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MediaWiki, wikipedians, and bayesnets

narvi pointed out to me that The WikiMedia Foundation is doing a 3rd Quarter 2005 fund drive in order to raise $200000 for Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.
Edit, 11:45 CST Thu 08 Sep 2005: Looks as if they made it. As of 10:50 UTC 2005-09-08, they've raised $227,860.

Some of you (especially in teunc) know that narvi and I have had a running debate about the relative merits and dangers of Wikipedia. We agree that Wikipedia is not yet a citable reference in the general case, that it may never become one under its present system of review and annotation, that the quality is (obviously) very high in variance, and that people cite it anyway. That said, I use Wikipedia all the time, especially for geographic and historical reference, and I think it's a great tool even for very specialized technical topics. I also feel that wikipedians those people who volunteer their time and effort to add to and improve the body of free knowledge that Wikipedia contains, are doing a great community service, by and large, and should be rewarded both through praise and whatever little perks in terms of privileges, resources, and nifty knowledge-making tools the users of Wikipedia can afford.

Edit, 16:00 CST Thu 08 Sep 2005: I'm interested in your opinions. What do you actually think of Wikipedia?

As those of you in my department, and especially my group, may know, I've been planning to start a GMWiki (Graphical Models Wiki), using the MediaWiki content management sytem, for about three years. With the addition of zengeneral, pvntejaswi, Andrew, and tmehlinger to the team, this is finally getting close to a reality. In the meantime, Russ Almond has started a UAIWiki that covers many of the same topics. However, I want to make sure the GMWiki has links to graph theory, proof techniques, and applications in search, not just specific algorithms, software, and other resources for bayesnets. I'd also like it to be like Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki, and Star Wars Wiki - that is, so complete and useful that Wikipedia will actually pull content from it.

Just a brief closing comment. Yes, I realize there is the odd canon violation or YATI on Memory Alpha (it is Star Trek, after all, which has as fragmented a canon as one can have). Even Star Wars Wiki has some blips, trying to integrate, as it does, the movies, books, graphic novels, and games. George Lucas and ILM have declared the movies the first and final arbiter of canon, but that doesn't eliminate all ambiguities of plot or technical interpretation. More important, there are unwritten conventions that certain movie sources (e.g., Zahn's newer novels) come before others (certain comics, the Han Solo Trilogy and Lando Calrissian Adventures, old movie novelizations) in terms of canonicity. Deliberate openings are left in both prequel and sequels for a very rich universe.

In other news: The hearing in the Microsoft-KFL-Google case began in King County Superior Court today and is expected to conclude tomorrow. The court filings appear in a Seattle Times supplement and details of today's proceedings are here.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 8th, 2005 10:25 pm (UTC)
Wikipedia is good for quick references. There's some things that I would trust it more on than others. Also, it's good for finding out what it is you want to look up elsewhere for verification.
Sep. 9th, 2005 04:36 am (UTC)
Wikipedia and validating sources
See, the thing is, most of the things I look up on Wikipedia are minutiae (dates of birth, maps, capitals, who's who, and the occasional definition). It's not so much that I trust Wikipedia as that the downside risk is low: if it's wrong, not much is lost.

I quote Wikipedia only when literally looking up Wikiquotes and the like, and in my personal experience it has not been wrong in two years of my using that particular feature.

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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