Friday, November 29, 2019

It is not a list when it is the result of a query

A list is a presentation of data. When a list is maintained manually, the list IS the data, when the data is the result of a query, it REPRESENTS the data.

The difference is quite important. Changing the information in a query is in the definition of the query, changing the data is a matter of re-running the query. Changing the information in a list is a lot of work and therefore there is no integrity in the data itself, it is always potluck what quality the data is.

In the Wikipedia world, Listeria is king of the queried lists. For some its use is controversial but things are changing for the better. Projects like Women in Red use Listeria a lot, their work is possible because people add notable women in Wikidata. The queries work on the basis of awards, professions, nationality enabling volunteers to write the articles they care to write. This works because once an article is written they are automagically removed from the lists.

On the English Wikipedia consensus has it that manual lists are to be preferred. However, emperically the quality of automated lists perform better {{REF}} and as data in Wikidata does not suffer from "false friends" even the support for "red links" is vastly superior.

There is no point in anecdotal evidence who is best. When the English Wikipedia has a black link for Stephen Fleming on its page for the Spearman medal first, it is an obvious start for a new item on Wikidata that is more than just a person who won the Spearman medal. It then becomes a target for lists of the special interest groups who aim to cover "their" subject matter well.

The next stage of the acceptance of lists relies on the realisation that "consensus" does not serve us well particularly when it trumps established facts. It will serve us well in politics and, in what Wikimedia projects could be.

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