From the monthly archives:

August 2004

Wiki-wiki

August 31, 2004

I left this comment to a post regarding Wikipedia at Ross Mayfield’s Many-to-Many Corante blog. I believe it to be true.

No serious researcher sole-sources his research. Both Britannica and Wikipedia can be expected to reflect biases. Inaccuracies will creep into any compendium of facts. Online resources like Wikipedia are more easily corrected than print publications like Britannica. The errata sheet is by its nature a static document amending a static document. The Wikipedia format permits a researcher to follow the development of content and the editorial consensus building that takes place as content is normalized. Wikipedia can provide a useful starting point for real research, and it can provide a quick background in unfamiliar terrain. It’s a useful tool.

The more general debate about Wikis is a debate about human nature and is rife with assumptions about motives and opportunities. The real crime is that nobody has run a longitudinal study of the marginal utility of Wikis to members/users that examines a statistically significant population across a meaningful time span. Somebody oughta, somebody oughta…

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Wikipedia, et al.

August 30, 2004

Shelley Powers and Joi Ito, among others, opened a conversation regarding the relative truth to be found in Wikipedia, a compendium that relies on its readers to update and hone content. Wikipedia has few editorial policies, perhaps the guiding and most important is that those who contribute should strive to maintain a Neutral Point of View (NPOV).

Following that discussion, I happened upon a reference to Investopedia.com in a column in Paul Krugman’s “The Great Unraveling.” Specifically Krugman offered a definition of “one-time charge” as found in Investopedia.com

I looked it up. Investopedia offers a discussion of one-time charges in an article about financial statement chicanery, but it doesn’t offer a direct reference through its own search function. How would Wikipedia handle this I wondered? It turns out that neither “one-time charge” nor “one-time event” has its own listing in Wikipedia, but the site offered me the opportunity to create one. Even so, “one time events” are discussed in the “Income” article, and the sense one gets about the use of “one time events” is that there is some controversy and that critics generally think of them as ways to fool investors. This is the line that Investopedia is pushing, but in Wikipedia it is presented in an arguably neutral way (the use of the word “supposedly” diminishes the neutrality somewhat):

Pro forma income is an estimate of how much the company would have earned without including the negative effect of exceptional “one-time events”, supposedly in order to show investors how much money the company would have made under normal circumstances if these exceptional, one-time events had not occurred. Critics charge that, in most cases, the “one-time events” are normal business events, such as an acquisition of another company or a write off of a cancelled project or division, and that pro forma reporting is an attempt to mislead investors by painting a rosy financial picture.

If you simply Google the phrase “one-time charge” the top listing is from Disinfopedia. Ourobouros takes another bite! The Disinfopedia article on one-time charges points to the original column by Krugman that I’d read in “The Great Unraveling.”

What does all this mean? Well, for one thing, triangulating the general sense of the meaning of a single accounting term through Wikipedia, Disinvopedia, and Investopedia, we see that the popular culture is biased toward an understanding put forward by Mr. Krugman. I don’t know much more about one-time charges than I knew from reading his article. All of the Wiki paths I travelled seem to be in different regions of the same layer of the onion, and in order to deepen my understanding, I’ll have to peel another layer or three.

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Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and the Hot Club of Cow Town

August 28, 2004

But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.

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Welcome Stranger…

August 27, 2004
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