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The Closed, Unfriendly World of Wikipedia (daggle.com)
427 points by InfinityX0 on Nov 24, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 330 comments

For those wondering about the backstory, I went and looked at the history of the deleted page.

The article for Jessie Stricchiola was created by account "Stricchiola" in November 2009. The commit message: "Added article for search industry pioneer Jessie Stricchiola". That account made only one other significant edit, which was to link the Jessie Stricchiola article into the first paragraph of "Search Engine Marketing".

Within 15 minutes, Wikipedians marked the article as insufficiently referenced, a probable conflict of interest, and possibly lacking notability. Stricchiola edited the article for the next few days, ignored the warnings, and eventually stopped editing. Other than minor fixes from Wikipedians, the article was basically untouched until September 2009, when user Cantaloupe2 nominated it for deletion discussion.

So as far as I can tell, a search engine marketing person wrote a self-promotional article about herself. Wikipedians immediately warned that the article had a number of issues, all of which she (and everybody else in the world) ignored for nearly 2 years. Somebody eventually noticed; Wikipedians discussed it and decided the article was unsalvageable.

That's what makes this particular discussion strange. Of all the problems Wikipedia does actually have, this isn't one of them: the system worked ok here, in a pretty straightforward way. It also lacks any evidence that the person in question was even interested in contributing to Wikipedia in the first place, except for the sole purpose of inserting a backlink to herself. Those aren't the kinds of contributions Wikipedia is most direly lacking, so when it comes to improving the community, I'd focus effort on not scaring away the people who are actually attempting to contribute things (other than self-promotion).

I did sort of chuckle when I realized this was about an SEO/SEM person, though, as I've run into this kind of angry reaction outside Wikipedia as well. If you run a private wiki/forum/whatever, it's not uncommon to run into people attempting to "organically" contribute links to themselves, who seem to think they're being very clever and incognito when in fact their contributions look spammy from a mile away, and then get extremely indignant and try to raise an internet-stink when you delete their contributions.

Oops! I'm too late to edit, but as is probably obvious from context, I meant to write "the article was basically untouched until September 2011".

His case for the notability of his friend doesn't seem to add anything that hadn't already been considered by the Wikipedians already, and his attitude was monstrously shitty. Especially his reaction to the guy/girl that removed his comments on the page that said not to leave comments on it, saving them on his "user page" with a helpful message about the process to get the debate, which was already over, reopened.

I hate the tone of this. He knows what should be in Wikipedia, and what they should consider notable under their standards, yet feels put upon by having to know what a "talk page" or "deletion review" is, and assaulted by being informed of a talk page being created for him. In turn, he assaults the random person who tried to help him with his goal by saving his work and giving him directions with more than a half dozen paragraphs of angry, condescending tl;dr like he was reading his list of grievances to the King of Wikipedia.

I seem to be dropping like a stone here, so let me go on forever about this:

1. Danny Sullivan hears that his friend Jessie Stricchiola, a pioneer in fighting click fraud, has been deleted from Wikipedia.

2. He somehow gets to a discussion about the deletion of her page on Wikipedia. On it is a debate between 13 people about whether her page should be deleted, and at the top of that page is a detailed explanation by the editor that made the final decision why that decision was made.

3. At the top of this page is an explanation that this page is an archive, and that any comments should be added to the article's "talk page" or a "deletion review". The text for "deletion review" is a link to this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_review which explains Wikipedia's deletion review policies, and offers a pretty clear six step process for having a deletion reviewed.

4. Author rages and instead writes on archive page. Summary: a. Stricchiola was a founding member of SEMPO, the largest trade group of the search marketing industry. b. Stricchiola was the earliest, and the largest stature person in the area of click fraud. c. Co-authored a popular book on click fraud.

5. Some time later, author gets an email from Wikipedia saying his "talk page" had been created and changed. When he clicks through, he is shown what changes were made, and they are a suggestion by one of the participants in the debate on deletion that his comments will not be read on the archive page, and yet another link to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_review which, again, explains Wikipedia's deletion review policies, and offers a pretty clear six step process for having a deletion reviewed.

6. Instead of following this link, he clicks through the link in the email that told him how to get in contact with the person that edited his "talk page."

7. It clicks him through to a page that it then tells him not to touch. That's really annoying, but it immediately gives him the link to the place to talk to him in the same place.

8. He rages at this user about being asked to go through "some arcane cryptic obscure Wikipedia deletion review process," and asks why this user didn't just do it for him. He tells this Wikipedia editor that the decision to delete Stricchiola's article came from "the insane closed little world of Wikipedia editors, where non-specialist editors pretend to be experts on what’s notable[...]", and refers to his general feeling that "contributing anything to Wikipedia is a big giant waste of time[...]"

I don't know much about Wikipedia, and don't care whether Stricchiola is notable or not, or included or not, except in the general sense that I support the mission of Wikipedia and find it useful, and I hope that they at least keep it as useful as it has been, or make it even more useful. I want friction in my crowd-sourced encyclopedia, and know that it is far less friction than would occur in the World Book, where the appeal process would be far more obscure, and far less democratic. The deletion review process seemed pretty clear and quick to me. There was a lot of copying and pasting involved, it would be nice to have a button for that, but I'm not sure that the free form nature of the debate on the deletion page lends itself well to one. I consider this a flaw in the deletion page, not a reason not to simplify the process, but there is something to say in having a bit of friction in a process to reopen a debate that had already been concluded.

The sense of entitlement in this blog entry astounds me. I'm really surprised that so many people sympathize.


edit: I did skip the conclusion. In the end, he does go to the "deletion review" page. Instead of following the six step process (and notably not including a screenshot of that in his blog entry), he decides that it's the wrong page, and instead finds another page with a banner on top that begins: "Please note that this page is NOT for challenging the outcome of deletion discussions[...]"

More righteous condemnation ensues.

I seem to be dropping like a stone here, so let me go on forever about this

You are my new favorite commenter.

Yeah - Both of you got my up. I too like Wikipedia - and its chock a block full of good stuff - so it seems some folk have taken the time to learn the rules and add to collective knowledge contained within.

The Deletion Review process is for pages in the process of being deleted; not for those that have already been deleted.

Perhaps you're dropping like a stone because I explained this in my post.

I don't have a sense of entitlement over Wikipedia. I have a sense of disgust.

1. One person at Wikipedia declares a 7-6 vote to be a "consensus.

2. The same person at Wikipedia, when alerted to a comment with and substantial information that hadn't been cited before does nothing.

3. A second person at Wikipedia, also alerted to the same comment, also does nothing other than leave a message that I should do a Deletion Review

If Wikipedia's goal is to make informed decisions around consensus, it has failed on multiple levels.

From the second paragraph of the deletion review page:

"Deletion review (DRV) considers disputed deletions and disputed decisions made in deletion-related discussions and speedy deletions. This includes appeals to restore deleted pages and appeals to delete pages kept after a prior discussion."

Further down, under the heading "What is this page for?", in a bold box:

"Deletion Review is the process to be used to challenge the outcome of a deletion debate or to review a speedy deletion.

"1. Deletion Review is to be used where someone is unable to resolve the issue in discussion with the administrator (or other editor) in question. This should be attempted first – courteously invite the admin to take a second look. "2. Deletion Review is to be used if the closer interpreted the debate incorrectly, or if the speedy deletion was done outside of the criteria established for such deletions. "3. Deletion Review may also be used if significant new information has come to light since a deletion and the information in the deleted article would be useful to write a new article. "4.[...]"

This seems to describe precisely your situation, except that I don't think that you ever tried #1. Correct me if you think I'm misinterpreting this.

>1. One person at Wikipedia declares a 7-6 vote to be a "consensus."

It's good that you put quotes there, because Wikipedia has their own rules for determining what they call a consensus. As far as I can tell, they have to do with unanswered arguments. I can see why, because I'd be able to keep my band in high school on Wikipedia by simply calling my friends and knowing that the against side wouldn't be able to find 50 people who gave a shit either way.

>2. The same person at Wikipedia, when alerted to a comment with and substantial information that hadn't been cited before does nothing.

I don't remember what was in your blog entry, but I don't remember you ever getting in contact with "Mkativerata", the person who decided the consensus, just writing on the closed archive page. He/she most probably never saw it, according to the message helpfully left for you by Metropolitan90.

3. A second person at Wikipedia, also alerted to the same comment, also does nothing other than leave a message that I should do a Deletion Review.

The "second person", who noticed the comment, does nothing but leave a friendly message that told you that your other message would likely not be read, and referred you to the same link that was at the top of the archive page that you edited.

Sounds like nothing but kindness coming from Wikipedia's side, and success at keeping to the standards that they intend to keep to. The only failure I see here is the failure of a person who believes that they have a strong case for the inclusion of an entry in Wikipedia to ever make that case to anyone, through an angry refusal to follow simple directions or to show any respect to people he certainly demands a lot of respect from.

Also, let me apoligize for replying to this again, because you've certainly gotten enough shit for a few misunderstandings during what was obviously a frustrating process for you. I just feel that when somebody completely fails in every way to follow directions, to the point where I feel that you still haven't read them even to answer criticism, and condemns Wikipedia with a broad brush in an article with a linkbait title, I should do my bit to keep that meme from flourishing.

I'm with you in this one! I heard the rage and entitlement too! The author is out of line. Instead of talking about this constructively he posts a temper tantrum and everyone sides with him. I got downvoteed to hell too with my initial reaction. I do admit though I was very sarcastic and snarky but I think it warranted it. I mean, this post really did come off as the equivalent of a digital temper tantrum. How do you respond to someone who behaves like? Surely with the way that post is written and the points you make you cannot take him seriously anymore.

I don't understand why you are getting down-voted for your comment. This is exactly what happens. I've been in on more than 30 or 40 so AfD discussions. There is usually a deep debate of it.

In the end it's not about votes either. We leave long explanations as our points for or against. We weigh the arguments. It prevents the "+1 me too! I agree!" responses from adding to it so consensus by vote doesn't always matter.

The actual results were 7:6. On what planet is that "consensus"?

Oh wait, another WikiMagicThing is that only some votes count and some votes count more than others and what votes count is completely up to the arbitrary decision of someone who has no accountability for their decisions. Right.

Consensus cannot be found in votes alone. Don't over simplify things.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Consensus

and: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:!VOTE#Straw_poll_guid...

If you see the world in black and white, you're missing important grey matter. ~Jack Fyock

AfD closure isn't a vote. It's a discussion. The closer resolved on the merits of the arguments. And they are of course accountable; people who do a bad job closing can end up taking a ton of heat. But they're accountable to the Wikipedia community, not to the general public.

Wikipedia editors can claim all day long it isn't a vote, but the sailent point of the AfD "Discussion" is a bolded "Keep" or "Delete" right at the beginning of each response. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, ...

The most obvious thing is not always the most obvious thing. And the distinguishing characteristic of a vote isn't that people express opinions; it's how the opinions are counted.

Go read a number of closings of tricky AfDs and you'll soon see that it's the arguments that really matter.

First of all, the author is wrong. Someone saying "Hey, I know that person, they're an expert on X," does not mean they belong in an encyclopedia. Furthermore, a sizeable group of people already had a discussion on whether the person meets Wikipedia's standards and decided that they do not.

Now, the author feels entitled to barge in without learning anything about how Wikipedia actually works, and complain that it's too hard to find the right place to go and complain. The author even managed to complain when someone helpfully pointed out that he went to the wrong place to revise a pointless and already settled argument.

Seriously, this is a Wikipedia success story. If this person had been allowed to just barge in and trample Wikipedia's policies on who is notable, despite having zero knowledge of how Wikipedia works, that would have been a Wikipedia failure.

If the author had just been willing to spend half an hour learning about Wikipedia's policies instead of bitching on a blog, and figured out how to revive an already-settled issue, he could have successfully managed to waste people's time on this. But no. "I demand to be listened to NOW, and if I'm not, Wikipedia is Closed and Unfriendly."

I spent a half-hour just trying to find the right form to merely request that the page be reviewed for restoration. That form, as I explained in detail, doesn't actually work.

There is no form for pages that have been deleted. There is a page only (as best I can tell) for pages that are under consideration for being deleted. Once they are gone, they're gone -- unless they were removed for the ill-defined uncontroversial reasons.

Yes, I think that Wikipedia would welcome having subject expert barge right in when editors who are not subject experts are having a debate and looking for expert advice. I think they'd welcome that very much.

If you actually read the debate on the page I've written about, you'll see the editors don't understand the space that well, cannot find citations to prove or disprove what they're arguing about and in the end someone declares that the lack of an agreement is a consensus.

When I get alerted to this, and I'm trying to share detailed reference based on both first-hand knowledge as well as third-hand resources to actually help them make a decision, there is simply no easy way to do this, not unless I want to spend hours figuring out the insider mechanism to Wikipedia.

That's simply not how it should work. That is a massive Wikipedia failure, that actual expect on a subject cannot easily contribute.

If Wikipedia is designed only to have experts on Wikipedia contribute, then it will continue to succeed as a successful summary of non-expert guesswork.

I think, however, it is more than reasonable that those who are involved in the system take a hard look at how many barriers they've erected and whether the bureaucratic system that has come up couldn't be made more user friendly.

But hey, the next time you register a car at the DMV, and you've got to go from one window to the next, maybe you'll think no, it's your fault for being upset -- that's just the way the DMV works, and you're to blame for not having studied the bureaucracy better.

The way you want Wikipedia to work is exactly the problem Wikipedia does have: people write vanity/promo articles about themselves, and then get their friends to barge in and claim "subject matter expertise" to rebut the people doing Lexis/Nexis and University library periodical searches to verify that people are non-notable.

