Aviation/Historical Themes on Wikipedia

Calum Douglas

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I don't 'despise' it - I simply regard it as wholly unreliable.

But I do not think it is fair to say Wikipedia is "wholly unreliable". It is simply not always or entirely reliable--no source ever is, even if some are better for some purposes than others.
I wrote a reply on YouTube to someone about this a few days ago. One very serious problem with it, for our (i.e historical context) is that it is very good for what IS. It is progressively worse the further back in time the events in question are. This is, of course the case for any information recording service, but Wikipedia "compounds" this problem due to the way it prohibits citations of REAL primary source documents, and encourages instead referencing of published works.

The newer the development, the chances of the published works on it being accurate, numerous and accepted is obviously very high. But, as we go back in time, we do not have published works on many topics at all, and many others are full of dramatic errors. In history, cutting edge historians and researchers doing real work, are correcting these errors in archives. But we cannot then publish these results to Wikipedia ! Because we cannot cite archive files.

The only reason I have been able to fix a few errors in Wikipeadia, is because I have been able to cite my OWN BOOK as the source, which I know, is accuate as I obviously know its all from archive files. But I think everyone can appreciate that the circular referencing this creates, is (in principle) highly irregular, and not to be encouraged.

This will never change, as Wikipedia relies on amateur fact checkers, the vast majority of whom do not have archive access, but DO have access to modern published books, which will be dramatically more numerous on contemporary matters, than aviation history. Wikipedia has inadvertantly been set up to be the antithesis of what a sound historical data source should look like, sadly. It will therefore, remain useful at only the must surfacic level, when someone who has no idea what a spyplane is, migh want to read up on the SR-71, and so on. I would myself, NEVER cite it in any book I write, because it is not reliable at the "coal-face" of research, its just a compendium of "probably correct-ish" information in a useful and accessible format. Ok for a quick scan of a new subject to spot new leads to study, but little more (at least as far as history is concerned, as I say, for stuff like contemporary physics and so on, its probably very good, as the works people can cite will be far more accurate).

I`m glad Wikipedia exists, and I often take a casual look at it for various things, but never for gathering serious, accurate historical data for publication, the chances of an error are very high.
 

sienar

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I don't 'despise' it - I simply regard it as wholly unreliable.
So I suggest that, if Wikipedia's aviation-related topics are problematic, those who know better should correct them, thus spreading the good word to the less well-informed masses. Your knowledge will go much farther than denigration and may perhaps spark some interest outside the confines of a forum like this one, where you are "preaching to the choir" (as my dear Father used to say).

You should try doing this instead of suggesting it. Just see how long it takes for an edit to be reverted because some admin thinks your edit is wrong and some book from the 70s is the be all end all. Its really fun when said admins have 1000s of edits on aircraft articles but then make it obvious that they don't know very basic things concerning them.
 

iverson

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I wrote a reply on YouTube to someone about this a few days ago. One very serious problem with it, for our (i.e historical context) is that it is very good for what IS. It is progressively worse the further back in time the events in question are. This is, of course the case for any information recording service, but Wikipedia "compounds" this problem due to the way it prohibits citations of REAL primary source documents, and encourages instead referencing of published works.

This also is--or at least was--standard practice for encyclopedias. The fancier ones featured signed articles by recognized authorities. But the principle was the same: they are for well-digested information.

The newer the development, the chances of the published works on it being accurate, numerous and accepted is obviously very high. But, as we go back in time, we do not have published works on many topics at all, and many others are full of dramatic errors. In history, cutting edge historians and researchers doing real work, are correcting these errors in archives. But we cannot then publish these results to Wikipedia ! Because we cannot cite archive files.

I do not agree that there is any correlation between time and accuracy in this or any other reference work. The medieval material (my own one-time specialization) is generally quite good, for example. Modern corporate and political coverage is, on the other hand, notoriously variable, because there are too many interested parties and too many outside agendas involved.

While I agree that the Wikipedia management can be unnecessarily pedantic about their rules, they are in principle correct as far as encyclopedias go. Authors of articles are supposed to cite reliable, published, peer-reviewed, secondary works that not only cite primary material but also analyze them, synthesize conclusions, and thereby predict likely avenues for future research.

