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I Just Want My Money back For What He Did to "Doom Patrol"
September 17, 2005 8:48 PM   Subscribe

John Byrne v. Wikipedia John Byrne, comic writer and alleged curmedgeon, and his legions of fans did not like Byrne's entry on Wikipedia. Ultimately, he and his supporters " managed to raise such a stink that the head of the Wiki project himself stepped in and edited Byrne’s entry down to what Byrne wants."
posted by Joey Michaels (87 comments total)

 
Curmudgeon, as some spell it. And I should have caught the missing period after the link in preview. Sorry folks.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:50 PM on September 17, 2005


Put a fork in Wikipedia. The experiment has failed.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:03 PM on September 17, 2005


At the end of the day, there needs to be a final judge or authority. This is, unfortunately, what some libertarians will never accept.. :p

Read the 'neutrality' talk page.. hoo boy.

Instead of having an enlightened and informed base, in my dealings with wiki articles and the "Editorial Cartel", it's really just dick waving with the pretense of running an encyclopedia.
posted by cavalier at 9:08 PM on September 17, 2005


Posted too soon - having said that, what this guy has done, yuck, and what the Wiki did in response, double yuk. Just pull his file if he has such a problem with the internet -- I'm sorry, with people.
posted by cavalier at 9:09 PM on September 17, 2005


They should have just deleted the entry on him entirely.
posted by 517 at 9:14 PM on September 17, 2005


I discussed this in another Wikipedia thread, but as the victim of a Wikipedia article that managed to systematically misquote, and completely invert, my scholarly work, and as someone who tried diligently to get the article in question corrected by participating in its discussion page only to be heaped with adolescent abuse from people completely ignorant of the subject in question, I've thought WP was bullshit from the git go.

Bravo to Byrne.
posted by realcountrymusic at 9:14 PM on September 17, 2005


Actually this shows Wikipedia is working correctly. With basic non-controversial bibliographical facts, the subject of a bio should have the final say. I read the stuff he deleted and frankly there is no way to properly support it with citations that can be proven true. It very well might all be made up and not true. Prove it otherwise. John has the last word if you cant, that's how it should be.
posted by stbalbach at 9:14 PM on September 17, 2005


Why did Wikipedia buckle under pressure so quickly?
posted by jimmy at 9:24 PM on September 17, 2005


That's the world of the future for ya -- ruled by some asshole and his lawyer.
posted by clevershark at 9:38 PM on September 17, 2005


Sounds like a really bad precedent here -- this will open a Pandora's box. I agree, they should have just blackballed his entry and allowed no posts.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:40 PM on September 17, 2005


Wikipedia's always going to have controversy around politics, religion, and living people with large egos. On the latter, I favor deleting their entries: let 'em rely on their own blogs and websites (and abandon any claim to the "impartiality" of the "facts" presented).

And RCM, you say you're famous enough for a Wikipedia hatchet job but you don't say on your User page who you are. How can we be properly envious if we don't know any more than that?

By the way, I'm still waiting for someone to do a Wikipedia entry on me. Archimedes Plutonium has one. I promise not to threaten lawsuits!
posted by davy at 9:44 PM on September 17, 2005


John Byrne has jumped the wikipedia shark.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:45 PM on September 17, 2005


But I read it on the internet! It must be true!!!

John Byrne is a prick, and was before wikipedia was even a glimmer in anyone's eye. That said, his "reinvention" of Superman was the best thing that happened to the franchise in the last three decades, so there you go. Gee, talented people, even (especially?!?) those with one or two flashes of long-lasting brilliance, can be jerks. Whouda thunkit?
posted by yhbc at 9:52 PM on September 17, 2005


Not that Wikipedia doesn't already have its own problems re: legitimacy, but I don't see how kowtowing to anyone solves them. Yes, the history of power-hungry and immature Editors of Wikipedia, esq. has been thoroughly documented, but forgive me if I don't see the logic in giving final editorial control to the subject of a Wikipedia entry. Otherwise, what's to stop John Byrne—or anyone else, for that matter—from putting up an entry page about himself stating he was born on Mars and is considered a minor god in various South Asian aboriginal cultures?

What this incident really confirms is that fanboys ruin everything. More seriously, I think it goes back to the idea of what actually belongs in a Wikipedia entry. I can't be bothered to read the entire talk page (great googily moogily!) but a lot of the arguments, aside from opinion vs. fact, have to do with whether a certain passage should be covered in a Wikipedia entry or left out. Which is certainly valid; if you're writing a bio on the guy, how much and what kinds of information do you include, and of what quality?

Wikipedia will never replace real, traditionally edited encyclopedias, but I think the experiment is far from a failure.
posted by chrominance at 9:57 PM on September 17, 2005


I mostly agree with what stbalbach said. If the page is full of questionable unsourced material, that material should be removed without question. However, when stbalbach says "John has the last word if you cant, that's how it should be." I have to disagree. The subject of a post might be the best source for some kind of information, but they by no means have the "last word." If John himself can provide facts that contradict claims on the entry, he should present them. As it is, most of this seems to be John wanting things his way - which has nothing to do with fact.
posted by odinsdream at 9:59 PM on September 17, 2005


Now lets make a wiki entry about what occured to the wiki entry about John Bryne.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:13 PM on September 17, 2005


That's the world of the future for ya -- ruled by some asshole and his lawyer.

Insert your own damn punchline about George Bush and John Roberts, as I'm too smashed to bother right now.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:14 PM on September 17, 2005


OK, first of all, Jimbo Wales is a reasonably regular contributor to Wikipedia himself. Second, he explains in the Talk page why he agreed with the revert -- much of the material was unsourced, and even the editor who added it professed he was going by memory.

