So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

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So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Oct 03, 2006 3:44 am

Just to point the question a little more clearly, here's a quote from a recent "Atlantic" article:

Wikipedia has the potential to be the greatest effort in collaborative knowledge gathering the world has ever known, and it may well be the greatest effort in voluntary collaboration of any kind. The English-language version alone has more than a million entries. It is consistently ranked among the most visited Web sites in the world. A quarter century ago it was inconceivable that a legion of unpaid, unorganized amateurs scattered about the globe could create anything of value, let alone what may one day be the most comprehensive repository of knowledge in human history. Back then we knew that people do not work for free; or if they do work for free, they do a poor job; and if they work for free in large numbers, the result is a muddle. Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger knew all this when they began an online encyclopedia in 1999. Now, just seven years later, everyone knows different.

Here's a link to the Atlantic article, which unfortunately costs money.

But, then, so does Robinson III.

And, Wikipedia is free. (And, of course, so is the Wine Lovers Page.)

Which do you prefer?

Regards, Bob

[Just to be clear on my personal position: I own all three versions of the Oxford's Robinson, as well as Robinson's wonderful (albeit outdated) book on grape vines and her joint effot with Johnson on the wine maps [as well as all the earlier Johnson editions], I've subscribed to the Purple Pages since Robinson started her site and I still do; I have flogged the Purple Pages from time to time, including a puff piece that ran on her site for a couple of years; my review on Library Thing of Robinson II reads: "essential for any wine lover. The 3rd edition is due in the fall of 2006, and Ms Robinson has promised major revisions"

... but ... but ...

I always start my research on Wikipedia and/or WLP for any wine related question, and frankly I think Wikipedia is getting better and better with each passing day. (The wine tasting notes section of WLP are very valuable, and your continuing contributions maintain significant value, as well.) In my view, unless Robinson puts the Oxford on Wine online and allows her experts to update it freely -- and perhaps allows others to do so as well -- I fear her encyclopedia will soon become, as she herself calls it, merely "a doorstop".

It's probably important to add; I do not, and never have, contributed to Wikipedia, except for a minor correction to an entry on Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. B.]

Regards, Bob
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Robin Garr » Tue Oct 03, 2006 9:54 am

Bob Ross wrote:Which do you prefer?


Bob, I agree that Wikipedia is getting better, but it's variable, and my instinct is that it's less than reliable on specialist subjects - including, but not limited to wine - for the same reason that, say, Encarta or the American Heritage Dictionary is not the best place to turn for specialist information on wine.

Who's contributing wine info to Wikipedia? I know I'm not, and I don't know any wine writer or (to my knowledge) wine-forum participant who is. How much of it is being written by folks reading Barron's Wine Companion - or even Oxford - and how much is coming from qualified experts? We just don't know. But I'll say this: I turn to Wikipedia for lots of things, but I don't use it myself for wine and food information.
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Gary Barlettano » Tue Oct 03, 2006 11:19 am

Bob Ross wrote:Which do you prefer?


Bob, I guess I'm just a bit of antiquated flatulence, but Wikipedia for me is fun, but it lacks contollable peer review so I take everything on it cum grano salis. In fact, I just read an article yesterday discussing another new pay-to-be-published website for scientists where the peer review, similar to Wikidpedia, will take place after the piece is published. I am ambivalent as to whether this is genuine democratization via the Internet. But perhaps we are simply in our Wild West phase and in about 100 years more law and order will prevail.
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Oct 03, 2006 11:23 am

I'm not familiar with the Wikipedia community, but according to the "Atlantic" article, there are active discussion groups about various areas. The current list of participants on the wine project appear at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia: ... rticipants

I do know of at least two WLDGers who have contributed quite a bit to the wine sections, at least at one time. In one sense, though, the identity of individuals is not very important in a bottom up information system like this one.

As the article puts it:

For all intents and purposes, the project is laying claim to a vast region of the Internet, a territory we might call “common knowledge.” It is the place where all nominal information about objects of widely shared experience will be negotiated, stored, and renegotiated. When you want to find out what something is, you will go to Wikipedia, for that is where common knowledge will, by convention, be archived and updated and made freely available. And while you are there, you may just add or change a little something, and thereby feel the pride of authorship shared by the tens of thousands of Wikipedians.

In any event, thanks for your insights.
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Oct 03, 2006 11:56 am

"Fun"

Thanks, Gary -- the "Atlantic" made the same point:

Having seen all of this in prospect, Jasiutowicz asked a logical question: “Can someone please tell me what’s the end point/goal of Wikipedia?” Wales responded, only half jokingly, “The goal of Wikipedia is fun for the contributors.” He had a point. Editing Wikipedia is fun, and even rewarding. The site is huge, so somewhere on it there is probably something you know quite a bit about. Imagine that you happen upon your pet subject, or perhaps even look it up to see how it’s being treated. And what do you find? Well, this date is wrong, that characterization is poor, and a word is mispelled. You click the “edit” tab and make the corrections, and you’ve just contributed to the progress of human knowledge. All in under five minutes, and at no cost.

