The Signpost

In the media

History is written by whoever can harness the most editors

Contribute  —  
Share this
By Smallbones, Bri, and Andreas Kolbe

"Losers just got a lot of time on their hands"

Make sure to punch in before reading this issue: volunteering is for losers. Or so some argue[weasel words].

Elon Musk and Benjamin Netanyahu met to discuss many topics including the state of Israel's democracy, anti-semitism, and artificial intelligence. They also managed to discuss Madison and Hamilton, the death of Socrates, and Musk's love of encyclopedias. Except for one! And it's one you may have heard of.

The discussion was broadcast on the website formerly known as Twitter, which Musk owns, with a transcript here. We'll stick to what they think of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias, starting with Musk's early reading.

Musk: ...If I’d had the internet back then with the great movies, video games and that kind of thing, I probably would’ve read much less than I did. I kind of read the encyclopedia out of desperation because I didn’t have anything else to read.

Netanyahu: You read the whole encyclopedia?
Musk: Yeah, pretty much. I’d get something that I’m not that interested in and obviously skip past it. But yeah, pretty much.
Netanyahu: That’s desperation.
Musk: It was desperation. No, I was just like, "I’ve run out of books."
Netanyahu: But I think it was probably a better encyclopedia than the one… These digital encyclopedias today, which unfortunately are edited in ways that don’t necessarily bring out the balanced views of things.
Musk: Yeah, I mean, the fun thing about, say, Wikipedia, is there’s an old saying "history is written by the victors". And it’s like, "Well, yes, but not if your enemies are still alive and have a lot of time on their hands to edit Wikipedia."
Netanyahu: History is written by the people who can harness the most editors.
Musk: Yeah, I mean, whoever, the losers just got a lot of time on their hands and it’s like, “What do they do?” Edit Wikipedia. And literally, so yeah.


Wikipedia is a model for Harvard

Is this a model for Harvard? Or is this a model for Harvard?

According to a Harvard Crimson column, Harvard students have all come to rely on Wikipedia.

We trust that Wikipedia can grant us quick and detailed information about nearly anything we can imagine. The site is a modern miracle. Within seconds, we can access acute knowledge on quantum field theory, a biography of Helen Keller, or detailed summaries of every single episode of Breaking Bad."

The reason for our encyclopedia's success, according to these student journalists, is our model of editing, starting with be bold. Talk pages, the prohibition on article ownership, with debate, discussion, and collaboration that lead to consensus; all for $54,269 less per year than certain other sources of knowledge.

Perhaps these students haven't seen some of the more vicious Wiki-debates. But perhaps they understand what is going on here better than Elon Musk and Benjamin Netanyahu. S

Wikiracing at Wikimania

Some other people think Wikipedia is pretty cool too. Especially high-school and college students, and attendees at this year's Wikimania according to The Art of Wikiracing by Stephen Harrison in Slate. Wikiracing is a simple game to see who can go fastest from article A to article B by clicking blue links in the articles. For example, who can go the fastest from "Jimmy Wales" to "Stroopwafel". See TheWikiGame if you'd like to play on the same platform used by the Wikimaniac contest. SuperHamster won the competition.

Harrison attempts a deep dive into the subject, going from lateral thinking to dopamine. But this topic is just about fun and is probably too shallow for his usual mind expanding approach. If you want to try it, just click lateral thinking and see how many pages it takes to get to dopamine. Or – for something simpler – try Elon Musk to Benjamin Netanyahu. S

Tabloid: Vile trolls?

One of the Internet trolls that caused a ruckus

"Vile internet trolls edit Sir Michael Gambon’s Wikipedia page minutes after his death", according to The Express's headline, a couple of hours after the actor's death. A check of the Wikipedia article's history reveals that the headline's claim is, at best, over-blown.

The news of Gambon's death hit Wikipedia at 11:37 (UTC) on September 28. The edit changed one word "is" to "was". After 4 minutes and 7 edits a "recent death" banner was added to the top of the article saying "initial news reports may be unreliable". Five minutes (8 edits) later one IP editor made an edit and then a minor correction in very poor taste - they included the word "herpes". The edits were quickly reverted and the editor warned not to repeat the mistake. The whole incident was over in two minutes, maybe less. The Express editors might consider the edit "vile", but "sophomoric" would be more appropriate.

Recent changes patroller WindTempos, who reverted the "vile" edit, replied to our inquiry. "I'm not surprised to see poorly informed Wikipedia coverage in the tabloid press, but I'm baffled as to how one IP editor's childish vandalism could be considered remotely newsworthy. In any case, it's a striking reminder of how visible even the shortest lived of edits can be."

Looking further in the article's history there was another sophomoric edit 42 minutes later that included the word "masturbation". It was reverted a minute later. Those edits are by far the worst in the first hour after the actor's death.

The tabloid magnified their exaggerated claims, and its garish headline, with a jumbled explanation of how Wikipedia works: "it is understood that anyone can edit a Wikipedia page, and the company instead employs people to monitor edits and delete and rectify them as required." Unpaid volunteers such as WindTempos patrol our articles and other volunteers contribute and edit the overwhelming bulk of the content. The Express should know, after almost 23 years of Wikipedia's existence, that the Wikimedia Foundation and its employees, make essentially no edits to the encyclopedia articles. Kudos to WindTempos and all patrollers!

