Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Living people who need living people are the luckiest living people in the world

The Durova bulldoza looks to be running out of gas, and I'm getting bored with the whole stink, anyway. So let's move on to something even more fabulous and fun...living people. In particular, living people with biographies on Wikipedia.

You may remember the Seigenthaler mess, and if you don't, anti-WP folks will gladly remind you. A direct result of the bad publicity was Wikipedia's policy on biographies of persons who have not yet stopped breathing. This policy implores WP editors: "We must get the article right." That sentence even includes a footnote to a Jimbo speech, so it's a Very Important Thing on WP.

The bottom line is that Wikipedia can't contain unflattering information about non-room-temperature individuals without loads of footnotes and references and links and documents and other stuff designed to keep the encyclopedia from getting sued. Frankly, I think the BLP policy, as it's usually acronymed, goes a little overboard sometimes, and I've said so on-wiki. For instance, the article on Crystal Gail Mangum got deleted because WP apparently has to be real, real nice to fantasists who almost ruined the lives of innocent people.

But by and large, I can see the need for extra caution on these articles. A pleasant example for me is the entry on Terry Teachout, an arts critic and blogger. I wrote the original article on Terry and I've updated it now and then. Terry occasionally drops by the article and updates it himself. For some reason that's supposedly a no-no on Wikipedia, though Terry begs to differ.

I also don't understand why still-sentient persons can't edit their own articles on Wikipedia. If they make good edits, fine. If they make bad edits, fix 'em. And you could say the same about any other editor.

The reason that this entry is pleasant for me is that Terry once publicly thanked moi for fixing some crude vandalism to the article. He didn't mention my name, but I preferred it that way. The incident was tiny, but it reminded me that there are real people out there behind those Wikipedia entries. And if I do a decent job, I might even get a thank-you note once in a while. And if I don't do a decent job....well, I'll stay as decent as I can.

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