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June 20, 2024 46 mins

Wikipedia changed the world. Before it came along, you had to go to the library to get the answers you sought. And you and your friends had to just agree to disagree on facts. And as the internet grew and commercialized, Wikipedia remains free and open.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff you Should Know, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:11):
Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh, and there's
Chuck and Jerry's here too. Just mister Green Jeans and
Zipper Face and Madam Lucks all here together bring you stuff.

Speaker 3 (00:23):
You should Who do I get to beat this week?

Speaker 2 (00:27):
You get to pick?

Speaker 3 (00:28):
Oh, I'll be Zipper Base of course.

Speaker 2 (00:31):
Oh yeah, I was gonna be Zipper Face, but okay,
I'll be mister green Jeans all right? From what was
that from Captain Kangaroo.

Speaker 1 (00:38):
The only one I recognize is mister green Jeans. I've
never heard of the other two.

Speaker 2 (00:42):
I made them up. Oh okay, perfect, you just heard
of them just now.

Speaker 3 (00:47):
I'm not losing my mind.

Speaker 2 (00:49):
No, you're with it. You're with it man, So Chuck,
I'm really kind of excited about this one. Today we're
doing Wikipedia, and as longtime listeners of Stuff you Should
Know are already aware, we have a standing ban for
our writers on using Wikipedia as a source. Don't even

peek at it. Maybe maybe to confirm a date or
something like that, but just leave Wikipedia out of it.
And it's really twofold. There's two reasons. One, it's long
been notoriously unreliable because anybody can edit any page or
write whatever they want on a Wikipedia page, so that
inherently makes it unreliable by nature. And number two, we

would never want to be accused of using Wikipedia as
like our source article. And when you read how some
topic works, it's really difficult for that not to infect
the way that you interpret it and report it later on,
meaning that you could accidentally kind of copy the structure
of a Wikipedia article. We never want to do that.

So those two reasons we've always kind of banned Wikipedia.

Speaker 1 (01:57):
Right, yeah, I mean we don't use ourselves except for,
like you said, you know, confirmation of the odd thing.
Occasionally I will use it as a I will go
to the and we've talked about this too, the links
to the original articles and write papers and studies and
things like that. It could be handy, and it's handy
in my everyday life, but we've never used it. And

that's why it's even though it shouldn't bother me, it
still gets under my skin when and I don't read
reviews that much, but when people say like.

Speaker 3 (02:29):
Well these go do a suit down read Wikipedia articles
to you.

Speaker 2 (02:32):
Right, right, Because people say that they do say that,
and we want them to be able to be wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
The thing is, I have to say this. I haven't.
I haven't decided we need to alter our editorial policies
or anything like that. But after researching Wikipedia, I have
come to have a slightly different, actually a radically different
opinion of Wikipedia as a whole, collectively put together, and

just what it is, what it stands for, and just
how reliable it is. Turns out like our view was
maybe a little rooted in pre twenty thirteen, twenty twelve,
and it may be time to just kind of evolve,
but still again not touch our editorial policy.

Speaker 3 (03:14):

Speaker 1 (03:15):
I mean I've always You've always been the one who
was a little more grudgey.

Speaker 2 (03:22):
Oh, I thought that was both of us. I thought
we'd agreed on that. Huh.

Speaker 1 (03:25):
No, I mean I don't think we should use it
for a reference, But I've always enjoyed the site, and
I think you've always been a little more had your
nose turned up a little more, which I totally respect.

Speaker 2 (03:37):
I don't know if I would characterize it as nose
turned up. I'm not sure what it is, but I
don't know is it nose turned up? Is that what
I've been doing all these years.

Speaker 1 (03:45):
Maybe, but hey, you're in a you're an educated.

Speaker 2 (03:51):
Smart toast about town dude.

Speaker 1 (03:54):
No, and I think you've always just been a little
bit like that's just not for me, which I get.

Speaker 2 (04:00):
All right, Well, then I'm here to say I renounced
that elitist view and I am a lot more accepting
of Wikipedia and what it is and what it does.

Speaker 3 (04:09):
All right, Okay, great, I guess.

Speaker 2 (04:12):
Call me Saul from now on. Oh wait, Paul, you
better I head it backwards, didn't.

Speaker 3 (04:17):
I are you speaking biblicaly? Yeah, biblicy, bibugy, bibby. I
don't know. Let's not get into that.

Speaker 1 (04:27):
We should quickly just go through a what it is,
and Dave helped us out with this and just a
few sort of fun stats at the beginning. But Wikipedia,
of course, is an online encyclopedia created or you know,
maintained by wikipedians who are users, just everyday people.

Speaker 3 (04:47):
So that's what it is.

Speaker 1 (04:48):
But what it really is is the large's reference work ever,
created ninety times larger than the one hundred and twenty
volume encyclop Encyclopedia Britannica.

Speaker 2 (04:58):
That's IMPRESSIB sixty two.

