Unwanted: New articles in Wikipedia

That’s a pretty provocative headline. I don’t usually do provocative headlines. But Wikipedia has undergone such a dramatic culture shift of late that it merits wider attention.

It may seem like a trivial gripe — should we care about the battle over what stays or goes in this online encyclopedia. But it’s an indication there’s trouble in Wikipedia’s community and its collective soul. Given how many people now depend on the project worldwide, it’s a problem that needs to be recognized as a threat that could starve Wikipedia long term.

In my previous post, Wikipedia Plateau, I wondered — what was happening in English Wikipedia that would cause a massive drop in new article creation?

Lots of people chimed in, with over a dozen thoughtful comments. I didn’t really buy most of the explanations. New article creation restrictions in December 2005 didn’t make sense as a reason for an October 2006 drop.

It’s clear an emergent community phenomenon was affecting new articles. And I found something startling — articles like [[Pownce]] and [[Michael Getler]], about new and old topics alike, were equally hit by this new contagion. The fate of just these two articles will surprise most Wikipedians.

Michael Getler is an esteemed news reporter having served as ombudsman for the Washington Post newspaper. He’s currently serving as the first ever ombudsman for the Public Broadcasting System in the US. As I watched the evening news the other night, he was identified as one of the journalists tracked by the CIA, revealed by the “Crown Jewels” documents had been declassified. Like any good Wikipedian, I of course looked him up right away to see what his article had.

Nothing, no article existed at all. Surprising. So doing exactly what Wikipedians normally do, I was bold, and I created a starter article:

Michael Getler is the ombudsman for the Public Broadcasting System in the United States.

External links

I’ve done this many times before — I bolded the name, made internal wikilinks, included an external source and labeled it a stub. It had all the components any experienced Wikipedian would have created.

Even a bot looking for basic “articleness” would have found this perfectly acceptable. It was a fine stub. Another user Cmprince edited it to use a more specific “US television” stub tag. Yes, this was the start of a good seed crystal that would grow.

Or so I thought.

Within one hour, a User:Chris9086 came by and slapped a “speedy delete” notice on the page. The “pink slip” read:

This page may meet Wikipedia’s criteria for speedy deletion. The given reason is: It is a very short article providing little or no context (CSD A1), contains no content whatsoever (CSD A3), consists only of links elsewhere (CSD A3) or a rephrasing of the title (CSD A3). If this page does not meet the criteria for speedy deletion, or you intend to fix it, please remove this notice, but do not remove this notice from pages that you have created yourself.

What the… what manner of… who the… how could any self-respecting Wikipedian imagine this could be deleted?

I’ve been an editor since 2003, an admin with over 10,000 edits and I had never been this puzzled by a fellow Wikipedian. Did he even bother to check the subject matter, or my user page to see my track record? I wrote on his Talk page:

…the speedy deletion tag on Michael Getler is inexplicable. Since he is the first-ever ombudsperson for PBS is not only notable, but extremely notable. — Fuzheado | Talk 19:54, 27 June 2007 (UTC)

In the meantime other Wikipedians came and added more to the article. Finally, eight hours later someone (User:JPD) removed the obviously inappropriate deletion notice. Chris9086 eventually got back to me with a one liner:

It was one sentence long when I added the tag. Chris9086 02:28, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

That was his justification for deleting it. Incredible. This user was so specialized in the chapter and verse of deletion criteria, yet he had no idea about Wikipedia’s communal editing culture, its collaborative spirit or the classic essay “The perfect stub article” and its modern recommendations. I was tempted to write a nastygram, “You have a problem. You have a deletion hammer, and everything looks like a nail.”

Showing some Wikilove, I decided not to. It was an isolated incident, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Until today.

While traipsing through the blogosphere, I read a post that complained that the new web site Pownce.com did not have a Wikipedia article.

I said to myself, “Oh whiny blog, of course Pownce has a Wikipedia page.”

Pownce was created by the famous entrepreneur and podcaster Kevin Rose, the founder of digg.com. If there’s anything Wikipedia is good at it’s tech stuff, the new hottest Web 2.0 projects. I just saw a BusinessWeek article out talking about Pownce.

“Let me prove you oh-so-wrong by clicking in Wikipedia and … what the?!”

Here’s what [[Pownce]] read:

View or restore 37 deleted edits?

Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name.

How in the wiki gods could this be? Have the lunatics taken over the asylum?

The message about “37 deleted edits” is a bit unusual even to experienced Wikipedians. It’s a message only an administrator (like myself) can see, because admins can view deleted versions, undelete articles and restore pages.

