Its fun to snark

A headline which is doubtless a hostage to fortune. Anyway, I had fun deriding the Heartland Institute’s failed wiki but, as frank points out in the comments, there is more fun to be had: you can look at Special:ListUsers. If you do this on a real wiki like wikipedia, you get an enormously long list, the first page of which consists of !, ! !, ! ! !, …, ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !, after which whoever it was got bored. And who has been indefed since 2006. In fact, because of the way special characters list first, you have to page through thousands of usernames before you get anywhere. Slightly more entertaining is Special:ActiveUsers. Anyway, the point is that if you play this game with the Heartland’s toy wiki, you get:

* X Abarr (Created on 6 June 2011 at 16:57)
* Admin ‎(Bureaucrat, Administrator) (Created on 26 March 2010 at 07:58)
* X Darren (Created on 7 March 2011 at 01:05)
* Jason (Created on 1 March 2011 at 01:53)
* X Jbast (Created on 11 April 2011 at 20:25)
* Jlakely (Created on 1 March 2011 at 02:56)
* John (Created on 8 March 2011 at 16:54)
* X Jtaylor (Created on 11 April 2011 at 20:27)
* Kendall (Created on 1 March 2011 at 01:52)
* X Marcoestreich (Created on 22 February 2011 at 17:01)
* X Mmartin (Created on 11 April 2011 at 20:25)
* X Nthorner (Created on 31 May 2011 at 21:15)

and that really is it. All of them are redlinks (i.e., no text on their userpage, which on wikipedia is generally regarded as a bad sign), most of them (the ones I’ve marked with an X) have contributed nothing. Jlakey has contributed only one thing, to water use efficiency, which is an obvious COPYVIO of some pap from CO2 science and would have been deleted from wikipedia as a WP:COPYVIO. Which leaves only 3 users with any contributions – hardly a vibrant community.

Someone (I forget who – apologies) suggested that the Heartland wiki was mainly intended as repackaging of the NIPCC “report”. And that seems so; John for example has created the marvel that is West Antarctic ice sheet and sea level, which starts:

From Climate Change Reconsidered, a work of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change. Many of the studies of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) cited in the previous sections of this report address its past and future effects on sea level. In this final section on the WAIS, we bring this body of research together in one place and add other research summaries. Bindschadler (1998) analyzed…

Even by the low standards these people are aiming at, that is appalling copyediting: simply pasting in the text and forgetting to leave out the “cited in the previous sections of this report” bit. In fact John seems to quite like adding the fact that text has been ripped from the NIPCC. But there are just too many examples of rubbish copyediting whilst making amateurish cut-n-pastes from NIPCC to bother comment any more. John is also very interested in mercury, a substance distinguished by having absolutely nothing at all to so with climate change. But, it happens to be one of Fred’s pet obsessions: mercury is good for you: Mercury (Hg) is an element that has existed (and will continue to exist) naturally since the earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago. The oceans alone contain millions of tons of mercury.. Etc etc, very dull. So, at a guess John is S. Fred, or one of his minions [update: VB points out that more plausible candidates can be idenitfied from the Heartland staff list]. Though that bit about 4.5 billion would be controversial over at Conservapedia, where they believe in Bishop Ussher.

Jason has had some fun: he first created the IPCC page, by ripping it off wikipedia, but then realised that they had already got a ripped-off-and-cut-down version but he hasn’t learnt about #REDIRECT yet. Never mind, he’ll learn. Poor Jason has a lot of other things to learn – like, that when copying from wikipedia, you should copy from the “edit” tab, not just from the page itself, otherwise you get a lot of [n] type references that you later have to correct (or in Jasons case, simply remove – who needs references anyway?).

Kendall has been editing Technology and Climate Change. What caught my eye was In a major move away from global warming orthodoxy, the United Kingdom is currently in the process of studying the economic challenges of addressing climate change. Sir Nicholas Stern, a fellow of the British Academy, is leading a major review of the economics of climate change to understand more fully the nature of the economic challenges and how they can be met both in the UK and globally. Firstly, calling Stern a move away from orthodoxy is very odd, but secondly the present tense is strange: have I missed something? The answer is no, but Kendall has: instead of ripping off wikipedia, Kendall has been pasting in 5-year-old press releases from Heartland.

So in my (admittedly brief) survey, I could see no evidence at all of what is commonplace on wikipedia: people actually knowing stuff, and writing about it, backed up by references. All I saw was people pasting in stuff from elsewhere, usually without any thought.

Comments

  1. #1 Vinny Burgoo
    2011/06/12

    Stoat: ‘So, at a guess John is S. Fred, or one of his minions.’

    No, ‘John’ is probably John Monaghan, ‘Heartland’s energy and environment legislative specialist’.

    See here for several other authorized editors:

    http://www.heartland.org/about/staff.html

    For example, the expert on water use efficiency is probably James Lakely, an ex-journalist (hence the cut-and-paste?) who has been the Heartland Institute’s director of communications.

  2. #2 Ian
    2011/06/12

    I love this edit. “Admin”, the only account with admin and ‘crat rights, edits a page to break a category. And no one notices in 2 months.

    Giving admin and ‘crat powers to a person who doesn’t understand basic MediaWiki syntax. I wonder what could possibly go wrong…

  3. #3 Hank Roberts
    2011/06/12

    Hey, Heartland is good at estimating how much effort is needed, and they don’t spend a penny more than required for the desired outcome. That’s economics in action.

    “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
    – H.L. Mencken

  4. #4 David B. Benson
    2011/06/13

    Snark.

  5. Vinny Burgoo:

    And I thought James Lakely was also an ‘expert’ in net neutrality matters! These people, like S. Fred Singer, somehow manage to present themselves as jacks-of-all-trades, and whammo, the extreme-right goons see them as modern day polymath geniuses.

    A while back, Lakely hinted that manufacturers of notebook and netbook PCs should have the right to restrict the applications end users are allowed to run. I had some fun with that.

    – frank

  6. #6 Ernie Guevara
    2011/06/13

    Hardly surprising as the Heartland page is not, and was never intended to be, a real wiki. It’s simply one more echo chamber where Real AmericansTM can go to confirm what they already believe. But wikis are popular nowadays, so they repackage the same old junk in wiki format.

    In the same vein I wouldn’t be too surprised to see them dump their whole archive as Tweets. The only thing stopping them is absence of technical competence.

  7. #7 Hank Roberts
    2011/06/15

    Have you seen the free market approach to screening climate scientists as possible lead authors for the IPCC?

    It’s remarkably simple. Anyone competent enough in the area to have been paid for work done is ruled out.

    Mark Lynas figured that one out.

  8. #8 J Bowers
    2011/07/22

    Leo Hickman from the Guardian’s been having fun with the pseudo-wiki, too.

    [Fun fun. I see you've done your best. Discerning folk will pick the still-small-voice-of-calm out of the earthquake, wind and fire -W]

  9. #9 Hank Roberts
    2011/07/22

    And at Leo Hickman’s Guardian page, the commenters are there to slag Wikipedia’s climate coverage, not to defend Heartland’s. It’s the familiar claim that the socialist monarchist climatologists started it so anything they do to restore fairness and balance is a legitimate response; “Anything But Connolley” sums it up.

  10. Hank Roberts:

    Well, it’s the ‘we’re biased, but our opponents are biased too, therefore we’re unbiased’ argument again.

    But seriously, are these people for real, or are they paid trolls? Or even automated trolls? It’s hard to tell these days…

    – frank

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