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How to wreck your point - Elf M. Sternberg
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How to wreck your point
Writing essays for a blog or other Internet site is a relatively straightforward matter, but there are the universal gotchas that destroy whatever point it was you were trying to get across to your readers. The classic is the Godwin Violation ("In any on-line discussion, the probability of someone mentioning Hitler or Nazis approaches one, and that person is usually assumed to have lost the argument."), but I am reminded of another, even more powerful dissuader of any writer's true capability to communicate.

Sam Vaknin, a contributor to The American Chronicle, a low-rent news aggregator with equally dim pundits whom you've never read before, reminded me of this in his article The Six Sins of Wikipedia. Many of his points are valid: Wikipedia is anarchic and I have no doubt that many of the articles are cut-and-paste from scanned materials (although how one copyrights a chart of electron shell diagrams or common hydrogen compounds is beyond me).

And yet Mr. Vaknin completely ruins his credibility with this phrase: "Evidently, Wikipedians are vehemently opposed to free speech when it is directed against them." He goes on to list a series of petty and childish attacks made against him on Wikipedia itself, including a parodic biography of Mr. Vaknin that has since been taken down at his request.

Don't shout "X is trying to silence me!" in front of a billion people. It looks stupid.

To be opposed to free speech in principle is the material of the religious fanatics who want to desecrate our Constitution in order to save an idol. The administration is opposed to free speech when it carves the public square into "free speech" and squelched speech zones. The Wikipedia kids are practicing graffiti on their own turf; complaining that what they're doing is tantamount to the real threats to our freedom is just plain dorky. Mr. Vankin, for all his complaints, has not yet figured out how to elevate his discourse above that of recess playground taunting.

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Current Mood: amused amused
Current Music: Sarah Brightman, Harem

6 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
hydrolagus From: hydrolagus Date: July 3rd, 2006 06:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think perhaps attributing thoughts to a another party is another way to dent one's credibility. Attempting to discern bases of policy or actions, sure, but "clearly so&so believes" statements when it is not something that so&so has stated strikes me as bad form.
From: technoshaman Date: July 3rd, 2006 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
What boggles me is the fact that Diane Feinstein came out in support of this bovine scatology. Pontius Pilate on a pogo stick, whose side is she on?!

(Hers, of course. Stay in office and keep the campaign contributions coming.)
(Deleted comment)
drewkitty From: drewkitty Date: July 4th, 2006 04:36 am (UTC) (Link)
>> Wikipedia is anarchic and I have no doubt that many of the articles are cut-and-paste from scanned materials

Based on the handful of articles I've contributed to, I'd have to disagree. I watch the articles I've contributed to, and have enjoyed over the years watching them "morph" into much, much stronger pieces of writing -- with my own contributions subtly altered in ways that strengthen rather than weaken the piece.

Your mileage may vary, of course.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 5th, 2006 12:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

"Sinners and saints" response

It might be interesting to see that I wrote a response, which can also be found on American Chronicle under the title "Sinners and Saints: a response to Sam Vaknin's 'The Six Sins of the Wikipedia'" (http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=11184). Whether that makes me a dim pundit whom noone has ever read before, I'm not sure, but nonetheless I do attempt to address all of Sam's points.

I should note a few things to clarify matters, however. Sam has been spamming his article around the Internet for about a month now, the first time I read it was on Global Politician's site (http://globalpolitician.com/articledes.asp?ID=1911&cid=1&sid=19). I also deleted his article from Wikipedia (at time of counting I have deleted it twice, the last time I added a notice that it shouldn't be recreated and protected the page), but I did this because the article was previously deleted through Wikipedia's normal mechanisms and was restored incorrectly. It had nothing to do with his writings against Wikipedia, nor did it have anything to do with any complaints that Sam made to anyone on Wikipedia, as I didn't even know about them at the time.

I would tend to agree that Sam's ability to respond to criticism in a constructive manner is somewhat lacking.

Ta bu shi da yu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Ta_bu_shi_da_yu)
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 26th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
http://heliologue.com/blog/2006/07/03/sam-vaknins-self-love/
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