I was flabbergasted. I went into the deleted history, and examined the last version that got deleted. It had an infobox with hard statistics, a “see also” section, external links, the works. The text started:

Pownce is one of the latest entries in the world of online social networks. But unlike similar websites, its focus is not on meeting people. Pownce is centered around sharing messages, files, events, and links with already established friends. It was created and currently maintained by Digg founder Kevin Rose, with Leah Culver, Daniel Burka, and Shawn Allen.

Since the launch on June 27, 2007 new members can only join by friend invite or e-mail request.

Now this is not the best article in the world. It’s got some marketingspeak, but it’s not unsalvageable. Yet folks nominated it for deletion, and it was indeed deleted, by claiming:

Previously speedy deleted as spam. While on DRV, where all opinions were to endorse the deletion, the article was recreated. This is advertising about a non-notable website. Corvus cornix 20:02, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

DRV is Deletion Review. Call it what you will — the zombie graveyard, the last chance saloon of Wikipedia. It’s basically the ash heap where you can revive articles that have been deleted. The article was originally deleted when four users — Evilclown93, Blueboy96, Ke5crz and Xtifr — all voted to delete. Only User:DGG had any sense to wait for a DRV outcome.

But at DRV, where you get some more eyeballs to second guess the decision, it was also unanimous delete. Three users all voted to keep it deleted — Corvux_cornix, Stifle (what a appropriate name), and Radiant. The lone voice of dissent was user Tawker.

It’s incredible to me that the community in Wikipedia has come to this, that articles so obviously “keep” just a year ago, are being challenged and locked out. When I was active back on the mailing lists in 2004, I was a well known deletionist.

“Wiki isn’t paper, but it isn’t an attic,” I would say. Selectivity matters for a quality encyclopedia.

But it’s a whole different mood in 2007. Today, I’d be labeled a wild eyed inclusionist. I suspect most veteran Wikipedians would be labeled a bleeding heart inclusionist too. How did we raise a new generation of folks who want to wipe out so much, who would shoot first, and not ask questions whatsoever?

It’s as if there is a Soup Nazi culture now in Wikipedia. There are throngs of deletion happy users, like grumpy old gatekeepers, tossing out customers and articles if they don’t comply to some new prickly hard-nosed standard. It used to be if an article was short, someone would add to it. If there was spam, someone would remove it. If facts were questionable, someone would research it. The beauty of Wikipedia was the human factor — reasonable people interacting and collaborating, building off each other’s work. It was important to start stuff, even if it wasn’t complete. Assume good faith, neutral point of view and if it’s not right, {{sofixit}}. Things would grow.

Today, {{sodeleteit}} is the norm. And it’s not with a smile, regret or even a note to the user. It’s usually in insultingly bureaucratic code: “Salt it… A7 and G11… DRV“.

It’s like I’m in some netherworld from the movie Brazil, being asked for my Form 27B(stroke)6.

If anyone knows all the codes on the Deletion Criteria page, you are a danger to Wikipedia. You are a menace. Because it used to be that users thought about the value of an article first. As a thinking individual and Wikipedian, you were expected to decide based on its merit, rather than trying to shoehorn it into a deletion category.

It was never like this before. What’s happened?

In a drive for article quality, there have been new policies: citing references, writing biography of living persons and picking reliable sources. They are all good things, but if and only if they are coupled with existing community values that built Wikipedia — assume good faith, don’t bite the newbies (or even oldies), use the talk page, open lines of communication and support each others’ work. We’ve lost these values. The community has gotten so big you cannot recognize people anymore. It lost the village feel a while ago, but it’s not even a town or city anymore, it’s on the cusp of becoming an impersonal bureaucratic slog depicted in Apple’s 1984 video.

What can we do? Can the community model be rehabilitated? I welcome suggestions, from Wikipedians, technologists, sociologists, urban planners, anthropologists and anyone with a clue.

There’s one thing I can do. Take it back, one article at a time. Educate the young folks, that it’s not about forms, A7, G11, not using edit summaries and ignoring talk pages.

So here goes my voyage into gonzo journalism. I’m undeleting [[Pownce]] now. Unilaterally. It’s out of process, and it may cause a stink. But I’m being bold in restoring the article, and maybe restoring a bit of Wikipedia’s heritage.

And I’ll report back what happens.

UPDATE: I’ve undeleted the article with this message:

I am undeleting Pownce in the name of common sense. There was an era in Wikipedia when a web site detailed in Business Week [1], started by a prominent Internet entrepreneur, and widely spoken about on the Internet would be more than ample notability to be included. So I am making this stand in the spirit of Wikipedia, for its original roots, for its community values and the triumph of rational thought over mindless A7, G11 and DRV nonesense. I claim this article back in the grand tradition of the wiki. I hope you will join me. — Fuzheado | Talk 22:30, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

UPDATE: Kelly Martin seems to have been inspired by my complaining about this oddity in IRC the other day. Here’s her take on Pownce in Wikipedia.