Secondary sources are important, because, as I've said before, primary sources are not truths. Nor are they the "real past". They are merely present day facts that historians--like scientists--correlate and explain in order to get closer to truth, either by correctly predicting future discoveries or, often, by later being proved wrong. Archives have their own historical and collection biases that need to be corrected by careful thought (I'm sure that your book didn't regurgitate the archives you slogged through--it made tentative sense of them).

My favorite example of raising questions for the future comes from medieval and renaissance historiography. Two great historians, Huizinga, in his Waning of the Middle Ages, and Jacob Burkhardt, in The Civilization of the Renaissance, reached dramatically opposite conclusions about the fundamental character of the 15th-16th century. For the latter, the period was all about expansion: Humanism, science, the rise of high finance, and the "rediscovery of man and his world". For Huizinga it was all about contraction: the plague, population collapse, economic and political crisis. Both used and cited primary sources contemporary with the period. Huizinga drew many of his examples from his analysis of northern European art, which might seem less solid than a purely documentary approach. But, surprise! When I was an ndergraduate in the '70s, the French cliometry (historical metrics) movement compiled monastic, parish, tax, and market records on a large scale and applied statistical methods, Huizinga was proved right. Europe's population reached its all time height in the 12th and 13th century, crashed by 25-50%, and never recovered thereafter, with all of the economic and political upheavals Huizinga indicated.

Works like Huizinga's and Burkhardt's are real history because they pull scattered primary sources together, draw conclusions, and, explciitly or implicitly, make testable predictions about future research findings. Burkhardt's book is not worthless when seen in this light. Far from it. Once his statements are reread in light of Huzinga's insights, he too reveals a deep understanindg of the period that still has something to teach, long after his primary sources have become some among many.

The only reason I have been able to fix a few errors in Wikipeadia, is because I have been able to cite my OWN BOOK as the source, which I know, is accuate as I obviously know its all from archive files. But I think everyone can appreciate that the circular referencing this creates, is (in principle) highly irregular, and not to be encouraged.
Agreed. But yours is a bit of an odd example. The histories of the internal combustion engine have not been numerous or in wide demand (which is why I am still having no luck getting your book through US distributors--hopefully the publisher still has a few).

On the other hand, while Wikipedia bars citations of original research and primary materials, it encourages them in the links and further reading sections, which often point to online primary source repositories, such as the the Guttenberg project. WikiSource also collects public domain primary materials and cross-references them to the articles, when available. So connecting Wikipedia/WikiSource with primary material is another way of improving the effort.

This will never change, as Wikipedia relies on amateur fact checkers, the vast majority of whom do not have archive access, but DO have access to modern published books, which will be dramatically more numerous on contemporary matters, than aviation history.

The common belief that Wikipedia's non-expert fact checkers cause inaccuracy has not been born out by the facts. When Wikipedia's accuracy was spot checked and compared to the Britannica, Wikipedia actually proved somewhat more accurate on average, not less. The reason is probably that Wikipedia has many, many more fact checkers than Britannica has expert editors. Even in our own fields, we experts all have our habits of thought, pet peeves, prejudices, and things we just think we know. The sheer volume of editors on the Wikipedia project tends to drown these personal prejudices out.

Of course, the narrower the community of interest around a topic, the more individual bias--or outright deceit in some cases--will tend to survive. This is why I suggest that our experts write or correct aviation articles whenever they can. I have followed Wikipedia closely from its beginning, for professional and technical reasons. Aviation topics were almost nil at the beginning. Now they are proliferating. The interest is there, so its time for the quality to improve. You probably shouldn't cite your own books, as you say. But you can cite those of others--they do exist, even on engines--or else weigh in on other related topics where others have written books.

