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Ira Matetsky, Guest-Blogging:

I'm delighted to report that Ira Matetsky will be guest-blogging this week about Wikipedia. Mr. Matetsky is a lawyer in Manhattan, but since 2006 he has also been involved with Wikipedia. He began by writing articles on legal history and some other matters, but eventually got drawn into the governance of the site, first becoming an administrator (a technical term that he'll define) and later being elected to the internal Arbitration Committee, which is the body that resolves user-conduct disputes. This week, he'll give us a look under the hood of Wikipedia administration, and will discuss some of the legal, ethical, and practical issues involved in (and caused by) Wikipedia's operation.

I should also note that I know Mr. Matetsky from having gone to math camp with him 30 years ago. I'm much looking forward to reading his posts.

Tek Jansen:
"Remember that time in math camp..." Must have been a wild few weeks.
5.11.2009 3:11pm
rosetta's stones:
...oh, so THIS is the guy! Thanks for the heads up, it gives us time to take a whetstone to all our bladed rhetorical weapons.
5.11.2009 3:12pm
ys:

Tek Jansen:
"Remember that time in math camp..." Must have been a wild few weeks.

Dude, you have no idea...
5.11.2009 3:16pm
OrinKerr:
Funny, I googled him to learn more about him, and item #4 is a blog post titled "Ira Matetsky, Guest-Blogging:"
5.11.2009 3:21pm
Noah Snyder (mail):
Which math camp?
5.11.2009 3:22pm
Noah Snyder (mail):
Doh, I should have googled before I asked.
5.11.2009 3:24pm
Kat (www):
Aw, man, I read this blog to get a break from his writing. ;-)
5.11.2009 3:28pm
geokstr (mail):
Mr Matetsky:

How would you answer critics who say that there is a political bias in Wikipedia that leans in a particular direction, for example, regarding "Climate Change" and Barack Obama. This is only one of many examples:

Wikipedia bias

On the page for Barrack Obama, there have been many reports of "scrubbing" all negative edits. For instance, there are no mentions of either Jeremiah Wright or William Ayers. All attempts to add them with supporting links are deleted within hours.

Is this actually a non-partisan site open to edits by anyone who can support their narrative with appropriate links or has it become just another extension of the left?
5.11.2009 3:46pm
Rodger Lodger (mail):
There was a funny song about math camp in the 50s-60s, beginning "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah....."
5.11.2009 4:05pm
DonBoy (mail) (www):
Obama's main page does contain Wright, in the "Family and Personal Life" section, and has since at least March, based on a comparison with a version 500 edits ago (yes, that only gets us back to March). Ayers is mentioned in the sub-page on the campaign.
5.11.2009 4:33pm
RPT (mail):
"G:

On the page for Barrack Obama, there have been many reports of "scrubbing" all negative edits. For instance, there are no mentions of either Jeremiah Wright or William Ayers. All attempts to add them with supporting links are deleted within hours."

G, do you mean to ask why the purportedly factual entries doesn't read like campaign documents? How could this standard possibly be met? You would never be satisfied.
5.11.2009 4:36pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I remember checking out James Dobson's page once and noticed a blatant mischaracterization of his stance on homosexuality. I didn't even change it, I just added a "but see" and quoted a paragraph from his book "Bringing up Boys," which I had just read.

My edit was instantly deleted.

I never made another (serious) edit again.
5.11.2009 5:10pm
John Moore (www):
Perhaps we should wait for his post before launching the Wikipedia thread? I am disappointed, yet excited by Wikipedia, and look forward to what he says, and hope he will participate in the heated discussion sure to follow (if comments are allowed, which I hope they will be).
5.11.2009 5:19pm
tommears (mail):
I just ran across a recent online article on AP about over-dependance on Wikipedia as a source of information. This might be a good point of discussion with our "expert"

A college kid in Ireland posted a fake quote on the page of a recently deceased composer Maurice Jarre (famous for the movie scores for Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, and A Passage to India. Many outlets added the quote to their obit.

Irish student hoaxes world's media with fake quote
;
5.11.2009 5:51pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
John Moore:

Perhaps we should wait for his post before launching the Wikipedia thread?

You don't mean to suggest that carts follow horses?
5.11.2009 5:53pm
John Moore (www):
Leo - point taken.

Naturally, I won't follow my own advice if this thread gets interesting.

