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Kate Middleton’s Wedding Gown Demonstrates Wikipedia’s Woman Problem (slate.com)
217 points by soupboy on July 14, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 174 comments



Every time a "problem" like this makes the news, the real problem always seems to be overzealous deletionists with their ridiculously strict notability requirement. Gender imbalance might be a problem, but it's not a problem to the same extent as notability-based deletionism is. Notability is an extremely vague standard, a perfect recipe for abuse and selective enforcement. A fair and efficient editorial process should strive to replace vague rules with clearer counterparts whenever possible.

Honestly, I cannot think of a good reason to delete any article at all, unless it's obviously fraudulent, marketing-oriented, illegal, or obscene according to a widely accepted definition of obscenity. All of these standards can be applied fairly strictly, and with much less vagueness than notability.

- It's not like Wikipedia is short of disk space to store a few million extra text articles.

- The argument that it would be too difficult to maintain lots of extra articles is also weak, because not every article needs to be regularly edited, and more articles on niche topics might actually attract more editors.

- No, we won't end up with a page for every John Doe and his cat. That's just alarmism. Besides, if something like that ever becomes a problem, a better response would be a prohibition on self-promotion or some other clear guideline, rather than a vague requirement of notability.

- If these deletionists are just being OCD and wanting everything to be tidy and clean and under their editorial control, I would say that they need to take a break. In fact, it's possible that people with certain psychological traits self-select for Wikipedia editorship. But the kind of intolerance and self-centered narrow-mindedness that overzealous deletionists exhibit doesn't suit the spirit of a collaborative online project. Keep your OCD to your own home/office and away from public spaces, thank you very much.

Right now, I get the impression that it's too easy to flag something for deletion and too difficult to counter the deletionist argument, especially since the deletionists are so familiar with editorial procedures. This inequality needs to change. The burden of proof should be on people who want to remove information from the Web, not on those who want to keep it. Isn't that the same principle that we fought tooth and nail to uphold against the onslaught of SOPA, ACTA, etc?


I completely agree! I updated something on my father's wikipedia page (he founded a city and was a mayor), and even though the article was 5 years old, the change brought the article under review and it was cited for deletion due to notability! I countered everyone of their arguments with sourced articles directly that met the guidelines for notability and they just deleted the messages from their talk pages. They eventually stopped responding and left the article for deletion. Luckily a compassionate editor came along (who happened to be female) and completely defended it and me.

edit: I just searched for the page and it is deleted! I am going to get to the bottom of this, this is ridiculous, who do these people think they are?

edit 2: When the editor apologized to me, she told me to notify her if the page was ever deleted "If the article gets deleted, please let me know. -- Uzma Gamal". I've sent her a message and will update...This is crazy!


For reasons like these, whenever I see "please give me money" Wikipedia commercials, I just say yea....Nope!!


It's pretty ridiculous that people will go this far out of their way to delete an article that is obviously not spam or anything like that. Seriously, I got pretty emotional having to defend my father's notability to a stranger on the internet who is on a power-trip. At least the woman standing up for me (and my Dad) proves there are at least some good people on there...


The fact that you are so emotionally invested in the subject is a good reason why you shouldn't be the one writing or creating the article in the first place.


The only people who are going to write articles for free are going to be emotionally invested in the topic. Otherwise there's no payoff for them.

Editors on the other hand, have a very simple payoff: power.


There are different, less self-interested kinds of emotional investment, though. Many article authors are intellectually interested in their subjects, but not personally connected to them. For example, there's a difference between writing a Wikipedia article on a mathematical theorem you consider beautiful and important; and writing a Wikipedia article on a mathematical theorem that you personally discovered and published. In both cases you care a lot about the subject, but in the second case it may be better to let a third party who's less personally close to it write the article.

(Interestingly, this almost never comes up in the mathematics articles. There are quite a few mathematicians who edit Wikipedia, and they tend to be quite scrupulous about that kind of thing.)


It also tends to lead to distorted understandings of the problems in these kinds of discussions, imo. There are a lot of things that can be improved on Wikipedia, but they are not most clearly seen if your only interaction with Wikipedia is writing articles where you have a strong conflict of interest. You get a better idea of what's good and bad if you put in a good-faith effort to contribute to articles that don't relate to your own business/self/family/books first, and see how that goes. It's not even strictly prohibited to work on articles where you have a conflict of interest, but it's not a good place to start. I find that many people who dismiss Wikipedia entirely didn't ever make that good-faith effort to understand and contribute. I chatted at a conference with a professor who had very strong opinions on Wikipedia and appeared to be positioning himself as very knowledgeable about it... based on his one and only effort to edit it, creating an article about himself.


> I find that many people who dismiss Wikipedia entirely didn't ever make that good-faith effort to understand and contribute.

I find many people people who dismiss wikipedia entirely did make that good faith effort to understand and contribute.

They gave up after

- writing articles (with sources) about early 20th C Olympic athletes which were bulk deleted as not notable

- making small changes to articles to fix spelling, grammar, or style. Each change required extensive reading of the MoS to get right. Almost every change was reverted within minutes to the previous version by someone using twinkle, or some auto revert tool, or someone with an image of a police-officer style "vandal patrol". (Some of the fixes were clearly fixes from something incorrect to correct. A few of them were matters of style, bringing things into compliance with the MoS, or making something consistent with the rest of the page.) Worse than having the changes reverted was to sometimes have a warning templated to their talk page.

- the hatred for people who edit without making accounts.

- a bizarre process of user name review after the username was deemed "confusing". (Note the software has hard coded limits on what can become a username; further there are a bunch of filters to prevent certain words being used). The username was not similar to any wikipedian username, nor to any function or process of wikipedia, nor to any kid of role account (real or otherwise.) What could the name be confused with? This, coupled with hatred for IP editing, lead to death.

So, now, we both have our anecdotes about people who've had poor experiences with wikipedia.

Yours is interesting. Creating an article about yourself is clearly a bad idea. But how did his experience end up with him hating wikipedia, and not being pleased that wikipedia has strong process in place to prevent odd biases? Why is it acceptable to chase off expert users just because they've made a mistake? Why do you assume he made no good faith effort to contribute, and not that he made a mistake, and tried to contribute, and got chased off by over vigorous editors.


On the latter point, because I chatted with him over dinner, and as far as I could tell the only thing he really cared about was that he "should" have a Wikipedia article and they wouldn't "let" him have one. I've had quite a few experiences with academics (I'm also an academic) who seem to be primarily interested in how they can get Wikipedia to cover them or their work, i.e. their main goal is to use it to get their work more well known or highly cited. Not as much interest in how Wikipedia is as a quality encyclopedia in general.

When I would suggest that it might be better to start editing in some other area not directly theirs, for example start with important classic theorems in theoretical CS, and that kind of thing, the response was a less direct version of: I have more important things to do than write random articles for free, and anyway there are already good textbooks that cover those theorems.

(Not all my experiences with academics are bad in that regard, but I've found that, partly due to academic incentives, most just don't have the time/interest to write something that doesn't contribute to their career advancement. There are definite exceptions, though, especially among profs with the luxury of already being tenured.)


Okay, that's fair enough.

One thing that is really good is the much better way that WP tries to engage with college projects.

Sometimes a lecturer will have an idea to get students to edit WP. This used to end badly for all concerned. WP now has much nicer ways to meet new editors, and encourage them into better ways of editing.


"" When I would suggest that it might be better to start editing in some other area not directly theirs ""

Every hair on Buffy Summer's head has an article on Wikipedia. The above is not going to create a better encyclopedia, it is going to create an elitist, insular clique.


I would argue many of the editors are as emotionally attached to the control they have over articles as well, if not the subject as well.

The issue is that without paying people, you aren't going to get a lot of people who aren't emotionally invested to bother contributing the Wikipedia.


I wonder how far Linux would have gotten without people contributing to "scratch their own itch".

Self-interest is something to be harnessed and channeled to promote a greater good (better kernel code, more article contributions), not something to be chased away.


Who else is going to rally against the people that view Wikipedia as their own personal Bonsai?


Irrelevant, WP has a mechanism where biased articles eventually reach an unbiased state.


They've gone and deleted the page on Atomic Dielectric Resonance Scanning as well, seemingly on the basis that the page was made by the son of the guy who invented the technology.


That is a very good reason not to donate. I wonder if there is an organized campaign to fix the overzealous deletion problem (by changing the "notability" policy), to boycott as long as it remains and pledge to donate if it is changed to a more objective policy.


Well, if Wikipedia didn't have any money at all, there would be no articles whatsoever. Wouldn't that be worse?


"No, we won't end up with a page for every John Doe and his cat."

And if we did? It think it would be rather cool for everyone, living or dead, to have his own Wikipedia page. In fact these might have special status as non-deletable.

If your family ran a web site about its family, would you deny any member a page, especially if some members already had pages?

Now consider our larger family, all us humans that have ever been and ever will be. Besides the many topics about our "family" covered by Wikipedia, some of us have pages specifically about us. Why shouldn't all of us have our own pages?

Well before Wikipedia came along, I've wished that each person on Earth could have some way of being recorded for posterity. Some peoples' record will of course be more interesting than others'. But we're all family, even the boring and embarrassing ones.


I think this would be a great idea, to have articles on "non-notable" subjects.

The underlying motivation for "notable" is a potential bug in Wikipedia, not a problem with "notability" per se. The notability requirement is epiphenomenal, a kind of code smell for the Wikipedia guidelines.

The underlying issue is whether the Wikipedia attribution and citation guidelines are strong enough to indicate when an article contains content that is possibly fallacious. Non-notable topics are more likely to have fewer references, and hence the information about a non-notable subject are more subject to manipulation.

It would be an interesting acid test for Wikipedia (perhaps a sub-Wikipedia, like http://everything-en.wikipedia.org/) to open the floodgates on "non-notable" entries. Articles would start out by default with a banner that says "No editor has reviewed whether this article contains credible sources." Another editor could swoop in, read the citations, and remove the banner, or change it to: "The sources cited in this article are easily manipulated, and lack independent review."

Iterating over http://everything-en.wikipedia.org editor guidelines, Wikipedia could evolve a strong set of guidelines for remaining authoritative over the long-tail of information.

I wish this would happen, but I don't know if/how it would.


If there are good references, Wikipedia has been moving in this direction. But as an encyclopedia, and one that claims no authority for itself based on any kind of expertise of the authors, articles really need to be referenced to good sources in the published literature.

