Science Fiction Authors, Revolt from Wikipedia!

Kathryn Cramer makes an interesting proposal to move science fiction author bios out of the Wikipedia space. Her main reasoning is that the SF field is highly interconnected socially, but Wikipedians frown on writing about people you know personally. Thus, the people with the best knowledge of the writers are excluded from writing about them. She got me with this bit:

After a brief experience with Wikipdia, its editors strike me as a pack of officious trolls whose main concern is to make sure that you don’t actually know the people you are writing about.

That’s similar to my experience. Although there is a lot to be said about the value of Wikipedia, the one time I got a glimpse into its governance, I was pretty shocked. When my bio was removed from there, the key question was whether or not Dave Slusher the podcaster was the same guy who did the radio show Reality Break in the 90s. The issue was solved when one of them concluded “that fact was not possible to determine.” Of course, the “above the fold” link from this blog (which hosts the podcast) to the radio show or the fact that searching in my search box turns up posts about me doing the radio show didn’t matter, that fact was not determinable. Umm, OK.

This is not in and of itself that big of a deal in my case, but it radically diminished any confidence I might have in Wikipedia. When the decision makers have such wonky ideas about what are and are not knowable facts, how can I trust it to be factual? This is different from the problem about whether the masses can write an encyclopedia that academics types have with it, but my problem is whether the people who make systemic decisions can be trusted to be making them well.

Certainly on the podcasting article I have seen bits injected that are completely erroneous, like a while back when it said that “Adam Curry is widely believed to have coined the term podcasting”, something that I was there for and know isn’t true. I suppose I could have corrected it, but then you get into the loop about people with personal involvements editing articles. So the theory is good but in practice you get this middle brow anti-knowledge bias, where it’s more important to be disconnected from the events of the article than know what you are talking about.

I think Kathryn’s factual secession idea is a good one. Let’s see where that goes.

Update: Kathryn has even more run ins with Wikipedia governance. She seems to be trying to engage harder than I ever did, since my reaction to similar stuff was to disengage and write off the project as being what it is. This feels much like it did in Usenet a few years back on rec.arts.sf.written when the focus of the group turned to gatekeeping and making sure the pro writers didn’t say certain things about themselves. When the energy turns more to guarding the door than keeping the music going, your party starts to suck hard.

She also notes that Wikipedians disallow citations to offline print sources as valid support. That is indeed nutty, that the offline world no longer counts in their virtual playground as a source of information.

So have the Wikipedian’s declared the death of print? Or at least that print doesn’t matter unless it’s on the web? Disallowing print sources seems to me clear evidence that some kind of collective insanity has gripped the Wikipedian Hive Mind. What could it possibly be thinking?

Like I say, Wikipedia is what it is. Take it with a deer lick of salt.

6 Replies to “Science Fiction Authors, Revolt from Wikipedia!”

  1. concur dave (and kathryn) – i think wikipedia is incredibly valuable, however – having been raised by a historian myself, who always preached seek out “multiple, knowledgeable sources”, the desire to exclude anyone w/ first-hand knowledge from contributing is just wrong and seems to have stemmed from an overreaction of the braintrust behind wikipedia to folks w/ personal bias and self-serving agendas (adam curry comes to mind) who were erroneously mucking up the pages important to them…

    btw – “officious trolls” has a nice ring to it, fitting of a punk band 😉

  2. Puppeteers reacted to the sheer mass of misinformation on wikipedia by forming a puppet wiki. The problem, of course, is that no one goes to it.

    There’s nothing quite like correcting an erroneous entry and then seeing someone change it back. Just saying–don’t trust the puppetry stuff on wikipedia.

    Now, I tend to use Wikipedia for the links to outside sources sections at the bottom. I’ve always preferred to get primary source information where possible anyway.

  3. Mike, it seems to me like the balance they have struck is less satisfying than the free-for-all. The people with agendas willing to work through proxies (ie, scumbags with patience and/or resources) will still get their way but this prevents knowledgeable people of good will from responding in kind.

    Hey there, Mary! Can you drop a citation in the entries pointing to the puppetry wiki? You situation is another bit of anecdotal evidence that the core story of WP – “eventually everything tends towards the best article” – doesn’t necessarily hold. It seems like over time anything of any activity tends towards a level of blandness and lowered common denominator and that is valued above correctness.

    Bill, very very interesting that. The only problem there becomes a jurisdictional one between them and ISFDB. Having three places, WP, ISFDB and SciFi all jockeying to be definitive is way worse than having one. I will definitely check that out.

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