Wikipedia has inadvertantly been set up to be the antithesis of what a sound historical data source should look like, sadly. It will therefore, remain useful at only the must surfacic level, when someone who has no idea what a spyplane is, migh want to read up on the SR-71, and so on. I would myself, NEVER cite it in any book I write, because it is not reliable at the "coal-face" of research, its just a compendium of "probably correct-ish" information in a useful and accessible format. Ok for a quick scan of a new subject to spot new leads to study, but little more (at least as far as history is concerned, as I say, for stuff like contemporary physics and so on, its probably very good, as the works people can cite will be far more accurate).

I`m glad Wikipedia exists, and I often take a casual look at it for various things, but never for gathering serious, accurate historical data for publication, the chances of an error are very high.

Again, Wikipedia is not and is not meant to be a research source. Encyclopedias are consumers of research, not producers. And like any encyclopedia, Wikipedia is meant to cite, not to be cited.
I used to teach research methods to undergraduates and bored them silly by repeating that an encyclopedia is useful for orienting oneself to the subject and maybe choosing subjects for research (instead of asking the harried instructor) but not suitable for citation IN research. An encyclopedia is just a tool. It works as a research source about as well as a hammer works as a screw driver. But that does not mean that it is bad for driving nails.

To me, Wikipedia is a fascinating phenomenon and very close to realizing the intent of the French revolutionaries who created the first Encyclopedie. It is already a great resource industry (my go to for getting an overview of industrial fieldbus implementations and references to their respective governing bodies). It can be a great educational tool as well--if supported by knowedgeable people. {Disclaimer: I have no official or unofficial connection with the Wikipedia project, beyond finding it useful and interesting).
 

iverson

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I don't 'despise' it - I simply regard it as wholly unreliable.
So I suggest that, if Wikipedia's aviation-related topics are problematic, those who know better should correct them, thus spreading the good word to the less well-informed masses. Your knowledge will go much farther than denigration and may perhaps spark some interest outside the confines of a forum like this one, where you are "preaching to the choir" (as my dear Father used to say).

You should try doing this instead of suggesting it. Just see how long it takes for an edit to be reverted because some admin thinks your edit is wrong and some book from the 70s is the be all end all. Its really fun when said admins have 1000s of edits on aircraft articles but then make it obvious that they don't know very basic things concerning them.

I have (and I will do more once I retire, which can't be too soon).

I agree that what you say is true enough. But that is part of participating in any big organization. I am expert in my narrow field and can spot, explain, and correct obvious, documented bad practices. But, in my entire corporate career, how much of it have I actually managed to correct? Not much and usually not for long.

It is also part of the concern for accuracy and lack of bias in that organization. How do they know that you or I are any more correct than some Balkan war crimes apologist trying to rewrite the Srebenica article or some stock manipulator trying to crash Pfizer's stock price with vaccine disinformation? They don't. Wikipedia depends on winnowing out the facts through time and accumulating numbers. It seems to work at least as well as any other method of running an encyclopedia.
 

newsdeskdan

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I`m glad Wikipedia exists, and I often take a casual look at it for various things, but never for gathering serious, accurate historical data for publication, the chances of an error are very high.

Wikipedia works well enough as a tool for some topics but in other areas - ours for example - it is worse than useless. Take, for example, the Emergency_Fighter_Program page. The opening paragraph explains that "The Emergency Fighter Program (German: Jaegernotprogramm) was the program that resulted from a decision taken on July 3, 1944 by the Luftwaffe regarding the German aircraft manufacturing companies during the last years of the Third Reich. This project was one of the products of the latter part of 1944, when the Luftwaffe High Command saw that there was a dire need for a strong defense against Allied bombing raids. Although opposed by important figures such as Luftwaffe fighter force leader Adolf Galland, the project went ahead owing to the backing of Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering[1]. Most of the designs of the Emergency Fighter Program never proceeded past the project stage.[2]

