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Questionable Use of Wikipedia by the Seventh Circuit?

Courts have cited Wikipedia over 300 times, and many of those cites are in my view just fine when the citation is for a tangential and uncontroversial matter. But the Seventh Circuit's use of Wikipedia in Rickher v. Home Depot, Inc., handed down Monday, strikes me as troubling.

The key issue as to one part of the plaintiff's lawsuit was the definition of "wear and tear." The plaintiff cited Webster's II New College Dictionary and Random House Webster's College Dictionary, which defined the term as "Depreciation, damage, or loss resulting from ordinary use or exposure" and "Damage or deterioration resulting from ordinary use; normal depreciation," But the court disagreed:

Although it is true that dictionary definitions of "wear and tear" often employ the word "damage," that does not mean that damage and "wear and tear" are synonymous. Wear and tear is a more specific phrase that connotes the expected, often gradual, depreciation of an item. See Wear and Tear, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wear_and_tear, last visited May 30, 2008.

It is a form of depreciation which is assumed to occur even when an item is used competently and with care and proper maintenance. For example, friction may erode a hammer's head. In the normal use of a hammer for its designed task erosion is impossible to prevent, and any attempt to eliminate this erosion would make the hammer useless. At the same time, it is expected that the normal use of a hammer will not break it beyond repair until it has gone through a certain amount of use.

A subtle difference, but one the Seventh Circuit thought to be quite important, and that does indeed appear to me important to the course of litigation. (The question in this part of the lawsuit was whether Home Depot's Damage Waiver rental contract provision — for which one had to pay more money — added anything beyond what Home Depot already provided for no extra charge under its Wear and Tear provision. If "wear and tear" was roughly synonymous with "accidental damage" but not through "misuse or abuse," then the Damage Waiver might be seen as pointless, and offering it for money might then be seen as a deceptive business practice under Illinois law. If the "wear and tear" was a narrower term than "accidental damage [without] misuse or abuse," as the court concluded, then the Damage Waiver would give the customer something, and offering it for money wouldn't be a deceptive practice.)

Now I strongly suspect that the judges cited the Wikipedia entry because it fit their preexisting understanding of what the phrase meant (an eminently reasonable mode of procedure for citations generally), so I doubt they relied on Wikipedia's wisdom to form their conclusion. Still, the parties obviously disagreed about the matter. The plaintiff's proposed definition was supported by dictionary entries (albeit shorter ones, which might have omitted important nuances). If the judges wanted to argue based on their experience, based on logic, or based on contrary lexicographic authorities — including, for instance, the use of the phrase in other sources — that's fine, and they did that in some measure. But they cited Wikipedia as the lead authority supporting their conclusion, and as the source for their important and controversial definition; and this strikes me as troubling.

First, there does seem to me to be a serious risk of manipulation by the parties in this sort of situation. The quoted part of the definition was added on Aug. 31, 2005, when the case was in progress at the district court. I have no reason to think that the change was made by anyone associated with the litigants (and the Wikiscanner check reveals nothing tell-tale, even when I check all changes from that IP address), but neither can we be sure, I think, that no such manipulation took place. And while it's important not to overestimate the risk of manipulation here — as I pointed out, the judges are likely relying on Wikipedia to support their preexisting understanding of this quite common term, rather than as an expert source that would provide such an understanding — there does seem to be some danger here. It seems possible that the judges, who after all quoted the definition as authoritative, would indeed be influenced by nuances of the definition even if they already agreed with the definition's main thrust.

And, second, I don't see much reason to see why, even unmanipulated, Wikipedia should be a substantial authority here. We don't know who wrote the definition, so we can't rely on his knowledge. This doesn't seem likely to be the sort of definition that would attract a great deal of attention and review in case of error, so that we can rely on a possible "wisdom of crowds." Dictionaries and encyclopedias aren't perfect, and I know there are arguments that Wikipedia is on balance roughly as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica (as well as arguments in response). But it does seem to me that, at least until such rough equivalence of Wikipedia and other sources is further demonstrated, courts should rest their decisions about important and controverted matters on sources — such as dictionaries, technical dictionaries, or encyclopedia entries — that at least have some more indicia of likely expertise.

Again, I should stress that for tangential and uncontroversial matters, Wikipedia may be quite good enough. Federal employees' time isn't unlimited, and tracking down authoritative sources to demonstrate the colorfulness of Polish boxer Andrew Golota (to give an example from another Seventh Circuit case, which cited Wikipedia to support such an assertion) is probably not the best ways to spend that time. But for something like the controversy in this case, I would think that the lead authority should be something other than a Wikipedia entry.

