Silent Cinema Wiki?

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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fhalden

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Silent Cinema Wiki?

PostTue May 06, 2008 12:46 pm

Is there any support for the idea of establishing a Wiki specifically addressing early cinema? I've read of the frustrations attendant to ImDB and Wikipedia. Perhaps a dedicated Wiki could develop into a self-correcting reference work.

:?:

If there's substantial interest, I can work on the technical side of things. My personal knowledge-base isn't nearly in the same league as most who post here (I've learned so much from this site), but I know my Web 2.0 technologies and would be excited to do startup.
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PostTue May 06, 2008 3:58 pm

The alt.movies.silent FAQ certainly needs updating. It has not changed since 2002.

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Wiki

PostTue May 06, 2008 4:04 pm

Plus the FAQ can't grow and be constantly reviewed, along with proper academic attention to footnoting sources, and leveraging hyperlinks to grow the Wiki, and to maintain a high peer-reviewed standard reference. A properly fostered Wiki could become the standard online reference for Silent Film, and it's very economical. :D
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Re: Wiki

PostWed May 07, 2008 10:02 am

fhalden wrote:Plus the FAQ can't grow and be constantly reviewed, along with proper academic attention to footnoting sources, and leveraging hyperlinks to grow the Wiki, and to maintain a high peer-reviewed standard reference. A properly fostered Wiki could become the standard online reference for Silent Film, and it's very economical. :D


It's a great offer, heaven knows I don't have the skill to create something like that. I'm interested in alternative forms of disseminating information and scholarship (websites, etc.), but to be honest, so far I'm not at all enchanted with the wiki format as a medium for presenting scholarship. Wikipedia is a joke, all you need are a couple of firing synapses and a keyboard. I assume you would limit the ability to input or change information to a select group of people with Proven Chops? and require information presented to adhere to rigorous standards of scholarship? two things which are, by the way, not necessarily related?

This is not meant to be discouraging because (as I said) I am very interested in alternative forms for presenting materials. I have seen web pages that contain far more trustworthy information than you'd find in any book or journal. Please 'splain more. Let us cogitate.

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Whither, whether, wiki

PostWed May 07, 2008 10:49 am

I certainly understand your reservations about the wiki format.

Interestingly, in a study published in the peer-reviewed journal "Nature," the researchers compared the accuracy and usability of articles taken from Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica, and found the accuracy and usability rates almost equal. From the abstract:

"For its study, Nature chose articles from both sites in a wide range of topics and sent them to what it called "relevant" field experts for peer review. The experts then compared the competing articles--one from each site on a given topic--side by side, but were not told which article came from which site. Nature got back 42 usable reviews from its field of experts.

In the end, the journal found just eight serious errors, such as general misunderstandings of vital concepts, in the articles. Of those, four came from each site. They did, however, discover a series of factual errors, omissions or misleading statements. All told, Wikipedia had 162 such problems, while Britannica had 123.

That averages out to 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia. "


That being noted, I do think that it is indeed preferable that the wiki be created, at least in the beginning, by users with proven backgrounds and expertise in the subject area.

However, the philosophy the wiki isn't to make it difficult to make an error, but to make correction as quick and easy as possible. Moderators who review articles can flag issues such as a lack of citations, objectivity, disputed facts and such. The wiki format provides for all these things. For example, there are varying views of Iris Barry's role in film history. The wiki could provide not only for a richly linked coverage of Ms. Barry's story, but also, for example, James Card's take on her (hopefully linked to an equally comprehensive article on him).

The wiki also records and provides an exhaustive revision history so that a researcher can see the current state of the article, as well as all revisions, the revisionists, and the dates of the revision. Controversial articles can also contain a heading noting the controversy and a dedicated discussion thread where the competing viewpoints and/or disputed facts can be expressed in detail.

In a subject area such as silent film, where factual gaps are unfortunately all too common, this aspect of the wiki structure could serve readers very well. In fact, I would suspect that in many cases articles might provide links to preexisting topic pages on this site.

The idea for creating a wiki was born from a topic on this board regarding the problem of inaccuracies in ImDB, and the impracticality of trying to correct those errors. The Wiki is explicitly designed to address just this difficulty. If you read a wiki article and find a factual error, you can correct it straightaway.

All that being said, I reiterate that having the initial access to writing wiki articles restricted to writers with proven "chops," is a very good idea. However, that policy will in time serve to restrict the growth of the wiki. I'm no expert on silent film, but I've read enough material on D.W. Griffith to write a fully cited biographical article on him, knowing that the recognition and correction of any unfortunate error can be instantly corrected.

Wikis aren't perfect by any means, but they are perhaps the most efficiently perfectible of any knowledge-base, in print or on the web. Right now, information on silent film on the Internet exists as a diaspora, and who knows how to review and correct errors that might exist on these sites, if you can even find them.

I propose a wiki to supplant this lack of structure with an externally centralized, but structurally decentralized hyper-textual opus of information, nurtured and continually improved by those for whom this material is so deeply treasured.

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Re: Whither, whether, wiki

PostWed May 07, 2008 11:22 am

fhalden wrote:In the end, the journal found just eight serious errors, such as general misunderstandings of vital concepts, in the articles. Of those, four came from each site. They did, however, discover a series of factual errors, omissions or misleading statements. All told, Wikipedia had 162 such problems, while Britannica had 123.

That averages out to 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia. "


That is very interesting! Several years ago there was a creeping tendency to occasionally cite wikipedia articles as sources in scholarly writing; Fiats From On High (at least in my neck of the woods) put a stop to that. Which is OK, since no encyclopedia, Britannic or otherwise, should be sourced; they're starting points. I use wikipedia myself sometimes, but it's a weird beast and I don't trust it for much except for detailed descriptions of Star Trek episodes.

That being noted, I do think that it is indeed preferable that the wiki be created, at least in the beginning, by users with proven backgrounds and expertise in the subject area.

However, the philosophy the wiki isn't to make it difficult to make an error, but to make correction as quick and easy as possible. Moderators who review articles can flag issues such as a lack of citations, objectivity, disputed facts and such. The wiki format provides for all these things. For example, there are varying views of Iris Barry's role in film history. The wiki could provide not only for a richly linked coverage of Ms. Barry's story, but also, for example, James Card's take on her (hopefully linked to an equally comprehensive article on him).


Since so many of us here are involved in research I would hope that such a wiki could incorporate newer material, stuff that hasn't yet been published? I'd trust Brent Walker in a heartbeat over anyone else writing about Sennett, or Bruce Calvert about Raymond Griffith. Or our very own Harlett about Helen Morgan. The same Helen Morgan who was NOT in any way related to Charley Chase and it doesn't matter how many times you read that in Andy Edmonds.

The idea for creating a wiki was born from a topic on this board regarding the problem of inaccuracies in ImDB, and the impracticality of trying to correct those errors. The Wiki is explicitly designed to address just this difficulty. If you read a wiki article and find a factual error, you can correct it straightaway.


