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A notable issue with Wikipedia
March 11, 2011 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Here’s what we think the Editor Trends Study tells us: Between 2005 and 2007, newbies started having real trouble successfully joining the Wikimedia community. Before 2005 in the English Wikipedia, nearly 40% of new editors would still be active a year after their first edit. After 2007, only about 12-15% of new editors were still active a year after their first edit. Post-2007, lots of people were still trying to become Wikipedia editors. What had changed, though, is that they were increasingly failing to integrate into the Wikipedia community, and failing increasingly quickly. The Wikimedia community had become too hard to penetrate. - The Wikimedia Strategy March 2011 Update discusses wikipedia's declining ability to retain new editors. Meanwhile the case of the deletion (and restoration) of the article on the remarkably notable Old Man Murray highlights the bad decisions that can occur when insular admins and editors favor deletionist sentiment and bureaucratic rule-waving over the input of outsiders and a basic level of research.
posted by Artw (96 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
They could stand to modernize the interface for editing and discussing to be less confusing.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:52 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


To be honest I think the interface is the very least of their problems. Nobody suddenly has a problem with their interface now that they didn't have in 2005.
posted by Artw at 1:53 PM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I agree. Wikipedia isn't a place for the collection of information. it's a place for the collection of "notable" information.
posted by rebent at 1:58 PM on March 11, 2011


Phrases like "deletionist sentiment" sure make me want to read more, that's for sure. It's just like when I see two Marxists arguing with each other and yelling things like "cryptofascist!" and "statist!" and debating who's more "reliable".
posted by scrump at 1:59 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everytime I read wikipedia's discussion pages it makes me want to run screaming from the whole site. I'd never both editing anything there at this point, because I just don't want to deal with the assholes who seem to be running things over there.

You know what I would do? Just fire every one of their admins. All of them. The culture there is sick and needs a serious reboot.
posted by empath at 2:01 PM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


If you want to a critique of the "notability" issues and bureaucracy at Wikipedia, Jason Scott talks for 42 minutes about just that.
posted by lubujackson at 2:02 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile the case of the deletion (and restoration) of the article on the remarkably notable Old Man Murray

I'm not sure an instance where a bad decision was made, got lots of attention, and was reversed, is the best example to make that point. I mean that literally--I bet there are much better examples of bad decisions that don't get attention and don't get fixed.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:03 PM on March 11, 2011


The encyclopedia anyone can edit! No need to penetrate a mystifying academic culture with its own jargon and ways of doing things.

In other words, when you try and create a totally free system, human nature will swiftly re-create the same old exclusionary power structures.
posted by atrazine at 2:03 PM on March 11, 2011 [29 favorites]


I read the deletion discussion on the Old Man Murray article at the time, and I thought the fact that new people -- who'd created accounts specifically to discuss the issue and therefore could be expected to be knowledgeable and passionate about it -- were held to a significantly higher standard than existing editors, to the extent that an existing editor could say, "this is not notable" and a new user could provide a list of cites half a page long and still be seen to not be making a significant contribution, was particularly telling.

It also cured me of any lingering desire I might ever have had to contribute to Wikipedia. Sum of all human knowledge go!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:04 PM on March 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


WP:NOT_ONE_OF_US
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:05 PM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've met a couple of Wiki editors.

That's why i'll never edit an article, or care.
posted by quarsan at 2:06 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I read the deletion discussion on the Old Man Murray article at the time, and I thought the fact that new people -- who'd created accounts specifically to discuss the issue and therefore could be expected to be knowledgeable and passionate about it -- were held to a significantly higher standard than existing editors, to the extent that an existing editor could say, "this is not notable" and a new user could provide a list of cites half a page long and still be seen to not be making a significant contribution, was particularly telling.

That's exactly what drove me up a wall. It was a little coven of like 3 people who knew each other and they were having a little kangaroo court to settle scores over a 10 year old grudge. It was just an absolutely pathetic display and I bet it happens all over the site. I've seen similar dynamics on other discussion pages.

All the same, Wikipedia is a remarkable achievement. One of the greatest things mankind has ever done, but it seriously, seriously needs someone to come in and clean house of all these little fiefdoms that these busybodies have established and get some fresh air in there.
posted by empath at 2:09 PM on March 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


Starting afresh will not solve the issues. These are the same issues I have seen in Usenet and in IRC channels and the like, for many, many years. If a system is does not take into account gang-ups, rules lawyers, people who explicitly focus on having a nice tea party with the Queen, and The Longest Whiner Wins, the variation is only in the names, the duration of the phases, and cute local jargon.

It does not matter what you know, it matters how much time you have — time to play the game, time to game the system, time to systematize your point.

The fast and loose, rock'n'roll frontier is always eventually colonized by wet blankets who want to gentrify the territory. The people who were interesting move on to other frontiers while the grinds and the people who are compelled to make a big deal out of something take over. Then they wonder where the party went.

Same as it ever was.
posted by adipocere at 2:09 PM on March 11, 2011 [33 favorites]


The discussion page that goes with that March 2011 report actually makes for some interesting reading too: Based on comments I've seen around the net, the first thing many almost-new users to the English Wikipedia do is create a new stub article on their favorite topic and watch it get deleted via any of the many deletion processes within a small span of time
posted by Artw at 2:11 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think they need to decide what they are.

I mean, I used to edit, back in the day, with some regularity. Because I would see something that should be fixed and I would fix it. There was no culture of editors that I thought was readily apparent. It was just people who did stuff. And so anybody could do stuff. There was very little fussing that I ever saw about specifics. It probably helped that at that point, marketing teams had not yet started trying to use Wikipedia, that kind of thing, but on the whole, it wasn't about arguing over little stuff, it was about adding something here and there that I had read somewhere that nobody else had referenced yet.

Now, most of the articles on commonly known things are pretty complete. The more complete it becomes, the more that any added information becomes a fight about notability, and the more that changing any information becomes a fight about which change is correct, and that's not why I ever edited in the first place. So I don't do it anymore. I'll sometimes go in and revert a defacement on an obscure page if it seems nobody's gotten to it in a few days, but that's it anymore.

I think there's a huge contradiction in wanting new blood to show up and stick around, and then also saying that you don't want most new *content* to show up and stick around. The two go together.
posted by gracedissolved at 2:13 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Horace Rumpole: "I bet there are much better examples of bad decisions that don't get attention and don't get fixed."

Notablia. (Previously)
posted by DarlingBri at 2:13 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Old Man Murray story was fascinating; I was considering an FPP on it, but this is fine work. For those who don't know, OMM was a landmark of game design criticism in the early internet days -- its withering sarcasm influenced a generation of gaming journalists and pioneering game designers.

What happened with Wikipedia was that some neckbeard admin who had been slighted by the makers of the site in the past took it upon himself to excise OMM from the site. He deleted references to OMM from the articles on the site's creators, leaving it as an "orphan" page in Wiki parlance, then nominated it for deletion due to lack of notability (without disclosing his relationship with the site). As a longtime Wikipedian, his argument for OMM's insignificance trumped the impassioned pleas of dozens of outsiders ("meatpuppets," as he called them) and the page was removed.

After he was caught by OMM defenders gloating about his "victory" elsewhere on the web, OMM fans rallied. Gaming commentary site RockPaperShotgun collected statements from a dozen gaming luminaries attesting to the site's legendary status, and amateur editors collaborated to create a meticulously-sourced replacement article. This deluge of factual evidence stormed the gates there and the higher-ups restored the article in full. The result: a much higher quality resource for people interested in OMM, and one very chastised nerd.