114 thoughts on “Unwanted: New articles in Wikipedia

  1. I’ve been around Wikipedia almost as long as you, Andrew, and have been troubled by much the same thing (even though, as a graduate student, I now have much less time to actually edit). I ran headlong into this when I helped my father create an article on an event he organizes — similar events had articles, but his was dismissed summarily as “A7″ after he put an hour of work into it, and the message left for him (which he never saw, anyhow) was cryptic, confrontational, and not helpful.

    Fortunately, he had me to help him over the wall, but I worry that the barrier to contribution is becoming to high, especially for the occasionally-editing subject matter experts who add much more content than people realize (my Wikimania talk from last year, which I’ll expand on this year).

    The internet is a tremendous equalizer; not only can it lift a teenager to global fame for a clever and creative new program or work of art, but it can lift an obsessive-compulsive rules freak to the point of being able to bludgeon and erase the work of a tenured professor simply because it doesn’t conform with unfamiliar and arcane stylistic guidelines.

    Thoughts on how to measure this trend quantitatively, in a more meaningful manner than just the rate of new article creation stats I’ve seen?

  2. Good. I had no idea what the code “CSD-G4″ meant either until I looked it up, and a place where things are deleted with cryptic bureaucratic codes, rather than evaluated with common sense based on their merit, seems a rather cold and unwelcoming place.

    Communities that function well seem to have 150 members or less (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar's_number ). Maybe some system could be created whereby people are members of a group of 100 to 150 Wikipedia users, and that group is responsible for self-enforcing acceptable behaviour, such as deleting content created by members of that group?

  3. There are good reasons to delete articles. The quality of Wikipedia can only be guaranteed when enough readers and writers care about the articles. But there are so few writers in the wikipedia. There is nearly infinite space for articles, but much too little people who feel responsible. They can’t take care of everything.

    The “deletion hammer” is only a symptom that something went wrong before. I think there is too little consensus what Wikipedia actually is or what Wikipedia should be. A collection of World knowledge. A modern form of Encyclopedia Britannica? A web community? A collaborative news service? A TV episodes guide?

    In the first years it was not as important as today – the community made up rules and did many experiments. Some rules worked, some did not.

    Today a wrong Wikipedia article or an single edit can make so much damage – you can not go on like 2001. Wikipedia needs to review its capabilities: how many articles can be maintained by the editors? What can readers expect from Wikipedia?

  4. I think Torsten’s comment said something important, words to the effect that “X” amount of articles need “Y” amount of editors to maintain them. This seems reasonable. Lih has also noted that Wikipedia’s (WP) article growth is flattening. I’d like to get a measure on the growth of editors.

    Let’s say the deletionists are worried about there being too many articles for them to manage. One answer is to delete articles where possible. Another answer is to get new editors, more growth. I think I can say that generally a deleted article means the loss of a fraction of an editor. What that fraction might be is anyone’s guess? If you delete 10 of my articles, do I quit?

    An extreme deletionist, would tend to entrench WP, and scare off new editors. Maybe some people think that WP has reached its destination. Its growth phase is over. I’d say, keep going.

  5. With the growth of any new community, there appears to be a stage where bullies struggle to exert themselves as the new aristocracy. I am an occasional WP editor and have been surprised how good faith editing is often met by aggressive reversions, with little explanation.
    Robust debate is the way articles get refined and tightened up but much of the debate is about semantics, not substance.
    WP is a great resource and we do not want it to deteriorate but the current phase in its growth is going to bring some unexpected and interesting challenges

  6. Nanabozho: It’s not a rational decision as you describe it. There is nobody who looks at all Wikipedia article and say: this is too much.

    The people work day to day in Wikipedia and have to deal with spammers, vandals and people who have no clue how to write an article. And they do not have the time to do all edits full justice.

  7. I’m sorry that you encountered that, Andrew — but not surprised. I had my own encounter with the new generation of “quote policy, not reasoning” deletionists; I feel as if I encountered (to quote from the song) “the forces of evil from a bozo nightmare.” No one — including me — looked good after that exchange. (I keep thinking that I should have said something different, but the surreality of the situation multiplied with the square of my frustration kept me from my best.)

    My working hypothesis is that the structure of Wikipedia — designed to work in a community the size of a village — is failing to scale as it struggles to cope with a community the size of a city. Either that, or we need to ban all anonymous editing! :-)

    Geoff

  8. I’m a long time editor, since 2003, ranked in the top 300 by number of edits (most in article space). On May 11th 2007 I mostly gave up on Wikipedia – there is something wrong with the community, in particular people deleting content. I’d never seen anything like it prior to late 2006 and 2007. Further, the use of “nag tags” at the top of articles is out of hand. It’s easier to nag and delete than it is to research and fix. Too many know-nothings who want to “help” have found a powerful niche by nagging and deleting without engaging in dialog and simply citing 3 letter rules. If a user is unwilling or incapable of working to improve an article they should not be placing nag tags or deleting content.

