Sunday, September 9, 2012

Wikipedia sucks #3786289267287292827262724251

>>Award-winning American author Phillip Roth has complained over being referred to as not "a credible source" when he tried to change a Wikipedia page about one of his own novels. Roth, 79, wanted an assertion about the origins of his novel "The Human Stain" removed, but was told by the collaboratively edited internet encyclopedia that additional sources would be needed to make the change.

Ultimately, the author resorted to writing an open letter to Wikipedia, which was published in The New Yorker.

“Dear Wikipedia. I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel The Human Stain. The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed,” The Telegraph quoted Roth, as writing.

“This item entered Wikipedia not from the world of truthfulness but from the babble of literary gossip – there is no truth in it at all,” the letter added.

In his 2,600-word letter, Roth then recounted how, when he tried to get the entry changed, he was told by an "English Wikipedia Administrator" in a letter "that I, Roth, was not a credible source".

He said the administrator told him: "I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work, but we require secondary sources.”

The Wikipedia page for the book has now been amended to include a lengthy extract from Roth's open letter, it said.<< [Hindustan Times]

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that several years ago I had a run in with Wikipedia, when I briefly tried to tangle with some bullying trolls and their sock puppets that had hijacked the Janet Frame article.

I was accused of "Conflict of Interest" and yet I knew for a fact that two of the anonymous editors had greater conflicts of interest than I did. They were just being deceitful about theirs.

I gathered IP evidence for sock puppetry but Wikipedia admins were spectacularly unhelpful, as was the relevant Department in the University that the sock puppet edits were traced to.

The Janet Frame article is still appallingly biased and inaccurate, patronising and incomplete. For instance you are told of exploitative and despicable fan fiction about Frame that masquerades as authoritative but you are not given details about recent Frame publications.

Her actual writing is not of much interest it seems, in fact one of the key editors has gone out of his way to downplay the reception of her work. The article has a prurient focus on relationship and medical history and has glaring omissions from her life story.  The slant is sexist, and the comments history clearly shows a deep personal hostility towards the Frame estate. The article and the discussions have regularly featured libellous statements.

I was personally harassed and hounded away from the site in very short order. I didn't linger (even though some troll or other tried to claim that I did). The only rational response if you encounter trolls is to leave quickly without looking back. That's my policy anyway. Life's too short to waste time arguing with someone who is too cowardly to reveal themselves.

So the Janet Frame article is rotten to the core, and it has the stench of the discourse disseminated by Frame's known detractors to it. Of course they have a "conflict of interest" as much as her fans are suspected to have, but they don't have the ethics to admit it.

So, no fans allowed. No success allowed. No agency, no personal ambition and achievement. All this is apparently a whitewash.

It is of no interest that Frame first published poetry while at primary school, and belonged to debating teams. It is of interest that two gossip columnists complained that her posthumous poetry volume won a prize.

Fortunately it seems Philip Roth has the clout to have achieved some sort of satisfaction. As a live author, he could sue, I guess. Dead authors have no such luck. It's open season on them. Just make anything up, even a novel, and Wikipedia will treat that source as more valid than your own work.

I can see that the more people that take an interest in, and edit an article, the more genuinely authoritative it might become because of discussion in good faith. Perhaps there could be an index of reliability based on the number of editors making substantial honest edits and justifying them. The Janet Frame article would fail badly on that score. (There are plenty of drive-by tweaks to  punctuation or making minor adjustments to fit global templates, so it might look like there are plenty of editors, but there are not.)

And what does Wikipedia do when there is bad faith? They don't seem to care, as long as the troll that has commandeered an article seems to follow their spoken and unspoken 'rules'.

It's a failed model, and it fails because Wikipedia admins don't seem to be willing or able to weed out the psychopaths, the hidden enemies, and the false operators who do not declare their agendas.

Lots of good comments on the New Yorker site. Eg:

"Wikipedia was once a great site, but it has been ruined by too many overzealous editors who all try to hold on to their little self-defined fiefdoms. It is no longer about the truth; it is about getting through the gatekeepers of each individual page. These gatekeepers tend to be white males between the ages of 22 and 42, at least in my experience."

"You should see what Wikipedia has done to Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". It's like some odd bowdlerized CliffNote composition by a ninth grader."

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