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.


  1. says

    This is a great, err, provocative, Wikipedia blog post. My analysis is that there’s an interesting dynamic here vis-a-vis Wikipedia’s view of experts. I’ve written a blog post of my own in reaction, discussing Wikipedia’s anti-expert sentiment.

    “Subject experts generally expect to be treated with with some respect, as being high ranking members in the hierarchy of the topic. This does not mean unquestioned deference (though some do want that), which is an easy strawman. But, generally, within their area, they are regarded as having a social status outranking nearly everyone else. So when they go to Wikipedia, they’re thinking the Wikipedia “editors” are, well, editors, who have the job of working with the experts to polish and publish the expert’s work. However, the Wikipedia “editors” are convinced that the Wikipedia hierarchy is what matters, and they (the Wikipedia unpaid “staff”) are really the high status members, to whom the newbie contributor should behave with appropriate status respect.”

  2. says

    Interestingly enough, German Wikipedia is more closed than the US counterpart. For instance, changes by “common people” (even when logged in) won’t be immediately visible on the wiki page by other “common people” (you need to be logged in to see the changes)… until a wikipedian comes along and approves the change. This has the potential effect of lowering quality, because new passing-by traffic in the meantime won’t get the chance to fix a potential error (as it won’t be live). Another time, I saw a *talk* page being closed for anonymous commenting.

  3. TParis says

    In response to “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”, please feel free to provide the independent references.

  4. says

    TParis, go back up to this section of my post: “At The Tone (If You Can Find It), Please Leave A Detailed Message”

    The references are all provided in the blockquoted area, the message I originally posted on Wikipedia.

  5. Br.Bill says

    Wow, TParis has just reproduced exactly this problem, outside of Wikipedia. Excellent illustration of how Wikipedia’s system, editors and champions are flawed in this regard. I have had these problems myself. Apparently every single Pokemon character ever named is notable, as well as every character in all Manga ever written. But not this sort of information that is actually useful.

  6. says

    Yeah, I ran into this myself years ago when I first heard about wikipedia and wanted to contribute to my areas of expertise. I thought all I had to do was edit the page but it turns out there are hundreds of acronyms and a cult of insiders who protect their opaque, bizarre and ridiculously complex processes from outsiders like me.

    Three separate times I tried to edit pages for subjects I was an expert in (an author I know personally had completely incorrect biographical info, a video game article was basically empty until I wrote a few hundred words for it, and I corrected the plot synopsis for a book) and all three times my changes were reverted within minutes or hours. I gamely took a stab at trying to do it “the right way” but when I had several people criticizing me in sentences 50% acronym, I just gave up.

    Just the basic rules are kind of bizarre – who are they to vote on whether something is notable? That concept is impossible to define or quantify yet they feel they can somehow apply it to everything? And why is a person not allowed to edit their own page? Wouldn’t they be the ultimate citation? I don’t understand who put those rules in place but they don’t make any sense to me.

    I don’t know how wikipedia stays relevant when there are crazy people in charge of it. They certainly aren’t getting a donation from me.

  7. FlusteredEditor says

    ” 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:” – Maybe you would have better luck if you read directions. Ignoring directions is a good way to look like you don’t know—or don’t care—what you’re doing.

    Also, Metropolitan90 is a volunteer user just like anyone else. That user went out of your way to try to help you, and you pissed on them with sarcasm. Wikipedia is a community; try to respect it and be polite if you expect help in return. Maybe you don’t expect help, but if you seek it in good faith, you will generally find it. Deletion Review was the correct place for you to go; your article was not Speedily Deleted.

    You can’t just jump into a community without understanding the rules and expect a page to stay. I’m not sure how strong the sources are and maybe the article deserves to stay, but your reaction to deletion nomination was to attack volunteer who are arguing their opinion as best they understand it. And after deletion, you attacked another volunteer who was trying to help your message be seen. Regardless of what you may think, deletion is not a big deal. Deleted articles can always be restored or recreated if notability is demonstrated satisfactory. This means significant coverage in sources that are deemed reliable, which may also need some demonstration. It’s not perfect, but remember that everyone is a volunteer trying to do their best, not in a personal endeavor against you. You may need to read a little or ask for help to get by, but surely it’s easier than a long-winded rant about how you were a dick that wouldn’t bother to read rules.

