deletion attempt against the dwm article on wikipedia (comment)

-> a comment to
Wikipedia, Notability, and Open Source Software by ubunTARD.

2010-03-23
Update: I just got unblocked by henrik who also sent me an excuse for the way the whole process was handled: “…The block was partly an individual misjudgment, but also a result of the systemic culture and some poorly thought out policies. If you're interested, I'd be happy to discuss it in more detail…”. And that restores a lot of my faith in the wikipedia community — thank you very much for your excuse, henrik!
Also they are currently discussing on the incidents board how to avoid similarly overboarding blocking like that in the future.

Just as an inside notice from the discussion: I joined the first deletion discussion when I got note of it (I don't know anymore through which channel) and when it got closed, I joined the second one and got heavily frustrated when people tried to turn “he sent the developers a berliner bratwurst” into “the magazine which published his article is a first source” (which would mean it wouldn't count as source for “notability”).

In that discussion I was mostly alone, and I could only talk there, because I've been a wikipedia user since 2004, and I casually corrected smaller errors in articles whenever I happened to see them while looking something up. I was one of the many small contributors who might not write largescale articles all the time, but who do their share to improve the quality of the articles.

Most others couldn't join up, because the discussion was marked as “semi-closed”, so only longtime users could contribute. And the major contributor to the previous discussion was blocked for meatpuppetry, along with the developer of dwm (additional info) who didn't even cast a vote but only provided sources (reason: “mass ban the meatpuppets” — the dwm developer was unblocked afterwards by others).

After spending hours on refuting their claims, I got frustrated enough that I stopped discussing — and I posted that to identi.ca -> http://identi.ca/arnebab/tag/dwm

Subseqently I got blocked from editing on wikipedia “indefinitely” (except on my talk page) for “canvassing” (since when is ‘they want to delete dwm’ equal to ‘come all here and vote for keeping dwm for the following reasons…’?) and for quoting policy which says that you shouldn't contribute to a deletion discussion if you don't know much about the topic — and that I think that Psychonaut isn't in a position to judge free wm’s.

-> Threat of blocking
-> Blocked and my reply

In my view the policy that you must not speak about the deletion attempt outside wikipedia or risk a ban is even worse than nondisclosure agreements: “You must not speak about this public discussion, or you get banned for meatpuppetry and canvassing.”

I am now pissed off bad enough, that I won't go appealing for an unblock. If the powers-that-be in wikipedia don't see themselves that the block is unjustified, then the power structures in there are such that any contribution I do is on the mercy of moderators who abuse policy for harassing free software since they are not stopped by the ones who don't agree with their doing.

Every public resource run by volunteers faces the danger of falling into the hands of dedicated abusers, and wikipedia is no exception. But it is exceptionally vulnerable, since the ones who contribute content are normally not interested in the necessary day-to-day maintenance, so writers and maintainers are strongly seperated, but the maintainers get most of the power, because they are the ones who get informed of actions which concern articles they are interested in — and because they have the connections inside wikipedia.

But as if that wasn't bad enough, I think there's a third and easily overlooked group: Those who don't write full articles, but do fact checking when they come upon an article on a topic they are knowledgeable about and that way improve the general quality of wikipedia a lot (unstructured peer review). These don't take part in discussions, but mostly use wikipedia as a source, and so they don't want to spend hours on reading some new policy. Instead they generally trust that Wikipedia lives up to it's goal of collecting the sum of human knowledge in encyclopedic articles - and they do their share to help achieve that goal.

They aren't seen as huge contributors, since every one only does some few changes each year, but together they make a huge difference.

I'm mostly a member of the last group (and to some degree article author) — I'm almost sure you expected that :)

And I think that anti-canvassing rules (“don't tell people that the project they feel strongly about is in problems on wikipedia”) and overboarding deletions chase away a major part of these casual editors (don't ask for a citation - this is gut feeling and my own thoughts: “Why should I spend 5 minutes on correcting a few errors in an article on a topic I know much about, when the article could be gone in 5 months time?”).

The article authors might come regardless of the rules and try to add the topic they know much about. But the casual editors will likely be gone for good (and won't ever become authors).

And that would create a major change in the community, cutting wikipedia off from the normal people on the web. And you can imagine how that would affect the value of wikipedia to these people (the vast majority) and its resistance against being misused by some few people to further personal goals.

Besides: Who Writes Wikipedia suggests, that even the main authors are mostly casual contributors, so the effects of alienating casual users would be even worse than I write above: Wikipedia would lose it's source of information.

PS: I didn’t join in the Appeal to delete anyway. Luckily it got refuted. Clearly.

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Willkommen im Weltenwald!
((λ()'Dr.ArneBab))



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