There’s must be a lot of wrong-atude in wikipedia

So, I was the lead engineer for Mac OS 9 and Mac OS 9.1. That meant that I have a pretty good idea about what we tried to do engineering-wise for Mac OS 9, because in a lot of ways I was one of the folks deciding what to do.

A couple weeks ago, I was surfing and eventually ended up on the Mac OS 9 page at wikipedia, and noticed a couple errors. One was the statement

“Still, Mac OS 9 did not include features common to modern operating systems, such as protected memory (which allegedly was implemented in beta versions of Mac OS 9.1, but pulled at Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ command” …

Now, that’s a good story. It’s got a villian and everything. And, there’s certainly a bit of truth in it — there certainly were some features that we thought about doing for Mac OS 9, and 9.1, and probably 9.2 even, that we didn’t pursue because we knew that Mac OS X was coming, as well as features that we didn’t pursue because we didn’t think we had enough engineers available to do them, or the right engineers, or engineers who were interested in doing it, or many other reasons.

Protected memory was one of those features that we thought about doing. Thought about, that is. We certainly didn’t get far enough into it to have anything implemented by beta, because we never really got far enough to ever know whether we thought we could actually do it. It would have been really hard — lots and lots of stuff would have to change, since the operating system was always designed to have everything in the same memory space, with lots of data structures in memory associated with a particular application pointing to other structures in other application or the system’s memory space. I say with a lot of confidence that we could never have done it for the existing applications; it’s possible with a lot of engineering effort that we could have gotten it to work, poorly ( and with lots of caveats, like most system-patching extensions would fail ). And, by lots of engineering effort, it probably would have taken us a couple years to get it done, by which time Mac OS X would have shipped and Mac OS 9 would be gone.

But, wikipedia says that we had it implemented, and Steve Jobs killed it. They even point to an AppleInsider report that says that they killed it because it overshadowed Mac OS X. Since wikipedia says it, it must be true. It must be true because anyone can edit wikipedia, and so if it weren’t true someone would fix it if they knew it was false, so it must be true.

Except, as I say, it’s not true. So, I clicked on the little edit button, and deleted it. Done! Truth has prevailed; now 10th graders have a reliable source they can crib stuff from when they do their reports.

Then, someone put it back. “reverted an unsourced claim” is the reason; apparently I, a mere Mac OS 9.1 Technical Lead, don’t count as a ‘source’ for something. Rumor site; yes. Someone who was actually at Apple doing stuff; no.

So, I tried to do the right thing. Went to the talk page; gave my qualifications and why I deleted it, waited a couple days, and then deletedi it again.

And, someone put it back again. Now it’s “okay.. you can’t just remove that without explanation”, which sounded to me like he or she had read my explanation and agreed, but that isn’t what it means at all.

So now I get snippy. Since I’m not allowed to remove the incorrect information, I added another clause to the sentence saying that only wikipedia editors believe this. This, apparently is a “remove non-encyclopedic comment” addition, so it’s gone too. And, I’m childish for vandalizing a page.

Bah. Let it be wrong.

14 Comments

  1. ejalbert
    Aug 9, 2006

    I’ve made an attempt to clarify that line. I think I believe you, though Wikipedia doesn’t appear to confirm your claim about being the lead for Mac OS 9, so I’m not sure I should believe you. :) I mean, if it ain’t in Wikipedia it ain’t true….

  2. AlistairMcMillan
    Aug 13, 2006

    One of the official policies on Wikipedia is Verifiability

    The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. “Verifiable” in this context means that any reader must be able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, because Wikipedia does not publish original thought or original research.

    This is why the claim kept being restored. Because it was sourced. Of course, whether a rumour site like AppleInsider qualifies as a “reliable source” is doubtful.

  3. keith
    Aug 13, 2006

    And, that’s my point. Wikipedia, it seems, would rather be wrong than right. There are no articles out there in the world to cite that say that Apple didn’t do protected memory between applications, and that Steve Jobs didn’t kill the feature to keep Mac OS 9 from eclipsing Mac OS 9. No “reliable source” thought to write them because nobody disputes rumor sites; they just ignore them.

    That said, someone else apparently reverted my edit back to the top of the page; I’m totally confused about what do do here — put back the cited-from-a-rumor-site edit, or leave the uncited truth there. I suspect I’ll do the latter, since I promised myself not to try to fight this battle anymore.

  4. rumoko
    Aug 14, 2006

    This now counts as a published source. You should be able to cite your own article. Surely this is as legitimate a source of information as appleinsider.. ?

  5. davidem
    Aug 14, 2006

    Can’t you use this article as a source?

