CaFeConf 2007; unacademic knowledge

CaFeConf 2007 is just finished, and WMF had no less than Wikimedia Argentina’s Patricio Lorente representing. CaFeConf 2007 is the 6th conference of open/free software and GNU/Linux and is held each year in Buenos Aires (at least, as far as I can tell from Google’s translation of the Spanish Wikipedia article – any volunteers for translating it to English? :)).

Patricio’s slides are licensed under the GFDL and there is also video although the sound quality in particular is not too great. I believe his talk about the problems wiki communities face as they grow in size, but since I don’t understand Spanish I can’t tell you the nuances of it.

I was lucky enough to have Patricio attend my Wikimania talk. Lucky, because Patricio is a true believer, passionate and enthusiastic, and interested in the kinds of problems I mentioned in my talk. (And a lovely chap to boot.)

One of the last slides from his talk says this:

Recordar, todo el tiempo, que son
los novatos quienes llegan con
contenido nuevo en su equipaje.
La megalólopis Wikipedia debe
poder recibirlos con la calidez y
comprensión propia de la pequeña
aldea.

Or, as rendered by Google Translate:

Remember, all the time, which are
Novices who arrive with
New content in his luggage.
The encyclopedia should megalólopis
Able to receive them with warmth and
Own understanding of the small
Village.

I suppose this is a poetic restating of WP:BITE, which is just as well, because it never hurts to be reminded why exactly biting newcomers is bad (not just because others are watching). (If you can speak Spanish I’d love to know a more natural translation.)

I did an interview this morning on a friendly morning talk show, your basic “what is Wikipedia, how do you know it’s reliable, WikiScanner/Captain Smirk" deal. At one point they commented on my job title (computational linguist) and said something like, “I suppose that helps with all the wiki stuff.” And I remembered no… Wikipedia is not just for the geeks and the technically literate. Two million articles, big deal. If we really want to accurately represent “the sum of all human knowledge” we need input from all humans, not just the ones who understands 1s and 0s.

I mentioned farming and parenting as two fields that we need more input on. I have a farmer friend and I know he knows a ton of things that are poorly represented in Wikipedia, if at all. Farmers are generally out farming, rather than watching morning TV with a laptop in hand, no surprise there. But I guess in the future there will be more conflict between “knowledge” and “stuff without sources”. The ever-increasing crackdown on the need for citations and reliable sources should make the showdown necessary. Because it is no secret that science and the arts and academia have not studied everything that makes up people’s lives, even in a western country like Australia.

Do I sound anti-sources? I’m not. For a good many topics a reliable sources crackdown is the only way to go. But when otherwise uncontroversial, useful articles get deleted as “non-notable” because there are no possible sources because academia hasn’t come to it yet, I think we are not applying the fifth pillar quite often enough.

If there is no conflict, it could only mean the sources brigade had a victory and the keepers of “unacademic knowledge” left early, defeated. I would consider that a loss.

23 October, 2007 • , ,

Comment

1

“Remember, all the time, that the newbies are the ones who arrive with new content in their luggage.
The megalopolis Wikipedia should be able to receive them with the the small village’s warmth and understanding.”

Dear Brianna, I think this version could be more accurate, but don’t trust my english :)

Thanks for your kind comments. By the way, you have understood quite well what I talked about.

Patricio · 24. October 2007, 00:35

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