Wikipedia blocked (again) in China?

So sayeth commenters in the latest open thread. Pity.

The Discussion: 26 Comments

Why is it a pity? For all the hype, wikipedia has some serious problems.

October 19, 2005 @ 10:20 pm | Comment

Blocked you say? Right, I’m off to edit the article on Taiwan to say it’s an independent country, and noone from China will change it back! Heh! Heh! Heh!

BTW: Simon there’s a difference between having problems and not being useful. It’s still an excellent first port of call if you want some info on something.

October 19, 2005 @ 10:32 pm | Comment

Yes Simon, it may have problems, but it’s still a pity that the Chinese people can’t access it, don’t you think?

October 19, 2005 @ 11:03 pm | Comment

Oh for Christ’s sake:

All of you Communist parasites who censor the internet, why don’t you just GET A REAL JOB?

October 19, 2005 @ 11:08 pm | Comment

Blocking Wikipedia, however ineffectually, is very annoying for me (it’s knackered the search function), as I often use the site for work. It’s a good way to gauge what would be considered “basic” information on a given subject. And the “Random page” button is great for killing time.

On the whole, while the potential for a lot of problems are there, its actual setup works much better than might be expected. That said, specialist wikis can often be better, provided you’re after that kind of thing.

October 19, 2005 @ 11:33 pm | Comment

So um…. does anybody know why exactly has wiki been banned? I bloody hate their blanket prohibitions on websites. If the govt’s have spent so much money on web policing software you would’ve thought they’d be able to be more specific about information they’re trying to block. I was only trying to research Thomas Pynchon for God’s sake!

October 19, 2005 @ 11:34 pm | Comment

I used to be a big fan of Wikipedia, and it still has merit, but now I’m starting to think it’s flaws are gaining the upper hand. The key question is whether information is democratic? By that I mean can the crowd determine knowledge, or is it something best left to those prepared to study and invest time to learn the topic which they then disseminate in a kind of benevolent dictatorship?

Of course it’s a shame it’s blocked and I’m surprised it’s taken until now. It’s also a shame lots of other sites are blocked.

If you use Wikipedia realising it’s free and knowing how it’s compiled, that’s fine. It’s when it’s taken at face value I worry.

To boil it down to it’s philosophical base, are facts objective (ie they exist outside of any one perspective) or subjective (ie it is in the eye of the beholder)? I choose the former.

October 19, 2005 @ 11:43 pm | Comment

Simon:

1. “Facts” are inseparable from the way they are stated

2. “Facts” are neither objective nor subjective, but participant. (Back to quantum physics there)

October 19, 2005 @ 11:48 pm | Comment

Yeah- I was able to access the entry on Bobby (the Brain) Heenan last night but now I can’t open any page on Wikipedia…
Fascist bastards

October 20, 2005 @ 12:05 am | Comment

Sorry- I meant pencil-necked geeks a la Classy Freddy Blasse.

October 20, 2005 @ 12:06 am | Comment

So Ivan, taking your physics example, does that mean the uncertainty principle applies to facts?

October 20, 2005 @ 12:32 am | Comment

Simon: A benevolent dictatorship better than democracy? They’ve got to you, haven’t they? You’ll be asking for a Wiki with Chinese characteristics next ๐Ÿ™‚

Actually, I think the Wiki handles issues of bias or subjectivity pretty well: contentious issues are clearly marked as such, and you can usually guarantee that both sides of any debatable issue are covered reasonably neutrally.

Where it does fall down are:
1) In depth analysis (i.e. what do the basic facts actually mean) – which would require more scholarly input.
2) Clarity and structure of bigger articles. If you’ve got 200 people all editing one article it’s going to be a patchwork of facts rather than an easily readable well-structured article.

The two pages that were critiqued in the article you link to are both biographies which have been altered thousands of times, and so lost all structure.

Can you give an example where taking a wiki article at face value could cause trouble/misunderstanding? It’s never going to be the final word on any subject – but it’s an excellent resource none the less

October 20, 2005 @ 12:45 am | Comment

Wiki is blocked in Guangzhou.

I agree with the “useful tool/forst port of call” crowd. Nothing’s perfect, but Wiki is an excellent resource when used appropriately.

October 20, 2005 @ 2:38 am | Comment

Isn’t the real surprise that Wikipedia hasn’t been blocked before. I think it was blocked for a month or two, but that’s about it. It’s like the unblocking of Blogspot – why would that happen unless there’s been some change in the blocking technology?

October 20, 2005 @ 3:23 am | Comment

Simon,

Literally, yes the “uncertainty principle” DOES apply to “facts” (and Heisenberg confided his opinion on this in correspondence with a friend of mine – and no I’m not just imMadg-ining this ๐Ÿ™‚ ….