Speaker 1 (05:00):
Million articles, three hundred plus languages, four billion plus visitors
a month, edging up towards three hundred thousand Wikipedians or
Wikipedia editors.

Speaker 3 (05:12):
And that's all I got.

Speaker 1 (05:13):
But actually I got one more I did see And
this is in two thousand and eight, so this is
a long time ago. There was one computer scientist who
estimated that up to that point there were one hundred
million hours spent developing and getting Wikipedia up to that point.

Speaker 2 (05:32):
Wow. Did you mention how many edits are made every second?

Speaker 3 (05:38):

Speaker 2 (05:38):
Okay, I didn't think you did, And I'm glad you
didn't because this one's my favorite.

Speaker 3 (05:41):
You like it.

Speaker 2 (05:42):
This is a I think a twenty twenty two estimate.
Five point two Wikipedia edits are made every second. Wow,
And each month fourteen million edits are made. And you
as we kind of talk about how Wikipedia actually works,
that will become more and more significant as we go.

Speaker 3 (06:00):
Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 1 (06:01):
So, I mean that's sort of the overview of some
stats and how it's defined, but what it really is,
and they've kind of nailed it on the head as
far as their ethos. It's kind of a utopian idea
and an experiment that people can get on the Internet,
and not justly insults, but they can get on the
Internet and create an important volume of knowledge for people.

Speaker 2 (06:26):
Yeah. I saw a great quote that said, it's a
good thing that Wikipedia works in practice, because it certainly
doesn't work in theory.

Speaker 3 (06:34):
Oh interesting.

Speaker 2 (06:35):
Yeah, and no matter where you are around the world,
that's not one hundred percent true. But in a large area,
a swath of the world, there are Wikipedias for you
in your language about your culture. Whether you speak Zulu
or Tartar, or Sanskrit, Old English, Creole, Haitian Esperanto, Yoruba, Piedmontese, Yiddish,

all of them have their own Wikipedia. There's all a
lot of different WIKIPEDIAI I'm just adding eye to anything
plural from now on. That's my new thing. But it's
really impressive, like the idea that people came together and
did this for free as volunteers, and now we have,
like you said, by far, the largest reference work ever created.

Speaker 1 (07:18):
That's right, a site and we'll get into all this,
the whys of all this, but you know it's a
site with no ads. It is a very low fi
site that is overseen by the Wikimedia Yeah, that's right,
Wikimedia Foundation.

Speaker 3 (07:32):
It is funded by donations.

Speaker 1 (07:34):
I know at times when you go to Wikipedia, everyone
but you, that is, occasionally you might see a little
a hat out and said, hey, wouldn't you drop a
couple of bucks in this thing if you like using
the site.

Speaker 2 (07:47):
I've donated to Wikipedia. Now I get emails for it too.

Speaker 3 (07:51):
I see. That's how they get you.

Speaker 2 (07:53):
You give them an inch and they take a mile.
You know.

Speaker 1 (07:56):
Operating budget of about one hundred and sixty eight million
dollars a year, which is surprising to me. I didn't
know it would cost that much.

Speaker 2 (08:05):
Oh, I thought that was low. I was surprised. Yeah,
I mean it's one of the biggest websites in the
entire world. I think it's number three or five, depending
who you ask for number of visits monthly visits like.

Speaker 1 (08:18):
Yeah, but for something to have be completely created for free,
mm hm, that seems high.

Speaker 2 (08:23):
I get that. But one hundred and sixty five million
of that is Jimmy Wales's compensation, right, and let's talk
about who Jimmy Wales is. That's the lie, by the way, everybody.

Speaker 1 (08:35):
Yeah, we should get into the history of it and
hop in the old wayback machine. Oh, fire it up.
We're not gonna have to go far, so we don't
need much fuel. Trying to be more efficient with our
travels these days in this thing.

Speaker 2 (08:47):
Yeah, we're using hamsters instead of kerosene lately.

Speaker 3 (08:50):
That's right.

Speaker 1 (08:50):
So we're gonna go back to the mid nineteen nineties
when the World Wide Web was just a young babe
in the crib.

Speaker 3 (09:02):
And very adorably.

Speaker 1 (09:04):
When all these websites websites started popping up, there were
people that were like, hey, you know what we need
now is we got to be people, got to be
able to find this stuff, So we need web directories.
This is obviously before Google was a just a very
convenient way or any or Bang or you know your

search engine of choice.

Speaker 2 (09:26):
Don't leave Edge out her Edge.

Speaker 3 (09:28):
Had come along.

Speaker 1 (09:29):
So in nineteen ninety four, Yahoo had a pretty popular
web directory going on. And if you're young enough to
where you don't even know what that means, that means
literally you would go to a page and it would say,
like sports entertainment, kind of like a newspaper.

Speaker 2 (09:44):
Here's all ten websites on sports.

Speaker 1 (09:46):
Exactly, and it would list those websites. But then came
along a company called Bomus. It was an early dot
com who said no, you know what I think we
should do, like an open source version of this web
directory and we'll call it a webring.

