Content: What's wrong with the Wikipedia Knowledge Model

The Register had a recent piece on Wikipedia: they're rolling in cash and the lucky few are enjoying that gravy train. Talking about this led to a discussion on the strengths and failings of the Wikipedia Content Model vs Classical Encyclopaedias, like Britannica.

Wikipedia has a simplistic Model of Knowledge: There is But One Truth.

If you are an engineer or a programmer, then this is as axiomatic as binary data and logic: true/false, 0/1, just one correct answer to every equation or calculation/test, there is but one truth.

Which is exactly where Wikipedia excels: if you need to look up a technical topic, especially in computing/communications and some engineering, where there is a well defined specification, then you find very good articles, often concise, complete and well explained.

But this is at best an undergraduate view of engineering: incomplete, naive, simplistic and completely without nuance. It's deeply wrong and misleading.

What does Encyclopaedia Britannica provide?
Experts. With a comprehensive knowledge of the field, its history, the current "State of the Art and Practice" and the currently accepted theories with competing ideas and approaches  to problems at 'the edge'. They understand nuance and the many theories nature of the development of science. But more importantly, they bring judgement and an ability to explain their field to others.
Even in objective technical fields, like computing and electronic engineering, there are many competing theories about the field, each with their benefits and limitations, all argued for strongly by proponents and all, even those appearing 'weak' or later proven wrong or limited, offer insight and understanding.

Knowing the whole story, what works, whats been tried, whats been discarded - and why, is as important as knowing the current best theory. And that's for objective fields of knowledge: 'truth' isn't fixed and immutable, but constantly and unpredictably evolving and changing.

The proof of this is the 1902 statement by the newly appointed Commissioner of Patents in the US:
In my opinion, all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold.
He was proven right, beyond his wildest dreams... The nature of Science is change, "truth" evolves over time.

For more subjective fields, the 'soft sciences', even history and philosophy, the many viewpoints approach of science is vitally important: the discourse is more important than "the" answer.
Or fields requiring judgement, in answering questions about "best", ethics or belief and emotions: the stuff of real life.

Within this Many Theories and Viewpoints model of knowledge, articles with single identified authors are important. Readers may wish to read more by the author or disagree with their viewpoint and avoid their writing.

Contributions from Domain Experts in Encyclopaedias offer the same promise as Undergraduate courses for professionals:
Complete coverage of the field: an A-Z guide of the current state of the art, influenced by the experts viewpoint and approach.
This is the weakness of the "autodidact", or the self-taught: they can easily miss large and important areas of a field. They don't know what they don't know, whilst a "good" undergraduate course carries the promise of knowing what you know and what you don't know: formal education is about removing the "Unknown Unknowns". The self-taught, without feedback from others, can never be certain they've learnt the whole field. [Because they aren't hampered by preconceptions, they can sometimes arrive at startling new answers, but mostly they fall into known fallacies and logic traps.]

To evolve, grow and thrive, Wikipedia needs to embrace single identified authorship, multiple competing views on the same subject and good histories of the subject, reflecting the cut-and-thrust of all lively, developing areas of academic debate.

For Wikipedia to be more than the naive "font of all undergraduate wisdom", it has to embrace the complex, many faceted view of knowledge and discourse in world of graduates and researchers.


Recruiting FAIL: The Non-Response of ITCRA.

I'm not impressed with the ITCRA grievance process.

As a mere 'candidate', they were happy to accept a 'grievance' from me, using that term, to communicate with me on the matter over many months and to put me to some trouble to provide them 'evidence'. When I raised concerns about maintaining the confidentiality of my private emails, they were brushed aside: Our Way or the Highway was the message.

After too many months, today I finally have a letter saying the matter is 'resolved' and now closed.
I am none the wiser about the facts of my complaints or if ITCRA viewed any/all/some of them as proven.
Did they think I was a reliable witness and weigh my evidence highly or not? I've No Idea.

ITCRA was also unhappy that I should dare to write-up a DEIDENTIFIED version of the story.

As an organisation they seem to have difficulty with the notions of Freedom of Speech, Open and Transparent Governance Processes and Natural Justice.
Nor did anyone have the decency to offer me an apology.
From that, do I infer they found NO FAULT on the part of the Agency and Agent? That I've been a jerk, wasting their time and making a nuisance of myself? I've No Idea.

If anyone has a problem with an ITCRA Member Company, my advice now is:
Don't waste your time.
They'll only jerk you aroud, waste your time and leave you very unsatisfied.

Previous posts on the matter:



DRAFT Complaint: 10-Sept-2012.

ITCRA Member Company Representative
XXX Recruitment
YYY Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Dear AAA,

I am in receipt of a grievance lodged by a candidate Mr. Steve Jenkin, against a XXX consultant Mr. ZZZ ZZZ. He has certified that the information provided is correct to the best of his knowledge and that he has not provided any false or misleading claims against another company or individual and has provided additional email evidence to support the claims made. In summary the issues are:

Background (commencing in August)

• The issue is focused on a *permanent* position for a senior IT staffer and Mr Jenkin was required to move interstate.
• Agency approached Mr Jenkin, no job application ever made by Mr Jenkin.
• Job never advertised with a start date, no immediacy ever stated. Comment was made that it was expected to take 2 months to fill position [by October]


• Misleading statements:
1. Confused an email from consultant (ZZ) to work seeker (SJ) with a written offer from the Client. Insisted this was a "Job Offer ", implying a binding contract.

2. Promised help finding accommodation for relocating interstate and none was provided. Having local accommodation was always a condition of accepting the position.