  9. Sounds like a psychological phenomena. Destruction is easier than construction. See graffiti scrawlers, complainers and vandals. Tearing it down is lazier than making something work. It’s also the “in Charge” versus “peon” mentality. Those in charge have to Keep Order, whatever Order is. Happens in churches and businesses and WP. The idea is you can’t have just anyone influencing the decision. Just because the WP deletionists feel it is too much for them to handle and hence out-of-control doesn’t mean no one will come in. Sometimes those waiting in the wings have to see a need before they step up. Yet, if it’s a type A lone Ranger who can’t keep the plates spinning, then he would rather there were less work to keep up than let someone else control his “table”, someone who might not do it the RIGHT WAY. It’s the old style of organization, of the elite in charge of the masses versus the community in charge of itself. Isn’t that what July 4th was all about? “Eternal Vigilance is the price of liberty.”

  10. Although there is something to be said for a psychological approach in explaining this, as kdweeb mentions, I think a sociological approach could be more fruitful in trying to figure why this is happening. After all, WP is really about people interacting with each other (the “community” aspect that is always mentioned–now in wistful terms, it seems), and to blame the deletionist culture that seems to have arisen around some hazy emergent properties (i.e. social structure) that is beyond the very activities that have created that structure is misguided. According to the theory of structuration (Anthony Giddens) and his notion of the duality of structure, “structure is both the medium and outcome of the conduct it recursively organizes; the structural properties of social systems do not exist outside of action but are chronically implicated in its production and reproduction.” He also has some interesting things to say about power (of which the readiness to delete can be seen as a form of). I think Andrew did the right thing in staking his claim; he threw some irritating dust in the eyes of the deletionists that is challenging the practices that they seem to take for granted. It will take others as well to turn around the deletionist culture and make people aware that there is a different, better way. But it will definitely involve power struggles.

  11. Hi again. I stand shoulder to shoulder with you. The latest deletion of an article stub I created, which is manifestly notable was [[Karri Miettinen]] better known by his stagename “Paleface” as this link: http://www.euroconferences.info/2005_abstracts.php

    (from “EU High Level Scientific Conference Series”)
    …will demonstrate Karri Miettinen is hardly an unknown quantity but rather as the article therein very nicely puts it: “In Finland the film was subtitled by the well-known rap artist Paleface, alias Karri Miettinen, whose translation seems to have given more prestige to the film. Even though Paleface took some liberties in his translation, it was accepted by UIP thanks to his fame and to the excellent quality of his work.”

    It seems Karri Miettinen is good enough for United International Pictures (even good and famous enough to give him preferential treatment to the other people doing the same work in other countries) but not for Wikipedia.

    I do not for a moment say that the stub was deleted outside the current norms, even though I did make what I thought was a significant enough assertion of notability when I created it. I do belong among those who this current situation on en-wikipedia has somewhat driven away to other parts of wikimedia etc.

    But if enough other people begin to feel that a bridge too far has been crossed, I will certainly help as I am able to help support the community backtracking and going back to our roots of creating rather than razing down.

  12. I think the problem arose specifically from you guys’ old reputation for being deletionists. You guys wore the stern exclusionist hat for so long that the next generation got the impression that was what they were supposed to do.

    Better is, to delete, and have standards, but spend time celebrating and cultivating new posts, and to present borderline cases.

    Nothing personal against the Wikipedia old guard mind, it’s just what it sounds like to me, completely on the face of it.

  13. Here’s part of recent blog of mine about deletionists:

    My take is that the deletionists are anti-growth. What is the harm of an article on Pownce? It seems to me that if Wikipedia has the editors to maintain such articles, it can broaden its impact. Call it a supplementary article if you like, or put into a tier II Wikipedia. I don’t think this is any time to put the brakes on. Why not a vision of a number one Alexa rank? That would a give the deletionists a new challenge. The deletionists could work on something that I would call productive, and leave more of the boring editing to the noobs. This would follow the model of editors going through their life cycle, striving for advancement, onward and upward. And yes, I think the dedicated deletionists should consider branching off into something else.

    You may not agree with me, that Wikipedia should grow. But you might agree that understanding deletionists and all editors would be helpful.

  14. I agree with Torsten that these events have to be seen in the context of overworked administrators struggling to keep vandalism, misinformation, and advertisement under control. Now, it may be that this behaviour, when added up over jillions of edits, does impinge on Wikipedia’s healthy growth. It may also be true that inclusionism is no longer compatible with Wikipedia’s ongoing health, either.