If you do have good sources for something, e.g. there is even a relatively small biographical section on someone in a published book, or a journal article, or something similar, the separate "notability" requirement has been increasingly going away, so that "but I've got sources" trumps it. I wrote a bit on that last year: http://www.kmjn.org/notes/wikipedia_notability_verifiability... (I also discuss some of the history around these requirements, some of which were motivated by trying to do something about Usenet physics cranks who found Wikipedia and decided it'd be a great place for articles on all their pet theories.)

I've been systematically going through several references and adding articles on everything in them, and haven't run into people objecting to my articles or trying to delete them for several years, since the end of the more "notability" focused era. Now as long as my articles include some references, they seem fine. One of my projects is marching through the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie adding articles on random people who were mayors of Prussian towns in 1850, and that kind of thing. There's even a Wikiproject trying to organize efforts to cover everything in that particular reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Missing_e...

I do think it's also valuable for there to be other projects, which catalog information that can't be referenced well. For example, Know Your Meme does a pretty decent job of doing original research in history-of-memes. There are several genealogy projects that attempt to catalog people more exhaustively as well. But those are pretty different projects from Wikipedia's goal of summarizing stuff that's published in the existing literature, with references. Wikipedia doesn't have to be the only wiki on the internet, so I don't see why those original-research projects can't develop in parallel.


I have not seen Wikipedia "moving in this directon." I had some editors delete a 5 year old page with multiple published sources and 10+ inbound wikipedia links on it. I am getting it reviewed now. There are some bad apple editors on Wikipedia who are high up on their horses.


I'm not arguing it never happens, but that it's been "moving in this direction", i.e. that notability plays an increasingly small role relative to verifiability. That's my observation over about 8 years of writing articles now and then, but I would be interested in a more quantitative test of that claim if someone knows of a way to do it. Nobody has given me any grief since around 2008 for new articles, even ones on quite "minor" subjects, whereas the question of "does this belong in an encyclopedia?" used to be a more common discussion in Wikipedia's early days, as everyone was trying to figure out what "a wiki encyclopedia" really meant. (In particular, people coming from a more academic background, like Larry Sanger, were advocating for a much smaller, more traditional encyclopedia, certainly not one with millions of articles.)

I do think there are specific areas that remain more controversial, mainly around recent pop culture and business. If people suspect you're self-promoting, then they may try to get an article deleted (there was a recent rash of hotels hiring PR firms to add articles on them, which wouldn't be so bad in itself if the articles didn't read like ad copy). Same if you write an article on a recent internet meme, or a website.

In the areas I've been working in, which are mainly geography, history, science, mathematics, and literature, "notability" as a separate requirement seems basically completely dead in practice. I used to have to argue against deletion of my articles on minor 19th-century Prussians. But nobody even thinks of deleting those these days, as long as they have solid citations.

edit: Looking elsewhere in the thread, it looks like your views of Wikipedia are generalized from one very self-interested example: an article about your dad. May I suggest that isn't the most unbiased way of forming an opinion on a complex subject?


A side note, how do you go through a reference and lift all the information from it while avoiding simply paraphrasing it? Or are you using it as a starting point then finding more sources on these mayors?


In the case of the ADB, it's public domain (published in the late 19th century), so could be used directly, like the 1911 Britannica is. Except it's in German, so some translation is necessary. :) I sometimes translate fairly directly, but I usually look for whether there are any more recent sources to expand on the bio, or correct any info that might now be obsolete.

With copyrighted encyclopedias, my preference is to use at least 2-3 sources for a bio. For example, with a physicist, I'd use a biographical dictionary / encyclopedia as a reference for basic biographical facts (dates, locations, awards, etc.), and then flesh out information about scientific importance from something like a textbook or survey paper commenting on his/her work.

If the main source is a non-encyclopedia, it's usually less of a problem, because the original text doesn't really read like an encyclopedia article anyway. For example, when writing articles on Greek archaeological sites, my source material is usually a discussion in a monograph or history book, which is sometimes scattered (it may be mentioned for a few pages in Chapter 2, then again in Ch. 8, sometimes as a main topic, other times in passing when discussing an event or person, that kind of thing). So it's a matter of going through, noting down salient facts and page numbers they came from, and then assembling the results into an article.


Methinks there already is a website with more or less the same function. It's called Facebook, and from what I've heard, people don't seem to be particularly enthusiastic about recording their lives to be displayed in public in perpetuity.


Not really. Facebook is geared towards logging your whole life (with more or less detail), not having a small profile page.

See Rob Pike's[1] Wiki page, for example; it's just a couple of paragraphs describing where he was born and what he did and does professionally. From his personal life, there's only 8 words.

I'm someone who likes to remain pseudo-anonymous, but I'd be OK with a page like that.


I'm quite certain this would be one of those things people would be uncomfortable with for a few months - a year, tops.

Then they get used to it.


hhsa's post seems to have gotten dead'd, so:

While I think a lot of people would get used to it (as proven by the amount of people who have all their lives and conversations in public on Facebook), there definitely will still be some who are aware of the consequences. The whole "overshare your whole life publicly on the internet" situation is starting to get out of hand. I don't need to tell HN'ers, but once something is put online, it's there forever, available to any of the 7 billion people alive right now, and it will be available to anybody else that ever lives in the future. Yet still people continue to post content that is immature, embarrassing, risqué, illegal/incriminating, etc. using their full names and identities for the world to see. But a full Wikipedia article for every person? Do you really want anybody on the planet to have your full DOB, birthplace, educational history, employment history, place of residence, pictures, etc. AND then have all of that information for your spouses, parents, children? This is getting too crazy.


Instead of notability, I'd prefer criteria of verifiability (ie there must be reliable sources) and objectivity (ie no marketing or self-promotion).


A ban on self promotion, if overzealous, has the problem that it can be used to remove articles by the people who have the most expertise in a given subject.


> Every time a "problem" like this makes the news, the real problem always seems to be overzealous deletionists with their ridiculously strict notability requirement. Gender imbalance might be a problem, but it's not a problem to the same extent as notability-based deletionism is.

You're right. I've given up creating new articles on Wikipedia, due to the hassle I've had with deletionists.


It's hard to argue against trying to make the policies more objective and consistent.

But the reasoning you are using to get there seems to be pushing wikipedia to be more like google (keep pretty much all of the content and let pagerank sort it out) and less like wikipedia. There's nothing wrong with google, but it already exists, and we don't need another one.

Wikipedia is fundamentally based on editing. Deleting pages is just one aspect -- what about removing paragraphs? I think my paragraph is important, so I add it near the top of a page. You think the paragraph is completely useless and want to remove it entirely. What do we do? Remove the paragraph, keep it, or move it down the page?

You also don't address a lot of obvious problems, like namespace issues. If the policy is not to delete anything, then there will be more articles and greater ambiguity. I like the fact that, when I use wikipedia, it usually goes to the right place immediately or offers a short list of ways to disambiguate.


Some people have personalities that help them create excellently researched, extremely detailed articles. Train spotters, bus spotters, etc, will have articles with a wealth of detail, all of which can be traced back to authoritative real world documentation.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bus_routes_in_Essex)

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bus_routes_in_London)

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Buses_route_9)

(The London article has some fascinating facts.)

But these articles have been the target of deletionists.

People, perhaps rightly, get confused that you can have a list of fictional ducks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_ducks) but not lists of Olympic athletes.


Interesting point in the article that there are many, many Linux distributions with their own articles (reading one of the articles which listed them, it looked like over 200 of them). Are there really 200 notable Linux distros?

Edit: Re the wedding dress, my mother was an expert maker of lace, among other accomplishments, and I've seen a fair amount of lace.The lace on Kate Middleton's dress is definitely notable.


Would you care to explain why?

As someone not familiar with lace or wedding dresses, it's far from obvious why it would be notable. If you wrote up a response explaining, I'd bet that a lot of readers here would find it informative.


And that, of course, is the reason why we need the Wikipedia page on the dress.


"In fact, it's possible that people with certain psychological traits self-select for Wikipedia editorship."

I'd say this is more often the case than not. The few times I've interacted with wikipedia editors I've found our differences to revolve around differences in opinion rather than quantifiable standards. Of course, the opinion of the wiki-nazi carries the day. I agree wikipedia would be better served if it focused its editing on clear cases of unacceptability ("obviously fraudulent, marketing-oriented, illegal, or obscene according to a widely accepted definition of obscenity") plus in improving the language and grammar of the contributions.


While I don't agree with the extent of deletion taht wikipedia sees, I do see a point in avoiding pollution of the search space. There are a lot of celebrity weddings. And frankly, 'affect on fashion industry' really isn't going to be large in the grand scheme of things, just like having an article just for the linux kernel 2.6.29 isn't going to be huge.

Make a page called 'notable wedding dresses' and stick it in there. Would any geek but the most insanely hardcore really want a separate page for each minor version of Perl? No, of course not. And that's what the effect of celebrity wedding dresses is like in the world of fashion: a minor dot-point revision of one tool.


Exactly what problems would this "pollution of search space" manifest as?


>Honestly, I cannot think of a good reason to delete any article at all, unless it's obviously fraudulent...

I find this opinion extremely ironic. The whole point of wikipedia was to be an encyclopedia, including all of the baggage that word carries. We don't need another raw dump of information--that's what the internet is for. Wikipedia has a special place in the mind of the world; having an article there gives your cause an air of legitimacy that simply being on the internet doesn't have anymore. And this is exactly why people want their pet causes plastered all over it.

If Wikipedia were just another dump of information, no one would care to have their information on it. That is what is ironic about this argument. The only reason people care to be on wikipedia is precisely because of the "deletionists" and editors who work to keep articles on the site notable. Without them, wikipedia simply wouldn't matter.


Seems to me like they are often not actually out to delete the article, instead they're using the threat of deletion to try and spur the author to clean up an article to wikipedia's standards. Otherwise they'd have to do it themselves. In those cases I think it's actually a pretty reasonable strategy. There's a lot of crap and vanity articles that are thrown up there on any given day.


One big problem with Wikipedia, and the big cause of the ongoing deletionism controversy, is the divergent purposes of outside content creators and wikipedian editors.

Most of the outside creators contribute out of direct interest in the subject matter. Too much editing is done for ego-boos and a sense of enpowerment. This isn't always true, of course, but it is true often enough to generate the problem and keep it going.


