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January 15, 2010


amy c.

Brendan, Wikipedia is a form of mental illness. Last summer, my friend and erstwhile sparring partner Henry Gee posted something on his blog about his outrage at Wikipedia's barring him from editing his own unauthorized wiki, and inviting friends to scribble moustaches on it. We promptly did, and as I recall -- it'll still be there in the edit history -- I had him involved with Anthony Bourdain in some sort of rodent gastrobestiality. With citations and footnotes, of course.

We were promptly set up on by -- do you remember the spiders in the movie of Minority Report? Remember the complete and utter absence of humor? That's Wikipedia editors. So I have since contented myself with looking out for documentable "fuck you"s, like the Schwarzenegger-veto/Ammiano affair, and being the anti-Holden on Wikipedia whenever possible.

Brendan Wolfe

The hive mentality does not always produce intelligence, I guess. What strikes me about Wikipedia -- it's a strength, but christ is it also a weakness -- is the presumption that anyone can be an editor. Even should be an editor. ("Be bold!" is the Orwellian rallying cry of Wiki-types.) And while I recognize the element of self-justification, economic and otherwise, implicit in this argument, but NOOOOO!

Jill Hofmockel

And then I found five dollars is my new favorite thing. I think it will quickly replace 'Just Saying.'


I was hoping you could more into this part:

"How could I put so much of my self-esteem into the approval of some anonymous unpaid Wiki editor? I don't know, but I did."

Surely there was something you wanted to accomplish.

Brendan Wolfe

G, thanks for the comment. What I wanted to accomplish was first, learn the Wiki process, and second, improve the Bix Beiderbecke article. I also was curious to learn whether any of the choices I made in writing the article would provoke annoyance or disagreement among Bixophiles. (It didn't.) While I hadn't set out to learn about Bix -- I was satisfied that I already knew the basics -- I did, in fact, learn plenty. So that was nice.

As for why "I put so much of my self-esteem into the approval of some anonymous unpaid Wiki editor" -- I guess it's not really surprising. You spend many, many hours writing something and, if you're like me, you crave some recognition of that fact. A reporter might get a pat on the back from an editor and then a letter from some happy or enraged reader. A freelance writer collects a paycheck. A blogger receives comments. Authors of books rack up sales and get phone calls from their mothers. But the Wiki editor gets ... what?

So the GA Review process was appealing on the level of serving as some kind of recognition for the trouble of having worked on the article. By "recognition," however, I don't mean a rubber stamp. My frustrations with the process, such as they are, do not imply that my work is above criticism, and I readily accepted all the changes suggested by the subsequent reviewer.

Thanks again for the comment.

Glenda Childress

Anyone who misspells "concise" as "consise" that many times has no editor cred. That's like a surgeon having a very dull scalpel. Words are the editor's tools.

Sorry, Philcha, but, judging from your syntax, grammar, and spelling, your degree (regardless of what it is) needs to be revoked.

Colin Howell

In fairness to Philcha, it should be pointed out that he was apparently suffering from a medical problem which was affecting his writing. During the review, he eventually passed the task to another editor named "Geometry guy", after having left him the following message:

"I'm very sorry, I am ill - I can read words but cannot write (I often write gibberish), and most of this post is pasted words found in other places. The GA Reviews I started for others will need to be done by others ... "

Brendan Wolfe

Colin, I appreciate you making that point. My original post was not intended to attack Philcha personally so much as express some frustration and confusion with the whole experience. That confusion is hardly cleared up by the idea of someone not being able to write but still being able to cut and paste words from other places.

That said, what I've found interesting since then is the number of people invested in defending the incoherence of that earlier review as either not incoherent or as a more or less benign function of Wikipedia. As Glenda suggests, clear writing ought to be a given, not a luxury under such circumstances.

Still, the greater and more important point, as you emphasize, is that Wikipedia self-corrected. Thanks for your comment.

Colin Howell

You're welcome. I quite agree that the original review was incoherent, and it must have been very frustrating for you. It seems clear that the guy should have asked for help sooner, rather than trying to continue when he obviously wasn't in a state to do a proper job.

Mostly I just wanted to explain the situation to other commenters who seemed to believe that the reviewer always writes like that, which seems not to be the case. (I've never interacted with him, by the way.)

Depending on the cause, I would imagine that it might be quite terrifying to be in a condition where you can read but are unable to write without generating gibberish.


Please learn how to spell the word "concise", dear professional writer guy. Or get Firefox, which has a spellchecker.

Brendan Wolfe

With all respect, Anonymous Commenter Guy, "Consise" in the post's headline was meant as a play on the persistent misspelling of the Bix article's reviewer. I'm sorry you didn't get the reference.

The comments to this entry are closed.


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