Roundup of some of the activities going on at The Wikipedia Review for the festive month of December 2008.
Wikipedia Biography Defamation case 2,123,262#. Yet another journalist describes how he was “slimed” by the site via his biography here. No surprises that the guilty party was a non registered IP editor - meanwhile, Jimbo Wales’s biography remains permanently protected from such inconveniences as a consequence of the grossest hypocritical practice at the site. Later in the month, former US Vice-President Walter Mondale wrote that Wikipedia was “all bull” after discovering ridiculous additions to his biography. TV star Paul Reiser became the latest celebrity to be pronounced dead by drive-by IP editors of Wikipedia, having been discovered floating “in the Squallahassee River where he reportedly enjoyed fly fishing,” - thankfully he came back to life again a few days later to celebrate New Year.
The furore over Wikipedia’s insistence in publishing a tasteless image of a pre-pubescent naked girl, which featured on a 1970s Scorpions album cover, was the big story of the month. This sparked British Internet Service Providers to block the page under the advice from the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation. The main Wikipedia Review trunk thread about this is here. Bloggers reactions are here. Other interesting pieces are Valleywag’s coverage here, this excellent piece is by WP critic Andrew Keen, this overview is by Wiki-critic Seth Finkelstein, and an antidote to the “OMG censorship” cries from Wikipediots can be found in this piece in the legal magazine Out-Law. After the IWF backed down, Wikimedia Foundation UK’s self appointed spokesman David Gerard announced that he was “gleefully dancing on the skulls of the IWF”. The WR thread about that can be found here.
Surveys were doing the rounds at WR. This thread lists answers to important questions posed to long standing Wikipedia editors running to join Wikipedia’s farcical “Arbitration Committee”. It is possible from the answers to get an idea what the average Wikipedio thinks of the biographies problem, protecting pages, external criticism, anonymity and so on. This thread discusses vandalism surveys, and has a load of links. And in light of the current Wikipedia child images and lack of editorial restraint problem, this thread asks for opinions on mature content filters. Perhaps the most important survey was the Protecting BLP articles feeler survey. This asked WP users how they felt about protecting biographies of living people from defamation. A list of those shameful Wikipedios that objected to the idea can be found here.
Much activity this month centered around - and was directed against - Wikipedia’s “Arbitration Committee”. The “Arbcom” is a Supreme Court of Wiki-editors elected by the community to act on Jimbo’s behalf as a last resort to adjudicate on intractable disputes between users. Gradually, this Committee of both identifiable and anonymous popularists came to be seen as Wikipedia’s “leadership” - though in reality, the Arbcom’s quasi-legal but chaotic framework provided just another platform for hardcore Wiki-addicts to indulge themselves in tiresome interpersonal spats.
With December being the month for Wikipedia’s annual pantomime (otherwise known as the Arbitration Committee elections), The Review became swamped by Wikipedios treating the whole thing like it was a genuinely relevant and important affair - and hence a whole sub-forum was set up to accommodate.
Elsewhere, all and sundry were caught up in the festive mud slinging, and a resumption of the ancient “Giano Wars” was predictable. The “Giano Wars” date back to the Wiki-Middle Ages - and form a recurring ritual where self identifying “Article writers” rebel against those they deem to be the less skilled interfering Wiki-bureaucrats. The mercurial article writer “Giano” traditionally opens the proceedings with a barrage of uncivil complaints and accusations at whichever Wiki-politico has displeased him. This in turn provokes a response from the bumbling Wiki-authorities who gather forces to crush the iconoclast, Giano. As is the custom, an assortment of disaffected others rally to Giano’s defense, and before you know it, half of Wikipedia is on fire.
This year’s fall guys were the current members of the Arbitration Committee. While resentment was high against most of the body after a series of fudged decisions, Giano’s scattergun wrath had honed in on the most vulnerable and unpopular Arbitrator, a user named FT2 (T-C-L-K). For over a year, FT2 had been embroiled in a controversy that can best be described as the er… Peter Damian / deleted edits / zoophilia scandal, much of which had been played out on this site. When Team Giano got their teeth into the details of the scandal, it was only a matter of time before the Tech media showed an interest. Cade Metz at The Register summarizes.
On Wikipedia, hardnosed grammar enforcer Tony1 (T-C-L-K) - one of the only Wikipedia editors who could conceivably be in demand as a professional encyclopedist - begins work on a project to hold Wikipedia administrators to account for breaking Wikipedia protocol. The Wikipedia Review thread about this is here. If implemented, Tony’s “Admin Watch” would actually have major repercussions on Wikipedia’s current woeful practices. Which means it will probably hit a brick wall, and Tony1 will find himself facing the full wrath of Wikipedia’s unregulated fury for trying.
December’s choice picks can’t go by without mention of Milton Roe’s lyrical masterpiece My Favorite WP Themes. Many have tried to put Wikipedia’s disheartening experience to song. Stern-faced WR admin Herschel has given it a try in his day, while Moulton’s prolific musical outings are usually about as welcome as a Scorpions album cover. Yet Milton Roe’s play on the Julie Andrews classic brought down the house, “adhering perfectly to rhyme and meter” according to Proabivouac!
The Register ran a recorded interview with Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com, which touched on Byrnes’s much covered issues with wikipedia’s Naked Short Selling coverage. Byrne pops in to say hello on the thread. Scholar Michel Bauwens produces another “inquiry into the dysfunctionalities of ‘peer governance’ ”. A lot is written about the Virgin Killer album cover dispute mentioned above, most of it either misrepresents the problems or is reactionary garbage, but Legal Magazine Out-Law has the most interesting analysis. Andrew Keen follows that up in the Independent.