, 5:59 pm
Filed under: wikipedia

As my father would say, goodness gracious. An overflowing and eloquent letter by Roth complaining about a Wikipedia article just appeared as a piece in the New Yorker, intentionally missing the point of neutral third-party synthesis.

From the Wikipedia discussion page for the article in question:

There was nothing wrong with the article whatsoever, nor with the way policy was applied in this case. The section in question was about the reception of the novel… It reported in an entirely NPOV manner the take of a critic [Michiko Kakutani] writing for the most respected newspaper in the country. If her speculations were unfounded, that is an issue for the New York Times, not wikipedia. For that matter, the fact that Roth contested the claim was already noted right there in the section.

We need to find a better way to let first-person sources contribute to or inform articles; they shouldn’t feel a need to generate external publications just to express a personal statement or opinion about their own life or work. At the same time, the sort of frustration he expressed in his op-ed should be rightly directed at the Times. And our society of knowledge, not to mention WP itself, does need a crisper way to support the challenge of a specific source or cite as poorly researched, untrustworthy, or otherwise undeserving of republication.

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