This fits strongly in with the continuum of Wikipedia policy which is leaning more heavily towards proper citations for all but the most basic facts. (Pedantically, enough people are editing Wikipedia today who believe in a strong citation policy that they are able to influence Wikipedia editorial opinion in that direction.) Wikipedia has for a long time insisted on citations for controversial facts -- at the very least, putting an identification on the person or persons stating an opinion about a subject. In small, obscure articles you can get away with "Critics say ... " or "X is described by opponents as ..." but in many articles you can't get away with that -- you have to at least try "Comics industry professionals say ..." or something similar, but preferably you'll be able to find "Gary Groth reported that comics professionals believe ...". Best of all is "Kim Thompson wrote, 'Byrne is considered ...'"

So I don't find Jimbo's actions surprising or untoward, or in any way reflecting a "cave" against an article critic. Certainly Jimbo's edits have already been superseded and the article continues to grow again, showing that Jimbo has very little desire to overrule editors and exercise any sort of final say. (One of the very few such "absolutes" that Jimbo is known for is blocking an autofellatio image from appearing inline within an article -- you can see it, but you have to personally click through to it.)

Seriously, the FPP and most of the comments (except stbalbach!) show a deep misunderstanding of Wikipedia. I don't claim to be any authority myself but as a daily editor I don't see the framing of the FPP as reflecting that reality.
posted by dhartung at 10:15 PM on September 17, 2005


To add to what dhartung said: Jimbo has the capability of protecting the page from further edits but did not do so. The article is not fixed in stone now, and it seems clear that citation-backed elements that Byrne does not like will be allowed to stand.

This is an unusual case in that Byrne complained to Jimbo and Jimbo stepped in, but it's not an unusual case in that unsupported edits criticizing an article's subject were left on the cutting-room floor. That's what's supposed to happen.
posted by mendel at 10:23 PM on September 17, 2005


Well, damn, it is protected now, but protection isn't permanent .
posted by mendel at 10:23 PM on September 17, 2005


The latest bio is brief, but the original was crap. It was as well researched and backed up as a Kitty Kelly unauthorized biography. The revised bio could contain some of the additional information but it shouldn't be written by somebody with a chip on their shoulder.
posted by substrate at 10:26 PM on September 17, 2005


realcountrymusic, do you remember what thread that was? I'm interested to see what happened in your case. I've searched through your comments for articles with 'wiki', but the only hit doesn't seem relevant.

Don't suppose you have a link handy?
posted by Malor at 10:42 PM on September 17, 2005


God bless Wikipedia. For much of this thread I thought we were talking about John Byner! Guess 11pm is when I lose any grasp on intelligenceness.
posted by stevil at 11:08 PM on September 17, 2005


Did his original entry say that you can only tell his characters apart by their costumes and hairdos because he only draws two types of faces and only two body types--one male and one female?

Or was it that he constantly stuck himself into his stories as a sort of "hilarious" God character?

Which of these two things did he object to?

Was it his lousy Chris Claremont-via-early-Alan Moore-ripoff writing?
posted by interrobang at 11:52 PM on September 17, 2005


That's a whole lotta huff about some douche bag comic artist who hasn't had a hit in 15 years. Imagine the controversy when Kenny G sees his entry!
posted by DonnieSticks at 11:53 PM on September 17, 2005


And I thought you were talking about this John Byrne .
posted by johnny novak at 12:48 AM on September 18, 2005


At the end of the day, there needs to be a final judge or authority.

Why?
posted by Clay201 at 1:00 AM on September 18, 2005


At the end of the day, there needs to be a final judge or authority.

Why?


So they can tell us when the day ends?
posted by srboisvert at 3:00 AM on September 18, 2005


This is inappropriate beacause Wikipedia should report the contraversy if there is one. Wikipedia does not need to go into the, but it does need to report it and link to sites on both sides of the issue.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:45 AM on September 18, 2005


jeffburdges writes "This is inappropriate beacause Wikipedia should report the contraversy if there is one. Wikipedia does not need to go into the, but it does need to report it and link to sites on both sides of the issue."

Yeah, tehy should put soemthing like tihs near teh top of the Wikipediaea page:


posted by Bugbread at 6:07 AM on September 18, 2005


And then there is the Aaron Broussard entry at Wiiki. Expose ? Character assassination ? Wiki navel gazing ? Read the discussion thread , and decide for yourself
posted by lobstah at 6:38 AM on September 18, 2005


I second what TwelveTwo said.
posted by davy at 9:34 AM on September 18, 2005


Damn lobstah, maybe Broussard's page was a Paid Political Announcement?
posted by davy at 9:36 AM on September 18, 2005


At the end of the day, there needs to be a final judge or authority.

There is, and it is my own discernment. No external authority has yet demonstrated that they are perspicacious for me to abandon my own good judgement in deference to them.

There is no canon. No one is fit to read the historical record to you but yourself.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:41 AM on September 18, 2005


My belief in the earnestness and good-faith nature of Wikipedia was severely shaken by the Cyrus Farivar bullshit, where the head Wikipedian ultimately simply decreed that the douchebag's vanity page was going to remain, despite both a dubious genesis and the fact that the Vote for Deletion that it survived was irredeemably suspcious.

Boo. Hiss.

A douchebag is a hygenic product; I take that as a compliment.
posted by gramschmidt at 10:38 AM on September 18, 2005


Kowtowing to a primary source is wrong!
posted by Rothko at 10:38 AM on September 18, 2005


And RCM, you say you're famous enough for a Wikipedia hatchet job but you don't say on your User page who you are. How can we be properly envious if we don't know any more than that?