Speaker 2 (10:03):
Yeah, And the whole premise was if you were a
part of the webring, your site was you would have
a little thing saying like baseball or something like that
the bottom of your site, and that was your connection
to the webring, and you could click next and it
would take you to the next site that had been
connected to the first site, because they're both about baseball

or something way more niche than that. And anybody, because
like you said, it was open source, could make their
own webring. There were usually webmasters who looked at the sites,
approved them, actually put them together. But eventually, as you
had more and more sites added to this ring, you
had a more and more dense collection of information about
one usually fairly niche topic. Apparently Pamela Anderson was like

one of the biggest webrings right out of the gate
back in nineteen ninety six. But that was the premise
of what Wikipedia eventually was built on. It was open source,
people could contribute, and the the initial body of knowledge
was built upon by more and more people.

Speaker 1 (11:04):
Yeah, and Bomas got popular. They kind of focused on
manned stuff for lack of a better term, and I
think that's what they literally called it. It was like
car things and sports things, Pamela Anderson. And then they
quickly realized, hey, naked women on the Internet performs really well,

as it turns out, so they really started focusing on
that kind of adult material. I guess to call it
something a little tame and chiefly nude pictures of women.
And they really drilled down on that and got very,
very popular because of that, but then pivoted pretty quickly
because Jimmy Wales, the guy you mentioned, one of the

founders of Bomas, had a larger, more pure vision in
mind when he said, hey, I think we could create
a free encyclopedia. So we founded new Pedia, which was
financed by Bone.

Speaker 2 (12:00):
Yeah, and everybody uses an encyclopedia, whether you just need
to make a quick reference, whether you're a kid writing
a research paper, whether you're a parent researching your kid's
research paper. Like, people just need an encyclopedia. It's a
basic thing. So let's create one and then let's sell
ads against it. There's nothing wrong with that. That's what
we do. We put out free content and then there's

ads that like that was essentially the basic premise of
websites forever and still generally is right. The thing about
it that made it a little more than just like
a money making scheme was that from the outset, James
Wales and his partner, a guy named Larry Sanger, were really,

really like they placed a tremendous amount of emphasis on
truth and correctness and their articles being error free. So
it wasn't just something they slapped together. It had nothing
to do with long tail or any terrible ideas like that.
It was really well researched article was vetted by academics
and professionals, with ads sold against it. That was new

Pedia and it was a great idea, except that in
the like go go hustle early part of the Internet
where you could just get things in like that, New
Pedia was glacially slow, and it was that was ultimately
its downfall.

Speaker 1 (13:20):
Yeah, for sure, And that's in you, by the way,
not in ew in Upedia. It was slow because they,
like you said, they wanted to get things right. There
was a seven step process in place before anything was published,
so it was sort of the traditional publishing model that
had been used for you know how long However, long

publishing traditional publishing had been around like this, which is,
you you have something reviewed, whether you work for a
newspaper and you do your fact checking, or you have
your editor in chief checking on things. In this case,
Larry Sanger was the editor in chief of new Pedia,
or you know, have things reviewed by experts and then

you published. That was what they were doing sort of
in that order. You write something, you review it, review
it through that seven step process, and then you publish
it online.

Speaker 3 (14:10):
And it was, like you said, slow.

Speaker 1 (14:13):
I think twenty one articles came out in that first year,
and Sanger, it seemed like, in particular, was pretty frustrated
with that speed.

Speaker 3 (14:22):
Yeah, for sure, getting content out.

Speaker 2 (14:24):
For sure. So just put that aside. These guys are
kind of in suspended animation at this moment. In I
think nineteen ninety nine, end of nineteen ninety nine, a
few years earlier earlier than that, there was a guy
named Wag Cunningham in the very early nineties. He was
a software engineer. He was trying to figure out how
to share ideas at his company that anybody at the

company could like kind of contribute to, right, So he
actually took an Apple program called HyperCard and created a
hypertext program that he called quick weeb I believe was
the first name for and that was basically where anybody
could go into this program and contribute to this body
of knowledge, this body of information, and it would grow

and grow and grow, and things would link to other things.
That's hypertext and very fortunately. Ward Cunningham went on vacation
to Hawaii also in the early nineties, and he noticed
that there were little airport shuttles called wiki wiki airport buses,
which means quick wiki means quick and he just loved

that name. So he changed the name from quick web
to wiki wiki Web, and that was the first wiki.
What we understand is a wiki a bunch of user
generated content that anybody can contribute to and edit and
link to other stuff. The whole thing just becomes self
referential and grows as a result.

Speaker 1 (15:51):
Yeah, and it was basically, in his mind, a way
for programmers to talk to one another about programming. But
he realized he was on to a larger concept. Not
so much that he tried to get a patent on
the concept of a wiki, which was probably a grave error,
but he said at the time he didn't think like

anyone would be interested in something like that, so it
wasn't worth pursuing.

Speaker 3 (16:16):
The other thing we should mention about.