Would you not eventually run into the same problems that the imdb has? The imdb takes it's information from published sources; they don't allow anyone and everyone to alter that information (see previous remarks about synapses and keyboards). It's a problem when the published sources are wrong. Also, the larger or more complex such a critter gets, the less flexible it will become. Is there a way to minimize the elephantiasis? Should there be a "Wiki Board of Directors", such as we have with the moderators of this group? And a fine job they do, by the way. I doff my grape-laden turban to them.

All that being said, I reiterate that having the initial access to writing wiki articles restricted to writers with proven "chops," is a very good idea. However, that policy will in time serve to restrict the growth of the wiki.


That might actually be preferable.

I propose a wiki to supplant this lack of structure with an externally centralized, but structurally decentralized hyper-textual opus of information, nurtured and continually improved by those for whom this material is so deeply treasured.


What he said. Yeah.

Anyone else have any input on this?

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PostWed May 07, 2008 11:58 am

Agreed, the FAQ would be a good place to begin. And agree entry ought to be limited to known people and not to the general public.

I'm not really that familiar with how IMDB works to know what we could realistically do to rival/supplement it. I know when i try to even link to one of my reviews my change never goes through, so i'm not sure who the priveledged few are who get to actually make changed (especially when people take things from my website, restate it in slightly different words, and post it on IMDB and Wikipedia without credit). Don't we have some people in the know in this group who seem to have their changes go through? Do they not allow changes that contradict a printed source, even when the printed source is wrong? If they don't allow changes, could we perhaps add to the comments, or write something for the wiki and link to it? As much as we complain about IMDB (and wikipedia) they are right most of the time and are really incredibly useful for quick lookups. I think supplementation/correcting misinformation is a more useful goal than reinventing the wheel.

Do Wikis allow social tagging or searching? If you get beyond a screen of entries it might get unwieldy to find the topic you want. I"ve only worked with Confluence on specific documents, so i'm not sure how it works if you get a lot of different topics on there, and it was kind of annoying to have to go up and down in the tree to find anything.

Are there other Web 2.0 technologies that might be useful? I'm starting work on a Del.icio.us site for the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and find the tagging function very useful. If you want a sneak preview, it's here:
http://del.icio.us/NilesEssanaySilentFilmMuseum
But i'm working my way slowly through the sites i already have bookmarked or linked elsewhere, so don't send me any more links yet. When i'm further along i'll ask for help. Anyway, let me know what you think and if you have suggestions/comments on the tag categories or how they are applied.

I'm also finding the "my library" function on Google books useful, though i'm still pissed they are not giving us the index results from the whole books in preview or snippet mode. But again these "libraries" can be shared (i already put the links Del.icio.us). Now i have to figure out if Internet Archive or YouTube have similar features.

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PostWed May 07, 2008 12:51 pm

no encyclopedia, Britannic or otherwise, should be sourced; they're starting points.


Exactly. A silent film wiki should not constitute a primary source, in any academic sense. It should rigorously cite to those sources, and link to them where possible. In my ideal world, I'd prefer the level of citation one would see in peer-reviewed Journal articles, and citations can be added, as amendments, to support factual assertions that are already in an article.

Since so many of us here are involved in research I would hope that such a wiki could incorporate newer material, stuff that hasn't yet been published?


That would be great! Of course some researchers may not want to pre-release research, but that's an individual decision.

it doesn't matter how many times you read that in Andy Edmonds.


If you saw in an article a reference to erroneous research by Mr. Edmonds, you would be able to correct it, immediately. The revision would be noted, what was changed would be noted, and if the change warrants further discussion, that discussion is provided in the wiki, or perhaps in many circumstances a link to a pre-existing forum for that discussion. This site, for example. Wikis and online traditional closed databases such as ImDB contrast on this point more than on any other.

For example, suppose the article in ImDB listed an artist's date of birth as 1970 instead of the proper 1907. How quickly could that error be rectified?

In a wiki, one could correct it as soon as it is discovered, again, with the correction recorded, the differences recorded, and the corrector recorded.

No one would be able to anonymously edit this wiki. Period.

Regarding the possible unwieldy restrictions on the growth of the wiki, I can say that my experience in this type of information structure comes primarily from my work as a Systems and Database Administrator. In software development, where dozens or even hundreds of programmers are constantly changing/correcting the software code, companies make use of a "Revision Control" system that basically does what a wiki does, but for changes in the code.

As the body of written and changed software grows, the control system becomes indispensable to managing such a huge body of software text. 100 programmers simultaneously writing and re-writing literally millions of lines of code cannot manage the information they are generating without such a system. This is crucial, because inaccuracies in software code will crash the server, or otherwise make the software stop working. So the wiki, as an adapted revision control system, is a powerful tool for managing and maintaining a large, growing body of knowledge where accuracy is the paramount value.

Moderators? Absolutely! Moderators would cover an area, and perform certain top-level editorial jobs like flagging an article as being insufficiently cited, or noting where objectivity is disputed. In such cases they would also create forums where the question of the article's objectivity could be discussed. There, the question should be resolved one way or the other, or not at all, whereupon it would then be appropriate for the controversy to be noted in the main article. A silent film wiki would most likely contain many such instances. The wiki would, then, accurately reflect not only an established body of facts, but also a living record of current understandings of the topic.

Moderators would have the power to ultimately resolve the issue as well by correcting, editing, or in some circumstances deleting material. By the way, once such a moderator reads the two pages (roughly) of tutorials on how to do these things, jobs such as flagging an article or creating a discussion group literally take a minute or two. I can't say that I agree that the larger the site gets, the less flexible it becomes. The advantage of the wiki is that it provides just the opposite. The data management is almost entirely automated.

Say, for example, I'm reading an article on "The Scarlett Letter," and the name "Colleen More" appears. You note now, as I would then, the misspelling. First, I'd correct the spelling, then, if her name is not a link, I'd make it a link. The system would automatically create a blank template page for Colleen Moore which I could then write, or not. Maybe I'd come over here and mention that there's no Colleen Moore page. Still, the blank page is there, and makes it known that the wiki could be improved by the addition of a Colleen Moore article.

In 3 minutes I've improved the accuracy of the knowledge-base, and extended the scope of it. If I am able and willing, I could write the Colleen Moore article, which could then subsequently be extended or improved.

A Board of Directors is an idea with which I have no problem whatsoever. I'd even probably call it an "Editorial Board." When I was in Law School I edited a Law Journal, and saw first-hand how much revision could still improve articles written by first-class legal scholars. I should point out, however, that one of the main gripes about ImDB, is that it operates under the "centralized authority" model. Their "Board of Directors" approach impedes correction rather than facilitating it.

One thing about which I'm sure is that everyone's main concern about a wiki is that it contain accurate information. This is as it should be. I can only say that the success of wikis both in industry and on the public web derives mainly from the unprecedented ease with which corrections may be implemented.