I'm not famous. I'm just an academic whose work was cited in a discussion of a subject I write on. It was quoted without attribution at first, or rather misquoted. Then the misquote, now with attribution, was the subject of an argument on the basis of an idiotic out of context interpretation of misquoted text to begin with. And then I tried to intervene. The people involved in editing the article seemed to be classic "get a life" types. If they actually knew what they were talking about, they would have been writing elsewhere.

Just one little article, on a non-controversial topic, tucked away in a tiny corner of the web. Totally stupid. But it taught me not to trust anything I read there. You don't need a final controlling authority. You need peer review. And the quality of peer review all depends on the quality of the peers. WP is lowest common denominator scholarship.
posted by realcountrymusic at 11:01 AM on September 18, 2005


Come on, y'all, Wiki hasn't "kowtowed" here; it *temporarily* deleted a bio that included unsourced information and opinion. Gamaliel says it on the Byrne talk page: "Its current status is not permanent. It will be an article again once we complete our work." He then offered a systematic solution to reworking the article so it's detailed and accurate. What's the problem again?

I was annoyed at the way some top Wiki folks handled the Farivar episode, too, particularly the idiotic assumption that a freelance writer placing a few articles in mainstream outlets is enough to justify a Wiki page about him, but this is different. Temporarily pulling a bad entry while it gets fact-checked is hardly evidence of deep troubles in Wikiland.
posted by mediareport at 11:16 AM on September 18, 2005


I still think scarabic should start a Wikipedia entry about me. I promise not to sue!
posted by davy at 11:21 AM on September 18, 2005


And the quality of peer review all depends on the quality of the peers.

It took you a while to figure that out about Wikipedia? Anyway, it's still a great idea that works well much of the time. Can you point to some of the discussion that got you so upset?
posted by mediareport at 11:22 AM on September 18, 2005


Can you point to some of the discussion that got you so upset?

No, because I'd rather leave the episode behind me. I agree, some WP articles are very useful, and it shines on certain topics. The tragedy of the commons, however, is alive and well there. Maybe if they charged $5 for the right to edit or discuss it would be as good as AskMe.
posted by realcountrymusic at 11:31 AM on September 18, 2005


realcountrymusic, could you link to the controversy surrounding your article? You'll hopefully be able to understand why I'm skeptical of an unsourced account of an incident on Wikipedia when citing the incident is a matter of simple link to your Wikipedia user page.
posted by robla at 11:36 AM on September 18, 2005


well, as i said, i don't care to do so. some intrepid googling could figure it out, i'm sure. i don't have a WP user page.
posted by realcountrymusic at 12:09 PM on September 18, 2005


Someone did the intrepid googling for me. It appears that shortly after the controversy erupted, the section of the article you complained about was removed from the article entirely. Thus it seems the process worked to me. Do you have a problem with the current version of the article?

Note, I'm respecting your wish not to link back to it, but I feel that part of the strength of Wikipedia is that you get all of the information to make your own decision about article quality. You can see the whole edit history of the article, and there are multiple tools available to help you sort through those changes.

Now, one acknowleged weakness of Wikipedia is there is not yet a "stable" version. It's a tough problem to solve in a highly collaborative manner in a way that scales up to the size of Wikipedia, but there's a lot of thought going into that problem, and I imagine it will be a solved problem before too long. Rather, it may never be "solved" per se, but we may just have a progressively more acceptable situation as review and appeals processes are streamlined, and more robust peer review gets implemented.
posted by robla at 2:22 PM on September 18, 2005


Anyone who wants a look at the controversy referenced by realcountrymusic in his description here of Wikipedia as "bullshit from the git go," here's the link.

After looking at it, I think robla is right, and realcountrymusic/Professor Fox is continuing to overreact to something that was, in fact, fixed. It does appear the quote from his article was presented as part of the main entry inappropriately, but it was deleted, and his response was apparently moved to the discussion rather than the article itself. It's also worth noting that Aaron notes that the Wiki article cites his work on his book's press mentions page.
posted by mediareport at 3:12 PM on September 18, 2005


What I'm amazed by is the fact that a comic book artist gets so much contention. Personally I kinda liked Byrne's comics, especially his She-Hulk, but the Next Men wasn't bad either.

I'm just amazed that disputes over a comic book artist are longer than the disputes over Japanese war crimes. See the talk page for Unit 731 . There's one Japanese ultranationalist claiming it was all Chinese propaganda, and he doesn't manage even a tenth the amount of text that the Byrne fans did.

Perhaps its the very unimportance of the topic that generates so much talk? It isn't easy to be an expert on Japanese war crimes, but being an expert on John Byrne's comic career is something many geeks can lay claim to simply because of his prominance back in the 1990's.
posted by sotonohito at 3:21 PM on September 18, 2005


Davy, RealCountryMusic is Aaron Fox. (MeFi profile produces e-mail address; Google of same yields self-identification here.)

I don't see any revert wars in his Wikipedia entry, though; its history shows almost no changes.