:-)
5.11.2009 6:17pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Looking forward to this. Thanks.
5.11.2009 6:36pm
geokstr (mail):

RPT (mail):
"G:

On the page for Barrack Obama, there have been many reports of "scrubbing" all negative edits. For instance, there are no mentions of either Jeremiah Wright or William Ayers. All attempts to add them with supporting links are deleted within hours."

G, do you mean to ask why the purportedly factual entries doesn't read like campaign documents? How could this standard possibly be met? You would never be satisfied.

I don't recall ever saying anything about "campaign documents". But I have seen many reports of how quickly edits get deleted if they are negative to the perceived wisdom of the left on both Obama and global whatever-they're-calling-it-today. It's supposed to be editable by anyone as long as footnoted by a legitimate source.

Apparently you would have a less inclusive definition of what "anyone" means than I would.

Funny, I haven't seen any complaints from the left that they are having a hard time editing Wiki. Must be just a coincidence.
5.11.2009 6:37pm
Guest14:
On the page for Barrack Obama, there have been many reports of "scrubbing" all negative edits. For instance, there are no mentions of either Jeremiah Wright or William Ayers. All attempts to add them with supporting links are deleted within hours.
The Barrack Obama article, in order to be usable, needs to be relatively brief and focused on things that are actually signficiant. Given the opportunity, wingnuts will spam almost any popular article with material that addresses the topic not in a reasonable, balanced way, but from the perspective of their own ideology. Wikipedia's editorial policy quite sensibly discourages this.
5.11.2009 6:39pm
jviss (mail):
Guest14 writes:

"actually signficiant [sic]"

"reasonable, balanced way"

"quite sensibly"

Oh, yea, and "wingnuts."


Thanks for clearing that up for us wingnuts.
5.11.2009 6:52pm
Dave N (mail):
Guest14 and RPT,

What reason do you suppose Wikipedia has for not including the Jeremiah Wright/William Ayers controversies in a Wikedia article on the 2008 Presidential election in a section in that article about, of all things, controversies?
5.11.2009 7:05pm
Guest14:
What reason do you suppose Wikipedia has for not including the Jeremiah Wright/William Ayers controversies in a Wikedia article on the 2008 Presidential election in a section in that article about, of all things, controversies?
If I had to guess, I'd say it's because neither of those "controversies" relate to the election process. Read the section you linked to! It discusses controversies that cast into doubt the fairness of the election process itself, either due to voter/ballot tampering, or due to pervasive media bias.
5.11.2009 7:27pm
RPT (mail):
I couldn't find any "controversies" section in the Obama topic. I don't know enough about how W works to comment on the editing process.

My point to G is that the W concept won't work as a useful factual resource if everyone complains because their particular partisan view or critique is not included. Isn't there a "Conservapedia" for such things? The Ayers and Wright memes were failed campaign issues that were not taken seriously by the electorate. They were as meaningful as the McCain "Manchurian Candidate" or "9 houses" issues or the Obama "57 states" claims.
5.11.2009 7:40pm
Dave N (mail):
I did read the section. And that is a fair point. Yet the section on election issues (in the same article) didn't mention either Wright or Ayers. On the other hand, in the similar article about the 2004 election, there was mention of both the allegations that President Bush shirked his National Guard duty along with a mention of Senator Kerry and the "Swift Boaters."
5.11.2009 7:45pm
Guest14:
On the other hand, in the similar article about the 2004 election, there was mention of both the allegations that President Bush shirked his National Guard duty along with a mention of Senator Kerry and the "Swift Boaters."
Those both strike me as far more substantial controversies. The swift boaters were running ads, had the attention of both candidates (and McCain, I believe), and generally can be seen as having played a significant role in the election. The National Guard controversy, of course, brought Dan Rather down, and that's imortant right there.

Wright/Ayer just never got any legs, in comparison.
5.11.2009 8:00pm
RPT (mail):
At this point, prior to his actual post, Mr. Matesky has been challenged by the conservatives here to explain why Wikipedia is nothing more than a "left-wing" propaganda operation. Even more a pre-emptive strike than Jeffrey Rosen's. Good luck to him.
5.11.2009 8:09pm
John Moore (www):
The discussion here has elements of the Wikipedia discussion pages, except Wikipedians are more clued in to the process.

Wikipedia is not a good factual resource for controversial topics. Period. IMO trends left/environmentalist (the global warming police-woman is notorious for suppressing dissent, for example) in political discourse. Leftists seem to have more energy for doing this sort of thing (See O'Sullivan's Law).