The wiki, in my opinion, offers the most efficient path to a knowledge-base about Silent Film that is comprehensive and accurate. In print, corrections require a second or third edition, and take years. In a Web 1.0 model like ImDB, corrections may take months, if they are considered at all. The wiki offers experts and devotees a way to rapidly build and continually perfect the textual presentation of a body of knowledge. Corrections take no longer than the time required to type and submit, are not allowed anonymously, and are documented so that any issues taken can be publicly addressed and hopefully resolved.

Finally, I hasten to add that I propose a wiki not as a competitor to this fantastic site. If anything, they would stand to compliment each other. Discussions in a wiki are strictly limited to a disputed fact. This site is a gold mine forum of experts and fans. The wiki would be a reference work where anyone could find information about the silent era, along with citations and references to primary sources.


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PostWed May 07, 2008 1:59 pm

Agreed, the FAQ would be a good place to begin. And agree entry ought to be limited to known people and not to the general public.



I don't object to revising the FAQ, but that's not really beginning anything. In the wiki model, the FAQ would have a page, detailing its history and providing, at the least, a link to it. As it is now, site FAQ's largely get maintained, and subject FAQ's don't. Also, control over the distribution and revision of subject FAQs is impossible. Is the 2002 version of the alt.movies.silent the authoritative one? Is it the one I'm sure to get if I go hunting on USENET? How do I let everyone know that there is a new one? What about the older versions that might be cached in any number of places, or posted on any number of sites? Bringing the FAQ into the wiki removes or minimizes all these uncertainties.


I'm not really that familiar with how IMDB works to know what we could realistically do to rival/supplement it. I know when i try to even link to one of my reviews my change never goes through, so i'm not sure who the priveledged few are who get to actually make changed (especially when people take things from my website, restate it in slightly different words, and post it on IMDB and Wikipedia without credit). Don't we have some people in the know in this group who seem to have their changes go through? Do they not allow changes that contradict a printed source, even when the printed source is wrong? If they don't allow changes, could we perhaps add to the comments, or write something for the wiki and link to it?


You ask some great questions here which illuminate the problems with ImDB. Who knows what lies behind editorial decisions on ImDB? In a wiki, that is never a question. And comments appended to an ImDB article are not likely to be read, if they are even published. And on every Wiki page it's simple to link from the wiki article to any resource on the web.


As much as we complain about IMDB (and wikipedia) they are right most of the time and are really incredibly useful for quick lookups. I think supplementation/correcting misinformation is a more useful goal than reinventing the wheel.

Agreed about the usefulness of ImDB and Wikipedia. My problem with ImDB is that they take forever to correct their data, if they correct it at all. It is, of course, a viable option that some body of persons undertake to correct the pages on Wikipedia - as you note, they are right most of the time, and that is without the level of oversight a moderated wiki could provide. My reason for proposing a dedicated wiki is that experts in the field could contribute to a knowledge-base that could become an identifiable authoritative reference dedicated to silent film. My goal is not to reinvent the wheel, but rather to replace the horses with an engine. Or something like that.

Do Wikis allow social tagging or searching? If you get beyond a screen of entries it might get unwieldy to find the topic you want. I"ve only worked with Confluence on specific documents, so i'm not sure how it works if you get a lot of different topics on there, and it was kind of annoying to have to go up and down in the tree to find anything.



The data structure you describe is a hierarchical one, rather than a deeply hypertextual (web) one. An historical example: WHen the web was young, the preferred way to seach for stuff was to go to Yahoo and dig down through menus from broad topics to narrow ones, eventually zeroing in on the subject you need. As the web exploded, this hierarchical model became, as you mention, annoying. It was the advent of textual searching that revolutionized information retrieval. A wiki provides both. You need not search a tree, as the data is related by nouns and verbs e.g. Latham Loop, or Tinting. Ideally, any noun or verb which falls within the scope of the wiki would be a link to an article on that verb or noun. There is a global search available, and a Google search of the site can be embedded on every page.

Are there other Web 2.0 technologies that might be useful? I'm starting work on a Del.icio.us site for the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and find the tagging function very useful. If you want a sneak preview, it's here:
http://del.icio.us/NilesEssanaySilentFilmMuseum


First of all, congratulations on your del.icio.us page. Looks like I'll be hanging out there for the afternoon. I don't think that the usefulness of your page, which echoes the older web rings and personal link pages with the added power of tagging, is in competition with the wiki concept. They aspire to achieve different things. One is a 2.0 directory, and the other a 2.0 reference. However, they can be related. Taking the nouns in your link, one could envision a Niles page, an Essanay page, a Silent Film Museums page, and even a Silent Films page, each of which would probably link both to each other inside the articles, and link to your page in the Links section found after the articles. The structure of a wiki is determined by the relations of concepts, not their hierarchical categorization.

I'm not out to beat everyone over the head with this, I just think that the emerging models of knowledge-base management can give the experts direct and efficient control over the subject matter. Undoubtedly, the shortest distance between two points here would be to review and correct the Wikipedia. My main objection to that course is that anyone can correct Wikipedia. A Silent Film wiki could be generated and maintained by the scholars, both professional and avocational, who really care about providing the world with a reference that is accurate both in fact and in portraying disputes.


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PostWed May 07, 2008 3:06 pm

I don't object to revising the FAQ, but that's not really beginning anything. In the wiki model, the FAQ would have a page, detailing its history and providing, at the least, a link to it. As it is now, site FAQ's largely get maintained, and subject FAQ's don't. Also, control over the distribution and revision of subject FAQs is impossible. Is the 2002 version of the alt.movies.silent the authoritative one? Is it the one I'm sure to get if I go hunting on USENET? How do I let everyone know that there is a new one? What about the older versions that might be cached in any number of places, or posted on any number of sites? Bringing the FAQ into the wiki removes or minimizes all these uncertainties.

It's less that i'm concerned with that FAQ as such (the first part on posting to AMS is irrelevant here). I was more thinking of culling it for some limited topics to start with, more of a "what newbies should know about silent films," which would be well adaptable to the kind of hypertext environment you describe, better in fact than the traditional FAQ question and answer format. Just a thought, but it would be a place to start, or at least to get our feet wet in the wiki format.



The data structure you describe is a hierarchical one, rather than a deeply hypertextual (web) one. An historical example: WHen the web was young, the preferred way to seach for stuff was to go to Yahoo and dig down through menus from broad topics to narrow ones, eventually zeroing in on the subject you need. As the web exploded, this hierarchical model became, as you mention, annoying. It was the advent of textual searching that revolutionized information retrieval. A wiki provides both. You need not search a tree, as the data is related by nouns and verbs e.g. Latham Loop, or Tinting. Ideally, any noun or verb which falls within the scope of the wiki would be a link to an article on that verb or noun. There is a global search available, and a Google search of the site can be embedded on every page.[quote]

Sounds good.