• Harassment or cyber-stalking:

1. One incident of a dozen calls/texts in 30mins by (ZZ)

2. (SJ) asked, in an email, to desist. (ZZ) repeated again later with more very inappropriate and abusive statements.

• Privacy Act breach.
1. (ZZ) used referee contact details for purposes data not supplied for. When work seeker (SJ) would not answer consultant’s (ZZ) calls, consultant (ZZ) rang referee to complain and spoke inappropriately.

• Additional Issues

1. When SJ had failed to receive a contract 10 days from first proposed start date, informed ZZ of inability to start due to personal circumstances. ZZ then harassed and browbeat SJ and seriously overstepped by continuing to demand exactly what the personal circumstances were. This was justified by saying that there was a need to explain to the Client.

2. Misspelt SJ name on contract.

3. ZZ demanded a written apology from SJ to Client for pointing this out.

4. ZZ Sent 7 emails in 15 minute period informing work SJ of Job Offer. ZZ Kept issuing recall emails for incorrect offers sent.

5. ZZ commented that his manager was continually chasing him to comply with company requirements and document all communications.

6. SJ requested 3 times in email that ZZ ask Client if 9-day fortnight [with RDO] would be acceptable during first 3 months while transitioning to Sydney. ZZ never asked Client [confirmed]. Client was happy to comply when asked by SJ.

7. ZZ deliberately misled SJ by stating the job was full-time only and RDO’s were not possible.

Formal Letter of Response: 19-Dec-2012

Mr Steve Jenkin,

Dear Steve,,

The ITCRA Board of Directors has asked me to write and thank you for raising the professional practice matter against ZZZ ZZZ of XXX Recruitment. The complaints process allows us, as an Association, to address issues and to ensure that recruitment practices achieve best practice benchmarks.

The Conduct Committee reviewed the evidence provided by both parties and asked further questions of XXX Recruitment, as the Member of ITCRA. The findings and recommendations of the Conduct Committee were discussed by the ITRCRA Directors and the following outcomes have resulted:

• XXX Recruitment were required to agree to a number of actions as a result of the Committee's recommendations and these have been committed to, with some already completed and assessed by an external quality auditor.

• The ITCRA Directors accepted the Committee's findings and the undertakings by XXX with respect to process review and consultant training.

• The ITCRA Directors raised concerns with respect to the discussions of this matter in the public domain via your blog as this could have jeopardized the process if the Member company felt the Committee had been unduly influenced prior to the matter being heard.

The purpose of the ITCR's Code of Conduct to provide a channel for complaints to be addressed and to provide improvement strategies for professional and business conduct of Members.

As explained to yo, the resolution of the matter was between ITRCA and the Member company and, as such, is confidential and cannot be made public - although the content can be used as a case study, with anonymity, for industry improvement. You would have the right to review any such case study as protection of your rights is also a priority.

The Directors wish you well in your future endeavours and hope that your experience with recruiters, in the future, is not as frustrating.

Have an excellent festive season,

Yours sincerely,
.... CEO

Email to President of ITCRA on their unsatisfactory response.

To: Russell MacDonald, President ITCRA
Subject: ITRCA complaint against XXX
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2012 13:10:36 +1100


After many months of waiting, today I finally received a letter telling me my complaint against XXX Recruiting on multiple grounds had been resolved.

The letter is best described as "content free".

How was my complaint resolved? I've no idea, just that you've closed the book on it.

Nothing in this process has answered my complaints, nor told me what, if anything, XXX had done wrong, or if any of their malfeasance *I* perceived was supported or not.

All I can gather is they were given a good talking to and they promised not to get caught doing "it" again.

I'm a party to these proceedings, not a third party or 'the public':
  these actions were visited *upon me* and were personally quite devastating and financially disastrous for me AND I personally raised the issue to get some satisfaction from you.

Releasing to me matters that *I* raised, even under a Confidentiality Agreement, doesn't involve any abuse of process or publicly exposes anyone. I already know the names of the players, I was one of them.

If you knew *all along* that I would never be told the outcome of my complaint WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST SAY THAT in September???
That would have been reasonable, but your organisation has jerked me around for months on end...

That's beyond inconsiderate: it's deliberate and intentional misleading behaviour.

At the very least, I would've expected a response to the complaint I raised that comprised two parts:

 - the findings of fact on each individual issue/point raised.
    i.e. "we found a breach of the privacy act, but not harassment"
    Note: I am NOT party to the internal actions, remedies and disciplinary process.

 - if the Agency, or their agent, was found to have acted in Bad Faith or outside acceptable limits in your Professional Code, then an apology to me, at least, is in order.

Where is a letter to me from the management of XXX Recruiting saying "We're sorry, we've looked to fixing things"?????

I'm not just disappointed in the process and this unsatisfactory result, but that you don't understand the concepts behind of Natural Justice. If you asked me to provide a *lot* of personal information as evidence as part of your process, so why cannot I know the determinations you made?

*That* is the reason I approached you with a complaint: to have you make a determination and tell me what it was.

I wish that you:
 - write me a response detailed the determination, not actions taken, on each point of complaint I made.
 - direct XXX Recruitment to write (or phone) an appropriate formal apology to me.

steve jenkin


Security: The Massive hole in the PCEHR system

In the last few days, three computer security stories have hit the news:
These may seem small, incidental stories, but they are signs of something much darker. At the end of 2004 the Hackers Turned Pro [and a 2007 piece]: now they're after the money, not publicity nor headlines. In fact, rather the reverse, like special tactical units, military or police, they now want to go completely undetected - to avoid detection, to be completely stealthy.