Watching Wikipedia's extinction event from a distance


And yet, they have zillions of stub articles like this:

apparently created by a bot from government databases.


The Wikipedia culture is… interesting, to say the least. The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) has a mandate to expand the reach of Wikipedia to everyone on the planet, and in my time there, I saw more than one initiative stymied by the Wikipedia volunteer editors pushing steadfastly for no changes to anything. There was even an active rebellion against making Wikipedia easier because it would bring n novice editors who would then “screw things up and make more work for the experienced editors”.

One of the key challenges with Wikipedia is that the content is 100% volunteer driven, and while major policy can be overridden by the Wikimedia Foundation, they loathe to do so except in extreme circumstances. The other force working against them is that the general concept of Wikipedia, in general, tends to attract anti-establishment, libertarian, more freedom-loving types who generally could care less what “the man” (WMF in this case) wants, and just want to do things their way.

As a result, the editor base remains predominantly the same group of people that it was originally: predominantly male, western, white, tech-savvy types, and the culture that comes from it. Despite efforts from the WMF to attract diverse editors from around the world, they aren’t able to make a significant dent in the culture of that editorial base.

Disclaimer: I spent a year working as Director of Tech Operations for the Wikimedia Foundation


Call me a foolhearted optimist, but I hope you’re wrong on this one. :slight_smile:


I’m also the victim of overreaching deletionists. We had a beautiful page on Wikipedia several years ago covering a demo scene archive that was very popular in the 90’s. They thought the sourcing was insufficient. I tried to fight it for a while but eventually gave up. :frowning:


Oh. Darn! I was thinking… write a bot to automagically repost original articles! Yeah!

…oh, wait, the assertion is that’s the sort of thing that is wrong already, huh?


This has also been my experience (improper flagging for speedy deletion, deleted by RHaworth) a few months ago.
I have now vowed to never contribute to Wikipedia again other than anonymous word-smithing. Yes it’s that bad. The deletionists are in the majority and it is much easier to delete pages than create them.

I would think there is a technical solution to this. With the open APIs available from Wikipedia, it should be possible for another site to ‘skin’ Wikipedia with additional edits and articles. Initially links would lead to identical pages, but over time as articles are added or edited a divergent git-type branch is created that would supersede the original. Its premise, I think, should be that nothing gets deleted - only versioned.


I’m just going to leave this right here:


You should’ve watched the Somalia article as it evolved 12-13 years ago.

Or… not.


There are lots and lots of forks of wikipedia. Some notable one include which was forked by Larry Sanger and and which attempts to do just what you proposed. Unfortunately most of these folks don’t work, Citizendium has hardly any edits.


A Raspberry Pi, a terabyte drive, install Mediawiki, and I’m happy.

US Commission on International Religious Freedom

(It’s all under the same CC attribution share-alike as Wikipedia, so if anyone wants to copy it over, fine, but not me.)


I absolutely agree, and well said.

I know we have actual librarians about in here [as opposed to having just been the IT support (and useful to point people in the right directions) in one, like me], but I understand that ‘library volunteers’, and the wrangling thereof, is absolutely, positively, a thing.

Though I cede to The People Who Know More About Libraries than I, of course. :slight_smile:


For what it’s worth, if I came to Wikipedia wanting to find out about hemovanadin, my journey to your article would not have been wasted. While I wouldn’t have found tons of in-depth info, I did find a reasonable overview, and links to reputable sources of more detailed information from there.

To me, that’s a win, and a strong net benefit. (In truth, I’d be looking at the references anyway, to help me evaluate even a full article.)

I’ve never edited Wikipedia, but as an occasional user, that kind of stub is an asset.


It’s a question of scale, I think. I used to work for the Quakers, so I’ve got some volunteer management skills. But on a 1:1 and 1:small group level, not a huge, largely self organised mass of online contributors. That seems to make it a qualitatively different problem.

Having said that, I’m sure that there are at least a few librarians who have skills in massive online collaboration (perhaps with experience of Zooniverse, or Stack Overflow, or Wikipedia itself) who would make awesome Wikipedia project leads. But I don’t think an MS in Library Studies necessarily has that career route in mind…


Most of the Librarians (and other library staff) that I know are quite passionate about getting information to the people (well, okay, getting the people to the information in most cases, but it’s much the same) and while the current Wikipedia setup seems ‘designed’ to discourage, in different ground, we might well be surprised.

Well, either that, or they’d organise and take over the world, in a benign (information-led) dictatorship.
One of the two. :wink:


This. I started avoiding Wikipedia after the “Kate’s dress” fiasco:

Love or hate the royals, love or hate fashion, love or hate weddings, the dress was of historical and pop culture significance. I remember an article from the time which pointed out even rather obscure NFL players had Wikipedia entries, yet the entry for Middleton’s dress got slated for speedy deletion.

So no, I don’t find Wikipedia good for pop culture, because it’s too hit-and-miss on topics. And I don’t want to become an editor because of all the reasons mentioned above.


Really gadgetgirl02? The article “Wedding dress of Kate Middleton” has existed since 2011. Yes, there was discussion of deletion etc, but that’s all “part of the process” of a consensus driven system. I suspect that the real problem is that some people take all of this far too personally, and are unwilling to work with others.

Having said all that, Wikipedia’s goal is to be the largest encyclopedia in history, both in terms of breadth and in terms of depth - and while this doesn’t exclude “pop culture”, that is certainly not at the top of the priority list.


But, but, if the internet is vast and storage is too cheap to meter, why can’t we have all these stubs, and let new editors find them and expand them? I think one problem is the reward system. Weenies serarching for barnstars or upper level editor status tend to want to beat down the competition. And don’t get me started on people with vested interests.


Well, that was a nice demonstration in support of @gadgetgirl02’s argument.


That’s a rather facile re-telling of the events. The dress entry only survived because it hit the MSM so fast, so hard. Wikipedia had, until that point, been able to keep the façade up of being inclusive to a large extent. The men behind the curtain got exposed.

The dress is a good example because it’s not just a pop culture thing, but historical in terms of ceremonial clothing. There’s the strong resemblance to Grace Kelly’s wedding gown. There’s the long sleeves coming after a decade of not just no sleeves, but strapless being de rigeur. There’s the reintroduction of lace as a major component.

That’s all off the top of my head, and I hate wedding gowns, don’t really follow the royals, and aren’t really into any fashions less than 70 years old. That it even got tipped for deletion indicates a broken, non-inclusive system.

Textile history is one of the topics notably underrepresented on Wikipedia, and the Middleton dress article was a flashpoint. “Consensus” had nothing to do with it.


Oh and hey, welcome to Boing Boing!