Speaker 1 (16:17):
Ward Cunningham is he has now been credited with what's
known as Cunningham's law.

Speaker 3 (16:23):
Have you ever heard of this?

Speaker 2 (16:24):
I have?

Speaker 1 (16:26):
Which is kind of the foundation of the Internet in
some ways, and definitely Wikipedia, which is he said the
best way to get a correct answer online is not
by asking a question, but by posing a wrong answer.
And it was sort of a theory but has kind
of proved to be true in his mind at least.
And I agree that, like, when you ask someone something online,

it can be very hard or slow to get a
correct answer, but if you post something wrong then people
are very very quick to correct you. And so that
was sort of the basis of his WikiWikiWeb with programmers
talking to one another.

Speaker 2 (17:02):
Yeah, and it's preserved at wiki dot C two dot com,
And like, I can't make heads or tails of any
of it, but it's still there. It's super cute and
quaint looking, but it's neat. The usability is really amazing too,
especially for what he built it on.

Speaker 3 (17:15):
That'd be fun if you could go to a year
of the Internet.

Speaker 2 (17:21):
I know, what I'm man, and I think you can
on Internet archive.

Speaker 1 (17:24):
No, I mean like turn your Internet into two thousand,
like two thousand and one or nineteen ninety seven, and
not just read things, but have it just be like
from that year and what it was like.

Speaker 2 (17:36):
I got to just give check GPT like three more months.

Speaker 3 (17:39):
Right, you're probably right.

Speaker 2 (17:41):
So now we're going to come back to Jimmy Wales
Larry Sanger and this dispute over who came up with
the idea of taking the wiki concept that Ward Cunningham
came up with and applying it to the encyclopedia concept
that Wales and Sanger had come up with new Pedia.
It doesn't ultimately matter, but just to name check, a
guy named Jeremy Rosenfeld was a bonus employee. He's the

one who Jimmy Whale says came up with the idea
of using a wiki. Larry Sanger said he came up
with the idea after having dinner with a guy named
Ben Kovitz. He says he even remembers that he ordered
enchiladas at the dinner. That's how much he remembers it
either way, regardless, within two weeks of that dinner, that
Larry Sanger had where he was introduced to the concept

of a wiki. New Pedia had become a wiki, and
the new Pedia advisory board was like, we don't like
this idea. The smells of like brand new stuff and
we're afraid of it. And also, what's this whole concept
of write, publish and then review. That's that's like sacrilegious,
Like you can't do that. And so Wales and Sanger said,

all right, you guys stay over here with new Pedia.
We're gonna go over here with our thing. We're gonna
call it Wikipedia, and Wikipedia within two weeks was born
on January fifteenth, two thousand and one. Larry's had that
dinner on January second, two thousand and one.

Speaker 3 (19:03):
That's right.

Speaker 1 (19:04):
And as far as that claim for what it's worth,
the actual Wikipedia article on Sanger confirms that it was him. Well,
then I don't know, true, I don't know Jimmy Wales
just begrudgingly allows that to stay there or not. But
everything I saw kind of said it was Sanger. So

just like I said, take it for what it's worth.

Speaker 2 (19:28):
It's funny you mentioned Jimmy Wales begrudgingly just letting it
stay there because He was caught very early on in
the early days of Wikipedia, editing the Bonus dot com
Wikipedia entry to remove softcore pornography from it, say like
the words softcore pornography, and he got called out for that.

Speaker 3 (19:46):
And they're like, dude, that's how that was our foundation
at first.

Speaker 2 (19:49):
So but that's a really good example of what's starting
to happen at this time around two thousand and one
with Wikipedia. It's brand new, but people are starting to
kind of come to it, figure it out out, get
the hang of it, and become like enthralled by it
and starting to like write articles, edit articles, discuss how
to how to best make an edit. Like it's starting

to kind of grow. But it took a truly horrible
event for Wikipedia to truly come into its own for
the very first time. And I say, we take a break, Chuck.

Speaker 3 (20:21):
That's quite a cliffhanger to stop. You should.

Speaker 1 (20:48):
All right, So you were hanging on a cliff here.
You talked about a terrible event. You probably don't have
to be a rocket scientist to figure out what that
event was. Considering Wikipedia really got cranking in January of
two thousand and one, kind of sped along for about
nine months, growing pretty quickly compared to initially. I think

there were about ten thousand articles written over that period.
And then nine to eleven happened, and that changed everything
because news sites crashed. Everyone was trying to get information
and they were going to these you know, super heavily
ad filled websites, websites with videos, pop up ads, all

kinds of things that like slow traffic down and overload things,
and all these people were trying to go to these
sites to find out news and information. Wikipedia is there
with its lo fi, no ads, no pop ups, no
video kind of layout, and it didn't crash. And so
the September eleventh, two thousand and one terrorist attack article

on Wikipedia grew at a speed that I don't know
any web page has ever grown before.