This happened all the time in my domain of expertise (information security), and it was exasperating trying to beat it back. Some jackass would write an article about himself and then tie up AfD for weeks claiming that the trade press quotes he got constituted reliable source coverage of his notability, while his friends and coworkers would jump on saying "I've worked in this field for 7 years and I can tell you that everyone in information security knows this guy is one of the most important" zzzzzzz Strong delete speedy delete delete with fire.

Whatever trouble you feel like you had with Wikipedia's interface: your friend got a very fair shake in the AfD debate. She wrote a non-notable book, and was quoted in passing in a couple articles, and that's basically it. People took real time out of their day to verify the pretty-obvious fact that your friend doesn't need to be in the encyclopedia. Stop being angry about that.


One of the things novices eternally miss about Wikipedia is that is might be their first time posting/supporting an article, but it is the eleven billionth time Wikipedia has has to deal with somebody like them.

When I got spam in in 1995? I would call spammers on the phone and politely talk them out of spamming. Now? I would happily nuke them from orbit. Most HN readers would.

One of the things on Wikipedia that wore me out is people approaching things like Jessie Stricchiola and Danny Sullivan did. I am sure they are decent people generally, and from their perspective I'm sure their self-promotion and drama spewing seems entirely reasonable. But man, when you're just a volunteer trying to help make something cool, stuff like this makes it get real old, real fast.

I'd be curious to know if this resistance to input from "subject matter experts" is the same for, say, notable physicists or notable cardiac surgeons? It wouldn't surprise me at all to find that because the subject matter in question is "SEO" that there are a lot of prejudices and suspicion of ulterior motives from the wikipedia end. In one sense, I'm of the opinion that if you're promoting yourself as "an SEO expert" your contributions to wikipedia should be treated with significant additional scrutiny due to the possibility of conflict of interest.

I don't know that this is specifically resistance to contribution by subject matter experts. I think Wikipedia is more precisely indifferent to their subject matter expertise when it comes to considering direct contributions. If Danny Sullivan wants to edit Wikipedia, he's welcome to, but nobody's going to treat him with more deference than any other editor.

What they do make great use of is indirect contributions. If a physicist or a cardiac surgeon writes and publishes a paper on the topic of their expertise, that is fantastic raw material for Wikipedia. Which is precisely the relationship that most subject matter experts have with any other encyclopedia, so it seems reasonable to me.

You didn't even read your original email from Wikipedia, but yet you feel that the people who work on the site should obey your whims despite your inability to be in any way polite.

This is not a Wikipedia failure, the failure is on your behalf. You can easily contribute and in fact someone was nice enough to help you in the right direction.

Your response to this person was to arrogantly insult them and complain that they did not do more to help you.

Once again, the failure here is not Wikipedias.

You spent half an hour and never did submit it for review.


There are no active discussions on this topic at all. This page took me 5 seconds to find with Google. I also found it on the link they sent you 3 times.

"There is a page only (as best I can tell) for pages that are under consideration for being deleted."

No, the Deletion Review page is for requesting that the debate about a deleted page get re-opened, that is, it's exactly the page you want. This seems pretty clear to me from the text on the page (especially the second paragraph), but if this wasn't clear to you I guess evidently the page could be worded better.

You missed the part where the author provided several citations of publications mentioning the unnotable person and books published by the said person. He also goes on to state, if the goal of Wikipedia is to encourage subject matter experts to contribute expertise it's not making it particularly easy to do so.

Wikipedia policies exist to facilitate user contributions, not the other way around. Wikipedia itself says as much: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Ignore_all_rules

This is not about entitlement. This is about Wikipedia raising ridiculous bureaucratic barriers to people making good faith contributions of knowledge. In so doing, it undermines its basic mission.

You missed the AfD discussion, trivially easy to find for that article but helpfully provided upthread for you, where a Wikipedia admin considered each of those sources and took them to pieces --- those citations were superficial quotes attributed to Stricchiola in articles about click fraud, not coverage of Stricchiola herself, and the book appears to be a step away from vanity publishing.

Yes, I did miss it. But you'll notice I did not use the word deletionism once in my comment so that's kinda besides the point. The more important issue is that bureaucracy is making Wikipedia unusable for casual users (philwelch also says as much upthread).

I understand you're trying to defend deletionism from the HN horde but I'm not even fighting that fight.

You're really sticking up for the wrong side in this one case. Read downthread at what really happened with Danny Sullivan's experience with Wikipedia. "Unusable for casual users" is certainly not a fair summary of what happened here --- even if you were going to start with the premise that overriding community votes was something that should be in the bailiwick of "casual users".

It's not bureaucratic as much you think. There is a system that is very easy to follow.

1. First they missed the delete review that normally waits about 7 days before taking action. 2. Upon discovering that their page was deleted found the archive delete review discussion. 3. Didn't understand what they were looking at and with disregard to the notes posted at the top saying that it's archive and not to edit it, edited it anyways. 4. A bot was triggered to an admin that someone edited a locked discussion and so he happily went to go help and left a message for the user on how to handle things and where to find delete review. 5. The user wanted to send a message to the editor and got confused at another point (the editor's talk page vs their user page). 6. etc etc etc...

It's sad the user is frustrated but lets stop the blame game here. I've been doing vandal patrol on wikipedia for 5 years. It's not some evil hive mind of control or something.

So WP let him do a bunch of things he wouldn't have been able to do if it had a decent interface and/or couldn't find things buried under a pile of acronyms and bureaucratic opaqueness and that's supposed to be your evidence that it's not a broken process?

No. He clearly over and over ignored the information infront of him and proceded to do what he wanted. Then he complained about it.

re. 3, he was given instructions: don't change this, follow that process instead. Is the process is incorrect, how do you proceed?

re. 3,5 - there's a lot of confusion here, coming from an experienced web user. If he can't figure out what's going on, is it a user problem, or instructions issue?

It's an archived discussion under Articles for Deletion (AfD).

At the top of the page is a bread crumb back to the deletion process. (Someone should probably update the template for the archive notice to have a link maybe for those that stumble on to it).

He pointed out exactly why he posted in a "wrong" place and presented how frustrating it is to get to the right information. He's saying that the process is broken and you're saying he did nor follow the process... I think your response doesn't make much sense.

He did quite a lot (i.e. Tried to follow instructions) but was effectively sent to /dev/null. Regardless of whether the original article should be restored or not, I think this points out some interesting facts about how wikipedia works.

> If the author had just been willing to | <snip>

Many many many people have had these types of problems with Wikipedia. This isn't an "everybody else" problem, this is a Wikipedia problem. Wikipedia is a success, but it does have serious flaws in the bureaucracies of how it deals with contributors and new content.

> If this person had been allowed to just barge in and trample Wikipedia's policies on who is notable, despite having zero knowledge of how Wikipedia works, that would have been a Wikipedia failure.

Ok, I'll bite. Why would Wikipedia have failed?

Wikipedia policy is that articles must meet certain criteria, of which "notability" is only one. Were there verifiable sources? Was the article promotional? Was there original research in the article?

Wikipedia has guidelines to ensure that the facts cited in articles are verifiable and accurate. These guidelines are overstrict by design. It's better to have some true information deleted than it is to allow false or promotional material into the encyclopedia.

You don't cry when your patch gets rejected for failing unit tests. Likewise, you shouldn't cry when your article gets deleted for violating Wikipedia guidelines. If you do have verifiable sources and a version of the article that is factual, then it shouldn't be difficult to recreate the article in a manner that allows it to avoid deletion.

HN is full of people who pride themselves on caring about UX, right?

Here's (effectively) a first-time user trying to make sense of the process of Wikipedia--this should be a great time for introspection about how to make it more usable (especially when pestering the users for money!).

So--perhaps--it might be worth it to do something other than dismiss his complaint?

>Now, the author feels entitled to barge in without learning anything about how Wikipedia actually works

that's kind of the point. the author tried to figure out how wikipedia works. they couldn't figure anything out because, as far as i can tell, all wikipedia documentation is designed to scare away anybody who isn't already an established wikipedia editor.

He doesn't even bother to read the original email correctly before going on a rant, he clicks the link that shows him the differences, then acts surprised when he gets a comparison page!

Not to mention that his attitude in the Talk page was reprehensible, I am glad he was not able to contribute to Wikipedia as the last thing it needs is more egotism and arrogance.

Interesting. You point all the bad things the author did in regard to wikipedia's process, which I suppose is fair. But at the same time, you don't really make a compelling argument that the person in question doesn't belong in wikipedia.

Should I take this to mean that the merits of the article in question are secondary to Wikipedia's processes?

I will take your comment as your ability to ignore all the comments showing how the article was correctly deleted.

You might also take it as my inability to see comments that didn't yet exist.

>If the author had just been willing to spend half an hour learning about Wikipedia's policies instead of bitching...

Half an hour? You cannot be serious?

Yes. In the Internet of old it was called lurking. You have to understand the community of people and their practices. It used to be considered good netiquette to spend a few days or weeks lurking in a forum before contributing.

Then the user experience designers came along and said that anything that requires more than a modicum of brainpower was a "bad user experience". And everyone bends over and listens to them rather than considering the point that actually requiring people to learn the culture they are going into is a good thing.

I hate to have to point this out but we nerds no longer have the internet to ourselves, they let the rest of the world in and for good or bad, not everyone knows the rules; that's not their problem, that's Wikipedias unless we want the community to wither and die.

Wikipedia's supposed to be open to all and there's nothing that says an expert (in some obscure field we have no knowledge of) is also going to have the same understanding and experience of online communities as us.

It's nothing to do with UI/UX bias and more to do with looking at the processes we currently have from the perspective of someone who isn't us and doesn't have the same knowledge/understanding we do.

Wikipedia at the moment presents it's self as one thing 'an encyclopedia anyone can edit' but attempting to do so can be a daunting and labyrinthine process that does put people off. We're not practicing what we preach.

TL;DR - Go easier on the N00Bs and build a better FAQ.

"It takes half an hour to challenge the community decisions of the website than in 10 years will simply be referred to as the encyclopedia? You can't be serious!"

You sound like the guy Louis CK talks about, complaining about how slow his smartphone is. "Give it a second!", one wants to respond, "It's going to space!"

Yes, he's serious.

By this point, Wikipedians have collectively spent hours on the specific article Sullivan's in an uproar about. Many of the volunteers he's addressing have spent years getting good at what they do. And they've collectively spent decades of effort figuring out how best to decide which articles are worth keeping and which aren't. And then documenting that in a fair bit of detail.

If Sullivan wants to tell Wikipedians they're all stupid and wrong, the least he could do is spend enough time to understand whether he has something approaching a point.

I agree. The wikipedia people seem petty and bureaucratic at times, but their hearts are usually in the right place.

My coworkers all got together a few years ago to create a gag article about another coworker as a practical joke. We built a web of subtle edits to associate our friend with some German rock band, a type of haircut, and a bunch of other things.

We eventually got our article up, and there it sat for about a month. Some wikipedia person figured it out, though, and unraveled the whole network of references in a few hours.

The author is saying, among other things, that the editors who decided that the person was not notable did not have the domain-specific knowledge needed to enable them to do the research to make that determination.

Editors are specifically expected not to do that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:No_original_research

Wikipedia does not want to be a primary source. That's what Sullivan seems to have overlooked about why subject matter experts' opinions are not eagerly included—they haven't yet been vetted by any third party. Notability is defended by bringing citations, not complaints.

Finding citations is exactly the kind of research I was referring to. Original research is not at all the same thing.

The author is wrong. If he were right, the point would be irrelevant.

One of the users who ended up recommending deletion, DGG, is a professional librarian who makes a habit of rescuing biographies from the rubbish bin. The domain here isn't search engine marketing: it's biographies. Plenty of Wikipedians understand that domain, and understand especially well Wikipedia's criteria for inclusion about biographies.

But his point is irrelevant because Wikipedia can't require topic expertise for participation. They have no way of verifying it, and to try ends up with a totally different beast. (For people who have tried the domain-expertise approach, check out Citizendium.) Wikipedia has to be maintainable by non-experts, because that's 99% of the people who want to volunteer significant time to make a free encyclopedia.

You are more right than you know; the purpose of Wikipedia is to provide an arena for exclusionary status games among core contributors, and so allowing outsiders to do anything without learning how to follow tons of red tape (and dozens of assorted acronyms) is indeed a failure.

Providing the sum of all human knowledge, for free, to the entire world, however, might be better served by making Wikipedia's software and editing processes more accessible and usable to others.


The purpose of Wikipedia is to make an encyclopedia.

The mechanism by which that happens can, yes, be seen as a giant MMORPG. That is what happens when you try to make a machine out of half-evolved monkeys. Monkeys like to do monkey things.

Wikipedia is indeed putting a lot of effort into making the software and editing process more accessible and usable to others. Smart and dedicated people have devoted years to that very thing. It's not an easy problem, and Wikipedia is doing it on a shoestring.

Just the latest victim of the deletionist forces. This is the reason I, and many many other people have given up on contributing to Wikipedia altogether.

Jason Scott has a very eloquent description of the problem [1],[2], and Wikipedia's failure in addressing it several years ago; nothing has changed since then, and I doubt it will any time soon, since the Wikipedia administration sees no problem with the status quo. It's sad.

[1] http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/808

[2] http://www.cow.net/transcript.txt

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deletionism_and_inclusionism_in...

The reason is because deletion is one of the single biggest areans for status games.

See, from the outside, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. And there's a community there to write an encyclopedia. Sensible, no?

Actually, the community comes first and the encyclopedia is a side-effect. The community functions very politically, and very much like a game as well. The original intention might have been an encyclopedia with the minimum number of rules necessary to make that successful, but ultimately, the rules and red tape turned into the fun part of the game, and the encyclopedia-writing is just the grinding bit.

If all you wanted was a huge encyclopedia unlimited by the constraints of physical book size, you'd have a deletion policy like this: "each statement of fact has to be cited from a reliable source, every article has to be composed entirely of statements of fact, any other content should be deleted". So if there are no reliably-sourced statements of fact about a given subject, you don't get an article about them. If I started a Wikipedia article about my neighbor's cat and wrote a lot of outrageous claims, they would all be deleted and we'd be left with a blank article, which would probably be deleted as a relatively boring matter of procedure.

But what fun is that, when we can have a concept like "notability"? Ah! Suddenly, instead of all that boring shit about citing facts and removing uncited content, and just keeping whatever reliable information we have about something, we can have a massive PvE game where you get to find articles about subjects you don't care about and declare "this isn't notable!", and then you can lawyer a "consensus" of other players into agreeing with you. Or if another player disagrees, suddenly you have a massive PvP battle! Fun! Well, at least for a certain type of person who enjoys lawyering and gets off on will-to-power stuff that motivates one to try and delete articles from an encyclopedia, which is exactly the type of person that gravitates towards the project. And--believe it or not--these kinds of highly-social games, and one's success in them on Wikipedia, are a major factor in getting elected "administrator", at which point your duties now entail judging these lawyering games and actually deleting the articles!

It's been a long time since I participated in Wikipedia's "community", and I agree that the community is dysfunctional, but I think it's going to be comically hard to justify that the largest and most successful reference project on the Internet --- and possibly in the entire world --- is a "side effect".

I sure hope it isn't a side effect, because if it is, we need more communities like Wikipedia's.

Dude, have you read WP:Notability?


In one sentence:

"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."

Notability isn't really that much of a judgment call.

Also, it doesn't necessarily apply to the creation of new articles. Stub articles are usually not well sourced at all.

The real story of the article is that Wikipedia's interface really does suck. It really is hard to figure out issues like this. It's even hard to monitor pages you want to protect, or have some interest in.

So, while the Wikipedians involved in the deletion process do have some grounds for their actions, it's left to the wiki-insiders to defend Wikipedia. That sucks. Until the day comes when a non-Wikipedian can arrive on the site, figure out what happened in the deletion process in 30 seconds, and then pronounce whether it was good or bad in some informed manner, we won't have an encyclopedia that truly anyone can edit.

But you know as well as anybody that quite often in AfD notability is firmly established and an overzealous WP nerd will just simply ignore it because they feel the need to protect the electrons they believe have come to serve them in their virtual fiefdom.

And to be clear we're not talking about cases of obvious vandalism, there's plenty of cases where perfectly WP conformant edits are made, marked for deletion and then the inevitable shit fight where sources are provided clearly establishing notability are provided only to be tossed aside.

If a reason for ignoring the provided evidence is given it almost always surrounds the following terms in the sentence you quoted:

"significant", "reliable", "independent"

I don't follow AfD closely. I'm a programmer. But I just had a look through the latest AfDs and I have to say there's little I disagreed with.

This one was sponsored by a very prolific Wikipedian, though, who has a particular affection for the rule that one event doesn't make you notable:


Which is totally outrageous. It's tempting to conclude the nominator was just an idiot, or possibly pursuing some conservative agenda. But by Hanlon's Razor, I assume that the nominator was just less aware of this story than others. Maybe it's a good thing that such articles can be challenged. I wish it had been speedy-kept though; it's embarassing to have the deletion templates on the article.

There is unanimous agreement that the article must be kept, so far. So, the system is working. Kind of.

Actually; that is a prime example of where the deletion process is failing - because the only option is "delete or not delete".

That article is a problem; if you read it, it is not a biography, it describes an event. Which, I suspect, is the point the nominator was trying to make.

For a reader, the content is better presented in an article on Women's rights in Egypt (or activism in Egypt) with the title redirected there.

Alternatively there is always Wikinews.

Looking through the list of deletion candidates I saw merging as an alternative to a delete.

Right. Being able to flag anything for deletion, then going through the hassle of defending it puts the onus on not deleting it, not on those who want to delete it, which I think it wrong.

That day will probably never arrive, because the stakes are so high that any simple, trivially navigable process would immediately be gamed.

I refuse to believe that logic. We have to decide if we're the people who believe that information is best dealt with by elites, or whether we are the ones who believe that every single person has something to contribute.

When I put it this way to other Wikipedians it usually shuts them up. ;)

On the one hand, yes, yes, yes. On the other hand....

95% of the effort that goes into Wikipedia may be nothing more than primate status games among insiders, but those games motivate an extremely large number of people, and because so many people do get involved, the actually-useful work is 5% of a very large number. If some change in policy cut the political bullshit in half but drove away two-thirds of the people who, in between PvP battles, improved the quality of the encyclopedia, it would be a net loss.

That's the crazy part! I completely agree with you--it's a massively gamified process and ideally, I'd like to believe that just letting people get to work without too much crap in their way would produce good results just as well as the status quo does, but maybe that's too idealistic and this is just how you make the sausage.

Still, there are some useful usability critiques to be made. Even an ugly sausage-making process should let you ramp up into it at the very least, and at the most, should have useful methods of collecting and processing input from novice users rather than rejecting it unseen or outright discouraging it in the first place.


It doesn't work like that.

I spent years in that particular sausage factory. They even let me work some of the levers not everyone gets to work. My time there didn't work out well in the long run. Sorry, but it's pretty ugly and political in there.

That eloquently summarizes of my take on Wikipedia, and the reason I stopped participating several years ago.

With your figures, assuming 100k edits being created.

Cut the "bullshit" by half leads to 47.5k useful edits (95%/2; or at least ones without bullshit) plus your original 5k leads to 52.5k useful edits. Except we've only a third of the people - assuming equal distribution of edits - so 17.5k of edits are now useful. More than a 3 fold increase in useful edits in the same amount of time.

So in fact if you change the system to put off a lot of people in your hypothetical manner you can improve the useful edits.

This is akin to pricing out "toxic" customers. Or having complex methods that filter out the more intellectual as those with most power (arguably the problem being ascribed to Wikipedia in the article).

Assumptions here make the figures entirely unrealistic but I think the general thrust is nonetheless sound?

What are PvE and PvP?

Interestingly, I recognized the handle DGG from the article partially because he is a notable inclusionist.

Everyone is a deletionist about some things. Now, watch people try to delete my post by downvoting it.

Ha! You were right! You totally got downvoteed. I tried to help you with an up vote.

It's probably true that Wikipedia is a big game of politics but that's just a side effect of community involvement. It may suck sometimes but what other way is more democratic? Do we give one person the ability to be the Decider or do we put up with a lot of ego games? I go for ego. At least in that scenario there can be some people to challenge decisions.

There's a lot of Wikipedia I think should be more transparent or more approachable. But deletion discussions aren't really one of them.

Deciding what really fits in an encyclopedia isn't simple. Wikipedia has spent literally a decade working out a set of rules that balances utility, fairness, quality, and maintainability. Those rules will inevitably seem bureaucratic and opaque to people who haven't worked on a number of articles and then really considered the problem.

Deletion discussions are perennial magnets for non-participants who believe that they or their (friend|band|ancestor|website) belong in Wikipedia. They are inevitably upset. Worse, in Pauli's phrase, they aren't even wrong: they start with the premise the article should be kept and then say whatever they think will let them win.

In this case, the bloggy ranter doesn't get basic Wikipedia fundamentals. E.g. that Wikipedia isn't about what's true, it's about what's verifiable[1]. Suppose he thinks that his pal is the most important person ever. He might be right, but what matters is what can be proven from reliable sources[2].

Making deletion review more approachable to the personally outraged would certainly increase the number of reviews, but it wouldn't materially change the number of articles kept. What it would do is waste a lot of valuable editor and admin time.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:V [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:RS

You have deliberately ignored the most contentious part of the Wikipedia policy regarding articles, which is the "Notability" rule. Why an Internet-based encyclopedia with no editors, printed version, or quality control feels the need to limit articles to "notable subjects" is beyond me - it isn't like we're going to run out of electrons any time soon.

In this particular case, it was quite clear this person existed and that she worked in SEM. There were plenty of sources to back that up. That should be the relevant criterion for whether an article can exist in an Internet-based encyclopedia. There was no reason to delete this article other than "Ha ha, I know the rules of this bizarre system and will throw W:PDQXYZ links at you until you go away".

I addressed the thing you accuse me of deliberately ignoring in my second paragraph.

The resource constraint on Wikipedia isn't electrons; it's the time and attention of conscientious editors. Which yes, Wikipedia has. They also serve as its quality control.

Between phone books and public records, there is evidence that most of the people and all of the buildings (and plots of land) in the US exist. Would Wikipedia be better if they all had articles? How about every garage band, after-school club, casual sodality, and beloved pet?

I say no. And because of something else that people forever bitch about when it comes to Wikipedia: article quality. Unless there's enough material to make a decent article, I think deletion is the appropriate response. If somebody would like a page on the Internet where they self-document their awesomeness, they can make one on their own site.

Notability is a bit of a misnomer. It's really a way to gauge one extremely important factor: Is it possible to verify the content of this article as correct?

Let's look at the general notability guideline (WP:GNG):

> 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.

That's it. Simple. Wikipedia wants sources to back up whatever's in the article, it wants significant coverage so it can actually write a decent article using this information, and it wants them to be independent to avoid bias in the source material.

Why it ended up being called "Notability", I don't know. It probably should be renamed - but anything that's sufficiently notable tends to fit this general notability criterion, and vice versa, so I guess it's a decent proxy for notability as well.

Why hasn't anyone taken wikipedia's content and put in it another mediawiki setup run without a deletionist policy?

It is frequently proposed (e.g, this from 2008: http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/wackypedia-wikipedia-for...) but I don't know of any that are even mildly successful. There are plenty of mirrors and forks, though. Naturally, Wikipedia has a list of them:


Not quite what you are looking for, but interesting resources nonetheless:



See also the Semantic Web/Linked Data resource DBPedia (which tends to have poor uptime, so I am linking the DBPedialite here):


Just because they've spent "literally a decade" working out their inclusion rules, doesn't mean they ended up at the right spot. Nokia spent "literally a decade" working on smart phones but where did they end up?

That's true, but a different problem. Nokia may have been wrong, but somebody wandering in into a manufacturing plant and shouting "your smartphones suck" wouldn't have changed the discussion.

Granted, I don't expect that wikipedia will change.

"Here is what to do if you want to get a lift from a Vogon: forget it. They are one of the most unpleasant races in the Galaxy. Not actually evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn't even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters."

-The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Flagged for removal. Notability?

You can tell someone hasn't spent much time at AfD, the section of Wikipedia where people (anyone in the world, really) discuss whether articles should be deleted, by the outrage they express at the "arbitrariness" of Wikipedia's notability rules. Have you spent any time at AfD? Let me help you out: here's the AfD log for the week they killed "Jessie_Stricchiola":


Deletions include:

* The "vice editor in chief" of a Japanese anime magazine

* A list of episodes for a TV show that never aired

* Articles about a no-name iPhone game, and also a no-name video editing tool, presumably both written by the authors of the programs

* A promo for a not-yet-released book

* An article about "Rickstar", a musical artist who had apparently self-released one song

* A strategy guide for The Sims 3

* A bio of a junior league hockey player (albeit one with an awesome name)

* An article about a youth football team

... and it just keeps going on like that.

This particular article was motivated by the deletion of "Jessie_Stricchiola". Let's look at her AfD:


Where we learn:

* This is an article about an SEO consultant.

* It contained a promotional link to the SEO consultant's book.

* That SEO consultant had been quoted in a number of stories, but never written about in any of those stories; the only reliable information to be gleaned from any source about her was "once gave a quote about click fraud to a trade press journalist" (or in one case a reporter at WaPo).

It took two weeks for Wikipedia to determine that this article should be deleted. During that entire time, her article stood with a very prominent notice saying it was going to be deleted, with a prominent link allowing people to argue in favor of keeping or, better yet, locate a real reliable source backing up any claim to her notability. Two weeks. Read the AfD. Read DGG's exegesis of the sources cited in this article --- the guy found out how many libraries carried her book.

Now, think about this: Jessie's article wasn't a marquee deletion event. Nobody gave a shit. It was just one of many pages up for AfD that week, alongside the founder of a political party nobody has ever heard of and 3 members of non-professional football clubs. In every one of those retarded articles, someone had to marshall real arguments, chase down real sources, and in many cases defend those arguments against both bona fide Wikipedia contributors and also sockpuppets of the subjects of the article. Every time.

Anyone who can snark that Wikipedia is a knee-jerk or arbitrary culture is betraying a deep ignorance of how the most successful Internet reference project in the history of the Internet actually works.

Something I don't get about people on HN and their attitude towards Wikipedia. None of you, not a one, expects Linus Torvalds to accept arbitrary contributions to the Linux kernel simply because that code could be disabled by default and wasn't going to bother anyone (unlike a bogus Wikipedia article, which taints the encyclopedia and also Google search results). People with experimental or long-shot Linux contributions (at least, people besides ESR) tend to set up Github pages instead of writing long-winded rants about the "deletionism" rampant in the world's most successful open source project. But Wikipedia kills an article about an SEO consultant, and you're up in arms.

Mostly, this comment I'm writing is just bitching. So, to repay you the kindness of reading my own windbag rant, I offer you this gift: THE VERY FEW SIMPLE RULES OF THUMB YOU WILL EVER NEED TO AVOID FRUSTRATION OVER THE "Deletionism" OF WIKIPEDIA:



They should just put those two rules on the edit box on the site, I agree; would make everyone's life easier.

The two rules you've outline are the primary reason i contribute very little to wikipedia.

I can put together a well-sourced piece outlining the importance of a variety of subjects which i am indirectly involved in, and give a dispassionate description of its relevance to the community it serves and the world at large.

Wikipedians, instead of saying "do that and have neutral 3rd parties check over your work", instead say "we do not value your contribution, and will delete your work".

As such, wikipedia isn't a place where knowledgeable people can contribute matters of expertise. And that really freaking annoys me.

Concrete example: The Knight Foundation's wikipedia page is incredibly sparse, and contains little or no information about the efforts they fund, or the substance of the work they do. This is unfortunate, because the foundation has been around for decades, is an integral piece of newspaper and journalism history, and currently funds a massive amount of the innovation taking place in journalism, including the project i work on, DocumentCloud (which the Knight Foundation entirely funded).

But, by the rules of Wikipedia, i shouldn't contribute to the subject. Meanwhile, there are plenty of startups and essentially irrelevant companies that already disregard the rules and write their own freaking wikipedia pages anyway. That's ultimately the real problem. Wikipedia is so capricious in the enforcement of the rules, and there's so little stopping people from breaking the rules, that deletions do seem arbitrarily and inconsistently enforced. I'm entirely unsurprised that there are so many cries of "injustice!" so often.

Even though there are cases where it works, I think those two rules are good heuristics that are fairly predictive of article quality/bias. Most articles written by academics and businessmen on themselves, their own research projects, or their companies are just not good articles. On the other hand, articles written by someone on an area they know about but not directly their work tend to be much better.

Part of it is intent, I think. I mostly talk to academics about it, and of those who don't regularly edit Wikipedia, some, when they hear that I edit Wikipedia, do want to learn how to use it to promote their work, or a research agenda they're closely involved in. If you come at it with that mindset, it's less likely that a neutral article will result. On the other hand, if you think of an area you know a lot about but is not directly tied to your work---i.e. is not the work of yourself, your supervisor, your specific sub-sub-field, or university---then it's much more likely that you might write a not-self-interested article genuinely intended to neutrally inform people.

That shouldn't be hard for most people to do. For example, there are such wide swaths of theoretical CS not yet covered well that, if your area is theoretical CS, there's no need to start with your own research or your advisor's research or the particular corner of the world in which you're personally involved in acrimonious within-field debates. Better to start with some important foundational work that you're closely familiar with but don't have strong personal investment in promoting. When I tell that to people, many lose interest, because to them, the self-promotion was why they were interested in the first place, while writing good articles about Theoretical Computing 101 (or 201) is just work. In which case, they may not have been coming with the right intentions...

Thanks for this comment... many thanks.

Wikipedia's conflict of interest rules are slightly more nuanced than "no contributions", thankfully: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Conflict_of_interest - the important part is "Editors with COIs who wish to edit responsibly are strongly encouraged to follow Wikipedia policies and best practices scrupulously. They are also encouraged to disclose their interest."

Wikipedia also encourages editors with COIs to write on the Talk pages for relevant articles to provide corrections, suggestions, additions, etc. Ideally your article has someone paying attention to it who would be interested in checking and integrating your contributions.

(It actually looks like one of the main editors of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_S._and_James_L._Knight_Fou... works for the Knight Foundation, disclosed on his user page - and his contributions look reasonable except that he didn't add sources.)

I'm a longtime editor in general and I now also fix articles related to my work, very carefully, and I'd be sad if I couldn't. I agree that Wikipedia has problems with inconsistent enforcement of rules though. Some of that comes from the relatively innocent problem of "too many articles, not enough editors" but some of it is caused by editors being grumpy and/or interpreting rules unreasonably, and that definitely discourages other people from wanting to participate.

Thanks, i appreciate the clarification. I would add though, that finding that nuance requires a good deal of digging, and things like the article creator make no mention of any nuance. That may simply be the consequence of tools made by a variety of people, but nuance gets easily lost in the face of more stark strident language.

That's not actually a rule of Wikipedia. You absolutely can contribute to Knight Foundation articles. However, because most people who contribute to articles on subjects they have a vested interested in are not good faith contributors, you may find yourself dealing with more friction than you'd like.

Don't oversimplify, though. This isn't a simple problem, and we have no right to expect it to be. There isn't a Wikipedia rule preventing you from writing about your company or the organization that funded it.

The myth of wikipedia is that the people who run it are the people who are most responsible for creating its content. That is not the case and the ongoing friction between the community that effectively is wikipedia and the community that actually runs wikipedia is the single most likely cause for any future downfall of it.

This is backwards. I'm not an admin on wikipedia (but I do have admin revert and reviewer flags) but I do help "run" wikipedia only because I participate in it.

I been vandal patroller for years. I follow the AfDs and other actions and contribute to actions in different wikiprojects. I can say for a fact that there is no clear line between any of the two camps.

Admins don't have the time to push agendas. They are way to busy with chores as a whole to really get into silly battles like that.

It's not about agendas or conspiracies, it's about a disconnect between the people who make the big decisions and the people who are building wikipedia. Different perceptions and motivations can lead quite easily to people making decisions that are deleterious to the community and the wikipedia project, even if at every step they are acting in what they perceive to be good faith.

What I'm saying is that there is no real line that you speak of. It doesn't exist. If you use wikipedia enough you will realize that.

People rise to being admins by editing wikipedia themselves enough and trying to maintain a few articles at a time after putting a lot into them. They grow into being admins. It's not some special power some people get arbitrarily. Everyone edits and everyone moderates. Just some that have been doing it long it enough have been voted by the community as being of sound mind and good faith to have a few extra privileges to carry out more tasks. If you ever seen a request for admin, it's extremely brutal the level people pick at your every decision. You have a problem with an admin that can't be solved, there is ARBCOM (arbitration). You won't normally see a nomination for anyone that doesn't have a few thousand edits themselves at least.

So no. Your comment makes no sense at all. Everyone helps "make the big decisions". I just joined a vote on changing the image thumbnails across all the pages. I'm not an admin. No body gets special privileges like that.

Everything you are saying is correct, except that: "Different perceptions and motivations can lead quite easily to people making decisions that are deleterious to the community and the wikipedia project, even if at every step they are acting in what they perceive to be good faith." applies equally to those who submit non-notable page, as well as those who over-zealously edit.

You draw a false distinction between: " the people who make the big decisions and the people who are building wikipedia." Both the "people who make the big decisions" and the people who contribute content are "the people who are building wikipedia". They are two complementary, but seldom complimentary parts of the machine.

Last night Copenhagen Suborbitals put up a blog post (http://ing.dk/artikel/124393-mangelfulde-wikipedia-artikler - in Danish) mentioning that there was a lot of factual mistakes in their wikipedia article, and that morally they couldn't support editing the article themselves. They provided examples of the inaccuracies in the blogpost.

It's now up to an independent third-party to edit the wikipedia page to make it correct.

The pge is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen_Suborbitals

I think that's a pretty good way of doing it.

I joined this discussion at 32 comments and the all down-voted comments ones were people with the same sentiment. I really don't understand the anti-wikipedia sentiment hackernews is having in general around this.

I've been through the AfD process 30 to 40 times myself. I normally don't see it because I spend most of my time on vandal patrol where I've contributed code and countless hours to that effort over the last 5 years. Most of my deletes are speedy deletes for vandalism and not notability except where it's clear and someone is trying to make wikipedia their personal homepage. It's a massive multi-gigabyte site and it takes a lot work to maintain it. That's why admin's have an icon of a broom.

I've seen this same type blog post all over the place. Someone burt hurt around an AfD. I've seen full campaigns to try and tarnish Wikipedia as having some kind of secret underground conspiracy against another group. It really doesn't work like that. You see that quickly if you get really involved in the site.

I think you miss the point, which is that the process is insanely opaque, which you note yourself by saying

> if you get really involved in the site

When I meet wikipedia people here in SF, they say, "Get involved!" Then, when I have tried to get involved, I get endless bureaucracy and everything eventually deleted. I've only managed to ever get 1 article on wikipedia (a bio of an expert in behavioral economics / negotiations) and that was after many deletion reviews.

So while I agree that the blog author's actual article under discussion may deserve to be deleted, that's not the point. The point is, it's extremely difficult to participate, and I don't want to need to spend a bunch at Wikipedia reading countless rules trying to figure that out. The process needs to be simplified.

Wikipedia itself great, the creation/editing process is not. To all those who call for more participation in Wikipedia, don't ask me to participate in or like a process that sucks, fix the process first, just as the blog author suggests.

It's really not all that complicated. The only process that really has a lot of discussion is when people have disagreements and are trying to come up with a sane way that allows everyone to get to the best content possible. Only in those situations doesn't anyone ever refer to the guidelines or processes for handling issues between people.

The few exceptions are when we as a community feel there is a gray area left to interpretation because the action is large enough to possibly effect a good number of editors. We hold a discussion in those cases. This happens more often than not around page deletions, page merges, category deletions, category merging, tag merging, cross included template changes that effect a large number of pages, changes in process, and other huge things.

There isn't any extra processes and bureaucracy on wikipedia then there has to be or then the community feels is necessary.

> it's extremely difficult to participate,

I ask honestly: why should it be easy to participate?

> and I don't want to need to spend a bunch at Wikipedia reading countless rules trying to figure that out

You don't want to spend time contributing, you just want readers to accept your contribution? I hope I'm misreading your intent, as it sounds like you feel you're above the vetting process? I've made some modest contributions to OSS, and I've never expected anyone to accept a patch based on the fact that I feel like I'm a competent programmer.

> I ask honestly: why should it be easy to participate?

Because the alternative is massive systemic bias.

This issue has been discussed to death and I won't argue anything here, but the point is that having a thick coat of process encourages a _certain kind_ of editor to participate in Wikipedia. Thus, proponents claim, the largest reference work on the internet is biased, in a very nonobvious way.

This wouldn't be an issue if Wikipedia was some niche forum where "facts" are taken for granted to be opinions. But for (what I suspect is) the majority of people these days, Wikipedia is the de facto source of truth. Therein the problem lies.

The quality of technical articles on Wikipedia are second to none. Time and time again technical references have played out in personal and professional endeavours. They're clear and concise.

You've got to accept that some topics, biographies for example, are inherently subjective and can't be purely objective.

Wikipedia is the most rigorous source of 'truth' available to the masses, and the complaints of bias are about bias which may indeed be present, but are markedly subtle. Where is the source of 'truth' that's anywhere near as objective as the offerings of wikipedia?

>The quality of technical articles on Wikipedia are second to none

Academic articles maybe, other articles, not so much. I run a website / forum in a niche area of animal husbandry, and one part of the site links to useful descriptions / information on different breeds. We've had no choice but to ban links to Wikipedia articles on individual breeds because they are simply factually incorrect, to the extent that even pre-teen site members find them funny and point out errors on our forums. Seriously, we have 10 year olds on our forums linking to Wikipedia articles and making fun of them - they really are that full of nonsense.

... and what happens when you attempt to correct the Wikipedia articles?

Fair enough, but apart from your story all the others I've heard strongly complain about inaccuracy have been about subjective topics.

Still, if it's causing that much trouble in your community, why not fix the articles? Rather than spend time making fun of it, why not spend time fixing it - which is a double-barreled solution: not only do you lose the incorrect links, but people not associated with your group benefit from more correct advice.

"""The quality of technical articles on Wikipedia are second to none. """

You don't really read many quality technical books, do you?

Sorry, I should have said "given the breadth". Even so, the information in wikipedia is regularly (though not always) more concise and palatable than textbooks.

> I ask honestly: why should it be easy to participate?

Perhaps because the tagline of Wikipedia is "The free encyclopedia anyone can edit", not "The free encyclopedia anyone can edit after conducting 20 hours of intense self-study into the arbitrary bureaucracy and 'standards' that let us have a page for every Pokemon and Justine Ezarik's 300-page iPhone bill but not a page for a band that's won 15 local music festivals and produced 3 records"?

Your first example is a little dated; Wikipedia hasn't had one article per Pokemon since around 2007, at the latest, when they were all merged into a handful of lists. Since then, a small number have been spun back out into articles on individual species or evolutionary lines, but only after careful consideration and considerable effort put into finding sources and establishing notability.

Am I the only person who find this comment (perhaps inadvertantly) amusing? "A small number have been spun back out... but only after careful consideration and considerable effort put into finding sources and establishing notability."

"Establishing notability"?

These are Pokemon we're talking about right?

His point absolutely sill stands.

This http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulbasaur can have a page but a local, but very popular band cannot.

A popular band can, if there are good sources for the information. Regardless of what other policy exists, having written a number of band articles, I've found that to be more or less the one de-facto rule: cite thy sources, preferably to sources that seem relatively legit (musicological books or journal articles good; newspapers and magazines ok; the band's own website ok but not as the only source; "personal communication" not so good). Overall I think that makes sense, because it's the only real way of verifying that it's not just fans writing impossible-to-verify opinion or lore. Plus, Wikipedia is supposed to be a tertiary source that compiles secondary sources, which doesn't make any sense if there aren't secondary sources.

Whenever I've written articles about music groups that do have good references, I've never run into problems, even if they're obscure groups. For example, I recently wrote one on a minor 1980s punk band, with citations to the book American Hardcore (a history of 80s hardcore), which I doubt anybody would challenge. I do think there's an awkward gap around subjects that clearly should have secondary sources, but for some reason don't, because music historians and journalists have somehow neglected to write about them, or just haven't done it yet (musicology tends to lag). I can see why people get pissed off in those cases, but I do think it's basically no-win for Wikipedia, because in cases where good sources don't exist, it's not possible to produce an article up to what Wikipedia claims are its standards, a tertiary-literature article solidly referenced to the existing literature; because the problem is with the secondary literature itself being deficient (http://www.kmjn.org/notes/wikipedia_notability_verifiability...).

Nowadays I mostly do my Wikipedia-editing source-first: I find a good source or two about something, and then decide, hey, this is a good basis for a Wikipedia article. So for example, I'll pick up a book on the history of hip-hop, and use it to write articles about hip-hop musicians. Doing it that way, I have a remarkably laid-back, trouble-free Wikipedia-editing experience. It's still theoretically possible to read some policy pages in a way that could cause me problems: there might be some minor band that I've written a well-referenced article on, but is somehow still "too minor" to deserve a Wikipedia article under the Notability policies. But in practice, those objections almost never come up in the case of well-referenced articles; I think Verifiability basically trumps Notability these days, and that the deletionists who argued for a more strongly curated encyclopedia have lost that battle.

I think his point still stands - and this plays into the "systemic bias" point that other posters here have made. The issue here is not that citations are required (they ought to be, otherwise how can we ascertain truthfulness?), but rather it's heavily biased towards certain types of citations.

A poster mentioned elsewhere in this thread that Wikipedia's articles on animal husbandry are laughably incorrect, to the point where children can spot the errors. If someone knowledgeable in the field were to come in and try to correct this nonsense, what exactly would they cite?

Academic journals? Because information on animal husbandry is a frequent subject of academic debate. Newspapers and magazines? Surely a smash hit topic there.

This is why Wikipedia's quality is highly correlated to how well this subject is documented online. Physics, math, and computer science? These articles are top notch - because information is widely available online already, just begging for a Wikipedia editor to cite it.

Anything that isn't common online? Fuggetaboutit. Worse, anything that isn't the regular subject of newspapers and magazines?

Sure, people cite online stuff more, because people are lazy. But I haven't seen any bias against people who do cite books. That's mostly what I cite, since I write articles while I'm working my way through books, citing the book in the process. People seem to actually welcome it, if anything. I've added some information not previously available online that way about some archaeological sites, Greek wines, old AI systems, and a few other things. I've gotten only positive comments from doing that, which makes it extra-weird that people say Wikipedia is so unfriendly to contributors. No bureaucracy or acronyms or anything; just a few paragraphs with a citation to a book or two, click save, done.

Surely there must be books on animal husbandry that can be used to improve the articles? There has to be something, because I don't think Wikipedia should let you just cite "trust me, I know this". As a reader, I don't want to have to trust Wikipedia; I want Wikipedia to point me to somewhere where I can follow it up.

I do agree that there is a huge pile of stuff only covered in books that is under-covered on Wikipedia currently, due to nobody having gone to the library and dug up the information yet. It's got 3.8 million articles in English, but I think is not even halfway "done".

"But I haven't seen any bias against people who do cite books."

If you recall the great programming language AfD wars of recent. The problem was precisely that the editors exhibited an extraordinary bias against two things:

a) references of printed material -- because they didn't have a copy so they couldn't verify it, and/or the proceedings were not perceived to be notable enough on that particular editors radar to be counted

b) references of printed material in another language - as odd as it may seem, people who communicate in other languages do have something to say and produce material that can be referenced. But because the editor couldn't read that language, it was dismissed.

I'd believe what you posted, the trouble free utopian life of a contributor, maybe 5 years ago when one could actually contribute to WP without having all their changes reverted followed by snide comments from capricious editors. But the reality is that there are very large numbers of people who won't even be bothered contributing anymore (and you can see a fraction of a percent represented in the comments here) because the experience of doing so was shamefully poor.

If anything, I've found the experience has gotten better over the past few years, in that "notability" has been almost entirely trumped by "verifiability". These days, if I write an article with a few solid sources, I don't get hassled at all. I just wrote something a few days ago on an Ottoman-era castle in Greece, citing an offline (and not even very easy to get) book, and nobody hassled me.

I mean, you don't have to believe it, but I would guess that if you pick up a solid book, and write some well-referenced articles based on it, you aren't going to have problems either.

"If someone knowledgeable in the field were to come in and try to correct this nonsense, what exactly would they cite? Academic journals? Because information on animal husbandry is a frequent subject of academic debate. Newspapers and magazines? Surely a smash hit topic there."

I don't get your point. Of course there are academic journals on animal husbandry, as well as trade magazines and textbooks. Why would their be any difficulty finding material to cite on animal husbandry?

I checked up on it too. The more notable Pokemon (like Bulbasaur) still have a page to themselves, just like most major characters in popular TV shows[1][2][3]. Minor Pokemon are indeed collected into lists[4], just like the GP said.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kutner_%28House%29

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Hiatt

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonas_Quinn

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Pok%C3%A9mon_%2852%E2%8...

Bulbasaur has 40 references.

Your attitude speaks to exactly what is wrong with Wikipedia. You seem to think it should be difficult to participate, such that only the elite who have busted their chops should be able to do so. If you wish to end up with a dead community (which is exactly what is happening, the number contributors is stabilizing not growing), then fine, but if you wish to actually expand the wealth of human knowledge available there, then you're going to have to drop the holier-than-thou attitude.

It should be easy to participate because that is what is being asked for, it is after all "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit."

However, I am being asked to contribute, and asked to encourage others to contribute, such as noted here: http://www.marketplace.org/topics/tech/wikipedia-loses-contr... Or more directly, read the statements from Jimmy Wales here http://www.firstpost.com/tech/wikipedia-in-india-we-needs-mo... where he says Wikipedia's interface needs to be simplified and asks for more regional language contributors. I've tried to turn on Indian friends/co-workers to editing Wikipedia, but they found it extremely daunting.

This is in sharp contrast to open source projects I've contributed to, such as Drupal, which I'll note I have quite a few contributions there, so I'm certainly no stranger to putting in a lot of work to participate in something.

The difference with Drupal is that there are very clearly defined rules for how to participate, clear instructions for how to do so, and new contributors are helped along in the process to get their code right, rather than being told their contribution is worthless, which is the attitude I get anytime I try to contribute something on Wikipedia. And that's not to say there isn't attitude in the Drupal community, there still is, but at least there one can still contribute despite it, whereas at Wikipedia, it just becomes a lost cause.

The difference with Drupal is that there are very clearly defined rules for how to participate, clear instructions for how to do so, and new contributors are helped along in the process to get their code right, rather than being told their contribution is worthless, which is the attitude I get anytime I try to contribute something on Wikipedia.

But there are also clearly defined rules for how to participate in Wikipedia, which you just disregarded as rules made "such that only the elite who have busted their chops should be able to [contribute]". You see, if you write an article without any sources or references, badly formated, without interlinks etc, it's really of no help to us -- getting it into shape (i.e. formatting, finding sources) will take more time than rewriting it from scratch. We can create crappy articles about not notable subjects ourselves, thank you. Do you also think that Linus Torvalds is wrong with rejecting patchs which do not meet guidelines? Do you think it's unfair to make people read and care about Linux guidelines? Do you think it will make Linux a dead community?

Interesting use of the words ‘us’ / ‘we’ here: ‘We can create crappy articles about not notable subjects ourselves, thank you.’ Who are the ‘we’ you speak of? It seems you speak of the group of people that is already used to writing wikipedia articles, and you are in this way enforcing a divide between them and potential contributors. Shouldn’t the ‘we’ who wrote Wikipedia be all of us? Should that not be the starting point?

I used to contribute quite a lot to Wikipedia in the past (I stopped because of lack of time), and I identify with Wikipedia community, that's why I used "we".

It seems you speak of the group of people that is already used to writing wikipedia articles, and you are in this way enforcing a divide between them and potential contributors. Shouldn’t the ‘we’ who wrote Wikipedia be all of us?

Of course it should -- we are very happy to accept contribution. The only thing we ask for from contributors is to make some effort and spend hour or a half on reading Wikipedia rules, otherwise their contribution becomes a burden on us -- because people who don't care enough to read and follow the rules are not likely to stay longer, it's enough for them to create their promotional article and leave us with maintaining it.

A poor article ("stub") that needs a complete rewrite can be better than no article. The reason is that a poor article encourages a rewrite. An article that doesn't exist will probably remain non-existent.

>You seem to think it should be difficult to participate, such that only the elite who have busted their chops should be able to do so. //

Wherein "the elite" is anyone with internet access to Wikipedia and "busted their chops" means spent a few hours on Wikipedia reading how the editing and review processes work.

> I ask honestly: why should it be easy to participate?

I agree with you, though I've also experienced the encouragement to participate as nowarninglabel has:

>> When I meet wikipedia people here in SF, they say, "Get involved!" Then, when I have tried to get involved, I get endless bureaucracy and everything eventually deleted.

I think this is where the frustration stems. Wikipedia, understandably, wants participation. But it's not just any ole participation. It wants, and needs, _quality_ participation. Unfortunately, quality is a subjective measure; what one assumes is quality is rubbish to another.

I sympathize with the huge task Wikipedia has in trying to police an enormous amount of content, though I think it's entirely understandable that there are many people who are unhappy with how that policing is being done, rightly or wrongly.

"It wants, and needs, _quality_ participation"

I think the word/phrase you are likely looking for is "fanatic dedication".

If knowing the fairly simple rules of the site you are participating in counts as fanatic dedication, I weep for the internet.

Do you feel one has to be fanatically dedicated to HN to know why "reply" links don't always appear right away?

The history of the problem with WP is not that there's a lack of people willing to provide quality participation. Everyone from professional authors to nuclear physicists have been screwed by the bureaucratic psychosis that pervades contributing to WP.

Almost by definition, high quality participants are such because they have spent an inordinate amount of time in their area of expertise. They don't have the time to deal with "the WP way", Even contributing an article to WP is a "big deal" for these kinds of people because of the time it takes to do it.

But because WP invariably turns almost any submission, no matter the quality, into a situation of content defense, quality participants simply don't have the time to:

a) waste defending perfectly good material b) waste learning the ins and outs of WP on how to defend the perfectly good material and manage it through a multi-week AfD process -- possibly several times.

Sure there's lots of junk that ends up submitted to WP, and if you read through the comments here, nobody is really up in arms about that, it's when the actual high quality material (which might represent dozens or hundreds of hours of high quality work) is tossed out because some WP editor has trouble functioning in society and decided that they couldn't handle invaders on their patch of electrons that we end up with the problem you see here.

So no, the only ones who are able to have any sort of impact on WP are the ones who are able to have fanatical dedication to learning the ins and outs of WP and are able to manage an edit through the tortured, arbitrary and capricious bureaucratic processes that define WP today.

That is a lot of words with little evidence.

This discussion resulted from a specific blog post about a specific article. Do you consider the Jessie Stricchiola article to be "actual high quality material"?

What is your proposed alternative process, and how does it help to build a useful, reasonably accurate encyclopedia?

If Wikipedia's process is so bad, why hasn't anyone forked the contest and done it over better?

I haven't ever seen quality contribution in scientific area to be rejected. The only people screwed by the "bureaucratic psychosis" are the ones who try to use Wikipedia as a way of self-promotion, which shows that the process works.

Article quality and bureaucracy are two completely orthogonal concepts.

> I ask honestly: why should it be easy to participate?

Because that's a core fundamental part of wikipedia practice. That's why every page says "the encylopedia anyone can edit" and why you don't need to create an account to contribute.

The page says "the encyclopedia anyone can edit," not "the encyclopedia anyone is entitled to edit." I don't think a couple of hours (if that) familiarizing yourself with the practices is much to ask.

"I ask honestly: why should it be easy to participate?"

Because WP advertises itself as being easy to participate in.

The OP's complaint is 20% that they deleted an article they shouldn't have and 80% that the software and culture of Wikipedia is completely opaque and unusable to everyone except the most dedicated contributors.

It's absolutely retarded that discussion pages are just wikipages where you have to handle comment threading and nesting yourself with indentation syntax. It's absolutely retarded that you have to learn tons of policy and dozens of acronyms before you're deemed qualified to discuss whether an article should be deleted. And it's absolutely retarded that by default, unless you spend the time and energy to learn dozens of acronyms and policies and "get really involved with the site", your input is at best ignored and at worst openly suspected of bad motives.

And yet somehow, as absolutely retarded as Wikipedia is, it continues to be the most successful reference site on the Internet. Funny how often stuff geeks find "absolutely retarded" turn out not to matter in the real world.

I really shouldn't dignify your comment though, because it dubs "absolutely retarded" a process that got a non-notable SEO consultant's book considered by someone who could find out how many libraries carried it, and no money changed hands to make that happen.

Seriously: the interface you're complaining about? Even if it had been perfect: that article wasn't a keep. Jessie Stricchiola doesn't belong in an encyclopedia; at least, not yet. Maybe she'll fix all of click fraud, instead of commenting about it; then she'll be notable.

> I really shouldn't dignify your comment though

You could try to comprehend my comment first, instead of interpreting it as an indirect ego-attack. Wikipedia's software and community aren't magically immune from criticism, especially from a usability standpoint, just because they produce a lot of useful content.

Wikipedia's current UX produced the optimal decision in this case. That's what I'm trying to say. It's goofy to deride it as "absolutely retarded" when your case study is one where the system appears to have worked rather well.