  15. I heartily disagree with Torsten in his thesis that “Today a wrong Wikipedia article or an single edit can make so much damage”. Wikipedia is no citeable material. No serious person would rely on Wikipedia information alone. In my opinion, wrong information does not hurt more or less than it did in 2001. What is more, information that is considered “irrelevant” by some admin does not hurt anyone (as long as it is no spam creating hundreds of articles on identical topic names etc). However, a review system that creates positively reviewed articles that are unchangeable (and can only be amended) could help identifying more reliable articles on Wikipedia.

  16. After reading this post, I checked past the AfD pages, and was frankly astonished to see that articles such as “Rules of Chess”, an excellent article with a five year history, were being proposed for deletion by serious, experienced Wikipedians. Things really have changed.

    (User:Enchanter)

  17. I would almost certainly have deleted your Michael Getler substub had I come upon it in the form you cite above. I share your concern that newcomers are having a rough time getting their articles to stick (gods know my first offerings were meager enough and yet they were received in a much friendlier way than they would be today) but I don’t understand why an experienced Wikipedian like you would create a one-sentence article which doesn’t give people the context needed to determine notability and is not explicitly referenced.

  18. This is a natural and healthy consequence of Wikipedia maturing. Now that all the major topics are pretty much covered, the crap to useful ratio of new articles is about 10 to 1. Thus the Rise of the Deletionists. Wikipedia doesn’t need more substubs; it needs its existing content to be polished, verified, NPOVed, and better organized.

  19. My thought regarding Pownce is that I can see why it was deleted. For starters it is in an even more restricted beta than Gmail first was when it was invite only. Not to mention the name recognition is not as much as Gmails. It’s a redundant web 2.0 app that does the exact same thing that Facebook, Digg, and De.li.cio.us do in some form or another (especially since facebook lets you do ALL of those things).

    It’s only real claim to fame is the writeup, and the creator. But until it gets released, or much closer to production form, I wouldn’t support it.

  20. Wikipedia is great. But the deletion of articles is the most detrimental part of Wikipedia. That means the process, the participants, the policies, and of course the lost articles — ALL of it stinks.

    Main change that needs to be made:

    NO article with any legitimate content (i.e. besides obvious vandalism) may be deleted or nominated for deletion unless there is prior agreement at its talk page.

  21. I think the clear culprit in the change in attitudes towards deletion in Brad Patrick’s 29 September 2006 “shoot on sight” directive sent to the Foundation list, which quickly became holy writ for RC patrollers. (http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikien-l/2006-September/054719.html) This obviously worked in concert with the “quality, not quantity” change in focus, but the directive was really astonishing for editors who had been taught that reasoned discussion was the proper response to a dispute.

    For those who don’t recall, some excerpts: “I
    am issuing a call to arms to the community to act in a much more draconian fashion in response to corporate self-editing and vanity page creation. … If we are to remain true to our encyclopedic mission, this kind of nonsense cannot be tolerated. This means the administrators and new page patrol need to be clear when they see new usernames and page creation which are blatantly commercial – shoot on sight. … Ban users who promulgate such garbage for a significant period of time. They need to be encouraged to avoid the temptation to recreate their article, thereby raising the level of damage and wasted time they incur. … Some of you might think regular policy and VfD is the way to go. I am here to tell you it is not enough. We are losing the battle for encyclopedic content in favor of people intent on hijacking Wikipedia for their own memes. This scourge is a serious waste of time and energy. We must put a stop to this now.”

    Arguably, Patrick intended the ‘no-holds barred’ approach to be applied to only “new usernames and page creation which are blatantly commercial”. However, it’s hard to encourage a highly aggressive, ‘barbarians at the gate’ stance towards new articles in a sensitive, calm and fine grained manner. From CSD, this attitude has only grown. I would thus say that Andrew is mistaken when he states, “The fate of just these two articles will surprise most Wikipedians.” I, for one, am not at all surprised.

    I would also take issue with the notion that there is a general Wikipedia community. In early 2005, an active editor, even one focused on a particular subject area, could expect to run across a majority of the other active editors as a matter of course. That was no longer true as early as late 2005. Those editors who think that the mailing lists, IRC or Administrators’ noticeboard are microcosms of Wikipedia may be just realizing that most Wikipedians never have meaningful interactions with the majority of other active editors, nor do they expect to.