Speaker 2 (21:59):
No, and that was that it's like Wikipedia. The idea
finally took off on September eleventh and the days after
because people were searching for information on it, like every second,
they were just looking for more and more info. Stuff
was news was coming out hard and fast like that,
and with the news sites down, that Wikipedia article became
like the de facto source of information, and so as

more people came to it and were like what is
this and then kind of figured out right there on
the fly how Wikipedia worked. They actually stuck around and
started adding to the article, editing the article, discussing like
the wording for the article, and that single article on
the September eleventh, two thousand and one terrorist attack that

became the cornerstone of how Wikipedia developed. That article did
in all of the discussions, and still today they archived
all the discussions all the way back to the first day,
and it is really interesting to see like the arguments
and discussions that people got into over that because it
was at the time and then in the years following,

it's just always been such a controversial topic and such
a sacred topic too here in the United States.

Speaker 1 (23:08):
Yeah, and not only just the topic, but kind of
everything that they were, all the subtopics, and that was
where Wikipedia really came to find what it was and
what it wasn't because they were doing things like truly
helpful things at the time, like a list of victims,
blood drives and links to where you could go to

help and donate and things like that. But as that
was happening, like you said, it was sort of happening
in real time, and their talk page was flooded with
people saying, well, wait a minute, I'm not sure beyond
just like editing, you know, the news and facts. They
were like, well, what are we doing here? We need
to be truthful and accurate, of course, but do we

have stuff like is this an encyclopedia or not? Like
do we have a list of victims of you know,
I hate to say it, but like people who aren't
well known, because an encyclopedia probably wouldn't. Would we have
links to blood drives? Probably not, because an encyclopedia wouldn't.
So as they went through those really pretty tough discussions,

what Wikipedia wasn't became pretty clear.

Speaker 2 (24:15):
Yeah, it became what's known as the five pillars, which
we'll talk about in a second. But one of the
things that emerged from it too was they weren't there
to report the news. So anybody who had breaking news,
it became clear Wikipedia was not a place for that.
They were meant to be behind the curve. They report
on reliable sources reporting. That's what the entries were built on,

and that was a huge, huge foundation that was kind
of laid that day, I guess. But just as one
little aside at this time, shortly After this, Wikipedia attracted
a lot of people. People started sticking around and writing
other articles that were related to the two thousand and
one September eleventh attacks, and it just started to grow.

At the same time, it also attracted trolls essentially out
of the gate, and there were trolls on the site.
And Larry Sanger did not have the stomach for that
at all. And I don't blame him. Trolls sucked. They're
the worst. But he quit because he said, we need
to have some sort of structure here. We need to
have a constitution, We need a way to vet these

these claims and these facts that are in these articles.
We got to slow this down, man. And Jimmy Wales
is like, no, that's we're not going to do that.
We've met in ein ran chat forums, for God's sake,
We're not gonna We're not gonna do this. We're going
to go the opposite direction. We'll figure it out as
as we go. And so Larry Sanger quit and became
one of the biggest critics of Wikipedia. He was only

there for I think fourteen months.

Speaker 1 (25:49):
Yeah, Weiss called them their most outspoken critic In two
thousand and seven, he said the site was broken beyond repair.
He has said that there's a large and this is
just a few of the criticisms. Of course, there's very
very many. You might want to say he has a
bone to pick with Wikipedia, but I also feel like
he truly believes his stuff. Sure, he said that it

has a massive left wing bias and has used examples
on everything from LGTBQ websites to Donald Trump versus Barack
Obama's I keep saying websites, I should call them Wikipedia
articles rather Oh yeah, okay, Donald Trump's page versus Barack

Obama's page, all kinds of stuff, basically saying that, hey,
we're only getting one point of view here. We're not
getting the right wing side of things, We're not getting
the libertarian viewpoint on things. So he's had a bone
to pick with Wikipedia, although I think he has softened
it here and there saying that I think he said

that the bias is probably the least of their problems.
So that's not like really where he's.

Speaker 3 (26:59):
Hand has had. I don't want to make it seem
like that.

Speaker 2 (27:01):
Well, what's interesting is his criticism seem to have worked
themselves out because one of the things that Wikipedia strives
for is neutrality is close to neutrality and objective, I don't.
I keep wanting to use the word reporting, but that's wrong.
Reporting makes it documenting. It's neutral, objective, documentation of knowledge.

That's what it's after, right. And So I was looking
at banned users and a lot of them seem to
be like social justice warriors who are like righting wrongs
and they get banned for life. So I mean, I
don't think that it necessarily has a political bias one
way or the other, if anything. Politically, from what I
can tell, it's that's where it's closest to neutral. Of

all gender, ethnicity, that's a different story. But politically it
does seem to be pretty centrist.

Speaker 3 (27:54):
Yeah, well Sanger doesn't feel like it at least, but
you know that's his take.

Speaker 2 (27:58):
Well get him on the phone.

