User talk:StevenJ81

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Simplicity[change source]

An interesting question you posed, how detailed should an article on simple be? I would like to think that the main difference between an article here, and on enwiki, is that it should be easier to read. Now in some cases, biography is one that I am familiar with, there would be very little difference at all. In fact several articles have been copied from here to enwiki (Dan Kelly) is one that I can remember. On the other hand some complex articles on organic chemistry were very difficult to explain simply, and especially in the precise detail that jargon can deliver. I always work on the theory that I should be able to understand what the general concept is about, even if I get lost in the detail. Sometimes too, the level of detail seems overdone - that is out of proportion to the article itself. But as this wikipedia services a range of readers, it makes it more challenging to write for them. We can not assume that the need for simple language means that the content should be "dumbed down". So there are some rambling musings, and back to keeping it simple.--Peterdownunder (talk) 10:56, 8 March 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for a thoughtful answer. I guess where I'm still having a little trouble is this: I think enwiki is trying to be Britannica, if you will, in depth as well as scope. Clearly, simple is not Britannica in scope—not yet, and probably never. I'm not sure it really needs to be Britannica in depth, either, though. Isn't the right spot somewhere in the middle? If you were a Yank I'd say it might be enough for simple to be en:World Book Encyclopedia. StevenJ81 (talk) 16:09, 8 March 2013 (UTC)
I had not thought of it that way, but I think that is an excellent summary.--Peterdownunder (talk) 22:07, 8 March 2013 (UTC)
My idea is that people who use simple English are not simple. The language is their problem. If there were an article in Pashto on the subject maybe they would just read that one. Another possibility would be someone who has great math skills and lousy language skills. So we should reinforce the simple English with visual aids whenever possible. So start at the beginning and go as far as seems practical in language. Adding some equations that take the matter deeper but can be ignored by those not interested in going deeper would not be amiss. Alternately, pointing people to things like The Picture Book of Quantum Mechanics might let some users use the encyclopedia as a trampoline and jump right into the math and graphics of that book. Personally, I get ticked off when people who write articles on subjects that ordinary people might need some help to get a start in will jump in at the postgraduate level and count on a dozen hyperlinks to "help" if any of the technical jargon is incomprehensible to the reader. Compare some of those articles with Linus Pauling's intro to his Nature of the Chemical Bond.Patrick0Moran (talk) 19:52, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
I'm completely with you. I hope it didn't appear as if I feel people using simple English are simple. But what I do think is that we should treat them as interested "ordinary people" or "laypeople". As you said, this is not a postgraduate level description, either, although I'm in favor of providing trampolines to those who would use them. (PS: I am watching your page.) StevenJ81 (talk) 20:16, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
I had no thought that you regard people using simple English as being simple, but I have found others who seem dedicated to writing simplistic stuff. I just wanted to make my objection to that view clear. When I was doing my grad work I paid $1/week to assemble a copy of Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia at the nearby supermarket. I may have stopped at the volume for "S" because that was when I read their article on spiders. It was worse than I could have produced in 6th grade — pure nonsense assembled by somebody who knew nothing and took no responsibility for that fact. I looked up "Spider" in the English Wikipedia, found some nonsense, fixed it, and I was hooked. The opportunity to make knowledge freely available to people all over the world who intensely desire knowledge is what makes me happy. For physics it is especially important to keep the path straight. Few people even have the experience of making lots of electrical and electronic gadgets and getting a first-hand experience of electricity or electronics. If you have that kind of experience then somebody who writes badly can't drag you quite so far off course. But fewer students, I believe, will have access to good quantum physics lab apparatus.
I look forward to your efforts to keep the English as clear as possible. Thanks.Patrick0Moran (talk) 21:39, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

May 2015 addition[change source]

  • If I'd seen this discussion I would have said immediately that it's not just a question of language. In all subjects where advanced ideas depend on earlier, less advanced ideas, understanding is not possible for readers who have never been taught the basics. As we have many young readers -- and some are very young -- this will be an obstacle which we can never entirely overcome. To some extent we solve it by leaving out the really advanced stuff, although we do get "experts" coming over from En wiki and sticking in stuff which (though correct) spoils the illusion of simplicity. A friend asked someone who finished a PhD in pure mathematics "What was it about?" After some thought, he said, "It's no good, you wouldn't even understand the title!" See what I mean? Macdonald-ross (talk) 13:23, 11 May 2015 (UTC)
    Thank you for your comment, @Macdonald-ross:. It seems to me that at some point, this discussion, or an essay along the lines of this discussion, or something similar, ought to be published in Wikipedia namespace here.
    I have some other thoughts on the subject of simplicity, and on the related subject of What does this wiki aspire to be?" which I will share with you at some point, if you're interested. StevenJ81 (talk) 16:02, 11 May 2015 (UTC)

August 2018 addition[change source]

  • Later: All subjects which have a conceptual hierarchy cannot be properly understood until one has climbed that particular ladder no matter how simple the language. By conceptual hierarchy is meant "you can't understand higher levels until you've properly understood lower levels". But often some kind of sense can be conveyed, so long as people don't take it too literally.
  • Another dimension which limits simple language is experience. In some fields words are meaningless unless a person has the appropriate experience. Try talking about art to someone who never spends time looking at art, or even music to smeone who has not listened to that kind of music. Words are not everything. Macdonald-ross (talk) 12:36, 22 August 2018 (UTC)


Quartiere Bocconi University (district of Milan)[change source]

Hi. Steven. You were quite right to restore this tag. I have gone even further and redirected the page. See Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard#Two articles by socks of globally blocked user "Alec Smithson" for more information. Best wishes, Voceditenore (talk) 10:46, 5 December 2017 (UTC)

Contranym moved to SEWikt..[change source]

Hello StevenJ81, I have created the page contranym at Simple English Wiktionary, and deleted it here. In the deletion discussion ,you sid that there would be material for an "encyclopedic" article, beyond a word definition. Therefore feel free to re-create the page, if you think you have such material. --Eptalon (talk) 09:03, 1 August 2018 (UTC)

@Eptalon: Thanks. Probably won't be my priority just now. StevenJ81 (talk) 14:20, 1 August 2018 (UTC)

N.B.[change source]

I carelessly put more comment on your Archive #1 about the limitations of language. Macdonald-ross (talk) 12:40, 22 August 2018 (UTC)

Not to worry. I'll rearrange it so it appears here. StevenJ81 (talk) 13:00, 22 August 2018 (UTC)
Actually, what I'm curious about is: What motivated you (all this time later) to add the new comments? StevenJ81 (talk) 13:07, 22 August 2018 (UTC)
Oh, it's not all this time later! I live with this all the time as I interact and sometimes teach people in non-formal settings -- of which this is one. But I wanted to dent the idea that simplicity of language can always do justice to the subject-matter by saying, actually, no it can't in many cases. Macdonald-ross (talk) 13:46, 22 August 2018 (UTC)
LOL! I quite agree (if that wasn't clear before). That's why I tend to think of this in terms of whether this project aspires to be World Book or Britannica, if you will. I'm inclined to think that simplicity of language can always usually do justice to subject matter at the World Book level of detail/abstraction. I'm not a bit convinced that it can even usually do justice at the Britannica/textbook level. StevenJ81 (talk) 13:56, 22 August 2018 (UTC)