  8. says

    I ignored the instructions apparently in the same way you ignored what I wrote about the inability to follow those instructions, because they said to comment on the article’s talk page — but since the article had been deleted, there was no talk page.

    I understand that Metropolitan90 is a volunteer, just like I acknowledged in my write-up above that there are plenty of hard-working people at Wikipedia.

    But let’s be clear. I didn’t need him to go out of his way to help me, nor did he.

    As a Wikipedia volunteer, dedicated to trying to ensure that Wikipedia is as best it can be, he should have seen that there was new information about this deletion and simply initiated a review process himself. He know Wikipedia far better than I, and I think it was pretty clear there was a reason to perhaps do this.

    He was also the second editor who failed to do this. In both cases, rather than either taking action to initiate a review, both preferred that an outsider spend time trying to decypher the Wikipedia process to say “hey, maybe you want to review this — and here are some reasons why.”

    My reaction was to attack an institution that purports to provide accurate information about multiple topics and yet has erected walls that make it difficult for actual experts on these topics to contribute.

    It’s not about being a dick who doesn’t want to read the rules. It’s about saying that Wikipedia is being a dick by establishing rules and procedures that it believes are protecting Wikipedia from vandalism and inaccurate information but instead have evolved into a system designed to keep outsiders out.

    Nothing is said in plain language. There’s no acronym that’s not beloved. There’s no page that can’t stay to do something, you need to go to another page — which invariably is preceded by a 16 part instruction guide.

  9. Brian Logan says

    I have no idea why you failed to email any editor who may have been on your side, such as me; the “email me” button is clearly displayed on my user page.<a href="; title="I weakly supported keeling the article about Jessie Stricchiola." Numerous newbies at Wikipedia have done so, and I’ve helped them. I am not inclined to help people who don’t bother to take the time to read the directions, and those who fail to obey the rules.

  10. Mike Finch says

    Good post.

    I have found WP fine for inital research on non-controversial topics, but on any controversial topic it is often very distorted.

    All the reasons given above in your blog and the comments are true. But in addition myself and others have found that cults or organizations with money will often fund some of their members to work their way up the WP hierarchy simply to put a good gloss on their WP articles.

    In the particular cult I was involved in, current members were funded to become senior WP editors simply to make sure there was no adverse publicity.

    What cults do is of course their own business. But WP’s arcane and labyrinthine rules, with their skewed idea of political correctness, does nothing to correct this. In the situation I was involved with, Wales repeatedly kept this bias going, and even congratulated publicly one of the cult-funded senior editor for resisting efforts to put things right.

    All this was picked up and reported by The Register.

    — Mike

  11. says

    Brian, Wikipedia’s “rules” are unintelligible to outsiders.

    I come to a page, where there’s been a discussion, with a big notice at the top that if I want to contribute, I should do so on a talk page (which didn’t exist) or on a deletion review (which didn’t exist, and couldn’t exist, from all the rule reading that I did in fact do, as I documented above).

    That’s the first thing I see, as someone who wants to send information to alert Wikipedia that maybe there’s something wrong. And I’m at fault? Because I actually did take the time to bother to try and do these impossible things?

    And I’m further at fault, because I didn’t scroll down past the instructions at the top of the page (the rules, you’re so worried about), and then find an editor, click on their user name (rather than the talk link), then go through each on in hopes that one of them actually does have their email address listed (I just went through the original page, and the first four I tried did not).

    Does that give you a better idea why I didn’t email any editor about this? Because perhaps the rules that folks at Wikipedia are so very worried about being read and followed gave no indication of this, along with the fact that most editors don’t seem to list contact details?

    To flip it back, you clearly felt this page shouldn’t be deleted – even if weakly. But nothing prevented one single Wikipedia editor from unilaterally declaring that a 7-6 “vote” is a consensus and getting the page removed. You didn’t even go back yourself, with your intimate knowledge of Wikipedia’s rules and procedures, and challenge this.

    But yes, let’s all pile on the outsider and keep believing the myth that he just couldn’t be bothered to read or follow rules. That’s easier than understanding:

    * I did read the rules.
    * I did try to follow the rules.
    * The rules were impossible to follow.
    * The overall rule-bound culture, initially designed to help Wikipedia, is probably harming it at this point and needs reform.

