Sunday, May 15, 2016

Don't bite the newbies: why Wikipedia is such a horrible place to contribute to

This isn't going to be very long really. Wikipedia is a horrible place to edit because it encourages horrible behaviour.

When I first started many years ago, there was a real sense that you could collaborate on articles. You could have a disagreement and come to a compromise. That's not possible any more. What happens is that instead of asking on the talk page "do you think that might be a bit too much", or even actually discuss the issues at hand, you instead get folks who just lop out whole sections of articles. And of course, you get insulted and called "obsessive" when you try to actually do some decent research. Normally you get called this by people who like to tweak the articles, or do a lot of talking on Wikipedia space, especially WP:AN/I or WP:AN or even (ugh) WP:AN/3RR.

Here's an example - a certain deputy mayor of a certain suspended council in Western Sydney has had 22 traffic incidents, flouted the law with impunity, and used a section 10 to get out of driving without a license in an unregistered vehicle. He's never once been charged convicted, which frankly should boggle the mind. But OK, I can understand how you might consider that it is possibly "obsessive" to look up Google news to locate what he did so it can be properly sourced.

Because, you know, when the deputy mayor of a very large city in Sydney holds a list of driving convictions that include using a mobile phone whilst driving, performing an illegal burn out, driving whilst viewing a distracting Visual Display Unit, running a red light, disobeying a stop sign, performing an illegal U-turn, breaking the speed limit on five seperate occasions, driving his car on the wrong side of the road on one occasion, driving without showing his P plate correctly and then refusing to show his driver's license; call me crazy but I think that's fairly significant!

But imagine that same politician took out his Ferrari and drove it so badly that he ran over two women who were rushed to hospital with serious injuries to their pelvic area and their legs, then spent a month in recovery. Then imagine that same person was charged and convicted of negligent driving. And then appealed and got off completely, then put a half page advertisement out in the local paper proclaiming his vindication. Then imagine he got sued (and lost) for $1.35 million, which his insurer had to pay out.

Now would you consider that perhaps the law has let us down? Do you think that maybe the automobile incidents are actually fairly important to have documented? Would you consider it "obsessive" to have spent about 10 minutes reading a number of news articles and then documenting the fact that this politician seems to literally get away with what you or I could never get away with?

Of course it's not important. In fact, it's positively ridiculous!

What about the fact that the politician is a developer who has been voting through serious changes that negatively impact on his constituents through a series of proprietary limited shell corporations which, when people look a little too closely at, he transfers his directorship over to someone else? Or the fact that he has a not-for-profit company supposedly for the good of the youth of his city that was used to take out a half page advertisement praising his decision to do law?

Evidently chasing down these companies and putting them in a list with their ABNs and ACNs is.... well, why don't I just quote from them? "The compilation of all the companies he's a director of, many of which are so non-notable the author has had to refer to business registration records, is an atrocious case of original research and absolutely does not belong in this article. These are such trivial details that no journalist has bothered to compile them in any of the tens of thousands of stories about him for a reason." (but of course I didn't use that as a citation... or did I?)

No, of course the citations to the secondary sources aren't enough. Because, you know, Original Research. If only I truly understood what Original Research was - I've been labouring under the impression all these years that the WP:OR rule was to ensure that only material that uses reliable, published sources (like, say, The Australian or The Sydney Morning Herald, or even an extract from the ASIC company report that shows it's history...) and that directly relate to the article itself (like, I don't know, the fact that the subject is a director of all these shell companies to avoid scrutiny and is currently being investigated by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission...) should be used in articles.

Silly me.

Yup, Wikipedia - you once were great, now you are the shit-pile of the Internet and so not worth my time that it's easier just to scramble my password, write up an angry blog post and wipe my hands of it forever more.

1 comment:

  1. From my personal experience, the only thing I can recommend: just walk away. I know it is not easy to do, I keep slipping back to Wikipedia all the time. But every time I do, sooner or later some moron destroys my work and drives me into rage. As the English say, I don't suffer fools gladly. I know that's my own little problem but in the end, it doesn't matter who's guilty in what: if getting back to Wikipedia is deepening my depression each and every time, it's best to find a new hobby. Just let it go.

    And I've only been an admin in et.wp since 2004, I know you have more experience and it's much worse on en.wp. Boy, the stories I could tell... I'd offer to grab a cup of coffee someday but I'm pretty on the opposite side of the globe. So, all I can suggest: just walk away, and take care.