Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Guess I can't (virtually) go home again ...

To get up to speed on Wiki's and how the community content process works, I posted a few things about my hometown on www.wikipedia.org under the dedicated encylopedia entry for my town. Now, my town is small (~50K population) and I wouldn't think anyone is taking an active interest in the post. Was I wrong. I posted my name under the "natives" section, which lists natives of my town, and someone removed me. I posted again, someone removed my name again. More due to a stubborn streak than anything else, this process has gone through 8 cycles over the last month of me posting, being erased and posting again.

Today, I learned how to track changes. One single person has been removing my name from the "natives" section and justifying it with the comment "fixing vandalism". It's interesting. I think I'm adding valuable information (I am a native of the town and have accomplished things at least on par with some of the other natives in terms of societal impact). My nemesis apparently has some strong ideas about the filter through which notable natives must pass and keeps removing me. I'll enjoy seeing how this plays out - an experiment on how the community content process works. The broader implications are more serious. I've spoke to people who use wikipedia as a first source of information. To be useful, the process has to achieve a balance between the information zealots who might provide structure and the perceived "vandals". I'll see if I can virtually go home again.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe the website implies natives of signifcant achievement. What have you done to merit inclusion into this limited crowd?

Rob said...

Good point. But what do you mean by achievement? Whether you earn a certain amount of money, been qouted in the newspaper, saved lives, been a member of a prestigious group, etc? Until the community agrees about what specifically is meant by achievement, I think it is up to community interpretation.

I now think there are Wiki zealots out there who reject any changes. They don't actually have any affiliation with the topics, but get some kind of satisfaction from maintaining what they think is the sanctity of the data. I think these people water down the power of wikis.

Anonymous said...

I suspect one person who is particularly proud of their town went through the trouble of researching and listing all the "relevant" information. This person feels slighted that you would hijack their efforts. You do bring up a point as to who is worthy of the title of "notable citizens". What about notorious people? Would you say your town is the birthplace of Al Capone? What about Jeffrey Dahmer? They certainly are notable but for questionable reasons. I suppose my thoughts are that a person should not give self-recognition. It should come from elsewhere. Though I must admit I've been tempted to have a plaque made for myself recognizing "outstanding achievement in the field of excellence."

Rob said...

(1) The person who is correcting it isn't a member of my town who has a tie to the community. He or she is someone who gets satisfaction from monitoring multiple topics.

(2) And the WIKI is structured so the information can be updated, not controlled by an info zealot. Otherwise it wouldn't be a WIKI. It would be a static html page.

(3)As for self recognition, it really has nothing to do with that. I personally would like to see every native posted onto it. As for whether I'm notable, I don't really care. I do think I have had positive societal impact on par with several of those people posted. And yes, if Capone was from my town, he should be there.

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Ambuj Saxena said...

As an active editor of Wikipedia, I think I am in a position to convince you what has been going on. From what I gather from this post, you don't "claim" any notable achievement that stands out of the crowd, though feel that your name should be there on the natives list. Let me explain the way Wikipedia works. First of all please understand what Wikipedia is. For details you may visit the relevant policy of Wikipedia which discusses things that Wikipedia should not be used for. One of the first and foremost thing is that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. This means that though it is incomplete as of now, every edit SHOULD make it go towards an encyclopedia. Now ask yourself whether you expect your name to be present in an encyclopedia article on your town. Answer probably is that you don't. The trouble is that the notion of notability is very vague, and hence you feel that your name SHOULD appear on the list. However, howsoever vague it may be, I am pretty sure that your claim isn't anywhere near the "grey region" and hence not worthy of inclusion. If you still want to understand the policies of the Grey region, you may have a look at them. As it stands now, I feel that the section title is inappropriate and more appropriate one would be "Eminent people associated with the city" or on similar lines. However as the article develops and tends towards the Featured Article, even that might go and it would be restricted to an even smaller list included in paragraph format in a section, say "Culture". Hence, the person who removed your name wasn't a zealot but a person working to make the encyclopedia better. Remember again that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and not a free web-space provider or a directory of people living in an area. If you want to see your name in the list of natives of your city, why don't you start a blog and do it. Hope I was able to answer your questions. Since I can't assure you that I will follow up the discussion here (as I rarely come back to check the discussions), you can contact me on my talk page.

Ben Yates said...

Hi -- I'm leaving this note as a counterpoint to Ambuj Saxena's, mostly to let you know that he doesn't speak for some sort of wikipedia establishment. There are a wide range of views on subjects like this (for example, see wikipedia is not print).

In an ideal world, at least 2 things should have gone differently:

1. The person who reverted your edits should have sent you a message explaining why; then you could have taken it up with them.

1 point five. You shouldn't have been called a vandal. The term is way overused.

2. There should have existed an elegant way to redirect additions to the article to another page that could less controversially accommodate them. As more wikis develop, and interfaces improve, this should improve as well.

Ben Yates said...

(Clarification: that comment about redirecting the discussion refers to adding a long list of names to the article, not to making changes in general.)

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