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":
* 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:
RULE NUMBER ONE: DO NOT WRITE WIKIPEDIA ARTICLES ABOUT YOURSELF, YOUR COMPANY, PROGRAMS THAT YOU WROTE, OR YOUR UNPUBLISHED SCI-FI NOVEL.
RULE NUMBER TWO: IF YOU HAVE TO ASK, DO NOT WRITE WIKIPEDIA ARTICLES ABOUT YOUR FRIENDS, YOUR FRIENDS' COMPANIES, PROGRAMS THAT YOUR FRIENDS WROTE, OR YOUR FRIENDS UNPUBLISHED SCI-FI NOVEL.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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."
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. Minor Pokemon are indeed collected into lists, just like the GP said.
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."
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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'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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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).
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.
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.