I suppose this is a good result, although it's troubling that some Wikipedians treat outsiders with such contempt, and that they apparently have no mechanism for punishing rogue admins like SchuminWeb.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:14 PM on March 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


I credit OMM for introducing me to both Serious Sam and Bejewled both of which stole many many hours I could have been using productively. So yeah, fuck em.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:14 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe forking it into smaller specially focused wiki's might be the answer? A lot of the problem is that wikipedia is Important and so a Target. Maybe a less definitive site would have fewer problems with vandals and busybodies.
posted by empath at 2:14 PM on March 11, 2011


I limit myself to fixing minor formatting and grammatical errors since because I find that some of the more substantive ones will be arbitrarily reverted.

But to take the other side, having a more convoluted contribution system makes sense now that wikipedia is more mature and covers 95% of the things it needs to. At this point it doesn't need radical change and massive upheaval because it has gotten to the point where it is pretty usable.

Early on it made sense to be as permissive as possible to get as much information into it as possible but those days have long passed. Now the priority is more to preserve what has been accumulated and make incremental changes where appropriate.

No system is going to be perfect or invulnerable to jerks.
posted by euphorb at 2:15 PM on March 11, 2011


As a side note, the $800 chair I am sitting in right now was purchased from UGO for $50 bucks during the dot com bust. I like to think "Old Man Murray" himself sat in it.

Maybe I should add that to WikiPedia
posted by Ad hominem at 2:18 PM on March 11, 2011


99% of Wikipedia articles and edits are benign and non-controversial. Some people love to fight though, you can make out of Wikipedia whatever you want. If you want assholes and disagreements, Wikipedia can deliver. If you want co-operative working together with like-minded people, you can find that too.
posted by stbalbach at 2:18 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I used to be a pretty contributor on Wikipedia. There were about 50 articles that I would routinely keep an eye on for spammy or inappropriate edits, and a few that I started. It was rewarding to see how some of the articles that I started got filled in by other people with more information, but what ultimately brought me around to Don't give a fuck-ism was uninformed/misinformed/mendacious people with an axe to grind. And it was amazing what people would grind axes over. Wikipedia ultimately rewards those with the most time on their hands.

These days, if I see a typo or something I can fix quickly, I do. Otherwise, I can't be drawn in. It's an amazing resource, but I don't know how to resolve these fundamental social issues that surround it.
posted by adamrice at 2:21 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I used to be a pretty contributor on Wikipedia.

Time takes its toll on all of us.
posted by theodolite at 2:30 PM on March 11, 2011 [26 favorites]


Well, I tried editing as Samizdata on WP. Not available.

So, I set up an account as SamizdataDotOrg, my alternate, linked to RL identity (even though the site no longer exists thanks to a Chinese domain camper and me being out of money at renewal time). Within 15 minutes, my account was banned as Promotional.

So, I said fuck this noise.
posted by Samizdata at 2:34 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's easy to edit Wikipedia, the difficulty lies in getting the edit to stick and I think this is what drives away new editors. I think there are two hurdles to consider. The first is technical. While making an edit is easy figuring out how to put in a citation is much less so. Also wikilinks, formatting, and overall organization. If your edit doesn't do everything correctly there's a very good chance it will be deleted. Figuring out how to do an edit correctly, especially if it's significant content, requires not only technical knowledge about how to do an edit but all the rules contained in the Manual of Style. If you get in a disagreement with other editors and attempt to discuss it, you'll get lawyered over unless you spend a not inconsiderable amount of time learning the rules and the surrounding culture of successful debating techniques on Wikipedia. It's daunting and time-consuming for new editors and can easily put them off the project.

The other difficulty is the quality of the prose you're injecting. If you look through older versions of articles you'll find plenty of examples of atrocious writing and unreferenced trivia. These days you really need to add content consistent with Wikipedia's goals of being an encyclopedia. But even if what you have written is top notch stuff, if the tone isn't encyclopedic then it's going to be deleted as well. So even good writers who don't understand the technical aspects of Wikipedia or whose tone does not fit with WP can become very discouraged when they witness their carefully crafted edits being reverted.

Having said all this I don't think these problems are necessarily bad. The project is maturing and the standards are higher which means the requirements for participation have also increased. But there are some things that can be done. When it comes to the technical aspects of editing the interface can be made easier for new editors. Maybe something like a wizard or at least a form you fill out that includes things like a box for your source and help with formatting issues. To make this work really well would require some serious programming and effort but I think it can be done.

Helping people with the quality of their writing or getting the correct tone is far more difficult. I don't think there are any "easy" answers for that.

As for the the social problems that people are reporting here, while I do see some of that I also see plenty of things go well. I'm a very active editor on Wikipedia but that's only been with the past year. Before that I did maybe 10 edits a month, now it's over 1,000. I'm not an admin but I do participate in various admin-level issues. The vast, vast majority of those times things go as they should. The experienced editors and admins behave as they should, the policies and guidelines are followed properly, and everyone remains civil. The problem is that there are hundreds of serious issues that come up every day and when one of them goes badly (as perceived by whomever) and gets reported on Reddit, then the overall impression is that Wikipedia is rotten to the core. While none of you has any reason to accept my anecdotal evidence over anyone else's, I will state that I have been to the core and it ain't that bad. In fact it mostly functions pretty well.

But it ain't all roses. For instance there is one admin, a very well known one at that, who has a very strong anti-Scientology bias and uses his power to push that agenda. Fortunately everyone knows who he is and is able to keep him mostly in check (for instance Jimbo Wales gets involved with this admin as needed). But then that very same admin does a lot of terrific work otherwise. Editing non-Scientology related articles, handling various admin tasks properly, and so on. There's a big blind spot with that admin who otherwise does excellent work.

So yeah, the rules are stricter and enforced more diligently these days. It's no longer a fun kind of playpen where people can just go through and add cool and interesting stuff at a whim. It generally requires a more serious approach and this rubs plenty of people the wrong way. In fact it probably runs counter to the general culture of the Internet where the phrase "the Internet is serious business" is a joke but where within Wikipedia it's taken very seriously. And while the barrier to entry is greater than it was in the past it's not insurmountable. I'm just an average Metafilter hack and have been able to figure things out without too much effort. When I have been in disagreements and have been wrong, I took those opportunities to learn and understand why I was wrong. It's not always pleasant but it's not that bad either.
posted by bfootdav at 2:50 PM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


See, here's the thing: much of the Wikipedia administration is explicitly Libertarian. And this is what happens when Libertarians get control of what's ostensibly a community resource: they become rentiers.

Now true, only Jimmy Wales and few of his cronies actually make money off the site ("non-notable" deleted content tends to end up on the various ad-supported, for-profit wikia sites).

The others, however, get something they could never have in the real world: they get power. Sure, they may be sitting in a dorm room on Friday night eating mac-and-cheese, but on Wikipedia they're able to throw their weight around, and boss newbies, who are often people who have real-world subject-matter experience but lack the time or inclination to "play" Wikipedia and game its rules 24-7.

While for most of us Wikipedia is either a resource or something to contribute to, for the core Wikipedia admins, it's essentially an MMORG where being a tendentious, rude, gluwd-to-a-monitor rule-lawyering Libertarian contrarian is the ticket to "leveling-up."
posted by orthogonality at 3:00 PM on March 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


What happened with Wikipedia was that some neckbeard admin who had been slighted by the makers of the site

That man is not wearing a neckbeard.
posted by hippybear at 3:13 PM on March 11, 2011


orthogonality: "for the core Wikipedia admins, it's essentially an MMORG where being a tendentious, rude, gluwd-to-a-monitor rule-lawyering Libertarian contrarian is the ticket to "leveling-up."

