Jimmy Wales on Wikipedia Admins

* Part 1 post is on “Wikipedia Admins Abuse.”

I do not have anything against Wikipedia itself [my beef is against the way it's run / policed / (mis)guided by increasingly hostile Wiki Admins].

I was interested to see what Mr. Jimmy Wales (Wiki’s founder) would have to say, about some of the points people have been bringing up about Wikipedia, so I sent him a summarized version of the blog post (part 1), expecting a 50-50 chance of a reply. I had a reply by the end of the day. Will update correspondence if it continues.

I’ve pasted my original email here, since it’ll be easier to read it all at one go.

# # # CORRESPONDENCE WITH JIMMY WALES, WIKI FOUNDER # # #

[Email #1]
from: Jess C Scott

to: jwales[@]wikia.com
date: Tue, Nov 16, 2010 at 7:13 PM
subject: Query: What’s Going On With Wikipedia?

Dear Mr. Wales:

I think the concept of Wikipedia is brilliant — it has however, been compromised by the Wikipedian Administrators, who are becomingly increasingly aggressive and hostile towards “members of the public” without “admin” status.

There are several points which I would like to make, with regards to Wiki’s policies.

Interesting Point #1: Why is an admin granted power? Why are the opinions that they impose upon others more “credible,” when there is no definite way to prove that the admins are credible sources themselves (and yes, according to Wiki’s own guidelines!)? Admins can and should be around to delete obvious, blatant spam, and information that is inaccurate. But to have admins serving their own interests at the expense of others = abuse of power. Which = a serious loss of credibility for Wikipedia.

Interesting Point #2: An indie band or indie writer (anyone/anything independent) could achieve immense success, and contribute immensely valuable and innovative products to society, yet never be considered “notable” enough, because they haven’t been “extensively covered” by the mainstream media. Why should an immensely popular/influential, widely-read and highly-regarded blogger have less power/credibility today, as compared to a journalist who graduated from (insert elitist big name school), and is now working for (insert big name news company / keep in mind that newspapers are going out of business too)?

An indie band/writer could sell a million copies, and still not be on Wiki, and be regarded as “not notable,” as compared to a mainstream band or writer who sold 2,000 copies. In the latter’s case, what matters is that “he/she/they were published!” or “picked up by a major label!” and were therefore “verified by an “authority source!” Which brings us back to the whole point about bureaucracy.

With regards to artistes, the Wiki admins consider notable people to be people that have been either picked up by a major recording label, or publishing house (with regards to musicians, and writers). If you’re not known by the masses, you can’t cut it on Wikipedia. It is completely and conveniently swept under the carpet that the very concept and model of Wikipedia is based on: self-publishing. I find this very hypocritical on the part of the admins who police the website.

I have seen Wiki admins suggest to non-admins to “lobby for consensus” (with regards to the existing guidelines regarding “self-published sources”), if they want to make suggestions to the existing rules of the site. That’s not going to work when the majority of the admins are not open to change anyway (which would stop them from their power-tripping).

Interesting Point #3: Elonka Dunin, one of the “Top 200″ editors of Wikipedia, has been editing her own Wikipedia page (history log).

With regards to Wiki’s policy on “NOTABILITY” (I put “notability” in caps because it’s something the Wiki Admins seem to get very defensive about) — isn’t it against the Wiki guidelines to “self-promote”? If self-published media, such as books, newsletters, personal websites, open wikis, personal or group blogs, Internet forum postings, and tweets, are largely not acceptable as sources — why is Ms. Elonka Dunin’s personal website allowed to be used as an autobiographical reference source on her page? Why has this not been deleted, when other external links on other pages have been, because they pointed to “self-published media”?

I have written a blog post about the matter, and included a group of external links at the end of the post, which voice similar sentiments/concerns.

Best,

Jess.