First of all, congratulations on your del.icio.us page. Looks like I'll be hanging out there for the afternoon.

Remember, it's just barely started! There are tons more links out there, many very good ones are listed on a Nitrateville thread (i'll raid that one later!)

Taking the nouns in your link, one could envision a Niles page, an Essanay page, a Silent Film Museums page, and even a Silent Films page, each of which would probably link both to each other inside the articles, and link to your page in the Links section found after the articles.

I would love to have some text on the Del.icio.us page for introduction, explanation, etc. but as far as i can tell the only text i can conribute is the description of the links. Annoying. At least Google Books gave me a user profile, though i apparently couldn't link from within that text and was allowed one link above (if anyone knows a way around this, let me know! Embedding HTML didn't work)

A Silent Film wiki could be generated and maintained by the scholars, both professional and avocational, who really care about providing the world with a reference that is accurate both in fact and in portraying disputes.

Disputes can be pretty heated--witness most of us being over here instead of still on a.m.s.

greta
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PostWed May 07, 2008 3:08 pm

Sorry, in the above message the quote blocks seemed to have disappeared so it's kind of hard to read. What did i do? Accidentally delete an end tag?

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PostWed May 07, 2008 5:00 pm

Greta wrote:

I'm not really that familiar with how IMDB works to know what we could realistically do to rival/supplement it. I know when i try to even link to one of my reviews my change never goes through, so i'm not sure who the priveledged few are who get to actually make changed (especially when people take things from my website, restate it in slightly different words, and post it on IMDB and Wikipedia without credit). Don't we have some people in the know in this group who seem to have their changes go through? Do they not allow changes that contradict a printed source, even when the printed source is wrong? If they don't allow changes, could we perhaps add to the comments, or write something for the wiki and link to it? As much as we complain about IMDB (and wikipedia) they are right most of the time and are really incredibly useful for quick lookups. I think supplementation/correcting misinformation is a more useful goal than reinventing the wheel.


I flatter myself that I have some experience making credit changes on the IMDB and I can assure you that it is infinitely easier to get something added than to get something removed. For example, working on the advice of.... sorry, can't remember who, but someone whose word I respected; I've been out and around all day and am exhausted physically and mentally, now, where was I? -- anyway, I got Gaston Melies' name added to the direction of some of the American Star films, but was NOT able to get Georges' name taken off. There are also some patently obviously wrong credits, like people with acting credits in films thirty years before they were born and two guys with the same birthdate, date of death and name ...... anyway, getting someone's name removed is nigh unto impossible. I also suspect they have different checkers for actors and 'main credit' personnel than for folks like d.p.s and assistant sound editors.

I also think I detect my additions going through faster now than a few years ago. This might be due to better staffing or it might be due to the fact that I have a history with them: been doing movie reviews and credit corrections for six years now.

And I certainly would rather trust the Comedy Mafia's identification than the AFI catalogue. I've seen them at work at Slapsticon and it makes my head hurt to watch them agree on who the 794th guy from the right in the two frames of that blotchy print are. I speak as someone who, one day, not having seen my father for six weeks, we managed to sit facing each other for ten minutes without any sign of recognition.

Bob

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PostWed May 07, 2008 5:52 pm

boblipton wrote:Greta wrote:
I'm not really that familiar with how IMDB works to know what we could realistically do to rival/supplement it. I know when i try to even link to one of my reviews my change never goes through, so i'm not sure who the priveledged few are who get to actually make changed (especially when people take things from my website, restate it in slightly different words, and post it on IMDB and Wikipedia without credit). Don't we have some people in the know in this group who seem to have their changes go through? Do they not allow changes that contradict a printed source, even when the printed source is wrong? If they don't allow changes, could we perhaps add to the comments, or write something for the wiki and link to it? As much as we complain about IMDB (and wikipedia) they are right most of the time and are really incredibly useful for quick lookups. I think supplementation/correcting misinformation is a more useful goal than reinventing the wheel.


It is possible to link from the imdb to something else, so it would be possible to link from a page on the imdb with incorrect information to a wiki page, I presume?

I also think I detect my additions going through faster now than a few years ago. This might be due to better staffing or it might be due to the fact that I have a history with them: been doing movie reviews and credit corrections for six years now.


I believe they accept modifications from people they trust, I've made changes to the imdb by sending them through other people. But it is far easier to get something added than it is to get something taken off. Once it appears in print it is set in stone and no power on earth suffices to get it changed. (Although that's not completely true, mentioning the name "Kenneth Anger" works.) The imdb prefers to have incorrect information rather than no information, which is a bad choice, no way around it. Ask Wendy Warwick White about her Ford Sterling filmography. Aiyeeeee.

And I certainly would rather trust the Comedy Mafia's identification than the AFI catalogue. I've seen them at work at Slapsticon and it makes my head hurt to watch them agree on who the 794th guy from the right in the two frames of that blotchy print are. I speak as someone who, one day, not having seen my father for six weeks, we managed to sit facing each other for ten minutes without any sign of recognition.


Makes your hair hurt, how do they do that? Who are all those people? And were they all named Billie? I feel your pain on the recognition thing, I actually had to be introduced to my ex-husband once. Had no clue who the guy was. More annoying for him than it was for me.

Fred
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PostWed May 07, 2008 7:26 pm

I'm not overly familiar with wikis (aside from wikipedia), but for a model of what a silent wiki *could* be, take note of the Muppet Wiki, which discusses virtually every facet of the Muppets that you could possibly think of, including articles on celebrities whose only association with the Muppets was a few guest appearances. And it looks like they're trying to catalogue every Sesame Street episode, which of course touch on many non-Muppet areas...and yet the wiki seems to include them.

Of course, Muppet material is a bit more accessible than silent films tend to be, and in our field there are certain areas in which empirical research is difficult. Still, a wiki project might be worth a try.

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Muppet Wiki!

PostWed May 07, 2008 9:47 pm

The muppet wiki is an excellent example of a limited-scope wiki. The first thing that came to my mind was, do they note the link to Chaplin's Studios? I searched on Chaplin, and lo! a picture of the little fellow, and a picture of the Kermit statue atop the old Chaplin Studios. The Chaplin text is appropriately brief for the wiki topic, as might be a Drew Barrymore page on a silent film wiki.

A Silent Film wiki could note the same Chaplin-muppet connection, in the other direction, AND/OR, link to the muppet wiki page (called an interwiki).

One thing shines through at muppetwiki. These folks love their subject, and want to share it with as many people as they can, as comprehensively as they can, and as accurately as they can. That's my motivation here, actually. I see so many excellent scholars who have worked and sacrificed to uncover the truth about the silent era, and who have saved and preserved so much information that would otherwise have been lost. How can this information be presented to the most people, in the most complete, accurate, and accessible manner? To my mind, the wiki is the best answer yet devised.

