The Closed, Unfriendly World Of Wikipedia

Right now, Wikipedia is busy asking for donations to stay afloat. Here’s a thought. If it wants donations, maybe open things up so that outsiders feel like they can contribute expert knowledge without wasting their time.

A Debate Over Notability

Here’s a case in point. About two weeks ago, Jessie Stricchiola let me know that her Wikipedia page had been deleted. Apparently, she wasn’t notable enough.

That’s absurd — this is the woman who was the pioneer in fighting click fraud, along with other accomplishments.

I cruised over to take a look. At the time, the page (well, the discussion to delete the page) looked like this, with this message at the top:

The following discussion is an archived debate of the proposed deletion of the article below. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page (such as the article’s talk page or in a deletion review). No further edits should be made to this page.

The result was delete. As far as I can tell, the numbers are split about 7-6 in favour of delete. That’s not normally going to lead to a consensus to delete unless there are unusual circumstances, such as one side having significantly stronger arguments than the other, so much as that can be ascertained objectively. In this case, the final three unchallenged delete !votes—DGG, ItsZippy and Metropolitan90—demonstrate such strength.

At The Tone (If You Can Find It), Please Leave A Detailed Message

Already, I’m annoyed. As usual, trying to contribute to Wikipedia means that you’ve got to know what a “talk page” is or where to find a “deletion review.”

Because the page was already deleted, it had no talk page. And the deletion review, who knows where that it. I assumed it was the page I’d headed to. So, I ignored the instructions and shoved a big message at the top, detailing all the reasons why Jessie was notable:

I’m modifying this page despite the big warning not to modify it because, as the article was already deleted with a “consensus” of 7 against 6, there’s no way to add further comments on the original talk page.

I’m a notable person on Wikipedia, as well as an expert in search marketing. So for what it’s worth, you’re seriously questioning whether Jessie should have her own page? That’s just crazy.

The page should be restored, and immediately. She’s clearly notable.

First, I don’t see how Mkativerata starts off saying that 7-6 is not a consensus, but then concludes that it is. Clearly, it is not. When in doubt, err on caution.

Jessie was a founding member (not just a board member) and driving force behind the creation of the SEMPO organization, the search marketing industry’s largest trade group. That alone should make her notable. This is an easily verified fact:

Here’s what I wrote about the group when it was founded in 2003, where Jessie is cited at the beginning:

“I think a testimonial at the SEMPO launch meeting last month by one of SEMPO’s board members Jessie Chase-Stricchiola put it best: ‘When I tell people that I’m a search engine marketer, I want them to know what that means,” she said — or words similar to that effect’.”

Jessie was one of the first search marketers that highlighted the issue of click fraud. She was a pioneer in that space, and would be notable for her teachings and writings on that subject alone.

I don’t know anyone who spoke on this topic before her in 2002 — her pitch to cover it was one of the reasons I invited her in 2002 to participate in what became the first of many conference appearances:

I’m hard pressed to think if there was anyone else with near her stature in this area, from as far back.

As I wrote in 2006:

“Alchemist is headed up by Jessie Stricchiola, one of our long time SES speakers on the subject and a true pioneer in raising alarm over the issue”

That was referencing a BusinessWeek article that was also citing her company and work it did on research in the area with Fair Issac. Got it? When the credit card fraud spotting people wanted to understand click fraud better, they turned to Jessie:

Jessie was an expert witness in a landmark case about click fraud that was settled with with Google. Wikipedia itself finds it notable to cite her for this on its own click fraud page:

As a long-standing leader in the search marketing space, she also co-authored a popular book on the topic. But wait, WorldCat only shows 12 copies holding in libraries or whatever.

Perhaps being #7 in the internet searching category on Amazon helps? Or #22 in web services?

Reading some of the debate on this is laughable. You want to figure out what makes a search marketer notable based on what you think makes an astrophysicist notable? In the search marketing space, speaking at conferences is indeed one way that search marketers are validated — it’s a type of peer review, because if you’re a bad speaker, you don’t get called back. Being referenced by other SEOs is a huge measure of respect, because marketers can be loathe to point people to other marketers.

Someone should restore this page. Moreover, you ought to expand it and do Wikipedia’s proper job of documenting notable people like Jessie, rather than relying on guesswork and whatever you think you can discover by just by searching the web for information on subjects you’re not expert in.

I am a subject expert in the field of search marketing. A notable one — after all, Wikipedia says so. But my type of first-hand assertion isn’t enough. Wikipedia would rather find third-party mainstream media resources that quote people, as if that is somehow better than first-party information.

Thanks For Your Message; We (Don’t) Care About Your Feedback

Having left my message, I moved on. But yesterday, I got an email from Wikipedia:

The Wikipedia page “User talk:Dannysullivan” has been changed on

23 November 2011 by Metropolitan90, with the edit summary: deletion review


for all changes since your last visit. See for the current revision.

To contact the editor, visit

Note that additional changes to the page “User talk:Dannysullivan” will not result in any further notifications, until you have logged in and visited the page.

Your friendly Wikipedia notification system

To Hear Your Messages, Push % On Your Keypad

I love that last part — “your friendly Wikipedia notification system.” It’s anything but. I cruise back over to Wikipedia to see what my message is:

OMG, my message is a revision comparison of what’s been added to the user talk page that I barely even know that I have? Who creates this type of mess? Who tolerates this as an effective working environment?