Speaker 1 (28:01):
Oh man, what if we took Collers, that'd be great,
Go ahead, Collar. I've always wanted to say that, Hey,
long time, first time. So in two thousand and two,
Wikipedia avoided what would have been a sea change when

they thought about getting ads on the site and making money,
you know, the good old fashioned webway, and the people
of Wikipedia got upset. Users were like no, no, no,
this is what makes you guys different. You can't do
that in Spain. There were some Spanish Wikipedians who got
so upset they created their own well, I guess you

would say Encyclopedia libra, but it's just spelled differently. They said,
you know, that scared them off, basically to where they're
created their own And he said, all right, I'll hear
you loud and clear. We'll launch the Wikimedia Foundation.

Speaker 3 (28:59):
That was pretty early on.

Speaker 1 (29:01):
It was in two thousand and three, and then they
change from dot com to dot org. They shut down
new Pedia that same year and got together and figured
out these five pillars that you mentioned earlier, one of
which you just reference, which was neutrality.

Speaker 2 (29:17):
Yeah. So there are five pillars the fundamental principles of Wikipedia,
and a lot of these were find its roots in
that September eleventh, two thousand and one page, but they've
also really been refined and developed over time. And I
think we should cut to the last one first because
it really kind of gives a It gives you, like

the right impression when you hear the rest of the rules.
And the last one is that Wikipedia has no firm rules.
There's no one in charge. There's a group of people
who are volunteer administrators who actually can ban you. They
actually can delete like entire entries if they feel like

that's necessary. But those are those people are few and
far between, and they are meant to like not wield
their power. Essentially, no one's in charge, No one owns
an article, and there are different competing philosophies about how
Wikipedia should be built, how articles should be written, what's truth,
what's a reliable source? And these competing philosophies battle one

another or engage in conversation and dialogue with one another
on the talk page for these amazing like like the
really well written, well researched articles or entries that people
really care about. There's really fascinating discussions about, you know,
just wording, like just what word to use or this

word doesn't quite fit, or what's a reliable citation? And
that the reason why it works is because there's it
will constantly evolve in that in that setup, there's no rigidity.
It's like whatever philosophy wins out wins out, and that
one specific disagreement over that one specific edit on that

one specific entry, and then the next time it may
have a completely different outcome, but collectively as a whole,
that leads to that leads to the neutrality that we
referenced earlier.

Speaker 1 (31:17):
That's right, So that's I guess five and two. Pillar
Number one is that it's an encyclopedia, which speaks for itself.
Number three is that it's free. And that well also
kind of part three because you said that no one
owns a Wikipedia article. I imagine that can be tough
at times. If you have, if you're if you have

created an entry that is very very niche that you
knew a lot about and you care a lot about,
I imagine it can it can be very tough to
sort of hand that over and say, okay, like I
guess anyone can change this right, so that that must
be hard, but still a pillar.

Speaker 3 (31:59):
And the number four is.

Speaker 1 (32:01):
Editors should treat each other with respect and civility. I'm
sure that that well, we know that that is gotten
out of hand because there's been reports of bullying within
the what are they called wikipedians. But the pillar at
least is to avoid these edit wars and work with

your fellow editors instead of against them, to not bully,
to have patients with new editors, and things like that
and try and foster like kind of a different community
for what usually happens online.

Speaker 2 (32:34):
Yeah, what's amazing is it generally works. The whole premise
of that pillar is assume good faith. That it's such
a it's such an important point that it's abbreviate is AGF,
and that is that if you see somebody adding some dumb,
dumb fact that's clearly a conspiracy theory, as if it's
fact to some article, don't don't take that act as

a like like they're willfully trying to harm that article
or hurt Wikipedia or personally insult you. What they're doing
probably if you assume good faith is in their mind
they think they're actually helping Wikipedia, they're helping the site,
they're making this entry more legit, even though they're totally
completely wrong. So if you come at it from that

premise where you assume good faith, then that's where it's
going to. That's where it's least likely to devolve into
an argument or name calling or threats or wiki bullying.
And that seems to be like the the case or
the place that the editors that I saw will go from.

Like that whole assuming good faith first part a lot
of them, do not all of them obviously, because it's
the Internet for sure.

Speaker 1 (33:46):
All Right, I say we take another break and come
back with blocks and bands and whether or not Wikipedia
is truly reliable?

Speaker 3 (33:54):
Is that sound good?

Speaker 2 (33:55):
That sounds great, Chuck? All right, Still you should know

so even though you assume good faith that you're supposed
to assume good faith, like we said, it can become
clear that somebody's like willfully being a jerk. There's a
whole thing called vandalism, where you are purposefully like inserting
incorrect stuff into an article just to mess with people, right,

just to mess with the article. It can be hilarious.
Spamming is another one, where you promote yourself or your product,
which is just you should just know that you don't
do that, but people do that.