One more thing I've been thinking about. Not being a long-time contributor here, I've seen hints of a schism between some folks at this forum, and alt.movies.silent. That's all I really know about that, and probably don't want to know more. I generally avoid newsgroups because the background noise is too high. But wikis can withstand and accommodate vigorous controversy. For an example, check out the Wikipedia page on Hillary Clinton. Be sure to browse the discussion tab at the top, where the controversies are discussed. Note also that the discussion page makes clear what is expected of such an article. The edits are sometimes defended with text that surpasses the subtopic itself in length. One could argue that a topic article on a controversial subject is not actually comprehensive without presenting the controversy as it is developed on an article discussion page.

I guess what I mean to say is that factual disputes surrounding a topic are themselves worthy of note in a wiki, and can sometimes constitute a major part of the body of information attendant to a topic.

Thanks for all the vigorous replies today. My wife has wondered why I've been typing all day.

Frank Alden :D
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Re: Muppet Wiki!

PostThu May 08, 2008 8:05 am

fhalden wrote:The muppet wiki is an excellent example of a limited-scope wiki. The first thing that came to my mind was, do they note the link to Chaplin's Studios? I searched on Chaplin, and lo! a picture of the little fellow, and a picture of the Kermit statue atop the old Chaplin Studios. The Chaplin text is appropriately brief for the wiki topic, as might be a Drew Barrymore page on a silent film wiki.

A Silent Film wiki could note the same Chaplin-muppet connection, in the other direction, AND/OR, link to the muppet wiki page (called an interwiki).
Frank Alden :D


That Muppet wiki frightened me at first, who knew there were so many knowledgeable Muppologists? Upon sober reflection and some further noodling, I realized it comprehensively and reasonably discusses All Things Muppet. I guess what I'm saying here is that I wouldn't be averse to beginning a limited scope silent film wiki, but someone would have to create it...and by someone, I mean you...and I assume that someone would have to moderate it. Most of the people who have moderation time are busy here or with other projects (and that pesky "life" thing), but it sure can't hurt to give it a try. If it doesn't fly, it doesn't fly, but it might and if it does it would be a good thing. Can it start out with baby steps, with the potential to grow into a Mighty Joe Young?

Fred
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PostThu May 08, 2008 8:48 am

I guess that's sort of how I feel about this idea. Let a thousand flowers bloom, if you can make it work god bless ya, but despite doing a little contribution to Wikipedia on a few areas (eg., the Oscars, and a chunk of the entry on Frank Borzage is by me), I have certain reservations about the whole Wiki thing as representing a mistaken notion that knowledge can be nailed down on the internet when in fact the internet is a vast bazaar of information where nothing is too fixed by authority. A model like a PhpBB board is more appealing to me because it gives people lots of opportunity for back and forth and alternate points of view (see the discussion in the Colleen Moore thread, which I think is very interesting) and no question is ever settled. It's also just more sociable-- this is my morning watercooler conversation, about silent films instead of the Cubs or Obama.

But hey, if I didn't think there was always more room for more interesting content about silents and talkies online, I wouldn't have started this, either. So go for it and see where it takes you.
“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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PostThu May 08, 2008 9:59 am

Mike Gebert wrote:I guess that's sort of how I feel about this idea. Let a thousand flowers bloom, if you can make it work god bless ya, but despite doing a little contribution to Wikipedia on a few areas (eg., the Oscars, and a chunk of the entry on Frank Borzage is by me), I have certain reservations about the whole Wiki thing as representing a mistaken notion that knowledge can be nailed down on the internet when in fact the internet is a vast bazaar of information where nothing is too fixed by authority. A model like a PhpBB board is more appealing to me because it gives people lots of opportunity for back and forth and alternate points of view (see the discussion in the Colleen Moore thread, which I think is very interesting) and no question is ever settled. It's also just more sociable-- this is my morning watercooler conversation, about silent films instead of the Cubs or Obama.
.


I fall into the middle here; I see this board and a wiki as two separate but closely related thingies. If you were looking for information on Frank Borzage you might go to the wiki as your starting point (for the information such as "Frank Borzage was born in "_____") and then seque to NitrateVille for discussions of Borzage's work ("I really love/can't stand Borzage.") The first is verifiable information which can be documented (and should be), the second is opinion, fun to discuss but out of place in an encyclopedia-style entry. You can get a lot of information from searching this group and from old ams posts, but it sometimes isn't in a coherent narrative. Fine for us, but hard for a newbie to the subject.

If, by "a vast bazaar of information where nothing is too fixed by authority" you mean "99% unsubstantiated gossip, trolling, spam, ranting hysteria, porn, and just plain bilge, punctuated by occasional nuggets of gold" I would agree with you wholeheartedly! :lol:

Fred
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A plan

PostThu May 08, 2008 11:41 am

Well, here's what I think I'll do. I'll get a site set up on an operational basis, and solicit opinions on the visual style and such, then I'll seed it with some basic material, which I'll exhaustively link to stub articles. Then I'll announce, and see what happens. It's not a big financial risk, and it'll be fun on my end, so I figure, why not? I'll keep this site posted on what is going on. And thanks for all the input on this idea. Hopefully it will grow into something useful for everyone, experts and novices alike.

One thing I should mention is that the site will be copyrighted under the GNU Free Licensing scheme used at Wikipedia and most wikis. If you're not familiar with that license, you can read about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License

Frank Alden :D
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Re: A plan

PostSat May 10, 2008 9:40 am

fhalden wrote:Well, here's what I think I'll do. I'll get a site set up on an operational basis, and solicit opinions on the visual style and such, then I'll seed it with some basic material, which I'll exhaustively link to stub articles. Then I'll announce, and see what happens. It's not a big financial risk, and it'll be fun on my end, so I figure, why not? I'll keep this site posted on what is going on. And thanks for all the input on this idea. Hopefully it will grow into something useful for everyone, experts and novices alike.

Frank Alden :D


Frank, you may want to surf on over to Silent Comedians; it appears that great minds work in great ways. Sal has created a Silent Comedy wiki (you can read about it here: http://www.silentcomedians.com/forum/vi ... php?t=1057). I assume there's no reason why your wiki and the Silent Comedy wiki can't be linked.

Fred
(Wiki, wacky, woo...someone had to say it!)
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Thanks!

PostSat May 10, 2008 3:59 pm

Thanks for tipping me off to this site. I think there could be some great interwiki possibilities, if we can get the licensing set up. I'm currently configuring the security elements of the silentfilmwiki, using two temporary stub articles from wikipedia to reveal the necessary templates and other such computer geek stuff no one should ever have to see or worry about.

Just as a point of information, the text on wikipedia are licensed so that the full articles can be freely and totally reproduced and then independently modified under the terms of the GPL, so the stub articles I'm using/appropriating are not being stolen. FYI, this is the license under which the Linux operating system has grown up. It follows the philosophy that "information wants to be free," which has worked beautifully for software. The true-believers call it a copy-left.

