Thursday, October 08, 2009

Malice in Wikiland

Dinner on Monday included the Chairman of a major media group, who was bemoaning the decline in the reputation of Wikipedia due to the antics of editors manipulating articles about living people.

Somewhat amusingly I found an illustration of this yesterday. Someone had created a short article about me and one of the wily editors who for some reason has a running feud with me (and others I believe – she is alleged to be a disgruntled former MI5 agent) got it deleted within 5 minutes. The first I knew of it was when a US publisher (not mine BTW) emailed me remarking on this extraordinary behaviour and suggesting that this kind of thing merited a journalistic investigation.

I complained to the administrator who deleted it – since this was blatantly against the agreed policy on deletions. He seems to be some kind of “student politician” so after refusing for a while he quickly restored the article, immediately listed it for deletion, contacted all the people who had voted for a previous article about me to be deleted and – hey presto – got it deleted in 1h15m (for those who don’t know, the policy on Wikipedia is to allow deletion debates to run for at least 5 days so that you get a cross-section of opinion and to allow time for an article to be improved). FWIW the article was this editor’s first attempt and he or she did not understand how to do references or “notability” but these would have been easy to fix give a little time. For good measure this malicious administrator has placed a permanent lock so that no ordinary user can ever create an article about me without permission from another admin.

One of the amusing “catch 22s” in the situation is that an otherwise fair-minded editor has suggested that no article can be created unless it is better than the original article that was deleted – but since no editor who is not an admin can access that article this effectively debars anyone from achieving this. (If anyone does want to write an article they may have to prototype it in their user space first).

This kind of behaviour shows Wikipedia in a poor light and I suspect it may be more widespread than this apparently isolated incident - although you have to look hard because the kind of people who do this can cover their tracks. Perhaps there should be a journalistic investigation if it does prove to be more widespread.

Meanwhile I’m in Harvard working with Bob May on our revised paper – and with Martin Nowak. Hilarious!


knowtom said...

Is this one of the Dawkins defenders?

J.X. said...

You don't make the grade for inclusion Nick. Get over it.

starcourse said...

JX: I'd have no problems if this were true. But it manisfestly ain't. After all I have been in Debrett's People of Today for over 20 years, which is edited by professionals who know about the real world.

Anyone who has written a "notable" book and is described by a Nobel Laureate as having an "outstanding reputation" and being "well known" massively meets Wikipedia's criteria (bear in mind that individual "monsters" in RPGs are listed) quite apart from all the other stuff - and I'd eat my hat if you can find a single example of such a person being deleted other than NB :-)

J.X. said...

Lordy. For an allegedly smart chap you can be remarkably dull. I didn't say you weren't notable Nick, rather I said you don't make the grade for inclusion. I've no doubt there's a conga line of Nobel Laureates, Christian apologists and other assorted superannuated windbags willing to refer to your righteous standing amidst the towering spires.

No Nick, that grade is determined by the consensus of the editors who bother to roll up for the AfD process. You were weighed in that balance and on (what is it now?) 4 occasions you have been found wanting.

Bearing that in mind perhaps you should focus your vast intellect and piercing insight on why it is your dreary bio-fluff piece keeps getting flushed from the Wackypedia.



starcourse said...

I think you rather make my point. A few hostile editors can block someone even if the article clearly makes the grade on objective criteria. But this kind of game-playing brings wikipedia into disrepute, and drives many people who could make a vaulable contriubution away from it.

benlisquare said...

Come on... these people were just upholding the rules, in which there is no wrongdoing in doing so. Complaining to a third-party audience won't help change the rules.

starcourse said...

The rules are fine (provided they are applied with at least a modicum of natural justice). However people who treat the rules like a RPG to get the result they want, rather than making a serious attempt to build an encyclopdia, are a problem.

The rules require an AfD debate to be open for 5 days so that the arguments can be considered and the article's defects can be remedied. The discussion is meant to be, not "is this a good article" but is it possible that an acceptable article could be written.

As it was, the game-player involved made the accusation (highly distorted) without even telling the author of the article, summoned all the people who had voted for the previous article to be deleted, and got the debate closed within 1h15m without a single person having a chance to argue for inclusion or any attempt to improve the article. Anyone can see that this is a complete travesty.

i, me said...

do you notice the smug, 'aren't we clever' attitude of your they really believe they are objective? They probably don't care. They are carrying out a clear agenda, though most of them are so stupid they don't even realize they are doing it; the 'useful idiots' Lenin referred to.
I don't wonder, in the slightest, why the UK has deteriorated so rapidly.

Wikipedia is a joke, I think most people realize that by now. The twisted logic and backflips the 'editors' go through to justify their biases would be funny if it were not for the fact they actually take themselves seriously, and scarier still, that people reading wikipedia take it seriously.
Wikipedia's disproportionate number of 'left' editors is well documented....

i, me said...

This may seem a bit out of context but bear with me. John Adams, one of the founding fathers of the US said this:
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other

I too have seen wikipedia's rules and safeguards manipulated by it's 'inner party' ... read Dawkin's entry for example and try to put in some legitimate criticism of him. It will get deleted or reworded beyond recognition.

...the rules don't matter when the 'culture' is corrupt - and clearly wikipedia's is. When you have rotten people you get a rotten culture.