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 Post subject: Wikipedia and RR history question
PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2017 11:38 am 

Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2017 7:35 pm
Posts: 4
Location: Rocky Ridge, MD
Do you think Wikipedia can play a meaningful role in railroad history preservation?
Answer yes or no and please share your thoughts. Thank you.


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 Post subject: Re: Wikipedia and RR history question
PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:12 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 9:48 am
Posts: 343
Location: Clayton NC
It can if you have topics that are well 'curated', give references, and are peer reviewed. Otherwise its reader beware.

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 Post subject: Re: Wikipedia and RR history question
PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:17 pm 

Joined: Fri Jul 23, 2010 12:41 pm
Posts: 382
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Wikipedia is subject to uncontrolled "editing". Even the best researched and documented articles can be "edited" anonymously by anyone who disagrees with the article's contents. This seldom happens with "off the beaten track" subjects, but historical and, especially, biographical articles are often subjected to this kind of "unauthorized" editing. It all depends on how passionate the person who disagrees with the original (or edited!) content is.


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 Post subject: Re: Wikipedia and RR history question
PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:00 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8465
Location: Baltimore, MD
The plus side:

Wikipedia lowers the barrier for "publishing" a railroad history to nothing. If someone feels passionately enough to write from scratch, or consolidate from several sources, a history of some obscure railroad, or even some branch or a particular piece of rolling stock, it can be posted for whatever posterity it manages. Said writer does not need to find a publisher or even a print-on-demand copy shop and pay money in hopes that someone will buy the work.

The minus side:

Publishing a work where monetary return is expected usually (but not always) sets a higher standard for accuracy than not getting paid. The submission of a work to Wikipedia bears with it no such accountability or demand for accuracy. It's likely--but not always the case--that any wildly inaccurate article on, say, the Podunk and Pawtucket would eventually get edited by some member of a larger railroad historical society, the local or state historical society, etc. There is also, of course, the possibility of rogue "editors" sabotaging excellent work as part of a vendetta or for "lolz."

Further, there could even come a day when Wikipedia simply goes away, through a hack or just benign neglect.

This morning, the platform where my wife and I first did online courting, AIM, or AOL Instant Messenger, officially "died" aged 20, replaced by Yahoo IM, texting, Facebook Messenger, Facetime, and a multitude of other applications. The "chat rooms" of AOL started an entire nation/world of networking, which has been built upon to the point where "chat rooms" are now a laughable anachronism, but no one who used them in dial-up days would have believed such a future if you had told them.

I know of a few forward-thinking historians that spend their waking hours seeking out history accounts and photographs and printing them out or saving them to hard drives "just in case."


Last edited by Alexander D. Mitchell IV on Mon Dec 18, 2017 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Wikipedia and RR history question
PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:14 pm 

Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:58 am
Posts: 58
CSRM's Walter Gray loved to say that "the future is a funny place". The same can be said of the past, too, and for the same reason: we shape it to fit our imagination. Too many times I've read some particular author or another, and lapped up every word. And then chanced to read something by them about a subject I had researched on my own, and discovered they were full of bull. It ruined everything I'd read by them. I've just experienced this with Christian Wolmer and I can't bring myself to finish the book. Stephen Ambrose turned out to be a plagiarist--and a bad one at that. Perhaps the bigger the name, the greater the pressure to produce and the greater the temptation to cut corners in the accuracy department; and the greater the pressure to sell books increases the pressure to be politically correct.

Frankly, I look at Wikipedia--and anything else that Google may turn up. Often, amateurs write out of passion about subjects they know well--on most every subject, they know more than I do. But, like everything else, they have to be tested. Any secondary source is merely a guide to where primary material may be found. No work is better than the sources they cite.


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