We're off to a bad start here because there was no Emergency Fighter Program. There were individual requirements for particular aircraft types, resulting in specifications being issued to aircraft manufacturers, which resulted in projects being devised, compared and developed. But there was no 'Program' and the term 'Jaegernotprogramm' does not appear anywhere in German WW2 documents - believe me, I've looked very hard for it.
That aside, what about the two cited references - [1] and [2]?
[1] is an article on a website, http://www.airvectors.net/avhe162.html, written by Greg Goebel. Goebel cites four sources: The Warplanes of the Third Reich by William Green, 1970; World War II Fighting Jets by Jeffrey Ethell & Alfred Price, 1994; and Warplanes of the Luftwaffe, edited by David Donald, 1994; and Luft46.com. Green's book, while it still offers a decent overview, is riddled with errors which Green would no doubt have corrected if he'd had access to archival materials which, unfortunately, were still classified in Britain in 1970. World War II Fighting Jets is a tertiary source based on earlier tertiary sources, including Green, and is if anything even less accurate, ditto Warplanes of the Luftwaffe. None of these books may, in 2021, be regarded as a reliable source. Luft46.com, largely created between about 1998 and 2003, is described as 'a fun source of information' even though in some ways it is more accurate than any of the books cited since it is based on works from the likes of Griehl and Schick (and unfortunately also Nowarra).
Reference [2] is another article on another website - https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.php?aircraft_id=1077. This was written by 'Staff Writer' and no literary, archival or other sources are cited.

Strictly speaking, this entire page should simply be deleted. The whole premise upon which it is based is fundamentally flawed. The origin of the term Emergency Fighter Program, as far as I can tell, appears to be a sidebar/panel in German Aircraft of the Second World War by J. Richard Smith and Anthony L. Kay, 1972. The panel is headed 'Emergency Fighter Programme' but what it describes is in fact the 1-TL-Jaeger programme to design an advanced single-jet fighter, begun on July 3, 1944. There's no mention of the rockets, ramjets, miniature fighters etc. outlined on Wikipedia. Smith & Kay's inaccurate headline seems to have grabbed the imagination of some third party or parties who presumed that the Germans would have known this as the Jaegernotprogramm. And so the 'Jaegernotprogramm' concept was born. It's an evocative idea - an 'emergency' fighter competition - which seems to fit well with what's generally known about that period in German history. Before I did any research myself, I thought it would be great to get into an archive and read all about this crazy end-of-war madness for myself. But when I got there, it was nowhere to be found.
Over subsequent years, later authors without access to primary sources seem to have ascribed more and more projects to the mythical Jaegernotprogramm - gathering momentum - until we arrive at the monstrous Emergency Fighter Program page on Wikipedia. This page is linked to other pages and other pages are linked to it - forming an interlocking web of pages all built on a fantasy which has accumulated over the course of nearly 50 years.

How could I explain all this to the non-expert editors at Wikipedia? What sources could I cite, other than my own work, in order to begin unpicking it? It would be a monumental task which would no doubt face opposition and argument at every step along the way. And even if the whole thing was dismantled and replaced with something more resembling the reality of what actually happened in late-war Germany, the Jaegernotprogramm has already gained too much traction. Too many authors have spent too many years recycling inaccurate older works into new inaccurate works without any recourse to primary documents. And all those inaccurate works are now lying around in their tens of thousands on people's bookshelves, in libraries and on the shelves of bookshops. It would only be a matter of time before the more accurate version of events was unpicked by those citing websites based on books from the 90s, based on books written in the 1970s, based on sketchy research without access to original sources.

I take all your points about encyclopedias, iverson, the winnowing out of facts through time and accumulating numbers etc. but returning to the original point - you will no doubt disagree with my view on the subject but perhaps you can at least see why I regard Wikipedia as wholly unreliable. And why I regard any thought of attempting to improve it as a waste of time.
 
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Hood

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Wikipedia is impressive in its breadth, I don't think any resource has ever covered so much and there are some obscure topics that are covered. As an encyclopaedia or an almanac it is probably more encyclopaedic than any hardcopy version could ever be.

But its depth is shallow, article quality varies considerably, errors are fairly common and the issue with secondary sources is well known. More often than not, the web links in the footnotes tend to end up at Internet Archive or a dead end, which doesn't bode well moving forwards. In the next 20 years it might become very difficult to check up on the sources used.
In addition, most Wiki authors are going to use secondary sources that are widely available (and relatively inexpensive), so authors like Green, Gunston, Putnam series, lower cost generalist aviation books and bookzines. How many Wiki authors are aviation nuts likely to have a shelf full of the latest Air Britain books, a stash of Jane's or shelves jammed with specialist books?