I didn't really see any edit wars in the ethnomusicology article either.
posted by WCityMike at 3:52 PM on September 18, 2005


So now we're outing people who dare to criticize Wikipedia, despite their expressed desire not to share their identity here? This place is getting more assholish every day.
posted by languagehat at 4:04 PM on September 18, 2005


I wasn't the first to "out" him, if "outing" is even a half-right term. Additionally, he invited "intrepid Googling."
posted by WCityMike at 4:43 PM on September 18, 2005


languagehat, Aaron's been outed before, and appreciated it. I'm not sure why he changed his user page, but he's been "out" as the author of a cool book about country music for a while now. Given that, I saw nothing wrong with adding context to the debate - and, yes, his really bitchy comment about Wikipedia - here.
posted by mediareport at 4:48 PM on September 18, 2005


I don't think it's an overreaction for a person to read his Wikipedia autobiography and ask (or demand or whatever) that anything that cannot be cited with a source be removed. As someone at Wikipedia once told a friend of mine, "We are looking for specific style. This isn't Wikilotsofinfo, it is Wikipedia."
posted by 23skidoo at 4:48 PM on September 18, 2005


I also don't think it's an overreaction to say that it's bad to find out that for 6 weeks something you wrote in a book has been misrepresented so that someone on the internet could editorialize in what's supposed to be an encyclopedia article, and that the six-week-long misrepresentation could have gone on indefinitely if you yourself hadn't noticed what was going on.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:53 PM on September 18, 2005


Also, languagehat, Aaron did *not* express a desire not to share his identity; he said he'd rather leave the episode behind him, which doesn't mean others can't explore the issues raised in a more detailed way - i.e., trying to figure out whether his criticism was valid or not. So, whatever trend toward increasing assholeness you're seeing around here, please don't include my link to the Wiki page as part of it. Thank you.
posted by mediareport at 4:57 PM on September 18, 2005


Also, languagehat, Aaron did *not* express a desire not to share his identity; he said he'd rather leave the episode behind him, which doesn't mean others can't explore the issues raised in a more detailed way

Exactly. I haven't even looked at the page in question on WP in quite some time, so I have no idea where things stand. They had improved slightly last I saw. My point is that I too would rather not have been misrepresented (or rather my ideas misrepresented -- some idiot believed that an article I wrote on why people *think* of country music as "racist" actually was itself a balnket indictment of country music as "racist," when any idiot who had actually read the article could not have taken that meaning from it -- it's probably the most serious piece on the subject in the academic literature). The process on WP was unresponsive to several attempts to a) get the citation correct and b) cite my argument correctly and in context. I gave up trying to determine who was in charge, who had written what, or when things would be resolved. I deal with academic publishing every day. It ain't perfect, but there are standards there for review, editing, etc. I also blog, and hang out at places like MeFi. The standards are different. I'm cool with that. WP is a blog environment posing as a serious attempt to become an authoritative reference. It puts, in my opinion, too much trust in the lowest common denominator and lacks clear editorial controls. It was a sour experience. I don't really care all that much.

Still, I don't think "outing" me (such as it is) in a vindictive spirit is all that cool. I don't see as MeFi has the same standards of citation as WP pretends to have, so it's not like the episode in question had to be published here for my opinion to be valid. Oh, and you don't seem to have looked in the right article. There is an entry on me personally (bare bones, and I have no idea why). But that's not where the controversy arose.
posted by realcountrymusic at 5:51 PM on September 18, 2005


And I will add that I don't advertise my offline identity much here because I don't (usually) weigh in as "Professor Fox." (Exceptions for AskMe threads about academia.) Most of the time I post as private citizen realcountrymusic, and claim no special authority for my opinions. Like most MeFites.
posted by realcountrymusic at 6:21 PM on September 18, 2005


I have started quite a few Wikipedia stubs which initially carried insufficient, sometimes even wrong information, and knowledgeable people later came by and added and corrected them. There was only one time when I had to delete a bit of information which was maliciously fake and unnoticed. These are articles so obscure and specialized that a casual reader will never have a better source than Wikipedia on the topic, and only due to the collaboration and aggregation going on are they starting to get that access. For the vast majority of articles, including all I've seen, the scheme of incremental snowballing additions where all who have contributed to a page also watch it for subsequent abuses works beautifully. And for the more popular articles, the ones you would find in a paper encyclopedia, this works exponentially better.

I have noticed realcountrymusic's lack of comfort with populism before, and in this thread I think it is exemplary of the underlying conflict. The quality of peer review in an open-access source like Wikipedia versus an obscure, probably competent scholarly journal, or a book whose competence can only be gauged through an extra step of tracking its reputation among the experts in the field. The point is that the casual reader has never and will never have access to the obscure sources of information, for a variety of reasons including their own laziness. Before Wikipedia, they would be resigned to ignorance; now they may have access to a kick-start first source, and what bugs people like realcountrymusic is that this source is not influenced by the gravities of their small scholarly universes - they lose their established positions. So they dismiss it as incompetent. What they either don't realize or realize and see as a negative thing is that this source is likely to be their best avenue for popularizing their own field. If, as someone only casually interested, I have to choose between possibly erroneous information from randomly peer-reviewing contributors, available at my fingertips, and academic work produced in a framework that is in a number of ways intrinsically elitist and poorly accessible, I sure as hell will choose the former as the first source I pay attention to.

The only difference for biographical articles, I think, is that authors (a) get to hold personal grudges against Wikipedia and (b) get to misrepresent themselves if they really want to and go unnoticed. Which is funny, considering that Wikipedia is quickly becoming bigger than you and me and even someone really famous and pissed about their entry.
posted by azazello at 6:36 PM on September 18, 2005


I have noticed realcountrymusic's lack of comfort with populism before

That is absurd. Maybe you should read my academic work. Wikipedia has about as much to do with "populism" as it has to do with peer reviewed scholarship. Zealotry notwithstanding, popular wisdom is not coterminous with the blogosphere.
posted by realcountrymusic at 6:46 PM on September 18, 2005


what bugs people like realcountrymusic is that this source is not influenced by the gravities of their small scholarly universes - they lose their established positions. So they dismiss it as incompetent.

