[Taxacom] Wikipedia rewrites

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Thu Feb 5 12:19:44 CST 2009

Kleo Pullin wrote:

>I like contributing to a free knowledge base, so I do edit Wikipedia 
>articles, mostly California native flora and fauna pages, plus 
>marine life.  However, I don't edit microscopy articles because it 
>is frustrating seeing accurate information deleted, revised, and 
>dumbed down to incorrect, or seeing inaccurate information carefully 
>watched and maintained.
>There are areas on Wikipedia where experts don't stand a chance.

I have to ask, though: upon encountering the deletion of accurate 
information (presumably by a single specific editor), did you raise 
the issue with an administrator? It is precisely this sort of thing 
that the entire administrative and complaint system has been 
developed for. To wit: there is a rule, called 3RR (the "3 revert 
rule" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:3rr) in place in 
Wikipedia, and any editor who reverts something repeatedly can be 
called to task under this rule. If they can't defend their actions, 
and won't cease and desist, they can be banned. Likewise, there is 
another rule called OWN (stands for "ownership" - 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:OWN) which warns against 
single individuals laying claim to a page and refusing to allow other 
editors to add or change material. If the situation is as you 
describe, it sounds like you could file a complaint referring to both 
of these rules, and resolve the issue. If the editor in question is 
uncooperative, it could go to arbitration, and if arbitration goes 
against them and they  STILL persist, they can be banned from 
editing. If your neighbor breaks into your home every day while 
you're at work, and steals things from you, it's likely to continue 
until you call the police. Wikipedia DOES have a police force.

I realize that knowing about these rules, and how to draw upon them 
to deal with wrong-headed editors, is not something that is 
immediately obvious when one begins contributing to Wikipedia - but 
the point is that there is essentially NOTHING that a 
well-intentioned editor can ancounter that the administrators at 
Wikipedia are unable or unwilling to deal with. It is NOT a free-for 
all, not by a long shot. Paul van Rijckevorsel's comment:

"When it comes to Wikipedia, anything goes. There are no guarantees of any
kind, whatsoever."

is NOT an accurate portrayal of the situation! There ARE rules, there 
ARE ways to enforce them, and there ARE guarantees; however, you must 
take an active role in the process. It's generally a matter of being 
polite but insistent: you first raise your objection on the article's 
talk page. That makes it a matter of public record. If that does not 
generate a satisfactory response, you take it to that editor's 
personal talk page, and inform them exactly which Wikipedia rule(s) 
they are guilty of violating. That's like handing someone a summons; 
they can't pretend not to have received the warning. If that fails, 
then you take the complaint to an administrator and tell the 
administrator "I notified them that they had violated the rules, and 
they have been unresponsive, could you please help?". Sure, that may 
be a lot of effort, but if by doing so you actually improve 
Wikipedia, then it's a real contribution. And no, once a situation 
has been resolved in your favor, the same or a different editor can't 
just pop back in once the heat is off and revert things back to the 
way they were. There will be a complete history of the complaint and 
its resolution, and you can simply refer to that history, and any 
administrator will happily support you.

The system is designed so that Wikipedia can be made as secure as 
possible against not just common vandals, but individuals with an 
agenda to promote, of which there are THOUSANDS. I was offered a 
position as an administrator, but I had to decline, because the 
workload dealing with such problems is massive - but the community of 
people willing to act as administrators is there, and they sincerely 
want to ensure that Wikipedia never, ever, descends into the kind of 
Chaos that Paul seems to think it is.

I would strongly encourage folks like Kleo, or Paul, who have 
obviously had negative experiences on WIkipedia, to look over the big 
"List of Policies" 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:List_of_policies) and see if 
that looks like a system where "anything goes". There is nothing that 
they have not thought of and do not have a policy to deal with - 
ingenious fools may have their day on Wikipedia, but that's ALL they 
get. Ultimately, they will lose, *unless* no one opposes them.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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