For some earlier thoughts of mine on Wikipedia and court opinions, see here. Thanks to my friend Steve Newman for the pointer to the Rickher case.

UPDATE: Link fixed, with thanks to Ted Frank.

DrObviousSo:
Also, it would probably be much better form to cite the revision used, not the last day edited.
7.30.2008 2:30pm
DrObviousSo:
Oh, my mistake. They don't even state the edit date, just the 'last day visited'.
7.30.2008 2:31pm
JoelP:
So a court can use its own knowledge of the meaning of "wear and tear" but not the wikipedia definition... kind of bizarre.

Surely an arbitrary wikipedia entry (typically written by someone with knowledge of the topic) would be more likely to be correct about the meaning of "wear and tear" than an arbitrary judge (assuming the judge is not chosen for his specific knowledge of the meaning of "wear and tear").

This is particularly true when one considers that years of legal education may have eradicated the judge's understanding of the English language.
7.30.2008 2:39pm
Ben P (mail):

Oh, my mistake. They don't even state the edit date, just the 'last day visited'.


Well, to be fair, "last day visited" is the typical form of citing a web page in any form. (although I've not checked my blue book on this point recently)

Although I would agree that with Wikipedia citing a particular revision is a more accurate description.
7.30.2008 2:40pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
You almost have to do something like quote the edit date. Otherwise, the definition could be completely changed by the time that someone sees the citation in the case and checks the source. All in all, a big problem with citing from such a dynamic source.
7.30.2008 2:42pm
K. Schmidt (mail):
I agree that the risk of manipulation is substantial, particularly if the practice of citing to Wikipedia in judicial opinions became more common and widely-known.

I disagree with the claim that it would be unhelpful to rely on the "wisdom of crowds" in the case of less well-trafficked Wikipedia pages. My own impression is that there is no subject on Wikipedia so minor or provincial that it is not jealously guarded by its own legion of pedants. There are a number of "editors" who rely on 'bots to scan Wikipedia for changes that throw up enough circumstantial red flags, to vet or reverse them.

Also, in this kind of contract case, it seems better to apply the kind of vernacular definition on offer at Wikipedia over the technical or trade usage (if there is one) of the term "wear and tear" due to the fact that the contract at issue is apparently being marketed primarily to non-tradesmen.
7.30.2008 2:46pm
K. Schmidt (mail):
Well, to be fair, "last day visited" is the typical form of citing a web page in any form. (although I've not checked my blue book on this point recently)

Although I would agree that with Wikipedia citing a particular revision is a more accurate description.


I think citing the day (and time, which the court neglected to do) of the last visit is the Bluebook standard, and would produce the same result as citing to time of last edit, barring the unusual circumstance in which a third party undertakes an edit between the time you access a page and the time you check your watch.
7.30.2008 2:49pm
jim47:
K Schmidt:

I have definitely found pages on Wikipedia that are shoddy, incomplete and juvenile works, primarily composed by one user and then untouched. One has to get significantly more minor and provincial than wear and tear, though.
7.30.2008 2:50pm
Frog Leg (mail):
Michigan Lawyer's Weekly recently had a very interesting article on Michigan courts' citing to Wikipedia. Some of the cites were tangential, but a few, including by the Michigan Supreme Court, dealt with central issues to the case.
7.30.2008 2:51pm
Suzy (mail):
I could not agree more with Prof. Volokh here. If the court has a reasonable understanding of 'wear and tear', which I believe it does, then it should be a simple matter to consult a good source to back up that interpretation.

My initial skepticism about Wikipedia was confirmed for good once when I saw several pieces of my published work that had been cut and pasted into various pages there, with the benefit of editorial changes that had distorted the meaning and in some cases added false info. There's a good reason why peer reviewed publications are consulted as sources, and there's a good reason why the work that goes into producing a dictionary makes it a preferred reference. I can only assume that a court citing to Wikipedia is the result of a law clerk having come through school thinking it's a perfectly good place to look up material.
7.30.2008 3:12pm
zippypinhead:
Wikipedia is a useful tertiary source, especially since well-written entries often cite and link to more authoritative sources. However, on controversial or political topics Wikipedia entries sometimes turn into advocacy pieces largely divorced from any objective underpinnings. And the wiki is littered with "stubs" that contain little reliable information.

