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Politically controversial science; "Wikipedia hates women"

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Non-controversial articles

A new article in the academic journal PLOS ONE about Wikipedia's science coverage has attracted media attention. In the article "Content Volatility of Scientific Topics in Wikipedia: A Cautionary Tale", Professor Adam M. Wilson of the State University of New York at Buffalo and Professor Gene E. Likens of the University of Connecticut write:

The article prompted alarming media coverage. Gizmodo warned that "Anti-Science Trolls are Starting Edit Wars on Wikipedia", writing "especially dedicated trolls have been sabotaging entries on politically controversial science topics like evolution and global warming." At the Washington Post, science journalist Chris Mooney wrote "What Wikipedia edits can tell us about the politicization of science", noting that "on these contentious topics, science doubters are constantly trying to get their point of view through, even as other Wikipedia editors steadily push back."

The Wikimedia Foundation disputed the findings of the paper to both publications, each quoting a statement from Juliet Barbara, senior communications manager: "The authors of this study do not seem to have successfully correlated the frequency of edits to controversial articles with an increased likelihood of inaccuracy." Barbara and Katherine Maher, chief communications officer, wrote a post on the official Wikimedia blog, which noted:

Wikipedia editors also took issue with the paper. At ScienceBlogs, Dr. William Connolley (William M. Connolley), a Wikipedia editor with a long history of editing in politically-controversial scientific areas, dismissed the paper as "laughably thin" and "largely useless". The coverage prompted a lively discussion on User talk:Jimbo Wales, where Guy Macon wrote "I am shocked -- shocked I tell you -- to find out that Wikipedia articles that attract more readers also tend to have more edits."

In the Post, Mooney discusses the phenomenon of an article like acid rain, the science of which was once hotly contested politically but now receives little media attention. He writes:

(Aug. 14-18)

"Wikipedia hates women", writes long-time editor

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In Cracked, a humor publication which also discusses internet culture with varying degrees of seriousness, Wikipedia editor and administrator Abigail Brady (Morwen) (with Cracked editor J.F. Sargent) writes "Wikipedia Hates Women: 4 Dark Sides of The Site We All Use", discussing her experiences as a trans woman Wikipedia editor.

Brady began editing Wikipedia in 2003, when Wikipedia coverage was extremely spotty. As the number of articles and editors exploded, the disputes became more contentious and personal:

As harassment increased in general on Wikipedia, Brady writes that "I decided to keep my head down and focus on articles about entertainment" out of fear of real-life consequences. Yet the harassment continued, including a series of hostile interactions with another administrator. She writes:

Due to her involvement in the 2013 Chelsea Manning naming dispute Arbitration case (see previous Signpost coverage, Brady writes that she was subject to transphobic harassment and as a result chose to leave Wikipedia.

She concludes:

A number of editors expressed a desire for the Wikimedia Foundation to address the issues raised by Brady's article. EvergreenFir wrote "I'm thinking the only way things will change is through WMF intervention. Too much entrenchment, entitlement, and outright disbelief that anything is wrong." Jimmy Wales declared that "I will fight all the way to the top (and can guarantee success at that level, if there is community backing) at the Foundation to enforce strong community demand for positive change." Other editors dismissed the article. With the edit summary "Gender schmender", GoodDay wrote: "This female/male editors issue should be treated as irrelevant, by English Wikipedia. We're all Wikipedians, leave it at that." On Facebook, Tim Davenport (Carrite), a 2015 candidate for the WMF Board of Trustees, mocked the article: "...alas, there are mean people on the internet! And there aren't enough female editors and stuff." (Aug. 15)

"Bogus Wikipedia page" alleged to support domain name application

The domain name system

Domain Incite, a blog run by domain name industry analyst Kevin Murphy, has accused DotMusic Limited of using a "bogus Wikipedia page" to support its application to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for .music, a proposed new generic top-level domain (gTLD).

Murphy claimed that the Wikipedia article music community, created in October 2014 by Dr. Blofeld, took text from the 2012 application of DotMusic Limited, highlighting three examples in particular. While the Wikipedia article created by Dr. Blofeld cited eleven sources, the particular sentences highlighted by Murphy were not individually cited.

2012 DotMusic application 2014 Wikipedia article
The Community is a strictly delineated and organized community of individuals, organizations and business, a “logical alliance of communities of a similar nature (“COMMUNITY”)”, that relate to music... Music community is defined as a logical alliance of interdependent communities that are related to music...
The Community and the .MUSIC string share a core value system of artistic expression with diverse, niche subcultures and socio-economic interactions between music creators, their value chain, distribution channel, and ultimately engaging fans as well as other music constituents subscribing to common ideals. The music industry shares a cohesive and interconnected structure of artistic expression, with diverse subcultures and socio-economic interactions between music creators, their value chain, distribution channel and fans subscribing to common ideals.
Under such structured context music consumption becomes possible regardless whether the transaction is commercial and non-commercial (M. Talbot, Business of Music, 2002). Under such structured context music consumption becomes possible regardless whether the transaction is commercial and non-commercial.

