Musings on why Wikipedia fails

July/2007: From those that know me, I've been an avid reader of Wikipedia ever since I can remember the website being of any prominence. Prior to forming, I had Wikipedia as one of my favored links on my personal blog. Wikipedia in general is great until you learn how Wikipedia works.

Wikipedia itself is, as most know, user-edited. It prides itself upon that fact. Much has been made of this, especially in criticism of Wikipedia... so I won't bother to rehash that aspect of the criticism against them. Wikipedia basically works as "information by democracy." If there's a conflict, other editors weigh in on it. If there's a clear consensus, the conflict is decided by majority rule. For the uninitiated, if you edit an article to point to your website that says "JFK liked to smell socks, he loved it. He loved socks and smelling them"... that information is true if you can convince a majority of people who weigh in on it that it should be included.

Now, in a perfect world, the above model works. In a perfect world, people know that a random person on a random website saying something outlandish like that means it needs a better source. In that perfect world, the edit is deleted. In a perfect world, people are smart and Wikipedia's guidelines help guide nutcases away from the project.

We obviously don't live in a perfect world.

Let's pretend that the sock-smelling JFK allegation has a following. Let's say that there's a cadre of individuals who also love to smell socks and believe that JFK is "one of them." On Wikipedia, those individuals, without registering an account... on an anonymous IP address... have the same input that oh, Joe User who edits a broad-based selection of articles does. Wikipedia protects those individuals, random IP's and the like by their "assume good faith" rule.

What is the "assume good faith" rule?
The rule itself means that you are to... almost literally, take a lawn-mower to your brain. You are to assume that every edit by every user is done with the best interests of Wikipedia and "truth" at heart. Each edit is to be assumed as though the editor is free from bias and that the edit is designed to advance the concept of learning and knowledge and all these fluffy flowery things that we SHOULD all value.

This rule itself, however, shelters trolls and those who come with a point of view they wish to propagandize. You cannot challenge a person on the basis of their edit history. This leads to examples where a user will solely edit an article towards one direction... yet you cannot point out this bias nor can you make any insinuation that the user may be POV. Nor are any other editors allowed to sniff out those who come with a point of view. Instead you are expected to shut your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and try to find a consensus.

The only other aspect of the world that is dumb enough to use this viewpoint is, in most cases, international diplomacy mediated by a power with two parties who hate each other. This principle of "must consensus" is pretty much the entire reason the Israeli/Palestinian conflict spirals on to this day.

My experience editing Wikipedia.
The last thing I ever wanted to do was to get caught up editing Wikipedia on any articles. However, due to my position with the CorporateSexOffenders thing, I figured I'd give it a shot. Fortunately, I learned enough about rudimentary Wikifying that it greatly aided the Wikisposure Project we launched. However, it also has robbed me of the ability to read much of anything on Wikipedia.

I made the mistake of trying to get involved from the inside to throw my (admittedly beyond POV) viewpoints against the pedophile viewpoints on a couple articles they had made calls to campaign over. Prior to that, I had the good policy of merely lobbing attacks at Wikipedia for their really fucked up pedophile articles by pedophiles and for pedophiles. However, when Wikipedia banned a ton of pedophile user accounts for pedophile trolling, I figured they might finally start having NPOV editors fixing their pedophile sections.

Oh man, that was naive!

Wikipedia now shelters itself behind it's "assume good faith" policy. It effectively is a "don't ask, don't tell" policy and the pedophiles know it. They have remarked on it, they have celebrated it. Now, instead of having an account where they note that they're a pedophile and their edits go unchallenged as they mass in numbers... they merely mass in numbers and hide their status. At the end of the day, status quo is unchanged.

Instead of it being BlueRibbon that edits while you have to assume good faith about his propaganda and ridiculousness, it's a random string of numbers. The end of the day sees this... a contentious area of articles such as the pedophilia articles themselves being nothing more than a bunch of people on both sides, invested in the topic, having edit and revert wars. Eventually, one side will tire or realize they have less numbers and one POV will then reign supreme. There are no editors outside of this paradigm that arrive to create any encyclopedic content, rather, the information is decided by who has the bigger "voting block."

Even if neutral editors arrived, they would have no more weight than random IP's that one has to pretend is anything other than a pedophile when they're only editing pedophile articles in favor of child rape and using resources that few others outside of the pedophile activist community know about.

