How to Be a Model Wikipedia Contributor

    by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo
    March 21, 2008


    Wikipedia — like Google or CNN — is a name we recognize immediately when mentioned in conversation. The collaborative online encyclopedia currently ranks 8th on the Alexa list of top web destinations. Ask anyone sitting in front of a computer to find information for you on any topic. While most might turn first to Google, many others will turn to Wikipedia. It seems there is an entry for everything on Wikipedia and almost every one of my own burning questions have been answered by a quick consultation there. I’ve even said here that I would feel somewhat impaired in my daily tasks without Wikipedia.

    But like most people I know, I am a passive user of Wikipedia: I receive information from the site regularly but I don’t contribute to it. Mostly because I don’t have time but also because I’ve found that many of the entries I might be able edit don’t need much help anyway.


    In reading entries on the site, I recently found some where I thought I might be able to help, so I took it upon myself to get more involved in Wikipedia and try to add something, but I quickly found that I wasn’t doing things correctly and that my contributions weren’t well-received by the community. Some were quickly deleted, others resulted in a warning about promoting things for my own gain. I was confused as to why, and in thinking more about it, I realized that while I thought I understood how Wikipedia worked, I really didn’t know much at all.

    In an attempt to demystify the process for myself and for you, I spoke to a few active Wikipedia users to get the real story have compiled a walk-through for any would-be Wikipedia contributor. Based on those conversations, here are some Wikipedia steps to success.

    1. Register on the site.
    Signing up for Wikipedia takes but a moment and all you need is a valid email address. Go to Wikipedia.org, click on the language version of Wikipedia you are interested in (in this post I am specifically referring to the English language version, but the rules apply to all Wikipedia versions). Look up at the top right on your screen and you’ll see a link that says “create account.” The rest is pretty self-explanatory.


    2. Read the Guides.
    Before you even start editing, be sure to read through the information that Wikipedia provides for new users. This will help you avoid frustration later. Wikipedia is a good resource for lots of different kinds of information, so it’s no surprise that the site includes a lot of informational articles about how to use Wikipedia.

    There are articles about editing, formatting, community rules, and much more. One of the most important guides to read first is the one about editing. To access it, look to the left of your screen for the link that says “About Wikipedia.” This will lead you to an entry that has just about everything you could possibly want to know about Wikipedia. Then look for the section called “Editing Wikipedia Pages” for more information. From there, you’ll see a link to a guide called How to edit a page.

    This guide tells you everything you need to know to get started in the technical sense. To be sure that you are ready to contribute and edit in accordance with the community rules, read the short entry Wikipedia in Brief, which spells out what is and isn’t acceptable in an entry.

    3. Start Editing.
    Wikipedia exists to be edited, with people — both regulars and passersby — writing, adding, fixing, changing, and deleting things. Though some of us may be shy about this, we probably shouldn’t be, as it truly is an open project and anyone can participate. So how does one get started? I asked Rama, an active Wikipedia user and administrator who writes about “semi-obscure and obscure topics” on the site, to explain the process to me.

    “Every article has an ‘edit’ link at the top,” Rama said. “Clicking this link will bring you to a form where the text of the article can be edited. Implement your corrections, press ‘submit,’ and you are done. You will then see more features (talk pages, history, etc.), which are accessible with similar links. Somewhat esoteric code is used to create links, display an image in an article, to add categories, templates; one can fiddle with this syntax and become familiar with it in a matter of minutes. You can also preview the result of your edits to make certain that the desired effect is achieved before submitting.”

    Sounds pretty simple — and it is actually. It’s fairly easy to understand how to edit an entry and actually start editing. But there are many things to keep in mind. Among them are the basics, such as correct formatting in Wikipedia style, so refer back to the editing guide, as well as the Wikipedia Style Manual.

    Frank Isaacs, a user I spoke with, told me that the formatting can be tough to get a handle on. “It’s not what people are used to with WYSIWYG editing,” he said. “I don’t think that is likely to change soon, but with over 2 million pages in the English version of Wikipedia alone, it doesn’t appear to be a major roadblock. It can definitely be tedious, though. I’ve often spent 10 or 15 minutes on one paragraph. “

    I’ve found that some things are easier than others. Editing an existing entry with minor changes seems simple. Creating a new entry is a bit more daunting. Creating a new entry requires writing a “stub” article first — a short entry with basic information to be enhanced later. Of course, there is a very clear explanation of how to do a stub. Be sure to always preview your changes before publishing them.