[Email #2 (reply from Wiki founder)]
from: Jimmy Wales
to: Jess C Scott
cc: jwales[@]wikia.com
date: Tue, Nov 16, 2010 at 9:29 PM
subject: Re: Query: What’s Going On With Wikipedia?
mailed-by: wikia-inc.com

On 11/16/10 7:13 PM, Jess C Scott wrote:

*Interesting Point #1*: Why is an admin granted power? Why are the opinions that they impose upon others more “credible,” when there is no definite way to prove that the admins are credible sources themselves (and yes, according to Wiki’s own guidelines!)? Admins can and should be around to delete obvious, blatant spam, and information that is inaccurate. But to have admins serving their own interests at the expense of others = abuse of power. Which = a serious loss of credibility for Wikipedia.

Can you give me a concrete example of #1?

On your point #2, you seem to have overlooked the hordes of self-promoting spammers of all kinds who would swamp the site if we didn’t have notability guidelines.

*Interesting Point #3*: *Elonka Dunin

I have no opinion about the notability of Elonka Dunin.

[Email #3]
from: Jess C Scott
to: Jimmy Wales
date: Tue, Nov 16, 2010 at 11:07 PM
subject: Re: Query: What’s Going On With Wikipedia?
mailed-by: gmail.com

1) http://deathgleaner.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/why-i-really-hate-wikipedia-administrators-part-ii/ (click here for updated link)

2) “(I seem to be overlooking) the hordes of self-promoting spammers of all kinds who would swamp the site if we didn’t have notability guidelines” = one side of the issue. What about the other side of the issue (see point #3 below)?

3) If you, the founder, have no opinion about the notability of Elonka Dunin (in this instance) — how and why should anyone else have any opinions on the notability guidelines (which I would logically deduce be applied to the notability of Elonka Dunin, as an example)? Why is her self-promotional page allowed to be up on Wiki, while other pages are routinely deleted for not meeting notability guidelines? (some of which do have “credible sources” as references.) If you have no opinion as to whether her page meets notability, are you saying that the admins have more power than you, the founder of Wiki, that none of the admins “dares to delete” a “fellow admin’s” page — but they can do as they wish to non-admins (by pointing them to the maze of Wiki guideline pages, regarding Notability, etc, as you seem to sidestep by saying you have “no opinion”)?

# # # END OF CORRESPONDENCE # # #

Really? “I have no opinion”?

This whole runaround style of handling queries + “hiding behind the policy/ideology of neutrality” highlights how and why the Wiki policies + guidelines = twisted/misguided. This makes Apple kicking Steve Jobs out of his own company in 1985 look sensible.

P.S. Summary of deathgleaner’s (updated) link above — a Wiki admin decided to delete his user page, delete his talk page, block him indefinitely; without contacting him about it. Their reason: “personal attack.” It seems like everything on Wikipedia, etc. is a privilege, which includes editing your own user page, as if someone suddenly comes up to you and says “it’s a privilege to decorate your own house.” Furthermore, blocking should be used as a last resort, not a first option. Apparently admins only respect that when they want to. Another example of how Wikipedia’s “government” has gone to the dogs. Wiki admins and their rules.

Quote to summarize:

Looking over Wikipedia’s Notability Policy, it really seems to be worded just vaguely enough so that it can be interpreted differently depending on how you define “notable”.

Their policy for “speedy deletion” really boils down to making it easy for articles to be removed if an editor agrees with the person who marked said articles for deletion.

This story really highlights the absurdity of bureaucracy (in all cases, not just at Wikipedia). — Grae, Jan 22nd, 2009 @ 3:17pm

* * *

External Links / More Info:

Wikipedia doesn’t need your money – so why does it keep pestering you? (The Register UK)

Revenge, ego and the corruption of Wikipedia (Salon.com)

Wikipedia’s Sexism Toward Female Novelists (NY Times)

Wikipedia Admins Abuse (Part 1, blog post) (Jess C Scott)

WikiLinks: Wiki’s Internal Politics (JCS / jessINK)

JCS: Wikipedia (history of Jess’s Wikipedia page)

