Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: An okay sort of day

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  • Evan Yates,

    Your experience with Wikipedia editors is pretty typical. There are helpful ones ("it might be better if you did it this way...") and there are prescriptive ones ("You must do it this/my way, or else..."). You just happen to have struck one of each. My advice. Don't take the edits/deletes/snarky jibes personally. Just keep promoting your position calmly and rationally and use the procedures put in place for dispute resolution.

    I think of Wiki editors as being like the police. The cops spend all day dealing with crims and can easily start assuming the worst of everyone else they meet. Wiki-eidtors spend a lot of time dealing with vandalism and spam and theerfore can easily start to see it even in places where it is not intended.

    Eventually, what emerges usually does turn out to be pretty good. However, it may not reflect your personal view of what it should look like.

    Like most professional writers you are protective of what you write and expect editors to be collaborators not adversaries. Unfortunately Wikipedia isn't always like that.

    Hamiltron, Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Nov 2006 • 190 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Like most professional writers you are protective of what you write and expect editors to be collaborators not adversaries. Unfortunately Wikipedia isn't always like that.

    Thanks. I'm still struggling to see a basis in good faith for what happened - not least because it seemed to trample on Wikipedia's own process - but, as you suggest, I'm just trying to calmly (and politely) promote my position, and the position of the delegates (about a dozen of the people I've listed as attending have their own Wikipedia articles, which one would think has some bearing on how "notable" the event is).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    I can totally see why it was put in the Speedy Deletion category, but not that it was yanked twice with no discussion. That's bloody rude.

    The reason that I can see why it's a candidate for Speedy Deletion is that there is no indication that this is an ongoing event (if it is), and really reads more like a news article than an encyclopedia article. For example, when the Californian Browncoats put on an alternative to the Firefly convention that went down the gurgler, I felt that Wikipedia was not an appropriate forum for that news either (and voted for its speedy deletion).

    While I realise that FooCamp is a much more structured event, I do think the Kiwi FooCamp is more appropriately mentioned in the main article, at least until it takes on a sustained life of its own.

    I certainly don't think there's anything wrong with the way the article is written - it's much better than most WP articles! But a section in the main article (even a lengthy one) or an entry in WikiNews seem like better places for the information to me.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I can totally see why it was put in the Speedy Deletion category, but not that it was yanked twice with no discussion. That's bloody rude.

    It was. And the fact that the hostile editor has shown no interest in the AFD discussion seems like more rudeness to me.

    I did read up on deletion policy:

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

    And I don't think even the relatively brief original text met the listed standard for speedy deletion of "patent nonsense, advertising, pure vandalism" or "utter rubbish". The "proposed deletion" standard might have been reasonable:

    articles which appear to have genuine content but which the deleter feels are not suitable content for Wikipedia, such as advertising, vanity articles, and the like

    But even that seems a trifle harsh, as evidenced by the fact that no one is now seriously suggesting deletion as opposed to a merge.

    The reason that I can see why it's a candidate for Speedy Deletion is that there is no indication that this is an ongoing event (if it is)

    Yes there is:

    The organisers plan to hold it annually in the New Zealand summer.

    I could have added that one (and I suspect, two) of the sponsors have already committed to supporting the 2008 event, that a mailing list and a wiki are keeping delegates in contact, several notable international figures have committed to attending next year, and that the venue has been made available, but that seemed like over-egging it. It doesn't seem right to clutter an article with detailed justifications for its existence.

    It was also a bit vexing to see the event declared "not notable" when there had been no opportunity to even write text describing it. Although it appears that the fact that Jimmy Wales once said attendance at Foo Camp made someone notable counts in our favour ;-)

    Anyway, as you say, it is already better-written than most Wikipedia articles, and I hope someone will help add some pictures while I'm busy over the next few days.

    This isn't really about any preciousness on my part: I could do without the grief, and I don't need to write WP articles to affirm myself. But I think everyone who attended (and they included people who have played a major role in the rest of us here having the Internet in the first place) perceived that it was both significant, and the start of something.

    I'd prefer to it persist, but if it is merged, it will rather shame the rest of the US Foo Camp article ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp,

    Re: Foo camp - Speaking as a local (and also a newish Wikipedia editor-coincidentally) my view is that the event will have much wider implications for NZ as does any large "salon" of ideas.

    I hope it stays and have added my comments to the discussion.