Murphy points out that DotMusic's website declares that its definition of "music community" is "confirmed by Wikipedia" and noted that the phrase "logical alliance" employed by both DotMusic and Wikipedia "originates in the ICANN Applicant Guidebook".

In the comments of the blog post, DotMusic founder Constantine Roussos wrote "I did not create the Wikipedia page. No-one from my team did either." On Wikipedia, Dr. Blofeld wrote "I have never heard of the name DotMusic Limited or a 'new gTLD application'...The fact is I've contributed to a massive range of subjects and I'm sure once in a while somebody is going to complain about something or think something's suspicious. It's laughable that they would think I'd be in a such a position to have carried that off!" Murphy responded "Yet he used two sentences from the application without attribution in his article. If there’s an innocent explanation for that, I’d love to hear it and will be happy to correct anything I’ve got wrong."

The music community article is currently under discussion at Articles for deletion. (Aug. 10)

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==Wikipedia hates women==

All right. Multiple things I want to say this article because I am dumbfounded. Firstly, for a humor website like Cracked claims to be, this was the complete opposite of the definition of humor. Second, saying that Wikipedia hates women is a generalization and a gross claim to make. Yes Wikipedia has a gender gap. God help I would like to see a female editor or two being part of the Video Game WikiProject. But to say that Wikipedia hates women is like saying that Wikipedia is a complete encyclopedia. Both false and claims that will never be true.

Sure ArbCom can get troubling (See the Lightbreather case), but I am getting tired of this whole thought that Wikipedia is Anti-women. For Gods sake the internet is full of people who say terrible things just to get a reaction from others. I'm just overall disappointed by this article and wish it was never made.

And one more thing. I don't like her claim that she left Wikipedia after the ArbCom case even though she still made little edits here and there. Including making a Draft page of video game journalist Cara Ellison which she also admitted to be a friend of hers. Saying you left Wikipedia while making some edits here and there doesn't constitute leaving Wikipedia, in my opinion. GamerPro64 16:50, 20 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Regarding your last point, I almost mentioned in the article that she had made some "post-retirement" edits, but I decided it was irrelevant. A lot of editors who have spent years of daily or near-daily activity on Wikipedia consider themselves "retired" even though they still edit occasionally. A prominent recent example is TParis, who retired early this year, yet went on to write a Signpost op-ed in May and has edited about a dozen times this month. Gamaliel (talk) 16:59, 20 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
That's a good point. But I will say that the piece makes it sound like she full out stopped editing. The entire article irks me as a whole and just makes Wikipedia look like a terrible place. GamerPro64 19:34, 20 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
I say this with hesitance, because it will make me look like an bigot (I'm not!) but, in the past few years, Cracked has cranked up the social justice push pieces up to 11. They have a lot of good pieces, but they have a lot of pieces that push an agenda, quite often through a thick lens of groupthink that explicitly demonizes all opposing points of view as automatically evil. I would take any social justice pieces on Cracked through a very heavy grain of salt. This article is no different; they found a single editor who was willing to help them push their agenda, and they ran with it without bothering to interview other members of the community. It was absolutely a one-sided push piece. Combating stupidity is a good thing; combating stupidity with more stupidity only causes the stupidity level to rise. Magog the Ogre (tc) 01:39, 21 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]

