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If surgery was like Wikipedia...
And other Cult Horrors...
You may have seen this parody dotted about the web in the past couple of days. What better to lead off our postbag. It was submitted by Marco, who explains below how he came to compose it.
What better way to lead off the Wikipedia corner of the postbag.
If surgery was like Wikipedia: Surgipedia.
Several surgipedians have gathered in an operation theater. On the table lies an unconscious man whos left leg looks dark. Surgipedian #1 grabs a sheet prepared by the patient's doctor that details the problem.
Surgipedian #1: "Whoa, he's been lying here for 26 hours, we sure got a backlog again. It also says on this that he has a 'claudication' and a 'chronic venous insufficiency' in the left leg", looks at right leg, "and we are asked to do a 'leg segmental arterial doppler ultrasound exam'. Whatever that is. His leg looks pretty good to me".
Surgipedian #2: "You looked at the wrong leg. It says the left one".
Surgipedian #1: "I looked at the left and it's looking totally normal!"
Surgipedian #2: "The left from his point of view! Do you know where your left leg is?"
Surgipedian #3: "No need for shouting, #2, please remember Surgipedia guideline 'Assume Good Faith'. #1 was just trying to be constructive!"
Surgipedian #2: "I was only trying to be constructive, too!"
Surgipedian #3: "Well, let's just get to back to this guy."
Surgipedian #1, feeling securely at the helm again: "I remember something I read once on a website about heart diseases; when your arms or legs turn dark, you got a heart problem".
Surgipedian #3: "Yup, you are right. It's something about the veins in the heart being clogged up."
Surgipedian #2, feeling outdone: "I think it's something about having not enough oxygen in your blood!"
Surgipedian #1: "Can you cite a source for that?"
Surgipedian #2: "My aunt Thelma had something like that and I wrote a paper about it for my biology class at school!"
Surgipedian #3: "Please remember Surgipedia guideline: No Original Research! Let's get back to the man's heart problem! What should we do?"
Surgipedian #1: "I think you need to cut open his ribs and give him a heart massage or clean the veins or something".
Surgipedian #3: "Sounds reasonable. After all, when you get a massage to your back, the blood there flows better as well. I just wrote an article about it".
Surgipedian #2: "Heh, that is original research, too!"
Surgipedian #3: "Several surgipedians agreed on that article to be correct. Are you trying to be a nuisance or do you want to do that man some good?"
Surgipedian #2: "Of course!"
Surgipedian #2: "Then please stay constructive! How do we cut the man's ribs?"
Surgipedian #1: "You need a saw or something."
Surgipedian #3: "A saw? Surgeons use scalpels when they operate. I think you just need to cut a hole and poke your fingers through".
Without further ado, he grabs a scalpel and cuts a hole approximately where the heart is and sticks two fingers through.
Surgipedian #3: "I can't reach the heart, my fingers are not long enough!"
Surgipedian #2: "Then do that thing with the veins!"
Surgipedian #3: "How do you do that?"
Surgipedian #2 "Well, my aunt Thelma finally had something they call a bypass and they cut open the veins, I think".
Surgipedian #3: "But that is orig..., well let's try it. But I will have to push in the scalpel pretty deep to reach the heart. Shall we do it?"
Surgipedian #1, #2: "Support".
Surgipedian #3 remembers Surgipedia guideline "Be Bold!", grabs the scalpel in his fist and swings his arm in preparation of a deep push into the hole, but at that moment a surgeon comes by.
Surgeon: "Stop! What in the world are you doing?"
Surgipedian #3: The man has a problem in his leg and we are going to cut his heart veins open".
Surgeon: "What? All I see is a man with vascular problem in his leg and another that wields a scalpel like a knife. Are you aware that pushing a scalpel into someone's heart will kill that person?"
Surgipedian #1: "We have decided by majority that this is the proper thing to do. Besides, can you prove that pushing a scalpel into someones heart is deadly?"
Surgeon: "You decided by MAJORITY? Are you all nuts?"
Surgipedian #2 feels that there is finally someone besides him to put down: "Please, no personal attacks!"
Surgeon: "I will fucking personal attack you if you endanger someones life!"
Surgipedian #3: "We need to call an admin!"
Surgeon: "Alright, do that, but put that scalpel down!"
An admin comes by.
Admin: "I have heard that a guest is violating Surgipedia rules".
Surgeon: "I am a surgeon and these people are about to kill this man by pushing a knife into his heart!"
Admin: "Reviewing the archived discussion, you are in violation of rules Surgipedia: Assume Good Faith, Surgipedia: Vandalism, Surgipedia: Neutral Point of View, Surgipedia: No Personal Attacks, Surgipedia: Avoid Weasel Words and Surgipedia: Do not disrupt Surgipedia to make a point. You will be blocked from accessing Surgipedia for one week. Please use the time to review
Surgipedia guidelines and rules".
Admin and desperate Surgeon leave.
Surgipedian #3: "Okay, where were we?"
Surgipedian #2: "You were about to cut his heart."
Surgipedian #3: "Yup. I propose that so-called 'surgeon' was just a troll and we should go ahead."
Surgipedian #1 and #2: "Agree".
Surgipedian #3 slams the scalpel into the man's heart, who is dead within moments.
Surgipedian #3: "Why did he die?"
Surgipedian #1: "It's his fault. There was nothing WE did wrong!"[All guidelines and policies mentioned in this satire do exist in Wikipedia.]
This sounded very well observed. Was this based on personal experience, we wondered? Marco explained -
"Well, I have at one time tried to correct an article on a subject I have pretty deep knowledge about and start a new one, independent, but related to it. The editor who apparently thought he had the ownership of the former, reverted my edits and filed the latter for deletion, claiming it was spam. An admin later restored my work and reprimanded that editor, but this ended my active involvement in Wikipedia; it simply seemed to bothersome to spend time on it."
"However, the continuous news about Wikipedia in the media, its constant appearance in search engine results and the fact that students I have to deal with rely more and more on what Wikipedia tells them prompted me to take a second look, this time especially behind the scenes. And I was amazed by what's happening there; Wikipedia may be the biggest, albeit unwillingly so, experiment on social psychology ever conducted and through the mechanisms involved a threat to correct and verified knowledge. One of your other readers may be right when he claims that Wikipedia is a cult or sect."
"And that's why I took the time to write that piece: Wikipedia sneaks up in just about every search engine result I encounter and permeates students I have to conduct work with with a false sense of knowledge. I have to deal with Wikipedia although I chose not to, and when an ordinary website gets that much power, something is going wrong."
And more letters -
It's easy to emote, but hard to take responsibility"
A darn good quote, Andrew.
And one that, oddly, I've used for a while with regards to Our Illustrious Leader. A man who's obviously been to the Playschool Method Acting Class (you may need to check out UK Kids TV to see what I mean... sorry!).
In addition to the Essjay scandal, the New Yorker has a habit of bad reporting on the computer industry.
The most notorious example I can remember was in Ken Auletta's very long piece on the Microsoft antitrust case a few years ago. The piece contained a short history of Microsoft and Windows that looked as if it came directly from MS's PR department, making it sound as if Windows was an immediate success when of course it was anything but. The irony is that the true story credits Microsoft for considerable persistence and a bit of vision for the eight years it took to produce a barely-usable and commercially successful version of Windows, when many companies would have given up.
Ken Auletta does very good work on the media industry and is good at getting access to moguls, but they should have run this story by someone with even a vague knowledge of the computer industry.