> A better response would be a prohibition on self-promotion or some other clear guideline, rather than a vague requirement of notability.

Its easy to say "some other clear guideline" but I think your going to run into the exact same problem wikipedia currently has. Can I create a page for my cat? for my friend's cat? the neighborhood cat? a stranger's cat?


Or to take one of the historical examples that actually led to the "verifiability" and "no original research" policies: if I'm a prolific physics crank from Usenet who discovered Wikipedia, can I create hundreds of articles on my alternative physics theories, which cite my own website as a source?


Go to town. What's hurt by it?


There's an obvious namespacing issue. How many people do you think have cats named "Fluffy," for instance? Beyond a certain point, it starts becoming difficult to find the information you want, except, perhaps by using a search function. Once you're at that point, you might as well be search Google for the info instead.

Edit: Wikipedia solves this problem currently with disambiguation pages. Those would become useless once they hit a certain size.



The number of people wanting to create pages about everything is lass than the number of people willing to maintain pages about everything.

Thus, assuming no vandals or spammers ever create pages, you have very many pages created, and not so many people available to check and maintain those pages. Over the years spammers and vandals insert some changes. Or the information just becomes out of date.

So, now someone has to pay to store and host this stuff, which is not ever used by anyone, and which is out of date or full of links to handbags and shoes and medication, or with "BOB IS GAY LOLOLOLOL".


It loses its "authoritative" nature. It becomes just a list of facts that have citations. Which has its uses of course but I think is much less interesting.

Would you trust wikipedia as much if it had a page for your neighbor's dog?


"Would you trust wikipedia as much if it had a page for your neighbor's dog?"

Why wouldn't I?

Plus, as long as they maintain the "no original research" rule and the citation requirement, this isn't even a potential problem.


Because theres no way anyone spent more than 10 minutes fact checking and verifying the page on your neighbor's dog. And if it has your neighbor's dog it has other people's neighbor's dogs. So now every page you have to distinguish between actual curated, "trusted" content and some guy posting about his friend.

> Plus, as long as they maintain the "no original research" rule and the citation requirement, this isn't even a potential problem.

Thousands of articles are published everyday. Its not difficult to get in one. So and so got an honorable mention at the town's local pet show.


Wikipedia is going to give up on Deletionism. It's just a matter of when and how.

The users want it to be different, the users want Inclusionism. It's going to happen, with them or with whatever comes after them.

Wikipedia is better off getting in front of that parade and leading it rather than being run over by it.


You already have to distinguish between curated and non-curated content. It's not like Wikipedia requires an editor before publishing the content, and a whole lot of pages have never been revised, or have been editing since, etc.


Or just assign notability number to each article, and allow users to filter by it (perhaps even by default only show articles with notability greater than some bias).


Wikipedia isn't a blog where you just browse through all articles. You have to actively seek out articles on each topic.


Notwithstanding my other response advocating "pages for everyone!" this would make the random page function less interesting, and a notability filter would be good there. A tag filter (positive and negative) would be cool too.


This is also argument againist deletionism :)


>better response would be a prohibition on self-promotion or some other clear guideline, rather than a vague requirement of notability.

Eh, I'm pretty sure that is already prohibited. Or, at the very least, looked down upon:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_of_interest_editing_on...

Hm. So it's not okay to edit your own article, but it /is/ okay to pay someone else to do so?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Plain_and_simple_conf...

That... seems really weird. Well, not weird, but disappointing.


Dude, why do you Jimmy Wales is worth so much?

He runs Wikia.

What you are proposing is in direct conflict with his personal interests, but you can never win an argument on Wikipedia with that as evidence.


Jimmy Wales disagrees with the deletionists.


Because it's highly publicized...


But it's not just overzealous deletion oats. All those Linux distribution pages don't get deleted.


I agree. I bet that dress got more page views across the net than the combined lifetime page views of anything regarding Linux distros. I'd say the dress was notable even though I personally couldn't care less about it.


Everyone's a deletionist about something.

Now, watch people 'delete' my comment by downvoting, without giving me any counterargument.

> Honestly, I cannot think of a good reason to delete any article at all, unless it's obviously fraudulent, marketing-oriented, illegal, or obscene according to a widely accepted definition of obscenity.

None of these are objective, though, meaning this argument will never end. In particular, there is no 'widely accepted definition of obscenity' even within any particular country, let alone the entire English-speaking world (assuming you only care about the English-language Wikipedia).

> The argument that it would be too difficult to maintain lots of extra articles is also weak, because not every article needs to be regularly edited, and more articles on niche topics might actually attract more editors.

There's the danger of the more out-of-the-way articles becoming spam-traps. The technical solutions would stifle article creation and modification, which seems directly counter to your goals.

> No, we won't end up with a page for every John Doe and his cat.

Why not? How is not having a page for every John Doe and his cat not simply deletionism?

> In fact, it's possible that people with certain psychological traits self-select for Wikipedia editorship.

Non sequitur based on psychological projection or other such nonsense. You have no real basis for this statement.


> Everyone's a deletionist about something.

That's a very broad definition of deletionism, and I'm not interested in arguing about terminology. (Hey, I don't want any wedding gown photos on my hard drive. Am I a deletionist too?) Besides, distinguishing between private desire/preference and public editorial behavior is exactly what I'm trying to advocate here.

> None of these are objective, though, meaning this argument will never end.

Objectivity is not black and white. Some rules are easier to enforce fairly than others, and some rules are more subjective than others. I'm not saying that Wikipedia should officially adopt any of the rules that I listed off the top of my head, but they were meant as examples that may be less subjective than "notability". The less room a rule for deletion leaves for subjective interpretation, the better.

> There's the danger of the more out-of-the-way articles becoming spam-traps.

An article that is over 50% spam might be a good candidate for deletion. Compare this rule with "notability". Which one is more objective? Deletionists are patrolling every out-of-the-way article anyway. If they really want to contribute to Wikipedia, they should devote more energy to deleting obvious spam instead of arguing pointlessly about "notability".

> Why not? How is not having a page for every John Doe and his cat not simply deletionism?

Because not everyone gives a fuck about having his or her own Wikipedia page. Just like not everyone wants to have a public Facebook wall. Lack of interest is a powerful resource that modern societies should learn to leverage to the benefit of all. If the page doesn't get created in the first place, there is nothing to delete. You can call this deletionism too, but then we're back to arguing about terminology.

> Non sequitur based on psychological projection or other such nonsense.

Maybe it is, but so is your so-called criticism. (Yes, that's tu quoque.)


Wikipedia has long adopted those of your rules that are workable and discussed all of them at great length. None of the rules you propose is any use as an alternative to notability criteria. None of the rules you propose is simple to apply in the real world.

Notability is a technical term on Wikipedia. It's a mistake to interpret it as the common English word or concept. It's also not all that subjective: When defined for all possible articles, notability is necessarily extremely abstract. However, notability is being refined and re-interpreted for specific areas in a community process. I'm not always happy about this process, and I certainly don't agree with its results in all cases, but that's a different issue.

It's this process that matters. There has to be some process to determine whether an article gets included (though extreme inclusionists may disagree). For this process, Wikipedia:Notability is the constitutional law, the individual Wikiprojects' notability criteria are the law derived from the constitution, both of which are applied to specific instances, in a system with a rich body of case law and with various bodies for arbitration.

In a way, it's more useful to think about notability not as an attribute of an entity, but simply as a short verdict of the current process. In other words, a thing is not notable enough to get its own Wikipedia article, but rather the fact that it got included and remained included makes it notable according to the technical meaning of Wikipedia.

Of course this is complicated and of course there are horrible downsides of having such a complicated system. Maybe we should just opt for a simpler system and resign to the fact that the end result will be worse. However I doubt that people would herald the new inclusionist Wikipedia where everyone's dad can get an article, instead they'd mercilessly pounce on the new Wikipedia full of spam, self-advertising, non-referenced, non-verified, non-sensical and attack articles.


I understand that notability is not a simple rule but the result of countless debates and arbitrations that resemble a system of common law. Still, I think it is very unfortunate that a new contributor often needs to win an argument with a deletionist as soon as he writes a new article for the first time. That's like requiring every new business to win a nasty lawsuit (or jump through similarly onerous hoops) before they can actually sell anything. The result of the former is a precipitous drop in the number of new contributors and the further consolidation of editorial power in the hands of existing contributors. The result of the latter, which we often see in markets with government-approved quasi-monopolies like health-care supplies and payment processing, is stifled innovation.

> Maybe we should just opt for a simpler system and resign to the fact that the end result will be worse.

How do you know that the result will be worse? What do you even mean by worse? One of the symptoms of an unhealthy monopoly is that the established powers refuse to experiment, lest they lose their dominant position. Attempts to depart from the status quo are met with alarmism and doomsday scenarios, and existing rules and procedures get romanticized to absurd ends. When a community is ailing, its cherished processes should be the first to be questioned. Deletionists might have had a noble purpose when they began their crusade a few years ago, but now that they wield an enormous amount of power over other contributors, I cannot think of them except as part of a self-perpetuating unhealthy monopoly over editorial power.

Rules like "Thou shalt not put up ads here" and "Thou shalt use proper citations", even if no less complicated to apply in the real world, at least articulate clear ideals that people can understand, and provide concrete guidelines that new contributors can follow. The less abstract the rules are, the less room there is for abuse.


Sorry, I guess that was badly put. I wasn't discussing any specific change/simplification of the system and saying that this would make things worse. Without some specific changes at hand it's difficult/meaningless to make such predictions. I certainly don't think that the current process is optimal and any change is a change for the worse. Personally, I'd be happier with drastically relaxed notability criteria.

I meant that if there was a change that involved a trade-off between process complexity and article quality[0], we shouldn't tend towards article quality at all costs. I meant that maybe a lower article quality is worth it if it means being less byzantine, less harsh towards the newbies, more flexible, etc.

Of course if you can avoid that trade-off, if Wikipedia can be any or all of these things without a drop in quality -- and I'm sure it can be although I don't know how -- that's even better and we should implement that first.

[0] You're 100% correct that "worse" isn't well defined here, and "high article quality" is not much better.


the fact that it got included and remained included makes it notable according to the technical meaning of Wikipedia.