Ummm, in his case, Wikipedia was totally influenced by the "gravity of his small scholarly universe", because someone in the article quoted him. They just quoted him out of context, and misrepresented the entire meaning of what he wrote.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:07 PM on September 18, 2005


Wikipedia was totally influenced by the "gravity of his small scholarly universe", because someone in the article quoted him.

Thanks 23skidoo. That's it exactly. If you want to have a citation system, refer to published work in the peer reviewed literature, and be taken seriously as a source, then do it right. If you just want to wank online to see your words in public, post to Metafilter. Er. Edit Wikipedia. I was just sitting there in my small scholarly universe, not really concerned with whether the kinds of people who post articles on country music to WP read it or not. (And for what it's worth, azazello, none of the authors of the WP country article know shit about country music. Objectively, it's a bad article. Any number of my redneck friends in Texas could have written a better entry, so don't tell me about populism; let's talk about faux elitism.)

I mean, since I'm outed, and stereotyped as a snooty elitist who doesn't want the great unwashed to become aware of my work, I might as well defend myself by pointing out that I've done plenty of work among said unwashed masses, often in an unwashed state myself, not the least of examples being years spent as a professional country musician. As one of my defenders on the WP discussion points out, I speak not only from the ivory tower, but from the barstool.
posted by realcountrymusic at 7:24 PM on September 18, 2005


rcm, do you feel that the article, as it is now written, represents your position correctly? Did the bad peer review eventually end up with the right result, or does it remain wrong?
posted by Malor at 7:58 PM on September 18, 2005


Did the bad peer review eventually end up with the right result, or does it remain wrong?

I wouldn't know, as I haven't read it lately and don't intend to. Like I said, I prefer to leave it behind me, and regret that I commented in this thread as well. All I meant to say is that I had a bad experience being misrepresented on WP, and sympathize with others who try to contest some of the utter nonsense that passes for authoritative knowledge there. But obviously some people think it's freakin' sacred.
posted by realcountrymusic at 8:19 PM on September 18, 2005


If, as someone only casually interested, I have to choose between possibly erroneous information from randomly peer-reviewing contributors, available at my fingertips, and academic work produced in a framework that is in a number of ways intrinsically elitist and poorly accessible, I sure as hell will choose the former as the first source I pay attention to.

But it doesn't mean that you will end up with accurate information. It just means that you will have used the most "democratic" source. Which is a great feeling. Until you realize you've been misinformed. How does observing that Wiki's equal-opportunity editorial policy creates entries that don't differentiate shit from shinola make you an enemy of the people?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 8:25 PM on September 18, 2005


foxy_hedgehog nails it. besides, on what planet are you living if you can't turn up quality writing on a subject like, say, country music, online? there are dozens of specialist websites, open to the public, that introduce the subject with far more rigor and depth than WP. don't get me wrong. i've used WP before (a great history of the iMac, most recently). quality there varies a lot. it's the sausage-making process that isn't so great. but sometimes it ends up producing good sausages. in the case of the article i was cited in, the process was idiotic, various ridiculous versions of the article were allowed to stand for months on end, and even after the citation and interpretation of my article were fixed, the entry still sucked. problem is, you have no way of knowing and trusting that the article you're reading is good sausage or not. the standards are too loose. and what's more, WP articles get spread all over the place in other web applications, and i've noticed that changes take a long time to propagate across some of these, if they ever do. and then other WP articles get written that reference some of the drivel in the original article.

it's a fascinating idea. i don't begrudge its existence. i just want nothing to do with it. and had a bad experience when i did, unwillingly, get sucked into its maw. so i sympathize with byrne. end of thread for me.
posted by realcountrymusic at 8:36 PM on September 18, 2005


that said, "bullshit from the git go" was a bit cranky and harsh of me, and for any offense it caused WikiPediaphiles, I apologize.
posted by realcountrymusic at 8:37 PM on September 18, 2005


what bugs people like realcountrymusic is that this source is not influenced by the gravities of their small scholarly universes - they lose their established positions

That's totally unfair, azazello. realcountrymusic's history here amply demonstrates he's not the kind of person to ignore arguments outside a "small scholarly universe." And his initial anger at what seemed like a horrible misuse of his work in a Wikipedia entry is completely understandable. What's less understandable (to me, anyway) is the insistence on holding a grudge against the fascinating concept of open source encyclopedias *after* the error was corrected.

realcountrymusic: Still, I don't think "outing" me (such as it is) in a vindictive spirit is all that cool.

It wasn't done vindictively, rcm; I linked it because 1) your identity has not been a secret here, even if you admirably shy away from trading on your authority as a scholar, and 2) you made an accusation I thought was important enough to attempt to verify.

it's not like the episode in question had to be published here for my opinion to be valid.

All opinions are great and valid and all, but I was interested in the facts behind this one, and thought others here might be too.

Oh, and you don't seem to have looked in the right article. There is an entry on me personally (bare bones, and I have no idea why). But that's not where the controversy arose.

I didn't link to your personal entry; I linked to the discussion page for the country music entry. If there was another Wiki dispute involving your work, I'll be glad to apologize for the mistake.
posted by mediareport at 9:13 PM on September 18, 2005


"bullshit from the git go" was a bit cranky and harsh of me, and for any offense it caused WikiPediaphiles, I apologize.

