Terrance Heath

Wikipedia: Somebody That I Used to Know

Filed By Terrance Heath | September 24, 2012 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: LGBT hate crimes, Wikipedia

Have you every had a break up so bad that you want so little to do with the other person that, to borrow a lyric from Gotye, you’re tempted to “have your friends collect your records, and then change your number”?

Ever had a breakup so bad that when your ex calls to tell you that if you that he/she is going to throw out the few belonging you left behind, when you ran screaming into the night, if you don’t come and get them? And you find that you’re loathing of them is so deep, and you’re desire to never breath the same air as them again so strong that you find yourself saying, “Throw it out. Burn it for all I care. Just leave me alone”?

Yeah? Well that’s kind of what’s happened between me and Wikipedia.

See, I had a big break-up with Wikipedia, when I started a project creating entries on hate crime against LGBT individuals, only to run afoul of Wikipedia’s notoriously elastic and subjective “notability” guidelines. after having a few articles deleted, I started my own freestanding site where I could research and write-up all the hate crimes I wanted to, and I never looked back, having determined that the hate crimes I wanted to chronicle fell outside of Wikipedia’s guidelines.

Articles about criminal acts,[5] particularly those that fall within the category of “breaking news”, are frequently the subject of deletion discussions. As with other events, media coverage can confer notability on a high-profile criminal act, provided such coverage meets the above guidelines and those regarding reliable sources.

The disappearance of a person would fall under this guideline if law enforcement agencies deemed it likely to have been caused by criminal conduct, regardless of whether a perpetrator is identified or charged. If a matter is deemed notable, and to be a likely crime, the article should remain even if it is subsequently found that no crime occurred (e.g., the Runaway bride case) since that would not make the matter less notable.

victims would never be deemed worthy of note by Wikipedia’s standards.

A person who is known only in connection with a criminal event or trial should not normally be the subject of a separate Wikipedia article if there is an existing article that could incorporate the available encyclopedic material relating to that person.

Where there is such an existing article, it may be appropriate to create a sub-article, but only if this is necessitated by considerations of article size.

Where there are no appropriate existing articles, the criminal or victim in question should be the subject of a Wikipedia article only if one of the following applies:

For victims, and those wrongly convicted of crime

  1. The victim or person wrongly convicted, consistent with WP:BLP1E had a large role within a well-documented historic event. The historic significance is indicated by persistent coverage of the event in reliable secondary sources that devote significant attention to the individual’s role.[8]

Most of the crimes I researched were hardly “well-documented historic events,” nor could the victims be said to have taken part in such events. Most of the stories never rose above local media. Indeed, that made many of them harder to document, because the articles about them quickly disappeared by behind the paywalls of local media outlet’s online archives. I used my web-research skills to tease out the details and identify sources I could cite and use to document each crime.

My goal was to bring exposure to a broader spectrum of LGBT hate crimes and victims than typically receive national media attention. My mistake was thinking that Wikipedia was an open, community site to which anyone could contribute. An online, crowd-sourced encyclopedia was a great way to get around the gatekeepers and space-limitations that would have precluded inclusion of such entries elsewhere.

It turned out, Wikipedia had and has its own gatekeepers -- and apparently its own space issues, having hit the 3 million article mark.

One of those who has spent his time studying what happens on Wikipedia is Ed H Chi, a scientist who works at the Palo Alto Research Center (Parc) in California. His team, the Augmented Social Cognition group, wanted to understand what was happening on the website in order to build better collaborative software.

... Chi’s team discovered that the way the site operated had changed significantly from the early days, when it ran an open-door policy that allowed in anyone with the time and energy to dedicate to the project. Today, they discovered, a stable group of high-level editors has become increasingly responsible for controlling the encyclopedia, while casual contributors and editors are falling away. Wikipedia - often touted as the bastion of open knowledge online - has become, in Chi’s words, “a more exclusive place”.

One of the measures the Parc team looked at was how often a user’s edit succeeds in sticking. “We found that if you were an elite editor, the chance of your edit being reverted was something in the order of 1% - and that’s been very consistent over time from around 2003 or 2004,” he says.

Meanwhile, for those who did not invest vast amounts of time in editing, the experience was very different. “For editors that make between two and nine edits a month, the percentage of their edits being reverted had gone from 5% in 2004 all the way up to about 15% by October 2008. And the ‘onesies’ - people who only make one edit a month - their edits are now being reverted at a 25% rate,” Chi explains.

In other words, a change by a casual editor is more likely than ever to be overturned, while changes by the elite are rarely questioned. “To power users it feels like Wikipedia operates in the way it always has - but for the newcomers or the occasional users, they feel like the resistance in the community has definitely changed.”

While Chi points out that this does not necessarily imply causation, he suggests it is concrete evidence to back up what many people have been saying: that it is increasingly difficult to enjoy contributing to Wikipedia unless you are part of the site’s inner core of editors.

I went my own way. I stopped contributing further to Wikipedia. I stopped checking up on my entries, since I’d rescued them and posted them on my own site. I rarely even used my login. No need, since I use the site simply as a link source these days.

So I was surprised to see an email from Wikipedia in my inbox, saying that my user “Talk” page had been edited. I logged in and found this message from an editor named “Brookie,” titled “A sad story but how is it noteable [sic]? Not all murders are.”

While all contributions to Wikipedia are appreciated, content or articles may be deleted for any of several reasons.

You may prevent the proposed deletion by removing the {{proposed deletion/dated}} notice, but please explain why in your edit summary or on the article’s talk page.

Please consider improving the article to address the issues raised. Removing {{proposed deletion/dated}} will stop the proposed deletion process, but other deletion processes exist. In particular, the speedy deletion process can result in deletion without discussion, and articles for deletion allows discussion to reach consensus for deletion.

The same message was attached to entries about Jason Gage, Nireah Johnson, Ronnie Paris, Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, Rebecca Wright and Claudia Brenner, Glen Kopitske, Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill, Richie Phillips, Nizah Morris (once featured on the front page of Wikipedia), and Arthur Warren. Of course, given the criteria above, no amount of editing will make the crimes I’ve researched, or the victims, “notable” enough for Wikipedia. (Though maybe it would help to mention that at least a couple were featured on TV crime shows.)

At this point, I have no more use for Wikipedia than it does for me. Wikipedia can keep my stuff, throw it our, or burn it for all I care. We’re through. WikiQueer, here I come.

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