Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Comment about the new colors: I believe that the new colors are not a registered trademark of Paul Ginsparg. Moreover, mine are better.

Just a short comment about this creation of Jimbo Wales et al. I am impressed how unexpectedly efficient Wikipedia is. Virtually all of its entries can be edited by anyone in the world, even without any kind of registration. When you realize that there are billions of not-so-smart people and hundreds of millions of active idiots living on this blue planet - and many of them have an internet access - it is remarkable that Wikipedia's quality matches that of Britannica.

But this kind of hypertext source of knowledge is exactly what the web was originally invented for.

Moreover I am sure that Wikipedia covers many fields much more thoroughly than Britannica - and theoretical physics may be just another example. Start with list of string theory topics, 2000+ of my contributions, or any other starting point you like. Try to look for the Landau pole, topological string theory, heterotic string, or thousands of other articles that volunteers helped to create and improve. Are you unsatisfied with some of these pages? You can always edit them.

You may also try to search for your name. Chances are that your page, perhaps including a photograph, has been added by your humble correspondent. For example, are you Lenny Susskind, Joe Polchinski, Cumrun Vafa, Nima Arkani-Hamed, Andrew Strominger, Juan Maldacena, Nathan Seiberg, Edward Witten, Eva Silverstein, Shamit Kachru? Do you think the texts about you, your discoveries, and your colleagues are inaccurate? You may edit them, too.

Of course that Wikipedia is not perfect. Being perfect in the real world is the same thing as being dead. For example, Shahriar Afshar tries to maintain a promotional article about his own "revolutionary" experiment (that we discussed here) and another, very powerful clique of Wikicrackpots will never allow the Wikipedia readers to learn why loop quantum gravity is wrong. (I was informed that a certain "Tweet Tweet" has identified himself or herself in the previous sentence, and I can confirm that the identification is correct.) If certain paradigms are popular within the community of the Wikieditors, it is reasonable to expect that the presentation will be twisted in a certain way. Nevertheless, if one looks at the final result, it looks unexpectedly balanced to me.

Some of the recent incidents have been covered in ridiculous ways by the mainstream media. For example, Brian Chase has made a good prank and edited the page about John Seigenthaler Sr. to argue that he was participating in the assasination of John F. Kennedy. Because the page about John Seigenthaler Sr. is obviously not the most attractive page at Wikipedia, it took nearly half a year before the apparent hoax was found and pointed out to Seigenthaler himself. Media, including FoxNews, then celebrated Seigenthaler as a hero and the amount of positive feedback he received exceeded any possible damage caused by the Wikipedia article by several orders of magnitude. He should definitely be very grateful not only to Brian Chase but to all people behind Wikipedia.

Even though I think that such pranks are funny, I also support some recent policies meant to regulate the editing process of Wikipedia. For example, the page about George W. Bush - and several pages that ignite a similar amount of controversy - can only be edited by registered users whose accounts are not new. In my opinion, this should become the default rule for all pages that have been shown to be controversial.


  1. Lubos:
    Are you aware of This statement by Joseph Polchinski, and the affairs that the statement is related? Just curious.

  2. It's to bad you have become disillusioned with what could have been a good thing for people who wanted to know more about particular subjects.

    So are your contributions to Wiki intact?

  3. Dear Quantoken,

    the readers of this blog who are more careful than you have known the statement for several months.

    Plato, I am not disillusioned.

    99% contributions of mine to Wikipedia tend to survive, and my goal is not to keep them "intact". The true goal is to provoke others to improve them which is happening in many cases.

    Of course that what I write is truth and nothing else than the truth in 99% of cases (not necessarily the same 99% as those above). ;-)

    All the best

  4. 99% contributions of mine to Wikipedia tend to survive, and my goal is not to keep them "intact". The true goal is to provoke others to improve them which is happening in many cases.

    Ah, this is good then.

    So "appearance" has lead to incentives to continue.

    We of layman status count on this willingness of those who would lead us into deeper insights.

    Conclusion: Wiki is then, not a failure.

    Ps.I have taken to assigning dates of "information quotes" that lead me to wiki topics explanations, as a measure then of how such changes were made from that date linked.

    This will be evident then, if one follows link and finds new information.

    The "Sokal affair" although dishonest spark the same furior.

    Helped one to recognize the continue responsibility we have to go back and check, even though this might not be what one might want.

    Would you have rather be held under the illusionment of what somebody contrary to your views would have instigated?

    Not that this would happen? But your case, in point on Wiki tampering, certainly makes this seem true?