Criticism of Wikipedia is all the rage now, after a number of damaging scandals involving political staffers and other vested interests editing articles. Wikipedia has taken a number of steps to fix these problems, but some people still like to ride the wave.
It is a question of time before the Wikipedia self-destructs and implodes. It poses such low barriers to entry (anyone can edit any number of its articles) that it is already attracting masses of teenagers as “contributors” and “editors”, not to mention the less savory flotsam and jetsam of cyber-life. People who are regularly excluded or at least moderated in every other Internet community are welcomed, no questions asked, by this wannabe self-styled “encyclopedia”
Six cardinal (and, in the long-term, deadly) sins plague this online venture. What unites and underlies all its deficiencies is simple: Wikipedia dissembles about what it is and how it operates. It is a self-righteous confabulation and its success in deceiving the many attests not only to the gullibility of the vast majority of Netizens but to the PR savvy of its sleek and slick operators.
Go ahead and read the whole thing: I can’t in good legal standing blockquote the whole thing, but it’s all deliciously insipid and ridiculous like that. This is the same sort of argument that opponents of open-source software make: “You can’t just let anyone make contributions to your code! Why, that’s ridiculous! It’ll never be any good!”
But of course it’s not that simple. As I said, Wikipedia has taken a number of steps to insure that content is messed with as little as possible—they always have, but it’s gotten even more strict as of late.
But don’t take my word for it: why don’t you watch a Wikipedia user destroy his arguments?
Almost all of Sam’s comments are invalid, badly thought through or flatly wrong. Wikipedia is not opaque and does not encourage recklessness. Wikipedia is not an anarchy. Wikipedia does not lack quality control by design. Sam provides us with no evidence to back up his assertion that Wikipedia rewards quantity over quality, and he is unable to show how we are not an open source effort. Wikipedia, despite what Sam says, is an encyclopedia and this is backed up by the definitions contained in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, Microsoft’s Encarta and the 6th edition of Columbia Encyclopedia. Further, Wikipedia does not make anyone use Wikipedia as their exclusive mode of research, and in fact encourages them to look elsewhere when doing research for university or school. Finally, Wikipedia deals with libel through the Wikimedia Foundation and Office Actions; it also has a designated agent who can deal with copyright issues, along with a mechanism for the community to catch copyright violations before it gets to that point.
But that’s not all there is. A little bit of research into Sam Vaknin reveals a pretty funny story in and of itself. You see, Sam Vaknin is so wonderfully ironic that I can hardly communicate it. He’s got an awful little website, you see, in which he hawks the book he wrote called Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited about a personality disorder called “Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)” Yes, you’re probably thinking the same thing: a man clearly in love with himself proffers his “expertise” on Narcissism. It’s just as awesome as it sounds. In fact, Vaknin was diagnosed with NPD in 1996, while serving a prison sentence in Israel.
“Just what is Sam Vaknin’s expertise in psychology?” you might ask. Well, it just so happens that Sam himself answers this question in the following manner (helpfully blockquoted for emphasis):
I am NOT a mental health professional – read the DISCLAIMER
Aye, there’s the rub. According to Vaknin’s own biography, his education goes something like this:
- “Graduated a few semesters in the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa”
- Technion appears to be an accredited institution. I wonder, however, about Vaknin’s wording. Did he mean that he graduated in a few semesters? Or did he mean that he completed only a few semesters? He certainly doesn’t say what in.
- Ph.D. in Philosophy (major: Philosophy of Physics) – Pacific Western University, California, USA.
- Pacific Western University is a “distance-learning” university that is not accredited. Vaknin apparently earned a doctorate, although they don’t even appear to offer a doctoral program anymore. I don’t even want to think what kind of academic rigor they must have applied. Note, too, that his field is philosophy and not international business or psychology.
- “Graduate of numerous courses in Finance Theory and International Trading”
- This appears to answer my earlier question: Vaknin uses “pass” and “graduate” interchangeably, which means that he likely never completed any undergraduate program at Technion, and makes me further wonder how much his “doctorate” is worth. Apparently, having taken “numerous courses” in business, he considers himself an expert—indeed, pimps his role as economic advisor to Macedonia (this is oft-cited, but I’ve been unable to discover in just what capacity he served).
And that’s it. Oh, but wait, I forgot that he’s
- Certified E-Commerce Concepts Analyst by Brainbench.
- Certified in Psychological Counselling Techniques by Brainbench.
- Certified Financial Analyst by Brainbench.
Now, when Sam Vaknin uses the word “certified,” he means it in the same way that he “graduated courses.” Brainbench doesn’t offer certification of any sort. It’s a website with online tests that strive to offer a prediction of employee success. Saying that BrainBench “certifies” you is like saying that Quizilla can “diagnose” you. Vaknin isn’t actually certified in anything—at most, he’s reasonably well-informed in these particular issues.
Thus, it’s no surprise that an admitted narcissist and meagre-but-prolific journalist would take such a stance against Wikipedia: his stereotype of the “anonymous Wikipedian (statistically, an obese and schizod [sic] teenager with no life and grandiose compensatory fantasies)” routinely outdoes Vaknin’s own efforts, and he’s mad this his own contributions to Wikipedia were undone by an astute editor, despite Vaknin’s claims that he has never edited any articles. He claims there’s “no proof,” though my guess is he is unaware of such things as IP addresses and other such footprints. Banning abusive users is old hat at Wikipedia, Vaknin: you’re hardly the first undereducated troll that’s been kicked.