  12. says

    1) FYI, there’s another discussion of this blog post on Wikipedia, in their community news publication the Wikipedia Signpost

    2) Re-iterating my point about different hierarchies, the gist is right here:

    “As a Wikipedia volunteer, dedicated to trying to ensure that Wikipedia is as best it can be, he should have seen that there was new information about this deletion and simply initiated a review process himself.”

    You THINK that. It’s clear. It’s understandable why you have that view. But Wikipedia doesn’t work that way. In fact, it would be a time-consuming, low or even no social “points” action for him to do that. In their mindset, you are the one begging for someone to be deemed worthy, err, “notable”, so the burden is on you to demonstrate it against their skepticism – and they think you’re likely a spammer to boot. This goes to my characterization that Wikipedia is a cult. It is not the way the PR fluff and quasi-academic marketing tries to sell it.

  13. Milton Stanley says

    Great article. I was a prolific editor myself until the bureaucracy drowned me, and my eagerness to help Wikipedia. Thanks and well done on using a specific example to illustrate a colossal, project-wide problem.

  14. Joe says

    Loved the article, laughed till I cried! I probably shouldn’t have gotten such a kick out of it, possibly my dark side…or maybe it was just good to see someone else having problems :)

    For the respondants from Wiki or on the behalf of Wiki…it’s hard to see that they don’t quit understand that rule of development that your product should appeal to your audience. If they don’t like something, whether you think it’s right or not…you fix it.

  15. Ben says

    Honestly, I have limited sympathy for you or your friend here.

    If her main claim to fame is being “the pioneer in fighting click fraud” – then I hate to break it to you – but outside of a relatively small bubble of people – it’s not terribly notable.

    Furthermore, it looks like she created her own page – something that Wikipedia specifically tells you not to do. Why? Because otherwise Wikipedia would be a dumping ground for the resumes of self-important assholes.

    The rest of your entire post is basically “Waaaaaaa! Wikipedia is hard to use!”. Perhaps, but that hasn’t stopped any of the other editors. If you care enough about this issue, then take the time to learn how the system works, rather than barging in full of self-righteous indignation.

  16. randulo says

    WP probably has plenty of modest volunteers that attempt to correct errors that are clearly visible as such, but the notability case is often based on limited knowledge. I’ve seen multiple bad calls, a good example was FLOSS Weekly. Danny says these are a pain to correct, and he’s right. If WP is going to generate this much contention, there should be an easier way to contest anything, and especially notability. WP has style rules that are against writing articles that read like ads, yet, until they’re caught, many articles do sit there as ads. Because this is random – ironically, the least notable topics would get caught last – when a change is made for the worse by an editor, it is frustrating. If WP wants to survive, and especially though donations, it’ll need to right these wrongs. Otherwise, donations will not be attracted and its fate will have been decided by its actions – or lack of actions.

  17. says

    Yep, Ben, she shouldn’t have created her own page years ago. But since Wikipedia let it live all these years, it still needs to be reviewed properly. And I hate to break it to you, it wasn’t.

    I didn’t just barge into Wikipedia. I took the time initially, and on my return, to try and follow the instructions. But as I repeatedly keep explaining, you simply could not follow those instructions.

    And at this point, I’m so tired of repeatedly having to explain this that I’m closing the comments again. Perhaps then, you and others will actually read the article rather than just doing, how did you put it, “waaaiing” here.

  18. says

    I agree with your post 110%! I was once a big fan of Wikipedia a long time ago as a consumer of information. You learn quickly that the system is a big scam once you dig a little deeper and actually attempt to contribute to any existing topic or add information of your own.

  19. mc says

    The rules, while they could be better explained at times, are not the major part of the problem. It is unfortunate that you dealt with what appears to be probably the most labarynthine example.

    The big problem is the people who designate themselves as owners of pages and continously revert other people’s changes, or delete huge sections or even whole articles (as in this case). These people sometimes quote a rule when making their decision, often they are interprating it in a rather strange way. “Vandalism”, for example, can mean adding well referenced and relevent information.

    I’m not refering to people that have had additional powers bestowed on them by the Wikipedia organisation, just those who appoint themselves.

