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Re: <nettime> The strange love affair of Wikipedia and EGS
Benjamin Geer on Fri, 23 Jun 2006 13:30:17 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> The strange love affair of Wikipedia and EGS


On 23/06/06, lotu5 {AT} resist.ca <lotu5 {AT} resist.ca> wrote:
> Do you think that one should differentiate, in terms of reliability of
> sources, between blogs written by unknown people and blogs written by,
> i.e. famous authors or blogs for specific publications?

It seems to me that we ought to care about a couple of things when
choosing sources:

1. Who wrote the information that we want to cite?  Are they
knowledgeable enough about the subject to be a reliable source?  An
author might be famous, but not actually know anything about the
subject in question.  Unfortunately some famous people, including some
academics, do seem to feel that they can write about matters far
outside their area of expertise, and thus they sometimes make serious
mistakes.[1]  I think we need easily measurable criteria of expertise,
otherwise we'll find ourselves in endless disputes.  I don't know of
any such criteria other than credentials.  For example, if the person
in question is a university professor specialised in that particular
subject, I think that's generally good enough.

2. What standards was the author held to in publishing this
information?  For example, a university professor may well be less
rigorous when making informal remarks during an interview in the mass
media than when writing an article for a peer-reviewed journal, or a
book that will face criticism from other experts in the same field.

The first consideration doesn't disqualify blogs; indeed, some experts
write blogs about their area of expertise.  However, it seems to me
that blogs don't yet provide the environment of critical scrutiny,
among experts in the same field, that academic publishers currently
provide.

> Also, if political controversy is the question, EGS is a university, not a
> very politically controversial subject at all.

I think it's reasonable to use different standards for choosing
sources depending on how controversial the subject is and how much
expertise it requires.  For example, if I want to know the results of
a basketball match in the US, it should be good enough to check the
New York Times web site.  But I wouldn't rely on the NYT for, say,
information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.  Perhaps
Wikipedia could have some guidelines specifying a hierarchy of
different types of sources, graded according to reliability, along
with the minimum standard to use when choosing sources for different
kinds of subjects.  Then they could have a rule stipulating that when
a controversy arises about the sources for an article, any participant
can require the use of higher-grade sources for that article.

Ben

[1] http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2005/06/REYMOND/12563


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