Yes. Dramatica gets a lot of things wrong, but its Wikipedia article is just about spot-on.
posted by meehawl at 3:17 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


hippybear: "That man is not wearing a neckbeard."

Well, not in that picture.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:19 PM on March 11, 2011


Yes. Dramatica gets a lot of things wrong, but its Wikipedia article is just about spot-on.

That might need a NSFW.
posted by Artw at 3:31 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hmm, not much penetration happening among Wikipedia editors? Is that really news?
posted by indubitable at 3:37 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I remember starting to get into wiki way back in the day before all the madness started... but bailed soon after when I had a moment of clarity that is was Far Too Much Like Real Work.

So since then I've spent half my time in this place which is obviously time much better spent as you get Favorites.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:06 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I still don't get the whole point of deletionism. I understand you want to curate articles, to have a set of articles that are high quality and relevant. OK, great, so put some metadata on articles. Annotate it "this article is on a non-notable subject". Hide it from the main site, don't return it in search results, whatever. But why delete the data entirely?
posted by Nelson at 4:27 PM on March 11, 2011


Nelson, the point of deleting something is that without reliable secondary independent sources backing up the claims in the article, how is anyone to know if anything in the article is factual? Notability is in place in order to support verifiability. Without this then anyone can write anything about any subject and there's no way to know if any of it is true. If an article meets the bare requirements for notability (very generally, two independent reliable secondary sources that are extensively about the subject (not just a mention like in a directory)) then no matter how little content there is (be a "stub" in WP lingo), it can stay. Without this requirement Wikipedia would just be the Internet or a collection of blogs and would certainly not be an encyclopedia.
posted by bfootdav at 4:38 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Annotate it "this article is on a non-notable subject". Hide it from the main site, don't return it in search results, whatever. But why delete the data entirely?

Because "non-notable" stuff tends to attract articles on say, all the Pokemon EVAR!, written up in great detailed by obsessed fans. And read obsessively, by those same fans.

Jimmy Wales never wanted Wikipedia to be free; he wanted to charge for the encyclopedia created by the efforts of volunteer content-creators. But the Free Software Foundation said, "well, then we'll put out a free version (and drive your fee-based version out of business)".

But if something is deemed "not Encyclopdic", the content can be moved to the various Wikia sites. Which are free for obsessed fans to edit, free for obsessed fans to read, but which host ads.

The ad money goes not to Wikipedia, but to the private, for-profit Wikia, which is owned by Wales:
Wikia (formerly Wikicities) is a free web hosting service for wikis (or wiki farm). It is normally free of charge for readers and editors, deriving most of its income from advertising, and publishes all user-provided text under copyleft licenses. Wikia hosts several thousand wikis using the open-source wiki software MediaWiki. Its operator, Wikia, Inc., is a for-profit Delaware company founded in late 2004[2] by Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley—respectively Chairman Emeritus and Advisory Board member of the Wikimedia Foundation
So "not notable" really means, we can put ads on it while still explaining that the "real" encyclopedia is free and ad-free.

Wikipedia admins get their power-trip by deleting the "not notable" content, Jimmy Wales says, "oh that's too bad all your hard work will go unseen but my hands are tied", then "oh, but you can give me your free content -- my hands are tied, can't pay you for it -- and I'll put some ads on it".
posted by orthogonality at 4:41 PM on March 11, 2011 [9 favorites]



How pathetic.

I've started editing on openstreetmap a bit and I really hope that OSM doesn't turn out like this.
posted by fizzix at 4:44 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Orthogonality:Jimmy Wales never wanted Wikipedia to be free; he wanted to charge for the encyclopedia created by the efforts of volunteer content-creators. But the Free Software Foundation said, "well, then we'll put out a free version (and drive your fee-based version out of business)".

[citation needed]

No, really. Is this true? Do you have a link to where he revealed that?
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 4:46 PM on March 11, 2011


I've been driven away from wikipedia by ridiculous fights and swore I'd quit the site. Then I started managing my own wiki project and I started to understand that the insane amount of spammy and/or purposefully incorrect content, some of it quite clever, is the real problem.
posted by chaz at 4:54 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought the fact that new people -- who'd created accounts specifically to discuss the issue and therefore could be expected to be knowledgeable and passionate about it -- were held to a significantly higher standard than existing editors, to the extent that an existing editor could say, "this is not notable" and a new user could provide a list of cites half a page long and still be seen to not be making a significant contribution, was particularly telling.

I was in one Wikipedia argument, where someone very carefully went through every comment in the thread and put the number of edits that that person had ever made to Wikipedia immediately after their comments.

That was the last time I contributed.
posted by Malor at 4:54 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I noticed a while ago that WP:DICK ("Don't be a dick") was gone- that says a lot.
posted by Artw at 4:57 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was in one Wikipedia argument, where someone very carefully went through every comment in the thread and put the number of edits that that person had ever made to Wikipedia immediately after their comments.

Welcome to why MeFi discourages people from pulling someone's comments in an unrelated thread into the current discussion in order to make a point about that commenter.
posted by hippybear at 4:58 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was in one Wikipedia argument, where someone very carefully went through every comment in the thread and put the number of edits that that person had ever made to Wikipedia immediately after their comments.

At one time there was a script that did that (annotated your browser's copy of a Wikipedia page), additionally showing ratios of a user's edits to articles to his edits to discussion pages. Long story short, many (not all) of the most tendentious admins made (at that time, it may have changed, but I doubt it) surprisingly few real contributions to articles.

And to hippybear: this isn't about their viewpoints, just about whether they mostly built the site, or mostly policed the people who did the real work.

In other words, one can pretty much objectively demonstrate, using Wikipedia's own data, that Wikipedia is composed of two classes of users, one the vast majority that add to the articles, and the other that mostly use the site as an MMORG, policing the content contributors.

(It's also interesting that this is justified by claims that terrorists, sorry, vandals are so prevalent that the self-appointed police must have extraordinary powers to ban on mere suspicion of bad faith, and further that explaining reasons for the bans would too greatly risk Wikipedia security.)
posted by orthogonality at 5:21 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nelson, the point of deleting something is that without reliable secondary independent sources backing up the claims in the article, how is anyone to know if anything in the article is factual? Notability is in place in order to support verifiability.

Respectfully, those doing the deleting beg to differ:
Of course I've done a Google Scholar search for Alice ML. There is roughly one admissible source -- "Through the looking glass" in Trends in Functional Programming. Small workshop paper, 12 citations according to CiteSeer. Doesn't show up in the ACM Digital Library. There are a number of other papers on Saarland University's website, but they are either 1) not peer reviewed (tech reports) 2) not cited or 3) not actually about Alice ML. To illustrate #3, consider "A concurrent lambda-calculus with Futures". This is a relatively well-cited paper, and it mentions Alice ML (a sentence or two?), but it isn't actually about Alice ML! It describes a new language construct and models the semantics in the lambda-calculus. In this case, wouldn't it be the construct, not the language that is notable?
--Christopher Monsanto

"Notability" is meaningless. If Wikipedia means "verifiability" it should say so and tell the deletionists where to get off.
posted by Skorgu at 5:56 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Deletionists have really, really stepped up their game lately when it comes to claiming that sources don't count.
posted by Artw at 6:02 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Skorgu, I'm really not sure what your point is. Notability is not "meaningless"; you can read the definition here. And notability and verifiability are not the same things (you can read about verifiability here). If you can clarify your position here I'll definitely try to respond. It might help to note that my definition of notability was intended to be very general and simplified as what is considered notable can vary from subject to subject.