Why does that remind me exactly of this:

Listen up! The first rule of Tautology Club is... http://xkcd.com/703/


This is frustrating. I can't tell if you're making a joke, in which case I understand fine and I was going to make a joke about tautologies myself but then changed my mind. But if you're not making a joke and you think this involves circular reasoning, then you completely missed my point:

Notability, the Wikipedia term, is not an input to the article inclusion/exclusion process, it is the output of this process. The process itself depends on the topic and relies on various proxy metrics because notability (the English word) relates to an abstract concept which you can not meaningfully discuss directly.


As far as whether I was making a joke or not, it is a bit of both. I understand that the wikipedia definition of the term notable means something that has been decided to be included in the encyclopedia, however in discussions over whether articles should be deleted, I have noticed that it seems very common for wikipedia members to give notability as the reason for deletion, which if notability merely means whether something has been decided to be suitable for the encylopedia, is then circular reasoning.


They use it as a proxy for the notability criteria laid out in [0] and the various more concrete notability criteria for various genres. I think that's all right. But it often comes down to people subjectively feeling one way or another about an article's notability and then applying the rules in a way that delivers the desired outcome.


Seems arbitrary as hell to be honest.


Excellent post. I have no idea why you were downvoted. As usual, people discussing Wikipedia policy are doomed to rehash arguments long made on Wikipedia meta pages... poorly.

I'm a moderate inclusionist (or I was, years ago when I was active on Wikipedia), but the quality of the inclusionist arguments outside of Wikipedia itself is pathetic. I think this is because there are almost no deletionists outside of Wikipedia which elevate the discussion with good counter-arguments.


> the quality of the inclusionist arguments outside of Wikipedia itself is pathetic.

I'd be interested in reading some of the "good" deletionist & inclusionist arguments inside Wikipedia that you mention. These pages [1][2][3] seem to summarize most of the well-known arguments from both sides, but each of the points listed there are too schematic for a casual reader to make sense of what's actually going on within the community. Besides, some of the arguments there actually look even more pathetic than anything I've read outside of Wikipedia. (What the hell does Roe v. Wade have to do with this?)

[1] https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/meta/wiki/Deletionism

[2] https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/meta/wiki/Association...

[3] https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/meta/wiki/Association...

> people discussing Wikipedia policy are doomed to rehash arguments long made on Wikipedia meta pages... poorly.

Members of some communities seem to think that outsiders are not fully qualified to participate in debates about their beloved policies. But often a detached outsider's perspective is exactly what is needed to fix a broken status quo.

For example, both the deletionist and inclusionist "Associations" are made up of experienced editors with strong commitments pro and con. These folks might not be in the best position to talk about the many hurdles that new contributors face every day, which has more to do with maldistributed burdens of proof and the lack of clearly articulated standards.

Well-intentioned new contributors don't care whether Wikipedia should be paper or toilet paper. They care when some editor on a power trip spends 30 minutes arguing to delete a little article when he could have spent a much more productive 3 minutes looking up a couple of references that the newbie didn't know how to include.


Sorry, I don't have any good links for you. It's been a while since I've been active, and most of what I'm thinking of is spread around hundreds of AfD (deletion review), article talk pages and policy pages. Much of the discussion within Wikipedia isn't all that great, either, with a very low SNR. I'm not sure that there's a single page which only covers the really good arguments of either side.

The quotes & arguments in the articles you reference are cringe-worthy, but then again I don't think they're very serious. I think the "Rationale for deletionism" section in your [1] is pretty okay, and something every inclusionist had better keep in mind when making a policy suggestion. As usual, it pays to know the opposing side's arguments very well.

This is what Wikipedia "proper" has to say: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deletionism_and_inclusionism_in... (including a quote by pg that, at least without further context, is a good example of what I'm talking about)

I'm not sure that a detached outsider is in a better position to come up with what's needed to fix the system, being ignorant of both what the system is and why it was set up in this way. At least the latter is required before coming up with a new, improved system.

Newbies are good judges on the difficulty of entry into Wikipedia, but that's an orthogonal issue: it may be possible to be nicer to newbies AND have sensible notability criteria/high quality articles, but then again, maybe not. If not, as I said earlier, having less sensible notability criteria and worse quality articles may be worth it if it resulted in a less hostile environment/image.


> I'm not sure that a detached outsider is in a better position to come up with what's needed to fix the system, being ignorant of both what the system is and why it was set up in this way. At least the latter is required before coming up with a new, improved system.

I guess I didn't express my "detached outsider" argument very clearly. I wasn't trying to suggest that outsiders should dictate specific policies of Wikipedia's editorial process. That task should be left to those who actually know the community well. But formulating specific policies is not all there is to policy-making. Policy-making also involves philosophizing about general principles, such as "What kind of website do we want/need Wikipedia to be?" This is the area where deletionists and inclusionists seem to disagree the most sharply, and since debates in this area seem to have been in a stalemate for quite a while, this is the area where I think fresh perspectives are needed the most. It is also the area where one can make valuable points without having to have been a Wikipedia contributor for 5+ years.

If you interpret pg's suggestion as "You have plenty of space," then of course he's just rehashing the paper vs. toilet paper debate. But IMO the core of his suggestion is "There is room to do to Wikipedia what Wikipedia did to Britannica," i.e. radically more inclusive, more dynamic, more egalitarian, more accessible, etc. This is a matter of general principles and ideals, not specific policies. pg didn't suggest specific policies as an alternative to the current way that deletions are handled. Rather, he invited Wikipedians to step beyond internal politics and think more deeply about what role they want Wikipedia to play in the context of broader social changes. To call his argument "pathetic" merely on the basis of the "You have plenty of space" interpretation is to see the tree but miss the forest. Sometimes, forests contain dead trees. But that doesn't mean that the forest itself is worthless. To take pg's suggestion as a simple rehashing of old arguments among Wikipedians is to drag him down to the level of myopic nitpicking that much of the debate surrounding deletionism seems to have become of late.

The suggestions I made in my original comment do lend themselves too easily to the "You have plenty of space" interpretation, and I'm sorry that I couldn't express myself more effectively. I also learned a lot from the replies I got. I can't edit that comment anymore, but if I could, I might remove all those specific arguments and just focus on the maldistribution of burdens of proof. Because that's the kind of philosophical principle that seems to be lacking in all the nitpicking about unverifiable predictions pro and con. If Wikipedians can't bring themselves to stop obsessing about internal politics and reconsider what their philosophical commitments imply, at least I hope they're humble enough to admit that an outsider might have more interesting things to say about matters of general principle. A community that is all too ready to discount outsider perspectives is a sure sign of an ailing community that is trying to insulate its existing power relations even more from rational scrutiny.


> more inclusive, more dynamic, more egalitarian, more accessible

more spammy, more full of nonsense written by homeopaths and similar nutballs, more full of hateful crap written by Neo-Nazis and their ilk, etc. etc.

If you opt for the radically inclusionist policy, you no longer have much of a justification for deleting that page that says cancer can be cured by chugging bleach and shoving silver up your rectum. It's wrong, sure, but deleting it would be a tad... deletionist.


> you no longer have much of a justification for deleting that page that says cancer can be cured by chugging bleach and shoving silver up your rectum.

So what? Just add another paragraph to that page explaining the scientific consensus that anally penetrating yourself with silver won't cure cancer. (Believe it or not, Wikipedia actually has a rule requiring balanced coverage.)

You might even vote to move that entire section to a page of its own. (Does that also count as deletionism in your dictionary? What about article-splittism?)

Either response will take a lot less time and effort for everyone involved, compared to starting a heated and confrontational debate about deleting an entire article.

"If there be time to expose through discussion falsehood and fallacies, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence." -- Justice Louis Brandeis, Whitney v. California (1927)


> Just add another paragraph to that page explaining the scientific consensus that anally penetrating yourself with silver won't cure cancer.

So you have multiple articles on the subject of cancer treatment, all repeating the same information and all needing to be updated one by one? Because my point was what Wikipedia now calls a 'POV Fork', or a new article explicitly created to push a specific POV as opposed to being NPOV.

Also, you're hitting up against something that inclusionists also complain about: Their pet POV Forks, the articles they demand to be allowed to own, keep getting deleted because Wikipedia already has NPOV coverage of that topic! Shame and infamy! Shame! And! Infamy!

> You might even vote to move that entire section to a page of its own.

I think that's pretty much the definition of a POV Fork, unless I misunderstand you.

> Either response will take a lot less time and effort for everyone involved

Not if you want all the articles on a given subject to be intelligent, factual, and balanced. Then you have to turn each and every (attempted) POV Fork into an NPOV article that's a clone of the article it forked off from.


I just submitted an article on this topic, but check out http://www.gwern.net/In%20Defense%20Of%20Inclusionism

You may recognize gwern from comments here at hackernews, and after reading it I didn't feel that I'd wasted my time (which should be read as mild praise relative to a typical submission to hackernews).


I am frequently surprised to find Wikipedia articles about very narrow, highly-specialized technical concepts. For example, there is a Wikipedia page about iso646.h in the C language standard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iso646.h). If you're wondering why you never heard of iso646.h before, it's because it is only useful if you are programming in C on a system that does not support cutting-edge characters like "&" or "|". This is esoterica that does not have any measurable impact on the world. And this isn't even an article about ISO 646 per se, it's about a header file.

I find such articles extremely useful, so I'm not advocating that they be deleted. But surely the wedding gown worn by a British Monarch who is widely known for her fashion sense is at least as relevant to the world at large.


Judging by the number of magazine covers and news segments devoted to this woman, I'd say it's a lot more relevant.

I agree with the current top poster: they shouldn't delete anything that doesn't conform to general rules of objectivity.


I think a lot of these articles fall into the "benign neglect" category. They collect dust in a corner somewhere, and most people who run across them don't understand the content enough to feel like they should offer an opinion. It's with recent pop culture where everyone has an opinion one way or the other.

There's also a bit more scrutiny given to anything about currently living people, as opposed to articles on inanimate technical subjects, because of the potential for libel, though I'm not sure that was relevant here.


> relevant to the world at large

That is not a good encyclopedic. Encyclopedia's are to document and archive for current and future generations. They are a store of knowledge for knowledge's sake. You include stuff that may not be relevant today because it may be relevant tomorrow.


That kind of info in the linked article really should be in an aggregated article, not it's own page. It barely qualifies as a stub article.