…Heisenberg was reluctant to say too much in public about the extrapolations of the uncertainty principle. But he – and some other physicists as well as other scholars – DID perceive the unsettling implications of it for other kinds of thinking/perception/language etc…

…and finally, be careful with the word “fact”. It’s from Latin and it’s related to the Latin roots for “to create, to make something” – the word “factory” has the same origins.
In other words, a “fact” is a statement, and its meaning depends on how it is stated. Eg, it’s a “fact” to say “I often comment on TPD”, and it’s ALSO a “fact” to say, “I write a lot of silly nonsense on TPD”. But if I told a stranger only that I “write lots of silly nonsense on TPD”, yes it would be true, but it would be misleading – it would actually be partly untruthful, because the “nonsense” I write is usually some kind of satire with some serious element.

Or, I could just say, “I comment on the internet”, but then you get even less information. But then at the other extreme, if I say: “Today I said EXACTLY THESE WORDS on TPD”, then it’s still leaving out other kinds of information.

That’s what I mean by saying, “A fact is inseparable from its statement.”
No fact is ever complete, or ever categorically absolutely true. (However, SOME “facts” can be categorically UNtrue: Eg, it is a PARTIAL truth to say, “Richard is intelligent”, but it would be ENTIRELY UNTRUE to say: “Richard’s stalker named Mxx is sane.”

๐Ÿ™‚

October 20, 2005 @ 3:47 am | Comment

I think this is the wikipedia entry which Nanny objected to:

“Firewall: Derived from Thomas Jefferson’s injunction for a free and enlightened people to erect a “wall of flame” between a rational, secular society and theocratic, superstitious authorities who aspire to hold the People fast in ignorance.
It has an opposite purpose in today’s China, where the Great Firewall separates a superstitious theocratic state from rational, secular information. Cf, “Socialism With Chinese Characterisitics” and other oxymorons.

October 20, 2005 @ 4:13 am | Comment

Wikipedia might not be so good when it comes to getting an unbias opinion of a controversial event or person, but it is good for cronologies and scientific information, its also good because it has both Chinese and Japanese language versins of a lot of articles and not just English.

Wikipedia also has a surprissingly good section on entertainment, things like TV shows and films.

It’s a pitty that nobody can force China to open up its internet blocks.

October 20, 2005 @ 4:37 am | Comment

If I ever see Wiki in a student bibliography or footnote, they get a big red cross, and told to never do it again. I hate the damn thing. It’s riddled with inaccuracies, and if I could stop students using it altogether, I would.

October 20, 2005 @ 9:36 am | Comment

Shit, even the german version is blocked.
But no wonder. In contrary to others I also think that several entrys there are of a very good quality.
I can only speak about the german version but especially controverse and difficult topics are taken mostly good care of in the discussions.
For example the german entry of T!bet. The usual facts, history and then the actual status, the point of view of China, the exile gov and the international status and view. No tendency at all in the article.
If somebody says “T!bet is occupied by China!”, I can show him the article to show him “it’s not simple like that” And the other way around. No, it’s not that simple that T!bet was always a part of China.

Wikipedia is a very good tool, if, as said before, you know how to use it and if you are intelligent enough, to know if you are at a good entry or a bad, biassed one.

It is not a source to trust in general but it is a very good tool.

October 20, 2005 @ 11:14 am | Comment

Yes, I’m not exactly sure what the problem is. The universal edit function is abused, but certainly in the English version, users are quick to revert any vandalism or bullshitting.

However there are still many poor articles. So I can guess it depends how you view wiki. I normally use it for basic info like “WTF is x?” But I’m not going to use it for anything important.

October 20, 2005 @ 4:11 pm | Comment

Well, yes, Wikipedia has its faults. On contentious topics it can be pretty bad. Chinese nationalists completely destroy any attempt at objectivity about Japan (Japanese nationalists attempt to do the same, but they are usually hampered by their pathetic English!). Still, as long as you don’t believe it is divinely inspired, it is useful for getting information on a lot of topics.

October 20, 2005 @ 9:18 pm | Comment

Just one thing: I did a Google to find out if Wikipedia has been blocked in China, and all I could find was stuff from back in June.

How come Google is not picking up this latest ‘attack’?

October 20, 2005 @ 9:39 pm | Comment

I find that the best Wikipedia articles are those on scholarly, non-contentious issues which people with a real informed interest have worked on. Minor figures, like Ferdinard Ossendowski, or relatively minor subjects, like Neo-Confucianism, are generally very intelligently covered (to name two I looked up recently.)

October 21, 2005 @ 10:09 am | Comment

It is really annoying to find Wikipedia is blocked. However, I think there do be problems about the method Wikipeida gathers information, which I used to appreciate as a way for common people to contribute their own resources and knowledge. Now after some sound retrospection, I suppose it is difficult for people to interpret the world objectively and thus the articles ordinary people provided may reflect their own stands and opinions. And what is worse, some people may distort some facts deliberately. After all, I hope Wikipedia will be revived ASAP. No doubt it has done a lot of favors to me!

October 22, 2005 @ 1:47 am | Comment

Does anyone know of any good ways to get around the block here in the PRC? I also find wiki to be a useful tool, especially for preliminary research. Thanks

December 31, 2005 @ 6:33 am | Comment

those damn so-called communists in china should go and grow some balls -_-

July 26, 2006 @ 10:52 pm | Comment

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