The last couple of posts have followed my adventures and occasional frustrations with the Wikipedia editing process. I should emphasize that the point of these posts has not been to suggest that there's anything fundamentally wrong with Wikipedia or that I am particularly annoyed with the site or its policies. I love Wikipedia and use it daily. So. That said, I received a long and friendly response (scroll to bottom) from a Wikipedia editor called TheDJ. Here it is, with a few brief responses of mine in bold:*
I read your post with utmost interest (Why I added it to the Signpost). The same with the Beiderbecke entry btw. I have some comments that I'd love to share with you in response. I hope they will give you some more understanding.
"for editors "it's almost more like an online game""
I guess you could say that. For most people this is a hobby. A hobby is about having fun. Games are about having fun. The diverse nature of Wikipedia gives everyone something to do, whatever their interest might be.
At the risk of repeating myself, I didn't say that! An employee of Wikipedia said that. Okay, fine. But I think there's something really interesting about this idea of Wikipedia as a hobby, as something to do just for fun. I mean, I certainly did it because it was fun. I'm such a dork, I actually enjoy stacking my books on the kitchen table and using them to write long articles! At the same time, it's not a game. A game is an end in itself. Fun is the point. With Wikipedia, though, you're creating a product, and that's the point. Having fun is great, but you're providing information for people. Maybe it's because I'm in the profession, but I take that very seriously.
A delay before a GA review takes place is normal, as we have a serious lack of editors with the capability set required to do such reviews. Backlogs are common.
Pilcha might not be so strict on his own spelling in conversation, but he has actually written and corrected multiple articles with great accuracy. You have to realize that when you try to summarize a comment in a hurry (not uncommon), you are quick to make errors. People loose track of their line of thought for instance. In the article you would reread and correct those issues. In a discussion you don't generally do this in the same way.
This is not a question of accuracy or of spelling errors; it's a question of the most basic level of coherence. You're right: in a discussion, one writes more informally than in an encyclopedia article. I get that. The tone of this blog post is not the tone of my book. In both cases, however, I'm still communicating. I'm still under an obligation to make myself understood. Once I have accomplished that, the degree to which I further scrub my writing clean of any spelling or grammatical errors is the degree to which it's important to me that my audience takes take me seriously. Of course, when the task at hand is editing, and when many of us are (or were) anonymous, with no means of expressing our competence other than by writing clear & clean prose, then it's very important. In fact, if we can agree that Wikipedia is a project worth making better, then perhaps we can also agree that we shouldn't be so quick to excuse basic incoherence.
You dove right in !!! I admire that because what you did is INCREDIBLY difficult. For most people it takes years to get to grips with the peculiarities of encyclopedia writing and especially Wikipedia which adds its own set of rules. However it did make you bypass some of the experience building that is required to fully get a grip of the community and it's rules. Had you started with smaller edits in more articles before diving into a full rewrite of a single article, you might have had a better idea of what to expect at GA.
You got angry over what someone said :D I just love that. It's so indicative of the nature of the Internet discussion. Haste, emotion, subtlety all vanish so quickly in Internet conversation. This is a common problem. People feel attacked, often for no good reason. The key is to keep talking, explain and sometimes just ignore.
It only seems strange that I would get "angry over what someone said" if you don't mention what it was that someone said. I got angry, of course, because the hard work I had put into writing and editing a long article was being critiqued by a self-described "ignoramus" who had a habit of writing impossibly opaque prose that called my ethics into question by using words like "dishonesty" and "responsibility." Of course, haste is a good excuse for you if the problem is writing stuff that doesn't make sense; it is not, apparently, a good excuse for getting angry over having to deal with said writing that doesn't make sense. I just love that. :D **
About the photograph. I checked the review. The reviewer suggested the image should go due to copyright concerns and because of the debate. You countered with a citation removing one of the concerns. The concern of the copyright question remained however. If the family had only first published the photo in the 1980s for instance, the photo would still be under copyright for 50 years, which means that it is currently not allowed to be hosted or published in Wikipedia unfortunately. We are rather strict on those kinds of issues, and even more strict for our Good and Featured articles. Had there been no copyright concern, your citation would likely have been enough to keep the image in the article.
All in all your experience is a wonderful insight into the professional doing his best to fit into an Internet community, with all the expected problems such an effort creates. I hope you have gained understanding in the commonalities and differences between an Encyclopedia and Wikipedia. I also hope that you have found understanding for the incredible difficult process of vetting an article written by an anonymous person of unknown professionalism by other editors that are anonymous and of unknown professionalism.
Perhaps instead of professionalism you meant credentials. We may not know each other's credentials, but by acting professionally—which is to say, by writing clear prose all the time, by taking the hobby seriously, and by assuming that being an "ignoramus in jazz" doesn't does disqualify you from passing judgment on a long article about jazz—then we don't need to know each other's credentials.
The process of getting an article from stub or start to a GA or Featured article is an incredibly complicated one that only few editors can succeed at. This is the challenge for the future of Wikipedia. Writing simple articles is easy to do. Writing well written articles on subjects that require extensive library time is a whole different beast and takes much more time to accomplish. Thank you for your online and public reflections.
And thank you for the response.
* TheDJ's response came formatted with various levels of bullet points, all properly indented. I would reproduce that here except that this Typepad platform seems to be just riddled with bugs. To format is, apparently, to put your entire post at risk. OK. End of whine.
** Okay, that was rude. I apologize.