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Temporarily distracted[edit]

I'm not editing much on RationalWiki at the moment, because I am spending chunks of my free time as the technical reviewer for this book. I'm also setting up a new computer, which is a little more complicated than usual because it runs Ubuntu. Most of my previous computers have run some version of Windows. While I have lots of experience with Unix and Linux, this is the first time I'm switching to Linux as my primary workstation, and this is requiring me to rethink an amazing number of things I take for granted on Windows. But once the book reviewing is done and my computing is back on something like an even keel, then I will play around some more here.

About my user name[edit]

Teratornis is Greek for "monster bird". Teratorns were large flying birds related to modern condors which died out in the Pleistocene. I picked this user name because nobody else is likely to use it. Other than that, my user name has no significance.

I wonder what it must have been like back then, when a bird with a 25-foot wingspan could fly around and crap on people.

A brief history of my wiki time[edit]

I started editing on Wikipedia on April 28, 2006. Given that wikis have been around since 1995, and I've been using the Internet since the 1980's, I'm rather embarrassed to be so late to the wiki party. I'm still trying to grasp how I could have remained so unaware of wikis for so long, while learning HTML, building Web sites the "conventional" way, and so on. I had seen hints about wikis for some time, but I never quite "got" the idea, until somehow I realized what I was missing.

For more information, see: wp:User:Teratornis#A brief history of my wiki time.

Quick summary: as of 15:37, 13 October 2007 (EDT), I have just over 3,000 edits on Wikipedia, with more than half on the Wikipedia Help desk, where I seem to be the second-most voluminous contributor. I cannot say where I rank in terms of actual helpfulness, but I can make a solid case for "most annoying," and I'm gunning for "most condescending" and "most verbose" to complete a hat trick. I also have similar editing volume on three corporate wikis I help to administer, making me similarly hated in the workplace. All three of those wikis run on MediaWiki, so I have had to learn a little about about MediaWiki administration.

User subpages[edit]

Discussions which seem to be about me[edit]

16:18, 19 October 2007 (EDT): for some reason, people seem to be talking about me in various places; the following list is primarily for my reference (in keeping with this being my user page). If the following list is not complete, and someone with an unaccountable interest wants to add links they know about, be my guest.

Useful links[edit]

Some pages I refer to often enough to make them worth writing down here; these are for my own use, not a suggestion that anyone else needs to prioritize them or whatever:

Local help pages[edit]

Useful searches[edit]

I like to search various parts of a MediaWiki wiki with with Google Search, using a style of URL I have not yet seen documented in Google's own (deficient, in my opinion) documentation, but which I saw someone else using on Wikipedia when I was new there.

Obligatory whine: while I generally admire Google, they seem to deliberately try to dumb down their documentation, I suppose to avoid frightening hoi polloi (see also: lusers), but the result is a lot of undocumented features people have to wastefully rediscover. However, whining aside, Google Search overcomes some widely-acknowledged deficiencies of MediaWiki's own built-in search feature, and sometimes helps if the built-in search does not find what one wants. Of course for a search method to work at all, what one wants must be there to find in the first place.

RationalWiki searches[edit]

  • To-do: construct search URLs for more useful subsets (namespaces, subpage ranges within namespaces) on RationalWiki.

Searches on other wikis[edit]

User pages on other wikis[edit]

  • Note: a bunch of links in the following list would become red links if I were to actually use them, because RationalWiki does not have all the interwiki link prefixes I need yet. So I <nowiki>'ed a bunch of them for now. If I can't get them installed on RationalWiki, I'll just convert them all to external links.

My username is "Teratornis" on all these other wikis too.

  • Wikipedia is the world's largest wiki, and the first wiki I edited on. My edits on Wikipedia are to a mix of work-related and recreational articles.
  • Meta ([[wikiindex:Wikimedia Meta-Wiki]]) is auxiliary to all Wikimedia Foundation projects. My contributions to Meta include edits to the MediaWiki manuals and troubleshooting guides. I read the manuals to solve problems with RationalWiki, and when I see a way to improve the manuals, I do.
  • ([[wikiindex:MediaWiki]]) is the official site for the MediaWiki software that powers Wikipedia (and [[wikiindex:Category:MediaWiki|thousands of other wikis]]). My contributions to include some edits I made originally on Meta to pages that later moved to - when those pages moved, my edits moved along with them. Thus my [[mw:Special:Contributions/Teratornis|contributions]] on contained a number of edits before I had actually registered my username there (that seemed a bit strange until I understood what had happened).
    • [[mw:User:Teratornis]] — [[mw:Special:Contributions/Teratornis|contributions]]
    • First edit date: September 7, 2006 (edits that copied over from Meta)
    • Date of the first edit I actually made on September 18, 2007
  • Wikibooks ([[wikiindex:Wikibooks (English)]]) is a wiki for creating books. It is a Wikimedia Foundation project. As of 15:07, 21 November 2006 (EST), I have made few edits on Wikibooks. However, it might be a good place to write at length about some computing topics.
  • Wikiquote ([[wikiindex:Wikiquote]]) is a wiki for publishing a vast reference of quotations from prominent people, books and proverbs, and to give details about them.
  • OpenStreetMap ([[wikiindex:OpenStreetMap]]) is a collaborative project to create free maps using data from portable GPS devices. I have some recreational interest in maps. I haven't actually done any map-making for OpenStreetMap as of 18:42, 20 November 2006 (EST), but I did some edits on the OpenStreetMap wiki, to categorize pages and so on.
  • Bicycling wiki ([[wikiindex:BicyclingWiki]]) is a small wiki about bicycling which needs lots of work. My editing here is, of course, recreational, since I have not found a way to get paid to ride a bike.

You can learn more about wiki editing by joining a wiki in some area of your interest. Thousands of public wikis exist, so you can probably find some you like. See for example:

My favorite logical fallacies[edit]

Actually it isn't fair to say I have favorites; every fallacy is deliciously amusing, and since everybody continues to make them, we might as well make the best of it and try to enjoy them, even if civilization might collapse as a result. This list merely reflects my current favorites, that is, the fallacies I have noticed and found interesting lately.

And, of course, if (i.e., when) you find me making any logical fallacies, please point them out on my talk page.

How honest I would like to be[edit]

Richard Feynman put it well in his famous Cargo cult science lecture:

I would like to add something that's not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you're talking as a scientist. I am not trying to tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your girlfriend, or something like that, when you're not trying to be a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We'll leave those problems up to you and your rabbi. I'm talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you are maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

For example, I was a little surprised when I was talking to a friend who was going to go on the radio. He does work on cosmology and astronomy, and he wondered how he would explain what the applications of this work were. "Well," I said, "there aren't any." He said, "Yes, but then we won't get support for more research of this kind." I think that's kind of dishonest. If you're representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to the layman what you're doing--and if they don't want to support you under those circumstances, then that's their decision.

Do I really wish to be that honest? I think so, but that level of honesty does not come naturally. I certainly wish everybody else was that honest (which is to say, self-serving bias does come naturally to me).