A Note To Wiki’s Admin Bullies  (JCS / jessINK)

How Wikipedia Should Be Used / Suggestions for Improvement  (JCS / jessINK)

About Jess C Scott

Author/Artist/Non-Conformist @ www.jessINK.com View all posts by Jess C Scott

15 responses to “Jimmy Wales on Wikipedia Admins

  • Tim King

    Cool post, Jess. I agree WikiPedia is loaded with self-serving content. That’s why I always prefer other content sources, if available. Whenever I read a WikiPedia page, I treat it the same way I would any mainstream media source: “Okay, so it might be true.” For any topic that I actually care about, I might look on WikiPedia for links to other resources, but it’s only one source.

    Ironically, this has little to do with my personal feelings regarding WikiPedia’s admins. Rather, it’s simply that I don’t trust the content on WikiPedia. The answer to inaccurate or misleading speech is more speech. But the way WikiPedia is managed, it restricts this basic remedy. Therefore, it can’t be trusted, not like the Internet at large at least.

    -TimK

    • Jess C Scott

      i agree — i thought that was a problem right from the start too (before i was aware of some of the power-tripping admins).

      Wikipedia “eats up” the smaller websites in Google too (in terms of search results), which can get highly annoying. it’s frequently in the top 1-3 results of a search, and if the content is generally “not to be trusted”…that only increases the annoyance factor ^^

  • Mike Fook

    Thanks for pointing out the hypocrisy of it all Jess. It’s another giant business with no interest in anyone that hasn’t already made it. Just like Google. Just like the publishing industry.

    There’s just no way to get past it – other than make it.

    • Jess C Scott

      i’m okay with Google because they’re progressive and move fast :P i believe they’re not totally driven by corporate greed too, which is refreshing.

      yes, better to work at making it, than spend time arguing with people who tell you you won’t.

  • deathgleaner

    Aww you removed my link :(

  • MA

    Hey Jess,

    Exactly what I was thinking. I also wonder why they care about ‘Notability’ since no self respecting academic institution recognize Wikipedia as a valid source of reference anyway.

    Wikipedia is just like any other social experiment where an elite few is given power over the rest. As in the Stanford prison experiment, you have bias and unethical behaviour.

    Jimmy Wale’s responses were very interesting.

  • Jess C Scott

    hi MA,

    i know! i guess if their biased and unethical behaviour continues to “worsen,” more and more people will write about it / air their views, which would lead to more and more people knowing about it…

    i find his responses interesting in the sense that they’re just like the vague guidelines the admins (ironically?) take as “set in stone” ^^

  • Maury Markowitz

    “Why is an admin granted power? Why are the opinions that they impose upon others more “credible,” when there is no definite way to prove that the admins are credible sources themselves (and yes, according to Wiki’s own guidelines!)? ”

    Such is not the case. Let me assure you that. No one listens to me.

    If you think there’s some sort of “admin club”, in the thin-blue-line fashion, you are sadly mistaken. You are forgiven for believing that though, as the nature of the position self-selects grumpy old men.

    Ask yourself this, could the behaviour you witnessed be explained metaphorically by assuming you wandered into a old men’s club in fishnets and blue hair?

    Exactly.

    • Jess C Scott

      Hi Maury,

      Thanks for your comment. Unless there was a punctuation error, I’m not sure why you would assure someone of something when you follow that with a statement that says “no one listens to [you].” But I still read through your comment in its entirety.

      When I think back to my experience with interacting with Wiki admins, what I remember most was their rude and aggressive behaviour (save for maybe one or two who were “open to other ideas”). Maybe I found it even more unpleasant due to my distaste for bureaucratic incompetence in general. I was (in the end) advised by one of the nice/open-minded admins to “lobby for consensus” — how’s that going to work when most of the admins are more interested in protecting their self-interest? How the admins are selected is not as important as how the admins decide to use their admin status/privileges.

