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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Register slams into the Wikipedia in its usual gently vicious way. For example: '... the project appears ill-equipped to respond to the new challenge. Its philosophical approach deters subjective judgements about quality, and it's political mindset deters outside experts from helping. This isn't promising.'

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So here's my problem with the Register article. Basically there's a lot wrong with Wikipedia, although I don't quite agree that everyone just spends all their time celebrating how great it is in comparison with print encyclopedia. I think people just tend to celebrate how great it is despite how counter-intuitive the whole thing is.

The problem with the Register article is not that wikipedia hasn't got problems, it's that I cannot believe that Orlowski's articulation of the problem is a reasonable one. He seems to spend most of his time trying to rubbish anything anyone gets enthusiastic about, and he does so using the dirtiest tactics, the least honourable arguments I've ever seen, and a remarkable comfort in ad hominem attacks.

And knowing that, I have to dismiss everything he says as simply unreliable rabble-rousing rhetoric, and the shoddiest journalism. I genuinely think he does more damage to his cause by talking than he would if he just shut up. I've written a bit about his techniques elsewhere: Andrew Orlowski is a weblogger
Tom Coates seems to be obsessed with Andrew Orlowski.

I've read more intelligent commentary about Wikipedia this week than I have in two years as a result of Nicholas Carr and Andrew Orlowski's articles. Coates seems to post the same thing every time urging people not to read one of his articles. And yet Orlowski is witty, intelligent, concise and a great critic of pretentious people and lame ideas.

I think we can judge for ourselves, and Tom should get over his writer envy.
Tom is basically right, in this case, though. Orlowski seriously misinterpreted my remarks, and anyone who follows the Wikipedia project seriously knows that we are always talking about quality on the mailing list. Orlowski, in typical Orlowski style, twists a routine mailing list post of the sort I make all the time, into some sort of "admission" of quality problems.

Did he call me for an interview? Of course not.

If he had, here is what I would have said: Wikipedia is really actually quite fantastic. The interesting thing about the problems that were found is that they are actually quite rare. This is why they are so important for us to analyze: what went wrong on these two posts? Why are articles on similar subjects so much better?

This is a complex and nuanced question, and is exactly the sort of question that Wikipedians wrestle with all the time.
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