    On a good day, you can challenge an interpretation of a quoted rule, the “page owner” admits it is more of a convention, but after that they just stonewall. They are the owner of the page after all, and their higher place in the hierarcy means that don’t have to listen to those beneath them.

    Such behaviour is not uncommon in volunteer run organisations in general.

    This is not to say that the “owners” don’t often do a lot of good work. And that in exchange for this good work, they don’t deserve rewards, like control over a page. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and the net result can be worse than if the “owner” wasn’t there at all.

  20. Jason says

    • The article page helpfully links to the deletion discussion in the log (right on the main article page)
    • The deletion discussion page (which you were able to find) links to the deletion review. You ignored the guidelines and decided to do explicitly do what it says, in bold red letters no less, not to do by editing the deletion discussion page.
    • You didn’t bother reading because it says plainly “Deletion review (DRV) considers disputed deletions and disputed decisions made in deletion-related discussions and speedy deletions. This includes appeals to restore deleted pages and appeals to delete pages kept after a prior discussion.” To narrow it down even further: “This includes appeals to restore deleted pages and appeals to delete pages kept after a prior discussion.”
    • You clicked the wrong link in the email. You apparently don’t understand the difference between a page that shows “all changes since your last visit” and “the current revision.” It’s like clicking a changelog on github and complaining you don’t get the software in question
    • Apparently the big “TALK” link up top (and in that user’s helpful userpage notice) is too confusing for you? Then again, you did crop that out…

  21. says

    Jason, as an experienced Wikipedia editor of some 7 years standing and a former administrator for what that’s worth, I just want to say “you’re not helping.” Wikipedia doesn’t blame its own users for not correctly dotting “i”s and crossing “t”s and filling in form B in fountain pen and form C in biro unless their mother was Vietnamese in which case it’s form C/i (annexe), in triplicate. It’s not that kind of community. All good faith contributions are received and acted on according to their merits, not the manner of approach.

  22. says

    Jason, you make me want to just close the comments again. There was no article page. It was deleted. There was no deletion review at the time. I did click the wrong link in the email to get the revisions. That makes the system of how messages get sent more intuitive? And no, I didn’t go cropping things out to make some type of point. Trust me, this stuff either doesn’t exist or is simply hard to find. Or don’t trust me — continue to be happy that Wikipedia is a horrible mess and blame its readers.

    Tony, thanks.

  23. says

    It’s a lot more bureaucratic than when I first started editing in 2004. The bureaucracy is built on a wiki, which isn’t really that useful for the purpose even if bureaucracy were desirable.

    There is a principle, the first official policy of Wikipedia, which is “Ignore all rules.” It’s often ignored, sadly, while silly nonsense like the “notability” guideline has taken hold because it enables the construction of labyrinthine tangles of rules about what is and is not appropriate material for the encyclopedia.

  24. says

    I used to be quite active on Wikipedia until I ran into this sort of nonsense once too often. It’s tremendously frustrating to contribute to an encyclopedia that doesn’t put a priority on including factual information.

  25. SandraL says

    Good post. I’ve stopped wasting my time trying to contribute to Wikipedia and I refuse to donate for those very reasons.

    The “notability” requirement is shockingly subjective and often abused. Basically, the logic is that, if Joe-Blow Editor never heard of X, then X must not be notable enough. If JBE has heard of Y, then Y is notable even if it doesn’t have much in the way of “acceptable references”. If someone else uses Y’s entry as a template and provides references of the same quality to create an entry for X, nope, sorry, still not good enough. Particularly when this process is applied to a general topic that doesn’t garner much media coverage in the first place, the end result is that people go to Wikipedia looking for specific info and can’t find it – or come away with an incomplete understanding of the topic.

    Shame, really. Wikipedia could have been so much more.

  26. says

    I have a confession to make. Wikipedia’s arcane and abusive-to-outsiders platform and community are indeed a reprehensible state of affairs. But, as a paid editor of Wikipedia, I do better financially that way. If Wikipedia were more tolerant, and open, and friendly to experts, then I’m sure I wouldn’t get these calls at 9:00 AM from multi-millionaire Davos attendees who are livid about how their biography, or their company’s article, or the article about one of their friends in politics, has been sabotaged by Wikipedians. If Wikipedia were a smooth process for fairness and expertise, then there would be no need for paid editors like me who have taken the scores of hours to finally learn how to have a fighting chance by gaming the broken system a little bit.