Wikipedia is an interesting place. I am not sure what classifies articles for deletion, but it feels like only people who live in the Internet industry take part in actively running and editing the articles. I don't think of it as a male dominant community (even though I am female), but it feels like to me that only for people who are only care about stuff they know. It feels more like a closed minded community than having a woman problem.

My previous company was a chip and Wi-Fi module startup (ZeroG Wireless). I had requested our company name to be created around 2009. At that point, we had been around for 4 years and we had taken $30m in funding. However, we were never granted a section on Wikipedia.

On the other hand, plenty of internet companies who were around than launch much shorter than that and their names are currently on Wikipedia, for example, Pownce. I am sure that many others are granted a Wikipedia entry for being around less, accomplishing less than what we did. The only difference is that these were Internet startups and ZeroG was not.

Some people simply need to wake up and stop living in their own bubble. Let's hope that one day they can realize that others do care about things that the community doesn't care.


> My previous company was a chip and Wi-Fi module startup (ZeroG Wireless). I had requested our company name to be created around 2009. At that point, we had been around for 4 years and we had taken $30m in funding. However, we were never granted a section on Wikipedia.

There are a lot of ways to get yourself discredited on Wikipedia, but trying to get an article written about yourself, your company, your band, or anything else you are intimately involved in is the most reliable.


I never attempted to write about my company. I submitted a request to have my company created as an entry. You need to have your company name created first before anyone can write about you.


I never said you did attempt to write about your company.

> You need to have your company name created first before anyone can write about you.

No you don't. If you're logged in and you go to a blank page, you can just start writing something there, unless the page has been specifically blocked from page creation because someone keeps putting spam there.

I would say that the combination of not knowing how Wikipedia works, asking other people to do something for you, and on top of that, trying to get an article written about yourself, your company, your band, or anything else you are intimately involved with is a perfect way to get yourself ignored and discredited.


All I did was request my company name to be created. I never attempted to write the article myself.

I didn't find a way of writing on a blank page like you did, the situation may have changed. Well if you did, you're definitely more knowledgeable than me about Wikipedia, but please don't tell me what I did and did not do.

I am OK if Wikipedia deletes my article if it's their policy. My issue is that they did not treat my company the same as the the rest of the world due to own ignorance.


> I am not sure what classifies articles for deletion, but it feels like only people who live in the Internet industry take part in actively running and editing the articles.

In short, someone who knows enough about Wikipedia processes reads it and decides it should be deleted will put it up under the Articles for Deletion.

It's pretty natural that people who are more comfortable with the web will be more comfortable making Wikipedia edits; I've been a small-timer since college (I've made maybe 15 edits in whole). It'd be worthwhile for Wikipedia to make a push towards getting a better representation in their ranks: at the very least, they'd be able to draw on a larger body of knowledge and perspective.


Articles like this make me angry. Wikipedia is one of the most important, if not the most important, example of digital commons, created by an enourmous amount of volunteer work. 91% of those doing this work are male, according to the article. Now a group that has contributed only a small fraction of the work for a decade complains about being underrepresented? This is not the military, which had actual barriers of entry for women, this is Wikipedia, which you could edit without an account only a few years ago. At that time it was a true, anonymous meritocracy, as opposed to a mailing list where your name gives away your gender and may subject you to gender discrimination.


"Meritocracy" doesn't exist as long as human judgement is involved, and organizations that claim to be such actually encourage biased-based behavior: http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/65884

The problem is not contribution, it is deletion and some of the strange "we don't care if it's actually right if more sources think it" policies. They make it frustrating for anyone who doesn't think like existing editors to contribute, as your hard work gets erased and ignored. Because these people believe they are operating in a meritocracy, the editors feel no pressure to acknowledge that other people may be interested in things they themselves are not.


Except of course that having articles deleted is a barrier to entry.


Which would have been a gender-neutral barrier had women contributed a similar share of work and dedication in the early days and thus achieved similar influence.


Influence has a way of perpetuating itself, especially when its protected by nerdy little enclaves. So you are saying that because women (or mexicans or furries) did not contribute in the past, they now deserve to be excluded in the future?


No, I would hope to see more work from (and proportionately more influence for) women on Wikipedia. But the article presents what seems to be the result of past inaction, back when Wikipedia was a meritocracy, as a Women's Rights issue. Yes, there is a gender bias on Wikipedia now, and even chauvinistic behavior. We should get rid of both, if possible, which may be difficult as such an environment is not inviting to women.


Some years ago I cleaned up some random biology article vandalized with lots of not-even-subtle profanity. It was immediately reverted by some editor and I had to insist that he reads my modification to get it approved.

It was the last time I tried to edit anything in WP, as I always had this kind of problem.

I read it a lot like anyone else and donate small money every year but each time I read about the behind the scene, I'm appalled.


I wrote a small article on an obscure piece of software, I even studied the wiki syntax and added an infobox & image.

It got fast track deleted the next day.

Wikipedia has reached an equilibrium point between articles that cannot be deleted and deletionist desires to delete everything. In many cases the deciding factor, or the demand to the deletionists' supply, is public outrage.


Why are any articles deleted, unless they are factually wrong? Censorship. Who is to say what will be important in the future? Censorship. Who is to say that people will want to read? Censorship.

There should not be any notion of importance. All knowledge is important. What I find important is as valid as what any one else values as important.

Frankly, and to my shame this is the first time I have given any thought to it, I am disgusted that something which, IMHO, is supposed to be an unbiased information repository actually deletes knowledge. To me, this is the most disturbing case of censorship I have ever thought about. Government censorship is expected, bad news, sure but expected. But this is supposed to be above that. How can they bleat on about SOPA etc, then allow a small number of geeks to tell me I can't see an article about some princesses dress? Wikipedia is NOT Geekpedia. And it should not be censoring knowledge.

Quite sad actually. My Wikipedia love bubble just burst. :(


Censorship is when you try to prevent a class of ideas or knowledge from being communicated in any medium. Dictators try to stop criticism, regardless of whether it's by pamphlet or radio broadcast. That is not the issue we're talking about at all.

We're talking about editing a specific body of work (Wikipedia) to exclude things deemed unfit. In fact, the motto of the NY Times is "all the news that's fit to print". That's editorial control, not censorship, because they don't try to prevent Small Town Weekly from printing a story about a lost dog, they just refuse to print it in the NY Times.


I could not agree with you more.


This brings up a very interesting point - can anyone think of topics that Wikipedia has inadvertently omitted thanks to the narrow section of society that contributes significant amounts of new content to the site?

There's been a lot of talk in recent years about how the "initial work" of adding information to Wikipedia is mostly done, and that from here on out, it's going to be mainly about adding new content as it's created (new events, people, companies, etc.). But it seems possible that myopia on the part of editors could be having inadvertent effects.


> the "initial work" of adding information to Wikipedia is mostly done,

I don’t buy this at all. Almost every topic that I’m deeply familiar with has inadequate coverage on Wikipedia. (Examples: color science, latin american history and politics, cities in southern mexico, various mathematical topics (here the articles tend to be overwhelmingly technical and entirely lacking in context, motivation, or history), the history and function of many common household appliances, particular bits of human anatomy, computer user interface design and its history, typography, 17th–19th century political philosophers, various US Supreme Court cases.)

Every once in a while I try to tackle one of these, but writing a good encyclopedia article is still a ton of work.

Most topics have some kind of Wikipedia page, but only a tiny fraction are anywhere close to as comprehensive as they should be. Just consider: there are more than 20 million books in the Library of Congress, whereas if the English Wikipedia has about 2000 articles with “good article” or “featured article” status.


I agree with that, although I believe that prediction (I can't seem to dig up where it was) was more about how many new articles need to be created entirely, i.e. how many subjects Wikipedia should cover don't even have a 1-sentence stub yet. I think there are probably still several million of those, but new-article growth is inevitably slowing as low-hanging fruit has been quite well harvested.

I agree that there are a ton of the current 4 million articles that are nowhere near complete, in many cases not even 10% complete. That's an area that could use considerably more work than new-article creation imo.


It used to be even worse -- when I started using Wikipedia (dinosaurs walked the earth) they had substantially more written about several comic book characters than on obscure religious cults like e.g. Catholicism.

That said, long-term I bet on Wikipedia converging more on the desires of Wikipedians (who are so screamingly not representative of the population that it almost pains me to have to mention that) than on any objectively awesome target for Wikipedia. Happily, Wikipedian's consensus target for Wikipedia is, even if far from perfect, pretty close to one of the most useful tools on the Internet.


> long-term I bet on Wikipedia converging more on the desires of Wikipedians

The fundamental issue here seems to be that there's a select group of "Wikipedians" who are the primary editors. As long as the site doesn't make editing/adding articles a more user friendly/advertised feature, things aren't going to change.

Case in point: I went just yesterday to add some new content to an article, along with which I had a citation to add. Imagine my surprise when I found out that citations are still added in MediaWiki syntax! I can say without a doubt that every single acquaintance of mine who doesn't have an interest in computers (and quite a few who do) would have been utterly discouraged at this point from editing the article.

How difficult can it be to add a GUI editor? It would be a small, purely technical, step that could have a significant impact on the userbase, if advertised properly.


> The fundamental issue here seems to be that there's a select group of "Wikipedians" who are the primary editors.

It's actually not clear that's true when it comes to primary writers. There are a group of active editors (about 3000 at any given time) who do much of the maintenance work, e.g. putting articles into categories, formatting references, editing for style, moving stuff around, adding infoboxes, etc. But at least one study (I'll see if I can dig it up) found that a surprising percentage of the total content on Wikipedia is written by random anonymous IP addresses that show up to write a few paragraphs on a subject and are then never seen again.


I'd love to see that study. For some reason the idea of anonymous people writing bits and pieces, makes me like Wikipedia more.


Adding a good GUI editor properly integrated into Mediawiki would take at least a man year of effort by skilled programmers, I would guess. It would be a huge, extremely difficult technical step, with a large amount of resistance from the existing user base.

Most GUI text editors around the web are horrible buggy piles of crap (to take one example I was recently frustrated by, the editor at Adobe’s forums – and Adobe is a gigantic company with thousands of highly paid, experienced developers). The result of any such effort could easily end up making the software more complex and harder to use rather than easier.


> Adding a good GUI editor properly integrated into Mediawiki would take at least a man year of effort by skilled programmers, I would guess. It would be a huge, extremely difficult technical step, with a large amount of resistance from the existing user base.