As for quoting Christopher's statement I am not really sure what point you're going for. I read through that entire mess very carefully when it blew up and I didn't see anything that Christopher did that violated policy or guidelines. Being a new an inexperienced editor he did some things that made the situation more difficult for himself than it needed to be but he did due diligence in nominating those articles for deletion. That some of the articles stayed and a couple were recreated with better sources than they had before is how the process works. Why people were getting so personally offended by the process remains a mystery to me. I've been involved in many, many similar discussions and sometimes consensus is with me and sometimes it is not. The nice thing for inclusionists is that it's easy to recreate an article fixing whatever problems it had that got it deleted in the first place (assuming it was an article that should be in Wikipedia), but once something survives AfD (Articles for deletion) it's much more difficult to get it deleted in the future (not impossible, just more difficult). But the beauty is that none of that has to be permanent.

Also, I am one of "those doing the deleting" and while I can't speak for the rest of them I can certainly speak for myself and why I take certain positions and how I interpret policy and guidelines.
posted by bfootdav at 6:24 PM on March 11, 2011


I didn't see anything that Christopher did that violated policy or guidelines.... Why people were getting so personally offended by the process remains a mystery to me.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't Christopher Monsanto -- a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at Princeton and co-author of a competing functional language -- someone who should have known better than to think Alice-ML was "non-notable"?

But more fundamentally it illustrates that one admin with an "in" at Wikipedia can overrule any number of non-adminsw when it comes to axe-grinding deletion.

The same thing can be seen in Wikipedia's articles on certain gender issues and political conflicts -- "dug in" admins completely control not only "their" article itself, but any allowed criticism of it, often by "helpfully archiving" into the memory hole any criticism of the article or of their stewardship of it.
posted by orthogonality at 6:45 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


bfootdav: "Wikipedia would just be the Internet or a collection of blogs and would certainly not be an encyclopedia"

Wikipedia may not be the Internet, or a blog, but it is certainly not an encyclopedia. Presenting the design, syntactic and semantic appearance of an encyclopedia does not make make it so, any more than putting a skin on everything2 or h2g2 rotten.com would transform them into encyclopedias. Wikipedia is a semi-factual miscellany, and a mechanism for generating Wikia content that can be monetised.
posted by meehawl at 7:11 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Orthogonality, Christopher Monsanto is not an admin. I'm not sure if you meant to imply that or not. If there was an admin who you felt forced the deletion of any of those articles in spite of them passing WP policy and guidelines concerning notability and verifiability then that's a different matter. I didn't witness that at all but if you saw something I didn't I would greatly appreciate you pointing it out.

Also, discussions for deletion are not based on votes. It's supposed to be about building consensus. Often it's just one side making a good argument and the other not. If both sides make good arguments and consensus is not reached then the article almost always stays. The deck is stacked for inclusionists in this one case.

And I'm not sure the relevance of Christoper Monsanto being a computer scientist. He did the research on all the languages he nominated and according to his understanding of policy and guidelines they did not meet Wikipedia's requirements for notability. If you think he had ulterior motives with concern to all of the articles he nominated I would like to see that evidence as well. However, that still does not mean his nominations weren't good. All the articles he nominated were borderline cases. Maybe the messenger was flawed but his reasoning was not (that consensus was against him on some of the articles does not mean that they should not have been nominated in the first place, borderline cases should go through the process).

And yes, there are all sorts of problems with POV pushing on Wikipedia (I mentioned one in my first post) that are sometimes difficult to overcome. But your vague references here are not particularly useful. I don't know you nor do I know your motivations. And with absolutely no offense intended it could be that you have an agenda with regard to "gender issues" that you want to push on Wikipedia but were not allowed to. The point is that your argument is way too hypothetical for me to usefully respond directly to. What I can say is that I have been part of successful attempts to overcome POV pushing from admins. It's not easy, it takes a lot of knowledge, but I was never alone. Quite often if one person can bring up a specific case for discussion all sorts of people will come out of the woodwork to support that position.

Meehawl, Wikipedia considers itself an encyclopedia or at the very least wants to be one. But it looks like we'd be debating definitions at rather too fine of a level to actually get anywhere. And I have no opinion concerning the "monetizing" motivation. That claim has been made several times in this thread but without any real evidence to back it up or to establish that even if it is true that it somehow compromises the efforts of all the edits who participate in the project.
posted by bfootdav at 7:31 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know you nor do I know your motivations. And with absolutely no offense intended it could be that you have an agenda with regard to "gender issues" that you want to push on Wikipedia but were not allowed to.

Is there a Wikipedia article on argumentum ad hominem? Because just by airing this "I don't know your motivations" crap (after all, no one commenting here knows any other commenter's motivations, so you're stating what is already assumed), you're implying I have some (disreputable) agenda.

Frankly, your response is coming off as the typical Wikipedia admin white-washing, with the typical weasel wording: "discussions for deletion are not based on votes. It's supposed to be about building consensus." In my experience, that's mentioned only when the self-appointed admin decides a deletion against the majority's wish. Then and only then do we learn that "consensus" has nothing to do with votes.

Basically, you dismiss all complaints as being too general, or too specific, or too much a matter of definition, or something that you astonishingly "have no opinion" about.
posted by orthogonality at 8:43 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you'd like to contribute a LOT of value to WP but avoid the whole deletion/AM.I.WORTHY scene:

Go underground, go spelunking. Get off the beaten path. Consider improving the hundreds of thousands of crappy articles on unglamorous topics. Wikify, add citations, bring up to date, improve the readability, add significant facts ... fix the wrong statements and use strong citations ... all the thankless stuff that -takes work- and makes the different between a polished turd and a worthy piece.

You can do this for years and VERY rarely will anyone EVER bother you. You can start with a barely-a-stub page and build beauty into it. Your competence will scare off any nitpickers who accidentally stumble across actual work being done and value being added ... because they can't look in People to see if you're wrong, I guess.

The great thing about this, o ye mighty literate, is the fun of chasing down great online resources you can cite, and all the new things you'll learn about things you only knew a little about. May the Deep Web be with you.

Just ... stay away from the mole people, and sewers outside major tourist cities, and bagpipe alternatives ... those are mine!
posted by Twang at 9:13 PM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is there a Wikipedia article on argumentum ad hominem? Because just by airing this "I don't know your motivations" crap (after all, no one commenting here knows any other commenter's motivations, so you're stating what is already assumed), you're implying I have some (disreputable) agenda.

Really? In no way did I mean that. You made some vague claims about agenda pushing on Wikipedia. You might be correct or maybe you attempted to push an agenda and were shot down. Maybe it was honest good-faith disagreement. Whatever. I don't know and can't know because all these are real possibilities and you didn't supply any specific examples of your claims of admin POV pushing abuse. Therefore there's nothing there to respond to, which was my point. I apologize for making it sound like I was accusing you of POV pushing on Wikipedia.

Frankly, your response is coming off as the typical Wikipedia admin white-washing, with the typical weasel wording: "discussions for deletion are not based on votes. It's supposed to be about building consensus." In my experience, that's mentioned only when the self-appointed admin decides a deletion against the majority's wish. Then and only then do we learn that "consensus" has nothing to do with votes.

