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The island of misfit Wikipedia articles

September 26, 2007

I am bereft. My smiley face emoticon has turned into a frowny face emoticon. Why this sudden bout of melancholy? I'll tell you why: I have just realized that the Wikipedia Deletionists have taken their machetes to my all-time favorite Wikipedia article. Yes, Montahue Jetson, the grandfather of George Jetson, has lost his place in The Free Encyclopedia That Anyone Can Edit Except You. The link that once led to Montahue's homely little spot in The Sum of All Human Knowledge now dumps you unceremoniously into the general entry for the Jetsons.

Gone. Without a trace. Forever. (OK, not quite without a trace.)

I was at a conference yesterday, and during lunch the conversation turned, as it is wont to do in these darkening days, to the Mighty Wik. What was interesting is that people seemed most enthusiastic about the more esoteric, arcane, and, yes, trivial of Wikipedia's entries. Here, at last, was a place where they could dig up information about some half-remembered local landmark in their hometown, some obscure fiddle player that they once saw at a nightclub in Dubuque, some minor character in a silly cartoon. Sure, it's nice to have a free source of paraphrased, moderately accurate information on notable subjects, but what was unique about Wikipedia was the detritus, all the little bits of informational chaff that the long-tail-hating Deletionist cabal is now so intent on sweeping out of existence.

Here's an idea. You know that great old TV version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - the one with the Bumble and the skinny Santa? Remember how Rudolph and that dentist-wannabe elf ended up on the Island of Misfit Toys? Why not have an Island of Misfit Wikipedia Articles? Every time an article is deleted it would automatically be moved over to the IoMWA site rather than just being disappeared. I'm sure there must be smart people out there who could hack together such a thing pretty quickly.

Join the cause! The Wikipedia article you save could be your own.


Someone has tried something like this at http://wikidumper.blogspot.com/

From the tag line:
WikiDumper: The Official Appreciation Page for the Best of the Wikipedia Rejects. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” (Edited by Cliff Pickover.)

Posted by: tom s. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 26, 2007 03:55 PM

Wikipedia has consistently failed to take advantage of the one universally better aspect of an electronic encyclopedia vs. a hardcopy: you never run out of room.

If something exists, and someone wants to write about it, and it isn't spam, there is no reason to reject it as a topic, except for tin-pot microdictators exercising their Mighty Whim.

Posted by: Michael Moncur [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 26, 2007 08:00 PM

Well, there's always the option to fork, and ask al the Inclusionists to join you, is there?

Posted by: Bertil [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 27, 2007 12:06 AM


"The 8 Most Needlessly Detailed Wikipedia Entries"


8. List of Ancient Jedi

7. List of 7th Heaven Episodes


Posted by: Seth Finkelstein [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 27, 2007 10:15 AM

Yeah, I don't get it at all.

Given that Wikipedia is search driven (both site search and organic Google / Yahoo / MSN search) as opposed to browse or index driven (does anybody browse Wikipedia?), the presence of a trivial article in no way detracts from or interferes with the site's significant / mainstream articles.

As long as the search engines are able to spider all the content and point directly to the relevant article, there's no "cluttering up" factor.

Also, given that Wikipedia dominates organic search for whatever crazy article that gets slapped up there, they would seem to be deleting / limiting countless new entry points into the site - needlessly cutting off their own (long) tail so to speak.

It's odd. In the absence of any business or logical reason to limit the site's entries, you have to think this is about making Wikipedia's relatively small number of everyday editors feel more useful / powerful.

And that wouldn't seem to be a very good reason at all.

Posted by: lawrence [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 27, 2007 04:14 PM

Nick: While you have valid points, in this particular case, you did not dig deep enough. The three-sentence old Montahue Jetson article was turned into a "redirect" by a non-administrator. You could undo that change if you feel like it. I note that the user, Usre:Pufnstuf, did not bother to merge the information into the larger the larger Jetsons article, but somebody has done that in a single additional sentence. When it comes to having a series of really short articles (stubs) or one big one (assuming it is well-organized) it is merely a matter of style.

Wikipedia's user interface sucks when it comes to examining deletion issues. Why they cannot just create a view into deleted articles and disclaim that "all this info should be treated as false" is beyond me. If they did so, it would let people examine old deleted articles more easily. Why they still have not added such a feature is probably a matter of a wrong-headed design decision in MediaWiki made years ago and it not high on the priority list of new features to work on. Oh, that and, of course, the egos of admins who get their rocks off on have some additional "knowledge" advantage over regular users. archive.org does go some way towards letting you look at older versions of deleted articles, but obviously it is a paltry consolation prize.

Despite its sucky user interface, you can try to find out why some article got whacked via the AfD. For instance, here is a a quick browse to AfD's starting with "Seth" to try to understand why Seth Finkelstein's biography got deleted. It seems like the deciding factor was that, in September 2006, he wrote an article called I'm on Wikipedia, get me out of here. These ego-obsessed admins, like Jimmy, are still rather sensitive to bad press and, based on his AfD, that was the deciding factor.

As I have pointed out elsewhere, these deletionists are not helpful. They seem to need to canonize themselves as latter-day a St. George and as defenders of the project and rip into the work of others. It is a page straight out of The Little Red Hen. These busybody deletionists will gladly trash your work, pontificate and condemn you (all very easy jobs) but they will rarely lift a finger to collaborate and actually improve an article. Primarily, they sit there and criticize, often taking more time to explain what they do not like about an article rather that just fixing the article (assuming it is an article with a valid subject). But the moment you go and improve an article (and maybe save it from an AfD) and hit "Save" (thus giving up your rights to your work, which you did for free anyway), they (starting with Jimmy Wales) are ever-ready to go and implicitly take full credit for whatever quality improvement occurred in the name of "protecting" your work from your further edits. Try to add any balancing points of view or facts that they simply do not like, and suddenly the jargon comes out that implies that you are everything short of the Devil incarnate.

A little joke: some insiders in Wikipedia are into Objectivism and are anti-Scientology. I do not care much about either, one way or the other, but I am amused by the coincidence that Little Red Hen and L. Ron Hubbard have the same initials.

Posted by: SallyF [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2007 05:16 PM

Oh, I got one of my links wrong. The "browsing" I was talking about for browsing all AfD's but starting at those starting with "Seth", you could use this link. If you only wanted to see AfD's starting with the prefix Seth and no others, you could use this link. And if you go to Seth F. article then there is a link titled "deletion log" that helps to some degree if you keep on digging. But what a pain. Most people just want to see the old article, history and all. But, "tee hee", only admins can. So childish.

Posted by: SallyF [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2007 08:38 PM

Seth: That list from cracked.com of overly-detailed articles was somewhat amusing, but it is ironic that a possible remedy to it, a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Categories_for_discussion/Log/2007_June_2#Category:Articles_that_are_too_long>category for articles that are too long was discarded in June since the notion of anything being "too long" or too anything is POV. To be fair, Wikipedia still does have a template or "tag" called "Verylong" that fulfills this function but, of course, the set of article made fun of by cracked.com and those of mainspace articles and talk pages so tagged seem to have no overlap. You never known though. Some publicity-sensitive editor at Wikipedia might go and tag the 8 just to prove me wrong and then some hard-core insider with untag, maybe accusing the tagger of being my sockpuppet or meatpuppet (i.e. my proxy) and then and we might start an amusing little edit war over there. Who knows....the observer effect runs strong over at that place.

Posted by: SallyF [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 7, 2007 11:31 PM

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