    There does seem to be a catch 22 of sorts about OC (original content?) in that it can only be added after external sources provide the narration. Possibly this is for verification purposes but in any case it deserves to be highlighted.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 216 posts Report Reply

  • wendyf,

    I watched the Maori TV coverage of Waitangi Day for most of the afternoon. It was great. I learned a lot about Treaty stuff that I didn't know and the information was presented in an interesting and professional way - non-hectoring. Everything looked good, the front man (sorry can't remember his name) was fabulous. The vox pop bits didn't edit out those who didn't think much of Treaty stuff.

    Maori TV does a lot of programmes, really well - thanks.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 80 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Shame on you for polluting Wikipedia! Don't you know it's an encyclodia, and only for really important stuff?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 902 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Graham,

    I ended up in an argument trying to get a wikipedia article undeleted. I didn't have anything to do with the article other than I went to wikipedia to get information only to find it once had an article on the topic but it had been deleted.

    I hear the phrase It's an encyclopedia not a <wildcard>. Wikipedia is not an encylcopedia. Britanica is an encyclopedia. It overs a tiny subset of what wikipedia does. It does this out of necessity due to limited resources. You still get a ' That is beneath us' vibe for topics not covered.

    For me If I go to wikipedia looking for info on it, I think it's notable. If I can't find any I consider Wikipedia to have failed it's job that time.

    So what would happen if there were no restrictions on articles that failed a notibility test? Links from notable to non notable articles would be forbidden. If you were in a notable article you could never click your way to a non-notable bat there would still be information there if you searched specifically for it.

    As long as articles met the other wikipedia crteria for style and content it wouldn't get too messy would it?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 111 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    And I don't think even the relatively brief original text met the listed standard for speedy deletion of "patent nonsense, advertising, pure vandalism" or "utter rubbish".

    Umm, the two words preceding your quote there are "for example" : )
    If you go to the full list of speedy criteria, you'll see under "Articles" #7. Personally, I think it's a bit of a pisser, but it is there.

    I agree with Evan's police comparison. There are some people who spend all day doing "cleaning" jobs. Going through and deleting what they consider to be irrelevant or too commercial links, and judging by their contributions, they spend an amount of time doing that sort of stuff. It's somewhat ironic that they would see themselves as an enforcer, but then to break policy. However, I think that's why the police analogy might work.

    On a more meta-level, there appears to be a weird extent to which spending a lot of time doing that sort of thing appeals to a certain group. Either because they feel they're helping the community, get a kick out of it, or whatever. I also think that doing anti-vandalism-esque stuff seems to be a bit of a pre-req for getting noticed (and maybe on to becoming an administrator etc.). I'm not entirely sure, but it does also seem to be a bit of a domain of younger males.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 691 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    Actually, it appears it may be OK to speedy the same thing twice "if the prior deletions were proposed or speedy deletions, although in this last case, the previous speedy criterion, or other speedy deletion criteria, may apply." (criteria for speedy deletion, g4, recreating deleted material).

    On a more mundane level, it being called foo camp probably doesn't help either....

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 691 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    Duh, I don't know why I said "__speedy__ deletion" throughout my comment - obviously my brain is not happy after 6 hours' sleep. I was intending to refer to the usual deletion process for non-notablilty.

    And with that statement about the Kiwi FooCamp being an ongoing event, well, yes, it certainly fulfils any requirements for notability that I can think of.

    It's just a shame that some sucky editors can give the rest of us a bad name, by being such rude pricks, and not giving something that has obviously been written in the right spirit the appropriate benefit of the doubt.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Stafford Lumsden,

    Me thinks Wikipedia has also been hit with some fairly aggressive take-down notices of late.
    While one should rely on multiple sources for research (as I tell my intermediate aged students) It's great for lists of TV series episodes, and I'm constantly referring to it to catch up on things like Scrubs, NCIS, The Simpsons and House (which I can't get here in Korea) prior to...ahem...procuring a copy....
    Many of said lists have the big pink box at the top their entries from time to time but have survived on the whole.
    Maybe the editors are getting a bit paranoid?

    South Korea • Since Nov 2006 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Rob McKinnon of the NZ version of They Work For You emailed me to note an interesting example of mindless zealotry to which he was subjected.

    His (non-profit, non-commercial) site offers pages for each MP which, among other things, automatically provide the Hansard of that MP's most recent speeches in the House. Ingenious and bloody useful.

    But solely because he had added links to those pages to the articles for several MPs, an editor declared he was "spamming" and removed all the links. Robert politely discussed it with him, and pointed out that such links to the original British version of They Work for You had been in use on Wikipedia since 2004, but the gatekeeper was unmoved.

