Saturday, January 31, 2009


As promised, this is a follow-up to my last post concerning Wikipedia. I won't even begin to rehash everything there. I wrote that a fervid commenter didn't do a very good job of arguing his case, as he failed to realize that his defense (that Wikipedia was known to be inaccurate, but it didn't matter because people used it, people liked it, and people don't care much about accuracy anyway) was a faint effort indeed.

In his third passionate comment on the subject (you can go to the original post by John McIntyre to follow this discussion), after some more of the unconvincing support of Wikipedia, he wrote:
As such, your writing John is mostly (and increasingly so, in my opinion) steered by bitterness.
There's no real follow-up or citations here, though he does go on to write:
Wikipedia will improve and will adapt to the latest situations if so required. Any debate on this (how tumultuous it may be) should be welcomed, instead of being questioned by you.
Of course, McIntyre is allowing these comments to be published on his blog, so it seems obvious to me that he is welcoming this debate, but I'm not the one spluttering on about this.

Here's my main point. The word "bitterness" is rapidly becoming the end of all arguments. We're asked to believe, not just here but on my blog and many other places throughout BlogWorld, that an assignment of bitterness is the ultimate in argumentation. McIntyre is "bitter" about something, and should no longer offer his reasons on the topic. I'm "bitter" about something, as a (former?) commenter expressed, and so my judgment on, say, economics or politics is immediately suspect.

Anyone who's taken Intro to Logic recognizes this for the ad hominem argument it is, but the people who use it seem to find it a devastating critique. It isn't, of course, it's just a way for a weak arguer to claim, "I win. My comments come out of passion and logic, yours merely from bitterness."

It's clear that this particular commenter is out of steam, as he concludes his effort with:
And this is where I will stop feeding the trollz :D
Goodbye folks. Live long and prosper \/.
He dismisses what is actually a fine discussion by claiming that anyone who disagrees with his contention that Wikipedia is great is a troll (and throws in his kewl use of 'z' and his 40-year-old Star Trek reference as proof of his Internet bona fides).

But it does keep him from having to support his questionable logic any further, and maybe we can all be thankful for that.


Citizen Carrie said...

I link to Wikipedia sometimes for reasons you stated in an earlier post. If the information looks good to me or "close enough" to get a quick and minor point across, I link. I assume the reader won't take everything at face value but will just use the information as a starting point. If I'm really passionate about putting a credible point across, I avoid Wikipedia links.

A problem I've found with a lot of the links to "references you can trust" (e.g., from state library associations, schools, and yes, from John McIntyre, etc.) is that it looks like the links were set up by someone who took a 2-week .html class 10 years ago, and no one has bothered to go back to update the information. I found one place that linked to general search engines that have disappeared long ago, or have evolved into something completely different, like Northern Lights. I also find a lot of sites where they list handy categories. I clicked on a "social sciences" category a few days ago expecting to come to a page where I could just put in a search term and come up with about 100 matches. Instead, I clicked on "social sciences" and it took me to a page that had a grand total of 4 links to 4 articles.

At that point, (and this happens to me every single time, and I admit I should probably hunt a little more), I give up on the "trusted source" and fall back to Google and my built in BS-meter.

Gregory Kohs said...

Couldn't agree more about the "bitter" thing, which supposes that all argument should cease from that point onward. I've been labeled "bitter" in several of my online debates with pro-Wikipedia volunteers (the worst of whom I return with a label, "Wikipediots").

I find that these are simply gullible people, immune to traditional standards of ethics. If you told them the co-founder of Wikipedia was hosting child violence pages on his for-profit wiki, that he was caught trying to expense a Moscow massage parlor visit through the Wikimedia Foundation petty cash drawer, and that he was caught facilitating the sanitization of a Wikipedia article merely hours before going to meet the subject of the article for a 24-hour romp in a Doubletree Hotel room, they would say, "Who cares? You're just bitter."

JohnDiddler said...

Perhaps "bitter" is the genteel man's Godwin. "I'm bitter! Well you're a Nazi!"

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