As one of the most popular websites on the net, it's not like they don't have the resources to do it.

I think there are powerful members of the community who want to keep it somewhat insular and closed off as a defense mechanism against newbies. This probably does some good, but it also definitely does a lot of bad (keeping out worthy contributors just because they don't feel like learning the markup language).

I'm sure they could achieve their goal some other way without pushing away talented contributors.


> it's not like they don't have the resources to do it.

Have you ever looked at the Mediawiki code base? Last time I skimmed a bit, a few years ago, it was an utterly horrible mess of spaghetti PHP. Just finding developers capable of doing this would be a big challenge. The Wikimedia Foundation has a lot less resources than you might imagine, considering the reach of its projects, and there are an awful lot of other funding priorities (not to mention other code priorities). They’re doing the best they can, but making sweeping changes to the code base is a lot harder than it looks.

> I think there are powerful members of the community who want to keep it somewhat insular and closed off as a defense mechanism.

Do you have any evidence for that? As conspiracy theories go, this one seems pretty weak to me. I can’t think of another organization of comparable size which is as welcoming and open to involvement and contribution from ordinary community members, at all levels of decision making. Almost the entire management and operation of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation is carried out in public, nearly all of the parties involved are volunteers (with a quite small number of full time staff keeping infrastructure running, handling legal issues, and so on), and many many decisions are made collectively, by consensus.

It’s easy to hate on anything, as a disinterested outsider, without making any real attempt to understand the internal processes involved, but organizing millions of people is a highly non-trivial job, and I think the Wikimedia community has done pretty admirably, all things considered.


> Have you ever looked at the Mediawiki code base? Last time I skimmed a bit, a few years ago, it was an utterly horrible mess of spaghetti PHP.

That's basically the problem. They are devoting considerable resources to a GUI editor, and I believe have several paid staff, both programmers and UI/UX experts, dedicated to the project. But as step #1 it needed a rewrite of the horrible-mess-of-regexes parser into some kind of actual semantic parser, which due to the feature-creep of wikitext syntax (which looks nothing at all like a well-behaved programming language syntax) turned out not to be easy going.

They commissioned a full usability study in 2010: http://usability.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_Usability_Init...

Here is some information on the parser-rewrite project: http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Parsoid

And on the visual-editor project: http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/VisualEditor


I just downloaded Mediawiki and took a look at the source code. Some of the later added code doesn't seem as bad, but there's an overwhelmingly extreme amount of mingling between the data logic, including the classes and actions, and the html markup. It makes it utterly hard to read understand for someone wanting to contribute. The codebase isn't light either so (correct me if I'm wrong but) I don't think a complete rewrite of the application ever occurred after the first version.

Now if only some of us stopped creating social networks for kitties, and actually contributed our time and hackery into something that actually benefited the world.


You might be interested in the Parsoid project, which Wikimedia funded precisely to try to build a more maintainable pipeline for parsing syntax into some kind of AST or document model, disentangled from the other cruft: http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Parsoid

I believe it's currently being maintained separately, so the logic in MediaWiki itself is still the crufty version.


> Have you ever looked at the Mediawiki code base? Last time I skimmed a bit, a few years ago, it was an utterly horrible mess of spaghetti PHP. Just finding developers capable of doing this would be a big challenge. The Wikimedia Foundation has a lot less resources than you might imagine, considering the reach of its projects, and there are an awful lot of other funding priorities (not to mention other code priorities). They’re doing the best they can, but making sweeping changes to the code base is a lot harder than it looks.

If they lack the resources to do it, they could easily raise the money via a targeted donation drive or a kickstarter project. Telling the web: "Hey, here's what we want to do to make Wikipedia editing better, but we need $X to do it" would probably raise the target many times over. If they can't find good programmers right now, offer triple the salary or whatever. Incentives work.

> It’s easy to hate on anything, as a disinterested outsider, without making any real attempt to understand the internal processes involved, but organizing millions of people is a highly non-trivial job, and I think the Wikimedia community has done pretty admirably, all things considered.

How do you know whether I'm an insider or outsider?

I've contributed thousands of edits and was very active on Wikipedia maybe 6-7 years ago, but mostly stopped because of all the internal politics. Now I just fix typos or formatting errors when I notice them.

The fact is, if creating an easier way for newbies to contribute was a priority for the organization, I'm pretty sure they could have done it over the past many years. In that time whole companies were created from scratch. I can't believe that an organization as powerful (with such support and mindshare worldwide) as Wikipedia couldn't created a GUI editor. I could be wrong, but it just doesn't feel like they want it that much to happen, and the challenges in their way are used as excuses for not going full steam ahead...


"Just finding developers capable of doing this would be a big challenge."

I'm pretty sure one of the very highest profile websites on the entire internet could find developers capable of handling it.

Actually, I'm 100% certain of it.


Send them over. I’m sure the Wikimedia foundation would be glad to have them: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Job_openings

Edit: From the Wikimedia Foundation’s “2011–2012 Annual Plan”:

> 2011-12 Risks:

> 1) Editor decline is an intractable problem. Declining participation is by far the most serious problem facing the Wikimedia projects: the success of the projects is entirely dependent upon a thriving, healthy editing community. We are responding with a multi-faceted approach that blends big obvious fixes (e.g., Visual Editor) with more experimental approaches (e.g., the -1 to 100 retention projects and editor recruitment initiatives in India and Brazil). The WMF is also putting resources towards expanding community awareness and understanding of the problem, and putting in place mechanisms for decentralized community innovation so that community initiatives can help to solve it. We will be tracking progress throughout the year, and if necessary will sacrifice other activities to increase resources dedicated to this. [...]

> 9) A shortage of Silicon Valley technical talent hurts our ability to recruit and retain technical staff. The Bay Area is currently facing a major shortage of talented engineers, and tech companies are finding it difficult to hire and retain good tech staff. This could impair our ability to grow our tech staff as planned from 28 to 50. Mitigation: Like the rest of the tech sector, there is not much we can do to mitigate this serious problem. However, we will dedicate more resources towards technical recruitment in 2011-12 compared with 2010-11, and we'll be very clear about our value proposition: The Wikimedia Foundation is not about monetizing eyeballs, our direction isn't set by VCs, and we're financially stable. We offer a fair, friendly, fun environment for talented engineers who want their individual contribution to result in making the world a better place for hundreds of millions of people. [...]

> THE 2011-12 PLAN [...]

> Key activities supporting Priority #2, Diversifying the Editor Community are:

> 1) Visual Editor: A new default editing environment for Wikimedia projects which does not require markup. [...]

> 2011-12 Plan Targets [...]

> 5) Develop Visual Editor. First opt-in user-facing production usage by December 2011, and first small wiki default deployment by June 2012. [...]

> The 2011-12 plan reflects our continued desire to grow the organization's programmatic capacity by growing its staff, with an emphasis on thoughtful recruitment and integration of new people. In 2011-12, we plan to grow staff 50% from 78 to 117.


Atlassian recently stripped the wikisyntax editor from their wiki, forcing the editor to be a newbie-friendly WYSIWYG GUI that's not really WYSIWYG (it uses a lot of incorrect size placeholders). Thing is, it is easier for newbie users... but the data structures are insanely more generic and it's much harder to make the data on your page fit in a way that's consumable for the reader. Worst of all, it doesn't handle old wikisyntax pages at all well, so if you need to update an old table, it can cause problems.

A good GUI editor is one that produces good output - and that is really hard to do, particularly in the constrained space of a webpage.


If there's one site that needs a GUI editor, it's Wikipedia. Like MikeCapone said, it's not like they don't have the resources. It's something that should've been started on years ago.

> to take one example I was recently frustrated by, the editor at Adobe’s forums – and Adobe is a gigantic company with thousands of highly paid, experienced developers

I don't personally know any Adobe employees, but my (albeit limited) experience with Adobe software, such as Flash and Acrobat, certainly triggers descriptions such as "horrible buggy piece of crap."


If you think adding a GUI editor to Wikipedia is a top priority, you should try to either do some community organizing to push for it, or try diving into the code to get some idea of how hard it would be to add.

More than most institutions, Wikipedia is quite open and democratic and it’s possible for regular contributors to have a big impact, if they’re willing to put the work in.

Making a change like this will be a huge amount of work for someone, which is why it hasn’t happened yet. But if you can gather a team of like-minded folks, with enough dedicated organizing/coding effort I’m sure you could make some good progress.


The GUI editor is under (active?) development. You can try it here in a sandbox : http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Special:VisualEditorSandbox

More info here : http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Visual_editor


I agree with your underlying point, but due to a weird quirk of Wikipedia history, Catholicism in particular was for quite some time way over-represented; in the initial land-rush to populate Wikipedia with content, they grabbed a number of out-of-copyright encyclopaedias whose text were already in digital form, and one of these was an old edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia from 1913. With the strange result that the very most obscure topics in Catholicism were actually pretty well-covered, though often with information that was a century out of date! Even now you can find articles that have been barely tweaked from their 1913 form.


And why shouldn't it, people contributing to something for free are likely doing so in some part to shape it to something they themselves would find useful. Seems very similar to open source software.

If there are major parts missing that people deem important maybe they need to step up and provide some funding to get them done.


I think the problem isn't that the "Wikipedians" aren't creating this content but are advocating its deletion when "outsiders" do add it.


World history.

The article for the XBOX 360: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XBOX_360

The article for the Republic of Ragusa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Ragusa

Wikipedia's editors (or, perhaps more accurately, humanity) have a bias in thinking details in the present are more important than details in the past.


While I'm sure a bias towards the present is part of the problem, there's also the simple fact that it's easy to write about things plenty of other people are writing about, and about which details are plentiful. Many of the things Wikipedia is missing, but really should have if it wants to call itself an encyclopaedia with any pretense at seriousness are obscure, and their details locked away in obscurity. (As a consequence of this, many of those things Wikipedia does have articles about are couched in the language of someone who already understands the topic, mitigating their utility to those who don't.)

All that said, the article on the Republic of Ragusa was far better and longer than I'd have expected, given its use as your counter-point.


That's very amusing, because the exact opposite bias can be found in traditional encyclopedias:

> The other day I read a dozen thousand words about Assyrian archeology in my DVD copy of Encyclopedia Britannica, but when I wanted to read about the Xbox 360, there wasn't even a single entry, so I gave up.

http://www.theverge.com/2012/7/12/3154537/paul-miller-offlin...