    I thought the depressing part was the editor's declaration at the end of his notice of deletion:

    I have no opinion on the website or if it adds any extra information.

    And clearly, no intention of doing anything so common as finding out.

    Robert gave up. WP users lost out. Farcical.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Duh, I don't know why I said "speedy deletion" throughout my comment - obviously my brain is not happy after 6 hours' sleep. I was intending to refer to the usual deletion process for non-notablilty.

    Ah. That makes a bit more sense. I don't think I would have objected at all to having to justify the article.

    And with that statement about the Kiwi FooCamp being an ongoing event, well, yes, it certainly fulfils any requirements for notability that I can think of.

    That does seem to be the way it's leaning. People have also deduced that the main Foo Camp article needs improving itself. I'd have a crack myself if I wasn't otherwise occupied.

    It's just a shame that some sucky editors can give the rest of us a bad name, by being such rude pricks, and not giving something that has obviously been written in the right spirit the appropriate benefit of the doubt.

    Yeah, it was the flat-out lack of benefit of the doubt that I thought was weird.

    I'm trying not to campaign here, but this is new to me and, well, I discuss everything in the blog. I'm encouraged to see someone agreeing in the AFD discussion that there are topic areas where "unreliable" sources such as blogs (and more specifically, expert blogs) are very likely to be more credible than the work of "proper" journalists.

    One thing I've realised is that WP culture isn't actually the same thing as Net culture, and can in fact be very different ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    There are some people who spend all day doing "cleaning" jobs. Going through and deleting what they consider to be irrelevant or too commercial links, and judging by their contributions, they spend an amount of time doing that sort of stuff.

    And most of it looks quite reasonable. I dunno, maybe he was just having a bad day, but his attitude towards Juha and I was unnecessary.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Further to the culture point above, I think the WP culture definition of "spam" is broader (and to my mind, unreasonably so) than that of geek culture.

    I think it was being called a spammer that really got Juha going. I mean, them's fightin' words ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    I've encountered a few overzealous Wikipedia editors in the past, including someone who was trying to claim that the Aramoana Massacre wasn't notable on the grounds that there are mass shootings in the USA and around the world every day.

    My worst experience was to find myself in an edit war with an anonymous dialup vandal (although I know who he was) who had a personal vandetta against several of the organisations I'd authored articles about. He did more than simply vandalise the articles and submit bogus deletion nominations with personally abusive comments, too. The subject of at least one of the articles turned up and actively asked to be removed from Wikipedia because they saw it as the focal point of a lot of harassment that they were receiving outside of Wikipedia. DDOS attacks on their web server, and the like. Unfortunately they took a lot of useful and interesting scientific information away simply to try and remove attention from themselves -- they just got fed up and decided to back down.

    My suggestion is to try to avoid situations where people can make it personal. When I edit Wikipedia articles these days, I try to stay away from articles that are too close to home or which I care too much about. It simply becomes too frustrating if you happen to run into someone who wants to fight with you.

    I think the main thing that keeps most editors happy is to try and cite authoritative sources, ideally in a proper References section, and preferably from sources that aren't web pages or weblogs. Officially, Wikipedia will tolerate a low standard of writing style (as it can be cleaned up, I guess), but it won't tolerate lack of authoritative sources. Recent non-negotiable wikipedia policies stress this very strictly, even though it's ignored by a lot of editors, but a few people will still go around enforcing it.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 439 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    John Key ferried that girl from McGehan Close around (which, depending on your view, was either a great human gesture or a blatant press opportunity)

    It was both. He ALMOST dug himself a big hole with that Burnside speech, but he's dug himself out of it now, bigtime.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 805 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    There doesn't seem to be a technical reason to set a low bar for content's relevance. I mean, they must have heaps of disk space, so what's wrong with having *one* article for every company, every band, every event no matter how obscure. Issues only occur when you can't find what you want because of spam.

    I guess if they keep on like that someone will create an alt.pedia with a lower bar for content.

    On the other hand, I guess a line has to be drawn, otherwise people will have wikipedia articles for dinner parties.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4501 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Thanks for the They Work for You link Russell.

    A couple of clicks and it took me to this gem of a speech from Peter Dunne (on the motion confirming the membership of the Security and Intelligence Committee):

    I have three very brief comments on the actual motion: firstly, United Future will be supporting it; secondly, we have, that notwithstanding, absolutely no confidence whatsoever in the ability of Mr Hide to make a contribution to anything constructive, let alone to the work of this committee; and, thirdly, we note with sadness and disappointment the bad judgment of Dr Brash in nominating him.