Quoting old texts is a double-edged sword, a well-researched book from on a niche subject the author knew well might still stand up to scrutiny in 2020 after 50 years, but there is always a lingering suspicion in my mind that someone somewhere must have revisited the topic and historiography moves on. I'd always be weary of citing a 50 year old secondary text unless I felt it was still accurate and relevant.
Even books with cult following like Project Cancelled are heavily flawed in the light of modern research, its an interesting book and has some interesting technical details but I would never cite it as a reliable source today.

I guess for those of us who write books, maybe we can look forward to someone in 2040 citing our works regularly on Wikipedia?
 

Archibald

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Wikipedia is impressive in its breadth, I don't think any resource has ever covered so much and there are some obscure topics that are covered. As an encyclopaedia or an almanac it is probably more encyclopaedic than any hardcopy version could ever be.

Checked the other day and I was up for a surprise. Seems that with 6 million entries it beats the previous record of 4 million... a chinese encyclopedia of 600 years ago !
 

newsdeskdan

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I guess for those of us who write books, maybe we can look forward to someone in 2040 citing our works regularly on Wikipedia?

Today an unsourced 500w article posted on militaryfactory.com probably has a greater chance of being cited than any book yet published. Who knows where we will be by 2040?
 
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edwest2

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As a professional researcher where I work, and outside of work, Wikipedia is the People's Liberation Army - Dictatorship - Encyclopedia. And an example of the "let's get something for nothing" Socialist mindset. Free? So what? Sure, for the inexperienced who wish to become two minute experts or for the more experienced who are looking for a start when handed an assignment to locate good historical information about unfamiliar, to me, subjects. The bottom line: good, accurate history should exist, but don't teach a generation of people that free and relatively easy is better than books and other sources. I am also a student of the media and media history. The goal is to push people online.

Let's use this site as an example. Are enough articles cross-referenced to the point where anyone can find anything? Not really. A Luftwaffe specialist site that was quite active is now an archive site. My original log-in still works but out of sight, out of mind. Not so with books and actual, paper archives. I'm on another Luftwaffe specialist site and the amount of abbreviations and various German words combined means the new, casual browser would be immediately confused and put off. LG1? What's that? RKT?

I am not about to be pushed online as if libraries have disappeared. On a large project involving actual Chinese history, I did my part. A very big contribution came from a colleague who knew people in Hong Kong. At any rate, the direction the media/internet is going in is not conducive to developing good research skills and for cultivating the commitment to getting the job done, even if it takes years.

When using secondary sources, my rule is to check other, more scholarly sources which reference archive material. I am watching history being written today. It will stand the test of time because it is being written from primary sources and the authors cite those sources. The bottom line: I am totally unconcerned about 2040. I am referencing all of the new material being published in paper form. Generally, history is about filling in the gaps with material not reported at the time. In the case of Luftwaffe research, new photos appear. New documents appear at auction and from highly reputable sellers. I also know that private collections exist. Material that was somehow acquired or passed on.

Example: A book about a World War I German tank has been published with new photos. Where were those photos prior to publication?
 
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DWG

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This is, of course the case for any information recording service, but Wikipedia "compounds" this problem due to the way it prohibits citations of REAL primary source documents, and encourages instead referencing of published works.

This nails the core issue with Wikipedia, I sort of understand why they do it, but whatever they may say, it's fundamentally the opposite of how normal encyclopaedias work.

OTOH, it's not going to get better if everyone just says "wah, my changes were reverted by an idiot." Revert them back, with references.
 

Grey Havoc

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OTOH, it's not going to get better if everyone just says "wah, my changes were reverted by an idiot." Revert them back, with references.
In earlier times that was still possible. Now however...
 

edwest2

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Wikipedia is impressive in its breadth, I don't think any resource has ever covered so much and there are some obscure topics that are covered. As an encyclopaedia or an almanac it is probably more encyclopaedic than any hardcopy version could ever be.

But its depth is shallow, article quality varies considerably, errors are fairly common and the issue with secondary sources is well known. More often than not, the web links in the footnotes tend to end up at Internet Archive or a dead end, which doesn't bode well moving forwards. In the next 20 years it might become very difficult to check up on the sources used.
In addition, most Wiki authors are going to use secondary sources that are widely available (and relatively inexpensive), so authors like Green, Gunston, Putnam series, lower cost generalist aviation books and bookzines. How many Wiki authors are aviation nuts likely to have a shelf full of the latest Air Britain books, a stash of Jane's or shelves jammed with specialist books?

Quoting old texts is a double-edged sword, a well-researched book from on a niche subject the author knew well might still stand up to scrutiny in 2020 after 50 years, but there is always a lingering suspicion in my mind that someone somewhere must have revisited the topic and historiography moves on. I'd always be weary of citing a 50 year old secondary text unless I felt it was still accurate and relevant.
Even books with cult following like Project Cancelled are heavily flawed in the light of modern research, its an interesting book and has some interesting technical details but I would never cite it as a reliable source today.

I guess for those of us who write books, maybe we can look forward to someone in 2040 citing our works regularly on Wikipedia?

I'd like to reply to part of that. Imagine a meeting of experts on any subject. They are not carrying around secondary works but have published articles and have long lists of primary sources and their locations. As is the case with all such material, there are words and references peculiar to whatever it is. Now imagine adding a roomful of teenagers with some ** limited ** knowledge of the subject and their being told they can contribute to something called Wikipedia. Their youthful enthusiasm propels them to vigorously start typing away, using whatever they have read and have at hand. So you have a lot of tonnage but most of it should be directed to a landfill as opposed to actually being published.

There is no such thing as "modern" research. The U.S. National Archives releases formerly classified material every quarter. The title headings for such releases are a testimony to vague wording. Some researchers have acquired the material and turned it into printed history. What was classified has been declassified, or is now unclassified. Those who do actual research can add to the historical record - accurately. Other material is still classified.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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"Something for nothing" became the dominant model for the internet when Facebook, Google et al decided to monetise their users to advertisers rather than charge a fee.

Wikipedia is good enough for a shallow dip, especially on more general subjects. I don't suppose anyone expected accurate and detailed information on individual aircraft types in Encyclopedia Britannica. You had to buy separate specialist publications.
 

edwest2

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I owned a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. Imagine Wikipedia disappears tomorrow, then what? Call the local library? Actually go there? There is much to be said for browsing the shelves and reading specialist military journals without having to pay for them. I'd rather buy the specialist publications.

Google was sued for copyright infringement. Advertising allowed early TV to be free. That has changed, especially with the fake word "streaming." Yes, the goal is to monetize everything once a critical mass has been reached. That's always been the goal. I would warn researchers that creating a sense of dependency on computers has drawbacks. The company I work for had a great deal of material on a hard drive. It crashed. The drive was sent to a company that retrieves lost material. They could not do so in this case. We had physical originals for most of the lost material. So unless a backup or two exists or physical originals, the average researcher could be out of a lot of time and effort should his computer fail or be the victim of some malicious program.
 

Schneiderman

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OTOH, it's not going to get better if everyone just says "wah, my changes were reverted by an idiot." Revert them back, with references.
Which brings us back to the issues noted earlier, those references have to be published works. Having tried to correct errors on some pages only to see them reverted as I was unable to reference the primary source I can no longer be bothered. We have to accept that for many subjects, such as those we discuss here, Wiki is not the place to go. Getting more specialist material published is the only way forward, and that is where I will focus my efforts.
 

newsdeskdan

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OTOH, it's not going to get better if everyone just says "wah, my changes were reverted by an idiot." Revert them back, with references.
Which brings us back to the issues noted earlier, those references have to be published works. Having tried to correct errors on some pages only to see them reverted as I was unable to reference the primary source I can no longer be bothered. We have to accept that for many subjects, such as those we discuss here, Wiki is not the place to go. Getting more specialist material published is the only way forward, and that is where I will focus my efforts.