  22. I got a similar feeling some time ago, when spoiler warning guideline was abruptly changed by some editors and almost simultaneously, most spoiler warnings were removed from Wikipedia. The general reasoning of the people involved in this change (some of them administrators) was similar to your case – they were more interested in formal policies (for example, consistency with no general disclaimers policy) and dictionary definition what is encyclopedia (Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, spoiler warnings are not in encyclopedias) than in what users of Wikipedia consider useful (according to some polls, significant minority uses spoiler warnings).
    They probably think, and I can understand the feeling, after all the years of time they invested in it, that if they make it to look more professional, it will become more accepted. I think this is not true, because people are not stupid, and will decide for themselves if it is suitable for them or not, regardless how polished it is. The problem is, Wikipedia will never be finished, and thus will never look polished.
    Anyway, to your problem. I think a simple software improvement would help here – ability to see what users have a given article in their watchlist (maybe they could opt-in for such visibility). Then it would be obvious what articles are neglected and what are not, and it could help people to ask specific editors about page issues rather than on “non-personal” article talk page. This could improve communication among editors a lot.

  23. Hey Andrew, I feel your pain.

    You’d be welcome to work on the article in the Citizendium. We’re the new home for inclusionists; we like information more than following rules. This shouldn’t be too surprising for me to say, you know; I am the author of “Ignore All Rules”! We still have the village feel, and which is in the process of developing a sensible, scalable, online polity.

    In the future, if things come to a similar pass on CZ, you’ll see me leading the charge back to sensibility.

  24. I agree that too many articles with good potential are quickly deleted. I’ve myself devoted much time patrolling new article creations and have recommended many of them myself for deletion. I don’t think the problem is primarily with overly zealous “exclusionists” at wikipedia; I think the problem results from the limited tools cleanup editors have to help keep wikipedia from turning into “hi mom!! Can you see me? Imontheinternet!” type myspace or spamsite. The volume is huge, the limited time and interest that editors have to do clean up of unsuitable articles is precious. And speedy deletes are a good deterrent for these vandals, narcissists, COI/image makers, and other inappropriate editors. In other words, it’s much easier to catch these articles early. AND it discourages future article creation at the hands of vandals, spammers, and show boats when their handiwork is so rapidly mopped up.

    Ideally, new articles should meet some minimum standards before they were added to an article main page. In the past, stubs may have served as a kind of “Bunny Hill” for the newborns that don’t qualify as an article yet. But now “stubs” are one of the most overly complicated and heavily bureaucratized elements in the wikipedia. Even knowledgeable and well meaning editors can be forgiven for not understanding them. I’d like to see new articles get some basic care and attention first in a “nursery”, not the main space. Let the article some time to develop so that at least the notability of the subject is clear, with at least one independent reference, before it goes out to the mainspace.

    And instead of bureaucratizing the process, the onus should fall on the editor who created it to establish at least that much first if he or she doesn’t want their article deleted. By starting out in the nursery, should the article be speedied at the mainspace, it need not be a complete loss–that editor could return to the work-in-process residing in the nursery to improve this or that before giving it another go.

    But even for notable figures like Bill Gates–not everything about him or his “latest endeavors” would necessarily be notable at wikipedia. Wikipedians who create a new article should establish at the outset of the article’s mainspace creation what it is that is notable about the subject, and where this information was published (i.e. not based on personal knowledge or unpublished rumor).

  25. Pingback: Are the deletion Nazis taking over Wikipedia? » P2P Foundation

  26. I have also seen this happening. It’s incredible that those who are so incredibly stupid can get away with misusing the speedy deletion tag!

    As for DRV… don’t make me laugh. It seems to be slanted to keep articles deleted. I can’t agree more with your sentiments that if you know all the codes to WP:AFD, then you are a menace to Wikipedia.

  27. Hi Andrew,

    Agree with Jacky. The deletions are out of hand.

    I’m a twenty-something journalist living in SoCal. I began contributing to Wikipedia in February 2007. By March, a user named Griot began attacking me and other users over WP’s Ralph Nader article. Suddenly, our various contributions were deleted or vandalized. An article that I contributed to, Jeanne Marie Spicuzza, that had been around since 2003, was deleted. The entire AfD was inappropriate, full of uncivil remarks from adamant deletion enthusiasts. The article on her company, Seasons and a Muse, was eliminated entirely, without AfD. But I interviewed this subject twice in 2006. She’s internationally recognized, with IMDb credits, and the article carried solid references. The articles were clearly deleted out of personal animosity. The primary users who orchestrated the deletion: Griot, Calton, Guy, Akhilleus, Antaeus Feldspar and MCB. All had had disagreements with contributors over our edits this and other articles. Their “associates”, Arbustoo, feydey, Crunch, JJL and Sarah, all very infrequent WP contributors, took a sudden, profound interest in these supposedly “Non-Notable” articles. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Jeanne_Marie_Spicuzza. A copy of the article, including my contributions can be found on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:76.166.123.129. Check out this, too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:LAME#Templates. It’s like being in junior high all over again.

    -KK

  28. I agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments. I used to be an administrator on Wikipedia and tried to reform the system in different ways. The admins are quite overworked, and for every admin that carefully examines each deleting request for legitimacy there is one who gleefully bulldozes through deletion categories without much of a glance. Any wonder there has been a sharp dropoff? I gave up though and created a fresh new account. I just write articles now, which is why I came to Wikipedia in the first place.

