Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Instead of making useful edits to Wikipedia

I found myself experiencing the ugly side of the community. And if I didn't enjoy contributing what I read to articles, I'd seriously consider folding my tent and leaving after this experience. Granted, I can sometimes let my anger -- or my admittedly odd sense of logic -- get the better of me, which is why I stay out of a lot of policy decisions; I encounter someone with an opinion or viewpoint opposed to mine, we clash, and I write something I later regret -- so I stay out of those profitless disputes. Yet looking back over today's experience in Articles for Deletion, I'm surprised that no one in the entire exchange didn't make an effort to bridge the differences between what I was talking about -- and the other side, who eagerly quoted policy at me as if it were sacred writ. Having experienced this, and having much experience with Wikipedia under my belt, I can only wonder at how a new editor -- or an outsider concerned about a factual error in an article and motivated to fix it -- might feel.

Today I noticed on the Community Portal page a request for the whole community to participate in a discussion whether to delete an article about "Your Cheatin' Heart". I had thought the discussion was over an article about the better-known song by Hank Williams, so curious why anyone would want to delete an article about that, I followed the link. I discovered that it wasn't about the song, but about an episode to a television show I had never heard of. After a little research, I was about to cast my vote in favor of deletion, when I realized a rather humbling fact: no one had put forth an intelligible reason why this article should be deleted. There was a lot of jargon -- the string WP:EPISODE was invoked several times, as if it explained everything, but never in a way that an outsider would understand -- so in my good-natured naivete, I made a comment about what I thought were the points that should be addressed in this discussion:
(1) Should Wikipedia have an article on every episode of every television series & (2) What is a "notable" television episode?

Oddly, no one bothered to explain how these were covered by the magic words of "WP:EPISODE", something I had to figure out for myself afterwards. Instead, I had policy quoted at me in a manner very similar to a police officer brow-beating a criminal suspect.

Maybe my debate skills are not top-notch, but I had always thought the point of a discussion was to find common ground, explain uncertainties, and attempt to convert the undecided. And if anything, I made it clear (so I thought) that I was leaning towards delete -- if someone help me with my concerns and answer my questions. I guess I was just too muddle-headed for my own good, or ticked off that the first person to respond to my comments proudly boasted on his user page how many USCF points he had (but is correctly called his Elo ranking) as a chess player. (Although a bit of research after the fact shows that he's not as good as I thought he was, stating a number, rather than saying "I'm a strong player, and I have played tournaments", conveyed to me someone who was a show-off know-it-all, rather than an intelligent, logical person.) So my response to him was likely more aggressive than it should have been.

My response is met by someone who decides his best tactic is to
quote policy at me
. Lots of policy. Okay, I've been an Admin for a few years now, but I haven't heard of the policy he quotes at me. So I tell him as much (leaving out the part about being an Admin), and encourage him to justify this policy he is quoting as if it were Holy Writ, or the law -- or even a personal email Jimmy Wales sent to him. To which he responds:
AfD is not the place to debate policies and guidelines. That's what policy and guideline talk pages are for. As of now, consensus is that individual episodes need individual arguments for notability. I don't see a reason why I should have to argue against that current consensus."

As I said above, maybe this wasn't one of my better days. I'm coping with the fact that although I have a job a number of people who are smarter than me who kill to hold, I don't really like it, and maybe I should move to another job at a time when they are depending on me -- so I'm not thinking as clearly as I should. Still, either of these clowns could have extended a bit of empathy towards me and explained the matter. Or had a peak at my user page to see if I was just a clueless newbie -- or to discover that I was an Admin, which might lead to asking me whether I considered my acts as being disruptive. Both of them have now given me a good reason to return to Requests for Adminship, just so I can puncture their balloons should they seek the Admin bit.

Right now the vote on this article is a bunch of fanboys for keep, and a muddled argument or two to delete. And a long-term Wikipedian -- me -- lowered himself to their level. The outcome doesn't look promising.


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In issues like this I ignore all the external garbage - 'notability guidelines' (ie arbitrary POV), 'WP:NOT' and other such things. I look at article quality. My answer to the question 'Should Wikipedia have an article on...' is whether Wikipedia is capable of producing a good-quality article on that subject. For example, I have no problem with the hundreds of individual Pokemon articles because they are all quite good quality. I have slightly more of a problem with an article about a band (whether garage or award-winning) which consists of two sentences and a discography. Wikipedia's supposed to be an encyclopedia, not a popularity contest
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