There is a reason my son's high school prohibits student paper bibliographies from citing to Wikipedia. A rule judges might be mindful of, at least for critical issues.
7.30.2008 3:14pm
wm. tyroler (mail):
Usable link to opinion, here.
7.30.2008 3:18pm
J. Aldridge:
The thing with using Wikipedia is to read the "discussion" and "history" pages of the articles to learn if the article is guarded by biased and overzealous maintainers. These usually are factually wrong and impossible to correct, leaving a less than honest impression of the subject.
7.30.2008 3:39pm
Dave N (mail):
I was going to say what zippypinhead said but he/she beat me to it.

Wikipedia is often a good place to start research but is a poor place to finish it. A good Wikipedia article will have footnoted sources that can be checked. THOSE can end up as sources, if properly vetted. I acknowledge I use Wikipedia here because it is down and dirty--but I expect more from judicial opinions or any form of scholarship (including, as zippypinhead noted, high school papers).
7.30.2008 3:44pm
The Unbeliever:
Aren't Wikipedia articles supposed to be sourced? The definition listed for Wear and Tear seems to be someone's common-sense summary of the concept. Shouldn't someone citing Wikipedia really follow the footnotes and linked resources to the article, instead of citing the article itself?
7.30.2008 3:45pm
zippypinhead:
Dave N: Referring to moi as "he/she?" C'mon, if you'd done the research, you'd know zippypinhead is male (tho you do have to overlook the garish clown dress). And to prove it, here's an authoritative cite to Wikipedia.

...hey, I'm famous! I have my own Wikipedia page, so it MUST be true!

And coincidentally, this just proved the main point. Further affiant sayeth not...
7.30.2008 4:02pm
Ted Frank (www):
For the reason Aldridge states, Wikipedia can't be trusted for anything more substantive than Pokemon characters or Star Wars chronology. The Wikiscanner is only useful if someone tries a purely anonymous edit; if someone uses a pseudonymous edit with a username that is untraceable because it has no relationship to them, no one will notice. My Wikipedia biography page contains a number of factual errors and strange emphases that I dare not correct less someone accuses me of trying to doctor my own page; pages of political entities are controlled by various internal Wikipedia factions that rarely have accuracy or neutrality as a concern; pages with legal subjects are largely a mess.
7.30.2008 4:16pm
jimmie:
interesting how the court's citation is no longer up-to-date.
7.30.2008 5:23pm
zippypinhead:
jimmie wrote:
interesting how the court's citation is no longer up-to-date.
Wow, yet another REALLY good reason a court or serious scholar shouldn't cite to Wikipedia! The risk of having the substance or even URL of the source you're citing change after you've cited it is much higher with a mass-edited wiki than other Internet sources.
7.30.2008 5:39pm
Dave N (mail):
zippypinhead,

I should have checked Wikipedia first. My apologies.
7.30.2008 5:48pm
PLR:
Wikipedia is a great factual resource, and in most cases it will be more reliable than your average mass market publication on amazon.com.

But Bruce Hayden and EV are right on. It's totally inappropriate to cite such a dynamic, nonpermanent resource as being dispositive of close questions.
7.30.2008 7:13pm
zippypinhead:
I should have checked Wikipedia first. My apologies.
Except that with this pinhead's luck, right before you checked Wikipedia, a wag would edit the entry to do some gender-bending on a certain cartoon character. Which is basically what happened to the entry cited by the Court of Appeals, as jimmie generally noted above - it seems that just today somebody (hopefully not a prankish VC reader who didn't realize he was leaving behind his IP address in the editing history?) changed the part of the entry quoted by the court to add that it was a "silly example."

Again, proving the main point -- don't cite Wikipedia for anything serious.
7.30.2008 7:17pm
Blue (mail):
What I find endlessly puzzling is why some people defend Wikipedia.
7.30.2008 7:21pm
jpe (mail):
While an interesting topic, I don't think there's any material difference b/t the wiki and the dictionary definitions. The dic def defines it as "ordinary use," which wouldf seem to define out the kind of random accidents that seem to be the locus of litigation.
7.30.2008 8:15pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Even noncontroversial topics are subject to hacking on Wikipedia.

60 years after Emilio Pucci created Capri pants, a previously unknown designer has now been given credit - by her own daughters - for creating them.