But of course, I don't think this is actually a UX discussion at all; the participants here are:

* An SEO consultant who may have written her own promotional article on Wikipedia

* Her friend, who was upset at the experience he had attempting to convince Wikipedia to keep that article

* Hacker News, which is convinced that Wikipedia suffers from "rampant deletionism" (despite --- for the most part --- never having seriously participated in anything at Wikipedia) and viewing every story about Wikipedia through that lens.

I guess you can frame it however you want. My main takeaway is that Wikipedia is completely opaque to someone who has a specific concern about something, but isn't already a committed contributor and insider to the community.

If you're of the opinion that Wikipedia should be an insular community, than maybe they should be more honest about it, disable anonymous edits, and save everyone a lot of time. If you think Wikipedia should be accessible, well, it isn't, and that should be fixed, too. Either way, there's room for improvement.

I think that, when it comes to deletion, Wikipedia _shouldn't_ care about the opinion of people who aren't "committed contributers". Why? Well, even if the article is undeleted (or not deleted in the first place), it still has problems with it - otherwise it would never have been in danger of being deleted in the first place. Someone needs to fix those problems, and that's much more likely if a "committed contributor and insider to the community" is advocating for it than if some random person on the internet with zero edits to their name leaves a drive-by Keep comment.

In other words, deletion isn't just about notability - it's also about gauging whether the article will be maintained. Wikipedia's procedures, while sometimes rather obtuse, serve as a first-pass filter to help gauge whether people who are Serious About Wikipedia will actually take care of the article (and of course, even if you are a person with zero edits to your name, reading up on wikipedia's procedures is a good way to prove you might actually care enough about the article to take care of it after it is undeleted).

I will admit that the user messaging feature is _awful_ however. Wiki format is not the right thing to use for a point-to-point conversation.

Explain how so many dumb people can become so adept at navigating Wikipedia's processes in between shifts at the gas station and 17 hour Farmville jags, and I'll concede that you have a point.

Mediawiki, and Wikipedia's incarnation of it in particular, is outmoded and obtuse. But it's not hard to do things on Wikipedia. If anything, it's too f'ing easy.

I don't know why you're demanding that I explain a claim I never made and don't agree with.

I'm not communicating well. I'm saying, "sure, Wikipedia's UX is clunky, but it obviously does work".

You should read downthread; other people have taken a closer look at Danny Sullivan's real experience working with Wikipedia's processes. This isn't a good case study to make a stand on. Give it a few weeks; Wikipedia will inevitably do something genuinely dumb we can get outraged about. It appears not to have here.

That's just the old "success forgives everything" argument. It's a tempting argument, but that's also the primary mechanism by which success leads to failure. Wikipedia works, and is completely usable, by committed and dedicated nerds. Maybe even the dumb ones that work at the gas station.

Yeah, this guy was probably wrong, and this particular subject probably isn't notable. Wikipedia still could have given this guy a better experience in the process of figuring this out, and writing this guy off as worthless and not worth listening to is just arrogant and unproductive.

While your first point may have merit, lets just consider your second point for a second.

You say that it's ridiculous that to revert a community decision on a major international knowledge resource, someone should have to learn about their policies.

Is it really that 'retarded'? I actually went and followed the instructions while actually paying attention, and I found that the header of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_review fully explains the situation, and within 2 clicks you can be instructed on what to do and where to do it.

This process is only opaque or difficult if your attention span is such that reading two paragraphs is a strain. Given that the writer of the original article didn't even bother to read the email he was sent then I think we can assume that the fault lies there.

It's not insurmountable, and if the stated purpose of the project is to exclude the input of insufficiently dedicated contributors then it's even a good idea. But if your tagline is "the free encyclopedia anyone can edit" and you allow anonymous edits from people who don't even have user accounts, you should at least have some type of clear venue for someone to suggest relevant facts and provide relevant sources and citations for, say, the "notability" of deleted article subjects. Then the insiders could judge those facts and sources and handle the bureaucracy themselves, or else explain the rationale, rather than shuffling him around the system with a thick instruction manual and a "do it yourself".

Or you could have a deletion policy that's less complicated in itself. When I was a heavy contributor to Wikipedia and actually knew all these dumb policies, people argued that notability shouldn't be a criteria and verifiability was the only truly necessary criterion for including content. I find it hard to argue with that.

And, again: he could simply have clicked on the highlighted name of the admin who deleted the article, prominently displayed on the Wikipedia landing page for the deleted article, and then, like a human being, asked what to do next. He would have gotten a straight answer.

It's absolutely retarded that you have to learn tons of policy and dozens of acronyms before you're deemed qualified to discuss whether an article should be deleted.

I'm actually not convinced of that. That is, I'm not convinced it's a bad thing that people have to learn policy and acronyms in order to participate in a discussion. Wikipedia is - like any large, distributed group effort - entirely dependent on its processes. Without those processes, I don't think it could function. Your argument, as I understand it, is that people shouldn't have to become familiar with the processes that enable Wikipedia to function in order to be a part of how it functions. That seems contradictory to me.

I think the complaint is not that there are processes - clearly there must be - but that the processes are opaquely documented, poorly tracked, not transparent to start with, and arbitrarily and often capriciously enforced.

Are they opaquely documented?

I went to Google, typed in "Wikipedia deletion policy" and got what seems like some good documentation:


Imagining it from Sullivan's perspective, I read down to the bit that says "If you disagree: Take the matter to Wikipedia:Deletion review", which leads me here:


Reading down a bit, I find this bit in bold: "This process should not be used simply because you disagree with a deletion debate's outcome [...]" which seems to directly address his condition.

I agree that one needs a basic facility with Wikipedia and Mediawiki to usefully participate, which is definitely a barrier to novices. Which certainly makes it seem murky and hard to follow. It's also somewhat stochastic; a lot of outcomes depends on who happens to show up and participate.

A lot of these problems, though, are things you personally could fix. Anybody can edit the documentation and get involved with processes like Articles For Deletion. If you think it could be better, please get involved!

And if you don't like it and won't get involved, then please keep in mind that much of Wikipedia's software and all of its content comes from volunteers. Telling people that they aren't doing enough free work for you is unlikely to improve much of anything.

And if you don't like it and won't get involved,

Yes, thanks. I have no particular opinion; I just said that was the complaint, and it's not the first time I've heard it. I've never made more than casual and minor corrections to Wikipedia, and I've never been notable or known notable people who Wikipedia deemed worthy of deletion. And I do know spam and loathe self-promotion by meaningless hordes, so I can understand where Wikimedia editors are coming from. But I also know when a culture is not particularly outsider-friendly, and I stay over here, thank you.

I might add that complaining that I'm not doing enough free work to fix Wikipedia is also not going to help. I'd love to delve into the history and process of Wikipedia's culture, but I'm going to get about six minutes of sleep tonight already.

It's absolutely retarded that you have to learn Wikipedia policy before debating whether an article conforms to Wikipedia policy?

While I agree that it's clunky, there's something to be said for using the same functionality for articles and discussion pages. Adding a messaging system, a forum and an editable user profile would suddenly add three more interfaces for a potential contributor to learn.

Except those would be interfaces suited for the task and easy to learn, instead of a single interface being abused for tasks it is completely unfit to do.

wikiHow adopted the solution of templating message posts; but their implementation lacks any sort of threading: http://www.wikihow.com/Discussion:Main-Page

Maybe you're right on 20% but I'll tell you that 100% of the article was a temper tantrum. Had the author looked into why these rules are necessary and suggested a more efficient process maybe he could have been taken seriously. Instead he rattled on about how it was hard for him to nag people into seeing things his way and upset that all his effort went to waste.

People who argue about the campaigns to tarnish Wikipedia's name and repeat the fact that Wikipedia still manages to be respectable and successful are right! The same things the author rails against are the very things that keep the riff raft out.

The author didn't get his way after a lengthy, well reasoned, and obviously thoroughly thought through debate. Not every website needs a reworking of their user experience. Sometimes we make you jump through hoops for a reason. This process weeds out the people who would use Wikipedia to advertise. At the end, despite the author believing his submission was fitting of its own Wikipedia page, the community still disagreed.

I call sour grapes.

> Had the author looked into why these rules are necessary and suggested a more efficient process maybe he could have been taken seriously.

Suggesting more efficient processes for Wikipedia is a never ending tarpit that doesn't get anywhere, no matter how committed you are and how established you are in the community.

Any hidebound culture filled with red tape has horror stories and experiences that seem to justify every broken thing they do. If your answer to a usability critique is "they should learn the last several years of Wikipedia history, which isn't documented anywhere, and understand where all these rules came from", isn't that just a concession that you might as well not even bother unless contributing to Wikipedia is going to be one of your primary hobbies for the foreseeable future?

I see your point but I still believe Wikipedia should be hard to submit to. We obviously know Wikipedia's history and I've only contributed once. The rest I've read from other sources.

I would ask why it's so very important for his contribution to be accepted? This really isn't about the process as much as it is the OP not getting his way. He just shields himself with an argument over user experience as an excuse to whine. It's all there in the subtext.

I understand why Wikipedia has barriers. But what I was saying is that they're out of control.

Wikipedia does not manage to be respectable when ill-informed people debate whether to delete an article that Wikipedia itself started and reach a "consensus" to do so without there being a consensus.

What looks to you as a well-reasoned and thoroughly thought debate looks that way because you're probably not an expert in search marketing. It's like an amateur watching two programmers debate whether some other programmer is "notable" or not. If you're not a programmer, you probably have no idea. And the references that might seem reasonable perhaps aren't, if you're more educated.

The Wikipedia "community" hasn't agreed with my assessment. The Wikipedia "community" that made this decision was one person, who when someone else raised the fact that I posted new, fresh arguments, decided unilaterally that if I thought those should be considered, I should submit a review request.

The way it should work, he should have put that request in himself. At the very least, it sure should be a lot easier for anyone to put in such a request.

As I detailed, I found it actually impossible to do so, because you can't request that a page that's been deleted to be reviewed on the review deletion page -- that page is only for pages in the current process of being reviewed.

I call a confusing system that needs overhaul.

A http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_review is very much intended to challenge a delete which already happened, and that page has guidelines and instructions for starting one. Actually somebody already did it two days ago, because they regard your new cites as more substantive than the junk that was offered last month: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_review#Jessi...

I think there are two parts to the article. The specific issue of whether Ms X the SEO person is notable - I think you can ignore that as a bit of a rant.

The other part of the article - the critique of the usability of the site looks much more useful and contains issues that could be addressed.

I'm not sure how much of the article you read. You have a long angry rant (that makes good points) about people that get upset because a Wikipedia page they care about is deleted. The article is not about that, it is about how hard it is to figure out how to navigate the Wikipedia waters to give support to an article that has been deleted or is up for deletion, etc. It is about Wikipedia's usability in cases like this. (If you did read the article and knew this, but still felt like ranting on a tangential note, I apologize.)

I don't blame you for not carefully reading my rant, but I addressed your point somewhere in the middle of it: when the article went up for deletion, there was a big link on the article itself saying how to vote on the deletion.

The thing that this guy writing this post didn't do that any reasonable person could have been expected to do: click the name of the admin who deleted the article and ask him on his talk page what to do about the deletion. The admin would have answered, because if he hadn't, one of several rival admin factions would note his failure to follow process and bankrolled it as ammunition in some upcoming admin war.

The OP was not familiar with the Wikipedia convention that editors talk to one another by editing one another’s talk pages.

Instead, he followed the instructions on the automated email that Wikipedia sent him, which said “To contact the editor, visit [the editor’s page]”. His reward for following those instructions was a box telling him that actually, that page isn’t the venue for sending a message. The box told him to “use” the talk page instead. You and I know that user talk pages are “used” by just editing them, but he didn’t, and nothing above the fold on that page told him what he should have been doing.

I just don't buy it. There are some dumb, dumb, dumb people thoroughly ensconced in Wikipedia and its processes; clearly it's not that hard to figure out that to talk to an admin, you can just edit their page.

I think Danny Sullivan is being disingenuous. Mediawiki is an obtuse piece of software; he knows that, and we know that, and he's using it as a fig leaf to conceal the fact that he wasn't able to push his friend's article onto the encyclopedia. I'm only able to say that because I don't know anything about Sullivan; he's just an abstraction to me. I certainly don't mean for him to take this personally. But I do not believe him.

Dumb, dumb, dumb people can learn to follow all sorts of rituals, if they’re sufficiently motivated. That fact does not, in and of itself, justify the rituals.

If you mean those rituals to filter out the unmotivated, then, in fact, it does.

Wikipedia presents itself as a pain in the ass. It takes very little energy to convince someone to walk away.

It's not especially edifying to discuss your perceptions of Danny's hidden motives, when the intended topic of discussion is what Danny actually wrote.

What Danny Sullivan did write appears to be disingenuous: he didn't want to read a noisy web page in order to override a community vote on Wikipedia, scribbled on a page he wasn't supposed to edit, had his scribbling carefully preserved by another Wikipedian, and then started yelling.

I've contributed a lot to wikipedia and would say there definitively an elistic attitude among the admins. That page was lucky to even go through a full deletion process, most just get SpeedyDeleted, which is as simple as putting a tag, and as soon as an admin sees it, they delete it, which could be minutes later. I've seen pages deleted this way about major topics, while similar, much lesser topic pages remain. Like anything else, it's more about who you are on Wikipedia than what you're writing about.

I'm vandal pratroller myself. Speedy deletions have an extremely strict criteria. Only very clear violations of policy are allowed to be speedy deleted like vandalism or recreating a page that was already AfD'd.

Notability is naturally one of those that is hard to do hastily. In a rew rare cases it's obvious, like if some trying create a page about their dog or local lawn care business, per SNOW (not a snowballs chance in hell) the page can get speedy deleted.