      P.S. While you meant things metaphorically, the last time I had blue dye in my hair *in real life* was more than ten years ago, and I don’t wear fishnet stockings out in public. Not my style ;)

      • Maury Markowitz

        “I’m not sure why you would assure someone of something when you follow that with a statement that says “no one listens to [you].”

        I thought the context was clear, but perhaps not…

        I believe you are constructing a straw man argument to explain something that happened to you. That is, you have a number of fractional bits of information, and have constructed an incorrect image of the underlying reality based on that fragmentary info. You then attack that incorrect image of reality.

        The comment itself is directed at the statement “Why are the opinions that they impose upon others more “credible” My response is that they are not. No one ascribes additional “credibility” to admins. I know this, because I am one, and, as I noted “no one listens to me”

        Does that make sense now? Perhaps it’s better, but I’m not convinced this is the right medium for explanations of this sort…

        “When I think back to my experience with interacting with Wiki admins, what I remember most was their rude and aggressive behaviour”

        Yes, indeed, this is a real issue that effects lots of people. But there are also lots of helpful ones as well.

        What has happened is that the number of disruptive people attacking the Wiki has grown so much that admins are completely overloaded by work trying to erase these attempts at vandalism. So for many admins, simply assuming bad faith is a sad side-effect of the reality of the editing public.

        We complain when the police do things like stop-n-frisk. This is entirely justified – the statistics are clear that the vast majority of people involved are not doing anything that deserves such a direct violation of their privacy. But what if the statistics were different? What if 90% of the people involved were carrying concealed weapons? Would we decry it then?

        So when something on the order of 99% of the edits on the wikipedia are vandalism, you might understand the nature of the problem, and the default reaction on the part of the people who patrol it.

        “Maybe I found it even more unpleasant due to my distaste for bureaucratic incompetence in general”

        I suspect this distaste pre-dates your experience on the Wiki?

        “advised by one of the nice/open-minded admins to “lobby for consensus” — how’s that going to work when most of the admins are more interested in protecting their self-interest”

        This speaks to a deep misunderstanding of how the wiki works. Admins have exactly zero power to overrule other users. Zero. Nada, Zilch. I speak from insider knowledge here.

        What they do have is intimate links to each other. You may wish to call this “bureaucratic”, but I think it is more useful to compare it to a friends list on Facebook. People talk to people that they know, hardly a surprising revelation.

        As a result of this familiarity, issues tend to revolve around these small self-organized groups at a frequency any mere mortal will find difficult to follow. Don’t forget, there are people that spend basically every waking moment editing.

        The advice you were given may not have been clear, but it is good advice…

        This is the essence of my last statement. Culture shock is very real, as you have now experienced. In the limited medium of text postings, any differences, real or imagined, are amplified to levels I would have never imagined a few decades ago. That’s the nature of the game, I suppose.

        But one can deal with this. Remember also that admins who “do admining” (I don’t, really) are easily distracted. Simply do nothing for a few days and you’ll be forgotten. Sad but true.

  • Sidv

    Wikipedai sucks. Wikipedia states that it has entries from people, group and companies but those groups or employees of those companies cannot post or edit entries relating to them.
    I noticed Shaadi dot com entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaadi.com
    Looking at the revision history even a high schooler can figure out it is being constantly edited by company employees and its SEO agents. When I tried to add an external link to it, I was banned. Is it not discrimination or a nonsense from Wiipedia admins who have no clue what they are doing???? Here is the revision history from Wikipedia