That, my friends, is lunacy.

How this affects other areas.
Take any area that is even quasi-controversial. Forget pedophilia for the moment, think of any other topic. Let's say... the Armenian Genocide.

The Armenian Genocide was a campaign by the Young Turks who rose out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire to wipe out the population of Armenian Christians from Turkey. The Armenian Genocide is one of those things history has weighed in on. It happened. We know it happened. The Turks, deep down, know it happened. It's like air. You know air is there. If someone asked you to prove it, you'd say "It's fucking air."

Well, as I probably shall become fond of saying... "it's the fucking Armenian Genocide."

Of course, if you wish to read about the Armenian Genocide on Wikipedia, good luck. As Wikipedia assumes that good ol' faith and because the topic is controversial, the articles relating to the Armenian Genocide aren't encyclopedic but rather the product of tit-for-tat warring between Turkish and Armenian editors. The content is little more than a tug of war. It's not information, it's weighed propaganda. Currently the pro-viewpoint is winning the fights against the anti-viewpoint. It's like a sports game, just with information.

The viewpoint that it was actually a genocide is up by ten points in the third quarter. GOOOOOOOOO TEAM!!!!!!!!

The Srebrenica example.
It's one thing to simply say this stuff, people's eyes glaze over and they don't really get it. Here's a "talk page" for people to read to understand what I'm going on about: Srebrenica Massacre Talk Page.

The following is an example from the linked talk page. It's in the debate of whether it should be called a massacre or a genocide. One of the users wants more supporters for his position... so what does he do? He lobbies.

From Wikipedia talk page
Comment. Apart from WP:RM, this debate was announced at bs:Wikipedia:Čar'ija#Srebrenica_Genocide by User:Kahriman. Translation:

I would only like to ask you to vote for moving of Srebrenica massacre article to Srebrenica Genocide on English Wikipedia. You can vote here. Thanks in advance.

Information by democracy... except that in any case of an article that is even remotely controversial, it's all about which side is better organized and entrenched to swing decisions their way. The Srebrenica example is just one of hundreds. I've seen it myself when I was dumb enough to try to take part in lending a voice on the pedophile articles. The second an action was proposed, pedophile websites had threads instructing their users to circumvent the process. At the end of the day, they got their wish because they mobilized enough accounts to "win the day."

So what's the value in Wikipedia?
When it comes to articles, if you want information on something that isn't in any circle even remotely controversial, you'll usually find good information. Wikipedians that edit with the ideals of the foundation in mind are usually really good editors that can write some quality articles. However, the entire project fails when it comes to any article that has any controversy whatsoever. They have no workable mechanisms to ensure the integrity of articles that have opposing viewpoints.

Instead, such articles are like one long-winded argument that only ends when one side gets tired of wasting their time mobilizing, propagandizing and arguing. There is no "core" of established Wikipedians that are dispatched to send both sides "to bed" while they fix the problems of the articles. There are no, oh, say "Wikipedia Special Forces" to come in, lay waste to the battleground and rebuild properly without POV.

This is how Wikipedia fails and from what I can see, those that operate the foundation only seem too content in the reality of that failure.

If enough people fight for the "fact" that JFK was a sock-smeller... a sock-smeller JFK was.

The most beautiful picture in the world?


Is there any more beautiful picture than this one?

You might be thinking... "wow, you're crazy... of course there is!" But you'd be wrong. The above picture is long-time Boychat leader James P. Finn III being led away in handcuffs. And why?

Because of CSO fliers. Because the police found a huge collection of child porn on his computer when they searched his house after having one of the fliers brought to their attention.

Starting I knew we could have an impact, but I didn't think the leader of would go down for child pornography possession in just a mere three weeks after we started the website. We exposed him, we profiled him, our volunteers sent out flyers... and that activity ended up with the police doing an investigation.

It was a beautiful combination of journalism and activism... with a sweet, sweet result. This sort of thing is the kind of thing we dreamed of when we started all of our efforts. I couldn't be more elated.

You can read more here.

Adventures at the Law Enforcement Expo '07

July/2007: Recently, we were invited to speak at a law enforcement expo. They actually advertised it ahead of time (here, in fact). The presentation was a great experience, Frag showed off all the cool new law enforcement training materials that he's been developing and we met a lot of great people over the conference. The exhibit hall itself was beyond crazy. For those into video games, think E3 but with tons of law enforcement gear.

