"Wikipedia is more one-sided than ever”: Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger

What does this even mean? I don’t use Wiki that often nor have followed its journey in detail. It was always painted as being biased and unreliable but in general I never found this to be true - not really looking up things of interest to partisans and paparazzi which might be presumably revised continuously.

So while this is probably an issue for these topics, I never really found it one-sided or the information more unreliable than elsewhere - in fact, the opposite was often true. It’s not like other information sources are perfect and problem free.

And @Northern_Piper, thank you for your dedication and diligence. I assume that your Wikiwork is like SDMB, and that they are lucky to have you.

There is a comedian who says what he sees as the difference between science and astrology. A scientist looks at the stars, writes down what can be objectively known about them, marvels at the fact they are so far away the light itself takes years to come into view. Such big distances and the vast number of stars put the work of the scientist into a humbling perspective. It is poetic and philosophical.

The astrologist, looking at the same star and the light which took years to travel Earthward - wonders, what does all this say about me? My life? What is this impossibly distant light going to say will happen to me? It is not a view free of egocentricism… Why should both perspectives be treated as equivalent?

Actually, truth isn’t one of the goals of wikipedia. Objective and neutral point of view, based on reliable sources, is the goal. Truth is a lot trickier, and that’s one of the reasons Wikipedia is not itself a reliable source. It’s an aggregator, and the editors try to make it as objective as possible, but if the reliable sources conflict, Wikipedia does not try to decide as between them.

One of the best examples was that there was a dispute about Jimbo Wales’ birthdate. His bio reported that he was born on a particular date. He posted a message that said that wasn’t his birthdate, a different date was. However, that doesn’t meet the reliable sources requirement. Something has to be reported by a second or third party, who meets the reliable sources test. An individual is automatically not a reliable source for themselves, because the reliable sources test means it has to be verifiable by any other researcher, and calling up Jimbo isn’t a verifiable method. (It’s the wiki variant of reproducibility for scientific experiments; if the article says Jimbo was born on a particular date, anyone else should be able to verify it.)

Facts have a well-known liberal bias.

That’s fine to have a reliable sources requirement. In this example there can be many reasons why someone might be mistaken about their own birthday. But, a statement from the “horse’s mouth” shouldn’t be dismissed. An attribution saying that “Wales states his birthday is blahblah” seems like an important fact to be included in a bio.

but facts often generate heated debate over why or why not something is relevant to popular culture or politcal discourse or whatever. And if only one side of that debate is referenced, then that could give a biased view of the fact.

Would you apply the same test to Trump’s statements? Has to be the same rule for all.

I don’t follow American politics in Wikipedia, but my experience in Wikipedia is that it is often ‘one sided’ in a juvenile kind of way about technical facts: there is one true spelling, one true name, the whole industry has misunderstood the meaning of this technical standard, which clearly (to the Wikipedian) means A~B, not B~A. And I see the same Big-Endian/Little-Endian approach applied to Australian sociology ‘facts’. But if Wikipedia can’t understand serial communication, why should I expect anything different when the subject is History?

I wouldn’t take it as true without verification, but I believe that the fact that a subject of a biography disputes the date given as his birthday is a pretty important fact in an of itself and should be included. Likewise, Trump. If he was to dispute some fact in some Wikipedia page that he should have direct knowledge of and that statement was unable to be verified through corroborating sources, then the fact that he’s making unverifiable statements about some fact is indeed important information to have.
I do understand the need to have verifiable conformation, and agree that “[a]n individual is automatically not a reliable source for themselves” I dont agree with automatically dismissing their statements.

Let’s address one he mentioned - “alleged election irregularities”.

Some people say Biden won the 2020 presidential election. Other people say Trump won the 2020 presidential election. Is Sanger saying Wikipedia should take a “neutral” position that gives each of these opinions equal weight? Is he saying it’s unfair to conservatives for Wikipedia to say that Biden won the election and Trump didn’t?

If Sanger is saying these things, then he is an idiot. Wikipedia should not be spreading misinformation just because some people want it spread or because some people believe it to be true. (Especially when spreading misinformation is a large part of what causes people to believe the misinformation is true.)

I went to wikipedia last week to find out what the hell shea butter is.

I sure hope I wasn’t led down the garden path.

He has - more than once. Sanger left Wikipedia in 2002. He started a website called Citizendium in 2006. He left Citizendium in 2020. He joined Everipedia in 2017. He left Everipedia in 2019. He started Encyclosphere in 2019 and I believe he is still working there. For now. Counting Wikipedia and Nupedia (which he was at before Wikipedia) Sanger has been part of five different online encyclopedia.

Encyclosphere hasn’t actually published anything yet. It’s just asking for donations.

But here’s some text from Everipedia so you can judge its quality. I went there and chose “United States” as the topic. Here are excerpts from the article:

The top 10% paid 51.8% of total federal taxes in 2009, and the top 1%, with 13.4% of pre-tax national income, paid 22.3% of federal taxes. In 2013 the Tax Policy Center projected total federal effective tax rates of 35.5% for the top 1%, 27.2% for the top quintile, 13.8% for the middle quintile, and −2.7% for the bottom quintile. The incidence of corporate income tax has been a matter of considerable ongoing controversy for decades. State and local taxes vary widely, but are generally less progressive than federal taxes as they rely heavily on broadly borne regressive sales and property taxes that yield less volatile revenue streams, though their consideration does not eliminate the progressive nature of overall taxation.

From 1980 through 2008 males represented 77% of homicide victims and 90% of offenders. Blacks committed 52.5% of all homicides during that span, at a rate almost eight times that of whites (“whites” includes most Hispanics), and were victimized at a rate six times that of whites. Most homicides were intraracial, with 93% of black victims killed by blacks and 84% of white victims killed by whites. In 2012, Louisiana had the highest rate of murder and non-negligent manslaughter in the U.S., and New Hampshire the lowest. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports estimates that there were 3,246 violent and property crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012, for a total of over 9 million total crimes.

There has been a widening gap between productivity and median incomes since the 1970s. However, the gap between total compensation and productivity is not as wide because of increased employee benefits such as health insurance. While inflation-adjusted (“real”) household income had been increasing almost every year from 1947 to 1999, it has since been flat on balance and has even decreased recently. According to Congressional Research Service, during this same period, immigration to the United States increased, while the lower 90% of tax filers incomes became stagnant, and eventually decreasing since 2000.

Core American culture was established by Protestant British colonists and shaped by the frontier settlement process, with the traits derived passed down to descendants and transmitted to immigrants through assimilation. Americans have traditionally been characterized by a strong work ethic, competitiveness, and individualism, as well as a unifying belief in an “American creed” emphasizing liberty, equality, private property, democracy, rule of law, and a preference for limited government.

The U.S. is a global leader in medical innovation. America solely developed or contributed significantly to 9 of the top 10 most important medical innovations since 1975 as ranked by a 2001 poll of physicians, while the EU and Switzerland together contributed to five. Since 1966, more Americans have received the Nobel Prize in Medicine than the rest of the world combined. From 1989 to 2002, four times more money was invested in private biotechnology companies in America than in Europe. The U.S. health-care system far outspends any other nation, measured in both per capita spending and percentage of GDP.

The United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation and is one of just a few countries in the world without paid family leave as a legal right, with the others being Papua New Guinea, Suriname and Liberia. However, 74% of full-time American workers get paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although only 24% of part-time workers get the same benefits. While federal law currently does not require sick leave, it’s a common benefit for government workers and full-time employees at corporations. In 2009, the United States had the third highest workforce productivity per person in the world, behind Luxembourg and Norway. It was fourth in productivity per hour, behind those two countries and the Netherlands.

Within American political culture, the center-right Republican Party is considered “conservative” and the center-left Democratic Party is considered “liberal”.