  6. wikipediablog
    Aug 14, 2006

    The verifiability guideline is needed because otherwise any crackpot could protest against the deletion of their theory of how the moon controls emotions. But in cases like this, where everyone can see that the person being held subject to the rule is right (and you do have a blog, so it’s sort of a “publishing” grey area), Ignore All Rules comes into play — that’s why your original edit is back. Don’t let a couple people’s misguidedness get you down.

  7. nathos
    Aug 14, 2006

    I think one [relatively easy] solution is to be interviewed by a citable source.

    Perhaps Gruber would be willing?

  8. AlistairMcMillan
    Aug 14, 2006

    Material that cannot be backed up by a reliable source should not be included.

    Articles should contain only material that has been published by reputable sources.

    AppleInsider’s unnamed “sources” cannot be considered a reliable source, so the “Steve Jobs killed OS 9′s protected memory” thing shouldn’t be in the article.

  9. GlorifiedAHole
    Aug 14, 2006

    Been kicked by the Wik’? Wish the ‘pedia would heed ya? Can’t understand why facts don’t matter to the gatekeepers of self-appointed, pseudo-authoritative “references?” Wish you had your own “citable source” to foist your self-assured opinion on the world as thought it were unassailable fact?

    Well, now YOU can have the same impact as someone who actually knows the truth and does things that truly matter — and more! Just go to Marco’s Discount Citable Source and we’ll have you up and rumor-mongering in no time! All you have to do is write your own interview and send it to us! We’ll edit it up to look real important-like in our esoteric, pedantic Ivy League style, and publish it on our stylish, sophisticated blog. And you can have all this in exchange for a mere lunch at a five-star restaurant and a little pandering flattery (ahem… and a small honorarium, of course).

    So contact Marco’s Discount Citable Source today, and stop wasting YOUR IMPORTANT time with all those tedious facts, figures, and accomplishments!

  10. Lol....
    Aug 17, 2006

    Keith, while I can understand your frustration, what I posted had a source… yours didn’t. And if you’d notice, it said *allegedly*. It wasn’t a definitive statement.

    And if you’re old enough to have worked on Mac OS 9, I find it hard to believe that you were surprised that your personal comment on the page was removed… it belongs on the Talk page.

    While I believe you know what you’re talking about (what possible reason could you have to lie…) you didn’t substantiate it.. all you did was say that you were a lead developer. I could claim to be George Bush, but that doesn’t make it true… and besides, who would want to be George Bush? Now, I believe you, so I’m not going to bother with getting into a war, but you were being a bit ridiculous.. none of us can verify who you are, so you’re basically getting angry at me because I doubt you. Dishonesty on the internet isn’t exactly uncommon…

  11. keith
    Aug 17, 2006

    I agree that the personal comment should have been removed; I wrote it late at night, in a grump mood, and woke up the next morning intending to take it out, but it was long yanked before then.

    The tricky thing with substantiating something like this is that I can’t — nobody published anything that says this didn’t happen, in part because there’s nobody who could publish it — pre-beta releases wouldn’t have been given to anyone except under a NDA, which would prevent their disclosing it, and so the only folks who would write about it are the ‘rumor’ sites, and they wouldn’t report non-news like “Mac OS 9 still doesn’t support protected memory”.  It’s a bit of a catch-22 — if you have to have citations, the only citations you could get would be from folks who don’t actually know the truth.

    In the end, I’m ok with things.  The page says “investigated” now, which I guess is true, but there’s so much other stuff that also got investigated that isn’t listed.  I initially wrote this blog entry just to vent, and since I really don’t think anyone reads my blog I figured it would end there, but I guess folks picked it up from here and things steamrolled from there.

  12. luci s
    Nov 3, 2006

    I wonder if ‘wrong-atude’ is an English word.

  13. keith
    Nov 3, 2006

    I’m quite certain it isn’t. I used it because it sounded humorous in ways that “wrong information” and “wrongness” and the other words that came to mind didn’t.

    In retrospect, wrong-a-tude might have been even better.

    ;)

  14. Lol....
    Dec 27, 2006

    It’s your page. Can’t you change it? And you could always email me pics of pre-releases of OS 9 :D

    :o Maybe it was so classified YOU didn’t know! ;)

    Hey, in my defense, it’s 2:44 AM. Same one you used.. it’s late =]

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. NASA World Wind and Wikipedia | James Fee GIS Blog - [...] Just more proof that Wikipedia has failed. The simple fact that someone citing a source has more pull than …
  2. " » Mac OS 9" by Random thoughts and other stuff… - [...] article for it. I read through it and looked at the sources, and among them was one called “There’s …