What's really scary is that that hoax was copied onto other websites that reference Wikipedia and an AP writer copied that factoid for a syndicated article.

Anyone want to make their ancestors famous? Pick a topic, put them in it. If it survives long enough, it will become true.

Nick
7.30.2008 11:28pm
trad and anon:
I'm just wanting for a court to use wikipedia as the basis for taking judicial notice.
7.30.2008 11:36pm
Dave N (mail):
While an interesting topic, I don't think there's any material difference b/t the wiki and the dictionary definitions. The dic def defines it as "ordinary use," which wouldf seem to define out the kind of random accidents that seem to be the locus of litigation.
I think it is quite obvious that there is a difference.
7.30.2008 11:40pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
DrObviousSo said,
Also, it would probably be much better form to cite the revision used, not the last day edited.

DrObviousSo said,
Oh, my mistake. They don't even state the edit date, just the 'last day visited'.

Dr. ObviousSo, what is so obvious to you is not so obvious to others. A lot of people are not sufficiently skilled in using Wikipedia to know how to find archived versions of articles and the associated edits. First one must click on the "history" tab at the top, then select versions to compare, and then click on "compare selected versions." BTW, even the "discussion" pages (not part of the article) and their edits are all archived.
BTW, there are general Internet programs that will archive webpages for future reference. I tried a program called WebCite but it didn't work for me. I think archiving of a cited webpage is especially important when it is authoritatively cited in a court opinion, a scholarly journal article, etc..

Wikipedia is particularly unreliable on controversial subjects. Why should the courts be citing Wikipedia when so many schools and teachers prohibit students from using Wikipedia as a primary reference? At least one school went so far as to block access to Wickedpedia on all of the school's computers.

The Discovery Institute wrote a report charging that Judge Jones copied the ~6000-word ID-as-science section -- i.e., the section discussing the scientific merits of intelligent design -- of the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion nearly verbatim from the plaintiffs' opening post-trial brief (the defendants' opening post-trial brief and the plaintiffs' and defendants' answering post-trial briefs were ignored). Wickedpedia's article on the Discovery Institute has a section that is critical of that report. The Wickedpedian control-freak administrators refused to post a link to the DI's rebuttal to the criticisms of the report! What if this issue of the alleged copying of the plaintiffs' opening post-trial brief arises in a future court case and the court relies solely on Wickedpedia's version of the story?
7.31.2008 4:20am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
BTW, I disagree with the decision. The time when cumulative wear and tear -- including stress fatigue, a hidden microscopic form of wear and tear -- become great enough to cause total failure is a matter of chance, and therefore the cost of such failure should be shared by all people who rent the tool and not just be borne by the unlucky renter who happens to be using the tool when it fails and who is now expected to solely bear the cost of the failure by either paying for the repair/replacement or paying for the damage waiver. The decision also mentions total failures that are not due to either wear and tear or deliberate abuse (e.g., accidentally hitting a nail when sawing through wood), but the cost of these failures can also be shared.

Also, IMO the decision begs the question by accepting the rental contract's definitions of "damage" and "wear and tear."
7.31.2008 4:52am
Abdul Abulbul Amir (mail):

It is true that Wikipedia is particularly unreliable on controversial subjects. However, I must relate that when my son was in college he related that it was not uncommon for students to edit Wikipedia to win non-monetary bets with each other. Susan Smith as the inventor of the vacuum tube, no problem.
7.31.2008 10:15am
David Schwartz (mail):
I really can't see how this even got to be a court case. It's really the most obvious of common sense to me what's going on here.

If you rent a tool, and it fails when you're using it, there are three scenarios:

1) You used the tool improperly or negligently. You're not covered in either case.

2) The tool wears out and fails due to cumulative damage from normal use. You're covered in either case.

3) You use the tool properly and sensibly, but nevertheless, you accidentally damage or destroy the tool. You are covered if you purchase the extra coverage.

There was a lawsuit over this?
7.31.2008 6:04pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Eugene Volokh said in the original post,
Courts have cited Wikipedia over 300 times

Eugene, do you have a source for that figure of 300? A NY Times article dated Jan. 29, 2007 says,
More than 100 judicial rulings have relied on Wikipedia, beginning in 2004, including 13 from circuit courts of appeal, one step below the Supreme Court. (The Supreme Court thus far has never cited Wikipedia.)