We understand that The Express employs editors to monitor their stories and headlines, but that they are not always able to rectify their errors. S

In brief

New Haven has a car park designed by Paul Rudolph. And some college.
The Matilda effect, named for Matilda Joslyn Gage, and described by Jess Wade in the media
+ Add a comment

Discuss this story

These comments are automatically transcluded from this article's talk page. To follow comments, add the page to your watchlist. If your comment has not appeared here, you can try purging the cache.
== Netanyahu and Musk ==

The Atlantic had a really interesting article on this meeting the other day, focusing on a different part of the proceedings: the part where Netanyahu and Musk discussed the societal impact of AI.

The article is called The Unlikely World Leader Who Just Dispelled Musk’s Utopian AI Dreams (archive). Recommended. Andreas JN466 22:27, 3 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Why unlikely? Netanyahu has undergrad and graduate degrees from MIT and is certainly qualified to speak about societal impacts of technology. ☆ Bri (talk) 22:48, 3 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
It has nothing to do with his qualifications but with the fact that Netanyahu took an almost socialist view in the discussion. Here is a relevant passage: The Israeli leader interrogated OpenAI’s Brockman about the impact of his company’s creations on the job market. By replacing more and more workers, Netanyahu argued, AI threatens to “cannibalize a lot more jobs than you create,” leaving many people adrift and unable to contribute to the economy. When Brockman suggested that AI could usher in a world where people would not have to work, Netanyahu countered that the benefits of the technology were unlikely to accrue to most people, because the data, computational power, and engineering talent required for AI are concentrated in a few countries. “You have these trillion-dollar [AI] companies that are produced overnight, and they concentrate enormous wealth and power with a smaller and smaller number of people,” the Israeli leader said, noting that even a free-market evangelist like himself was unsettled by such monopolization. “That will create a bigger and bigger distance between the haves and the have-nots, and that’s another thing that causes tremendous instability in our world. And I don’t know if you have an idea of how you overcome that. There is more in that vein in the discussion. (See also this issue's Recent Research on ChatGPT as a Wikipedia competitor potentially cannibalizing our unpaid jobs.) Andreas JN466 23:19, 3 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
  • Elon Musk may or may not have an interest in assisting Wikipedia with a donation, but may find it within his dreams for humanity to further build Commons and related projects. Being creative with requests and meetings, Musk and WMF might just find much to collaborate on and plan. Randy Kryn (talk) 00:19, 4 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
    And Elon Musk, in case someone points out these comments to you, please realize that you can edit Wikipedia (if you haven't already) to experience the process and improve the encyclopedia. Maybe only make one or three short edits, on points or topics that you care about and believe either need correction, improvement, or readability. Then, if you do enough edits and are inevitably reverted, assume good faith and discuss your position on the article's talk page. That should make that particular talk page sightseeable and educate some of the public about the interesting back-room discussions on Wikipedia. If you make just one edit you will be both a Wikipedian as well as an articulate critic of Wikipedia. And improve the encyclopedia while you're at it. Randy Kryn (talk) 02:42, 4 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks, good information. Is the two million annual or a one-time donation? What I'm talking of are the kind of donations that are world-changing. Two million to the endowment or to the WMF operating budget is a fine and appreciated start. The importance of Wikipedia to humanity, combined with Musk's sincere intent to improve societal advancement in many fields, hopefully will someday lead to the kind of partnering that 23rd century historians will take note of when writing the definitive history of the project. Randy Kryn (talk) 11:07, 4 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
@Randy Kryn: The way I read the page, the Musk Foundation has given the Endowment grants totalling between 2 and 5 million dollars. (There is a reference to two 1-million dollar gifts from the Musk Foundation in m:Fundraising/2019-20_Report.) Andreas JN466 06:55, 6 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Respectable, appreciated, helpful, but not spectacular. I want to see Elon Musk WMFoundation spectacular. Randy Kryn (talk) 11:04, 7 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Donations of tens of millions to the WMF don't seem to be enough to fix critical infrastructure. A donation of 1,000 hours of skilled volunteer labour is world-changing, at least when a few thousand of us do it. — Bilorv (talk) 20:29, 8 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Each does what they can. I would think WMF letting Wikipedians and other project members decide where 1/3rd of those tens of millions goes yearly would allow some interesting projects to play out. Short descriptor: dance with who brung ya. Randy Kryn (talk) 22:29, 8 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
  • Musk and Netanyahu, like all right-wing authoritarians, distrust and fear a decentralized, democratic digital encyclopedia because it might educate the populace, and undermine their power base. Such individuals maintain power only through a strict control of information. Andre🚐 03:34, 4 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
    like all right-wing authoritarians Are you suggesting an edit to Elon Musk's biography? CurryCity (talk) 08:16, 5 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
    Eh, Musks politics are so mercurial you can say just about anything and find a source from some era which backs it up. For what its worth I think Musk is very fond of wikipedia, but not as fond of wikipedia as he is of winning (which he is by all accounts incredibly driven by, one of the most driven people on the planet). All in all Musks biggest gripe with us appears to be over the whole Tesla "co-founder" thing which while I understand why it would be massively significant to him its not exactly an indictment of wikipedia as a platform. Horse Eye's Back (talk) 19:51, 5 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]

vile edits

I agree that the vandalism could better be described as "sophomoric," but it's not appropriate for a journalist to interject that opinion. Better practice would be to find an editor who feels that way, and then quote that source. I'm sure it wouldn't have been difficult, and it would have reflected journalistic standards.~TPW 13:31, 4 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]