Speaker 1 (34:59):
What else, well, obviously we've talked about the bullying and harassment,
the three revert rule, which is basically you don't revert
or change or undo three edits on the same page
within twenty four hours, which is kind of like a
slow year role move a little bit. Copyright violations pretty

self explanatory. Using multiple Wikipedia accounts, which they call sock puppetry.
It's very cute and anything. Just that's against the idea
of what they're trying to do, which is to build
out this encyclopedia and all of this is this is
not decided upon by just your average user or Wikipedia Wikipedia,

and rather but the volunteer administrators. I think the English
Wikipedia has more than eight hundred administrators, and they are Wikipedians.
They're just really experienced ones who know the ins and
outs and take it really seriously. They do not work
for the Wikimedia Foundation and get a cut of that
one hundred and sixty million bucks a year, right, but

they're the ones in charge of determining when a block
or a ban can happen.

Speaker 3 (36:12):
Blocks being.

Speaker 1 (36:15):
Temporary, they can be longer duration wise, it can be shorter,
can be a one specific thing you did in an
article or the whole article that you're blocked from for
a little while. You can appeal those, but it's meant
to be a preventative measure and not a punitive. And
then you have the ban, which kind of speaks for itself.

It's usually a site band, which means you just you
can't come on here anymore.

Speaker 2 (36:41):
You know, you can go on, but you can't make
a single edit. All you can do is sit there
and read pal.

Speaker 1 (36:46):
Oh well yeah, I mean we're talking about editing, not
like anyone can read anything.

Speaker 2 (36:49):
Sure, sure, right, And also anybody can edit unless you've
been blocked or banned, and you don't even have to
create an account, which is one of the cool things.
But there's entire site bands, so like you can be
completely banned from English Wikipedia, or you could be globally banned,
so any Wikipedia in any language. And I believe some
of the other Wiki projects like wictionary, like you just

you'll be you can't do anything on those.

Speaker 1 (37:16):
Yeah, So that kind of brings us to where we
started with this whole thing and why we didn't use it.
Why we don't use it and started out at least
and still don't. Is that is it? Is it reputable?
Is it truthful? Is it accurate? You usually can't use
Wikipedia as a source for a school paper, certainly not

a college paper. We make up our own rules, as
Josh and Chuck do stuff, you should know, so we
could do whatever we wanted. Sure, that was just something
that we did from the beginning. Like, no one, I
don't think anyone told us to do that, did they?

Speaker 2 (37:51):
No? Apparently it was just my idea because I'm a
big snob.

Speaker 3 (37:54):
Right, No, not at all. We were both on board.

Speaker 1 (37:59):
There was a study into two thousand and five and
there's I tried to find something more recent, but they
compared forty two entries on Wikipedia to the same thing
in the Encyclopedia Britannica and found that the average mistakes
per article was four for Wikipedia, three for the Britannica,
which is a little bit startling. Yeah, the differences between

Wikipedia and Britannica is that you can change something really
fast on Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica, at least for the
hard copy volumes. You know, obviously he's going to have
to wait till the next publish. And they've tested out
the speed of Wikipedia changes or I guess corrections, and
they filed false information in thirty three different articles about

dead philosophers, and in forty eight hours, a third of
those had been fixed, and three of those within sixty seconds.

Speaker 2 (38:49):
Yeah. I looked those up and some of them are hilarious.
They all seem rather innocuous, but if you stop and
think about what they're saying, they're pretty funny. Like Wickenstein
was fined for poisoning squirrels in his yard, or Spinoza
supported himself by selling stolen jewelry, or that David Hume
used to wrestle with local sportsmen, like we just but

just completely like the way that the sentences were written,
like you would totally buy them and they still got corrected.
And that's kind of like the whole premise of Wikipedia
is like eventually somebody's going to find that and they're
going to correct it. Might be in a minute, it
might be in forty eight hours, it might be in
six weeks, but eventually it's going to get created, like
you'll eventually get to the truth or correctness.

Speaker 1 (39:33):
I guess, yeah, And Dave points out and this is
really really the truth of the matter is something as
as large as Wikipedia created by users. There's going to
be some great articles. There's going to be some good ones,
and there's going to be some not so great ones.
Just how it shakes out, and so are they're actually

labeled now, which is something that a lot of people
may not really realize, but they can be labeled good
or fee. If it's good, that means it's got a
little small plus sign inside a green circle. They're close
to forty thousand good articles on the English version. If
it's featured, that means it's the cream of the crop
as far as Wikipedia vetting goes. And there are close

to sixty five hundred that are featured with that bronze star.

Speaker 2 (40:19):
Yeah, I saw the Museum of Bad Art as a
featured article. There's a but there's just tons of them, thousands, right,
And you can just go look at the list and
be like, oh, Okay, this is a really good article.
I'm going to read this one. Despite all that, I
think the featured articles represent one out of every thousand
and fifty articles on the site. It's a very low percentage.

