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The stricture to avoid bias increases the effort of writing an article and therefore (presumably) results in less writing getting done. Filling an article with bias seems to have the opposite effect - it results in more writing getting done, because someone else is bound to jump to add a conflicting bias. Then someone else can come along and refactor all this into a more neutral article.

So to encourage the creation of more articles, perhaps the rule should be, be as biased as you like.

Tim Shell

A nice theory, but I am sure it would be a disaster in practice. There would be just too much bias for people to correct, and people wouldn't correct it in the long run, I think. I just think it's a lot more important that Wikipedia articles be unbiased. I can't stress how crucial I think this is. If you want me to explain why I think it's so crucial, I can do that in an essay--I don't think I've really explained it yet. (I've only explained why I think they should be unbiased, not why I think it's so goll-dang important that they should be.) --LMS

I agree with Larry. I think such a policy would turn Wikipedia into a big mess. -- STG
Thirds. Remember, it is important to have people reading Wikipedia as well as writing to it, and I think that if a large amount of biased material built up it would not encourage people to change it so much as find someplace more tolerant of their viewpoints. --JG
I love the implicit meta-debate going on here, which is whether or not it's possible to avoid bias. That it isn't is the cornerstone of postmodern philosophy. LMS's position is based on the presumption that it's possible to be unbiased. However, I understand what he means. He's really talking about the avoidance of certain forms of bias. The "neutral point of view" is something of a better approach. That said, I too encourage "unbiased" articles. But one thing that does is encourage overuse of words like "usually" and "most", etc. etc. If entries have such vague qualifiers, then they should either be rewritten in a way to eliminate the ambiguity, or the ambiguity shouldn't have been added in the first place. Wiki, like other encyclopedias, does have an inherent bias: that of authoritativity. Which I think is good. People should be unable to argue with the content of entries, but because they're authoritative, not because they're wishy-washy.

That said, I largely agree with LMS, though I think biased material has a place in Wikipedia, sometimes under Wikipedia commentary. For an example of another approach, see the OS Advocacy page.

--The Cunctator

What I've observed in practice is that biased articles and comments get pounced upon very quickly. This rule was proposed after observing this. The fact of the matter is, the wikipedia process makes being highly biased unrewarding because a biased article is amended very quickly. As such, there is no need to have strictures against biased writings. Since there is little reward for biased writings, there is little need for discouraging that sort of behavior.

Perhaps people think that Wikipedia is collaborative in that one person will write one article, someone else will write another article, etc., until we have a big pile of content created by many different people. But the real essence of the wikipedia process is that articles themselves evolve under the loosely collaborative effort of numerous editors, unknown to one another and separated by an indefinite amount of time. Articles started today may one day be amended by editors yet unborn. The result of this process is that articles will gradually come to represent a consensus view, one that is mostly satisfactory to most people.

All this process needs is input. Bad input is not a significant cost because it is corrected very quickly. It may have value because it incites people to include other inputs. And this gets the process of evolution started.

Tim Shell

It's equivalent to pitching the legion's eagles into the opponent's camp. It gets people moving, but not because they are happy or like what is happening, and I wouldn't be surprised if most people find it gets old fast. Something to be used sparingly at best. Surely we have more respect for our authors than to try to get them to work in such a fashion. --JG

Tim, maybe the reason biased articles are pounced on so quickly is precisely that we have a firm rule against bias; if we were to remove the rule, maybe they wouldn't be pounced on so quickly. I don't know if this is true, but it sure seems plausible anyway. New people (and maybe the old ones) might begin to view biased claims made in a given article as the "right" of the person who added them, and be less likely to de-bias the claims (after all, if there's no community animus against bias then what justification is there to render the article unbiased?). --LMS

I think and hope that Larry's right. I hope that I will jump on an article that is biased, even if I happen to enjoy the bias. Why do I do that? In part because we have all loosely committed ourselves to an ideal. The commitment itslef, as expressed in the loose community mores?, is important to me in my role as a contributor.

The expressed consensus rule also serves as a reference point in case someone comes along and gets mad about us editing out their bias. They may say "Hey, why can't I be biased? Why do you jerks keep editing my article to be unbiased?" Because we have an expressed commitment to a lack of bias, we have a reasonable answer: because that's the community consensus of what Wikipedia is about. --Jimbo Wales

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Last edited August 30, 2001 12:05 pm by 24.161.161.xxx (diff)