It has been policy as long as I can remember. It's mentioned at the top of the AfD page. It is brought up in discussions that happen every day on Wikipedia including the Administrator's Notice Board where it's usually safe to assume that everyone there is already intimately familiar with it. Sometimes editors will bring it up in an AfD discussion when it becomes clear that some of the participants are not aware of that policy. If you can point out an example where the consensus policy was being contradicted by the closing admin on an AfD discussion until the moment where it allowed to the admin to make a judgement based on that own admin's bias then I would appreciate seeing it. In all the hundreds of discussions I've been in that involved an admin I've never seen one dismiss Wikipedia policy only to bring it up when things had turned in such a direction that it would win the day for his/her position.

Also, admins are not self-appointed. Not sure what you meant there. Maybe you were referring to the admin who decides to close a discussion?

Basically, you dismiss all complaints as being too general, or too specific, or too much a matter of definition, or something that you astonishingly "have no opinion" about.

My only dismissal is that there is nothing to debate when only general claims are made. If there are specific examples then I can speak to those. If there are debates over Wikipedia policy I can give you my opinion. If you make a general complaint the only counter is that "you're wrong" which gets us nowhere. And what complaint did I dismiss for being too specific? Going from a specific observation to a general conclusion is philosophically tricky so I'd definitely try to avoid that but I won't avoid speaking about the specific issue.

And I don't see how anything productive can come out of an argument of whether Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. I'm pretty liberal when it comes to definitions so ultimately it would come down to the kind of debate that brings in issues of Platonism, anti-Platonism, prescriptivism, descriptivism, and all sorts of derailings that are best handled elsewhere. Meehawl doesn't think Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and I do. The beauty is that even if one of us is correct that in no way affects any aspect of this discussion, therefore it's safe to dismiss.
posted by bfootdav at 9:32 PM on March 11, 2011


Good god, I think some of the criticism of Wikipedia is overblown, but that ED article links to some amazing (SFW) Wikipedia talk page examples. For example, the edit war over whether to note on the Abraham Lincoln page that he shared a birthday with Charles Darwin. (Seems to have led to two temporary bannings and one user being disallowed from editing the Lincoln page). Or the awesome Hot dog talk page. ("A hot dog is not 'often placed' in a bun, a hot dog unit in fact comprises a sausage in a bun. This is not my opinion, this is fact.")
posted by Acheman at 1:28 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


bfootdav My central point is well stated by another commenter in that same HN thread:
35 citations according to Google Scholar.
So to count for notability:
- An article can't be from a workshop?
- It must solely be about a topic?
- It must be peer reviewed?
At this point you must acknowledge that your own complicated rules for notability have diverged a long way from those stated anywhere else.
-- greendestiny

Obviously a Queen cover band from Skokie, IL shouldn't have its own wikipedia page yet equally obviously the OMM and Alice ML deletions demonstrate that the rules are being followed yet articles that have value to the outside community are being deleted.

It's pretty obvious that if your rules are being followed and bad outcomes are occurring there might be a problem with the rules.
posted by Skorgu at 7:11 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Skorgu, both the Alice ML and Old Man Murray pages exist at this moment. They were both recreated with better sources. The process worked. Ideally the work to get those articles to the point they are at now would have been done before they were deleted but sometimes it takes people a while to fix things. The rules allow articles to be recreated and for decisions to appealed. I'm not sure what else could be expected. We're dealing with human beings and finite chunks of time -- decisions have to be made. Allowing for new information to overturn old decisions is part of the process and works.
posted by bfootdav at 7:27 AM on March 12, 2011


I would submit that the keeness of editors and admins to delete on the slightest evidence, the admin ignoring all evidence to go with a delete result, theamount and time and energy required to get OldMan Murray recreated, and that after it's recreation there were still hold-out editors trying to tag it, and that after being through a wringer like that to reach a perfectly obvious conclussion most sane people would want nothing to do with wikipedia ever again, taken together all show a system that is very much NOT working.
posted by Artw at 7:44 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've been searching in vain ever since this topic was posted, but I can't find a blog post I read, several years ago, which really influenced my feeling on Wikipedia deletionism.

The author claimed that he was a former deletionist, who had given up deleting articles because he realised he was doing so in order to bully people. He said that it was almost the perfect kind of no-comebacks bullying, because the more you did it, the more the world would pretend that you were actually doing something good in 'contributing' to Wikipedia by removing non-notable articles.

Here's, roughly, how he described the process:

- You find something obscure, but obviously a labour of love for some newbie editor. You mark it for deletion, and put some very measured language in there about how nobody cares about this topic.
- Within a day or two, the page will be flooded by people who worked really, really hard on the article or really, really care about it.
- You simply dismiss everything they say, and openly accuse obviously sincere and interested parties of being sock-puppet accounts.
- Pretty soon, the people you are (let's be honest here) grievously insulting get angry. You're smashing their sandcastle because there isn't space on the infinite beach. You're literally accusing interested and articulate parties of lying about their very existence.
- You act surprised and offended about their immoderate language. You are merely trying to help Wikipedia. You haven't raised your voice or flung insults around! These people simply don't understand the cooperative, consensus atmosphere of the Wikipedia we must all build together. By breaking other people's work. A noble duty.
- The more calmly you condemn, the more furious your opposition gets.
- Rinse, as they say, and repeat.

I was astounded by how accurately this blogger caught the tone of deletion threads I've witnessed or been a part of. Before reading this article, I thought that deletionists were simply deluded ideologues. After reading it I realised that many of them might simply be bullies, plain and simple, and in on the game to feel powerful and take joy in the pain of others.
posted by Dreadnought at 8:03 AM on March 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


Artw, even if your assessment of this particular situation is correct that does not necessarily indicate that the same thing happens in all or even most cases. A few instances that go badly sucks but I don't see how that's avoidable. These are humans involved and we humans make mistakes. As long as the system allows for those mistakes to be rectified then the system isn't completely flawed. If it could be demonstrated that the majority of the articles that get deleted shouldn't be according to Wikipedia policies and guidelines then yes, that would be good evidence that the system is not working. Without that kind of data it's one anecdotal argument against another.

That said I agree that someone involved in the OMM situation might have become so discouraged with Wikipedia that they choose to never participate again. That sucks too. I'm not sure how to fix that. No matter which direction you push the policy concerning notability there is always going to be a line between what is notable and what isn't which means there will always be arguments and poor decisions will be made (at least short term). If the policy is scrapped altogether then Wikipedia would lose much of its usefulness and would also lose a lot of good editors. The point being that I don't think changing the policy will fix this particular problem. I also don't know how to deal with frustrated and angry editors. My limit was pushed in the situation I described way earlier in this thread. I ended up sticking around because I was correct (the admin was wrong) and everybody else saw it too and got involved.

To go back to the original point of this post perhaps a better system to help new editors deal with the frustrations that occur by somehow streamlining the learning process would help. For instance when a new editor creates an article which gets immediately nominated for AfD the editor often has no idea how to defend that article or constructively participate in the discussion. I don't know what the answer is but it's like new editors need wikilawyers on their side to argue their cases regardless of the merit (kind of like publicly appointed defense attorneys). This would help the new editor learn the ways of Wikipedia without shooting her article in the foot. Probably not a tenable suggestion but it's something.
posted by bfootdav at 8:14 AM on March 12, 2011


So yeah, the rules are stricter and enforced more diligently these days. It's no longer a fun kind of playpen where people can just go through and add cool and interesting stuff at a whim. It generally requires a more serious approach and this rubs plenty of people the wrong way.

And to me, this is what encapsulates everything wrong with Wikipedia.