I was willing to give the article a fair go, until I got to "focus on articles about entertainment" immediately followed by "out of fear of real-life consequences". Let's keep it real here, there are people who edit articles on mathematics, medicine, and politics, then there are people who edit articles on entertainment, and the reasons they primarily choose one or the other is not consequences, it's ability and resources, entertainment articles needing less ability and less resources. Int21h (talk) 20:17, 22 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Without echoing the above points about Cracked and its coverage, and noting that I'm quite concerned about the WP:GENDERGAP (see what happened when I dared to suggest that WP:DIVA and its longer title Wikipedia:Don't feed the divas were kind-of sexist titles), and without challenging Morwen's statements about feeling harassed, I have to take issue with Morwen's reasoning here: "eventually the toxic environment started ripping Wikipedia apart from the inside. Over the next five years, the number of Wikipedia editors shrank by over a third, with most of those that left being women." There are three obvious logic problems in this:
  1. WP has not "torn itself apart" over alleged misogyny or transphobia. Awareness of both and what to do about them are at an all-time high here. They're certainly taken more seriously here than on much of any other site where anyone can have their say. The average social networking site or webboard is orders of magnitude more tolerant of intolerance than WP is today.
  2. There's no evidence linking gyno- or transphobia to a decline in editorship. Much has been published about WP's editorial ranks decline, and it principally seems to be a combination of three factors: a) The "gee whiz, what's this new thing?" feeling has worn off; b) WP editing has become more serious and more challenging as policies have evolved to move it toward serious, professional-level encyclopedia output instead of a free-wheeling experiment; and c) most of the obvious, easy, and hot-topic articles have already long since been written and developed, leaving mostly highly competence-intensive work remaining to be done.
  3. There's no data to back the idea that most departing editors are women. It cannot possibly be true because the percentage of editors who are women has not sharply dropped, yet the number of editors in total has. It probably is true that any individual female editor is at least slightly more likely to leave than a male one (though I'm not sure we have any data to back that up either), but more than one reason has been suggested (including by women, mind you) for why this might be true, and it's not all about "a hostile editing environment". It could be principally a factor of women, on average, having different priorities than their male counterparts. Getting in incessant debates about the wording seems to be a pastime that attracts a significantly male-heavy group of self-selecting participants, and that has little to do with WP in particular. The same effect can be seen everywhere, from participation in online forums, to number of woman academics in the sciences, and any other subculture that spends a great deal of time engaging in often unproductive verbal combat.
I have to suggest that the third factor is key here. Providing things to do here, different ways to contribute, that are more interesting to more women that constant verbal chest-beating, is the real way to increase the number of female editors and increase WP's long-term retention of them.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:48, 27 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]

"Bogus wikipedia page"

The writers failed to consider a yet another possibility. It is written: "Dr. Blofeld cited eleven sources". All of them predate the 2012 application by a wide margin. I know Dr. Blofeld, but I don't know DotMusic, and I'd rather assume that Dot ripped off the same sources (or sources further developed upon these), but without giving any credits. Staszek Lem (talk) 17:48, 20 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]

I stand corrected; Dot did cite its sources: "Under such structured context music consumption becomes possible regardless whether the transaction is commercial and non-commercial (M. Talbot, Business of Music, 2002). " So, does somebody want to check the text in M.Talbot, who was cited by Dr Blofeld as well? Staszek Lem (talk) 18:05, 20 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
In any case Murphy's accusations of plagiarism are contestable. (i.e. the above is an answer to Murphy's challenge "If there’s an innocent explanation for that, I’d love to hear it.") Staszek Lem (talk) 18:16, 20 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
The allegations are a form of trolling. I'm surprised they weren't ignored. All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 22:24, 22 August 2015 (UTC).[reply]

I love the fact that the AfD for the article closed as trainwreck. Have a feeling we'll be feeling more of that article in the future. GamerPro64 03:46, 21 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Percentage of women

Well, given that less than 10% of all editors have been women, if 1/3 (33%) of the editors left over a five year period, they can't mostly have been women. Chiswick Chap (talk) 08:43, 26 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Politically controversial not-really-science

I have a hard time fathoming why anyone got paid to do 'research' concluding 'topics we consider politically but not scientifically “controversial” ... experience more frequent edits with more words changed per day than pages we consider “noncontroversial” '. This is rather like concluding that people who are more popular have more friends, or that dogs with more fleas have a greater incidence of small, itchy bites on them. Far more interesting actual research would have been a multi-valued comparison – rates of addition, removal, reversion, etc, change in number of editors, of anonymous editors, of administrative, RfC, and noticeboard actions, etc., ratio of edits to talk page posts, ratio of sources to word-count, ratio of secondary to primary sources, number of additions and removal of citations to separate sources, change in complexity level of language, splitting vs.consolidation of topically-related articles, and so on – between topics that are: a) politically but not scientifically controversial; b) scientifically but not politically controversial [including just due to obscurity]; c) both politically and scientifically controversial; d) neither politically nor scientifically controversial but controversial for some other known reason (religious objection, legal action, celebrity scandal, etc.). It would probably help if it used an actually statistically significant number of articles, too.

I don't think anyone needed any kind of "study" showing that politically controversial topics get edited more. Any sane person would have confidently predicted that, and any even slightly experienced editor (or regular reader, for that matter) already knows this is true on WP, and we have policies and guidelines that specifically address the "controversial topic" factor. What we don't have data on (that I know of) is where there are quantifiable differences between different sorts of controversies. Whoever makes this your dissertation/thesis, please credit me with the idea in a footnote. :-)  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:14, 27 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]


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