I fleshed out a placeholder entry on Wikipedia this morning, giving the Richardson, Texas, high school where "Jeremy spoke in class today" enough substance to inspire future editors to work on it.

I've made around 150 edits to Wikipedia in the past year, most extensively on new bios and the unspeakably hideous "alcopop" drink Zima.

Starting new subjects is a lot more fun than defending existing ones from vandalism. My Drudge Retort coconspirator Jonathan Bourne and I worked on the Zima entry as a form of competitive sport, digging up increasingly obscure details and taunting each other with our unstoppable editing moves.

When you write a new entry in Wikipedia, it quickly becomes one of the most authoritative sources on the web about that subject. I have created seven entries in the past year. Six are now in the top 10 results for their name on Google.

One thing I find fascinating about the encyclopedia is how it accretes knowledge.

When I wrote the biography for Alexandra Shulman, a British fashion journalist who was amusingly dismissive of the site, I couldn't find concrete details on her marriage or son. In the press, she hasn't been a particularly gabby person where those topics are concerned, and I wasn't going to ask her directly because that seems like a disturbing thing to do. "Hi, I'm a complete stranger with an inordinate amount of interest in your personal life. Are you still married?"

I had to be vague, so I wrote in Wikipedia that she "has a son, Sam (b. 1994 or 1995), with the writer Paul Spike, from whom she is separated."

In March, someone in Wales edited the entry to indicate that her son was born in 1995.

In late April, "separated" was changed to "divorced" by an editor who also wrote a new Wikipedia entry on Spike. The same person uploaded a self-portrait of him, so it appears that Shulman's ex-husband has been compelled by my entry to give the world confirmation of their split.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

Comments

I wonder if Wikipedia has had an effect on Google at all. I've found that for many searches where I would have gone to Google before, I can get a fast answer by just going straight to Google.


 

Rogers, please -- I am an unindicted coconspirator.


 

A few months ago, a podcaster I listen to regularly found that their listing was marked for deletion and was upset. I then spent a couple of hours fleshing it out into a nicely comprehensive entry. Later, one of the self-appointed Wikipedia guardians went through and deleted so much of it that it is largely non-sensical... but did not mark it for deletion again. I considered it a positive outcome. As they said on this week's TWiT, everyone should have at least one friend to safeguard their entry.


 

M Page makes a good point about Wikipedia additions;

1. give the meddlers, nay-sayers and sentinels some straw-men to delete, in lieu of what you want to stay there, and

2. Make what you *do* want to stay there objective-sounding, and support it with citations if possible (NPOV on Wikipedia means "something like common-sense" ... the nonobots can't *possibly* decipher the adequacy of a lot of articles, they don't know much and have *no* taste for literature.)


 

"When you write a new entry in Wikipedia, it quickly becomes one of the most authoritative sources on the web about that subject."

That's a very scary thought. Especially the word "authoritative".


 

Rogers says, "... most extensively on new bios and the unspeakably hideous "alcopop" drink Zima [linked]."

Of course, I read the Zima article; very informative. I did notice this editorial faux pas, though:

"Another (more subtle and hard to catch) joke ..."

This is an elitist attempt to patronize the reader; as if the writer, themself[ves], actually got-the-joke before it was explained to them (and that the producers of Babylon 5 actually opened their books and proved that they didn't receive a penny from Coors/Zima.)

The sentence should read:

Another more subtle (impossible to catch) joke ...

Anyway, seeing the effort expended on that article about an "hideous" un-hopped beer, I wondered what at the size of one of the nectars of un-hopped beer would be about Framboise or any of the other wonderful beers made by the Lindemans, and some of which are of the hopped, lambic beers, always delicious and the veritable champagne of beers ...

No, your efforts are by far the more dedicated, in size, to highlighting the tasteless -- you win hands-down on that score.



 

Page makes a good point about Wikipedia additions;

1. give the meddlers, nay-sayers and sentinels some straw-men to delete, in lieu of what you want to stay there, and

2. Make what you *do* want to stay there objective-sounding, and support it with citations if possible (NPOV on Wikipedia means "something like common-sense" ... the nonobots can't *possibly* decipher the adequacy of a lot of articles, they don't know much and have *no* taste for literature.)

TJ | 2006-05-04 06:35 PM | link


"When you write a new entry in Wikipedia, it quickly becomes one of the most authoritative sources on the web about that subject."

That's a very scary thought. Especially the word "authoritative".

Seth Finkelstein | 2006-05-04 07:09 PM | link


 

Starting new subjects is a lot more fun than defending existing ones from vandalism.

Dealing with vandalism is routine; it is dealing with ideologues which is a royal PITA.

I started contributing to Wikipedia in mid-2003 and became very active, eventually accruing upwards of 10k edits. I created hundreds of new articles on a wide range of topics at a time when WP was still small and there was lots to do; I enjoyed it immensely and I put many hours a day into it. But as the site grew in stature, it began to attract a growing number of people whose primarily goal appeared to be correct perceived imbalances, more often than not so-called "liberal bias", although the articles were by no means limited just to American politics. You had users, for example, dedicated solely to inserting questionable material from declassified Soviet-era KGB material to discredit a bevy of left-wing intellectuals from the mid-20th century, users who were dedicated solely to removing even the most mildly critical information about Israel from any article on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, users who were solely dedicated to defending Pinochet, Fujimori and/or smearing Chavez, Castro, etc etc etc...

As a result, I found that I spent increasingly more time arguing with zealots than I did creating and editing articles, and eventually I just became too disillusioned with the whole project to continue. I most assuredly have my lefty biases, but I am not so naive to think that left-wingers have a monopoly on the truth.

I love the concept of a wiki, and there are still times when I see an mistake in a web page and I unconsciously look for the edit button. But I am convinced that the concept does not scale well; it is brilliant for a small, homogeneous group of people working towards a shared goal; it is less appropriate for a broad public with highly diverse backgrounds, as it quickly descends into a kind of world-writable bulletin board. To those who say that statistically the number of contentious articles on Wikipedia is very small, I would agree, but alas that small number of articles also happens to be very important ones.


 

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