The Longest Now


How to criticize Wikipedia : Lesson 0
Thursday August 24th 2006, 9:31 pm
Filed under: chain-gang

Ross Mayfield pointed out to me just after Wikimania that the Enterprise 2.0 article had been deleted.  He pointed me to an old deletion debate, which drew only a handful of negative comments and a deletion for being a neologism.  I didn’t pay enough attention at the time, or I would have caught the mistake right away…  I checked the last content of the page, performed a history and page undeletion into his user-space, and returned to vacation.

Wikipedia isn’t a good place to define neologisms.  Plainly against the rules — Wikipedia is not a dictionary, and not the first place a controversial analysis or interpretation should be published.  And “Enterprise 2.0” feels, to anyone who lives outside of the west coast and doesn’t deal with enterprise software all day, like a term whose lifespan can be measured in technology cycles if not in months.  If I go write a paper entitled “Moving Towards Education 2.0“, everyone will know what I mean [and I may get a citable publication out of it], even though most of them won’t have seen the phrase before.  But it’s “… 2.0” that will be remembered as a generic term in 20 years; noone will still be saying “Education 2.0” except as part of VC-themed parlor games.

Which is a long way of saying that I didn’t feel bad about leaving the E-2.0 saga without more than a cursory investigation.  On the other hand, Wikipedia is a place to document the history of terms and ideas, and in the back of my mind, this felt like a good example to prove the rule of the progress of the “… 2.0” meme.  Tonight, I discovered a wealth of bloggers who had jumped onto the article’s deletion as a) an affront to Web 2.0dom, b) an attack on some theoretically-coherent enterprise community by some theoretically-coherent Wikipedia community, c) indicative of a larger Wikipedia disease which Someone Should Stop, and/or d) worth cursing and fuming about.

Interesting.  Note to self : “anyone can edit” and “hundreds of thousands of people are Wikipedians ” are ideas that haven’t percolated very far, yet; though many people have heard them. 

As a result, I went back to look at the deletion debate.  And realized the latest deletion had been a mistake.  So, I undeleted the article and listed it for a new deletion discussion.  You can see that discussion here. 

I’m going to post a set of instructions for all of you bloggers, on How To Criticize Wikipedia — so that you can do it productively if you want to.  Wikipedia is one of those rare communities where eloquence, discussion, and an idea about how things can be better can lead to an immediate improvement in process and content.

Sidenotes for the process fiends among you :

The deletion discussion I had seen before was about a one-paragraph stub from June; reasonably discussed, with no support from editors at the time, and deleted.  The article was recreated in July, and (just after Wikimania) discovered by someone who found it non-notable.  So he nominated it for delet — whoops, wait, it already has a deletion debate.  Must be a “recreation”.  So he nominated it (inappropriately) for speedy deletion; an admin found it, didn’t notice the mistake, and deleted it.

Now one valid reason for rapid deletion of an article is that it is an exact “recreation” of an article previously voted for deletion.  The idea being : people who keep cutting and pasting an article into the encyclopedia should be reverted without a long discussion.   The new E 2.0 article was 8 times longer, far more detailed, and referenced; this policy clearly didn’t apply.  Being “non-notable” or a “neologism” — both terms which have specific meanings on the Articles for Deletion pages — may be reasons to delete an article, but only after discussion and consensus to delete.

Next up : constructive criticism




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