However, this growth in the number of court citations of Wikipedia does not necessarily indicate an increasing reliance on Wikipedia, because as you said, many of the citations of Wikipedia could be just "tangential and uncontroversial." Also, the Wikipedia citation does not appear to be crucial in Rickher v. Home Depot, Inc. — it looks like the judges could have reached the same decision without citing Wikipedia. However, IMO it was wrong to cite Wikipedia even as mere support for the decision.

The NY Times article had the following quotation of a judge of the 7th circuit, the same circuit as the Rickher v. Home Depot, Inc. decision:
"Wikipedia is a terrific resource," said Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago. "Partly because it so convenient, it often has been updated recently and is very accurate." But, he added: "It wouldn't be right to use it in a critical issue. If the safety of a product is at issue, you wouldn't look it up in Wikipedia."

The NY Times mentioned the same citation about Andrew Golota that you mentioned:
Judge Posner recently cited a Wikipedia article on Andrew Golota, whom he called the "world's most colorful boxer," about a drug case involving the fighter's former trainer, a tangent with no connection to the issues before his court.

The NY Times article also said,
In a recent letter to The New York Law Journal, Kenneth H. Ryesky, a tax lawyer who teaches at Queens College and Yeshiva University, took exception to the practice, writing that "citation of an inherently unstable source such as Wikipedia can undermine the foundation not only of the judicial opinion in which Wikipedia is cited, but of the future briefs and judicial opinions which in turn use that judicial opinion as authority."

Recognizing that concern, Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School who frequently writes about technology, said that he favored a system that captures in time online sources like Wikipedia, so that a reader sees the same material that the writer saw.

He said he used www.webcitation.org for the online citations in his amicus brief to the Supreme Court in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v. Grokster Ltd., which "makes the particular reference a stable reference, and something someone can evaluate."

So Ryesky and Lessig appeared to be unaware that Wikipedia normally archives all versions of an article along with the associated edits. However, an outfit called Wikitruth claims that the sleazebags at Wickedpedia have gone so far as to delete archived pages. My comments on Wickedpedia discussion pages have been arbitrarily censored (fortunately those comments were archived)! Also, if a whole Wikipedia article is deleted, its archived pages might be lost — I don't know. So it is probably safest to always independently archive important citations of Wikipedia articles. BTW, I couldn't find www.webcitation.org.
7.31.2008 6:20pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Well, I have sort of changed my mind and now at least partly agree with the decision. The plaintiff claimed that the damage-waiver fee provides no additional protection for the renter and that does not appear to be true. The damage waiver appears to protect the renter from liability for the costs of a tool failure that is not due to normal use and not due to negligence or deliberate misuse -- e.g., hitting a nail while sawing through wood. However, arguably the costs of such accidental failures could be shared by all renters of the tool and not just be borne (by payment for repair/replacement or payment of the damage-waiver fee) by the renter using the tool when the accident occurs. Also, often it may be impossible to determine or prove whether the failure was due to normal wear and tear or due to an accident such as hitting a nail when sawing through wood. I think the damage waiver is just a gimmick for charging renters extra while giving the appearance of charging low rental rates.

Also, I think that the problems are: (1) the rental agreement did not clearly explain the extra protection provided by the damage waiver and (2) the rental agreement might not have made it clear that the damage waiver was optional.
7.31.2008 7:33pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
BTW, the Craftsman brand of tools has -- or used to have -- a policy of automatic free replacement of broken Craftsman hand tools. It is generally difficult or impossible to determine what caused the failure: a manufacturing defect, stress fatigue, an accident, abuse, etc..
7.31.2008 8:43pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
David Schwartz said (7.31.2008 5:04pm ) --

If you rent a tool, and it fails when you're using it, there are three scenarios:

1) You used the tool improperly or negligently. You're not covered in either case.

2) The tool wears out and fails due to cumulative damage from normal use. You're covered in either case.

3) You use the tool properly and sensibly, but nevertheless, you accidentally damage or destroy the tool. You are covered if you purchase the extra coverage.

There was a lawsuit over this?

I think that the point of the lawsuit was that #2 coverage for normal wear and tear in one of the two cases -- where the damage waiver was not purchased -- is free, whereas the same coverage in the other case -- where the damage waiver was purchased -- costs the renter money. But the damage waiver is not worthless, because it does cover the renter in case of an accident (coverage #3). However, IMO the basic problems here are:

(1) -- there could be disputes over whether a failure was due to normal wear and tear or whether it was due to an accident, e.g., hitting a rock with a gardening tool.

