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Wikipedians vs. Bloggers

Wikipedia is an incredibly useful research tool.  It can be wrong; articles can be badly written; it is sometimes hacked and sometime manipulated.  All of those occasional annoyances are trivial given the advantages of scope and currency which Wikipedia has.  But Wikipedia is somewhat schizophrenic when it comes to blogs.

[Note: If you’re not familiar with Wikipedia, go here and look something up as you would in any encyclopedia.  Then look something else up.  You’ll be amazed.  Even more so when you realize that Wikipedia articles are posted by volunteers – often anonymously – and, with several small exceptions, anyone can post an article and anyone can edit any article anyone posted.  Somehow it works almost all of the time.  Obviously, NO source, online or offline, should be trusted all the time and without verification.]

Wikipedia is particularly useful to bloggers since it’s there, available, as we compose online AND because we link to Wikipedia articles (although we CAN’T be sure they won’t change between the time we cite them and the time our readers follow the link to them).  I know there is a big overlap between those who read blogs and those who use Wikipedia; I suspect there is also a large overlap between those who write and comment on blogs and those who post or correct articles on Wikipedia.

But Wikipedia is somewhat schizophrenic when it comes to blogs.

I realized this shortly after I created a Wikipedia article on advisory capital (a term Stowe Boyd introduced and many blogs are discussing) when the article suddenly disappeared.  “WTF?” I asked myself.

Turns out that it was “speedy deleted” by a Wikipedia editor (there is such a thing – something like a sysop on a message board used to be). The reason given was “lack of context” which basically means the topic was made up out of the blue. The deleted article list pointed to the deleted article policy which told me how to appeal a deletion. I did.

The process is interesting. I posted an appeal. Other people agreed that the article did not qualify for SPEEDY deletion but, because it was based on blogs, might also not qualify for retention. By consensus, they decided to resurrect the article but put it on the list of articles which are proposed for deletion. The decision was that there had been a process error but perhaps not a substantive one.

The article came back. Immediately there were a couple of recommendations for its deletion, this time with due process. Grounds this time are that the term is a neologism – a made up word. Neologisms are allowed when there is evidence (search engines allowed) that they are actually in somewhat widespread use. New words often start as neologism – Wikipedia lists both “blackhole” and “neologism” as example of respectable words which began life as neologisms.

Of course, I cited the hundreds of references to the term which can be found in both Google and Technorati but these references are all in blogs. And current Wikipedia verifiability policy says: “Anyone can create a website or pay to have a book published, and then claim to be an expert in a certain field. For that reason, self-published books, personal websites, and blogs are largely not acceptable as sources.”

The policy also says: “One of the keys to writing good encyclopedia articles is to understand that they should refer only to facts, assertions, theories, ideas, claims, opinions, and arguments that have already been published by a reputable publisher.”  In other words, self-published articles are not welcome as sources for the self-published encyclopedia. Huh!?

Wikipedia policy makes a good argument that readers should have sources to check. I do check the sources cited in Wikipedia articles often. But I neither agree that traditional media sources are particularly reliable – we do remember several recent incidents in the New York Times, don’t we? – nor that self-published sources should be ignored.  It’s enough to cite the sources and allow the reader to decide what credibility to give them; it’s not helpful for the editors of Wikipedia to decide which sources are credible although they should be applauded for insisting that sources be cited.

The example of “advisory capital” is a trivial one but a good illustration. Within a few months use of the term “advisory capital” will either have died out or been picked up by the traditional media. According to some interpretations of Wikipedia policy, the article will become appropriate once the term appears on a dead tree. The irony is, of course, the traditional media will have picked the term up from the blog discussion which Stowe Boyd started.

Obviously blogs are authoritative and verifiable as a source for what is being discussed on blogs – the claim I’m making for advisory capital. But it is an oxymoron for Wikipedia to disdain self-published information on any subject. Sure, most individual bloggers (including me) have earned little public credibility. Individual contributors to Wikipedia don’t have individual credibility either. But the aggregate of the information and opinions presented on blogs or Wikipedia articles is an extremely useful source. There isn’t much difference between bloggers and Wikipedians.

One of the many strengths of Wikipedia is that everything including policy is open to discussion (altho Wikipedia disclaims being a democracy).  Searching for my missing article and the reasons for its demise, I joined the WikiProject on Blogging to better integrate Wikipedia and blogs.  You can join or lurk as well if you’re interested.

