Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Writing for Wikipedia Part 1

I have wanted to learn how to contribute to Wikipedia for some time now.   This means adding new articles and editing mistakes in existing ones.   So I started reading the online documentation and ran into some surprises, mostly pleasant ones, but surprises nevertheless.

But maybe they should not be surprises, maybe it should have been obvious.

1. There is a rather large culture around writing Wikipedia. They have their own language and their own jargon. It is extensive. Just reading the tutorials takes hours and to read all the documentation would take days. So, considerable and laudable attention has been spent on making it possible for new people to come in and contribute.

2. The technology is very text based, and assumes you can handle basic non-WYSIWYG editing. It feels like solid, old-school geek.

3. A great deal of the documentation involves conflict resolution between authors and a reminder to everyone to be civil.

4. The emphasis on the anonymity of authors and editors and the ability to contribute anonymously at all surprised me.

5. They have the concept of group ownership of any article, an emphasis on “not one single author”, e.g. when you write something you have no more control over the text than any other person.

6. There is an extensive audit system that keeps any change forever and gives one the ability to roll back and forth between edits.  This makes it easy for an "editor" to return an article to a previous state.

8. There are extensive prohibitions on “original research” and "conflict of interest", which includes writing about someone or something you know, because of the likelihood that this will result in bias. Thus for example, I would, at first glance, be discouraged from writing about the history of computer animation because of my knowledge (and hence bias) on the topic.

So the first thing I notice is that my friend and serial-entrepreneur Marc Canter's (1) web page has a pretty amazing, and frankly somewhat offensive if you check the citations, discussion of his alleged politics in the overview/introductory paragraph. This surprised me because I have known Marc for a long time and I certainly knew none of this, nor do I think it is all that relevant to what it is he has done, e.g. to what makes him notable for a Wikipedia entry. At the very least it ought to be in its own section, but by Wikipedia rules it actually ought to be removed because it is not verified by citation.

But since I know Marc, and that is considered conflict of interest, I resisted the temptation to make the edit myself but followed what I read is “procedure”. I went to the “talk” page and made a comment.

This is what I said.
I am new to Wikipedia and I am feeling my way around. Also, I have a COI here, as I have been friends of Marc Canter off and on for 30 years. We are not terribly close (I havent seen him for 15 years) but I know of his work and do admire the man. So my request here is that someone read this and, if they agree, make the simple edits to fix one issue that just slaps you in the face when you read this article. I have read a lot of biographies on Wikipedia and Marc's is the only one that finds it necessary to discuss what may or may not be his political beliefs and the unverified beliefs of his relatives in the summary paragraph. (At least I should say, the only biography of a technical person, maybe there are biographies of Marxist revolutionaries that do so, but Marc is hardly that. ) Furthermore, this discussion of Marc's supposed politics and of the politics of his relatives is unverified ... if you look at the citations you will see that one is to Marc's blog (which should not count for verification) and is no longer an active page, and the other is a semi-pornographic picture of Marc Canter's head put on top of a so-called red diaper baby. I hardly think that this counts as verified, and at the very least is rude and in bad taste, if not actually libel. So the simplest request I could make to improve this page is to remove any mention of Marc's relatives and his politics and delete these two non-citations. Please contact me if you have any questions and I will check back to this talk page from time to time. I have a lot to learn and I hope this is a legitimate use of the talk page. Thank you. Michaelw newyork (talk) 02:05, 11 June 2014 (UTC)

We will see what happens.


1. Marc was founder of Macromind in 1982 and is one of the most important influences in the creation of interactive multimedia, imho.

No comments:

Post a Comment