Thanks for that. But, you know, the least you can do if you're refusing to read the updated article is drop the anti-Wikipedia chip on your shoulder.
posted by mediareport at 9:24 PM on September 18, 2005


fair enough mediareport, and no hard feelings. my point is that my experience leads me to distrust the entire enterprise of WP.

someone else linked to my personal page, and i failed to distinguish the two links.

and as for refusing to read the article, the point is my carefully researched and peer-reviewed article is still cited very shabbily in a very poor entry. my publisher (from whom i got a nice royalty check last week, it being the beginning of the semester so a lot of classes are buying my book) would say there's no such thing as bad publicity. but there is if you are a scholar trying to advance the serious study of a subject often dismessed as popular trash. my work argues, in essence, that country music is working-class art. and i take it seriously as art. establishing a place for popular music in the academy has been a long, arduous process, and country music has had four generations of scholars now, beginning with dogged amateurs and people who studied it on the side (Archie Green, especially) and moving slowly into an accepted specialization in the musical academy. there's nothing more populist than refusing to condescend to popular culture. for me, the legitimately scholarly quality of my work is critical to advancing popular music studies. to see that effort flattened and misunderstood in such a widely read source as WP is distressing. i repeat, even had my name never been mentioned in the entry, it would still be terrible. so i don't want my name associated with it. i believe i asked not to be cited in the discussion, though it's vague now. but it does probably sell a few books, and maybe it sends a few people to my work who will appreciate it.
posted by realcountrymusic at 9:53 PM on September 18, 2005


Reading the updated article won't change how Wikipedia works. For some, the fact that articles can be disputed and changed relatively quickly is negated by the fact that articles can stand for a long time with incorrect and misleading information. The fact that the misinformation has been corrected will only affect those who happed to have read the Wikipedia entry after the correction had been made.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:05 PM on September 18, 2005


there's nothing more populist than refusing to condescend to popular culture

Recognizing the potential irony, let me say that I believe that holding WP in particular, and net-based research/scholarship/ journalism in general, to high standards of professionalism (adjusted for the medium) is refusing to condescend to popular culture. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right.
posted by realcountrymusic at 10:06 PM on September 18, 2005


Fair enough right back atcha. :) I definitely get your point about some academics'moronic dismissal of country music as an object of study.

my point is that my experience leads me to distrust the entire enterprise of WP.

Ugh. Here's where we diverge. Why? Why refuse to correct a shabby citation of your work at Wikipedia? Would you refuse to correct it if it appeared in a peer-reviewed journal? Of course not. Just fucking fix it, without the drama. That's how an open source encyclopedia works, rcm, and the idea is valuable enough to support with a few sentences.

What you're failing to acknowledge is that there *is* a peer review process for Wiki entries. Hell, in my experience, it's more often than not a pretty quick and tough peer review process. Not perfect, sure, but don't try telling me the academic journal process is perfect, either. So, yeah, I still think you're over-reacting, even if you had a legit beef at one point about the use of your work in a Wikipedia entry.

[p.s. The identity issues here have just been Meta'd by Vidiot. Unfairly, I might add.]
posted by mediareport at 10:16 PM on September 18, 2005


I have noticed realcountrymusic's lack of comfort with populism before, and in this thread I think it is exemplary of the underlying conflict.
posted by azazello at 6:36 PM PST on September 18


Is there a flag for "criminally retarded"?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:26 PM on September 18, 2005


Wikipedia is a great tool, if you know how to use it. If you don't know how to use it, well, it's your loss.

Wikipedia is a fantastic source of nouns associated with a subject. You may or may not be able to trust that you know the meaning of those nouns, but knowing where to start is half the battle in research, and nothing beats a healthy battery of nouns to use in search engines, Lexis-Nexis, library catalogs, book indecies, you name it. Any other information you get from Wikipedia is a big bonus.

It's also great for casual learning and entertainment. The information is generally right, so if the stakes are low, what the heck, poke around. If you see something surprising, you can always fact check.

If you aren't aware of the history, it was spawned out of an an attempt to "do it right". Nupedia had a vigorous peer review process, and invested a fair amount of money to create a free, peer reviewed encyclopedia. Then they created Wikipedia as a way of accelerating Nupedia. Then Wikipedia took off too fast for Nupedia to keep up. Then they just gave up on Nupedia to focus on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is a testiment to how much can be done when gatekeepers are removed from the process. If you ignore the hundreds of thousands of articles that are there, and just focus on the 748 articles that have made "Featured Article" status. I hope you can see that even if you were to reduce it down to just that, it's still quite an acheivement for a process that intuitively just shouldn't work. The rest are "works in progress", and hopefully are close to FA status; if not, hopefully they'll get there soon.
posted by robla at 11:59 PM on September 18, 2005


Wikipedia is a nice source of information for the merely curious, but you would be a fool to ever rely on the information found there.

[mediareport, you should be ashamed of yourself for your atrocious behavior in this thread. Go open a PI firm and unmask cheating spouses if you wish, but leave posters on Metafilter alone please.]
posted by caddis at 12:22 AM on September 19, 2005


you should be ashamed of yourself

Funny how we can say that here, but a simple "fuck you" in response can result in bannation. But caddis, rest assured the sentiment is heartfelt, even if it can't be written.
posted by mediareport at 12:46 AM on September 19, 2005


As my Daddy would say: "Oh, brother."

In the first place, if realcountrymusic had not brought himself up I would not have given a thought to who he "really" is; in this thread that would have precluded knowing how he claimed to know what he was talking about, but there are worse fates than being "just another yammering Mefite" (like me, e.g.). That's what I meant when I pointed out to him that"you say you're famous enough for a Wikipedia hatchet job but you don't say on your User page who you are. How can we be properly envious if we don't know any more than that?" (I was kidding about the "envious" part, part of my jocular whining that nobody put up a Wikipedia article about me, ME, ME!)