The article is a usability study of a scenario where a committed but novice domain expert has something to contribute to the Wikipedia process. The deleted article itself is just a MacGuffin.

Or, it is now that we can see how flimsy the article itself turned out to be. By the way: it appears to have been written by Jessie Stricchiola herself (classy move, that).

I didn't come away with the impression that it was flimsy at all. The rant linked to is written by Danny Sullivan, an eminent SEO expert (the most famous one I'm aware of). I would tend to trust his estimation of a person's notability in the SEO industry.

His "contribution" was arguably wrong, his effort was minimal, and his attitude was poisonous. If you want an encyclopedia where the opinions of "domain experts" trump consensus, then use Citizendium.

What you're effectively saying is that contributions to Wikipedia should be reserved for people who are highly involved with Wikipedia already. Outsider? No chance. Why allow every peasant to add stuff, right?.

I derive this assumption from your statement that his contribution, effort and attitude was "wrong", "minimal", and "poisonous". I don't see any of that. I see a rant following a genuine effort to contribute, a contribution worth considering, and an attitude that started off with the best intent but got punched down in the process. Who wouldn't turn sour after such an experience? It's called cause and effect. Of couse you'll be pissed if something as ludicrous as this happens to you.

Unless you're so caught up in your little world of the 'inner circle' that you don't tolerate outsiders. Unfortunately, that's not how the world works. That's also not how Wikipedia is supposed to work, I hope. That doesn't sound like the spirit that Wikipedia tries to portray at all. It sounds like the exact opposite.

On your "consensus" argument: since when is a 7-6 vote a consensus? That's a nearly even split. Please.

His "genuine effort to contribute" consisted of proudly ignoring instructions and refusing to read documentation, being mad that his "expert" opinion didn't carry the weight he thought it deserved, and dropping excessively long drive-by rants in various inappropriate locations, including the talk page of an editor whose only offense was volunteering some (sorely needed) advice with a (slightly) wrong link.

Contributions to Wikipedia aren't reserved for people already involved, but following prominently posted instructions and reading some documentation are requirements, for good reason. This is not the story of a mature and reasonable person whose hard work was unfairly dismissed by the secret Wikipedia cabal. This is the story of a temper tantrum thrown by a self-proclaimed "expert" when his ego was damaged.

Under ideal circumstances, what contribution would you have wanted him to make?

Under ideal circumstances he would have "known" the article was great and really important; he would have heard it got deleted; he would have gone to wikipedia and found short simple clear advice about what is included and what isn't included. Preferably in one place. Then he would have realised that the article was not a good fit for Wikipedia, but he would have met some people who were not fucking wingnuts and who encouraged him to contribute and he would have found some other articles where he starts making gentle contributions.

Instead, that information is scattered over a few different pages (and thus there's lag between them when there's a change); there's differing standards for different things (Elected national politicians are automatically notable because they're elected, Olympic athletes are not notable.) Deletion process is incredibly bitey; I don't care that people doing deletion have floods of shitty articles to plough through, they should realise that destroying (even justifiably) someone's work is going to be hard for that person and is not going to encourage them to contribute to the process, and that this is an (a tricky) opportunity to get new editors.

Combine this with weird rules about other stuff (The software stops me creating this name (which means some things are hard coded), so I read the rules, and create another name, and get newbie-bitten by some over enthusiastic 17 year old who claims that my real name is offensive or that the pseudonym I chose instead is "confusing" or whatever. My name goes in front of how ever many different username discussions they have now, where I argue my point and am "allowed" to edit.)

There are huge differences between things like the five pillars and the rest of the obscure processes.

Ok. So your ideal contribution from him in regards to this is no contribution at all, right?

I agree it would be great for him to have a lot of love and handholding to get to the point where he realizes that he's in the wrong. And equally that it would be great for him to get enough support that he goes on to edit other things.

But honestly, I don't expect that he would ever do that. He's a legitimately busy and important guy, and he also clearly thinks he's pretty darned important. He wasn't really willing to engage seriously with Wikipedia or to take a little time to understand what was going on. All he really wanted to do was bitch until he got his way, or until he got tired of bitching.

So although I agree with a lot of your concerns about Wikipedia's user-hostile software and newbie-hostile community, in this case I'm not so sure there's a problem. I have actually spent time calming people like him down on AfDs; it's a thankless job. Maybe it's better for everybody if people promoting their pal's pages just go off in a huff immediately without further taxing the patience of Wikipedia volunteers.

Enjoy working with hyperactive twinkle using 14 year olds who rapidly revert[1] as much as they can so they can rack up "edits" in the mistaken thought that it's how you get to admin. Or dysfunctional trolls with a 10:1 meta:content edit ratio who have nothing better to do than hang out on ANI.

Those are pretty much the only people who'll have the time or patience to play the wikipedia game as it is now.

To compile the information I posted for Wikipedia, to help it in the goal of determining notability, I probably spent about 1/2 hour in total. I had to pull up some old article and links, since me just saying why the person they were arguing about should be notable wasn't enough.

I then spend more time trying to figure out exactly where I should submit this information. The instructions were to submit to a talk page, but as I noted, the page no longer had a talk page, since it had been deleted. The review deletions page, as I also noted, has instructions that are unclear.

So I wasn't "really willing to engage seriously" to take a "little time" to understand what was going on and simply wanted to "bitch?"

No. If I wanted to just bitch, I'd have tweeted Wikipedia had its head up its ass about killing the page or maybe done a blog post about the removal and left it at that.

Instead, I did research to help them make an informed decision, using my knowledge of the space to ferret out information they'd been unaware of and clearly missed. I spend time trying to figure out how to submit it despite the insane system there.

Perhaps it would be better for you, since you appear to be connected with Wikipedia, to not dismiss things as people in huffs trying to promote friends pages and instead find a way for Wikipedia to better accept information that it should be using to make for a better resource.

What you have isn't a case study here about someone bitching for a friend. What you have is a case study about how Wikipedia does not make fully informed decisions due to the bureaucracy it believes protects the system.

For the record, I'm not really connected with Wikipedia anymore; I used to edit a fair bit and did a short project management contract for them, but now I have no time.

I appreciate the effort you put in (and encourage you to do it with existing articles you think need improving), but no, I don't think you were there to engage seriously. I think you came in with a personal motivation (help a pal), a conclusion (her page should be there), and an attitude (you people are crazy and do shoddy work) and worked backward from there. You acted thoroughly entitled and created a lot of drama, showing little understanding and no respect. Which is, sadly, the typical MO of somebody who doesn't know much about Wikipedia but is sure, sure, sure that article X obviously belongs there.

I agree with you that Wikipedia should find a better way to work with subject matter experts, and am on record as having pitched a couple of them over the years. But I don't think deletion review is high on the priority list. For basically the same reason than an appellate court doesn't need a drive-up window for filings from random passers-by.

Also, messaging users and discussing pages should work more like messaging or discussion sites, and not exactly like a content page.

Per the guidelines:


"Please don't use uppercase for emphasis. If you want to emphasize a word or phrase, put asterisks around it and it will get italicized."

Thanks! Fixed!

Coming in an hour later, it looks like you just italicized the uppercase. I think bane met to use italics instead of uppercase. If this is on purpose, well played. :)

Yeah, I was just kidding around.

It took me a minute, but I thought it was funny.

Sure thing. When passions run high, we often need a different case to rise to the occasion.

It's all in good fun. Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Turkey Day as well!

And IMHO all those items that were removed contained information of some kind.

I imagine the deletionism of wikipedia comes from the fact that it is very hard to pay the bills. But in my opinion, every piece of information (yes, even pages about fictional furry characters which clearly state that they are fictional and their context) should be preserved.

However, I think wikipedia in its current structure falls short to achieve such objective. A "distributed wikipedia" (where everybody can contribute disk space) would be the the natural step IMO.

Three things I will add to the current wikipedia 1. Distributed storage, process. 2. Completely avoid deletionism 3. Use Article rating (there is some rating going on, but no straightforward way to use it [like filtering pages with less than 4 stars).

And who will be cleaning up all this mess?

Have you noticed that almost all Wikipedia articles are formatted in uniform way, categorized, templatified, infoboxed, interlinked, divided into sections, etc? Almost all contributions from new Wikipedians contain none of these things, and they all require to be cleaned up by someone more experienced. Contrary to what some people here say, this is the real problem, the difficulty of learning the technicalities of Wikipedia, and not policies. We believe that everyone has to read the most important policies, but not everyone should be forced to learn the Wikipedia markup and other technical stuff. This is what the Wikimedia Foundation works on, not on trivializing the policies.

I think you're horribly missing the point here. No-one doubts that many, many people who are heavily active in Wikipedia are doing their best to follow the rules. The objections is that the culture is such that the intersection of subject matter expert and reviewer is nigh on the null set. Moreover, the rules do seem to produce perverse results sufficiently often that perhaps someone ought to re-examine the processes. Unfortunately, the very people able to do so are the very people who think there isn't a problem.

Thinking about it, this might be one of the most effective SEO campaigns for her name ever. Now she has become notable for being deleted from Wikipedia.

It is simply ridiculous that non-experts are deciding whether a page stays or goes. Wikipedia should take a leaf out of scientific journals (you know, the real place knowledge is shared) and appoint boards of editors who are proud to use their own name on the internet and have a reputation built on real knowledge in their domain. They can then decide who is notable or not according to their own rules.

Besides, I thoroughly believe that Wikipedia should allow far more articles in, and people can make their own decisions whether to read them or not.

Here's an article that was successfully deleted which I fought (successfully, obviously) to reinstate:


It was deleted because of systematic racism in Wikipedia's notability policies.

I am against those policie not because of this article, but because of all those which have been deleted on similar grounds which I will never know about.

Do you have the same disappoval of me and my beliefs that you seem I have for the OP?

Here is a question for you, then - why delete at all? Why not mark as not notable and just leave it be?

If the encyclopedia world's equivalent of Linus Torvalds was vetting Wikipedia entries I don't think there would be as much of an issue.

{{delete}} [[Jessie_Stricchiola]], uses wikipedia for SEO not to actually share encyclopedic content. ~~~~

What is AfD, please?

Articles for Deletion.

>>Something I don't get about people on HN and their attitude towards Wikipedia.

You are overestimating your average hacker news reader.

I'd modify that to add in the words "in recent times". There was a time the HN community was reliably smarter and awesome than average.

While this is the typical story about online "cabals", this is also the story of how Wikipedia's alleged success as a platform - no meta-functionality, everything is accomplished through the Wiki itself - is also its failure.

MediaWiki is great software for collaboratively editing documents. It is lousy software for workflow management. All the Kafkaesque dead-ends he describes are wiki pages that try to use other wiki pages as a medium for controlling the process of creating wiki pages.

Corollary: How well would the fundraising go if you could only make contributions by following a MediaWiki-based editorial process?

What Wikipedia really needs is for a UI expert to step in and fix what is essentially a broken UI.

Requesting a reinstatement of a deleted page in a properly designed UI should take no more than a couple of clicks and 1 minute of reading, tops. Navigating a twisted web of broken or confusing or incorrect links with walls of text at every step does not a good UI make.

All of the UI frustrations the op experiences snowball into a frustrated response, which only aggravates and frustrates the editors who receive such responses. This, in turn, further snowballs things until everyone is aggravated, nobody wants to contribute, and Wikipedia stagnates.

So, fix Wikipedia's UI. It's in everyone's long term interests to do so.

> Requesting a reinstatement of a deleted page in a properly designed UI should take no more than a couple of clicks and 1 minute of reading, tops.

That assumes that it would be beneficial to have people who don't understand anything about what makes an article worth keeping making requests like that.

It also assumes that requesting deletion review is Wikipedia's most valuable place to spend developer and designer time.

Neither is true.

No, it assumes that user task design should follow the tenets of good UI design.

What I'm hearing you say is that usability barriers are a good thing because they stop people who don't understand the system from using the system, which is the refrain of all defenders of bad UI design. We've seen plenty of disruption in the area of software UI design in recent years that disprove such a theory.

UI design is not a religion whose tenets are to be followed for their own sakes. It's a practical art. Good UI makes easy things that should be easy, and hard that which should be hard. (E.g.: http://www.zen171398.zen.co.uk/Alien%20Page%206/Ian%20Wingro...) Your mistake is naive optimization of one part of the process.

In this case, the right system would be one that makes it very easy for deletion review to process requests. It would also make sure that only well-formed, well-thought-out deletion requests make it to the deletion reviewers. The UI of that submission process could be made easy, but it's an essentially hard problem. You're supposed to think carefully, come to grips with the careful balance that Wikipedia has struck around deletion, and then submit a reasoned argument.

It's not possible that someone will do that in 1 minute of reading. This is like a submission to an appellate court: you have to know what you're doing or there's no point.

I haven't made myself clear. I'm not saying that someone should understand what the CONTENTS of their submission should be with only 1 minute's worth of reading, but rather the ACTIONS the user must take from a UI perspective in order to go through the process should not take more than 1 minute's worth of reading.

If the content of the user submission should be carefully thought out prior to taking the action, that's fine, but you shouldn't be deliberately throwing obstacles in the way just for the sake of slowing them down. What ends up happening when you do this is that knowledgeable people (who generally happen to be busy) won't bother contributing. I've seen this sort of situation occur countless times on Wikipedia (in general, not just with the deletion process).

Maybe I'm a fast reader, so try timing yourself reading this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_review#Steps... . I don't find it to be much more than a minute.

I would really, really love to see this. Even with the core MediaWiki platform too.