  27. says

    I will say that I recently added an image to Wikipedia and it was initially deleted, but the user that did so made it pretty easy to contact them. They did recognize that I was a newbie. However, after reading the rule they used, I didn’t think it fit. He semi-agreed with me and suggested I contact an editor for suggestions. He provided me the link to do so. So I did. They also didn’t see a problem so I added the page back.

    It was quite a maze of stuff to go through, but I thankfully there was a helpful user in my case.

    Seems like this could have easily been solved in this case, if one of them had just provided a little better help.

  28. Josh says

    a red link is a link to a nonexistent page. For example adding [[gfhdfhdxhdf]] to a page will create a red link

  29. says

    There’s one thing you need to understand about Wikipedia deletion debates. To the people who participate in them — and doubly so to the people who initiate them — Wikipedia ceases to be an encyclopedia and becomes an MMORPG. Seeing an article that you nominated being deleted becomes a reward in itself, and a Pavlovian response sets in. I stopped editing Wikipedia myself about four years ago when I realised I was getting into this mentality myself.

    Despite the “hissy fit” element to this blog post, the author is pretty much spot-on in everything he says. Wikipedia is a usability nightmare, and this is painfully evident in the deletion debates. The task at hand here — appealing the outcome of a deletion debate — requires wading through screeds and screeds of impenetrable, confusing and at times misleading instructions spread across a large number of wiki pages. To someone not familiar with the inner workings of Wikipedian culture, it can be quite intimidating.

    The responses here from the wiki-apologists who say “Wikipedia doesn’t work that way” and “you should get to know how the Wikipedia deletion process works first” are flabbergastingly arrogant. You are expecting occasional Wikipedia editors, who have no intention whatsoever of becoming regular Wikipedia editors as they have better things to do with their time, to spend hours attempting to untangle the process they have to follow. Get real, and try doing some hallway usability testing on your processes.

  30. says

    James McKay, I think you’re spot on there. I’m a long time Wikipedian and very, very happy about the work they’ve done. But it’s really very far from perfect and in many cases it isn’t even reasonable, and the entrenched user culture is in some respects one of the most toxic imaginable. That’s why we’ve seen so many unreasonable responses to reasonably complaints here and elsewhere.

    I don’t know how to fix that, if it’s fixable. Most of us have a life outside Wikipedia, but the MMORPG aspect of a collaborative culture rewards strong investment disproportionately. I suppose the upside is that actually the content is usually much better than you’d expect it to be, given the culture.

    The user interface issues are a separate and also very serious problem, which is being attacked from several angles.

  31. TParis says

    Hi, I’m back again. You all are missing a huge point. The “notability” guideline is not intended to block factual information. It’s intended to prevent the onslaught of PR Agents spaming their clients and companies as well as the “My cat fluffy” articles, the “Obama admits he is an alien” hoaxes, and the “Snarfagus is a word that means poo poo head that was made up by Joey and Josh smith yesterday” articles. That factual information may occasionally and accidentally get lost is a byproduct of the sheer amount that editors have to sift through. That’s why the onus to prove notability is on the person requesting inclusion. If the onus were on the established editors themselves, we’d never have the workforce to get through it. Putting the onus on you makes disburses the workload into manageable pieces. ie: You propose inclusion of what you have the time to support.

    Now, Danny, if you’d like to talk about this I am sure you have access to the email address I used in this post. I’m willing to break down the Wikipedia process if you’d like so 1) You have a more informed opinion, and 2) You could possibly have this article restored in the future, and best of all 3) You may actually get involved in editing Wikipedia.


  32. Joe says

    TP, I think you are the one missing the point…of this article. While we surely would like to make sure poor little “fluffy” doesn’t get her own article, we also don’t want such a bureaucratic system as to make it too difficult for the mainstream “experts” to post their relevant data. We all have our own separate little lives, and if we want to allow experts to put their information…we want it to be easy for them.

    I think it’s completely ludicrous how we have the defenders of Wikipedia coming forth to say “It’s not the sites fault, it’s yours…stupid”. Guess what, it’s the visitors and bulk users that truly count…those people whom the site is vastly consumed by. They should be the true consideration in these areas.