There was no real need to out him. I had already pointed out in this thread that his anonymity damaged his credibility on the subject we were addressing, so it was up to him to out himself or not, depending on whether it really mattered to him that we credit what he'd said here. If he would rather have been known as "'just another yammering Mefite' making unsubstantiated allegations of having been 'persecuted' someplace" that should have been respected: I didn't see him in this thread threatening the life, liberty or pursuit of happiness of anyone involved in it, so I see no justification for overriding his request that his name not be dragged through the mud here too. (I haven't outed any Mefites I know from elsewhere or who've revealed themselves to me, regardless of my personal feelings toward them or of any political/ideological disagreements we have; if I can manage something surely it can't be that difficult.) It's no sweat off our backs if he didn't care enough about what he was saying to tell us where he was coming from.

Anyway. About the issue of a "fallacious" statement in a Wikipedia article, I would have simply corrected it, rather than make a fuss; I had to do that concerning an article written about a neighborhood I grew up in, and my version still shows up as the last edit. That people who have not read the corrected version would not know of the correction is just too damn bad: for us "the arrow of time moves forward", which is something I think everybody older than 12 should have begun learning to get used to. (Note that I don't think that is realcountrymusic's problem here, but 23skidoo's.) So it does sound to me that realcountrymusic didn't quite understand how Wikipedia works, or maybe he knows but just doesn't choose to use it to his own advantage, but in any case that, like what I see as his abandonment of a chance to fix the error, is his own damn problem, yet one that should have no bearing on whether we use his Real Name here.

What it boils down to is that, unlike many Mefites, I don't expect rigorous credibility from my fellow Mefites, nor do feel any pressing need to know who anybody really is. If y'all wish to remain vacuum-based pixelators that's fine with me.

And I agree with both of caddis' points. Which I glad he made so that I don't have to agonizingly and tediously type out and edit (or perhaps fail to edit correctly) another agonizingly tedious paragraph.
posted by davy at 12:54 AM on September 19, 2005


For what it's worth, a comparative audit by a German magazine, found Wikipedia upto the mark.

As I've maintained for quite some time, Wikipedia needs an audit process to keep track of its status.

Pick

1)10 most popular articles.
2)10 randomly selected moderate-to-high traffic articles.
3)10 randomly selected low traffic articles.

Compare against 'reputable' encyclopedias. Then compare all references against primary sources.

Judge on accuracy, breadth & depth, lucidity, and presentation.

Present results.

Repeat every quarter.
posted by Gyan at 12:57 AM on September 19, 2005


That people who have not read the corrected version would not know of the correction is just too damn bad: for us "the arrow of time moves forward", which is something I think everybody older than 12 should have begun learning to get used to. (Note that I don't think that is realcountrymusic's problem here, but 23skidoo's.)

"If What You Learned Here Wasn't True, That's Too Damn Bad" is a crappy motto for an encyclopedia. Yes, everyone over the age of 12 knows that as time passes, what is known to be true will change. I'm not talking about outdated information, I'm talking about something that wasn't true from the moment it was added.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:18 AM on September 19, 2005


And I repeat for the record: the article on country music sucks. It sucks without respect to its crappy citation of my work. Because it cited my work crappily, I became aware of it. That awareness was the source of a migraine. I don't care if WP "in general" lives up to some standard or other. On a subject within my expertise, WP bites. I wouldn't bother to point it out except that in the process of sucking, the editors of the article in question wasted my time, misused my work, and pissed me off.

It makes no difference if they got it right eventually, since they "publish" the ongoing effort and it has been seen in every state by many readers (how do you think I became aware of the error?). But they didn't. The article still sucks.

Ergo, I am justified, especially as something of an expert on the subject of the article, to declare that if WP can't get this article right, I have no faith in the rest of it.

The whole "outing" thing is cringeful. I am not offended or upset. But I do think, protestations aside, that it was done vindictively because I hurt (a certain someone's) feelings by dissing WP. "Credibility" has nothing to do with it. MeFites say all kinds of shit without having to prove "this really happened to me" or "here's my doctor's address so you can review my medical records." As you can see, I did not make up my tale. You may accuse me of exaggerating the degree of the offense, but then it wasn't your work being misquoted and trashed in public, was it, now? As for not knowing how WP works, pshaw. It's WP's editors who don't know how scholarly publishing works, or don't care. So let's be honest: my name was revealed on this thread because I hurt some feelings by dissing WikiFuckingPedia. Credibility had nothing to do with it. And that sucks. Yes, anyone can figure out who I am, and I don't care and actually intended that, and yes I have "outed" myself before here. That doesn't mean it's polite to do it for me.

Let me get this right: I'm supposed to be grateful and pleased that after months (as I recall almost a year) of having my work slandered on a widely consulted public forum, and repeated efforts (both public and back channel -- you don't know the whole story) to get it fixed and properly cited and quoted, WP finally got around to sorta kinda fixing it, though leaving the entire trail of ignorant discussion online for posterity? Fuck that shit. It's is an amateur effort, run by amateurs who like pretending to be experts, at least with respect to most of the popular music entries, and certainly the country music entries. Defend it as democratic, populist, cutting edge, or whatever. It still sucks as a source of information on at least one subject about which I happen to know something, and I don't want my work cited in such a context.

I'm getting rather sick of MeFi over the last couple of weeks as well. I guess I don't play well with others.
posted by realcountrymusic at 6:05 AM on September 19, 2005


Yow this thread's still jumpin! I've come back here to point out to realcountrymusic that, first of all, I think it's a bummer that you got "outed" -- however, my second point would be that it might not be just a "vengeful WP" person, but rather the whole curiousity-geek-mystery thing.

