Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, December 05, 2021

The party’s over for Wikipedia. Following the revelation of a particularly libelous — and false — biography of former Robert F. Kennedy assistant John Seigenthaler Sr. on the website, Wikipedia chief Jimmy Wales announced the institution of a registration requirement for posting new articles.

The website hopes that the registration requirement will limit the number of stories being created, Wales said.

“What we’re hopeful to see is that by slowing that down to 1,500 a day from several thousand, the people who are monitoring this will have more ability to improve the quality,” Wales said Monday. “In many cases the types of things we see going on are impulse vandalism.”

Wikipedia visitors will still be able to edit content already posted without registering. It takes 15 to 20 seconds to create an account on the website, and an e-mail address is not required.

It’s the customary spin, but it doesn’t mask the reality of the situation. Regardless of how painless registration will be, it’s fundamentally a barrier to entry — which is counter to the very nature of a wiki. I’m not sure Wikipedia can truly claim to be the free-for-all knowledgebase it’s been anymore.

In a way, Wikipedia is evolving in as predictable a way as any media outlet. When an organ like that is rolled out, the aim is to open participation as widely as possible to spur growth as quickly as possible. But once it’s matured, the wide-open rules that served it well during start-up become a liability. To achieve credibility, a retrenchment is not only expected, but necessary for management purposes. (The Web itself is undergoing this dynamic as well.)

This move shouldn’t be too surprising, as Wales hinted at this development more than a year ago:

But as to the overall accuracy of Wikipedia, Wales said he is at work on a plan to create what he calls a “stable version” of the encyclopedia. Some version or versions would continue to exist that allow the free-form editing and rewriting. Another version, the stable one, would go through an extra level of review before it could be changed.

I’m not sure this two-tiered model is still in the plans, given what’s happened since.

All of this, of course, only confirms my disdain for the whole notion of validating a public chalkboard as a credible information source:

Frankly, it’s not the blatantly obvious nonsense, like the “John Kerry dies from Botox injections” example, that concerns me. It’s the more subtle possibilities for mischief, like adding or subtracting an extra zero or two in population or other statistical figures, that concern me enough to reject Wikipedia as a consistently reliable source. Again, even if errors like this are caught quickly, who’s to say that they’ve been caught and corrected prior to my use of it?

As an editor, I’d automatically reject anything submitted to me that references a Wikipedia article as a source, for the reasons stated above. I’d give it right back to the writer and insist on a fact check through a rock-solid source, and ask for what exactly that is when the story is re-submitted to me. I’m not going to chance it on research that’s been done on the equivalent of online graffitti.

Ultimately, the blame’s not so much with Wikipedia as it is with how the Internet has led to a loss of discipline in research methods. Wikipedia draws its legitimacy from a rather flimsy source: Its consistently high placement in Google seach results. Which is to say, it has no real legitimacy at all, since Google’s “relevance” rankings are all-too-easily manipulable, intentionally or not.

Because searching via the Web is so effortless, the average researcher is loathe to scroll past the first few results that a search engine spits back at them. People have ceded their own discretion of what’s credible and what’s not to Google — and are a lot less well-informed as a result. Wikipedia is but a symptom of that problem, and despite the attempts at justifying it as the wave of the future, it requires a collective reassessment of what’s reliable and what’s not.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/05/2021 11:35:30 PM
Category: Internet, Media
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fowl
Don’t look now, but it looks like Anaheim has found a way to revive the neutral-zone trap in this new-look National Hockey League:

They are routinely dropping four men between the blue lines, with one man passively funneling the puck carrier to one side — typically the Ducks’ left wing side. Even when the opposition has the puck in full possession behind their net, the Ducks are using just one man deep in the zone, with the wingers positioned on the boards nearer the blue line than the goal line. They are firmly entrenched in trying to capitalize on failed forays through the neutral zone, working solely on turnovers to generate offense.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. But if you’re looking for games with flow and offensive creativity, the Pond isn’t the place to partake. During their recent run of five wins, two were by 3-1 counts and two were 2-1.

Given that the NHL is as much a copycat league as in any other sports, I think we can kiss those early-season 8-6 games goodbye.

Actually, I had noticed that the scorefests had been tailing off. I haven’t gotten a chance to see the Ducks too much this season (although that will change soon enough, since I’ll have more free time and NHL Center Ice at my disposal), but I figured it was a general league-wide jelling of rosters and return to true game-shape after a two-year layoff. Maybe the real answer to hockey’s offensive anemia is to skip every other year!

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/05/2021 10:33:31 PM
Category: Hockey
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partnering
So with John Madden heading to NBC for next year’s Sunday Night Football broadcast show, who’s going to join him in the booth? Richard Sandomir makes a case for Chris Collinsworth:

A Madden-Collinsworth pairing would be a fascinating opportunity to hear two of the best analysts engage in the ultimate football conversation without a third voice between them (although one might argue that Buck nicely mediated the differing styles of Collinsworth and Aikman).

It’s kind of a default selection, though: The other best candidates are tied up at other networks. Nor is Collinsworth polished enough at play-by-play to be ready for a pairing with Madden. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good choice: You’d basically have two color guys calling the game. I’d bet NBC finds a second-tier but experienced play-caller and have him do the heavy lifting, all the better to let Madden’s schtick shine through.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/05/2021 09:07:18 PM
Category: Football
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Let’s see, it’s been a month since I’ve made a condom joke here… I’m about due.

Dexter Gabbard, founder of Huge Brand Inc., understands that when it comes to selling rubbers, it’s all about the… package.

Ahem.

This upstart company is establishing its niche by selling standard-sized condoms in oversized wrappers, thereby delivering a psychological payload of marketing pizzazz. Pretty much the same principle behind branding tortilla chips as having “EXTREME cool ranch” flavor, really — it’s nonsensical, but conveys a surprisingly effective sales pitch.

I can see this taking off — to the extent that condoms ever take off. I just feel sorry for the chumps who’ll assume these are Magnum-sized sheaths, and find out the hard way that they don’t measure up…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/05/2021 08:41:51 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy
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