We're talking everything from hidden camera set-ups to riot vehicles, you name it. Hell, one booth even had the ubiquitous "booth babes" that are so famed for these sorts of expos. In short, the floor of the expo was very neat, the presentation went well and the hosts of the expo were very cool to hang out with. The VIP lunch we did had a lot of great cops there and it was a very interesting and unique experience.

Look, they even had a cool as hell sign.

Of course, advertising our presence ahead of time has a certain way of oh... bringing out the wackos. One such wacko is this reporter from Dallas, Texas, Byron Harris. Harris is one of these long-time reporters that hangs around. The type of mediocre reporter that sticks around in an area and becomes known in that area... but otherwise has no real talent in order to advance his career.

For example, one of his big new investigative pieces was on "fire ants." Literally, the guy reports about bugs at like, seventy years of age. In other words, while other reporters were breaking news about watergate in the seventies, Iran/Contra in the eighties or oh, hell... pick your scandal in the nineties... this is the type of "reporter" that is plodding around rocking mediocrity in the media for decades. No career advancement, no prestigious body of work.

WFAA in Dallas is an ABC affiliate, so you can imagine that hey... they don't like NBC. Amazing, isn't it. So you've got this old retread hack of a reporter working for ABC in Dallas. Of course the guy is going to try to throw pot-shots at the show "To Catch a Predator." What I didn't expect was for the idiot to try to crash a law enforcement conference in order to try to "ambush-interview" us. He actually flew from Dallas to Cleveland just to try to make an ass out of himself.

In all my experiences with the media, I've never been ambush-interviewed before. I've dealt with bad reporters, good reporters and the like, but nobody has tried the old hack "run up to a person and stick a microphone in their face at inappropriate times" trick of the trade.

Day one: first attempt at ambush interview
So the first day after the Chris Hansen keynote, this goof runs up to us and starts asking really stupid questions. I'll give an example of one of the questions...

Actual question: "Now you say you have X number of arrests and X number of convictions... so you don't have a 100% conviction rate." - Byron Harris

Now... this guy has been around the block a few hundred times, but apparently he doesn't understand the idea that when a person is arrested, sometimes the case takes a while to go through the court process. I explained to him what the difference is between a pending case and a "acquittal." It's a sad world when you have to explain to someone the difference between these two things. Of course, this guy isn't a reporter, he's an advocate. He's trying to slam NBC and Murphy for his local ABC affiliate.

Anyways, we do a short interview with him and he's trying to be all aggressive. Like he gets right up in your face and tries to make you angry with really stupid questions. That kind of thing doesn't make me angry, it just makes me think a person is an idiot. So after answering a few of his silly questions, we go to do some more conference things, do a few interviews with legitimate reporters, etc.

The conference organizers apologize for his rude behavior and we let them know it wasn't a big deal (and obviously wasn't their fault), we're used to dealing with weird people like that. No big deal, right?

Day two: He crosses the line with the second attempt
Anyways, I guess ol' Byron wasn't happy with the first set of questions he got to ask and wanted to try to make an ass out of himself by interrupting our conference presentation. I have some mental rules with reporters. If they show the slightest amount of respect, they get respect back. But this guy crossed all the lines. You don't try to interrupt a presentation to make an ass out of yourself. It's pretty obvious that while journalists have a lot of constitutional rights and can do in some ways, whatever they wish... there's still an unspoken "time, place, manner" rule that applies to such interviews.

He violated all of them. He comes running up to me while I'm sitting at a table waiting to start the presentation... and he does this at literally 12:58, two minutes before we're due to start. The entire thing was him grandstanding trying to interrupt a presentation we're invited to give. It's not the "Byron Harris asks really stupid questions" conference. He easily could have hung back and waited until after the conference to ask whatever new questions he thought up after the fact. First thing I said to him (which wasn't picked up on the audio) was that it was presentation time, not interview time, so he should go back to wherever he was.

Now, I can describe the rest of the confrontation, but hell, I figured... why not embed it on YouTube? I made a comment about him editing the confrontation and WFAA forced him to post the entire thing on their website. I had hoped they would do that, which is entirely why I made the comment to begin with when he tried to intimidate me with the presence of his camera verbally.