    (cur | prev) 10:53, 4 July 2012‎ Seoamitverma14(talk | contribs)‎ . . (7,755 bytes) (-61)‎ . . (→‎External links) (undo)
    (cur | prev) 10:52, 4 July 2012‎ Seoamitverma14(talk | contribs)‎ . . (7,816 bytes) (0)‎ . . (→‎External links) (undo)
    (cur | prev) 10:51, 4 July 2012‎ Seoamitverma14(talk | contribs)‎ . . (7,816 bytes) (+128)‎ . . (→‎External links) (undo)
    (cur | prev) 09:28, 4 July 2012‎ Seoamitverma14(talk | contribs)‎ . . (7,688 bytes) (-4)‎ . . (→‎External links) (undo)
    (cur | prev) 09:28, 4 July 2012‎ Seoamitverma14(talk | contribs)‎ . . (7,692 bytes) (+58)‎ . . (→‎External links) (undo)
    (cur | prev) 06:26, 7 June 2012‎ 203.197.78.162(talk)‎ . . (7,634 bytes) (+4,830)‎ . . (undo)
    (cur | prev) 08:52, 7 April 2012‎ Mean as custard(talk | contribs)‎ . . (2,804 bytes) (-1,462)‎ . . (revert to less blatantly promotional version) (undo)
    (cur | prev) 07:02, 3 April 2012‎ People Interactive(talk | contribs)‎ . . (4,266 bytes) (+3)‎ . . (undo)
    (cur | prev) 07:01, 3 April 2012‎ People Interactive(talk | contribs)‎ . . (4,263 bytes) (+56)‎ . . (undo)
    (cur | prev) 06:59, 3 April 2012‎ People Interactive(talk | contribs)‎ . . (4,207 bytes) (+1)‎ . . (undo)
    (cur | prev) 06:58, 3 April 2012‎ People Interactive(talk | contribs)‎ . . (4,206 bytes) (+393)‎ . . (undo)
    (cur | prev) 06:56, 3 April 2012‎ People Interactive(talk | contribs)‎ . . (3,813 bytes) (+99)‎ . . (undo)
    (cur | prev) 06:48, 3 April 2012‎ People Interactive(talk | contribs)‎ . . (3,714 bytes) (-26)‎ . . (undo)
    (cur | prev) 06:47, 3 April 2012‎ People Interactive(talk | contribs)‎ . . (3,740 bytes) (+835)‎ . . (undo)
    (cur | prev) 06:44, 3 April 2012‎ 125.99.112.110(talk)‎ . . (2,905 bytes) (+101)‎ . . (→‎External links) (undo)
    (cur | prev) 06:45, 9 March 2012‎ Rahulmothiya(talk | contribs)‎ . . (2,804 bytes) (0)‎ . . (link update) (undo)
    (cur | prev) 07:51, 19 January 2012‎ Ankit Maity(talk | contribs)‎ . . (2,804 bytes) (+1)‎ . . (undo)

    • Jess C Scott

      hi Sidv,

      yes, the rules are kind of bureaucratic and more conducive to the admins than visitors/contributors. my guess is that you were banned because your ID name appears closely related to the Shaadi dot com website (yes, “appearance” is very important!).

      i’ve seen certain external links stay on (to people’s facebook or twitter pages, etc), even though those are technically not supposed to be under external links (if following the rules).

      i don’t think it’s necessarily to do with discrimination. more so Wiki admins who think they are masters of the universe.

      • Sidv

        You are right my ID name appear closely related to shaadi dot com. And no, it is not external links in the Shaadi dot com, it is whole posting which is blatant advertisement by shaadi dot com. Shaadi dot com is a subsidiary of People Interactive. Take a look at the revision history, most of the revisionsa re by People Interactive and a SEO agent Seoamitverma14. The links points to Shaadi com Registration page. The first sentence gives a feeling that it is abot arranged marriage in India but after two sentences it take a turn does blatant advertisement for Shaadi dot com.
        It may not discrimination, but it maybe, because I went through revision history of external links and notcied a couple of entries from external links were deleted in 2008 for advertisement reasons, but shaadi dot com is still there. So, it depends how you look at it. In my opinion discrimination is to allow one but deny others same priviledges. Please note, I have nothing to with the entries which were deleted in 2008 or shaadi dot com.

  • Wikipedia Admins Abuse | Jess C Scott :: Author, Non-conformist, Artist

    […] * Part 1 post: Rude and aggressive Wiki admins; a rant backed up by reliable sources. […]

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