2012/3/7 Marcin Cieslak <sa...@saper.info>
> I researched recently some material related to a recent catastrophic
> event in Polish railway history[1] and I found out that volunteers
> who traditionally dealt with railway matters on Polish Wikipedia
> have virtually disappeared.

Thought provoking, thanks a lot for this.

> * They have to do lots of original research; it is impossible
>  to follow development of the railway infrastructure and
>  operations using only high quality published sources;

I'm taking a hint from Clay Shirky's books here: What most people
would consider high quality published sources - in this case, by
railway companies, governments, standards institutions or engineering
colleges - simply don't have the capacity to go into that much detail.
The Polish (Russian, Israeli, American, Indian) volunteer railway
geeks do have this capacity, and quite possibly the quality of the job
that they can do is just as good as that of the above institutions.

So the root question is whom do we trust. It's the same problem as
with the recurring (and perfectly valid) "Oral citations" discussion:
What's important is not in which medium the source is published, but
how much do the no-original-research geeks trust it. And don't get me
wrong - in the vast majority of cases, both the railway geeks and the
no-original-research geeks are the good guys, who ultimately care
about the readers getting the best information possible.

I suppose that in this case of railways documentation, this problem
can be solved by some kind of a statement by a famous Polish
engineering college or the Polish railway company, which would say:
"We salute the work of the volunteers who document the Polish railways
on this wiki. We checked their work and found it to be correct and
useful." It would have little substance, but it would be a kind of a
quality control stamp. Unfortunately we haven't found a better quality
control stamp yet.

And by the way, this doesn't necessarily mean that all the information
from this wiki should be copied to Wikipedia. It would be fine if that
wiki would simply be recognized by the Wikipedia community as a
reliable source.

> (1) Do you see similar trend in your respective communities
>  (preferably not only English-speaking ones)?

I can immediately remember similar cases in the Hebrew Wikipedia with
writing about sex and about Jewish religious communities and rabbis.
In the first case, this happened because the Hebrew Wikipedia
community is very averse to writing about pornography and anything
related to it - not because it's socially conservative, but because in
the first years of its existence writing about pornography was
strongly associated with trolls who disrupted other work. The
difference between pornography and sex is obvious, yet the
he.wikipedia community is very cautious now about both.

As for Jewish religious communities, many articles about them look
very similar to people who aren't involved, and this obviously raises
notability concerns, so Jewish religious wikis sprang up.

> (2) Is there a legitimate need for multi-tiered
>  development of the knowledge-related content (test
>  wikis, "pre-wikis", sighted revisions) or shall we pursue
>  "flat development space" ideal?

It is perfectly legitimate. We are not supposed to want to swallow all
human knowledge; we are supposed to want it to be accessible.
Theoretically, such wikis could become new Wikimedia projects, but the
fact is that new projects have not been started by the Foundation in
the recent years. Another fact is that the Foundation gives little
attention to its own existing non-Wikipedia projects. So if
independent volunteers can make a good railway wiki by themselves, why

> (3) Assuming we find the abovemetioned trend to be
>  generally a good thing, shouldn't we try to research
>  some methodologies to find out whether there is sizeable
>  effort supporting our goals outside of the core Wikimedia
>  movement?

See the answer to the previous question; The Foundation is mostly
preoccupied with Wikipedia. Though disappointing to Wikisource fans
like myself, it's not necessarily bad. I suppose that it's not even a
question of intent, but of capacity.

At the very least, it should be remembered that there are different
models of knowledge collection and sharing, so threads like this are

> (4) Assuming we don't like what's going on, shouldn't
>  we revisit some of Wikipedia core values (like "no
>  original research", but not only) and try to address
>  the issue there?

*Wikipedia*'s core values are fine. Without the no original research
policy it wouldn't be as useful as it is now.

Such wikis can, theoretically, be adopted as other projects. Or maybe
as very particular namespaces in Wikipedia. The line must be drawn
somewhere, however.

Amir Elisha Aharoni · אָמִיר אֱלִישָׁע אַהֲרוֹנִי
‪“We're living in pieces,
I want to live in peace.” – T. Moore‬

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