User talk:Linas

From Encyclopedia of Mathematics
Revision as of 19:35, 1 December 2012 by Linas (talk | contribs) (more content)
Jump to: navigation, search

Hi Linas, welcome aboard here. We definitely appreciate contributions by experienced wikipedians! Maybe you will have fun here with mathjax enhancements. --Ulf Rehmann 21:33, 1 July 2012 (CEST)

Maybe this is indeed a better place for you... :-) --Boris Tsirelson 23:24, 1 July 2012 (CEST)
Thanks. Finding exactly the right combination of editability, accuracy, peer review, etc. remains elusive. Planet-math is not wiki-like enough; there is no effective way to revise existing articles. And its slow... Scholarpedia seems promising, but for the life of me, I have only been able to log on once, and never again. I guess they have technical problems. Wikipedia can be both marvelous and awful. I still remember the time a college student, preparing for an exam, asked me for help on angular momentum in quantum mechanics. I spent hours fixing up the page; he blanked it because he couldn't understand it, and replaced it with nonsense. I've not the patience. The question will be: can EOM attract enough interest. the "critical mass", to move forward? Linas 00:16, 2 July 2012 (CEST)
About "enough interest": to my satisfaction, we have now 320+ articles viewed 320+ times each [1], and every month adds about 60 to the number. Boris Tsirelson 08:23, 2 July 2012 (CEST)
Today, its up to 362. Linas 19:51, 22 July 2012 (CEST)
Yes. But my display shows 360, since I am lazy to update it every day. :-) --Boris Tsirelson 21:10, 22 July 2012 (CEST)

Hello, sorry to be nosy... but I just happened to look at your webpage and I tried to get your essays on why wikipedia would need a new leadership, but I could not find them anywhere. I am curious: I am a novice in the "wiki sector" and just learning things. You also mention a world class mathematician who has been banned from wikipedia: do you know how to contact him? Maybe he would like to contribute to this Encyclopedia. Camillo (talk) 17:56, 1 December 2012 (CET)