> Wikipedia's editors (or, perhaps more accurately, humanity) have a bias in thinking details in the present are more important than details in the past.

I don't know if that's entirely true. I think it significantly depends on what those "details" are: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_video_games


The test of time takes time...


More important? No, but certainly far more accessible, and the low-hanging fruit gets picked the most, so to speak.


You make a great point, and I think that ties into how one defines 'important information'. Specs/prices/etc.etc. about the XBOX 360 are all but ubiquitous on the internet; does this mean that, because they're more common, they're more important and thus should be added to Wikipedia? Or do stricter filters need to be placed on more common knowledge/data?


Information is fractal in nature. The work is continuous.


Isn't it sexism to say that linux distros are for men and wedding gowns for women?


It would be, but that isn't what is being said here. It is being said that this specific, narrow, limited group of men is using the structures they created to keep articles that focus on their interests, Linux distributions, while excluding things that interest other people and not them, like bridal gowns. Because of the demographics of that population, the interests happen to fall along gendered lines.

Almost no one is interested in Linux distributions, but having articles on them doesn't somehow discourage any women from contributing and may encourage those who are into Linux. However, it does when topics that are socially coded as feminine, such as wedding dresses, are deleted because of their topic it does send a message about what is valued by the community.

Those social codings are also a problem, but a different problem than the one being discussed here. The best way to fix that underlying issue in this particular case would be for more men learn about the history of fashion and get interested in the construction of garments, rather than seeing clothes as trivial or beneath notice. In the absence of that change, the next best thing would be for these particular men to be aware of their bias and let other people talk about the importance of clothing even if they don't agree.


Yes. Isn't it silly to ask a stupid question for the sake of making a rhetorical point?


Yes and no. To be honest the article strikes me as a fluff piece attempting to meaning into something what is really a pair of fairly trivial problems - those being deletionism and and the fact that the majority of editors are American males[0].

> ...the site remains a boys’ club.

This is a somewhat unfair characterisation since the gender of an editor is usually unknown to other editors or irrelevant to the topic at hand.

> "We have over 100 articles on different Linux distributions, some of them quite obscure … and [they have] virtually no impact on the broader culture, but we think that’s perfectly fine." [Jimbo Wales]

Claiming that Wikipedia editors are "perfectly fine" with having hundreds of articles on non-notable topics like minor Linux distributions is a bit of a stretch. Sub-par articles on minor technical things like programming languages and F/OSS projects are constantly being flagged for deletion or merging[1] and to be honest I'm not particularly surprised that what was, on 29 April 2011[2] a stub on a wedding dress was nominated for merging. Of course, the article has since grown into a useful and well referenced piece, but I don't think its fair to claim this incident represents Wikipedia's "woman problem" unless one is also willing to discuss Wikipedia's "Lisp problem"[1] or Wikipedia's "Linux problem"[3].

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Pseudomonas/IP_editors_by... [1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Arc_(programming_language... [2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wedding_dress_of_... [3]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:SliTaz


"to be honest I'm not particularly surprised that what was, on 29 April 2011[2] a stub on a wedding dress was nominated for merging."

The article was flagged only 16 minutes after it was created, so it didn't have time to evolve.


Of course it's a fluff piece; I'm not sure I've ever read an article about Wikipedia that wasn't. Journalistic depth is rarely something anyone bothers with when discussing Wikipedia, nevermind scientific depth that actually usefully tracks things like the other problems you mention.


> Isn't it silly to ask a stupid question for the sake of making a rhetorical point?

silly, stupid, rhetorical. Three insults in one reply - I am impressed.

/s

How is your reply any more relevant than his comment?


> How is your reply any more relevant than his comment?

Gadzooks, you're right! His comment wasn't just silly; it was irrelevant, too! I missed that. Thanks for catching it!


I am interested in what others think, so no, it was not stupid to ask a question.

clarification: Yes, honestly. I don't get most of the sexism debates.


> I don't get most of the sexism debates.

I could tell. If you'd like to explain where you're coming from, that might invite a less snarky reply since you'd become a human being with a unique background and the potential for critical thought. Perhaps someone will even help explain to you what you "don't get". You might even have the chance to find out what others think.

As it is, the only thought I have is that you asked a stupid and inflammatory question. I shared that thought with you. Are you actually interested? Because walking into a bar fight and punching someone in the nose is not the right way to find out how it started.


I liked that point. Didn't really think about how much the article handled stuff as "girls things" and "boys things" until this comment.


Yes. There's a gender imbalance in tech but it's not as bad as 97%/3%. I thought it was a pretty unfair stereotype, if only because people reading the article will continue to think that Linux is very exclusionary toward women.


At the very least its heavily reliant on reinforcing cultural stereotypes that likely have no bearing on actual gender differences.


Phrased that way, it could be.

But if of Linux distros users 95% are men and 5% are women is it sexist to say that linux distros are _mostly of interest_ to men?

Now, those numbers are mostly a guesstimation, but it seems to coincide with the Wikipedia numbers, and also with what I see in all Linux forums, conferences and user groups I've seen. Anybody is free to correct those.

I believe in those statements:

1) Linux could be used as well by a man or a woman interested in it. 2) Linux is _not_ used equally (in aggregate) by men or women. 3) Due to cultural reasons not as much women compared to men are interested in Linux (or IT in general). 4) The reason for that is not just that it is a "boys club". Traditional office jobs (i.e non secretarial) used to be a "boys club" too at some point, but that haven't stopped women getting into them since the sixties or so. Are biology male geeks less sexist? Because women seem to flood into biology majors and not so in IT majors.


Having an article marked for deletion means nothing, it happens all the time, and is one of the ways power flows in Wikipedia's anarchic domain (and I'm not sure this kind of power play is really gendered, it is more of a conservative, restraining, force).

While I highly regard Wikipedia's amazing and quite successful project, and hope there will be more editors that are female (oriented, not necessarily biological), there is still a lot that's not there, perhaps will never be, yet matters for various cultures and localities around the world, Wikipedia English has a built in bias (hint: English), and it's not a gendered one.


There's a bot I think that marks new articles as speedy delete by default. At least I wrote a stub, marked as such, and seconds after completion got a deletion notice.


Weird. Did it include any references? I haven't had these problems people are mentioning in the past few years, and I create articles now and then. They're usually not even really long ones: 1-2 paragraphs, 1-2 sources cited. Usually on historical stuff, e.g. ancient Greek archaeological sites, or minor 18th/19th-century government officials, scientists, or inventors.

The most common outcome is that I never hear from anybody. The articles don't get nominated for deletion, and neither do they get improved by anyone else.


It had one ref and was marked {{stub}} - for a series of public art pieces relating to two major public events in a UK city. The event only really reaches 2 or 3 major city areas for 3 months every couple of years; I don't bother looking but I guess it's not WP:NOTABLE or whatever the tag is.

I'm not bothered really; better to delete them then than when I'd actually written the article.


Add a biography of some female scientists and writers and see what happens. Then watch the pages.


That's actually something I do do! One of my on-again, off-again projects, which now that you mentioned it I should return to, is going through the book American Women Historians, 1700s–1900s: A Biographical Dictionary, and adding articles on the ones that're missing (which is a lot of them), especially those where I can find 2-3 additional sources to use for an article (which is still a lot of them). So far nobody's tried to delete my contributions.

There are also some more organized projects. There are a few dozen people at WikiProject Women's History: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Women%27s..., and Wikimedia hired a paid Community Fellow to focus on gender-gap issues: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:SarahStierch



I'm a Wikipedian, with a registered Wikipedia user account and moderate Wikipedia editing experience since 2010. The interesting discussion thread groups together two kinds of issues: issues discused in the submitted article from Slate and issues brought up by Hacker News participants. I'll discuss each in turn.

The Slate article by Torie Bosch,

http://www.slate.com/authors.torie_bosch.html

a professional journalist who edits a project covering technology and society issues, reports from this year's Wikimania meeting that Wikipedia continues to face criticism from readers who think its group of editors ("Wikipedians") skew too heavily to "geeks" and result in underrepresentation of topics of interest to women. Thus far Wikipedia is still working on plans to encourage more women to become Wikipedians and to edit more regularly.

She finishes up by writing, "I’ve never been a Wikipedia editor. The community struck me as uninviting, legalistic." I'll be interested in her experiences if she decides to wade in. Unlike most Wikipedians, Torie Bosch has actual professional editing experience, having had to submit manuscripts to editors who chop out her darling words, and having had to chop out words from the manuscripts of other reporters. Most Wikipedians have not had professional editing or research experience of any kind before joining Wikipedia, and what I find most "uninviting" about Wikipedia is not that it is "legalistic" (although it often is legalistic) but that many Wikipedians are completely clueless about what a good source looks like and how bad many of the current articles have been for how long. I'm not sure yet if Wikipedia is pursuing a successful strategy to improve content quality.

http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Movement_Strate...

After being very involved in Wikipedia editing just as there was a major Arbitration Committee case on topics that I have researched thoroughly for years,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/...

I have reduced my involvement mostly to "wikignome" editing of random mistakes I encounter as I use Wikipedia as a reader. I still have the SOFIXIT mentality,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOFIXIT

of cleaning up problems in Wikipedia as I find them, but to fix big problems on Wikipedia caused by point-of-view-pushing propagandists is even more work than editing a publication as an occupation (something I have done), and yet unpaid. So I really wonder how much time Torie Bosch will devote to Wikipedia when she could be doing editorial work in an actual collegial environment at Slate with pay and professional recognition.

The Hacker News comments before this comment have mostly referred to the issue of "deletionism." For example,

Every time a "problem" like this makes the news, the real problem always seems to be overzealous deletionists with their ridiculously strict notability requirement. . . .

Honestly, I cannot think of a good reason to delete any article at all, unless it's obviously fraudulent, marketing-oriented, illegal, or obscene according to a widely accepted definition of obscenity.

I wonder if there is an organized campaign to fix the overzealous deletion problem (by changing the "notability" policy), to boycott as long as it remains and pledge to donate if it is changed to a more objective policy.

Why are any articles deleted, unless they are factually wrong? Censorship. Who is to say what will be important in the future? Censorship. Who is to say that people will want to read? Censorship.

I have noticed alot of information/articles upon wikipedia get deleted/flagged for deletion at a rather zelous rate and in that I have one question: WHY, if they are not superceeded or and made redundant then personaly I feel they should never be removed.

