September 28, 2006

"I'm on Wikipedia, get me out of here",,1882027,00.html

"I'm on Wikipedia, get me out of here"

Seth Finkelstein
Thursday September 28, 2006
The Guardian

[Read the whole thing ... :-)]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in press , wikipedia | on September 28, 2006 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

Subscribe with Bloglines      Subscribe in NewsGator Online  Google Reader or Homepage


Nice-- to see that you are going MSM mode too :)_

Posted by: /pd at September 29, 2006 10:36 AM

The best line from the wiki deletion vote is:

Such wonderful irony. Seth Finkelstein is now far
more notable than he was at the start of this trail
of words. And scope for googling him is increased
substantially. Fiddle Faddle 07:01, 8 July 2006 (UTC)

You should make a sockepuppet editor, and gradually delete lines from the article until all that's left is a stub. Then merge with the Censorware project, or some other article, so no vote will be necessary. Wikipedia is a bit of a joke. The self-importance of "senior editors" is astounding.

Posted by: Travis at September 29, 2006 01:53 PM

I feel craven and souless - but I *want* someone to care about what I've done so much as to contribute to Wikipedia article on me and Philly Future.

But I'm not *notable*. Just an average Joe.

And as some would say (Ben Franklin I believe) - I guess I haven't done anything worthy of being written about yet.

Posted by: Karl at September 29, 2006 02:09 PM

I assume you've heard about danah boyd's problems with Wikipedia?

She legally changed her name to be all lower-case, but Wikipedia refuses to accept her authority on that.

In a nutshell: Wikipedia is not for placing "the truth", it is for placing summaries of information that is already published in other credible news sources.
Ain't that a stunning admission by a Wikipedia editor!

Posted by: Lis Riba at September 29, 2006 02:54 PM


Wikipedia swims in bad PR lately... It's still a remarkable project but they need to have better governance to handle these issues as they surface.

Can you envision a process where a documented person can have specific complaints about their article addressed and the article "fixed" in place with the subjects approval. Opting out if you have a significant role in history is not acceptable but requesting the removal of specific items that are demonstrably offensive, biased or inaccurate should be a goal for the governance board of the project.

I can't see letting Adam Curry write the history of Podcasting be allowed but I could see an attached Article where Adam is allowed to tell his version or Dave Winer gets to tell the Syndication Wars from his point of view. Adding words is NOT the problem... censoring on the basis of ego IS a problem.

I'm sure your actions around DRM have provoked a variety of conflicting views that get attributed to your motives and can be hurtful. But, your role and actions have historical import... you have a place in the history of tech as a result of some basic civil disregard for commercial interests that went against some well funded industries. Let the editorial process of history continue and document your point of view. Your deeds will speak for themselves and historians can view the "facts" of wikipedia against your writings. The long view will remove the aspects of personal attack and re-focus on the path society took as result of projects like yours and the wikipedia.

As always, you continue to question the rights of groups against the rights of the individual... a noble debate. Ethics demands that the decision be tipped towards the greatest good. Wikipedia has the potential to benefit the greatest good. For that alone... I defend attacks against it becuase tthe alternative is the packaging and sale of a single uncontested view of history in the commercial encyclopedia... which never seems to havee any immediacy due to publishing and financial constraints.

Posted by: McD at September 30, 2006 03:00 PM

pd: I'm climbing the ranks of the punditocracy! Soon I will leave my humble Z-list origins behind ... :-)

Travis: It's "cheap irony", a pretty common reaction.

Karl: You could probably get an article if you really wanted it, based on PhillyFuture. I don't recommend it, but I think it's possible.

Lis: Yes, thanks, I had heard about that. The "not truth, but summary" aspect is in fact an important way that Wikipedia is more about innovation in getting people to work for free, than anything else.

McD: Someone can always beg on the associated "Talk" page, or, contrary to myth, edit their own article (though risking PR backlash). But you are far too optimistic, the evidence is against you. Remember, I had to abandon censorware research in part because people with much more media access than me could smear me, and I couldn't *effectively* reply.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 1, 2006 01:13 AM

There's a contradiction in your desire not to be in Wikipedia and your efforts to make a name for yourself here on on InfoThought.

If you are not famous enough to merit inclusion in Wikipedia and are subjected to unfair abuse by being present in the encyclopedia, aren't you taking actions here to increase your notability (and thus making you more likely to be in Wikipedia)?

I think it's reasonable to state that a person who actively publishes a blog under his name related to his professional work, as you and I both do, is doing so in part as an act of self-promotion.

I'm trying to give your viewpoint fair consideration, but it seems to me that in one respect you're saying, "I want to be better known, but I don't want one of the consequences of that to be the scrutiny of other writers in Wikipedia."

Posted by: Rogers Cadenhead at October 1, 2006 11:06 AM

Rogers: No contradiction. To some extent, I wish I were truly notable. But as a statement of fact, I am not truly notable. So it would be confusing the "is" and the "ought", to treat me now as if I were at a level I'm not. In fact, that would be worse, since it gives me the negatives (the trolling) without any of the positives (the reputation-protection).

By the way, I've very much given up on making a name for myself from blogging, it doesn't work for anybody but an extremely narrow and/or well-connected subset of the gold-rush prospectors.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 1, 2006 03:26 PM

I found the Wikpedia entry very useful and it shows why wikpedia is good - there is an interesting reference - apparently Seth did a lot of work on the Numerical Recipe's In C code.

I wasn't aware it (the book not the code) was legally available for free online. I am sure it is available not so legally.

I now have a downloaded pdf copy of the book as per the licence.

Do you don't get royalties Seth? Because I am wondering about grabbing the code.

So the good - Wikpedia served one of its goals wells in recording a useful and important contribution to Computer Science and struggling coders in general. About 15 years ago I may have butchered some of Seth's code to get through a course. And I can now give appropriate thanks - THANKS Seth.

The bad - it is an obvious troll magnet.

Best you may be able to hope for is getting it locked.

Posted by: Ian at October 2, 2006 12:26 AM

Ian, I don't get any royalties. It was a pure "work for hire" employment on my part (i.e., I contractually signed away all copyright claims to the code). You're welcome.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 2, 2006 01:29 AM

"To some extent, I wish I were truly notable. But as a statement of fact, I am not truly notable."

Notability is a difficult standard to pin down when it comes to an online encyclopedia with no limits to its size or number of authors.

Wikipedia serves a useful purpose by hosting biographies of people who are notable enough to invite public interest but not notable enough to be covered in more traditional encyclopedias.

I contributed biographies of Kathy Sierra and Susan Mernit to the site. They're both notable in their fields and I can attest that neither has been subjected to any abusive edits.

Any standard of notability that would exclude you as insufficiently famous would probably do the same to both Sierra and Mernit.

I'd rather see Wikipedia address abusive edits better than increase its notability requirements and dumping hundreds of biographies.

Posted by: Rogers Cadenhead at October 2, 2006 10:58 PM

You're implicitly assuming that a threshold must be one-dimensional. However, there can be one standard for "household names", and another standard which is kinder to obscure civil-libertarians programmers who have some dedicated ill-wishers (and hence would like to opt-out on the basis of being done more harm than good).

I'm saying that Wikipedia should permit people to opt-out unless they are "truly notable". I understand why they don't want to do it, since it reflects badly on them, but given their poor troll-control, it just doesn't seem to me to be an unreasonable request.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 2, 2006 11:21 PM

Seth, I refuse to believe you haven't read Clay Shirky. Nice article, though. Good job.

Posted by: Hugh MacLeod at October 4, 2006 07:14 AM

I think it is a HUGE honor to be featured on Wikipedia, and not just for you, personally, Seth, but for EFF, liberating knowledge, and for freedom and (what remains of) our civil liberties, in general.

Consider the audience! Consider the positive impact! Consider the reach! Kids from all around this world one article closer to hearing what freedom and thinking are all about.

If you weren't a little reluctant, you wouldn't be notable.

Perhaps Wikipedia can provide an RSS feed upon change? Or, there is no reason a little Pear program reading Google search results couldn't keep watch on a scheduled basis and notify you of changes.

Now that I think about it, why bother you? The "search and find changes" module could simply trigger a robot to repopulate the page with what you want displayed. Seth - there is no reason you can't gain complete control of an open system like Wikipedia *and* provide children with good learning material at the same time.

You know geeks! What am I saying? You *are* a geek! Pa-leeze. Quit your whining and start coding!

We are in the midst of such enormous gathering and reckless distribution of information. Obviously this greatly impacts reputation, identity and privacy, let alone the potential for misuse by government and other powerful entities. I can think of no one better to have his head in the noose helping us to sort out right from wrong.

Sorry. Can't be helped. We need you. Thanks, again, for your sacrifices for us! ;-)


PS - I am just all *a glow* just from you linking to my little blog. Thanks for that, Seth. :)

Posted by: Amy Stephen at October 16, 2006 12:27 PM