I agree. Time is finite and there are simply much better ways to use what time we have available than involvement in Wikipedia.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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The company I work for had a great deal of material on a hard drive. It crashed. The drive was sent to a company that retrieves lost material. They could not do so in this case. We had physical originals for most of the lost material. So unless a backup or two exists or physical originals, the average researcher could be out of a lot of time and effort should his computer fail or be the victim of some malicious program.
Any individual, let alone company, who possesses important data that is not backed up to another location is being criminally negligent. That's not something you can blame on computers.

I'll remind you that Aerospace Publishing lost almost their entire archive of physical photos and drawings in a flood.
 

icyplanetnhc (Steve)

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I've toyed with the idea of "SecretProjectsPedia". The basic wiki software is freely available.
I honestly would fear edit warring over controversial topics, especially ones that users feel passionate about (with or without the technical knowledge to back it up).

I wrote much of the F-35 Wikipedia article in its current form, and got it into Good Article status. Other editors have assisted tremendously in proofreading it. I’ve had to deal with edit warring, especially with more agenda-driven individuals, and it wasn’t fun even though they were vanquished eventually.
 

Hood

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I owned a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. Imagine Wikipedia disappears tomorrow, then what? Call the local library? Actually go there? There is much to be said for browsing the shelves and reading specialist military journals without having to pay for them. I'd rather buy the specialist publications.
That is more difficult than it sounds. Libraries are fast divesting themselves of specialist books and journals due to online copies and indeed new specialist books are expensive for libraries to purchase. Are they going to spend £1,198 on the latest Jane's 2020/21 Yearbook (yep that's the price alright!) or are they going to buy 120 cheap paperback novels for the same price?

At the university where I work - which shall remain nameless - the library was thoroughly redeveloped. Every book not lent out for the previous 5 years was flogged to an online bookseller.
Whole collections of journals were sent for pulping, the justification being "they are online" when in fact a lot of them either too old to have been digitised or were unavailable.

A set of Brassey annuals from 1950-1970s - pulped
A set of RUSI journals from 1955-1990s - pulped
A set of Naval Proceedings 1960s-1990s - pulped
A set of International Defence Review 1970s-late 90s - pulped
A set of Jane's Intelligence Review - 1970s-1993ish - pulped
Several copies of Jane's Strategic Missile Systems 1980s - pulped
In fact everything Jane's - several large books - pulped

And this was just in the political section alone - a lot of history journals went too plus numerous small pamphlets (a Terne A/S mortar brochure for example).
The copy of Project Cancelled (1st Edition) survives though (in the engineering section...).
Some airline and aircraft manufacturer materials survive in the business section, but a lot of government publications on the aircraft industry were pulped too - though a full set of Command Papers and Parliamentary records survive thankfully.

If I had researched my MA there just three years later the job would have been impossible. A whole host of material lost forever and if anyone can tell me that little lot listed above is fully digitised and available online with an institutional subscription then I'll eat my flap cap.

In the interests of fairness - in UK universities at least, there are whole shelves that were/are devoted to serving the politics and international relations courses of the late 1980s - a lot of material on nuclear proliferation, anti-nuclear campaigns, CND, NATO defence planning, nuclear warfare scenario planning, civil defence follies, analysis of Soviet intentions and capabilities. Many of those books still sit on the politics shelves - they never migrated to the history sections and indeed many history students who aren't savvy enough to look beyond the history catalogue probably miss them. So they eat up shelf space for courses and modules that died 30 years ago or have been substantially re-written and eventually are unwanted and dumped by the departments that originally purchased them.
I still think its sad, however, that some universities spent 50 years building up collections due to decimate them overnight.
 