And because of that, Wikipedia even says Wikipedia is not
a reliable source. They say it it's expressed on their website.
And you can't actually use a Wikipedia entry as a
citation on another Wikipedia entry. You link to other stuff,
you can hyperlink it, but you can't use that to
or support that sentence or that fact or whatever. And

there's the reason why. One of the reasons why. It
was kind of perfectly captured by that amazing comic XKCD,
and they coined the term cytogenesis, where somebody can put
in a fake fact on a Wikipedia page and then
go to that Wikipedia page to prove that their fact
is correct. Right, So it's like this snake that eats

its tail. And there's actually an example of that. There's
an Australian duo called Peaking Duck and one of their
fans got backstage because he inserted his name as a
relative of one of the band members and showed it
to like the guy who was guarding the backstage and
ended up getting backstage because of it. Isn't that amazing?

Speaker 3 (41:49):
Pretty amazing?

Speaker 2 (41:50):
I love that story, And apparently Peaking Duck they said
it was a genius mastermind move, so I guess they
appreciated it too.

Speaker 3 (41:59):
So so, you know, we mentioned a bias earlier.

Speaker 1 (42:04):
With politics, but the real bias comes in, like you
mentioned at the beginning with kind of who is who
these wikipedians are, eighty seven percent of these editors are
men and eighty nine percent are white.

Speaker 2 (42:18):
That means one hundred and seventy six percent are white men.

Speaker 1 (42:23):
Half of them are in Europe and twenty percent live
in North America. So unsurprisingly you're going to have some
gender bias playing out. I think less than nineteen percent
of the English language biographies are about women, and those
are also the articles that are most often flagged for
deletion as being you know, not notable enough. And they've

combatd this over the years in different ways. They get
together sometimes and organize edit athons where they try and
boost content about women and minorities, people of color, ethnic diversity,
like anything like that. They could have an edit to
though about to try and you know, bring more, bring

more of a light onto those groups.

Speaker 2 (43:07):
Yeah, and we have to say, there's so that whole
idea that premise that Wikipedia is unreliable. It seems to
basically find a single source. Initially, there's a journalist named
John Seigenthaler who had a joke Entry made about him.
He was an advisor, i think to Bobby Kennedy, and
the Hoaxter wrote that he was a suspect in the
assassination of Bobby Kennedy and John Kennedy and John Siegenthaler

heard about this, and he did not find that funny
at all. He just happened to be one of the
founding editors of USA Today. So he took to the
pages of USA Today and completely excoriated Wikipedia, called it
out as a completely unreliable irresponsible research tool, right. That
was two thousand and five, and that really kind of
laid the foundation for Wikipedia's bad reputation for a while.

But if you go on to the Wikipedia entry about Wikipedia,
which I admit I read some of, they even say
around starting sometime in about the twenty tens, that reputation
started to get shed and we're finally reaching the point
today where people are saying, go use Wikipedia, just use
it as like a an introduction to your topic, and

then go out and do further research. So it's really
kind of come into its own twenty years on.

Speaker 3 (44:21):
That's right.

Speaker 1 (44:22):
If you want to get into editing, there are tutorials.
There's an introduction tutorial of how to do everything from
creating things from scratch to editing. I mean, good luck
creating something from scratch and finding something that doesn't exist
already at this point. And if you want a gamified version,
you can check out the Wikipedia Adventure to help with

your tutorial, and they also have a help desk and
the Tea House, which is where new editors can learn
the ropes in a friendly manner.

Speaker 2 (44:50):
Yeah, and I think just going on the talk page
of any article will kind of familiarize you with what
you should be doing. If you want to contribue, but
do contribute. It's nice, I said, it's nice. I don't
think Chuck has anything else because he didn't respond, So
I think that means it's time for a listener mail.

Speaker 1 (45:08):
I'm going to call this bonsai inspiration.

Speaker 3 (45:12):
It was very cool.

Speaker 1 (45:13):
Hey guys, a few years ago you did the bon
Si episode. My dad and I listened to it became
very inspired. I have a horticultural degree from USU.

Speaker 3 (45:22):
That's Utah.

Speaker 1 (45:23):
By the way, he thought it might be interested too,
so as father and son, we began working on trees.
Fast forward to today, we have thirty different trees. We've
lost a few along the way, but have learned so
much through a Bonsi show. In twenty seventeen, we became
members of the Utah bon Si Club and have both
entered bon Sai into a show hosted bly hosted by

Red Butte Gardens. Who would have thought that a simple
podcast could have inspired my dad and I to do
this and go this far with it. I would love
to give my dad a shout out. He turned sixty
this year. Proud of him and what we've accomplished. That
is from Nathan Staker in Utah and as Pop's mister,
Brent Steaker.

Speaker 2 (46:03):
Nice congratulations Nathan and Brent. That's pretty great. We love
inspiring people.

Speaker 3 (46:08):
Beautiful trees, very beautiful.

Speaker 2 (46:11):
If you want to be like Nathan and Brent and
let us know how we inspired you to do something cool,
We love that kind of thing, you can send it
in an email to stuff Podcasts at iHeartRadio dot com.

Speaker 3 (46:25):
Stuff you Should Know is a production of iHeartRadio. For
more podcasts my heart Radio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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