Attitudes towards wikipedia have changed significantly over the past 6 years. Yet over on Clr. Buck’s blog one curmudgeonly anonymous poster continues to dismiss the 5th most popular site in the world by suggesting that "sending a wikipedia link is laughable":

That was rebuffed by another poster citing a BBC News piece but seeing as that article is almost 10 years old it may be worthwhile to explore what advances wikipedia has made and how it is viewed in the real world.

Back in 2010 Alison Head and Michael Eisenberg conducted research about Wikipedia usage in two phases during 2008 and 2009. They concluded that "Wikipedia meets the needs of college students because it offers a mixture of coverage, currency, convenience, and comprehensibility in a world where credibility is less of a given or an expectation from today’s students."

Their complete findings are part of Project Information Literacy (PIL), an ongoing national research study and can be found here:

Additional case studies of how Wikipedia has been used in university classes is provided by Wikimedia Foundation’s Education program here:

In June of this year the LA times ran this piece highlighting wikipedia’s use in the American school system:

Now let’s return to Clr. Buck’s blog where this all started due to a perceived lack of credibility with the following wikipedia link provided by Clr. Pirri:

If one bothered to visit the link one would find that the content is current, last modified on 12 July 2014 at 07:35.

As for the whole "we know they do not have dependable sources." mindset, this entry contains 11 references.

Not one point was singled out as incorrect.

Yet Clr. Pirri is singled out for providing a link to this wikipedia entry instead of say Encyclopedia Britannica?

Now that’s laughable.

About as laughable as comparing council debate to a classroom setting.

In 2012 Pete Forsyth of Wiki Strategies explored the roles for Wikipedia in higher education in his slideshare presentation here:

On one slide Forsyth explores a dilemma laid out by Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics:

Should the virtuous citizen lead: A life of quiet contemplation or A life of political activism?

Here’s the wikipedia link for that:

Forsyth concludes that many people do not have the luxury to choose. They want to engage; and with barriers to engagement failing they are not waiting for an invitation.

I applaud all members of council and public that engage in debate of town issues.

If Aurora is going to move forward it isn’t going to happen waiting for invitations from a select few that have their panties all tied up in knots over something like wikipedia.

3 thoughts on “nitpickypedia

  1. Problems with Councillor Pirri’s use of a wIkipedia reference were several.
    First he did not use the reference in debate. It was forwarded to me in an e-mail.
    In debate, he simply stated my arguments about salt and snow were “false”.
    It may have been an unfortunate choice of words but it does have an offensive connotation. Was the Councillor accusing me of lying or deliberate deception?
    Whatever was meant ,he offered no argument within the debate to support his contention .
    He had the last word.

    In the context offered the Wikipedia reference was not valid. It refers to properties of salt in a specific temperature.

    Ontario winter temperatures vary. Salt is not effective below certain temperatures. Even without academic credentials, the reference makes that plain.

    Southern and Northern Ontario have different road problems to deal with in winter. How could a Wikipedia reference to chemical properties of salt relate to its disposition in management of winter driving conditions in a province or country where winter driving conditions vary widely.

    Other aspects of contention of the toxic nature of salt I wonder about.

    Chlorine is used to ensure drinking water safety. Chlorine is a derivative of salt.

    Sea water acts as a bleach.

    I know that from the experience of white canvas “sandshoes” bleaching instantly from wading
    In the sea.

    I know it from house paint bleaching in sea air and lurid colours quickly fading to pastels.

    And doors being covered with canvas awnings to protect from the combination of sun and salt.

    Yes salt is corrosive of fabrics, paint and other materials like concrete.It is also a natural substance and in many ways essential to life.

    In the end, what it comes down to is use of judgement and common sense.

    A mountain of academic and scientific knowledge can be accumulated.

    Without judgement in its application, you got nuthin’

    1. Evelyn,

      Thanks for filling in details that were missing.

      I agree that the supplied wikipedia link may have been too general in nature, my issue with your commentor was that they took exception to the use of wikipedia itself.

      I also agree with your conclusion that “without judgement the application of academic and scientific knowledge, you get nuthin’.”

      So let’s get more specific.