I spent a decade working in an academic bureaucracy, and I see a number of similarities between that and Wikipedia -- the pedantry, the territorialism, the demand that the rules (no matter how far detached from reality they're become) must be followed to the letter of the law.

That doesn't require seriousness. Not at all. I survived (and, in the opinion of some, thrived) in academia despite my lack of a faculty position or an advanced degree by choosing between one of two philosophies: Lawyering Up and Don't-Give-A-Fuck-ism.

And that's exactly what I see going on here. Either you get your posse of editors together and force a change through, or you just shrug your shoulders at the insanity and keep making things better in your neck of the woods.

Combine that with the general disdain for "meat puppets" and people throwing in "user has made x edits" like their XP is just too low but aren't they so cute they think they can kill the dwaggon all by their widdle selves....

Wikipedia is collapsing into a cloistered bureaucracy. And when groups do that, you soon see the "why aren't we getting any new blood" complaints (c.f. the report), followed by the community rationalizing away any possibility their community structure and behavior is the problem, followed by the slow dieoff of the community.

orthogonality is dead-on on about "rentiers." But I'd go one further -- Wikipedia editors are Shakers. They don't want new blood because they have consciously chosen to not want new blood and hold anyone who'd invite in new blood with great disdain. The editors have extreme power, and they don't care if their actions mean the territory they govern will keep getting smaller and smaller, because they are the kings and queens of their fiefdom, and that is what's important.

I refuse to edit Wikipedia pages nowadays. I've dealt with enough pedantic power game playing faculty members for two lifetimes.
posted by dw at 8:30 AM on March 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


Artw, even if your assessment of this particular situation is correct that does not necessarily indicate that the same thing happens in all or even most cases.

I have been involved in Wikipedia on and off for a long time, and for a while would get involved whenever I saw an article WP:RESCUE I could help by sourcing. I have seen this situation played out many, many times, only most times the cavalry does not arrive, the internet does not make a fuss and the article is not recreated.

And this is not about whether WP:Notability is worthwhile or not - in fact I'd say some of the deletionists are the worst abuser of notability policies, twisting or ignoring them to get the result they want. As I've mentioned elsewhere the core of WP:N is this: "If a topic has received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject, it is presumed to satisfy the inclusion criteria for a stand-alone article or stand-alone list." - which is eminently reasonable, and it used to be if you cared about an article you could preserve it by adding references to those sources. These days, as in the OMM case, you'll get half a dozen editors who have not looked at the sources screaming at you because they can't possibly be "significant" or "reliable" enough, and if they pour on enough wikilawyering bullshit this is accepted as truth.

And so get bullshit like the Old Man Murray deletion. Or, as I say other, less noticed deletions that are just as damaging to the project.

You are burying your had in the sand if you are not noticing this, I'm afraid. That or you are actively part of the problem.
posted by Artw at 8:44 AM on March 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Artw, I am actively involved in AfD and I'm not noticing this widespread abuse. Conclude what you will from that about me.

I did not look closely at the OMM case when it was going on but the few references I did check were questionable, blog posts and the like. This is not to say that there weren't some good references, I just don't know. I find it difficult to comment usefully about that specific situation other than it seems to have worked out for the better (better sources than before).

I can say this, I've never not been able to save an article from deletion. Whenever I've come across an article at AfD that felt to me like it was probably notable I've been able to find a couple of reliable sources, add them to the article, point it out in the discussion, and save the article. In just about every case I've ended up deleting most of the content from those articles but the stub that was left was well-sourced. Obviously I cannot claim that my experience is universal or even in the majority but I'm also not willing to accept that your anecdotes are universal or in the majority.
posted by bfootdav at 9:12 AM on March 12, 2011


The "it's just a blog" argument, which is, as it happens, not supported by wikipedia's policies?

Yeah, you are part of the problem.
posted by Artw at 9:59 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to say, in today's internet, treating blog posts as though they are not "real" information sources is also becoming increasingly questionable. Okay, ten years ago, anything of the sort was more likely to be a personal website of dubious reliability. These days, bloggers are increasingly *becoming* the news media, especially in more niche parts of the news market. It was never my impression that the original rules meant that information could only be gleaned from sources so major that everybody alive knows what they are. Just because something's posted on a blog shouldn't mean it gets treated like it was just on some teenager's Livejournal.
posted by gracedissolved at 10:11 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The blogs involved are the likes of Wired and PC Gamer's blogs and Rock Paper Shotgun - pretty far from being just random dudes on the Internet.
posted by Artw at 10:23 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The main issue with Wikipedia is the libertarian assumption that competition creates quality through some sort of evolutionary battleground. That idea, found in capitalism, mainly works to make more selection and cheaper stuff, which is what we're talking about. Wikilanders tried to beat this competitive notion down with sensitive harmonizing techniques that made it seem like people matter more than the information. This just gave the bad influences, with their collusion and sock-puppetry, much more protection. Finally, Google has more to do with its success than Wikipedia itself. I suppose if I were to offer a solution, it would be to randomly assign trusted editors to monitor controversial pages and select what to publish from the internal debates, not simply to stop by to delete something based on lobbying.
posted by Brian B. at 10:57 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to say, in today's internet, treating blog posts as though they are not "real" information sources is also becoming increasingly questionable.

Some blogs are considered reliable sources and some aren't. Some are questionable. It's the ones in the middle that tend to lead to the most heated discussions. It's not often that experienced editors debate whether policy or long-standing guidelines are valid; it's more often about interpretation. When it comes to deletion debates it very often comes down to whether a borderline source in considered reliable. There's no easy way to resolve those discussions. Sometimes the arguments from editors who demonstrate expert knowledge in the relevant field are given more weight.

Likewise what might normally be considered a reliable source isn't always reliable in every case. For example the New York Times is usually considered a reliable source but opinion pieces written for the paper may not be reliable sources. But even in that case it depends on how the source is being used. Again, it can lead to heated debate.

This just gave the bad influences, with their collusion and sock-puppetry much more protection.

Brian B., if I understand you correctly then I have to say that I'm not sure what a better alternative would be. Determining intent is tricky at best. What you don't want to do on Wikipedia is to come down hard on someone who could potentially be a good editor and drive them away from the project. People make mistakes especially when first starting out. If you can use a light touch and guide them into being a productive editor then this is a good thing. Also, err on the side of caution.
posted by bfootdav at 12:17 PM on March 12, 2011


If you can use a light touch and guide them into being a productive editor then this is a good thing.

No, but that wasn't my point anyway. One shouldn't have power to insert what they wrote, and one shouldn't volunteer where they are assigned to do the inserting. I wasn't proposing a deletapedia or special-interest-pedia at all. I'm saying it need organizing, not chaos.
posted by Brian B. at 1:30 PM on March 12, 2011


Sometimes the arguments from editors who demonstrate expert knowledge in the relevant field are given more weight.

So would you say that is what happened in this case?
posted by Artw at 1:33 PM on March 12, 2011


So would you say that is what happened in this case?

As I said, I didn't follow the OMM case that closely, I don't know how it all went down. But just to make my point clear, where the expert knowledge is sometimes helpful is establishing that a certain publication (print or otherwise) is a reliable source.
posted by bfootdav at 3:24 PM on March 12, 2011


I have seen specialized areas of information on WikiPedia get overwhelmed with biased and inaccurate information.

