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Wikipedia Reflection

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I always try to learn something from the things that I do. It’s a good habit to find at least one thing worth learning from any experience. And even though I’ve begun quite a number of Wikipedia articles, I’ve still found something new to experience with this latest one.

What I learned from posting this article was the biases that are inherent to the posting and editing of articles, which was indeed a strange thing to learn. The big issue with posting my article was that it was tagged for deletion. This isn’t a very big deal, as almost every article I’ve ever posted has been tagged for speedy deletion. But this particular posting put all my past articles to shame.

The problem lies in the editors. Wikipedia is nonjudgemental about their editors, which is an awesome thing. Anyone deditcated to Wikipedia can eventually become an editor, and be given more responsibilities, and thus more respect from other Wikipedians. There are a number of reasons one might want this responsibility. Some care about the organization, and some think that they’re the best person for the job. Some people are honestly the best for these jobs, and do their jobs with great skill and determination.

In the case of this editor I was having to deal with, we hit the negative aspects in responsibility. To put it bluntly, he was an egoist. He had been a long time editor, and had been standing on his pedestal of power for so long, that he lost touch with the fundamentals of Wikipedia. He’s so busy tagging articles for deletion – believe me, I checked… this is pretty much all he does – he forgot why it’s good for articles to get published in the first place.

Here are the discussions we had. You can witness the happenings of the past two weeks for yourself: main discussion | deletion debate

Essentially, this moderator attempted to close my article for not having proper references. Which was fair at first, as it often is. It’s that sort of instant critique that makes a page stronger, by giving a sudden deadline that says “fix this.” The problem comes when I did fix the article. I added the references required, and the article was fit by Wikipedian guidelines. But not by this one moderator’s standards. He flagged it for public deletion, sending the article through a long process of debate. Then, he waxed poetic on the systemic faculties of Wikipedia, completely ignoring the actual article, and arguing from a complete stance of irrationality.

This is one of the downsides to outsourcing editing work to the masses. Once in awhile, you’ll get someone like our lowly Quebecker, who justifies his strength of ego by ruthlessly enforcing against others, even when no enforcement is necessary. You can’t stop this egotism, because it’s his personal choice to be silly, and he does do good work. It’s simply a negative aspect that one has to live with if something like Wikipedia is to exist.

The benefit is that Wikipedia has experienced this sort of situation millions of times, and have rules in place to deal with it. What saved my article from deletion by this man’s irrational thinking was the Snowball Clause. To paraphrase, this clause says if an article doesn’t have “a snowball’s chance in hell” of making it through a particular process, don’t waste people’s time for semantics’ sake. It was obvious that my article was worthy of publication, as it met all guidelines. It didn’t have a snowballs chance in hell of being deleted, and the only reason it was put through the process of deletion was because no other editor had come across it yet and negated the actions of one crazy person.

If anything, this episode taught me a lot about the underlying systems and clauses that go into the publishing of articles on Wikipedia, giving me a stronger idea of how things work behind the scenes.

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Written by Chris Fox

30 October, 2011 at 12:11

Posted in assignment

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