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Re: Wikipedia extolled as an aide for getting history correct
J Leslie Turriff
Re: Wikipedia extolled as an aide for getting history correct
Sat, 18 Jun 2022 01:06:19 -0500
Indeed, the failure of Wikipedia to differentiate references to the
kernel (Linux) and
OSs that depend on it (GNU/Linux et al) is unfortunate. Many people, including
actually use Linux-based systems, are wont to use 'Linux' as a short-hand for
and there are many who aren't aware of the distinction at all, which is where
shortcoming of the Wikipedia article is particularly unfortunate.
On 2022-06-16 16:46:42 Akira Urushibata wrote:
> An article appeared in Washington Post's opinion section praising
> Wikipedia's service to democracy by providing objective information
> on the history of Russia and Ukraine and related issues.
> Russian President Vladimir has made claims that Ukraine is run by
> Nazists and they need to be eradicated. He also believes that
> Ukraine should not be independent from Moscow. Upon hearing such
> statements many people in democratic societies headed to Wikipedia
> to examine their veracity. Relevant articles saw a sharp increase
> in page views.
> Wikipedia acts as a check on Putin's false view of history
>vrov/ Perspective by Noam Cohen
> Since the Russian invasion, the English Wikipedia articles about the
> historical figures and topics Putin invoked have been racking up
> pop-star numbers. The article about Stepan Bandera, a far-right leader
> of Ukrainian nationalists before and during World War II - whom Putin
> sees as an evil force guiding Ukraine even today - has been viewed a
> million times since the invasion. The one about the Ukrainian Soviet
> Socialist Republic, an obscure entity within the Union of Soviet
> Socialist Republics that Putin sees as having enabled Ukraine's
> current separate political identity, has had more than a half-million
> views since the invasion. Also with Bandera-type numbers is the
> article about Kievan Rus' (just under a million views), the ancient
> kingdom led by Vladimir the Great (225,000).
> A world with an impartial source of information is far healthier than
> one in which only disparate narratives from two competing entities are
> However, my personal observation of Wikipedia makes me doubt whether
> it deserves as much praise as Noam Cohen suggests.
> Occasionally I take a look at the Wikipedia article on the "Linux"
> operating system. It is constantly edited. At times I have seen
> efforts to eradicate or minimize the role of GNU. Here are the
> first two paragraphs of the current version of the article:
> Linux is a family of open-source Unix-like operating systems based
> on the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on
> September 17, 1991, by Linus Torvalds. Linux is typically packaged
> in a Linux distribution.
> Distributions include the Linux kernel and supporting system
> software and libraries, many of which are provided by the GNU
> Project. Many Linux distributions use the word "Linux" in their
> name, but the Free Software Foundation uses the name "GNU/Linux" to
> emphasize the importance of GNU software, causing some controversy.
> It is true that FSF uses the name "GNU/Linux" but the way it is
> phrased gives people the impression that FSF is but an isolated voice
> among computer specialists. This is a factual error. For example
> there is "Debian GNU/Linux" developed by an organization independent
> from FSF. Moreover in numerous technical documents I encounter the
> term "GNU/Linux" used by people who are obviously not affiliated to
> FSF, in contexts where it is necessary to distinguish between the
> kernel and the operating system. Wikipedia, while putting emphasis on
> the desires of FSF, fails to make clear that people have practical
> reasons for saying "GNU/Linux." Failure to say that not everybody who
> says "GNU/Linux" is prodded by FSF is a factual error. Failure to
> mention that people need to distinguish the kernel from the OS is
> yet another.
> Wikipedia may have helped thwart Russian President Putin's efforts to
> rewrite history but it has been less successful in getting operating
> system history straight.
> I know of other instances of questionable quality. Certain articles
> on WW2 subjects exhibit stark differences in the Japanese page and the
> English page. It is easy to imagine this happening where disputes
> surround the subject matter. But I have also seen contradictions in
> figures for which controversy is not known to exist. Japanese and
> English Wikipedia pages on Japanese capital warships at times disagree
> on the number of casualties at the time of sinking. For the Shinano,
> the world's largest aircraft carrier at the time, the difference is
> Nowadays machine translation is widely available and Wikipedia encourages
> its use. If people who edit Wikipedia articles don't always check
> the facts with the help of machine translation, it may well be that
> they do not examine available references either.
> Discussions of free software often presume that promotion is a good
> thing. The eagerness to promote may shove other aspects aside.
> Even in a world with no proprietary software, people may suffer from
> lack of freedom. Computers are useful because they are accurate.
> When fed false data, computers produce misleading output.
> Imagine the captain of a sinking ship who is not sure how many
> passengers are on board, or the capacity of each lifeboat. Delays in
> evacuation may put lives at risk. An accurate computer running free
> software won't help the captain if he does not have faith in the data
> therein. And when a person dies, loss of freedom is total and
> irreversible. The survivors are better off but also suffer from
> dimininished freedom caused by physical and mental injuries and loss
> of belongings.
> Now consider an industrial setting. False figures lead to defects.
> Money, effort and time are spent dealing them instead of production
> or development. False figures take away the organization's freedom.
> As important as the promotion of free software are efforts to ensure
> that false facts and figures are not supplied as input to the systems.
> Has anybody been monitoring the Wikipedia article on the "Linux"
> operating system? As stated above I notice that it is constantly
> evolving. I see the need to examine the article and the "GNU/Linux"
> naming ordeal from an objective perspective.
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