Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

‘A Diogenes-minded observer would submit that Wikipedia would never have been the prodigious success it has been without its demons’

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One of my favorite writers, the criminally under-appreciated Nicholson Baker, has a lovely article in the New York Review of Books entitled “The Charms of Wikipedia.” (Via MeFi.) The whole article is good, but it’s the ending that really gets me:

As the deletions and ill-will spread in 2007 — deletions not just of webcomics but of companies, urban places, Web sites, lists, people, categories, and ideas — all deemed to be trivial, “NN” (nonnotable), “stubby,” undersourced, or otherwise unencyclopedic—Andrew Lih, one of the most thoughtful observers of Wikipedia’s history, told a Canadian reporter: “The preference now is for excising, deleting, restricting information rather than letting it sit there and grow.” In September 2007, Jimbo Wales, Wikipedia’s panjandrum – himself an inclusionist who believes that if people want an article about every Pokemon character, then hey, let it happen — posted a one-sentence stub about Mzoli’s, a restaurant on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. It was quickly put up for deletion. Others saved it, and after a thunderstorm of vandalism (e.g., the page was replaced with “I hate Wikipedia, its a far-left propaganda instrument, some far-left gangs control it”), Mzoli’s is now a model piece, spiky with press citations. There’s even, as of January, an article about “Deletionism and inclusionism in Wikipedia” — it too survived an early attempt to purge it.

My advice to anyone who is curious about becoming a contributor — and who is better than I am at keeping his or her contributional compulsions under control — is to get Broughton’s Missing Manual and start adding, creating, rescuing. I think I’m done for the time being. But I have a secret hope. Someone recently proposed a Wikimorgue—a bin of broken dreams where all rejects could still be read, as long as they weren’t libelous or otherwise illegal. Like other middens, it would have much to tell us over time. We could call it the Deletopedia.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 1, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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