Anthony Judge: the Wikipedia needs a process for counterclaims

I have a very simple proposal for reforming part of the process of Wikipedia, which goes like this, and it aims to reinforce the role of experts, but not at the expense of the self-publishing by the general public.

The idea is this: as the examples of Nupedia and Citizendium have show, along with other expert-based pedia experiments, they do not advance well, because experts have little incentive as they have other sources, and they crowd out other contributions when they have power.

My solution is therefore to create an extra talk page that is reserved for experts. Based on some form of credentialism, this page would be open to the experts and the aim would not be to create a rival page, but to supply the raw material for the page, point out mistakes and consistencies, and how alternatives sources not suffering from the defects of the main page. It would act as a mirror to the real page, and can be used as a source for the normal process.

What would happen in such a page. Here is where Tony Judges proposal come in. It could be used for a special page, where counter-claims would find their place, thereby insuring the diversity even in a context of ‘neutrality’.

Tony Judge:

“my favoured approach is to distinguish between arguments by experts in favour of a text (claims) and arguments (counter-claims) by the same against the text: it provides a safety valve for non-consensual views.


— Where appropriate an often emotional “claim” or “counter-claim” is included to give some sense of the passions and controversy aroused by such perceptions:


Counter-claims: In order to reflect the questionable status of many problems in the eyes of particular schools of expertise, the descriptions of problems include a “counter-claim” where possible. This presents any arguments against the existence of the problem as formulated. Such counter-claims help to demonstrate that the problem domain is a highly turbulent one in which many so-called facts are treated as totally questionable from other perspectives.


Since many of the problems are highly controversial to some, attention is specifically given to the inclusion of “counter-claims” denying the arguments substantiating the problem. This is done to hold the often vigorous dynamics between constituencies within the community of organizations. Every effort is made to embody the language and perspective of the bodies sensitive to such problems – rather than to reframe the arguments within a particular ideological framework.


Strategy Claim: Stresses, in the language of protagonists and vested interests, the special importance of this strategy and why its implementation is particularly urgent. This text may deliberately exaggerate claims for the unique importance of the strategy, as found in statements generated for public relations, press release, fundraining and budget protection purposes, for example. Claims should preferably be pithy, for example “Paying taxes is proof of civic responsibility”. Numbering claims conveys appreciation of their heterogenous source. Strategy Counter-claim: Stresses the relative insignificance or erroneous conception of the strategy, or the dangers of its implementation. Use for well-reasoned statements showing how the strategy is a false strategy, non-existent, poorly formulated or analyzed by its protagonists, unsusbstantiated or merely subjective or misunderstood. Can also be a critique of the strategy as described, drawing attention to hidden assumptions or blind spots in its formulation. This is expecially valuable in the case of perceptions arising from alternative ideologies. This text may deliberately exaggerate the arguments refuting the relevance of the strategy. Counter-claims are not easy to locate since they are seldom given in the documents of those most preoccupied by the strategy. Absence of such arguments from the text does not mean that they do not exist.


More generally, with respect to thoughts on the improvement of that process, see Future possibilities: World Problems Project


3 Comments Anthony Judge: the Wikipedia needs a process for counterclaims

  1. AvatarJon Awbrey

    These proposals remind me of the Debate Guide Project that Larry Sanger started at his Textop Wiki, before he abandonned (back-burnered?) those projects to start up yet another, to wit, Citizendium.

    I think that it can make for a very healthy intellectual exercise to run the flags of our various and sundry dispositions up the flagpole of a project to build the Ideal Distributed Encyclopedia — just so long as we understand that nothing like the winds of critical reflective practice will ever disturb the doldrums of Wikipedia itself.

    There is but one brand of banner that holds sway over that field.

  2. AvatarJon Awbrey

    Implementing a disciplined process for balancing the counterclaims of experienced observers and scholars is next to impossible in Wikipedia.

    The necessary level of respect for differentially informed perspectives is just not present there. The prerequisite order of critical reflection on whatever point of view is currently dominant is just not possible there.

    The pretence of neutrality cast in the Iron Cage of WP:NPOV and the pretence of objectivity cast in the Leaden Eye of WP:NOR simply do not allow a genuine negotiation among different views to proceed, much less to succeed there.

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