Enough geek stuff. If you want to check out the silentfilwiki as I work on getting it ready to go over the next month or so, you can watch the construction by browsing to www.silentfilmwiki.org. Please remember that you're looking at a house under construction, and things will or will not work, variously, as I am configuring things behind the scenes, and testing out operational templates. The two articles from wikipedia that I'm using are articles for D.W. Griffith, and for "Silent Film."

If you feel adventurous, feel free to fill in a stub page. The pages will survive the construction, although they will probably be changing in their look.

It is NOT silentfilmwiki 1.0. I'll call it a 0.8beta.

Thanks again. I'll be posting many solicitations for preferences, to wit:

Should the wiki use the default wikipedia White background, or is there some other color scheme that might be a bettter aesthetic fit for the subject?

Also, I set up a quick little picture in the upper left-hand corner of the "Intolerance" babylon set. It's a bit hard to see what it is. Does anyone have a good site emblem image, of a person or setting, that would be appropriate AND in the PD?

Thanks again for all the input and help. I really want to make this site one which everyone would be proud to help improve.

One other thing, and this is thinking way ahead. Since running these things costs money, if it's as wildly successful as I hope, the current $10/month, which I can easily cover, may go up as usage goes up. If I need to, I'll set up a 403b non-profit corporation. What restoration project is most in need of any overage funds? No need for an answer at this point to be sure, but I wanted to start thinking about that so it could be in place if the bandwidth costs exceed my personal "fortune."


Frank Alden :D
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PostMon May 12, 2008 3:14 pm

Designing and starting a Wiki can be a formidable project, but once set up can quickly become a valuable resource as long as it is carefully moderated for both content and style. Well-thought-out index pages linked through category tags are a key towards making it as useful as possible. Every contributor should become aware with available categories, desired categories, and how to make sure their contributions become part of all appropriate category indexes, as well as including links to other appropriate pages (whether already existing or not).

What you've got up so far is a very good start in such a short time. You might want to look at a similarly narrow-focused film wiki that has been going about two years. The "Fargo Filmmaking Wiki Project" was originally designed to be sort of an imdb for movies made in the upper midwest, but gradually expanded to include other independent films that screened at regional festivals. The creators built it up for about seven or eight months before announcing it to the public, although pages started to show up in Google searches before then. There are two major editors who keep tabs on what has been submitted and correct the formatting if necessary to keep the style consistent, also rapidly deleting obvious vandalism that can happen with free access. Several other people (myself included) are regular contributors who upload photos, add pages, topics, links, and revisions to existing pages.

The address is http://fargofilmmaking.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page and a quick click on "Recent Changes" reveals how active and carefully moderated it is so it keeps not only within topic, but follows the established style (which has evolved somewhat) and provides information that is as accurate as can be established (note the page on "Best Practices" with its philosophies of maintaining neutrality of information, and assuming good faith in approaching any questionable information).

A silent cinema wiki can be a treasure-trove of information in one convenient spot, and a boon for providing pages that can be linked from other wikis, Wikipedia, and even the imdb.

Hope this helps, and good luck!

--Christopher Jacobs
http://www.und.nodak.edu/instruct/cjacobs
http://fargofilmmaking.wikia.com/wiki/Intro_to_Film
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Re: Muppet Wiki!

PostTue May 20, 2008 11:54 pm

fhalden wrote: For an example, check out the Wikipedia page on Hillary Clinton. Be sure to browse the discussion tab at the top, where the controversies are discussed. Note also that the discussion page makes clear what is expected of such an article. The edits are sometimes defended with text that surpasses the subtopic itself in length. One could argue that a topic article on a controversial subject is not actually comprehensive without presenting the controversy as it is developed on an article discussion page.
I guess what I mean to say is that factual disputes surrounding a topic are themselves worthy of note in a wiki, and can sometimes constitute a major part of the body of information attendant to a topic.


I'm in the middle of a conference on semantic web technologies this week, and i'm noting with some degree of interest/alarm that that there are new sites based on Wikipedia information like DBpedia and Freebase and probably lots more (and also IMDB info by way of Wikipedia). I'm concerned about the consequences of just dismissing Wikipedia because it has some inaccuracies that seem to defy correction. It looks to me that if we let inaccuracies go uncontested they will simply have a viral spread to these other sites. So i think we can't afford to ignore it. For the controversies or the "facts" from cited print sources that folks here have disproved through their research, but get switched back when they fix it--Frank, do you know how one gets one of those controversy blurbs started? How does one point out a piece of information and contest it? Is this ban on "self-published" material impossible to get around? It's not exactly self-correcting if advertised if one is not allowed to contest something that has appeared in a "reliable third party publication" unless you go to the trouble of getting yourself published first.

In the meantime, i'm going to go over the Wikipedia articles on my ladies, fact-check them. But am i allowed to add citations to my articles in the places where i can see that they have been directly quoted from my web articles without attribution? (Of course, i first need someone to tell me how to insert a footnote!)

greta

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Re: Muppet Wiki!

PostWed May 21, 2008 8:54 am

greta de groat wrote:For the controversies or the "facts" from cited print sources that folks here have disproved through their research, but get switched back when they fix it--Frank, do you know how one gets one of those controversy blurbs started? How does one point out a piece of information and contest it? Is this ban on "self-published" material impossible to get around? It's not exactly self-correcting if advertised if one is not allowed to contest something that has appeared in a "reliable third party publication" unless you go to the trouble of getting yourself published first.

greta


I hate to respond to a question with a question, but I really wonder what constitutes "original research" for Wikipedia's purposes. Their own page on avoiding original research prohibits "unpublished facts, arguments, speculation, and ideas", but the boundaries aren't always clear.

Obviously, if someone came up with a new theory of economics and tried to publish it on Wikipedia, the article would get booted. But what about (say) the thread dealing with 3-strip Technicolor, in which it's pretty much proven that "The Cat and the Fiddle" was the first live-action use of the process (or at least that "La Cucaracha" was definitely not the first)? Certainly one could cite sources to support the position, but as far as I know no previous publications have actually declared the fact of "Cucaracha" not being the first. Is that original research? Or what about proving that a star was born in (say) 1895 rather than 1899? You could cite census records, but in effect the article itself would be advancing a little-known fact, something that Wikipedia appears not to like. Any thoughts?

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Re: Muppet Wiki!

