Tuesday, April 05, 2011


Well-known & overlooked Wikipedia essays

Everyone who studies the phenomenon of Wikipedia knows about Raul's Laws. Everyone who writes about Wikipedia quotes from them as if they are the authoritative commentary on how Wikipedia works, something I noticed as I read Joseph Reagle's Good Faith Collaboration. Many of the chapters in his book begin with a headnote drawn from this collection.

It is well-known because it was the first collection of observations compiled, & a number of other Wikipedians contributed their own "Laws". So one could conclude that it this collection of essays is an authoritative statement on Wikipedia.

But I consider anyone who cites "Raul's Laws" guilty of considering only one vision of Wikipedia. There are other, IMHO more insightful, personal essays. One alternative I consider the counterpoint to Raul's Laws is Antandrus' observations on Wikipedia behavior. Where Raul's Laws is full of statements added by people eager to be part of the spotlight (& yes, that comment could be applied to me), & for that reason this collection often appears flashy & superficial, I often think of Antandrus' list as quiet & profound. One goes to Raul's Laws to add a witty comment for others to see; one goes to Antandrus' list to read & wonder if anyone else has seen it.

I don't have any desire to criticize Raul's list; there are a number of valid insights there. I simply believe that Antandrus' list is too easily overlooked by people -- both pundits & Wikipedians -- who want to understand what is going on there. Often something is better explained in the latter's list than in the former's.

I am often amazed at how many essays on Wikipedia can be found in the personal spaces of many users, many yielding far more insight than those in the public "Wikipedia" name space. Wikipedians often are reluctant to put their essays in public spaces because then they will lose control over what is often a personal reflection on their own experiences. Unfortunately this means the best writing on & about Wikipedia is the hardest to find.


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