My message tells me this:

In regard to your comments on this page, please note that one reason not to post additional comments to a closed AfD page is that, within a few days after closing, hardly anyone is likely to see those comments and thus posting there does not attract attention. I just happened to see your comments there today. If you want to challenge the deletion of [[Jessie Stricchiola]], you can follow the procedure at [[Wikipedia:Deletion review]]. –[[User:Metropolitan90|Metropolitan90]] [[User talk:Metropolitan90|(talk)]] 04:53, 23 November 2011 (UTC)

To Contact An Editor, Please Contact An Editor

No. No. No. So much wrongness here. So much so, that I cruised over to explain with a message to the editor on Wikipedia who left me this. I used the link in that email I got, the one that specifically said: “To contact the editor, visit” along with this link.

The page I arrived at told me this:

Oh, don’t post messages on the page I was specifically told to go to in order to contact the editor. Nice, Wikipedia. Instead, I should go to a different page, which I did.

Now look at this page I was sent to, and see if you can spot the helpful friendly way to send a message:

Yeah, there’s nothing like that. If you’re leaving a message about an article that was deleted, assuming you even know how to leave a message, you’re also informed to do it with an “appropriate red link” with instructions on how to make links red, except that leads to a page that doesn’t explain this, and OMG, did my head just explode over all this bureaucracy?

RTFM & If You Don’t Know What That Means RTFM

I hope it didn’t, because there’s more to come. In the end, I vent. Sorry Metropolitan90, I was mainly venting at the absurdity that is Wikipedia, but yeah, I’d had it:

Hey Metropolitan90, thanks for cruising by and leaving me this message:

Telling me that by golly, I left a message on a close AfD page (huh, what, can you just speak plain language?) and that hardly anyone will see those comments there (even though you did) and that if I want to challenge a deletion of something, I should use some arcane cryptic obscure Wikipedia deletion review process.

Here’s a little acronym for you. WTF?

Look, somehow in the insane closed little world of Wikipedia editors, where non-specialist editors pretend to be experts on what’s notable, you decided that this person wasn’t. You know, because you all couldn’t find enough references, in part because you don’t know the subject enough to even know how to find the right references — but even if you had, since you’re not subject experts, they mean nothing to you.

So, despite my general feeling that contributing anything to Wikipedia is a big giant waste of time, I actually left you all some pretty detailed references. At the very least, I’d think you’d have though hmm, maybe there’s enough there that this should be put up for re-review. And since you’re actually an expert on Wikipedia procedures — why didn’t you just do it?

What’s the point here? To have an accurate crowd-sourced encyclopedia, or to only have it be as accurate as the incredibly tiny few number of people who care to play in the high priesthood of Wikipedia editing allow it to be.

If it’s the latter, well, job well done. If it’s the former, well, you know what to do.

Geez, just to leave you a response, in the email I got, I was told to go to:

Which then told me at the top that actually, to contact you, I should come to this page. Which in turn, you know, isn’t particularly user friendly.

If you skipped all that, it highlights my frustration over all the acronyms and procedures that make Wikipedia, in my view, a closed little society that actually excludes subject experts from wanting to participate in it.

To Request A Review, Push The 10 Button On Your Keypad

But wait, there’s more. Remember, I was told the proper procedure was to follow the Deletion Review process. Let’s look at that page:

Hey, all I want is a form where I can submit some comments to someone with enough common sense to say “hmm, maybe we should reconsider this.” Instead, it’s like a novel — I’m only showing the first two of five major sections.

Oh — and it’s not even the right page that I was pointed at. That’s because, as best I can tell, this process is for pages that are being considered for deletion. I’m talking about a page that was deleted. Which means, yes, that’s right, a different page:

I wish my head hadn’t exploded before, because now it really would. This looks deceptively like what I want, a simple form. Enter the page title to get it undeleted. However — hey, how do you know the title of a deleted page? I suppose you can guess, but given how bureaucratic everything else is on Wikipedia, I have little faith.

Don’t Fold, Spindle Or Mutilate

More important, this process is only for pages that were “uncontroversially” deleted. What’s that mean? Well, say they were deleted through CSD G6. Whaaaat? Or if there was little to no debate.

How much debate is debate? Who knows. And what if there was debate? Go back to that first page that I said seems designed only to help pages that are being considered for deletion, not after they’ve been deleted.

Walls That Protect Also Divide

It’s insane. It really is. And with respect to the many hardworking people who have created a generally useful resource, it’s not a friendly resource. It doesn’t have systems, as far as I can tell, designed to help it improve. It has walls, walls you believe (with many good reasons) are designed to protect it from being vandalized. But those walls themselves are their own type of vandalization of the very resource you’re trying to protect.

Subject Experts Need Not Apply

Bottom line — I’ve gotten no indication that anyone at Wikipedia actually cares what a subject expert has to say on, well, a subject they’re an expert in. Instead, you drown in a morass of bureaucracy. It shouldn’t be this way.

By the way, comments are closed. It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow, and I wanted this off my chest while I was dealing with it now, but I don’t have time to response to comments that might come up. I’ll reopen them after the weekend. If you really care to comment, come back then. If you agree, well, use all those share, like, +1 and tweet buttons.