Monday, January 31, 2011

He Said, She Said. (With an Updatery Correction)

There's an interesting article in the NY Times today about the disproportionate number of male and to* female contributors to Wikipedia. (Did you know Wikipedia has a Wikipedia page?)  Apparently, among the hundreds of thousands of contributors, roughly 13% are women.  And Wiki wants to know why.

Personally, I think it's a stupid question.  You need look no further than the old truism that men won't ask for directions.  Why?  Because we know how to get there; asking would be unmanly!  This, of course, translates into a willingness to demonstrate that we know everything about everything...whether we do or not.

Allow me to illustrate the point with a quote from Calvin & Hobbes (and what better citation could you hope for?)

Calvin:     How do they know the load limit on bridges, Dad?
Dad:        They drive bigger and bigger trucks over the bridge until it breaks. Then they weigh the last truck and rebuild the bridge.
Calvin:     Oh, I should've guessed.
Mum:       Dear, if you don't know the answer, just tell him!

Clearly, it's more important that the father demonstrate his mastery of all knowledge than whether or not his facts are correct.  I'll even hold myself out as another example.  It's a well known fact that when sitting in a bar, there will eventually be some discussion of sports. (It's also a well known fact that men like to start sentences with the words, It's a well known fact.)  Between you, me and the lamppost, I'm not much of a sports fan; ergo, I'm not much of an authority.  I can kinda hold my own talking about baseball or golf, but I'm really hopeless in Basketball, Football, Hockey, Curling, Long Distance Running, and a plethora of other manly pursuits.  Think that'd stop me from chiming in?  Hell no!  There's always an opening to slip in that anecdote about getting Press Passes to the 1984 Celtics-Lakers Series.  I can talk with authority about the time Bobby Orr left his MVP ring on set after shooting a commercial.  When watching football, there will eventually be a moment to opine, "Daayum! That's gotta hurt."

Women, on the other hand are completely deficient in the Omnipotence Gene.  It's not their fault; they were born that way.  I'd be willing to bet that if Wiki did a survey of Wiki Users, they'd find that more women are willing to look up stuff than men are. And if they dig even deeper, I bet they'll find that 87% of men who look up stuff are just looking for evidence to prove something they already know!

I'm really shocked that people who are supposed to be as smart as the NY Times and the folks who run Wiki are baffled by this discrepancy.  The answer is so obvious.  If you need any more evidence, look no further than this post.  I didn't know squat about this subject before I read the article, and here I am a mere couple of hours later knowing more than the authors.  And the only research I did was looking for a good Calvin & Hobbes quote.

This Authoritative Writing stuff is a piece of cake!
*Corrected due to the "poking in his nose" of some male know-it-all Grammar Nazi.  My point just keeps proving itself.


Anne C. said...

Uh... I hate to say it, but I think you're right, Nathan.

The big exception is Moms. Moms, as we all know, know *everything* but they are too busy to be writing articles for Wikipedia.

cjdahl60 said...

Wow. You hit the nail right on the head.

At least from from my perspective.

Tom said...

Wow, when it comes to "the disproportionate number of male and female contributors to Wikipedia" I just have to say that I did not know there were any "male and female contributors to Wikipedia." I live such a sheltered life!

Nathan said...

OK, fine Tom. I bet you didn't even bother to look that up! Just spouting off the top of your head.

Tom said...

I don't mind if others are the know-it-alls. I am content to just be the smart-ass. :)

98pics said...

Comparing expert grammarians to Nazis is a violation of the "new civility." Check the Wikipedia "New Civility" page.

Nathan said...

I'm pretty sure the "New Civility" has an exception for cases where you know the person in MeatSpace. If it doesn't, I'm creating it now.