|Wikipedia - that creeping control freak of the informationsphere, now attempting to throttle unfolding news stories, like the Taiwan water park disaster|
This posting is prompted by this new wiki page. It relates to that dreadful mishap in the Taiwan water park, involving the coloured powder that caught fire.
|Odd title: it refers to the Taiwan Water Park fireball tragedy (June 2015). But it's wikipedia's over-strict editing policies that are mainly in the frame.|
First things first. Let's overlook the fact that no one has called Taiwan "Formosa" for decades. But that description you see above ("Formosa Fun Park") may be the one that the local owners have coined, maybe with a hint of nostalgia, so we'll say no more on that score.
Next: what you see above is NOT the main entry, which I linked to in the preceding post. It's what one sees when one hits the Talk tab. Why did I hit it? Because I wanted to flag up my suspicion that it may not have been the potentially flammable/explosive nature of the starch-based powder per se, at least in the first instance, but the means used to propel it into the crowd, which I correctly reckoned to have used gas. (Current reports are now confirming that a gas was indeed used in the stage effects equipment, although described improbably as CO2). But look at the injunction circled in red, top left. It reads "This is not a forum for general discussion of the article's subject". Why not? Are we supposed to believe everything we (and the article's author) read in the initial newspaper reports? What if one suspects it's wrong, or merely incomplete? How else is one supposed to question the veracity of the 'authoritative' wiki article, except by going to the Talk (or Edit) facility.
But it gets worse - much worse. Look at the second red circle, inside of which on reads "No original research". Yup, I kid thee not:
|And you thought a wiki entry was state-of-the-art?|
Having had a brush with wiki editors not so long ago on a different matter (the Turin Shroud) I know only too well what's being said there - that wikipedia is for dissemination of ideas that have previously been published via authoritative information outlets (often taken to mean peer-reviewed publications, even if that's not always the case). But how can there be authoritative information on so recent a tragedy? There can't.What's more, the preliminary information being published via wiki may confer a spurious degree of accuracy and reliability - all the more reason for needing a channel of communication by which obvious errors can be corrected (obviously) but additionally new interpretations can be flagged up. How can one do that when something seemingly as informal as a "Talk" facility is closed off to those of us who wish to "discuss" the topic?
I say wikipedia has got it wrong - seriously wrong. Leaving aside the hopelessly Byzantine complexity of the site generally, doing its utmost to shut out newcomers from the editing/upgrading process with dense impenetrable jargon, it makes a fundamental error. It imagines itself to be a finished product 'in the making' so to speak, one that with a few more tweaks here and there is an internet equivalent of a traditional encyclopaedia. Nonsense. Why do folk make a beeline for wikipedia? Merely because its free? I doubt it. Most folk go to wiki for an initial taster of an unfamiliar topic, not because it's the last word on the subject, but simply the first or maybe second word - preliminary, provisional, one that can serve as a basis for further research, maybe one's own. They like its provisonal feel. As such, "original research" (or OR to give it the wiki abbreviation, as if somehow unfit for spelling in full) is not a dirty word. The process of validating new knowledge is not one that is achieved in a single step, certainly not peer-review (more a means of filtering off shoddy data and conclusions than guaranteeing top quality).
Wikipedia needs to get down off its pedestal, and start opening itself up to newcomers and outsiders via the Talk and Edit functions, removing the 'barbed wire' with which it presently surrounds itself. Wikipedia needs to see itself for what it is - or should be - a uniquely internet-based and thus interactive source of information on topics where opinion is never allowed to gel into unquestionable dogma or shielded from criticism by the walls of an impenetrable fortress. Wikipedia should be edgy - not stodgy.
Update: Friday 3rd July
Posted to the Telegraph in response to:
Big Rip will end the Universe, scientists claim
(Sorry about the crazy gaps/white space that now appear at intervals. They come with cut-and-paste from news sites etc. They keep returning, even after editing in html (Yes. I delete long strings of line break commands that are respnsible for the gaps, only for those same breaks to be reinserted later by some mysterious default system that frankly should not be operating - this being MY site goddamit).)
followed by a light-hearted response to this oh-so-predictable comment: