Wikipedia Bureaucracy (continued)

In my old Blogger blog, I had a post on certain frustrations with Wikipedia.  This post carries that topic forward.  This is the text of a message that I posted on a Wikipedia discussion page.  It appears that they may “purge” that page frequently; I am not sure what happens to such text at that point.  In any event, the purpose here is to continue the objection to Wikipedia’s apparent drift toward style over substance.

*  *  *  *  *

I approach this matter with an adverse initial impression of Wikipedia’s processes.  Perhaps this attempt will correct that impression.  I mention it as background, for any who review the remarks so far.

The adverse initial impression is that, along with a number of positive, content-oriented editors, Wikipedia has somehow picked up a large number of editors — lawyers, perhaps, or wannabe lawyers — who fixate upon technical rules at the expense of substantive content.  It has been frustrating, on multiple occasions, to discover that such individuals appear to have made Wikipedia hostile to relevant knowledge.  I do agree that rules can tame a chaotic mess.  Unlike these individuals, however, I also appreciate that suppression and silencing are especially conducive to orderliness.

In the present instance, it appears that valid, defensible content is being rejected by people who do not actually know, or care, about the subject to which I attempted to contribute.  The rationale for deleting the proposed external link is not that it is irrelevant, for example, or obviously wrong.  The rationale is based, rather, on a set of rules that, in the first place, can appear byzantine to the uninitiated.  Wikipedia appears to have adopted the tacit principle that one cannot add content (or must accept that such content will be removed) unless one has first mastered a bewildering collection of guidelines and procedures.  Whatever their merit, this is an obvious barrier to entry.  People who care about their subject, but not about jurisprudential trivia, are apt to be somewhat deterred from contributing.  Such deterrence could be demonstrated easily enough.  To do so, Wikipedia need only provide an honest warning of the risks of contributing:  that doing so may lead to the sort of time-wasting distraction in which I find myself presently engaged, for instance.

I say “time-wasting” because, in my impression thus far, Wikipedia is largely immune to substance-oriented reasoning.  I have already presented, to the editors involved in the present instance, an objection to Wikipedia’s prioritization of procedural arcana.  The editors were not merely unmoved; one proceeded to offer gratuitous ridicule.  In other words, I assume these two editors understand Wikipedia’s procedures well enough to feel confident that other Wikipedia insiders who read these words will generally share their views.  Basically, y’all do not seem to care much about providing useful information to users, not if there is some rule that will give you an excuse to reject it.  Wikipedia’s content appears to exist despite, not because of, your efforts.  This impression seems to be confirmed by the faultfinding labels you have attached at the start of many Wikipedia articles.

The situation is very simple.  In my present impression, Wikipedia is presently built upon an approach that gives power to editors focused on superficial style and internal procedure rather than upon substantive content and service to the public.  Wikipedia would be a better place if the busybodies who devote themselves to this trivia would instead roll up their sleeves and contribute to the product.  For instance, if they believe that an external link should instead be in the Reference section, why don’t they just move it themselves?  Other than their personal gratification, who or what is served by the brainless deletion of useful content?

Again, I recognize that I am probably talking to a wall.  If Wikipedia’s people understood this sort of thing, it would not be necessary to say it here; it would be obvious throughout interactions like those that I have had with Wikipedia editors.  I will post this on my blog, for the benefit of others who share my frustration, and will perhaps have some intelligent exchanges of views there.

Having expressed those substantial reservations based on prior experience, I proceed nonetheless to give it one more try.  The gist of the foregoing paragraphs is that Wikipedia errs in assuming that ordinary users should, or will, fight their way through the bureaucratese in order to contribute helpful information.  In the real world, people will, and they do, post it elsewhere instead.  I understand, from another page, that I was supposed to express this frustration here.  I have now done so.

*** UPDATES ***

Interesting article about how women find Wikipedia inhospitable.

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3 Responses to Wikipedia Bureaucracy (continued)

  1. jed says:

    Hi Ray,
    I think that you misunderstand what wikipedia is all about.

    Personally I use wikipedia as an end user on an almost daily basis (I have never edited a page). I would not expect to see links to or content from a personal blog on a wikipedia article – just as I would not expect to see such material in the encyclopaedia Britannica.

    I have heard similar criticisms of wikipedia editors in the past but in this case from reading I would side entirely with the editors

  2. Ray Woodcock says:

    Jed — thanks for taking the time to post a comment. Not sure if you’ll return here. But if you do, could you be more specific? At the site you link, there doesn’t seem to be any substantive rebuttal of my argument. As far as the personal blog topic, can you explain why people should not see links to valuable information or tools, not available elsewhere?

  3. Ray Woodcock says:

    In response to the problems identified in this post, a later post proposes a different form of knowledge organization.

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