Wikipedia hates experts. Why? Because it prefers “Democracy”. (But this word has a special Wikipedia interpretation.)
Unfortunately this attitude tends to bring bad luck. They found this in China during the Cultural Revolution and the Great Step Forward. (Academics were sent to the fields for re-education, and tens of millions starved, as new ideas were tried which reflected the authority of the political club that happened to be in power.) Similar thing happened in Cambodia.
I believe Stalin’s purge of officers from the Red Army didn’t help performance much when war came a few years later; and the farming ideas of the politically sound but agriculturally daft left tens of millions dead.
But nonetheless, Wikipedia’s policy of “One Wiki star good, One research degree bad” is its first pillar of wisdom:
1: Experts don’t count, and are to be mistrusted.
(Oddly, academic journals don’t automatically reject unsolicited contributions from academics qualified in their field, as Wikipedia likes to do.)
I’ve now noticed a new Wiki principle. On a Wikimedia mailing list recently (and presumably the same response would be found on all Wiki forums) it was recently suggested that because many people are criticising Wikipedia, something should be done.
“What might that be?” one might ask. “Listen carefully to the criticisms, try to understand the problem, and if necessary fix things?”
Oh dear me no, because of Wiki Pillar of Wisdom Number 2:
2: Criticism from outside is meaningless, and must be ignored and fobbed off with PR.
No-one on the list gave any consideration to the possibility of actually listening to what outsiders were saying. Surely it would be obvious to any civilised person that no worthwhile organisation could treat criticisms from outside as always irrelevant.
But it’s worse than just being an unresponsive organisation ignoring those who are affected by it, or who use its services. Never considering the possibility that you could be wrong is about as bad as things can get. The danger in the hubris of never considering you might be wrong, however far the Risky Shift phenomenon of pathological group behaviour has led you astray, was demonstrated by Jacob Bronowski seizing the dust of his relatives from outside the gas chambers at Auschwitz, and quoting the old, already famous saying: ” “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ: Think it possible you may be mistaken.”
Yeahbut… that’s just him. We should just spin away criticism with a bit of PR.
Watching Wikipedia insiders at work is like watching the Nazis walking into Paris, or the burning of the library at Alexandria.
It would be the duty of any responsible person to speak out when such childishly willfully ignorant views are being advocated and indeed followed, but when I did, I encountered the third principle to complete The Three Wikipedia Principles Of The Apocalypse:
3: Just making criticism disqualifies you from being heard.
Last year, Nathan Awrich wrote that because I had expressed myself on the internet, and a couple of non-scientist Wiki enthusiasts had turned their tiny noses up at my contributions, I was presumably a crank and should be treated as such (irrespective of my academic history which he of course considered irrelevant, and irrespective of the details of the case, which he acknowledged were beyond him).
I didn’t give him all the criticism he deserved, but I went a lot of the way towards it. Now, simply because I criticised him, he thinks I’m not qualified to offer the criticisms I’m making of the “Just Use PR On Criticism” idea.
Hitler came to power in January 1933. The Dachau concentration camp didn’t open the day he started “work”; it opened two or three months later. But if you had to set up a concentration camp and start filling it, how long do you think it would take for the admin to turn into reality?
The first thing the Nazis did when they came to power, was to set up the institutionalised silencing of opposition.
Now, Nathan Awrich. Has it ever struck you that the name Nathan has a bit of an Old Testament ring to it? Has it ever occured to you that a lot of people called Nathan have been People of the Book, who respect wisdom, and yet have been deprived of a voice and often much more, simply because they were outsiders? Do you want me to draw you an effing diagram?