MediaWiki is open source BTW. I would do this if I could, but alas, my UI skills are not quite there. Are there any sharp UI designers who want to do this? It would be a hell of an addition to one's resume, not to mention the world :)

There are simply way to many forms and inputs we have to deal with on Wikipedia to make it a one off for every case. We eat our dog food all over wikipedia for that reason.

Personal user styles and javascripts are even stored as wiki-pages. We use Wikipages as IPC for bots and users. We use Wikipages for user messaging. I mean it's everywhere. User's get used to it and can figure out wikisyntax through the site and it's easy.

For it to get added as a special page, it has rise to a general enough thing to be needed by everyone using Mediawiki or something so pressing that could never or should never be on a Wikipage. Meta concepts usually only fit that (like permissions and stats and new page reviewing).

"We use Wikipages as IPC for bots and users. We use Wikipages for user messaging. I mean it's everywhere."

And that's actually a big part of the problem. You're extending a paradigm far beyond what it's good at. When you're researching, you're looking for all of those deep nuggets of information that you'll get from poring over reams of data. Those tangental links are a joy to discover.

For a user trying to accomplish something quickly, however, it doesn't work. Reporting an issue, contributing to discussions or even FINDING them, navigating a voting page... Basically everything PROCESS related is a place where a wall of text is the most unwelcome thing you can be presented with.

It's great that you dogfood; just remember that the old unix hacks ate their own dogfood too. But rather than make things friendlier for people, it just made the unix hacks more defensive about their unfriendly system.

That's a reasonable concern, but I think the alternative historical paths are all worse.

Wikipedia was run on a shoestring for many years. Developer time was in incredibly short supply, and was mainly spent on keeping the site alive. However, there was a massive surplus of labor from people who could work a wiki. People did what they could with what they had.

Had they put more of there developer time into lower-priority features (e.g., a fancy but unnecessary discussion system), they could well have blown up. Or they could have tried to get more developer labor by increasing revenue sooner. But that would have meant ads, which could have destroyed Wikipedia in a different way.

Going forward, Wikipedia should definitely be more friendly, and the Mediawiki Foundation is devoting substantial resources to that.

That's very cool. Right now many experts are turned off by the unfriendliness of the system as it stands today. If that can be remedied, it will be a great boon to human knowledge as we'll see an increase in expert contributions.

I definitely agree that Wikipedia has wide-spread and deeply seating UI issues; but I disagree that opening a review for the reinstatement of a deleted page should be a simple matter of a few clicks.

If a lengthy discussion has already reached conclusion on a matter, having someone jump through a few hoops and provide a good reason to reopen that debate doesn't seem unreasonable.

All process related activities should be a simple matter of a few clicks, regardless of what that process is.

Making someone jump through hoops (beyond a simple warning page) as a deliberate policy is even worse than organically grown bureaucracy.

Part of the problem here is getting developer time onto fixing up such an issue. a) I don't think the Foundation employs a UI expert and b) the community actually requesting serious feature enhancements has a history of taking. absolutely. forever. :)

(although; I agree, improvements to certain processes would be very handy)

Wikipedia does employ UI experts. You can see them here:


I have met some of them; they are smart and competent.

People's expectations about Wikipedia's development speed are all out of whack. The main problem is that Wikipedia is run on a shoestring compared with any other top site. A major contributing problem is that for much of Wikipedia's history it was run by a handful of people, all of them struggling mightily just to keep up with traffic growth. That means a lot of work has to go into paying down technical debt.

Fair enough; I should do better research :)

My comment about taking forever was not really to do with the lack of developer time (which, as a developer myself I totally understand!) but more about the difficulty of meshing two communities of people.

In much the same way that an outsider struggles to understand the Wikipedia system, many Wikipedians have difficulty understanding how development works, and how to interact with developers.

This disconnect means that requests for even simple things can take a while :)

I can highlight this disconnect; the idea given in the GP is smart and sensible and would help make the deletion review process a lot easier for newbies. This would certainly help with editor retention as well as being widely useful.

On the other hand, one dev recently wrote and deployed "WikiLove", which is a script for helping people give each other "Barnstar" awards.

Ok, so perhaps the GP's idea did not come up in discussions of "what should we improve next". But if the WP community proposed something like this it would probably sit gathering dust whilst the next WikiLove would appear on our screens.... :)

From the action deletion discussion:

"The result was delete. As far as I can tell, the numbers are split about 7-6 in favour of delete. That's not normally going to lead to a consensus to delete unless there are unusual circumstances, such as one side having significantly stronger arguments than the other, so much as that can be ascertained objectively. In this case, the final three unchallenged delete !votes—DGG, ItsZippy and Metropolitan90—demonstrate such strength.

DGG and Metropolitan90 highlight a number of fundamental misconceptions behind a number of the keep !votes, such as the inaccuracy of the assertions that the subject's work was covered significantly in The Google story and that The Google story is a Pulitzer prize-winning book. DGG also demonstrates with clear evidence that the subject's own book is not as prominent as asserted, without any evidence, by some on the keep side. ItsZippy is the only editor in the debate, on either side, to comprehensively discuss the sources on offer as opposed to making generalised assertions about the sufficiency of the sourcing.

That those delete !votes have stood for between 7 and 13 days without any challenge leads me to conclude that there is a consensus to delete"

More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion....

Two thoughts: yes, the back pages of Wikipedia are tricky to navigate for non-experts, it took me a while to find that link. No, Wikipedians are not all unfriendly deletionists.

I had similar experiences with Wikipedia. First time, I added some references and definitions related to a theoretical computer science concept and it was deleted for no reason.

Since then I stopped making edits unless something is incorrect.

I think a lot of the problem is that measuring editors by edit count is like measuring programmers by lines of code.

A more extreme example is the Amanda Knox article on Wikipedia. For years it was kept deleted by a cabal of British English speaking administrators and editors (Knox's murdered roommate was British). A deletion review finally overturned the deletion a couple weeks after Knox's conviction was overturned.


I didn't know about the Wikipedia issues around that tragedy, but found it interesting from a sociological standpoint. So I tried looking for similar cases of the line between fact & opinion blurring on battleground Wikipedia, and found this, in case anyone else is interested:


(And it's on Wikipedia itself, natch.)

Perhaps nothing can be truly 'open' to contribution given that everybody has a different opinion and everybody often believes that they are right. Probably a huge number of newbies who tried posting something on Hacker News, will also feel that HN is closed and unfriendly as well. Is it really unfriendly or just a resource-management issue; it may be better not be perfect but can satisfy a large audience.

>Is it really unfriendly or just a resource-management issue; it may be better not be perfect but can satisfy a large audience.

It's both. HN is unfriendly to new users who are used to the kind of interactions that predominate elsewhere. It is in many ways a close reddit analogue, and yet even veteran redditors will find themselves downvoted to oblivion here. I certainly did, when I first signed up.

Like HN, Wikipedia requires getting used to. There is a "Wikipedia Way", which is very different from how people interact on other parts of the Internet. It can seem bureaucratic and neurotic, and it is, but it keeps things running relatively smoothly for the regulars, which is the important part. The people who take the time to learn the ropes are the ones who end up ensuring that the content is useful and informative. Yes, some people will be put off by the fact that only reliable secondary sources can be considered when determining the notability of a subject, but the restriction is there for a reason: it keeps the crap out.

None of this means that Wikipedia is not open. If you waltzed into the Linux dev channel and insisted that something be done a certain way, you'd be banned. Linux is similarly complex, and there is a "Linux Way" of doing things. Take the time to learn that way and contribute, and you'll be welcomed. Insist they're wrong and write blog posts about how wrong they are, and you'll be ignored.

Slight tangent, but I can't understand why MediaWiki/Wikipedia is so resistant to a standard commenting/discussion system. Discussion pages are still just flat text anyone can edit.

I get the "simple is better" approach, but by now, there should be enough conventions, and there's certainly enough complexity, to warrant at least a basic structured forum.

It will not surprise you to learn that you are far from the first to complain about the flat discussion pages. They have a lot of advantages - they're just easier to work with for a lot of things like rearranging sections, creating new sections, etc. - all stuff that your random social news site (like Hacker News) simply does not let you do because it would be a UI and vandalism nightmare.

There was a nearly complete effort to rewrite talk pages: https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:LiquidThreads But it turned out to have atrocious performance, and the few times I used talk pages on wikis with it enabled, I wished they really hadn't enabled it.

Anybody who's a serious Wikipedia editor can happily work the discussion pages. So a standard discussion system wouldn't benefit them at all. Novices who are smart and willing to put in a little time are also fine with it for basic use.

So a standard discussion system really only benefits people who aren't smart or who aren't willing to put in a little time. But in making it easier for clueless noobs to express their opinions, will that help Wikipedia? Or will it hurt it by soaking up the time of people who do know what they're doing?

As an example, consider Danny Sullivan's experience. If it had been easier for him to kick off a deletion review, he would have done it. But that would have been a waste of time, as he didn't have anything to say that would have changed the outcome. And that's true because he wasn't willing to take any time to understand what was going on.

Or as another example, consider YouTube comments. How does it help Wikipedia to make it easier to let those people comment?

It blows my mind that anything has to meet some arbitrary standard of notability in order to have a Wikipedia page. This is the Internet. Encyclopedia Britannica can't have a brief overview on every topic imaginable, because it's got to fit in a bound cover. The freedom to have information about absolutely every subject in existence seems to me the biggest benefit of putting an encyclopedia online, not the fact that "anyone can edit" Wikipedia - obviously, this is not true. Anyone can hypothetically write for Britannica, but only those that pass a certain muster actually do.

The page on notability seems to imply that notability means having sources that don't require original research; which is a reasonable thing to do but probably should have just been put under that rule.

Wikipedia avoids original research for a very good reason: to keep out physics cranks and the like, who would infest WP otherwise.

You're wrong. If Wikipedia didn't have spthese standards then every idiot including myself would be creating pages that are just spam. You know how much I wish I could put my little no-name company on Wikipedia? A lot! But I can't and I'm glad I can't. These standards are why Wikipedia is so well respected.

Now, we all know a Wikipedia page doesn't have the weight of other sources and can be crap at times but so far it's a total class act and it has a lot to do with these policies.

I'm sure you know that Wikipedia has to constantly police itself for large companies trying to mess with competitor's pages and how there are armies of political operatives out there trying to rewrite history through Wikipedia. This is why even experts like the OP are so scrutinized.

The politics are so bad because the stakes are so low... I have a hard time believing that there's any grave risk to throwing open the doors on Wikipedia, simply because not all Wikipedia articles are equal.

I've been on the other end of this. The shitty little start-up I worked on for many years somehow managed to squeak past the finish line of notability and keep its shitty little Wikipedia entry from being deleted (despite the fact that it was mostly written by the marketing department). And you know what kind of difference it made? Absolutely none. To the best of my knowledge, precisely 0.0% of the site's traffic came from the 'external link' in the Wikipedia entry. We got precisely 0 phone calls or emails from potential customers who heard about us on Wikipedia. VCs did not magically dump piles of money on us because we were listed on Wikipedia. Engineering candidates -- even bad engineering candidates -- never spontaneously sent us their resume after reading our Wikipedia entry.

Conversely, given that my startup benefitted not one bit from having a Wikipedia entry, I'm quite confident that if a competitor had wasted 15 minutes of his time to deface our Wikipedia article, it would have hurt us as a business not one lick.

Well that same thing also wouldn't hurt me either but I'm not Coca Cola. That's what I'm talking about. No one cares about small businesses or startups at all. If you're a company that no one even searches for on Google Places this doesn't apply to you.

It is a fact that these things happen and whether it's harmful or not it isn't right and it's the reason for these policies.

> You know how much I wish I could put my little no-name company on Wikipedia? A lot! But I can't and I'm glad I can't. These standards are why Wikipedia is so well respected.

But why? If there's an article about your company in a legitimate publication, I don't see why there shouldn't be a Wikipedia article about it. How would it make Wikipedia a less useful or lower-quality resource? Are you saying it would get in the way of finding information about more "notable" subjects? I don't understand how.

Sure, my attitude would make the disambiguation page for "John Smith" much longer, but I think it would still be reasonable as long as it's well-sorted into categories (as it is now).

If there's an article about his company in a legitimate publication, then he can put a page up for his company in Wikipedia. It'd pass the notability requirement and the requirement for verifiable sources.

The problem is that getting rid of the notability requirement would lead to lots of people putting up pages with nothing more than opinion. It wouldn't be spam. It'd be more dangerous than that. It'd be unsourced opinion disguised as factual information.

There's also the fact that Wikipedia is much more of a finite resource than, say, Google. Google has millions of server and a data center staff of thousands, backed up by even more thousands of programmers dedicated to making things run smoothly. Wikipedia is 400-odd servers and a staff of less than a hundred. Opening things up like you say would quickly overload Wikipedia's infrastructure, degrading the encyclopedia for everyone.

> If there's an article about his company in a legitimate publication, then he can put a page up for his company in Wikipedia. It'd pass the notability requirement and the requirement for verifiable sources.

It seemed like the person the blog post was referencing passed that requirement as well, but was deleted.

Except it didn't. As mentioned on the AfD page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion...) she was _mentioned_ in a lot of places, but only in passing - there was no real substance talking about why she's so important, she was just quoted as saying something.

If you can refute this, please follow the very clear instructions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_review#Instr...) for doing so. For the deletion review to have any chance of succeeding, it _must_ go over some new point that the previous AfD ignored. Giving new references that are specifically about the person in question would probably work. Simply saying "but, but, she's important!!1! :( :( :(", on the other hand, won't go over well.


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