The one-word reply to comments like these is "Deletionpedia."

http://deletionpedia.dbatley.com/w/index.php?title=Main_Page

I was just browsing random pages of Deletionpedia to see what was posted there before the Deletionpedia project fizzled out (which appears to have been back in 2009). These are by no means the worst examples of material that has been deleted from Wikipedia (I'm not sure if Deletionpedia was ever an exhaustive list of deleted articles, or only a selected sample of those), but the sheer lack of maintenance of Deletionpedia over the last few years calls baloney on the idea that there are lots of readers happy to read stuff that has been deleted from Wikipedia. As bad as Wikipedia often is, EDITING (modifying and deleting) stuff on it so that Wikipedia more closely resembles an encyclopedia makes some Wikipedia pages much better reads than many of the millions of pages would turn up in a keywork search on the same topics.

I don't believe that a lot of readers see value in an online "encyclopedia" with a no-deletion or hardly-any-deletion policy because no one has put up the money to fund one, and I'm not aware of anyone here on Hacker News who is donating programming skill to start one. If you really think articles "should never be removed," build a service to host articles written by anyone about anything and see what happens.

The big problem on Wikipedia is not deletionism. It is insertion of promotional articles (some more subtle than others), propaganda articles (likewise), personal or family vanity articles (very numerous), and fan and hobby articles that are not based on any reliable sources and are written in a manner more suitable for MySpace than for any encyclopedia.

A lot of people who attempt to edit Wikipedia never look up the article about what Wikipedia is not,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:What_Wikipedia_is_not

and attempt to publish their own thoughts, promote their own causes or businesses, social network in an online encyclopedia, self-report the news, or otherwise post material that has nothing to do with maintaining a free online encyclopedia built from reliable sources.


'If you really think articles "should never be removed," build a service to host articles written by anyone about anything and see what happens.'

Ward Cunningham, the creator of the wiki thinks it is worthwhile: http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/07/wiki-inventor/

"no one should have that sort of central control"


Wikipedia's stated aim, to make information "freely" available, has no gender bias; it doesn't ask for it before serving its content - in marked contrast to other services (Google? Facebook? certainly the various ad services) which might structure their content according to a user's gender.

However, if Wikipedia has another aim - to make the scope of its content bias-free, then I think it has not thought it thoroughly yet: even structuring information as encyclopedia entries is inherently biased and restrictive (not necessarily bad though). Correlating Wikipedia's contributors' sex to an assumed gender bias in its scope (who gets to decide the articles' 'gender'?), as Wales does, proves how naïve such a project currently is.


I think the problem with the Wedding Gown has more to do with the fact that there is no UK wikipedia, rather than a gender issue. The English wikipedia is an interesting amalgam with lots of peculiarities when seen from an outsider's perspective.


You can get a iPhone app subscription to Britannica for a few $/mo. I have found Britannica to be excruciatingly better written and more comprehensive on their in-depth articles than Wikipedia. Things that aren't in the nerd enclave are covered, and well. I would never donate to Wikipedia as it is today: I happily send money to Britannica.

There are too many structural problems with Wikipedia - documented over the last few years by various angry bloggers - for me to feel OK with Wikipedia. Some of the content - good. The community & rules - blech. c2 is a better wiki. :-)


Because all women love dresses, just like all geeks love linux.


Because I wish there were no gender biases, I will pretend that just because not 100% of a gender is completely monolithic, that must mean that any gender bias is disproved.


Seriously, honestly, the majority of women could not be stuffed about celebrity wedding dresses. Sure, more women are into it than men, I won't argue about that. But I'll be damned if 'caring about celebrity wedding dresses' is classed as a 'women's issue', because, frankly, it's not. No more than 'caring about racing cars' are a 'men's issue', and most men get through life not thinking about them much, and just as many find them boring as interesting. If I was forbidden to talk about racing at work, I wouldn't go around yawping about how my boss had problems with "men's issues". It's not a women's issue, it's a fashion issue.

Note that I'm talking about real, actual men and women here; not the stereotypes that folks have in their head, but the actual people they want to do editorial work.

A better example: What about guns? The gender balance when it comes to vocal, visible people who like guns is heavily skewed towards males, but people don't call out gun control advocates as causing trouble for 'men's issues', or 'trying to silence men'.

The issue here is less 'geeks hate women, and so women's articles suffer in wikipedia', and more 'geeks care less about subjects outside their bailiwick, like fashion, and so those articles suffer in wikipedia'. The question is really 'how do we loosen the reins of the geeks a little', not 'there's not enough Genital Type V amongst our editors'.


So what would you call a "men's issue" or a "women's issue"? Or do you think that no such issues exist?


Sure. Motherhood issues. Reproductive rights. Sexism issues (of which there are tons). Things that are inherent to being a woman. In some places, there's a luxury tax on tampons (!) - that's a woman's issue. Social clubs (or gyms) that admit only men/women. And, clearly, trying to break out of the stereotypes people hold of 'what women are' is also a woman's issue.

Here is an example of what can happen when people think that love of fashion is inherent to being female. It's an ad campaign using fashion imagery to attract girls to science - and you wouldn't see a parallel campaign using guns to attract boys to be a teacher, would you? Or racecars to be a nurse? Examples of what she's talking about start about one minute in: http://youtu.be/x3eZQHwGQE0


Along the same lines as the dress issue is this piece from On The Media http://www.onthemedia.org/2012/mar/09/professor-versus-wikip.... It goes into depth about the editorial problem at Wikipedia.


Why not simply accept that wikipedia has a particular bias, and set up your own wiki - fashionpedia perhaps - if you want to create articles that wikipedia doesn't accept?

Wikipedia has become a success because of its culture. It should be very careful about changing that based on the demands of the entitled multitudes.


Because Wikipedia aspires not to have such biases. If Wikipedia was linuxdistropedia then no-one would think it was odd that it was focused on obscure distros and didn't care for articles about embroidery or the history of Islamic jurisprudence. But it aspires to be a universal encyclopaedia.


isn't deletionism irrelevant in a post github world. anyone can just create a gist instead. i hope github forks the wikipedia.


Copying Wikipedia has been done, and nobody hears about it because it's the people and publicity that matters, the constant supply of contibutors that matters, not the copied tech or the content. And there's no reason to think that Github would bring a userbase that's either different or bigger than what Wikipedia already has now, much less a better userbase.


I have noticed alot of information/articles upon wikipedia get deleted/flagged for deletion at a rather zelous rate and in that I have one question: WHY, if they are not superceeded or and made redundant then personaly I feel they should never be removed. This may be some form of gender bias, though I have not looked up male sports items upon wiki. The dress does have a nice backstory from what I read in the news and was a pretty big historical event as far as wedding go and in that factualy it will not be superceeded in that regard.

So the question is realy for me is wikipedia a source of knowledge/history/facts or is it biased towards flavour of the month(FOTM) and if it is the later then perhaps they need to revaluate there priorities.

As to a solution, maybe they could have all articles that are flagged for deletion, need approval by one male and one female. Though in that I will say that some males have a female mindset and some females have a male mindset and in that they should be able to express and vote based upon there mindset as apposed to some physical gender.

There is no golden solution though I do feel the zelous removal of articles be curtailed and a approach of only removing non-factualy/incorrect articles be the approach taken and in that, there will be less issues and references to items that have been removed.

I hope they resolve a amicle approach or I fear they will only spawn a womenpedia based site for women only and that would be a sad day and a true wakeup call to the insanity and directions being taken. Look at business for examples how issolation impacts - you will see many females who state they promote women in business and yet you never see a man saying I promote males in business. One is accepted and the other is sexist. But sadly they mearly add fuel to the issue and instead of addressing the issue, I personaly feel they exacerbate the issue. Though if you were or felt persecuted - you to would stand up and do something about it, if you were strong person. Not all people are strong in defending there morals and fairness and in that it does highlight women are just as right to feel persecuted. Though I do wish the approach of "Supporting fairness in buisness" was adopted as apposed to "Supporting women in buisness" was the standard they promoted as it is just that - about fairness and that can and does work both ways on many level.

Much respect to Mr Wales for spotting this issue and taking onboard, a true sign of a fair person.

I also have no interests in make-up and wedding dresses and the like, but I fully respect they are facts of the World and in that have as much right as any linux distro to be there, I'm not forced to look up those articles, nor am I forced to read linux distros on the site but having that option is something I compeletly and utterly support and to do otherwise would be unfair and that is something that I feel uncomfortable with and hopefully this clear and documented bias can be eliminated in any form it takes in life, be it race, sex, orientation or origins. We are all humans and in that we strive to be better every generation we spawn. Humanity is wonderful when it works and aporant when it fails. Lets stand up and count everybody.


I see arguments for and against allowing Middleton's dress to be covered. For: it meets the criteria of being a widely covered and notable event, documented by numerous major media entities, and associated with a historical event of the ruling royal party of England. Against: yes it's just ephemeral celebrity gossip chit-chat that gives certain people (most likely, mostly women or perhaps some gay men) a feeling of warm fuzzies when thinking about it or fantasizing about it. So yes that feels wrong for Wikipedia because there are plenty of other websites and mediums for that sort of thing.

In other words, the problem is that it both belongs, and doesn't belong. And they need to resolve that paradox, maybe setting a new precedent or revising their official criteria.

I think the "not enough women" thing is just a side issue. And one that has an easy and blatantly obvious solution: if you're a woman and you want to become a Wikipedia contributor or moderator, then go do it. If enough of you do it, then the gender balance will shift notably. If enough of you are not interested, then it won't. There's nothing inherently wrong with either state of affairs, it would be just the way it is. For example, I don't think it's "wrong" that the overwhelming majority (99.8%+) of hair cut folks at Great Clips over the years, in my direct experience, have been women, because that probably just reflects the natural level of interest of men and women in working in that role. I don't feel oppressed or excluded. If I wanted to work there cutting hair, or have a man cut my hair, I'd make it happen, end of story, and if not, or either way, I'd live with it and move on.


I'm pretty sure those "feelings of warm fuzzies" move a lot of money in the fashion industry. The influence that even details like that have when we're dealing with celebrities shouldn't be disregarded.

if you're a woman and you want to become a Wikipedia contributor or moderator, then go do it.

I think the point is that they did, and their contributions got deleted.




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