PostWed May 21, 2008 9:28 am

greta de groat wrote:
I'm in the middle of a conference on semantic web technologies this week, and i'm noting with some degree of interest/alarm that that there are new sites based on Wikipedia information like DBpedia and Freebase and probably lots more (and also IMDB info by way of Wikipedia). I'm concerned about the consequences of just dismissing Wikipedia because it has some inaccuracies that seem to defy correction. It looks to me that if we let inaccuracies go uncontested they will simply have a viral spread to these other sites. So i think we can't afford to ignore it. For the controversies or the "facts" from cited print sources that folks here have disproved through their research, but get switched back when they fix it--Frank, do you know how one gets one of those controversy blurbs started? How does one point out a piece of information and contest it? Is this ban on "self-published" material impossible to get around? It's not exactly self-correcting if advertised if one is not allowed to contest something that has appeared in a "reliable third party publication" unless you go to the trouble of getting yourself published first.
greta


Greta, there is a tab entitled "Discussion" on wikipedia, wherein you can put analysis of the facts you've stated and cited in the body of the article. That doesn't mean that someone will read it before they "correct" what you've written. Not that I'm discouraging you from trying but don't be surprised if what you input is rather quickly written over.

I've occasionally tried to add information into wikipedia, and I've seen it almost immediately reversed--even when I cite sources--so I don't have much interest in bothering with it any longer. Well, except for those pre-coffee moments when I'm feeling malicious and want to twist someone's knickers. Internet "information" has the most startling way of simply appearing, as if full-blown from Zeus's head, and I don't think there is any way to stem the tide from within wikipedia's structure. But you can link from wikipedia to another wiki, so there is no reason why you couldn't place a link on wikipedia or the imdb to the Silent Film Wiki and hope that it would go viral from there.

By the way, what are those other "informational" sites that mirror wikipedia? Better yet, why are they? What's the point? I am currently enchanted with the "NNDB" which apparently eschews even the appearance of scholarship in favor of unsubstantiated but sensational gossip. (Imagine how surprised I was to find out that Virginia Rappe dated "Fred Hibbard.")

Fred (not Hibbard)
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PostWed May 21, 2008 10:25 am

Well, now we're back to the fundamental philosophical problem with Wikipedia.

It tries to be the authoritative online source... by insisting on links to published print sources.

Anyone spot anything a little ass-backwards old media about that attitude?

I understand the reason. All in all, I'd trust Time magazine over Joe's Truth About 9/11 UFOs and Silent Movie Site. I just wouldn't trust Time magazine very far on any subject I actually know about, and certainly not next to any number of silent movie experts I actually trust. The problem is, Wikipedia bit off something enormous, so it had to develop this policy of print verification because it can't verify the Kevin Brownlows of every field on earth. Which to me says the job itself, of trying to provide basic info on everything, is fundamentally misguided. Better to recognize the wild west nature of the Web and develop your own skills for telling truth from fraud.

It looks to me that if we let inaccuracies go uncontested they will simply have a viral spread to these other sites.


Which is the nature of information since the dawn of time, no? Give you an example: when I did my movie awards book, I went back to original sources for most listings. That's because, for instance, many books list J. Carrol Naish as a Supporting Actor nominee for Gaslight. Don't remember J. Carrol Naish in Gaslight? He wasn't, he was nominated for a movie called A Medal For Benny. But someone made a transcription error in the 50s that nominated him for Gaslight instead, and it was repeated all throughout the 60s and 70s in book after book.

So, garbage in, garbage out. When I corrected and added a bunch of stuff on the Oscars pages, I cited my own book as the source. Is all of it in there? No. But the cite served to get a pass from Wikipedia, where if I had just attributed the same stuff to my own expertise, it would have been pulled.

And recognize that there aren't even people pulling stuff; it's often robots. I found, to my surprise, that my college football coach grandfather had a page. So I posted a family photo of him, laboriously verifying its non-copyright, Creative Commons License status. A week later a bot took it down because the copyright couldn't be verified. Who knows what I did wrong, but it'll be a cold day in hell before I bother spending half an hour doing anything similar.
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Back...

PostWed May 21, 2008 8:44 pm

Sorry for the silence - I'm out of town in helping out some family stuff. But I did want to post a couple of quick comments.

First...

I'm still making sure the moderator functions and templates are in shape. I''m also looking at the interwiki functions. Since all Wikipedia text is freely copy-able by the terms of the license, I will be seeding this wiki with materials from Wikipedia.

Second...

Mr. Gebert said:

Well, now we're back to the fundamental philosophical problem with Wikipedia.

It tries to be the authoritative online source... by insisting on links to published print sources.

Anyone spot anything a little ass-backwards old media about that attitude?




I think the dichotomy isn't being accurately presented here before the conclusion. That is, Wikipedia aspires to the authoritative online reference, which is a specific type of secondary information source requiring citation to a primary source And the citation standard of Wikipedia is higher than it is for other old-media reference works such as 1.) any dictionary besides the OED, 2.) Encyclopedia Britannica, and 3.) Colliers, World Book, etc.

The level of citation expected of a proper article on Wikipedia is not economically feasible for a print reference.

Too much paper.

cf. the OED. Fully cited, and not easy to access. Go to a library, order the $1200 set, or the subscription online for many pounds sterling.


Second...

Love it or hate it, Wikipedia is not going away. It will change, as is its essence, but it is not going anywhere. The ethos here is, if one really and actually cares about the accuracy of the reference material, one will correct the errors one finds. If one does not correct the reference, then one's actual dedication to the promulgation of an accurate presentation of facts can be measured, at least in part, by the inaction. Because, like it or not, the existence of, influence of, and importance of Wikipedia is not really debatable at this point.

It is editable by the reader. Finding an error, not fixing it, and then complaining about the errors is not helpful, and is logically suspect. So it could seem a bit odd to consult and complain, but not correct. If an accessible, factually and historically correct record is actually important, then shrugging off the Wikipedia is exactly the wrong strategy. It is not going to go away. Correct it, or grit teeth, smile, and accept the promulgation of incorrect information to a worldwide audience.

I think part of many persons' problems with the Wiki idea is that research is a lot of work, and that work has traditionally created a sort of property interest in the output of the research. Someone may spend 25 years studiously researching a book, only to find a fully cited regurgitation of the material on Wikipedia. This feels wrong to a lot of people, but the ethos underlying the wiki is that information wants to be free. Citation can take the interested parties to the original work, where the full product of research can be digested. However, that someone has some sort of ownership of an historical record by virtue of having unearthed it, isn't really viable anymore, like it or not. I'm not saying that anyone in this forum would assert this ownership, but it is a center of philosophical conflict often seen in this debate.


Unlike every other mass-media information reference in history, the ability to improve the quality of the Wikipedia is literally in your hands. To demean inaccuracy in Wikipedia but do nothing to decrease it strikes me as philosophically self-defeating and incompatible with a true concern for an accurate historical record.


Third...

I found, to my surprise, that my college football coach grandfather had a page. So I posted a family photo of him, laboriously verifying its non-copyright, Creative Commons License status. A week later a bot took it down because the copyright couldn't be verified. Who knows what I did wrong, but it'll be a cold day in hell before I bother spending half an hour doing anything similar.


