Yesterday I not only learned that my Wikipedia entry was nominated for deletion, but that Tara Hunt‘s went through the same process a while back — and failed to survive. She’s still here in the physical world, still on the rest of the Web, but gone from Wikipedia.
I’m also sure her experience with Wikipedia deletion — being marched to the gallows by a finger-pointing Wikipedian, then standing there while the gathered crowd gave a thumbs-down before the trap door dropped — was reason alone to write The Whuffie Factor, a forthcoming book that comprises the entire Usage section of Wikipedia’s whuffie entry. There is a link for Tara there, and for the book too. You can follow Tara’s to the deletion log, where you’ll find records of its execution. The book is graced with pure potential: it has no entry yet.
I’m impressed at how well Tara took her sentence, while awaiting her entry’s execution:
|There are oodles of entries on Wikipedia like this, though. Debatable ‘notables’, some who obviously do use their pages as their resumé, many people who have, obviously, accomplished a lot in their lifetime, but who are not widely known for these accomplishments and missing any ‘notable third party sources’. Others I searched for are nowhere to be found, who are well-known authors, presenters, inventors and real thought leaders. But they haven’t been quoted or featured by some national publication to be verified as mattering to history. And all judgements on “delete” or “keep” are still made by a handful of individuals.|
|Is Wikipedia the people’s encyclopedia? Well, no. Not really. I mean, it gets closer than the Encyclopedia Britannica, but it uses similar editorial guidelines. Its advantage is that there are more sources (people) to add entries so that it can grow and encompass knowledge faster than the small, paid editorial team at EB. But I don’t think it was meant to be the people’s encyclopedia and this is where our tempers run high.|
|I could think, “I’m being deleted? What do these jerks know about my accomplishments?” and be personally offended and upset by this. But Wikipedia is no measure of my worth. It’s an encyclopedia that is editable and online. Period.|
|Should there be an encyclopedia of people? Well, there is already. It includes the internet, but extends into phonebooks, government records and personal anecdotes. Maybe we can’t all be written into history like we want to be, but know that this is a century’s old issue: History is not ‘a fact’, it is a point of view. History has been written by a small percentage of the population over time and, because of ‘scaling problems’, will probably continue in the same fashion.|
Fine points, gracefully delivered.
I think the main problem for Wikipedia isn’t just scaling. It’s that Wikipedia is worst at something it is also best at: dealing with living subjects. On the one hand I’m astonished at how well Wikipedia stays on top of changing topics such as the world’s tallest structures. (Here’s a second entry, and a third.) On the other I’ve often winced at how lousy Wikipedia can be at presenting accurate biographical information about living people (Dave Winer comes to mind), and at maintaining both accuracy and neutrality on topics such as, well, neutrality. Too much of what gets written are iterative errors and approximations by partisans.
That’s why I’ve always been happy enough with a Wikipedia stub. Soon as you get past the minimal, errors and approximations set in.
All of reality is a work in progress. Especially the tiny corner of the universe that supports life. We need to remember that the Net is still new, the Web is even newer. That both have profound effects on life is undeniable. But it’s a few seconds after the Big Bang and all we have a few light elements, a lot of heat, and no galaxies. The best we can do, as Kurt Vonnegut taught, is just to be kind to each other.
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