August 24, 2007

Wikipedia: The so-called "encyclopedia" that any axe-grinder can edit-war


This is Ted Frank
Frank Defended Merck in Cases Concerning Vioxx The American Enterprise Institute is a Right Wing think tank

Ted Frank (a.k.a. THF) Has Altered the 'SiCKO' Wikipedia Page 94 96 Times

CLiCK Here to Edit Ted Frank's Wikipedia Page
CLiCK Here to Edit the 'SiCKO' Wikipedia Page

UPDATE: Frank altered the 'SiCKO' page twice today since this post. The pages have now been protected.

UPDATE 2: Ted Frank Doesn't Like the Attention Wiki administrators question his conflict of interests

Shouldn't Ted Frank be at work?

[This was from a cached version - the current item is toned-down a bit, without the "click here" links]

Now, it's misleading to give just the raw number of edits - some edits were unobjectionable vandalism-fighting. And it's almost certain that Ted Frank wasn't acting in any official capacity. So it's just another day on Wikipedia, where ideological factions battle each other for the prize of getting their spin in a high Google ranking position.

Except that item set off yet another edit-war, a "meta"-issue fight, having to do with a Wikipedia administrative faction deeming an "attack site". Which would make it liable to the penalty of having all its links purged from Wikipedia, as a kind of banishment. And that's scary.

It's hard to convey to the acolytes within the cult of Wikipedia how petty and in fact, downright creepy, it can appear to outsiders. At this point more sane Wikipedia administrators will pop up and say it's just a few bad apples, the other admins will keep them in check. And my reply there is that still reveals a pretty disturbing sociological aspect of Wikipedia. Especially one that might give pause to the impulse to proclaim lots of experts should work for free to increase its power and respectability (and notably also increasing the capability of small cliques of Wikipedia admins to engage in political vendettas).

[Update: full-blown Wikipedia-DRAMA, as pro- and anti- "Michael Moore" factions battle it out.]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikipedia | on August 24, 2007 07:33 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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If you include all of Ted Franks proxy edits - words that encourage other users to alter the Sicko page - then the count reaches 120-130 easy. I've not seen anything like this on Wikipedia before. And it's so blatant, too.

Posted by: Moonie at August 25, 2007 04:09 AM

I've been arguing against the silly "no links to attack sites" policy for months... I even wrote an essay about it.

Posted by: Dan at August 26, 2007 10:18 PM

Moonie: Honestly, I find it hard to believe this is unique - just loud.

Dan: Yes. Again, not every admin is on the warpath. But the sociological structure of Wikipedia also breeds and empowers the fanatics, which is troubling.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at August 27, 2007 12:58 AM

Looks like the discussion has been archived to'_noticeboard/IncidentArchive290#MichaelMoore.com_-_hypocrisy.3F , if you want to update your links. [There are actually two issues on that page.]

Posted by: Lis Riba at August 27, 2007 06:23 PM

BTW, here's an interesting possible Wikipedia development: Flagged revisions.
Described in somewhat alarming terms here and here, it sounds as though admins will be gaining even more power over what ordinary users can see and edit.

Posted by: Lis Riba at August 27, 2007 08:36 PM

Interesting. From a software standpoint, MediaWiki is finally supporting what CMS's generally support, and I what I called for here. If it's another stake in the coffin of wikipedia as a free-for-all, I don't think that's a bad thing, but yes, obviously, that puts more relative power in the hands of the editors, which, of course, might impel otherwise disengaged internauts (present company included) to get involved in wiki governance.

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel at August 27, 2007 09:51 PM

Thanks, Lis, I updated the link.

I assume they're talking about "stable versions", which has been talked about forever. I'll believe it when I see it.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at August 27, 2007 09:53 PM