Furthermore, it's sourcing requirements put the any main stream media article above any personal experience... essentially requiring a less knowledgeable person to verify something. Since the MSM tilts leftward, this requirement inherently adds a leftward tilt.

Of course, many on the left will say that Wikipedia is balanced.

To be fair, Wikipedia tries very, very hard to be a valid source. The problem is not the motivation, but the nature of the process. Even so, it is an extremely valuable resource - certainly more trustworthy on most any topic than the main stream media.
5.11.2009 8:12pm
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
I'm looking forward to the pro-WP sockpuppets' inventive explanations for why there's no bias; those are even more entertaining than those who use the term "SCLM". Perhaps Matetsky could explain (away?) things like this or all the many other things.
5.11.2009 8:12pm
John Moore (www):
Why are we assuming that Matetsky will say Wikipedia is unbiased when we haven't heart from him yet???
5.11.2009 8:17pm
Guest14:
Perhaps Matetsky could explain (away?) things like this or all the many other things.
You want him to explain why conspiracy theorists get upset when people call them conspiracy theorists?
5.11.2009 8:20pm
John Moore (www):
24AheadDotCom:

You are making those of us with valid criticisms of Wikipedia's balance look bad. The link you gave uses an argument that would equally say that my nephew, born in Japan, with one American parent, is not a US citizen. Tell that to the agency that issued his passport!
5.11.2009 8:26pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Dave N:

I did read the section. And that is a fair point. Yet the section on election issues (in the same article) didn't mention either Wright or Ayers. On the other hand, in the similar article about the 2004 election, there was mention of both the allegations that President Bush shirked his National Guard duty along with a mention of Senator Kerry and the "Swift Boaters."

Actually, the mention of Bush shirking his National Guard Duty, was just that, a mention, followed immediately by a much longer mention of the CBS News, Dan Rather controversy it spawned. The Swift Boat allegations were also more detailed those about Bush's National Guard duty, and there was no mention that the book at the center of the Swift Boat campaign was co-authored by an extreme right-wing conspiracy theorist.

Do I think that contrast adds up to pro-right wing bias in Wikipedia, or even in that small piece of one article? No. I might have made different editorial choices, but the best conclusion I can draw from this tiny piece of evidence is that the right wing position is being advocated aggressively in these Wiki controversies, just as I'm sure the left wing position is.

Anyone who looks for bias they're already certain exists will find it. Anywhere. Maybe Wikipedia is biased, but if so, that will have to be demonstrated more convincingly than by comparing out-of-context snippets.
5.11.2009 9:01pm
devoman:
There is a possible explanation as to why so many on this blog think Wikipedia has a left-wing bias.

Let's say that, by definition, reality has a neutral bias. Let's also assume that typical (but not extreme) left-wing positions are closer to reality than typical right-wing positions. Then, when viewed from the right, the closer Wikipedia comes to accurately describing reality, the more it appears to have a left-wing bias.

Note: I am not saying this explanation is correct; I am only suggesting that it is a possible explanation for the bias so many on these pages perceive.
5.11.2009 9:25pm
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
John Moore: not to put too fine a point on it, you're a moron.

Next time, have someone else explain what my link says, because my concerns have nothing to do with that issue.
5.11.2009 9:57pm
John Moore (mail) (www):
Of course it is a possible explanation. Another is a hidden conspiracy of the Illuminati control Wikipedia. Both are equally likely IMO.
5.11.2009 10:00pm
devoman:
John, I'm with ya man! I'm open to either possibility myself!
5.11.2009 10:08pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
The Illuminati: everybody's whipping boy. Don't Illuminati bleed? Don't they need love?
5.11.2009 10:19pm
Sarcastro (www):
*sigh* no one blames the Jews for anything anymore.
5.11.2009 11:23pm
John Moore (mail) (www):
You mean the Illuminati aren't Jews?

Seriously, totally kidding.
5.11.2009 11:39pm
Desiderius:
Leo,

That's classic.

Sarcastro,

What, are you calling the Arab world nobodies? Racist!
5.12.2009 12:00am
Desiderius:
Interested that its the conservatives here suspicious of the Wikiwonder. In my world its the stuffed-shirt progressive gatekeepers.

As Moore has noted, if its controversial, Wiki's probably not the droid you're looking for. For everything else, its an outstanding starting place.
5.12.2009 12:36am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
This ought to be a good topic given how much interest just the intro post has generated.
5.12.2009 2:07am

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