I can't say that I have a fully-formed "essay", just some disorganized commentary here or there. There are some procedural aspects that could be improved, but these do not require new leadership, per se. My most serious complaints are about the malicious behavior of the admins, and that fact that some portion of them are miscreants, and that they have taken hold of the organization as a kind of rot or cancer, and that nothing is being done to fix this. This is the aspect that really does require new leadership; the damage that these admins are doing are driving people away.
So, on the innocuous, procedural side: I think that there is plenty of room for exploring different rules and mechanisms for quality control, such as peer-review. I do have an essay at WP about applying a "seal of approval" on certain versions of articles. So, for example, while anyone may edit and make changes to articles (possibly inserting inaccurate information), there would also be "editorial boards" who would review articles, and give certain specific versions a "seal of approval". The goal of this was to allay reader fears that articles may contain inaccurate information. Whether this is really needed or not is unclear.
Wikipedia has developed a large number of rules and regulations, based on hard-earned experience. However, all of those are based on the fact that literally anyone can edit WP, which includes many people who really are not qualified to do so. For a place like EOM, with a more academic slant, a very different set of procedures could be attempted. I view it as an experiment -- for example, Planet Math (PM) has a very different way of operating, and that has lead to a great fragmentation of content. (Authors can protect content on PM, and thus, there are often 2 or 3 or more articles on the same topic, each incomplete and deficient in different ways.)
The biggest problem on WP has is the concept of "administrators". These are folks with greatly expanded powers, the ability to police. There is no particular skill or ability one must posses to become admin, other than to garner some fraction of votes: one becomes an admin by popular consent. Admins rarely loose their powers, once they get them. However, unlike real police, there is no code of conduct to adhere to. There is a complete lack of professionalism or proper behavior that one might expect out of someone who holds such broad powers. As a result, its a bit of a magnet for the power-hungry, and, once in power, they run rampant, doing as they please, with no supervision or over-sight. They feel righteous and justified in their powers, thus fueling the abuses. This is the aspect that needs a complete overhaul, and, as the problem has persisted for over half-a-decade, its clear that the only way it will get fixed is to install new leadership.
There are many stories and examples I could provide, but I've gotten a bit bored of that. The moral of the story is that if you are going to put someone in a position of power, you also need to put in a system of checks and balances, to make sure that they are responsible and responsive to their duties. Right now, the WP admins are a bunch of cretins running around with guns, a lawless gang free to fuck anyone they wish. Certainly fucked me over.
EOM has a completely different set of problems. One is that I feel a little intimidated. I had vaguely thought of editing and "improving" one certain article, here, on one topic, when I realized that it was written by someone who had introduced the very concept, won prestigious prizes for it, and made it their life work. The idea that I, a rank beginner, studying the topic for the first time ever, could "improve" on it, scared me away: it would be like defiling a work of art. In fact, I probably could improve it: as sometimes, the fresh experience of someone who has just learnt a new topic is the best base from which to explain it to other beginners. On the other hand, only a master can provide the sweeping, broad overview; the trick is to merge both into one article. Anyway, I got nervous, and didn't want to wreck the work of the master, and so I'm stymied.
Starting new articles here is scary, too: most/all math articles on WP start out as total crap: a few incomplete sentences or paragraphs. But that is expected, and over time, they improve. Here, it feels that, perhaps, articles should spring into existence fully-formed, complete. I'm not sure I want to be known as the man who started a thousand crappy, incomplete, badly formed articles.
Anyway, different wikis have different cultures, and that's OK, the differences should be celebrated. Finding those cultures that work best, create the best output, attract (and maintain!!) the best talent, that is the burning issue. Linas (talk) 20:10, 1 December 2012 (CET)
As far as I understand, the mathematician banned from wikipedia is User:Silly rabbit, and he (or she?) wants to stay anonymous; thus, I guess, Linas will not give us that name in public. --Boris Tsirelson (talk) 20:27, 1 December 2012 (CET)

maintain the burning passion to set words and formulas to print.

Yes, I can't unmask identities, nor would it be appropriate to lobby for aid.
As to being a wiki newcomer: try them all, see which ones you like. Different ones will suit different people, different styles.:::As to attracting talent: realize that the tenure track (mostly) offers no credits for wiki authorship. The number, and perhaps brilliance, of your published articles and books count. Unpublished pre-prints, not so much. Wiki edits: who is to say what your contributions were? Perhaps you have twenty thousand edits, and maybe they were all grammatical corrections. Not something a tenure committee is going examine. Editing a wiki can be dangerous for your career: not only does it not bring credit, but it can be so enjoyable that its addicting, and you find yourself doing that instead of the basic research that is expected of you. Oh no. :::My (unscientific) impression of WP math editors: they are either the academically-trained, who wandered out of academia, and came to regret it, or they are mid-late or even retired professors: they've already written so many books, they don't need one more, and yet are still fire-hoses of words and formulas. There are also a fairly large number of grad students: sometimes, one of the best ways to learn a topic is to write about it (that's how I do it; homework exercises are secondary for me: I know they are important, but they sure can be tedious. Its far more fun to write.) However, I can't say that I've ever run into a post-doc on WP, and maybe a tiny handful of assistant/associate profs. But that is just an impression, I don't know if its true. If you wish to attract academic talent, you've got to figure out how tenure fits into the scheme of it all.:::It seems that Scholarpedia has hit a good balance: one may author an article there, and then claim academic credit for it, akin to a published paper: your name is attached, there is peer review, the output has heft: not just a few paragraphs here or there, a few sentences rewritten for clarity, but entire articles, cut from whole cloth. A pretty decent place for early-career mathematicians to have a go at it. Linas (talk) 20:35, 1 December 2012 (CET)
How to Cite This Entry:
Linas. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL: