Sunday, November 29, 2015

Is #Wikidata a #Wiki?

Initially, wiki wiki was meant to be quick. It was meant to bring you where you wanted to be without much of a fuss. Then it became a metaphor for quick and easy editing; you edit and someone else who knows how to improve it may do exactly that. It was ok to be incomplete, it was ok to be wrong in part.

Nowadays, Wikipedia is celebrating its 15th anniversary and, it is received the Erasmus prize for past performance. Wikidata is in its third year.

Not much of the original notion of a wiki is left. It has benefits, it has drawbacks. The argument for a wiki is inclusion but currently all the excess baggage makes Wikipedia and Wikidata an environment where you can easily feel excluded. It is in practices and it is in language; I am supposed to understand a sentence like: "I think I recall you showing P-hardness of RDFS proper a while ago, which would obviously preclude translation into single SPARQL 1.1 queries (unless NL=P).". I do not and I am not inclined to study sufficiently in order for this to make sense. I am assured that it is not difficult, but hey, do I really need to know this stuff, am I really supposed to make such an effort to be part of it all? Do we need university education or do we need universal tools?

It is the same with the data itself; it has to be immaculate when it is to be included. When it is not "good enough", it is either excluded or it is goes to the data hell that is the "primary sources" environment. When people enter data a statement at a time, such discussions do not take place and it is very much done in the wiki way; quick and dirty at first with improvements following later. Quality is not considered but hey, it is a wiki and we are Wikipedians right?

Poor quality does not have to be a problem when it is seen as an opportunity. It is an opportunity when people are invited and enabled to improve quality. It is an opportunity when our tools are about inviting change in Wikidata itself and consequently bring improved embedded data to Wikipedia.

People do not mind to learn the use of tools when what they learn is directly applicable. People will not mind a challenge when the challenge is realistic and relevant. The problem is very much with the high priests of Wikidom who will sacrifice anything for their perceived consensus. These people fail to consider arguments and became as bad as the people who denounced Wikipedia in the day because it would never work.
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