6/02/2007

WHEN THE WIKI WARDENS BUTT HEADS

By now, you've probably come across Wikipedia.org, the online encyclopedia that anyone can contribute to and a group of Wikipedia editors maintain. It's a fantastic resource with millions of entries on a huge range of subjects. Search in Google about a well-known event or person and you're likely to find a Wikipedia entry at the top of the search results returned.

But what makes a wiki article worthy of a Wikipedia entry? Who is to say whether an event put on here in New Zealand shouldn't be recorded for posterity amid the entries of Wikipedia? Well, it would seem the editors of Wikipedia are able to make that call as Juha Saarinen and Russell Brown have been discovering.

The pair put together a posting about the Kiwi Foo Camp that took place last weekend in Warkworth and by all accounts I've read, was a worthy and somewhat historic event. I'd have thought it was a sitter for a Wiki entry but it seems some Wikipedia readers took exception to the article, which they considered spam and blatant advertising. They requested that the article be deleted. This has led to an involved discussion about the formal process at Wikipedia when there's disagreement over what should be included.

In this case it looks like the opposition is on the basis that Kiwi Foo Camp is an off-shoot of the American Foo Camp which was founded by publisher and businessman Tim O'Reilly, hence could be seen as advertising a commercial enterprise. However, if that methodology is applied to Wikipedia, thousands of other listings would immediately be deemed worthy of deletion.

Brands, companies and commercial events are everywhere and form an important part of the world we live in and Wikipedia reflects this. Obviously, with Wikipedia's exposure to the world audience so extensive, individuals, organisations and companies are eager to appear in it. Obviously, the line has to be drawn somewhere. It seems reasonable to have an entry about Coca Cola or Intel, well-known companies with histories well worth being recorded. But there doesn't appear to be any good reason why there should be an entry about my own company Time Safari Ltd, and I'd expect any submitted entry to be flagged for deletion.

But what when the line is finer, when Wikipedia is dealing with very recent events or unknown companies that nevertheless, have contributed to history in some small way? This is where the debate over the Kiwi Foo Camp entry comes in and it is good that the disputes process around entries has been clarified through the discussion.

I'm in agreement with the poster who added this to the discussion:

"I am interested at what happened at Kiwi Foo Camp. There was a body of knowledge created there and this is an appropriate place to record it. I want to read about it, and I wasn't invited :-) I'm amazed at the cut-throat action against new pages, I've never seen this before. Bwooce 01:40, 6 February 2007 (UTC)"

The entry will probably get to stay, once the silliness recedes, but this is a problem we're going to come across more often as new entries are added to Wikipedia and there is debate about what exactly is worthy of being recorded. There will always be a level of subjectivity involved - we all have different ideas of what should be "on the record". The Wikipedia listing and disputes process has to be watertight to ensure the integrity of the entire venture is maintained.

1 comment:

Russell Brown said...

Hi Peter,

The people concerned didn't request the article be deleted, they just deleted with no discussion, ignoring the tag that indicated we needed to talk about it. It was quite bizarre, but hopefully it will turn out alright.

BTW, nice-looking blog you have here ...

Cheers,
RB