There is a cabal of Serbian nationalists who do a lot to manipulate information related to all phases of Balkans history. They change stuff around and it is very hard to fix that. It's not always that element that poison the information. There was a novelist who wrote whatvprobably is a fairly trashy historical novel on theblast queen of Bosnia. He edited the WikiPedia article in a really atrocious way. He put in that as a young woman, the future last queen of Bosnia fell in love with a composer who was born close to 100 years after her death. I found that even more insulting than some of the Serbian nationalist stuff.
They were not changeing birthdates, or lines of descent or speculating about this historic person's love life.
Because it's a subject of time consuming research in three languages, English, Bosnian, and even Spanish, I attempted to get in and edit. The process of becoming a WikiPedia editor is daunting, I was carrying a (sometimes all too literally!) heavy academic load, and frankly I decided it was not worth wading into the fray.
Eventually someone or other did clean up the article. The novelist had twisted known facts to wuit his fancy, not his ideology or view of history, but his
fancy.

In any case WikiPedia can't be sited itself as a source for academic papers. For stuff where there is no Real debate, I still look stuff up there e.g. artcles on plants and animals. My health related ciurses all banned citations from WikiPedia. If you can't use it that way, what practical use is it?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:35 PM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't follow the OMM case that closely, I don't know how it all went down.

Shrugs. Here's the deletion discussion. Knock yourself out.
posted by Artw at 3:56 PM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


A Wikipedia admin writes, "[as a Wikipedia admin] Whenever I've come across an article at AfD that felt to me like it was probably notable I've been able to find a couple of reliable sources, add them to the article, point it out in the discussion, and save the article."

A white guy writes, "[as a white guy myself] I've never been pulled over for Driving While Black, so I don't really believe it happens, or if it does, it probably doesn't happen too often, and as long as they're polite to the officer, it'll all get clear up, so why are we wasting time worrying about this minor inconvenience?"

Yeah, see when you're a Wiki admin, things are different. Try doing the same thing, bfootdav, as an IP address without a user page, and you'll see the suspicion and contempt with which non-insiders are treated. Then try it as someone with a user page by no admin powers. No real difference.
posted by orthogonality at 4:09 PM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what you're going for Artw; when I said "sometimes" I meant that. If the OMM case didn't rely on expert opinion on whether certain sources were reliable or not then that's how it is. But honestly I'm not sure what an "expert opinion" would be with regard to a game review website anyway. Gamers?

Katjusa, I'm glad someone did eventually clean up the article. POV pushing is a real problem on Wikipedia and often it is just one brave soul who is fighting off the hoards. I've seen and I've tried to help when I can but it's a daunting task.

In any case WikiPedia can't be sited itself as a source for academic papers. For stuff where there is no Real debate, I still look stuff up there e.g. artcles on plants and animals. My health related ciurses all banned citations from WikiPedia. If you can't use it that way, what practical use is it?

I'm not aware of any general purpose encyclopedia that can be cited as a source for academic papers. Heck, the last time I was allowed to cite a general purpose encyclopedia for a school paper was when I was 10. Generally in academic papers you're citing primary sources. Wikipedia reports on what secondary sources have already summarized so by definition it shouldn't be used as a source for academic papers. What it is useful for is gaining some general knowledge about various subjects and pointing you in the direction for learning more if you need to.
posted by bfootdav at 4:14 PM on March 12, 2011


You'll note that anyone who provided sources in the deletion discussion was either ignored or labelled a "SPA". Then the closing admin closed with "Notability concerns by delete commenters are not refuted by those in favor of keep. Sources provided are generally trivial, tangential, or otherwise not substantial enough to grant notability" - which is, well, it's flat out untrue. But he stuck to his guns nonetheless. Note the repeated motif of "it's just a blog" or "I have never heard of Rock Paer Shotgun" by various helfull sychophants throughout. At no point is any attempted made by the admin or any of the pro-deletion editors to actually determine if the sources are worthwhile, there's just a general . The opinions of anyone who might know about the subject area are basically spat upon.
posted by Artw at 4:19 PM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Orthogonality, I am not an admin. And I'm known only to a couple of admins and barely so at that (i.e., I don't have much of a reputation on Wikipedia though I do have a relatively high edit count). Do you have an example where an IP introduced obvious reliable sources and was rejected in spite of that? I'm sure it has happened as people do make mistakes, but evidence that that kind of behavior is the norm?

I spend most of my time patrolling recent changes for vandalism and every day I see IPs add good, sourced content to Wikipedia with no admin or other experienced editor coming along and reverting it. Are many of us automatically suspicious when we see IP edits especially to a controversial article? Definitely yes, but where I cannot speak for any other editor at all I can say that I judge edits based on their merits alone and the quality of sources supplied. I have accepted more IP edits than I can count and I have also reverted edits from experienced editors and admins when I thought it needed to happen. But I'm just one anecdote.
posted by bfootdav at 4:35 PM on March 12, 2011


Artw, the OMM was a particularly nasty and badly handled situation from all sides. I cannot argue against that. I'm also willing to admit that it shouldn't have been deleted. I've also said that mistakes happen and at least there are processes in place to correct those mistakes. The question is do you have evidence that a significant number of articles that are deleted are done so even though they clearly meet Wikipedia's requirements for notability? Not that the subject is notable but that the article in its then present state, and taking into account the delete discussion, was clearly established as notable and then deleted? (I make the distinction because it might turn out a subject is notable but no one was able to find the necessary sources.)
posted by bfootdav at 4:40 PM on March 12, 2011


I spend most of my time patrolling recent changes for vandalism and every day I see IPs add good, sourced content to Wikipedia with no admin or other experienced editor coming along and reverting it.

What a waste of editing time. Nobody new or biased should not be allowed to make any change to an article, but they should be allowed to propose changes for unbiased editors to make.
posted by Brian B. at 4:50 PM on March 12, 2011


What a waste of editing time. Nobody new or biased should not be allowed to make any change to an article, but they should be allowed to propose changes for unbiased editors to make.

You may be right, Brian B. In the early days the project wouldn't have gotten anywhere with that policy in place but now that it's reached a more mature place perhaps things should be tightened up. The question, given what this entire thread is about (losing editors), if Wikipedia did adopt such a strict policy would it have enough editors to keep things going? Would even more new editors leave when it turned out they could no longer edit articles directly? The transition would be very difficult.
posted by bfootdav at 5:03 PM on March 12, 2011


In the early days the project wouldn't have gotten anywhere with that policy in place but now that it's reached a more mature place perhaps things should be tightened up.

The early days would have organized itself just as efficiently, with far more experts weighing in due the anti-vandal setup. We don't need everyone involved, if they are, then the ones who care aren't.
posted by Brian B. at 5:12 PM on March 12, 2011


(I make the distinction because it might turn out a subject is notable but no one was able to find the necessary sources.)

Why is deletion even an option if the subject is acknowledged to be notable? What benefit does deletion have over a "this article sucks" banner?

It's also very difficult to take notability guidelines seriously given that there are several Pokemon with their own pages. Is Clefairy really more notable than H.I.S.S.?
posted by Skorgu at 5:17 PM on March 12, 2011


About two years ago, Wikipedians did a project to see how newcomers were treated on the site. The results were a bit eye-opening, at least to the veterans themselves.

(As an aside, you know a page is huge when it has its own weekly newspaper.)
posted by ymgve at 5:22 PM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why is deletion even an option if the subject is acknowledged to be notable? What benefit does deletion have over a "this article sucks" banner?

I think you misunderstood my point. I was referring to a subject that unbeknown to the editors involved was notable, that reliable sources establishing notability did exist, but that no one had to that point been able to find those sources.
posted by bfootdav at 6:32 PM on March 12, 2011


[Hit submit too early]

It's also very difficult to take notability guidelines seriously given that there are several Pokemon with their own pages.