Rightly so. The importance of this information was, possibly, not proportional to the effort you expended. The idea is that the importance of the information is related to the desire to access it by some, and the impetus to insure it is correct, by others. If the grandfather was Knute Rockne, the information would be far more likely to be sought out, accessed, corrected and expanded by others, rather than deleted. This is a particularly hot issue, as many people have gone to elaborate lengths to provide their auto-biographies, or biographies of their high-school rock band, or such, only to be upset by the deletion of the article. Deletions in the realm of biography in Wikipedia are mainly due to a moderator's decision that there may be a copyright issue, a lack of interest in the information (no page accesses), and/or lack of real noteworthiness. Deletions, by the way, are also capable of being discussed and debated, and are in some cases, reversed after debate.

Keep in mind that not only do you have the ability to alter the article, you can also protest reversals and deletions. If you disagree with the reversal or deletion, then the amount of effort you expend in defense of your work is the actual measure of its importance to you.

It is a cold, pragmatic evaluation. Important information is more likely to be corrected. And importance is measured by the effort expended to promulgate the correct information, and the demand for it.


I've got to run. I'll be back at work on the site next week. I'll keep everyone posted. The "interwiki" aspects of the site are what I'm focusing on right now, to minimize duplication of effort.

Mr. Gebart, I never fail to learn something of value when I come here. Thanks again for your admirable efforts. They are of great value to all of us, I am sure!


Frank
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PostWed May 21, 2008 9:37 pm

The virtues you cite for Wikipedia are to me, the virtues of the internet, not of a tiny subset of it operating under rules I did not agree to (and in practice, find frustrating).

I just don't agree that Wikipedia can achieve its goals, of being the one great definitive source on anything. At best, it's the equivalent of a book once found on my desk, the compact Columbia Encyclopedia, highly useful when I wanted to know if Raphael lived at the same time as Henry VIII, but not to be mistaken for reading a real book on the subject. At worst it is a source for high schoolers seeking to do a paper with minimal reading. So I think it has some value as an easy stop for basic info, but there's no reason to fret overmuch if it doesn't get it right. There will always be better sources out there, there have always been. If your wiki is one of them, then it's a good thing.

I don't mean to sound excessively dismissive of the whole idea of wikis, but I think one of the skills real researchers have to learn is questioning standard reference sources, going back to original sources with a fresh eye, thinking things through for themselves. Wikipedia seeks to find a consensus ground that everyone can agree on for every topic; while that has a certain use, I'm just more interested in other formats where the goal is not to nail down truth but to reexamine it constantly, toss it around like a ball, get different perspectives. You know, like a chat board....
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fhalden

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I think we can sort of agree

PostWed May 21, 2008 11:33 pm

At best, it's the equivalent of a book once found on my desk, the compact Columbia Encyclopedia, highly useful when I wanted to know if Raphael lived at the same time as Henry VIII, but not to be mistaken for reading a real book on the subject.


Exactly. An Encyclopedic reference is exactly what Wikipedia aspires to be. It has never been intended, nor can it be, a primary research source. I would, however, posit that it surpasses the compact Columbia Encyclopedia, if only because it is anything but compact, and far more comprehensive. And I see the difference, conceptually speaking, between a wiki, and the internet as a whole (or at least the Web) is that while the web offers the hyperlinked structure, The wiki purposefully opens the pages to editing, and the information-valuation scheme I discussed at probably far too much length before.

I have the same issue with students who do their research by siting wiki pages. I do not have a problem with them going to a wiki to find citations to primary source material. It's ofttimes by far the most efficient path to these sources. It's a reference, and intended therefore to refer, not to settle. If it is misused, that is a defect inherent in the student's procedure, not the reference.

I'll end by saying that I understand your objections, and see the problems you describe. They are not trivial, but I don't think they are fatal either.


Frank :)
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Re: Muppet Wiki!

PostWed May 21, 2008 11:57 pm

Frederica wrote:
greta de groat wrote:

By the way, what are those other "informational" sites that mirror wikipedia? Better yet, why are they? What's the point? I am currently enchanted with the "NNDB" which apparently eschews even the appearance of scholarship in favor of unsubstantiated but sensational gossip. (Imagine how surprised I was to find out that Virginia Rappe dated "Fred Hibbard.")

Fred (not Hibbard)


I'm not entirely sure of the point, i mean too me there is no point (if i want to look at Wikipedia, why wouldn't i just go there, or just follow it from Google). But people at this conference are really excited about sucking in this data and sematically tagging ie (i.e. identifying names as names, titles as titles, making RDF triples out of connections like the (subject "Frank Borzage" (predicate) "is director of" (object) "Seventh Heaven" so that that assertion is machine readable. Wikipedia information is not marked up behind the scenes like that so they are very excited about having their software do this. Check out http://dbpedia.org/About for some of the more geeky details). And then of course they want to publish it to their aggregated site. Freebase (http://www.freebase.com/) was on everybody's lips, and it's already being raided for content by other services. For their film data, they used Wikipedia a because they couldn't use IMDB directly, but Wikipedia apparently includes IMDB identifiers so they took those. And i saw yet another one demo'ed today (at a program called "Rising stars of the semantic web" so it's apparently considered a hot new site). It's called Powerset (http://www.powerset.com/) and is also repackaging wikipedia data into RDF, which on checking their Norma Talmadge page ends up with some funny results (look up norma and right under the brief bio is "Factz" and click on the "more" button). Though the results are obviously silly they will probably get better as the technology improves. I was even talking to one of the exhibitors about something else and he showed me his app for mining movie info from Wikipedia! (i asked him to find Harrison Ford and when he got 2 he thought it was a mistake!). Some of these sites are pulling in that boxed info on the right sidebar.

THat said, there may be some cool tools that we can take advantage of. I'm going to experiment with Open Calais and see how their automatic semantic tagging works. It might be worth experimenting with it once the wiki is up. They also include a widget to put on your page that has something to do with Yahoo Marmoset, but i've forgotten exactly what. I'm waiting for an invitation to Twine, which is a community of experts thatmay have some features we could find useful.

One thing i heard from several people, though, is basically "i don't want to search IMDB or Wikipedia or whatever site, i just want the information." So basically people just want whatever they want delivered right to their computer of mobile phone or blackberry or whatever without having to figure out a site to go look it up or even bothering to google it. So they appear to have no interest in figuring out what is authoritative. And frankly, for most info it's not going to really be an issue when it's just usually a quick lookup like "who was in that movie i just saw".

Once our wiki is up and running i wonder if they will let us quote it? I did just go make an edit on Norma's Wikipedia page and cited my page, and we'll see what happens. It does say there in bolded letters that you're not suppose to copy other websites so obviously someone is not following the rules. And in the footnotes already is Kally Mavromatis' Silent Star of the Month page, so there's already a web document cited. And the badly-researched An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films: 1895-1930 by Denise Lowe, is quoted in several places.

I did mention our issues with Wikipedia to anyone who would listen today.

greta
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