Schneiderman

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Libraries are fast divesting themselves of specialist books and journals .........
And as a result a large percentage of my collection of pre-war books and magazines is cancelled copies ex-libraries, some bought directly and other via secondhand dealers. I understand why they would choose to divest stock that has not been read for, in many cases, decades but it is not healthy to see easy open access to such material no longer viable.
 

edwest2

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I'm not seeing a balanced view. The internet contains abandoned sites. There is a way to find those sites but I won't post that here in order to avoid accusations of promotion. A Luftwaffe research site that ran for years is now an archive site. It contains a great deal of research. I can still access it since my original log-in is still accepted. But since it actually does not exist, it is invisible. Like those library books no one ever read but worse. I can locate published books going back to the 1800s, and further but that is beyond my area of interest. Unlike the internet, they have stood the test of time.

Let's be honest, some people want something for nothing and expect others to do the work. The specialist Luftwaffe literature is eagerly sought after. Buy it at the moment of publication or see it going for 200, 300 or more dollars shortly after.

I relish going to the local university library. Management of their book collection means someone dedicated to planning. As far as ebooks, I'd like to point that there are still 24 hours in a day and the average amount of time a person can spend on reading has not increased. Prior to the internet, the number of books published was the size of the Great Lakes in the U.S. Now, due to ebooks, it's the size of all the oceans in the world combined.

I read the book industry trade press and have been reading about the death of the printed book for years. It has not happened. In fact, printed book sales continue to increase. Ebooks have not driven them from the market. This goes for fiction and non-fiction. The average reader no longer has to deal with finding a book in a haystack but a book in an ocean. Non-fiction that is not vetted by qualified persons is published. And I am consistently not impressed. The mistake the internet created was to allow people with little knowledge or proper research skills to think that access to publication is all they need. Without thorough review, it means that junk is published. Material that would never have been approved for publication by a quality publisher. And every quality publisher starts by producing that first quality book and then more. Word quickly spreads and they continue on.
 

airman

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Sincerely i love "wikipedia english " a little more than " italian wikipedia " : it's more exaustive especially for newbies . I think we cannot watch wikipedia like specialistic encyclopedia .
 

Foo Fighter

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I had a chance to buy the whole collection of Jane's held in the local library when they were deemed 'surplus' to requirement but nowhere to store them and the quantity was vast. The cost would have been about £2 per volume but storage would have been exorbitant. This cost is what drives libraries to divest stock and there aint a thing we can do about it. Bloody tragic.
 

Hood

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I had a chance to buy the whole collection of Jane's held in the local library when they were deemed 'surplus' to requirement but nowhere to store them and the quantity was vast. The cost would have been about £2 per volume but storage would have been exorbitant. This cost is what drives libraries to divest stock and there aint a thing we can do about it. Bloody tragic

If I had known which day the lot had been dumped into the skip and broken into the builder's compound, then salvage might have been possible. Like you though, I don't have Tardis-like bookshelves to accommodate such a haul.

They never offered students/staff the opportunity to pick through the retired stock. The rationale seemed to be they had paid two companies (online seller and paper merchant) contracts to haul this stuff away and so they had no incentive to salvage anything.
 

Foo Fighter

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I get annoyed when organisations who pay management to think, get managers who cannot be bothered to do so. Lazy, idle and bloody oxymoronic. If they are not thinking of the good of the customer/user, they are NOT managing anything. Now, do I go to Hasda be today or can I leave it until tomorrow?.......
 

Grey Havoc

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They never offered students/staff the opportunity to pick through the retired stock. The rationale seemed to be they had paid two companies (online seller and paper merchant) contracts to haul this stuff away and so they had no incentive to salvage anything.
And then they wonder why increasingly no-one will give them the time of day.

The times we live in are sufficient proof, I strongly now believe, that wokeness, corruption, and incompetence are all tightly interlinked.
 

edwest2

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I suggest avoiding broad, sweeping generalizations. The used book trade in the United States consists of people who are highly skilled at locating items they can sell. I know one major dealer. He allowed me a look inside his office. There was a large board with various notes attached, such as: "Contact me if you get XYZ," and "Always buying this and that." In order to be successful, these book dealers build up a list of clientele who want to buy certain books and magazines. This book dealer has a truck to pick up large collections. I've seen people come into his large store with books to sell. His expert staff makes an offer or rejects the lot. And I know there are people in the U.S. who are waiting in the wings when libraries sell off books or throw them away.
 

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