  29. Pingback: links for 2007-08-07 « nan tak (kalah) penting

  30. Pingback: Collab@work » Blog Archive » Ever heard about deletionism?

  31. I believe that the problem is caused by the notability guideline itself. I think it’s obvious to the veterans but less clear to newer editors. The keyword is guideline. The exact boundaries have never been established and it needs a bit of thinking and perhaps lenience to decide whether it’s notable or not. As time went on, people gradually started blurring the line between policy and guideline, and acted more strict on some standards and lenient on others. With loose boundaries, lots of stuff are deemed non-notable. Somehow, we need to re-establish this line.

  32. Thanks for that blog entry on changed social practices in Wikipedia. I was a very active editor some years ago, but don’t have the time to do much at the moment. From short stints your report feels familiar.

    One addition: I’m German, but became a wikipedian on the international/English edition. After many edits their I tried to do a bit at de.wikipedia too. In comparision to the “just be bold” feeling of en.wikipedia, de.wikipedia always seems much closer regulated and stronger policed. I thought this to be the result of different cultural backgrounds, legalistic vs. international-down-to-earth, but maybe what you report now about en.wikipedia is basicly the same thing: people made admins that find the rules more imporant than the community, the process or the product.

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  34. It’s time we took Wikipedia back from the deletionists. Wikipedia is supposed to be an encyclopedia, and since it has a culture all its own, we should celebrate it rather than throwing it into the closet. The nonsense surrounding Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense is a fine example of this deletionism at work, with deletionists such as Jeffrey O. Gustafson and Zscout running all over the place, making bullying and ferocious arguments at a rapid pace and disrupting Wikipedia until they got their way, acting like Robert Moses and deleting pages before asking the community whether it was appropriate to do so. Other Wikipedia folks have joined in the fray, such as Radiant! (I think), and while the debate has fizzled down (I recommended sporking BJAODN off wiki and others agreed, only to get bogged down in an argument over whether it was proper to even LINK to BJAODN), how do we know it’s not going to reignite? Or spread to other miscellany or to Wikipedia articles proper? It’s time we told the deletionists to shut up, let stubs remain and be improved, and to not revert bold non-vandalism edits (or even to loosely construe the term “vandalism” to contain decent edits).

  35. And, besides, encyclopediae are supposed to contain information. Deletionism is just a bad case of NIMBYism, pure and simple. Not-In-My-Backyard Syndrome, aka IDONTLIKEIT.

  36. Pingback: Andrew Lih » Blog Archive » Two Million English Wikipedia articles! Celebrate?

  37. I wrote a new article about Dan Ingalls in the German WP an hour ago. It already got deleted.

    In the discussion page of the user deleting it, I posted a link to this article.

    That was my first own article ever, and yes, it was only a stub. What a jerk!

  38. I notice you neglect to mention the infamous User:OrphanBot – the evil robot who goes around ordering Wikipedia admins to delete thousands of “untagged images” (and they all dutifully obey).

    I’d shot a couple of photos a little over a year ago specifically because they were needed in Wikipedia. One was a war memorial park, the other was a non-notable elementary school for which they were requesting a photo in both WikiProject Education and the local WikiProject for the city itself.

    I uploaded them with the plain-text description “photographed these today, do what you want with them, I don’t care…” only to have this obnoxious robot spam my talk page with threats to delete both images because they didn’t have the machine-readable copyright status tags. All carefully worded to insinuate plagiarism without accusing me outright, pesky libel laws being what they are *sigh*.

    If this were a message from a real person, I might have chosen to dignify it with a reply. No, it’s a robot. Furthermore, I’m the one doing WP a favour by shooting images they wanted. This is their gratitude? Fine, I do nothing… they can go ahead and delete them for all I care, I have my copies here on my PC.

    And yes, they delete them. Deleting the image descriptions with them. Leaving the garbage this obnoxious robot spammed on my talk page intact. A rather one-sided view of this particular insignificant fragment of history, but business as usual at what is now Wikipedia.

    This pair of images was taken on Aug 22/2006. I haven’t shot another photo for use on a Wikipedia page since.

    Funny how these things work, isn’t it?

  39. Nice to see some more internals beginning to change mind about all those deletions. I have now critisized these things for over a year. Ther german Wikipedia is in a state of extreme unusablity and worthlessness because pages get deleted by random nature – a page doesnt exist doesnt mean its not important any more (this is the case if nobody bothers to create it) – it could just mean it was a victim of yet another deletionist.