    It’s likely there would be a lot more involvement in Wikipedia if this were the case. Yeah, moderating is difficult…maybe that should be grouped by topic and assigned accordingly…it seems a bit odd to have someone determine the validity or importance of a topic who are not, themselves, a subject matter expert.

    Either way, it is completely asinine to tell a customer it’s their fault for not knowing how to work your product. Seriously…it would seem to me that these opinions are comprised of people with a lack of life experience and understanding of the cultures of markets.

    As for PR agents and such; as posted in some of the comments both here and elsewhere, some companies focus efforts on becoming experts in those areas so they can campaign.

    Further, although I occassionally see Wikipedia articles come up when doing research on papers or whatnot, I typically avoid using them as references. I also discredit reports and documents which use Wikipedia as their reference points. There is definitely a concern over the data therein, and more problems to boot…

    I think the concept is awesome and should be pursued, but the approach should probably be re-examined…


  33. says

    Agreed there. @TParis: *you* are the one who’s missing the point. The point isn’t that things get deleted, the point is that the Wikipedia user interface and processes to navigate them to find out why they’ve been deleted and what to do about it are over-complicated, hostile to newbies, and difficult to follow.

    Occasional editors should not be confronted with a barrage of cryptic acronyms and jargon such as “WP:WAX, WP:SOAP, WP:NFT, WP:V, WP:N” or “CSD G6,” and nor should they be expected to become regular acronym-quoting Wikipedians themselves in order to find out what’s happened to their article.

  34. Joe says

    @TP…do you mean 99% of the people surveyed, because I’m pretty sure 99% of people do not use Wikipedia. But then, statistics are great things to lean on when you argument fails.

    Yeah, so “they tried that”…no one has a chance of besting the market now…it’s been done with little success, right? Good thing the Wright brothers didn’t follow that thinking…

    The point, which you seem to be missing, isn’t that Wikipedia is a horrible product with no place in the world. The point is that it has issues which frustrate users who have not been indoctrinated into the system.

    So, we could continue to rant, or people could look at, and address the issues in the context from which they were provided…

    That, or we could just say that 72% of the “people” eat nuts…(see, I can do it to…not really relevant or helpful to the stance, is it?)



  35. rdm says

    I must say, Danny, you are much more patient than I am.

    I have also contributed to wikipedia, at times, and … in my opinion, it’s just arbitrary.

    Sometimes you can contribute and it’s good. Sometimes you can contribute and get worthwhile criticisms. Other times you can contribute and the situation is bad, and the criticisms and processes are destructive and deceptive.

    Anyways, I no longer attempt to contribute. And, it’s not clear to me that its value or accuracy is any higher than an arbitrary large collection of pages, except that many people’s contributions have gone to wikipedia rather than in other directions.

    But I still do sometimes refer people to wikipedia pages that were written in an earlier age.

  36. says

    Yeah Wikipedia sucks. I tried creating my profile page twice. It both got deleted. Didn’t want to try again as their interface is such a hassle. I would vent, but you clearly do it much better than me. So I’m satisfied :))
    Nice venting Danny. Lol.

  37. says

    A great article about the problem Wikipedia is facing.

    I remember there was a time when you don’t even need to log in to Wikipedia to edit it. Now you cannot easily edit anything even when you are logged in. This really deters anyone who are not familiar with the system from contributing anything to the ecosystem.

    One time I saw a factual mistake in one of the entries in Wikipedia, I tried to edit it but gave up after 10 minutes of trying. When I go back to the page a few months later, the mistake was finally taken care of. I was grateful but felt that much more could be done if I could just edit it myself a few months before.

  38. Balaji Viswanathan says

    Wikipedia is a noble idea whose control has been usurped by a bunch of snobs. I had been an active Wikipedia contributor 7 years ago and after the initial period I have noticed how much politics happened in the back. It was terrible.

    Also, I have seen my personal usage of Wikipedia (peaked in 2005) now way down and I use social media for more information (backed by more research though). It was really painful to see so many great articles were cut drastically down due to internal politics. I still use the site a lot, but its shine has worn off.

  39. Dave Westgate says

    I was cheering after every sentence – seriously. I thought I was the only one that thought editing a Wikipedia entry was like taking the SAT all over again.

    As long as Google keeps making Wikipedia articles the #1 result on almost every non-product-related topic, I don’t think much is going to change.

  40. says

    Well said, sir. You’ve highlighted some of the reasons why I have stopped wasting the days of my life by attempting to contribute to Wikipedia.

    You might also add that the system of “administrators” does not work. If one of them decides to attack a contributor, as I saw happen yesterday to one poor wight, then the victim has no recourse, even if the admins engage in gross misbehaviour.

    There are so many hidden ways for insiders to communicate, if they know how. There’s an IRC channel, if you can work out how to use it; today, six years after I first added a line to Wikipedia, I discovered that there is a mailing list!

    The running of Wikipedia is not transparent, and the site is an unsafe and harmful environment for most people.

  41. says

    Danny, I got to this really late and what a mess. A classic example of system set up to be, a system, reveling in its nature and creating a Holy Cow out of a resource. It was created with a great intention and 20th century mentality and has never really been revised. A shake up might do as much harm as good. Let’s see if posts like this help us fight the good fight.

  42. Tom says

    After more than 30,000 Wikipedia edits, I’m not a newbie. Danny, those of us who contribute (present or past) to Wikipedia have all been there. I (and others) have tried to make things more user-intuitive and user-friendly, and any and all practical suggestions (made on the correct pages and in the correct formats) have been ignored. At some point, one has to suspect it’s not by accident the process has been made so unnecessarily complicated and obscure. There’s absolutely no reason anyone should have to jump through hoops and track down endless acronyms, rules, guidelines, and special Wikipedia pages in order to contribute to an article. It should be simple and straightforward, yet it’s been set up to be the opposite. Meaning, it really is a ‘set up’. A fish stinks from the head down, as the saying goes, and that’s true at Wikipedia. This is what happens in all volunteer groups when they gain any sort of status or power. Those who want to keep that status or power for themselves find ways to discourage others, by hook or by crook. It’s not about incompetence.

  43. Jinni says

    What I seriously hate about Wikipedia is that content gets deleted even with references. There are really stupid people who go around deleting other people’s research.

    I spent a lot of time researching information, translating, and compiling stuff for a specific section of page. I finally got it all together and put it onto the Wikipedia page. I come back to it a few hours later and it was ALL deleted.
    I wish I could know who make the deletion so that I could ask them “WHY?!?! It was relevant and accurate information, why’d you go and delete everything?”

    Really, it’s not as though that one person is the only person “knowledgeable” of the subject. He/she/they didn’t even bother to check if the information I added was valid, which it clearly was.

  44. rdm says

    I agree — the problems are (and they have fuzzy boundaries):

    search engine optimization shills
    the ability to delete history

    The first two groups make money off of damaging wikipedia, and can afford to have people dedicated to wikipedia editing.

    History deletion on non-spam content is what ruins wikipedia.

  45. Marc Espie says

    Same thing here.

    A few years ago, a major contributor to the BSD projects died (Jun Ichiro Itojun Hagino). We tried to make a wikipedia page.

    Well, he’s not *notable enough*. Disregarding the fact that he’s one of the few individual who contributed to all 3 BSDs… oh yeah, and he’s also the visible face of project KAME, the japanese group who created the implementation of IPv6 that’s now in use, in one form or another, in all BSDs.

    Except for the little fact that, without Itojun, there would have been 0 adoption of IPv6 along the world (at all), he’s not notable at all.

    I guess that’s the point where I concluded wikipedia editors are a bunch of morons/pricks and that I could very well live without working with them…

  46. says

    And that’s why Wikipedia can’t replace all other encyclopedias – because, in fact, it’s still a hermetic encyclopedia, but without experts on subjects it covers.

  47. jon says

    Sure, wiki is not user-friendly. But you have to know the trick, which is getting about 100 news articles about this person in papers like times, washington news, fox news etc. Wiki likes reputable sources. Ask her to do something which will get her into hundreds of newspapers. Like giving 1 billion to wikipedia donation.

  48. ppostma1 says

    FB: like
    I tried to do a simple task in wikipedia, after 4 hours I accomplished nothing but frustrating myself. Their documentation is “read the documentation” Their links on how to do a processes go to an explanation that the process exists, but without details or links.
    The task, my employers articles were tagged as uncited. Someone had accurately entered our information and stats. But these are not posted any where else on the web, simply printed materials so how could we digitally cite them. Upon finally figuring out how to cite it and doing so, their own {unsited} tag breaks the record after its cited, forcing me to delete the notice before they review the cite… which they frown on.

  49. kim says

    good stuff, thanks for this and to Violet Blue for the link. this rots and wikipedia won’t get another cent out of me. sad to be honest as i rather believed in it before.

  50. says

    I feel your pain. There are problems with Wikipedia. Some are perpetuated by the multitudes of internet users who turn to the site, unquestioningly and as a single primary resource. Wikipedia results often show as the first, sometime first AND second hits on Google search query results. (This is not the case, not yet, with Bing). Wikipedia is a free resource while encyclopedias and industry directories cost money. Or require a visit, phone call or login to the library, which people don’t want to bother with, sadly. Wikipedia is useful, but not for everything!

    You discovered how your expert opinion and knowledge, which I do not question, is (not) handled. That is because Wikipedia is not designed for input in the way you provided it. If you want to advocate for your colleague’s article on Wikipedia, you must actively contribute to the discussion, with sources and citations, as part of the Wikipedia community yourself. Wikipedia is not that difficult to use, if one approaches it as an editor (not a title, just a person who makes copy edits, or maybe writes articles, or just uploads public domain images). But you might not want to do that, which is of course understandable! In that case, there aren’t many options, if any.

    Danny, you observed something along the lines of “SEO isn’t rocket science”. No, but I realize that your time is valuable, and that you are a recognized subject matter expert. Consider another field: Neurology, specifically, seizure disorders. Wikipedia was fortunate to have a contributor for articles on that subject, who was a board certified M.D. (Neurologist, internal medicine, two decades of clinical experience, and a university teaching background). She learned all the nuances of the Wikipedia user interface, wrote very clear, well-referenced articles about basic topics in neurology for Wikipedia. And finally gave up, after having to justify the content to 17 year old’s who could, and occasionally did, collude and have her entries deleted with remarkable ease. (This should not have happened, based on Wikpedia’s own policies, but sometimes it did anyway).

    All of which I’m mentioning, because I want to emphasize that becoming an active participant on Wikipedia yourself may help, but does not guarantee anything.

  51. Naras says

    I was pleased enough with Wikipedia to donate twice. I loved the knowledge base and the ease of new learning, in-depth if I wanted to.

    Then I decided to add some names to a “list of auteurs”. I spent a few days on it and rested on the 7th day … no, actually for about a month. I go back and its gone! I found that it had been deleted, after due process. This does not include notifying the contributors by e-mail or any other system. Apparently it was undisputed, and by “request for undeletion”, I managed to dispute it. I was warned that it may be deleted after a discussion and review.

    By closer monitoring, i found that the page was being discussed. I waded into the discussion. I added a Keep and a few points of argument. Objectivity of the list was the issue. After making my points, I was countered by some veterans and given the WP:xxx acronyms to look up digest while discussing. Some anonymous user added some support, and was asked if he was the same person as me, since the number of contributions was small and the style was similar. Anonymous said it wasn’t. The veteran who voiced suspicion apologized.

    I pointed out that there were other lists which were subjective and arbitrary, and no one had disputed them. I prefaced it with a “Keep”.
    The veteran reiterated the (valid) points about subjectivity. My point was that it was a useful list and some way to ‘save” it could be found. The second “keep” was questioned (how many times did I want to vote?). I said I didn’t realize that it was counted as a vote each time I said “keep”. Also, Wikipedia does say that it is not an regular democracy, and the discussion is the more important factor. My point regarding other lists was to be considered as less problematic than this list.

    As a normal person who has a regular job to do, by now my motivation had dwindled, even about the discussion. I thought about it, saved a local copy of the still-existing list, and left the world of Wikipedia deletion reviews. Now I am at peace :-)

    List of Auteurs Deletion Review

  52. says

    Naras, out of spite you should just find another wiki (MyWikiBiz, Wikinfo, Encyc, to name a few) where your contribution will be welcomed and preserved. Then, when you do a Google search for that subject, you can chuckle when your alternative site outperforms Wikipedia.

  53. Naras says

    H Gregory,

    Good idea. I’ll keep it in mind. I remember Woody Allen’s line about why his parents stayed together for so long. Apparently was out of spite :-)