Monday, September 24, 2007

Good, bad and ugly

Now don't think that I'm always gonna whine about how bad and rotten and downright miserable Wikipedia is. Sometimes working on the encyclopedia is almost enjoyable. One of the ways I keep myself (allegedly) sane on WP is the "wikify" list. This is a bunch of articles that other editors have tagged as needing help. Usually I don't have much use for editors who tag articles instead of writing them. But I bless the wikify taggers because they give me the fun stuff to do.

Today, for instance, I wikified the article on the East Brother Island Lighthouse. If you haven't the foggiest, neither did I until I saw the article on the wikify list. Here is how the article looked before I got to work. By WP standards it really wasn't in terrible shape. There was lots of interesting information, though the format was a little haphazard. Some googling taught me more about this landmark on a bit of lonely island near San Francisco, so I added some history, links, sources, headings and general fixups to the article. The result is here. Which I hope is an improvement.

That's the good of Wikipedia, writing articles and helping little African kids learn more about some San Francisco lighthouse they couldn't give a flip about. (Jimbo Wales, WP founder and god-king, is always embarrassing us Wikipedians by saying that we're giving the world's knowledge to African kids. He never names any of the kids.)

But then there's the bad...

Today I found out that an article I had written about television game show host, critic and webmaster Matt Ottinger was deleted - made to vanish into the cyber-afterworld - because six spoilsports didn't think he was "notable" enough. Nobody can explain what "notable" means on Wikipedia. I almost mouthed off to the guy who actually pulled the plug on the article, but then I remembered about getting blocked, banned and executed. So I'll mouth off here. Luckily, I saved a copy of the article before the dirty deed was done. Later I'll post it on this blog, where it will remain safe until the Google servers crumble into silicon dust.

And finally, there's the ugly...

I try to stay out of the endless disputes on Wikipedia. These fights chew up enormous amounts of server space as loudmouths like me write nasty things to each other over the encyclopedia's endless reams of policy. I just want to write articles, which makes me an exopedian in WP-speak.

But sometimes I let myself get sucked into the yellfests. There's a beaut going on right now about whether articles can link to BADSITES, defined as any site that says something bad about a Wikipedia editor. I think the encyclopedia should link to anything useful, which sometimes includes the Orwellian named BADSITES. To put it mildly, others disagree. Two of the most prominent people on Wikipedia, Cyde and SlimVirgin - not their real names, of course, but on WP nobody knows your real name, or they pretend not to - are ripping each other over this issue. Another prominent editor, Fred Bauder (his real name, but he doesn't seem to mind) is suggesting proposals just slightly less bizarre than, oh, me. The talk pages for the dispute have grown to Andre-the-Giant sized collections of yelps and growls. Which is all creating much delight among the contributors to some of the BADSITES.

And dare I say it, I'm enjoying the fight, too.

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