[Cz-biology] Auto-created articles about genes
asu at drewsu.com
Fri Sep 21 13:50:17 CDT 2007
Thanks all for the stimulating discussion. Larry, you make/reinforce
many good and compelling arguments about the CZ model. But, I don't
think this is enough yet to convince me to go with a CZ-only approach.
Let me give my point of view on the issues you raised (paraphrased
below -- hope I did them justice).
> The work done at WP will "rot on the vine" when the initial contributors leave and
> knowledgeable experts aren't there to maintain/nurture it.
Personally, I think the key to sustainability is making the resource
useful. If we can convince researchers to incorporate this into their
toolbox, then I think there will always be a stable number of eyes
(and hence, authors) for these gene pages.
And moreover, I think the reality of both WP and CZ is that majority
of edits will end up being done by students (undergrad and grad) and
people who are relatively early in their career. More senior editors
will of course play an important part of oversight at CZ, but I think
it's unreasonable to think that the majority of content will be
created by these people. It's just a power law / long-tail thing.
Anyway, if this is true, then I think we again can count on this huge
pool of authors that is constantly being refreshed.
> Geneticists recruited to WP will eventually become disgusted with the unsavory parts
> of WP, including overzealous and unqualified editors.
In my limited experiences over at WP so far, I have found the active
biology authors/administrators over there now to be very good,
competent, and helpful. Vandalism is low (yet quickly corrected), and
I don't see evidence of the warts you have probably seen in other
parts of WP. Perhaps this is due largely to the relatively low
profile of the genetics/biology articles. In that sense, I can only
hope that these articles become so high-profile that they attract the
contentious debates which expose WP's flaws (namely, that there is no
mechanism for an expert to resolve these debates). If that occurs,
then it is my hope that these authors will by then have appreciated
the power and potential of a gene wiki, and instead of abandoning the
idea altogether, they will search for a better structured effort (CZ).
Or maybe it doesn't even take seeing the warts at WP -- if/when CZ
approaches WP in stature and name recognition, or when people start to
pay more attention to wiki-related efforts and competing models,
people may migrate over naturally.
But my concern is that if we start with CZ-only, the critical mass to
nurture a huge influx of newbies is not yet there. I think you'd
agree that the critical mass at CZ, which promising, is not yet a
given. I did a quick search of all registered biology authors/editors
and found that in the past two months, only 12 had greater than 10
edits in the main CZ namespace. Of the 196 articles that they edited,
only 101 were related to biology (and even fewer with molecular
biology or genetics). I agree that a lot of good things are
happening, but again, I'm not sure if it's quite yet enough to be able
to hold together many newbies.
A brief aside on the psychology of a newbie, from the perspective of
being one not long ago. I think when people are contemplating their
first edit, most want to know that their change is a tiny piece in a
huge juggernaut. First, people want to know that if they mess up,
their change will be gently and easily corrected. That someone will
step out of the marching lines for a moment to help them, but the vast
majority of the troops will keep moving on, probably without even
noticing. Second, it's a huge piece of positive reinforcement that if
a newbie makes first edit, that then someone else very soon comes and
makes a second edit. Could be completely unrelated, could be only
because the newbie's edit bumped the page on someone's watchlist. But
that someone saw their edit and is building on top of it is very
gratifying. IMHO, both these effects are huge for someone who is just
getting their feet wet, and both are largely a function of critical
mass. And right now, IMHO, WP has that size to satisfy these two
points, but CZ does not. Perhaps that means the CZ is expert-friendly
while WP is newbie-friendly?
> A parallel effort will dilute the the efforts of the community
I'm hopeful that this isn't a zero-sum game. I'm hopeful that this
project will draw scientists to the idea of a gene wiki, regardless of
WP vs CZ. And regardless of where they start, perhaps once they're
hooked, they'll be in a better position to decide which model works
best for them. In that regard, having parallel efforts may increase
overall retention rates just by having two options to choose from.
So to summarize, my preference is still to do a dual WP and CZ
approach. And though I don't agree with it, I understand the
rationale for not pursuing the CZ effort if we go with WP. Your
(collective) call. But it would be nice to get consensus in the next
week or two...
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