      It appears from what I’ve read that the measures that are being proposed stem from Environment Canada’s 2001 Road Salt Assessment Report:

      Technical findings are here:

      In 2004 a Code of Practice for Environmental Management of Road Salts was developed:

      The five-year comprehensive science assessment determined the release of road salts into the environment in very high amounts leads to environmental problems. About five million tonnes of road salts are used in Canada each year to mitigate ice and snow conditions on roads and to provide safer road conditions. However, the heavy use of road salts can lead to damage to vegetation, as is most obvious with roadside vegetation damaged by salt splash. They have also been associated with damage to organisms in soil, to birds and to other wildlife. Almost all chloride ions from road salts eventually find their way into waterways, whether by direct runoff into surface water or by moving through the soil and groundwater. In surface water, road salts can harm freshwater plants, fish and other organisms that are not adapted to living in saline waters.

      Now we drill down to a provincial level.

      The Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s Guidelines for Snow Disposal and De-icing Operations is available here:

      As you have pointed out conditions vary across the province, luckily we have RichmondHill’s efforts back in 2003 to draw from:

      Click to access richmond.pdf

      In 2007, this facility was presented with the Technical Innovation Award by the Ontario Public Works Association
      (Figure 10). The facility has also been showcased on the Discovery Channel’s hit show Daily Planet and the subject of several trade journal articles.

      Some highlights:

      High salt content reduces the ability of metals to adsorb onto sediments, which is the primary method of metal demobilization. Currently, alternatives to road salt, which is required to ensure road safety, is rarely applied. Despite the magnitude of this problem, there is a
      scarcity of treatment measures for salt-laden meltwater. The Transportation Association of Canada recognized this challenge, stating that ‘there is no
      practical or economical way of removing the chlorides [salt] found in snow’, however this facility attempts to do just that.

      To assess the operation of the Snow Storage Facility “eight types of field data were collected and an interim report published in December 2008 (Environment Canada – WSTD Technical Note No. AEMR-TN08-007 provides quantitative results from a rigorous scientific study indicating that the Snow Storage Facility reduces snowmelt pollutants including debris and sediment, which contain nutrients, heavy metals, oil and to a lesser degree, soluble contaminants such as chloride.

      Here’s where the cloride factors into it:

      “Continuous monitoring of runoff indicated that although chloride concentrations in runoff from the storage pavement averaged 2500 mg L-1 over
      the entire melt period, chloride exhibited preferential elution (early release) from the snowpack and was not well retained by the system. The bulk of the solids remained with the snowpack until the end of the melt period, along with most of the metals”

      It was estimated that over two tons of solids were removed from the asphalt pad in 2007 and 2008. The captured sediment is a significant amount of waste diverted from Richmond Hill’s water resources.

      Now back to some $ figures.

      Construction of the facility was approximately $3 million dollars (2003).

      Sounds pricey. However, low operating costs and using the asphalt pad for recreational activities in the summer provides added value to the project and
      helped compensate for the initial construction costs. This practice is more cost effective than current snow disposal techniques.

      Over the spring, summer and fall months, the asphalt deck doubles as an recreational amenity to the Richmond Green Park Complex. The asphalt deck is
      transformed into a large skateboard park, three basketball courts, in-line skating area, ball hockey rink and parking areas.

      Aurora recently approved a pricey “Community Space for Youth” renovation of the Family Leisure Complex, as well as a $500,000 skateboard park.

      If these projects were to have followed RichmondHill’s example from over 10 years ago they could have come together to support the pillars of “sustainability” and “innovation” that were approved in the Strategic Plan instead of fractured initiatives that cost a lot of $ but don’t meet the intended objectives.

  2. Chris, Much of my day is spent on the blog. I could engage iinto a discussion with you on your blog.I’m easily tempted but I won’t. The debate at Aurora Council dealt with conditions in Aurora…not Richmond Hill.
    Storm waters ponds are in all new subdivision for the exact purpose you describe.separation and containment of oil and grit from roads before it finds it’s way to creeks and rivers and eventually the lake. You speak of using paved surfaces which themselves are part of the problem because they create the run-off.
    I am no longer able to depend on government reports . I have read too many that have obviously not been subject to any critical analysis before publication.

    It makes my job tougher. Subjects me to the criticism that I cannot keep up with modern thought and techniques.

    What kind of logic was it that allowed the Federal government to ship weapons off to “rebels”in Ukraine. The people who shot down a passenger plane “by mistake” with a missile.

    then when Russia cuts off no our exports in retaliation, the Canadian Minister of Industry calls that “belligerent”

    Lord,give me strength.

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