    I didn't know he had it in him!

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    On the other hand, I guess a line has to be drawn, otherwise people will have wikipedia articles for dinner parties.

    Or Wikipedia turns into MySpace.

    It's interesting that Net perople tend to be inclusionist - that is, a low bar - while the keener WP editors often seem to be exclusionist. I guess they have different things to deal with. I 'm super-glad that I've been able to sit down with my kids and research stuff that is, in the scheme of things, trivial: yes, it's good that there's a place where every pokemon is named. And where porn stars have articles.

    I guess WP has taken a lot of flak in the past two years on the question of authoritativeness, but compared to Encyclpedia Britannica, which is poorly updated even online. it's authoritative in whole other ways. One editor has sniped at us for writing an article soon after the event (ie: before press coverage could emerge to vouchsafe its noteworthiness) , but I value currency in Wikipedia.

    I think I also struggle a little bit with the detailed sourcing thing, because it's not something you do in journalism (I did no university study either). To me, a nicely written article with lots of external links is more useful than a piece of crap that's been sourced up the wazoo.

    And yes, I know, that would rely on everyone thinking like me ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    the keener WP editors often seem to be exclusionist.

    I've wondered whether this is because with the number of articles possibly increasing exponentially, it becomes harder to ensure that people notice stupid stuff being added. And believe me, there is a lot of stupid stuff added.

    I also struggle a little bit with the detailed sourcing thing, because it's not something you do in journalism

    That may be partly in response to the libellious nature of the servers' home turf. However, on the other hand, I'm finding it harder to read mainstream journalism, because of the lack of sourcing. I was immensely frustrated this morning that it took me probably almost 45min to track down a recent journal article that was commented (but not referenced) in the herald. I admit that part of the problem was that I found other interesting stuff on the way.
    Also, I'm increasingly sceptical of things that I read, and if I can't check the source, then I can't be sure if I believe it. And then I read things I know about, and see statements that are dubious, or at best horrible generalizations, and it drives me nuts. Hell, it's one of the reasons why I love Hard News. At least I can see for myself where the info is coming from.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 691 posts Report Reply

  • tim kong,

    I've never been a Wikipedia editor, so I'm happy to be schooled in the ways and means of it as a source/guardian of truth.

    What's really confusing me though - after reading the AFD thread, and what is currently standing as the Foo Camp entry - and sort of understanding the possible thinking behind the deletion of Russell's article - but not agreeing with it - what I don't understand is how this wiki article does NOT get deleted:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Meetup/Auckland_2

    Strikes me as nothing more than a dinner party... with little to no sourcing in site. It's more a myspace type entry to my mind.

    A Kiwi Foo Camp seems eminently more "notable" than a gathering of WP contributors to me - not only because I'm fascinated by the idea of Tizard and Cunliffe being there, but to have such a diverse range of NZ and international creatives and future inclined people in one arena is fascinating. Also - hearing about Hodge and Free being referred to as the next Pink Floyd amused me greatly.

    I have nothing against those at the WP meetup, one of whom comments on the Foo Camp AFD page - from my reading though, if it's fair and valid as a wikipedia entry - I don't understand why RB's one isn't.


    apologies, i've used far too many hyphens in this post.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 146 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    what I don't understand is how this wiki article does NOT get deleted

    Well, it eventually turns into something like this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Meetup/Auckland_1

    It funny that it's there on the public encyclopedia, but it's good that there are people occasionally meeting up, sharing a commitment to the public good, etc. But these aren't the droids you're looking for: gadfium has been really constructive and helpful in the current dispute, and I know Lin and Simon. It's probably the people who don't come to the meetup you have to worry about ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    what I don't understand is how this wiki article does NOT get deleted

    Because it is not an "article". If you see 2 tabs to the left of "edit this page" where is says "project page". If you look at Kiwi Foo Camp you'll see that it says article. And it sort of stands to reason. After all, you'll see that the AFD page also says "project page", and also isn't an article. Same with talk pages, user pages etc. There also exist template and category pages, which also don't abide by the same rules as article pages.

    As an aside, there are some fairly erudite essays on how Wikipedia is becoming totally overrun by bureaucracy and/or vandals and people with barrows to push. (Disc: there are also some really stupid and poorly thought out ones).

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 691 posts Report Reply

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