The discussion on whether or not to delete the advisory capital article is here. Not sure how that’ll come out (only one vote to keep so far) but I’m more concerned with the overall issue of blogs as one of many useful types of source than with this particular article.

Even given its current antiblog bias, Wikipedia is a great source and one worth improving.


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Thanks for filling me in on what I needed to know about wikipedia. I go there occasionally and now have a different view on it. I also wanted to let you know of a great way to get your blogs some recognition. An new premier site and search tool for blogs, vipbloggers.com will send a lot of traffic to your blogs. Check it out and keep up the good work.

Dylan Salisbury

Tom, I think is a similar issue to what you found with book blogs not being interested in self-published books. But the fundamental issue isn't hypocracy, it's laziness.

If you only want to interview authors of books that are serious, important, or good, then you need to decide which books fall into that category. But if you can't do that, the publishing industry will do a "pretty good" job of that for you.

Wikipedia probably doesn't want a lot of postings on ephemeral and insignificant concepts. For a relatively new concept, this can be hard to determine. Again, it's tempting to just defer to the traditional gatekeepers of such subjects.

At least Wikipedia has a different method (Wikipedia community discussion) to try out.


When I read for the first time the article "Disrupting the Venture Capital Industry – Advisor Capitalists" in this blog I understood the importance of this concept, then I posted a new entry in my blog ( http://www.nadaimportante.org/archives/2006/02/28/435 ) and I suppose that I could contribute to Wikipedia doing the same as Tom, but in spanish.
I posted an entry in Wikipedia, in spanish, for "Capital de consultoría" ( http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_de_consultor%C3%ADa ). It was deleted after a couple of hours without consultation. I posted again and contacted the librarian who deleted it, asking him why he had done that. The answer was "porque tenían que ver con un weblog y nada más, ¿no es cierto?" (english: "because they [my entries] just have to do with a blog and nothing else more, do they?").
After an extense chat I decided to gave up the discussion, no way to make him understand what I am thinking about all of this. Inmediately, the article in Wikipedia entered in consultation for its deletion, and, viewing now the number of votes, all says it will be deleted in some days more.
I must say I am really concerned with the development of a venture capital industry in developing countries, like Argentina. And for this development, knowledge created somewhere else, in countries with more developed markets, it is very important.
And I think that, no matter the origin of the knowledge or where it is published, if it is something "real" (a phenomenon of the day-to-day life) it is a valid knowledge for people.
Besides, I consider Wikipedia an excellent way to diffuse knowledge for everybody and, to solve problems like the one I am concerned, it is a wonderful tool.
My entry in Wikipedia is under discussion of deletion here: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Consultas_de_borrado/Capital_de_consultor%C3%ADa
The reason to be there is "Término nuevo sacado de 2 blogs hace unos días" ("new term extracted from 2 blogs some days ago").
I don't know in detail Wikipedia's policies regarding who and when must publish knowledge there. Neither I know if I am wrong when trying to publish that on Wikipedia. I just can say that it is important that places like Wikipedia remain free to permit people to access knowledge and learn.

Zach Coelius

I am confused. Why does Wikipedia have to be limited? I can understand the fight over what a word or phrase means. but isn't one of the joys of the internet that we can have an article about everything? It seems that since wikipedia is primarialy a searched medium that scale ought not to matter. So why can't there be an article about everything no matter how trivial, made-up or banal?

Mr. Floyd

The editors at Wikipedia are very much gatekeepers. One has to wonder what the intentions of the foundation are.

Sure the blogger is a gatekeeper of their own gate. They can choose which comments to post and which ones to not. However, the original post cannot b emodified by anyone other than the blogger.

Mr. Floyd loves Wikipedia - it's become his "go to" source for at least half of the things he looks up on the web. By and large, the exceptions are products he's considering for purchase. However, there are clearly some problems.

There is clearly a need for some type of monitoring, as many articles are defaced; but the foundation is now being forced to act -one way or the other. It will be most intersting to see what's done whith this edited mass of information!

Wales' intention of just keeping on keeping on is not goign to be viable =much longer and there will be some very big decesions which need to be made - it's got to be very scary for him. The monster has a brain of its own and is more powerful than the Dr.


What silly pedantry to be so fastitidious about a term like that and yet fail to catch the kook who impugned Sigenthaler. Reminds me of the Librarian so intent on keeping people quiet that they didn't let anyone use the library.

Chris Yeh

All I can say is, WTF? Doesn't the Wikipedia community realize the hypocrisy of a consumer-generated reference site that refuses to accepted consumer-generated media as a legitimate citation?

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