It must take a bit of derring do to edit changes. A few days ago I looked at the article on phylloxera at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylloxera

and noticed a typo in the predecessor of this sentence: "Inadvertently introduced to Europe in 1860 on imported North American vinestocks, Phylloxera wiped out a significant portion of European wine grapes in the mid-to-late 1800s." The first date was sometime in the 1900s -- I was tempted to correct it, but wasn't entirely sure what the exact date of introduction was.

Couldn't bring myself to even query the obvious inconsistency.

On the other hand, it was great fun changing the zip code error in the Franklin Lakes entry, especially since the very same error appears on my driver's license -- 07147 instead of the correct 07417.

What is clear is that the growth of contributors generally has been explosive in the past two years -- and it looks like the number of wine contributors is experiencing significant growth as well.

Regards, Bob
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Peter May » Tue Oct 03, 2006 12:11 pm

Bob Ross wrote: and noticed a typo in the predecessor of this sentence: "Inadvertently introduced to Europe in 1860 on imported North American vinestocks, Phylloxera wiped out a significant portion of European wine grapes in the mid-to-late 1800s." The first date was sometime in the 1900s -- I was tempted to correct it, but wasn't entirely sure what the exact date of introduction was.

Couldn't bring myself to even query the obvious inconsistency.


Obvious?

Not according to Jancis's Oxford Companion 1st Edition, which says a Commission in to Phyloxera in France started its investigation in July 1868, that by 1889 production had dropped to 23,4M gallons from 2,200M gallons in 1875.
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Robin Garr » Tue Oct 03, 2006 12:14 pm

Bob Ross wrote:I do know of at least two WLDGers who have contributed quite a bit to the wine sections, at least at one time. In one sense, though, the identity of individuals is not very important in a bottom up information system like this one.


It was reassuring to see Walt Nissen on there, Bob, but when he's joined by such personages as HappyCamper, EvilSuggestions and Death Eater Dan, fer chrisesake, that says it all to me. Usenet, Part Deux.
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Oct 03, 2006 12:18 pm

"Inadvertently introduced to Europe in 1860 on imported North American vinestocks, Phylloxera wiped out a significant portion of European wine grapes in the mid-to-late 1800s." The first date was sometime in the 1900s -- I was tempted to correct it, but wasn't entirely sure what the exact date of introduction was.

Sorry Peter, my note wasn't clear; the sentence originally read: "Inadvertently introduced to Europe in 19?? on imported North American vinestocks, Phylloxera wiped out a significant portion of European wine grapes in the mid-to-late 1800s." The first date in the sentence was sometime in the 1900s -- I was tempted to correct it, but wasn't entirely sure what the exact date of introduction was.

The inconsistency that bothered me was that the louse came to Europe, according to the text, in the 1900s, and did its damage there in the mide to late 1800s.

Regards, Bob

PS: If I'm honest, I was probably just to lazy to check my copy of Phylloxera : How Wine Was Saved for the World by Christy Campbell, find the first appearance date, and add her fascinating book as a reference. :-( B
Last edited by Bob Ross on Tue Oct 03, 2006 12:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Oct 03, 2006 12:23 pm

"... such personages as HappyCamper, EvilSuggestions and Death Eater Dan, fer chrisesake, that says it all to me."

Oh, you are such an elitist, Robin. :-)

"Common knowledge" has to be knowledge held by a wide variety of people, right?
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Peter May » Tue Oct 03, 2006 12:39 pm

Bob Ross wrote:[i] The inconsistency that bothered me was that the louse came to Europe, according to the text, in the 1900s, and did its damage there in the mide to late 1800s.


Ahh -- its clearer now.

But this was an obvious inconsistency that even someone with no knowledge of the subject would note. The concern is when there is inaccuracy that is not obvious.
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:00 pm

Just for the record, according to The Botanist and the Vintner: How Wine Was Saved for the World , by Christy Campbell:

"One day in the spring of 1862 a case arrived unexpectedly from America wihout any notice, the realization of a promise which M. Borty had never taken seriously and long ago forgotten," according to a little exhibition in Roquemaure's tourism office. The case contained rooted vines, carefully labelled by his émigré friend with their quaint Yankee names: "Clinton," "Post-Oak," "Emily". The young immigrants went cheerfully into the warming soil, and seemed to prosper.

The following summer, in a vineyard at the village of Pujaut, perched on a plateau of dry, pebbly soil a few kilometers south-west of Roquermaure, something strange started to happen...."

Now, if I can only think of a good screen name, I might clarify that Wikipedia entry.
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:08 pm

"But this was an obvious inconsistency that even someone with no knowledge of the subject would note. The concern is when there is inaccuracy that is not obvious."

Agreed, Peter, but fixing the obvious inaccuracy leads one down a slippery slope:

a. Change it to "the early 1860s"

b. Change it to "1860" -- don't know why.

c. Change it to "1862" bsed on Campbell and a notice in a tourist office in the Midi.

d. Change it to "1863" based on a couple of website references.

Pissanty of me, of course, but at the time I couldn't bring myself to work out the "correct" correction. Figured the mistake was so obvious, folks would either figure the devastation occurred in the 1860s and thereafter, and the 19?? was wrong, or that the 19?? date was correct, and the infestation was in the late 1900s.

Now, if I can find a good screen name, I might actually edit that darn Wikipidean entry. :-)

Regards, Bob
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Peter May » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:24 pm

Bob Ross wrote:Just for the record, according to The Botanist and the Vintner: How Wine Was Saved for the World , by Christy Campbell:

"One day in the spring of 1862 a case arrived unexpectedly from America


Jancis notes that 'rooted American vines were imported in particularly significant quantities between 1858 and 1862'.

Interestingly the book has the title Phylloxera: How Wine Was Saved for the World in the UK
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Ian Sutton » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:25 pm

Some
Useful comments on it. FWIW it sounds like a great 1st port of call for something you don't know about. From there the in-depth knowledge depends on the right people taking the time to add/correct/enhance what's there. I'm sure there will be pockets of it where the information is top-notch, as good as (even better than) equivalent books. In other areas it will be weaker and more unreliable. Any movement from pure fact to opinion will present insurmountable problems (problems which ensure a career for any budding authors out there).

The encyclopedia book companies must hate it though, as it should put them, if not out of business, on a very sharp downturn.

So for me, I reckon it's a great resource I've yet to utilise properly, however for wine I'll prefer other sources. My impression is it's good at telling me what I already know in this field!

regards

Ian
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:30 pm

Have to agree with your last point Ian. I just searched "Malbec" and lots of info...but nothing I was not aware of before. Valuable info for newbies and those just vaguely interested in vinious matters who want to learn more!
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:39 pm

"Jancis notes that 'rooted American vines were imported in particularly significant quantities between 1858 and 1862'."

Tougher and tougher to decide what date to insert there, Peter. The article was actually written by Dr Richard Smart, and he [or his source Jules Planchon -- the text is ambiguous] speculates a bit on the actual date of arrival:

Jules Planchon, Professor of Pharmacy at Montpellier University, noted that rooted American vines were imported in particularly significant quantities between 1858 and 1862, and sent to parts of Europe as far apart as Bordeaux, England, Ireland, Alsace, Germany, and Portugal. No doubt phylloxera was an unsuspected passenger on vine roots at the same time.

So one has to decide to go with a somewhat speculative "between 1858 and 1862" citing RobinsonII [I can't get to my copy of RobinsonIII this afternoon [and is it even nice to cite to another encyclopedia?]],

or "1862" based on the tourist office.

Or maybe just forget about it. :-) [I just can't think of a stupid enough name for editing purposes. :-(]
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:52 pm

"Interestingly the book has the title Phylloxera: How Wine Was Saved for the World in the UK."

Interesting indeed, Peter. Just goes to show you:

Bugs sell in the UK; people sell in the US. :-)

Regards, Bob

PS: Our local Barnes and Noble sold out of your book so I can't check that Pennsylvania reference; they are ordering additional copies, and I'll check again in a couple of weeks. B
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Peter May » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:56 pm

Bob Ross wrote: Our local Barnes and Noble sold out of your book


I'm so happy :D
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:58 pm

Bravo!
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Thomas » Tue Oct 03, 2006 2:19 pm

The two or three times I checked out wikipedia I discovered serious problems with the information. I am sure it isn't all bad, but so long as it is an unchecked free flow of information that anyone can change, alter, make up, or put down with complete verification behind it, it will remain in the back of my mind in a compartment labeled, "little faith in it."

And yes, my information has it that vine experiments between America and Europe took place at least a decade before the first outbreak of phylloxera, and there was of course the oidium outbreak which got to Europe before phylloxera.
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Graeme Gee » Tue Oct 03, 2006 7:34 pm

Bob Ross wrote:PS: If I'm honest, I was probably just to lazy to check my copy of Phylloxera : How Wine Was Saved for the World by Christy Campbell, find the first appearance date, and add her fascinating book as a reference. :-( B


Er, Bob, from memory Christy is a 'he'..... better check the endflap before getting into Wiki...
cheers,
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Re: So which is better, Robin: Robinson III or Wikipedia on Wine?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Oct 03, 2006 7:50 pm

Thanks, Graeme -- I knew that! :-)

I appreciate the correction.

Us Wikipedians are very thick skinned -- as the Community warns: "Expect your article to be attacked mercilessly."

Altough I've only contributed one small correction, I'm ready to defend it to the death!
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