Specifically, most geek computer types I know love a mystery. They do the computer thing specifically because they get to figure out why something broke when it breaks. So I kinda feel like you made it a juicy little bit of mystery up at the top where you started talking about the bad experience you had and that you wanted to leave it behind you.

Now, was it tastey enough morsel for me to chomp down on? No - I respected your wishes and moved on. But a few folks didn't. I dislike that they brought it up here because you specifically stated that you didn't want to bring up, but I can understand that it might have been more "A ha! I have google ! I can do anything" versus "My precious WP I love it so"

Personally, I still think WP is a bag of shit that makes its editorial cartel think like they are powerful when in all actuality they are just committed enough in their lives to spend countless hours watching over their articles like hawks. Articles that can be vandalized at any time both overtly (HAYYY THIS TPOIX SUXUCC!!) and covertly (changing a year on a fact). It's a nightmare.

It's open source information with no one "Right" answer -- no way to validate it without extensive citation and one final voice. Like I said in the beginning. It's a turd.
posted by cavalier at 9:31 AM on September 19, 2005


So let's be honest: my name was revealed on this thread because I hurt some feelings by dissing WikiFuckingPedia.

Are we now back to the vindictive thing? God, it's hard to keep up, especially when the accusation comes from someone who - ahem - came to this thread with a rather large vindictive chip on his shoulder. Anyway, my original response still works:

It wasn't done vindictively, rcm; I linked it because 1) your identity has not been a secret here, even if you admirably shy away from trading on your authority as a scholar, and 2) you made an accusation I thought was important enough to attempt to verify.

You made an accusation, rcm, and robla (who's long been associated with Wikipedia) offered a response that indicated that the issue had been addressed. You had no problem with us looking it up, so I did, and posted the discussion in question here on the assumption that others might want to weigh the accusation and response for themselves. There was nothing vindictive in mind, rcm; if anything, there was a shrug and an, "Ok, he says we can Google it, so let's Google it." And, to be honest, I've always liked what I've seen of your work, so I was curious to see more of it.

Feel free to turn that into a vindictive attack if you want to, but I'm not sure why you'd want to.

It still sucks as a source of information on at least one subject about which I happen to know something, and I don't want my work cited in such a context.

So why do you link to it on your "press mentions" page again?
posted by mediareport at 9:44 AM on September 19, 2005


I retract the "getting sick of MeFi" comment with apologies. I woke up grumpy.
posted by realcountrymusic at 9:45 AM on September 19, 2005


So why do you link to it on your "press mentions" page again?

Because as my publisher says, there is no such thing as bad publicity (short of a plagiarism charge).
posted by realcountrymusic at 11:18 AM on September 19, 2005


what's silly is that wikipedia is all about peer review - so what's wrong with someone who the article is about being part of the discussion? I think people just don't like it cause there's a lawyer involved.
posted by klik99 at 12:02 PM on September 19, 2005


languagehat: So now we're outing people who dare to criticize Wikipedia, despite their expressed desire not to share their identity here? This place is getting more assholish every day.

I hope no one figures out that I am really illovich.
posted by illovich at 12:32 PM on September 19, 2005


Damn, lots happens when I'm too busy to keep up. I even missed every single aspect of the "greenlighting" thing -- unless it was stopping by the thread after someone had already posted that it was a hoax and my reaction was to shrug and wipe it from my brain.

I still believe in Wikipedia for the reasons that mediareport has well defended, but I'll certainly agree that it's far from perfect. I bailed on one article, I've said, because I couldn't stand the edit war between two serious and sincere representatives of the far left and far right on an individual, because said edit war was wholly impervious to my attempts to inject researched facts into the article. One of the editors, an administrator, was later booted from administrator status (it had been abused to protect the page at times). And just in the last month, two separate historical articles that I'd contributed to, improving them from messes left over from literally ancient sources in one case and highly ethnically charged POV in the other were subsequently assailed by people who put entirely too much emotional energy into events that happened hundreds of years ago. In both cases it's been a real bother to maintain an NPOV article that is useful to all readers.

I think that Wikipedia cannot be measured against peer-reviewed encyclopedias. It's a different kind of beast. No, it will never be accurate in all respects in all articles, because it's constantly being added to. Even good, featured articles that have been through peer review remain open to new edits, which can make it worse instead of better. The Hurricane Katrina article, for example, was going well until about a week ago, when political point-scoring resulted in every controversial opinion about the response being stuffed into the main article instead of an appropriate sub-article. It may get better again, but I don't have the time for that fight. Wikipedia is, in essence, an example of "good enough" technology ultimately winning out over "better".
posted by dhartung at 9:40 PM on September 19, 2005


I object to any suggestion that I used the word "queer" in a 1980 interview! I actually said "faggot-queer-homo". Several times.

(I will confess I am most intrigued by the notion of a discussion of my "behavior toward" homosexuals in "real life". I was not aware I was under such scrutiny. I must keep an eye peeled for the hidden cameras.)


said by byrne on his forum.

http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=7809&PN=1&TPN=14

no idea how to take that.
posted by shmegegge at 6:15 AM on September 20, 2005


No, it will never be accurate in all respects in all articles

Err... and what is? Wikipedia has errors but so does every other reference system. The difference is that most people realise that Wikipedia is subjective in places whereas many people think that the "more authoratative" encyclopedias are magically free from inaccuracies and bias. Wikipedia gives a voice to the voiceless.
posted by bobbyelliott at 2:25 PM on September 20, 2005


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