I did get one editor opinion in there - that "I'm baffled as to how one IP editor's childish vandalism could be considered remotely newsworthy" from WindTempos. Beyond that I've come to view this column as more of a journalism review than a straight recitation of the facts, which would sound something like a plot summary. Pretty boring IMHO with this subject matter, and looking back over how it was done in the past almost all the authors have done some interpretation of what's going on with the stories we present here. If I were to write a section here about my story on the Express (me writing a story about my own story), I might write that the reporter (me) might have just as well left out the story - as the saying goes "There's no use getting into a pissing contest with a pisser." But some things really suggested to me that the Express reporter must have known that his story was unfair. For example: What was he doing minutes after the actor's death looking at a Wikipedia article (for material on the actor's death?). And how did he just happen to arrive during the right 1.5 minutes when he could have seen it? Or did he go trawling through the edit history for say 20 minutes until he found something like what he was looking for? But why would they want to do that? Well, I've seen some cases (not to say that it was in this case) where journalist (or involved parties) actually make (or encourage others to make) the edits themselves. There was a story like that a few years ago where the Detroit Tigers put up a suggestion on the big scoreboard during a game to vandalize Wikipedia. That type of stuff just strikes a nerve with me. So it's better just to be straightforward about it and say what I think. Sorry for the rant! Smallbones(smalltalk) 16:16, 4 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
@True Pagan Warrior: See "Gobbler of the month" at Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2019-05-31/In the media. Smallbones(smalltalk) 16:26, 4 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
The rant helps me understand your process, and I certainly support the goal. As a practicing journalist, I'll have to disagree with you about the tactics, but I suppose it's really a question of whether one should consider the Signpost to be journalism or not. If it's just a newsletter, then you're 100% in the right. If not, I'll give you 85%. ~TPW 16:33, 4 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
For what it's worth, I find the the "gobbler of the month" raises no similar questions from me, because there's no sense that opinion is injected by the reporter. ~TPW 16:35, 4 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I scan the news for interesting Wiki-relevant things for pretty much every Signpost issue. There's usually a smattering of "so-and-so's article got vandalized, isn't that fun". We don't usually run any of these. There's a pretty high bar in the for why it would interest the community, and sometimes they get discussed beforehand in the SP newsroom like this. ☆ Bri (talk) 18:52, 4 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks @Bri and True Pagan Warrior: Bri certainly does add a lot to this column, which includes warnings to me on a fairly regular basis not to get sucked into these types of articles. Part of our objective here is to let our readers know what the outside world is saying about us. Part of that is some very ignorant blather such as the Express story above. So I'll get caught on this type of thing a bit too often, but it does serve our goal. Our readers should not be surprised when they see that type of story in the press. But I do try to limit the coverage of these nonsense stories.
TPW: I'm glad you brought up journalistic standards. We don't dicuss this enough. So I'll include a link here to the SPJ Code of Ethics and note that they are written more like enWiki's Guidelines than our Policies. Common sense needs to be applied. Feel free to comment here or via email anytime on The Signpost's standards or any ethic lapses. Everybody needs a reminder every now and then. I have thought a long time about adding a notice here about being a journalism review rather than straight news. Dear editor-in-chief @JPxG: what do you think? Smallbones(smalltalk) 22:09, 4 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]
If this were marked as a review, then yes I think that would do it, but why not just find a source and leave the writer's opinion out of everything that isn't specifically an editorial? I don't think it's inappropriate to cover this issue, because it surely is of interest to the community. I'm just not clear why it's difficult to cover it in a journalistic fashion, particularly by sourcing every opinion to someone other than the writer of the article. ~TPW 13:19, 5 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]

On Nellie Biles and checking Wikipedia

A while ago my mother couldn't remember what year she and my late father got married. I couldn't remember either, so I checked my father's article, which told us it's 1991. She said that sounds right.

It did make me wonder how many people there are who do that, and whether there are any cases of citogenesis into someone's own narrative of their life. -- Tamzin[cetacean needed] (she|they|xe) 06:35, 6 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Silly games

I submit that any effort to determine who can go the fastest from "Jimmy Wales" to "Stroopwafel" must certainly involve Drmies, a well-known stroopwafel expert. Cullen328 (talk) 07:09, 7 October 2023 (UTC)[reply]


The Signpost · written by many · served by Sinepost V0.9 · 🄯 CC-BY-SA 4.0