    You asked about the root cause. I think Wikipedias problems are:
    a) Wikipedia was one of the first popular wikis
    b) They really just did use wiki technology but invented all kind of wikihostile rules and goals. – Like Ward also says – a wiki is always a wiki. But Wikipedia wanted to be encyclopedia. Public attention and quarels with other encyclopedia has led people to think that quality in Wikipedia is an issue. While studies have shown that it is not people have begun to introduce more and more anti-wiki rules.

    The solution is more liberation and forking. An encylopedia should be based on Wikipedia and maybe other sources – but Wikipedia itself should rather be a big monster that collects everything. The only rules should be anti-spam and anti-abuse or manipulation. Everything else should be ok. so an article that is short or an article about a bird nobody knows or a small town in Nebraska. Maybe nobody cares but I think the only mission that makes sense for Wikipedia is to collect ALL knowledge of humanity. Which also means the inclusion of weird views. One essential wiki principle is to quasi never delete a page but rather change the content so that it makes sense. its ok to refactor. Refactoring IS wiki. Refactoring also means deleting some content for better overview or understanding.

    Another bad factor is NPOV. Neutrality is impossible – and if you try to enforce it it becomes the weapon of those who dont want neutrality. Ive seen many articles that where marked as excellent but which did not include any second opinion. forgetting about neutrality also means not including EVERY silly comment or view on the other side. I have also seen many articles which have sentences where you can read the history – in one word: compromise. This is not good refactoring.

    Wikipedia has invented many weapons against content and users – but a wiki is rather something for self regulation. An encylopedia would use this content and refine it and bring it in a nice layout. Wikipedia as a sole website can never fulfill that dream without killing its own dream. Wikipedia needs to be radically redefined and it needs to go back to the wiki roots!!!
    Thilo

  40. Pingback: Why Wiki Sucks « Edge for Dev

  41. Pingback: Andrew Lih » Blog Archive » Telegraph UK on Wikipedia Inclusionism/Deletionism

  42. Dear Andrew Lih,
    I was bored and searched my username on google and came across this blog and noticed what you said about me. I apologize for what I did, but maybe you should try adding a little more info about him, if I didn’t do it, someone else would have. P.S. I really am Chris9086, and not some weird liar.

  43. Jeanne Marie Spicuzza

    “Delete. This is a poorly written, self-serving article about somebody who isn’t worthy of being in an encyclopedia of any kind. Griot 18:46, 19 May 2007 (UTC)”

    Spicuzza Sockpuppet Rampage

    Carlton, Spicuzza is on the warpath again. If you remember, Jeanne Marie started warring on Wikipedia when she objected to a quote from the Atlantic Monthly in the Ralph Nader article. That article has seen a huge number of sockpuppets in the last week. Editors have come out of nowhere to edit that artile in the exact same way:
    SquidSwim], nothing but Nader, joined Wikpedia two days agao
    76.87.44.173, noting but Nader for one day, same edits as SquidSwim
    Is there anything we can do about Jean? It’s tiresome. Maybe we should giver her back per personal page on Wikpedia so she isn’t so lonely. Griot 14:40, 27 August 2007 (UTC)

  44. BTW Why is this on like 50 different pages on the internet? This isn’t that big of a deal.

  45. I can’t believe the article on poet Matt Cook was deleted, too!

    Wikipedia has finally dropped the rock entirely. It’s nothing but a lame PR site now, all politics and personal what stays or goes.

    Tragic end to a good idea gone bad.

  46. Andrew,
    Soup Nazis is right. My personal experiences confirm this.
    My name is Dana Ullman, and I have written 10 books on homeopathic medicine, have written chapters on homeopathy in four medical textbooks, and regularly speak at medical schools and universities. I was honored that my alma mater, UC Berkeley, published an interview with me in their alumni magazine, but the soup Nazis have determined that this interview from UC Berkeley is biased and not a NPOV source (eeeks).
    To make things worse, my listing on wikipedia was stubbified and then “protected,” and the sharks are circling to delete the entire entry, even though someone had earlier proposed deletion but it was agreed that I was a formidible person in the field and that my listing should not be deleted…but the sharks are going at it again.
    For details, go to:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Administrators%27_noticeboard/Incidents#Blanking_the_Dana_Ullman_article_and_then_protecting_the_vandalism

    One of the sharks, Coren, asserted that this case is “resolved,” though he didn’t choose to disclose that HE was one of the people who had blocked me and has been trying to mute my voice on wikipedia. He is a part of the problem on wikipedia. Soup Nazi would be a kind reference for him.

    Sadly, the anti-homeopathy people have hijacked the wikipedia listing too. There are many serious problems with this listing, but the fact that ALL of the external links are to anti-homeopathic sites is strong evidence of who is controlling this site. They do not even allow links to leading non-profit homeopathic organizations, either international ones or American or European ones. It is startling.

    Can anyone out there help?

    –Dana Ullman

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