Yes, there are problems all over Wikipedia. Editors fix things as they come across them and have the desire to do so. Everything can't be fixed at once. Notability guides what articles make it in but it is only editors that create articles and improve on them. Questioning the usefulness of notability because editors haven't created/edited articles in the way you think should happen does not really make for a compelling argument.
posted by bfootdav at 6:41 PM on March 12, 2011


Notability guides what articles make it in but it is only editors that create articles and improve on them.

I'll take wikipedia serious about notability when it deletes 90% of the fandom bullshit on there.
posted by empath at 6:44 PM on March 12, 2011


I'll take wikipedia serious about notability when it deletes 90% of the fandom bullshit on there.

Can you imagine the uproar if the evil deletionists were to really ramp up their efforts and go after all those articles at once? I've been personally attacked in this thread and I haven't nominated anything for deletion here. Read Christopher Monsanto's talk page and then follow the links to Reddit and the other forums for a taste of what happens when someone nominates like 10 articles for deletion.

But now the complaints in this thread are contradictory. First we evil delitionists are deleting everything and now we don't delete enough. There is no winning.
posted by bfootdav at 7:02 PM on March 12, 2011


But now the complaints in this thread are contradictory. First we evil delitionists are deleting everything and now we don't delete enough. There is no winning.

No, the complaints are not that the standards are either too strict or too loose but rather that they are nonsense. WP:N produces effectively the same results in many cases as "this editor doesn't like this page or these citations".
posted by Skorgu at 7:28 PM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


My complaint is that the notability standards are not standards, just tools used by bullies marking territory.
posted by empath at 7:37 PM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The complaint is that deletion is arbitrary and capricious, left to0 the whim of whatever admin appoints himself as "consensus-finder" in the dispute, as Skorgu pointed out.
posted by orthogonality at 7:38 PM on March 12, 2011


First we evil delitionists are deleting everything ...

Awe, don't be so hard on yourselves. Someone needs to stand by the side of entropy. Where would life be without death?
posted by Twang at 7:44 PM on March 12, 2011


ymgve: "About two years ago, Wikipedians did a project to see how newcomers were treated on the site."

Wikipedia has changed a lot. I recall creating a few pages and making some edits 2001-2002. It was a pain and the interface was some old crufty thing but no real hassles. Then some time in 2002 the interface got better and the software seemed to perk up. I did a bunch of stuff 2002-2004, then went back to school and had little time to do anything. I do recall occasional revert wars but nothing major. Certainly nothing like what happened when after a few years school died down for a little bit and now, armed with some new, current knowledge, I figured I'd update some stuff. This was around 2007 or so. I was impressed to find that I was being reverted quite quickly, sometimes within a matter of minutes. Apparently in the interim people had deployed fucking scraper bots to watch stuff and mini fiefdoms had emerged. But it was still possible to reason with most people without using jargon, or being told you were ignorant or lacking in credibility if you did not also deploy the jargon. Then I went back to school for another while and got very busy so there was no real updates. Then around 2010 I got some free time and tried again. This time it seemed like some edits were being tracked almost in realtime, and of an entire sequence of pages I made, around 75% were "speedily deleted", with some of the perps dropping little passive-aggressive banners on my page. There's probably an element of confirmation bias but I note that many of the people who tend to drop these boxes often have frighteningly elaborate and curated user pages with a thicket of OCPDish boxes and lists adorning them and they tend to adorn their pronouncements with many repetitions of "WP:BITEME" or similar jargon. That's just not helpful.

I honestly don't think I'll bother again, partly because of this and also partly because of the increased hostility to simple IP edits without a username and a site identity. I have had severe reservations for several years about the wisdom of editing any health article with a persistent tag that can be linked to a real-life identity that could be licenced to practice medicine. The possibility of such edits being used within legal action is remote, but non-zero. I suspect this concern applies to many professionally licenced people, and thus I suspect the irony is that many of the "sciency" or legal articles that could benefit from knowledgeable input are probably going without or are deficient because of similar reservations, hesitancy or the simple increased probability of reversions when edited from non-user or non-admin IPs. I did think ikkyu2's judgement was awry here, given his (at one time) enthusiasm for both publicly editing Wikipedia articles that fell within his field of practice and responding to very many congruent AskMe questions. But he apparently revised his earlier stance and DFE'd.

So my perception of Wikipedia overall is that it is now markedly less welcoming to those who wish to begin to contribute or to contribute moderately. Unless you are willing to put in an unreasonable quantity of time to play the game and engage in all the admin crap and backscratching, then you are a field wikipedian, and the house wikipedians will pwn you.
posted by meehawl at 10:37 PM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


an entire sequence of pages I made, around 75% were "speedily deleted", with some of the perps dropping little passive-aggressive banners on my page. There's probably an element of confirmation bias but I note that many of the people who tend to drop these boxes often have frighteningly elaborate and curated user pages with a thicket of OCPDish boxes and lists adorning them and they tend to adorn their pronouncements with many repetitions of "WP:BITEME" or similar jargon. That's just not helpful.

Quoted for truth. The Wikipedia insiders absolutely coat their user pages (and their friends' user pages) with these self-congratulatory, ass-kissing banners ("barnstars"), much like rear-echelon motherfuckers cover themselves with campaign ribbons. It manages to be both gauche and pathetic. User pages are considered (with some exceptions) their owner's "property" to do with as they wish.)

Ironically, one of the first things to turn me off to Wikipedia was an extended discussion about how everyone could decorate his user page however he wanted (including with these bandwidth-hogging barnstar images) except for one guy, who was a "known troll" (it was "obvious" so no proof was needed), and who shouldn't be allowed to store on his user page, copies of deleted articles.

I have no idea how that fight originated, and I had no dog it it, but it annoyed me no end that the guy who wanted to store copies of his "not notable" low-bandwidth text wasn't allowed to, but everyone else could put 47 or 470 "barnstars" on their user pages. No, that guy was a "troll" as so it wasn't enough that his articles were deleted, he had to be further shamed and punished by accepting regulation of his user pages that applied to no one else.

And worse, the "troll's" specialty pages, while on a slightly "woo-woo" topic, were the most complete collection on that topic on the web, as far as I know.

Empath has it just right: most of the rules on Wikipedia are for bullying, and will be ruthlessly enforced on newbies and the powerless, unenforced ("no rules, just Common Sense) on anyone high enough in the Wikipedia hierarchy.

It's the triumph of Libertarianism without property rights.
posted by orthogonality at 11:47 PM on March 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


These days, if I see a typo or something I can fix quickly, I do.

I've fixed several typos and grammatical errors in the past several years. In every single case where I bothered to check on it, my change had been rolled back.
posted by lodurr at 7:05 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


When that Jason Scott talk up-thread was first posted here a couple years back, I was pretty critical of it. I now think I was wrong and he was dead-on.

Orthogonality's turn of phrase ("triumph of Libertarianism without property rights") was very apt, not least because it raises more questions than it answers.
posted by lodurr at 7:15 PM on March 13, 2011


Wow, that hot dog talk page Acheman linked in his comment is comedy gold:
'Moist sausage' is an inappropriate way to describe a hot dog.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:14 AM on March 14, 2011


Skorgu: "Obviously a Queen cover band from Skokie, IL shouldn't have its own wikipedia page"

I don't think that's obvious at all, actually.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:30 PM on March 14, 2011


Chrysostom, amen. 'Notability' is just a proxy for 'our opinions matter more than yours.'
posted by lodurr at 5:36 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


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