(2) -- there could be disputes over what constitute's "normal" use, e.g., is hitting a rock occasionally with a gardening tool "normal" use?

IMO the damage waiver should be eliminated. Since purchase of the damage waiver is normally the "default" situation anyway (according to the plaintiff), then the damage-waiver fee could just be incorporated into the rental rate. As I said, IMO the damage waiver is just a gimmick that allows lower advertised rental rates.
8.1.2008 3:48pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Here is where the court begs the question by initially accepting the rental agreement's usages of the terms "wear and tear" and "damage":

The Jeff Enterprises court pointed out that the Rental Agreement uses the terms "wear and tear" and "damage" separately, which supports reading the terms to have different meanings. Additionally, if damage and wear and tear are synonymous, then the Risk of Loss and Damage Waiver provisions in the Rental Agreement are meaningless. (page 12 of opinion)

As I said, the court could have reached the same decision without the Wikipedia citation.

BTW, the opinion mentions several other court cases involving the same or similar disputes over the meanings of "wear and tear," "damage," etc. in rental agreements (the Jeff Enterprises suit also involved Home Depot). Disputes in the other cases may have arisen over the renter's liability for actual damage -- I don't know.

Also, the opinion says on page 4 that the Damage Waiver fee is "equal to ten percent of the cost of the equipment's regular rental charge." The opinion does not say if the fee is a one-time charge or if it is a recurring charge -- I presume that the fee is the latter because otherwise there would be no fixed basis for the fee because rental charges are different for different rental periods -- daily, weekly, monthly, etc.. Anyway, since it is only ten percent and is normally a default charge, IMO the Damage Waiver fee should be absorbed by the regular rental charge. IMO the Damage Waiver fee is deceptive in the sense that not paying it is likely to lead to disputes over the meanings of the terms "normal wear and tear," "damage," "accident," etc., so maybe courts have a basis for telling Home Depot to eliminate the fee.
8.1.2008 5:38pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
J. Aldridge said (7.30.2008 2:39pm) --
The thing with using Wikipedia is to read the "discussion" and "history" pages of the articles to learn if the article is guarded by biased and overzealous maintainers.

That doesn't always work -- my comments on a discussion page were arbitrarily censored by a Wickedpedian control-freak administrator. Also, discussion page sections are often removed and put into deeper archives. And it is hard to obtain evidence of bias unless you already know where the act of bias occurred.

K. Schmidt said (7.30.2008 1:46pm) --
There are a number of "editors" who rely on 'bots to scan Wikipedia for changes that throw up enough circumstantial red flags, to vet or reverse them.

Some controversial Wikipedia articles must be bugged with "bots" ("Internet robots" or "web robots") -- as you call them -- that are hooked up to 24-hour audible alarms. Entries I have made in the middle of the night have been censored within minutes after I entered them.

Wikipedia has an arcane set of "rules" that the arbitrary control-freak administrators exploit to "lawyer to death" people that they disagree with. For example, expressing your opinion on a discussion page might be called a violation of the rule against "self-promotion."

Wikipedia is built on the huge fallacy -- called "the wisdom of mobs" -- that it is possible to reach a consensus on a controversial issue. The Wikipedians also make the mistake of trying to make Wikipedia -- an online wiki (open editing) encyclopedia -- look like a printed encyclopedia. Because an online encyclopedia's articles can instantly link to other webpages where controversial issues are discussed or debated, an online encyclopedia can accommodate a much greater number of different controversial views than can a printed encyclopedia.

Here is an example of a crazy Wickedpedia rule:

Editors should not make the mistake of thinking that if A is published by a reliable source, and B is published by a reliable source, then A and B can be joined together in an article to come to the conclusion C. This would be synthesis of published material which advances a position, which constitutes original research. "A and B, therefore C" is acceptable only if a reliable source has published this argument in relation to the topic of the article.

In other words, if one "reliable non-partisan source" says that bears live in the woods and another "reliable non-partisan source" says that bears shit all the time, then concluding that "bears shit in the woods" would be "original research," which is not allowed on Wickedpedia.

I made a simple proposal for resolving most Wikipedia disputes: just add a brief statement of the disputed item along with a statement that the item is disputed and links to Wikipedia discussion pages and/or external websites where the dispute is discussed or debated. The proposal was ignored. Wikipedia's methods of handling disputes are endless edit wars and censorship by Wikipedia control-freak administrators.
8.1.2008 7:07pm