Watching Wikipedia's extinction event from a distance


Originally published at:

40% of Wikipedia is under threat from deletionists


this is why we can’t have nice things on the Net.


I’m currently having similar problems at work and recently came across this:

“Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.”


Far too many wikipedia “editors” are tinpot dictators trying to enforce their own version of wikipedia with others. Remember when the editors got into an edit war with one of the founders and creators of wikipedia? It is about time that wikipedia revise its standards and get serious about curbing the abuses of their current, sometimes overly vague, guidelines.

Wikipedia is generally great for pop-culture, and is rapidly growing more and more useless for anything else.


What if you put your original article back up? Is it marked for some kind of heightened scrutiny now that the topic has been bleached once? Can you change the topic name slightly? Is the person who replaced it with pasted info likely to do the same thing again?

I’ve never edited or contributed content (money though) to Wikipedia, just asking based on your description. It seems that something as complex as Wikipedia is likely to have some necessary processes run a bit amok at times. If I get the sniffles, I can drink tea and ride it out, or I can take an antibiotic and help create a superbug, or I could jump off a bridge and cure my sniffles once and for all. Depends how you define “effective”.


Interesting. Of course this is a part of the explanation behind the Trump phenomenon. He is an actively anti-process person. And the political process has gotten us where we are.


This is frustrating to read.

Edit: I just noticed a kind editor (and Boing Boing reader?) has resuscitated the article and left a note on the Talk page.


Someone very likely has set a notification that watches for that article to be recreated (probably the editor who deleted it). If you try to recreate it, they will put it up for deletion again, and you will have to attempt to navigate Wikibureaucracy in order to get the deletion overruled.


Wikipedia is a brilliant concept. We desperately need to fork it (minus the rules) and implement top-down leadership from from scientists, historians, etc., people who both understand the content of the articles AND how to run an encyclopedia. Anyone should be able to EDIT Wikipedia, but random users should not be given the power to create rules and vote on how to implement and enforce them.


You mean like Nupedia? :slight_smile:


No, not at all. The process of creating and editing articles is, for the most part, fine. We don’t need a “seven step approval process” before publishing content. The problem lies within the massive amount of bureaucracy that surrounds it, and the fact that all those rules were created by people who have no business doing so.


It seems to have been deleted again.


Someone asked above what would happen if you just tried to recreate the article. This is the answer. It’s now been moved to a draft page. There is a whole mess of bureaucracy you have to go through now in order to have the new article stick around. It’s unfathomably stupid.


Wikipedia is full of elitists who auto-delete any edits made by “lowly” or new users. Small, obscure articles are really the only ones that us serfs can edit.


This is a sad story :frowning: I can counter it with anecdotes of my own: I’ve created a dozen or so articles on Wikipedia, and they’re all still there, unvandalized and undeleted. The important questions, though, are really statistical and not anecdotal.

When people hearken back to the Golden Age of Wikipedia, are they referring to a time when there was more useful, accurate content? Or a period when it was easier and friendlier to edit? The latter is important, but I have to confess to caring more about the former.


To a very real degree this is about real limits that some people don’t acknowledge. Just like you can’t have any system completely secure and always easy to use, you can’t have a system be authoritative, and freely editable. Either you have “authorities” in contol, or you don’t. The open web IS a great thing. But sometimes whoever shouts the loudest can hijack the conversation. And often the people who shout the loudest (engage in edit wars, doxxing and other shenanigans) are not the people which I want to listen to. On the other hand, when you decide to listen to authorities and have editors, the questions are “Who is the authority,” quickly followed by “Who decides who is the authority?” When we add to that administrative controls designed to ensure that the site doesn’t get cited for infringement of copyright, we have another layer of editorial control.


The other day I had one of my edits undone by some overzealous Wikipedian who claimed it was vandalism because some AI said it was :confused:


Serious question,not trolling. :slight_smile: What people do have business creating those rules? Some higher class of “knowledge experts”? Why haven’t they done so? It seems the opportunity is perpetually ripe for someone to “fix” Wikipedia, yet no one has.

I should add, I agree that there are problems on the project. One perceived problem is an unwelcome amount of rules - it’s hard to get settled in and comfortable with the meta aspect of contributing. But those rules exist for a reason (often historical) and are frustratingly not enforced with the expectation of consistency we’d find in other “top-down” organizations. I think the Wild West of inter workings within Wikipedia is off-putting for many (to say the least).

Disclosure, I work for the Wikimedia Foundation. The options expressed her are my own and I don’t speak for anyone but myself.


I disagree. Wikipedia is better than ever for science. What I think the problem is is that a lot of editors have a thing against stub articles, which are often worse than useless because they show up in web searches (as Wikipedia tends to be the top or near top hit), displacing more informative pages. I think the solution is not to write stubs and not post anything until you have a reasonably complete first draft of a new article. I get the idea of a stub – it’s part of the whole “stone soup” idea that lots of people are going to jump in and complete an article, but often this is too optimistic and the stub just sits around cluttering things up forever.


Curses, foiled again. :slight_smile: