Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wicked Wikipedia

I attempted to add Randolph's Law (the hypothesis that any pub quiz team with a sexually explicit team name will score poorly) to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that's supposedly of, by and for the people. In theory anyone can post or change an article on anything, and anyone usually can and does.

It was quickly pulled down by an editorial/administrative Soup Nazi going by the handle BigHaz, out of Brisbane, Australia. From his ivory tower perch (his words, not mine) on the other side of the world, BigHaz (I picture a small fellow, probably wearing daintily-framed specs; who else puts "Big" in an editing pseudonym?) determined that such an article needed to be removed. Apparently there are a group of volunteers on Wikipedia who spend hours of their time clicking through all of the new articles and deleting the ones which aren't important enough to them. I attempted to argue my case for inclusion of the term on his "Talk page," which is apparently how this elitist subculture operates, to no avail. If you feel like checking that out, I'd hurry. I have a feeling that it'll be taken down soon.

Fine, then. Screw 'em. I'd encountered similar attitudes of arbitrary abuse of power, based largely in an "in" clique of volunteers, from the admins at the Straight Dope Message Board and decided about a year ago to save my $15/year and a lot of headache by dropping that membership. I've removed Wikipedia from my list of reliable online reference resources to the righthand side of this page. Maybe if we ignore it, it'll just go away. Recently a member of the formidable quiz team Group W was banned from Wikipedia - not just the particular discussion, but the whole darn project - for taking a dissenting view in an article on second-hand smoke. This just isn't a healthy culture for producing objective articles.

I'd be abundantly willing to bet that if I'd posted a small piece of Arabic slang or an overheard Serbo-Croat put-down that, given his interests, BigHaz would have included it. That'd be quaint, and useful, and automatically believed as "oral tradition." The irony here is that I have similar interests in those areas as BigHaz, but have actually worked and lived in the regions. But an American pushing his own linguistic invention? That needs removing.

Let's not pretend for a second that Wikipedia's primary source of material isn't individual people, companies and national, religious, political and ethnic groups self-promoting. If we removed every article from that perspective there wouldn't be much content left. Most amusing was the statement that Wikipedia isn't interested in "truth" but "consensus" and "verifiability." Indeed. Allow me to link to one last Wikipedia article, the one on Orwell's concept of groupthink.

I'll also add a folk etymology, I know that'd drive BigHaz nuts.

  • Wikipedia is a combination of two Greek words, wiki meaning "wrong" and ped meaning "foot." Therefore use of Wikipedia sets the seeker of knowledge off on the wrong foot.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:N

QuizMasterChris said...

I can only assume that BigHaz has (haz?) dropped by to stake a claim that Randolph's Law is "not notable," whereas all of the people attempting to get bit parts in TV who write their own Wiki articles listing appearances as "Man #2" on local kids shows are. I, for one, am not buying it.

Also note that this isn't Wikipedia; I am not bound by its rules or rulemakers on their own site. That BigHaz appears to have tracked down the blog and posted on it in less than a couple of hours after me leaving my post on Wikipedia disputing the call suggests the sort of tenacity usually reserved for Scientologists.

Cowbell said...

Wikipedia is not to be taken seriously. It is a playground for children, with a disproportionate number of bullies.

It will eventually go down the crapper, especially now that its king wishes to turn a profit from it.

Craig said...

This article is by a writer who didn't pen his own article and still got kicked off http://www.slate.com/id/2160222/

There's also some guy starting a more democratic wikipedia. Or maybe it was a less democratic one. I read too much news.