That's the confrontation. He comes running up to me like a little hungry mongrel and starts trying to conduct an interview two minutes before we're due to give our presentation. Then, while I'm sitting down... he has the audacity to tell me not to get in his face. At that point, it was comical to the extreme.

Note: If you run up to someone with a microphone and a camera who is sitting on his big fat butt, the last thing you should accuse the person you're running up to is "getting in his face." I'm sitting down and this moron acts like I'm being aggressive. I figure at the time, if he's going to accuse me of getting in his face, why not do it... but calmly and collected.

I don't think much of this person, you can tell from the video. While he's talking to me, I rub his suit jacket collar (yes, just to bug him) and he gets so angry that a piece of dribble from his mouth hits me square in the face. It was fucking gross. I couldn't believe this idiot couldn't keep his own saliva in his f'n mouth. He violated a very important principle in this world... "say it, don't spray it." Keep your bodily functions in check, please.

At that point, I wanted to tell him off but figured I'd do it in the hall as I knew the organizers of that event would frown greatly on his unprofessional act of trying to storm the conference itself two minutes before we're due to start it. Plus, of course, I wanted to tell him off and the hallway is better for it.

And I told him off. He didn't get one question off in that "interview." Why? Because he's a shit reporter. You can tell a shit reporter because that's the type that will run in without a plan in place. He just runs in like a goof and doesn't even have questions prepared. So I asked him questions.

The guy has been a reporter for thirty-five years and works at his local affiliate reporting on bugs and insects. I wanted him to think about his life. I mean, what sort of awesome journalist are you when you're all excited about going to Cleveland just to try to crash a law enforcement conference with dumb questions. I guess it's better than reporting on insects, but it's not much of a career. Anyways, the idiot actually stood there and answered my questions. His face turned red. He got angry. I didn't.

You'd think that if you're a reporter for that long, you're able to compose yourself. You're able to keep control of your interview. You're able to... oh, not have the interview turned against you.

At the end of the day, he made an ass out of himself and was kicked out of the law enforcement expo for doing so. He tried to harass us inappropriately while spitting on, literally and figuratively, the idea of "time, place, manner."

We went on and gave our presentation and earned a round of laughs when we noted "As you can tell, dealing with the media is sometimes exciting. We work with NBC. He reports for ABC. You can figure it out from there." Everyone in the room immediately laughed.

At the end of the day, with blowhards like this... that's all you really need to say. He works for an ABC affiliate. We work with NBC's Dateline on the To Catch a Predator stings. Beyond that, you don't need to give much explanation for the actions of a doddering hack reporter. People understand how these things work.

I'm very happy with the video, myself. I thought I'd come off looking angry or anything other than composed. Instead, I came off calm, collected, albeit very insulting... but hey, people shouldn't have to take the kind of crap he pulled and he deserved to be given "the business" about the kind of person he is.

From his reports, I can tell I got under his skin. He went on and on about me during the newscast. He hurled insults at the end of the video to the conference organizer. That's not the actions of a legitimate reporter. I got under his skin and he couldn't handle it. It affected his reporting and at the end of the day, he did a weak spot that made him look like he's an advocate with a grudge, not a reporter. You won't see a guy like Chris Hansen... or John Mercure in Milwaukee... or Kerry Tomlinson here in Portland get flustered like that. You won't see these sorts of people drop in on someone and do anything other than ask questions.

Guys like Byron Harris are part of the reality of what we do. You deal with good reporters and bad reporters. But there's nothing in this world that says you have to be nice to them when they're being jackasses. There's no reason to be professional with someone like this, such ridiculousness should only be answered with scorn.

Otherwise, the presentation was great. Driving from Chicago to Cleveland because the flight we were going to be on being canceled to equipment failure isn't... great... but whenever we get a chance to show the general public what exactly it is we do and how we do it, you have to be happy.

Compared to that, reporters who can't keep their saliva in their mouth or report past their own biases are meaningless.

Link: If you came from redirection, continue on to

Geekscore = 9.75

July/2007: I recently picked up a LED color changin' candy bowl and a awesome + kickass Dr. Doom figure and decided I had to combine the two with candy to score as many geek points as I could.

With that in mind, I present...

The following entry.

What say you? I say 9.75. Of course, that's with the flash on. With the flash off, you get the idea of how it actually looks in my front room.


This officially guarantees that my front room is cooler than yours.