So rich people pay more than their share of taxes, black people commit more than their share of crimes, low wages are caused by immigrants, White Anglo-Saxon Protestants made this country great, private health care is the best health care, unions are unnecessary, and the Republicans are centrists.

Oh well, as long as you’re getting the basic facts right:

The winner of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, Democrat Barack Obama, is the 44th, and current, U.S. president. Current leadership in the Senate includes Democratic Vice President Joseph Biden, Republican President Pro Tempore (Pro Tem) Orrin Hatch, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Minority Leader Harry Reid. Leadership in the House includes Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Yes, I just copied this on July 19, 2021.

Wikipedia has bias, but it’s a bias toward bureaucracy. The long-timers often come off more as valuing procedure. If someone adds something on a well watched page that doesn’t quite fit the “rules,” then you’re more likely to see it removed than someone taking the time to verify and then source the information. And, while it has a civility policy, there is a huge reluctance to enforce it beyond argument. So it’s very easy for those who were already there to dominate those who don’t know the right way to fight back.

It does, however, often present both sides of a subject. The problem with what this guy seems to want is that a lot of this is stuff has already been debunked by reliable sources. It would make sense to bring it up as something that was debunked.

The other issue is that, unless he specifically tries to hire experts who agree with him, it’s not like an expertise-led site would say anything different on the subjects he is concerned about. The whole thing is a battle between what the actual experts say and what uninformed and/or malicious actors say.

No encyclopedia that was trying to be non-biased would report these falsehoods as possibly true. Encyclopedias deal primarily with verifiable facts.

I’m surprised the text didn’t read “Democrat Party”.

There have been several sites that were set up a decade ago to compete with it, like Scholarpedia and even Conservapedia, but I don’t think they’re that popular.

I forgot to mention that it’s not surprising that the founders are not as gung-ho with the user-created nature of Wikipedia. The whole original idea was to have two tiers of content, including a commercial site with experts. The free site taking off meant they didn’t get to make the business they had originally planned.

I presume that was the reason for the development of the ad-supported commercial Wikia project, which is now a part of Fandom. They had to make it commercial in some way, so they focused on doing it on fan wikis.

That was started by Jimmy Wales and one of the trustees from the Wikimedia Foundation, but I don’t think it was part of Wikimedia, since that is a non-profit.

I hadn’t heard that Wikipedia promised to be “objective” and “neutral”. If so, that’s a hopeless task and an unreasonable and unnecessary expectation when dealing with human beings (same goes for news reporting). Factual accuracy and fairness should be the goal, and at least for science/medical articles (which is mostly what I look at Wikipedia for along with the occasional history article), Wikipedia is doing OK.

The public figure most on the warpath against Wikipedia in recent years is probably Gary Null, self-styled “nutritionist”, quackery promoter and supplement dealer. His website is full of articles denouncing Wikipedia and he has sued it for $100,000,000 (according to Quackwatch the two sides agreed to dismiss the lawsuit, with Null paying Wikipedia $475 in legal fees). Null absolutely hates his Wikipedia profile, which is certainly unfavorable, but hard to criticize on the basis of facts.

« Neutral » here means « neutral point of view ». For example, the sentence « Ronald Reagan was the worst President of the US » would get deleted, because that’s not a NPOV. So too if the sentence said Reagan was the best president; not NPOV.

But the sentence: « Polls indicate that many Americans believe Ronald Reagan was the worst President. < ref>Link to polling data < / ref> » would not be deleted, since that is NPOV, reporting on what people indicate is their opinion. It’s not a favourable statement from Reagan’s perspective, but that doesn’t infringe NPOV.

Same if the sentence said people think Reagan was the best president, again backed up by polling data. That too would be NPOV, and wouldn’t be deleted.

It’s not Wikipedia taking a position ion whether Reagan was good or bad, but reporting on what people think.

Overall, NPOV doesn’t mean « on the one hand, but on the other hand », if all the sources point primarily to the one hand, and none or few point to the other hand.

Teach the controversy!

How does the founder of an encyclopedia put the word objectively in scare quotes?