    Rules of Engagement on Wikipedia

    4. Assume Good Faith.
    This is a phrase that Wikipedia community members are asked to live by. I first heard the words from user David Gerard, a Wikipedia user since 2003 and the UK spokesperson for the Wikipedia Foundation. When I added a few external links I felt were relevant to some articles of interest to me, they were almost immediately deleted. I asked Gerard why.

    “Spammers are relentless on Wikipedia, and most of the bad IP addresses identified are related to external links being added to an article,” he said. “So people get jumpy about people adding links. If you are going to add them, they’d better be the 3 or 4 most relevant links for this topic on the entire Internet.”

    Oops. I guess my additions weren’t that authoritative. Understood, but this isn’t exactly clear upon first blush as a total newcomer. And even in terms of following community rules, Gerard says that the limit on external links is an editorial decision. Then whose decision is it? He says it’s up to the community.

    “A misconception that some have of Wikipedia is that there is some sort of central editorial authority,” he said. “There isn’t. It’s just ordinary people.”

    Ordinary people who make mistakes sometimes, and sometimes think enthusiastic contributors are spammers. Luckily, there are ways to convince skeptical editors that your edits are legit. I’ll get to them a bit later.

    5. Be Bold: Don’t Get Discouraged.
    According to Wikipedia itself, “be bold” is an unofficial slogan of the site. After that initial experience, I wasn’t feeling bold at all. Me? A spammer? If someone “reverts” your edits (changes the entry back to the way it was before you edited it), it might hurt you for a moment. You also might be confused as to why it happened. But in order to survive on Wikipedia, you’ve got to shake off the fear, take the criticism as constructive, and once again, assume good faith.

    I told Wikipedia user Ramu about my experience, and he said that some editors might be newer and less experienced, and therefore might jump the gun. “You have taken the time to read Wikipedia’s guidelines, so you clearly are a potential valuable contributor rather than the casual nuisance for whom you have been mistaken,” he said.

    For beginners, this might seem a bit overwhelming and you might fear the wrath of the Wikipedia masses if you do something wrong. But think about it: a collaborative project built by unpaid volunteers all working toward a common, life-enriching goal. Most users are more than likely good people. David Gerard’s advice to newcomers reluctant to stick a toe in the Wikipedia pond is comforting: “There are lots of nice people and a few obnoxious ones. Don’t let the obnoxious ones get you down.”

    Editing is also constantly being done by non-human editors. Bots are automated editing tools created by and/or controlled by users. The bots do repetitive tasks, checking for things like vandalism or spam. So don’t be alarmed (as I was) if you see one of your edits instantly reverted.


    Talk Page for the Citizen Journalism Entry

    6. Get Familiar with the Talk Pages. Talk pages are your way of keeping up with what’s been going on with your edits and those of others. The MyTalk page, which can be accessed from your account (it’s a link at the top right hand of your screen), is where other users notify you about changes made to your edits. If one of your edits gets reverted or an entry you’ve started has been deleted, you’ll be notified on the MyTalk page of your account when you log in. If someone makes changes to your edits, or to the entry you’ve edited, you can see those changes on the history page of the entry. If something was deleted, you can check out the deletion log, which is a near real-time list of items that have been deleted.

    Each entry also has its own talk page. Using the entry for the Dalai Lama as an example, go to the Discussion tab above the article’s title. Here you’ll find all manner of suggestions, debate and conversation on how the article about the Dalai Lama might be improved.

    These proposed edits might be a simple correction in the writing style or full-blown arguments over details that should be included or left out. If an edit you’ve made has been challenged or reverted, this would be the place to (politely) defend your position. The result of the conversations carried out on the entry’s Talk page might be the eventual acceptance of your edits, or you might be convinced that the reverting was in the best interest of the article. It’s a collaborative effort, just like everything else on Wikipedia.

    Some of the debates are necessary, most are passionate and at least some are considered by many users as silly, and are compiled in the site’s collection of Wikipedia’s Lamest Edit Wars. In the compendium you’ll find epic debates over things like Ann Coulter’s age and the true ethnicity of actress Jennifer Aniston.

    7. Maintain a Neutral Tone.
    One of the main ideas of Wikipedia is that it stay neutral on controversial topics, though many people argue if there’s an overall bias to the online encyclopedia. One Wikipedia user Frank Isaacs told me that sometimes a person’s emotions get mixed into the editing process, and the community has to rid entries of any inkling of bias to achieve neutrality. Issacs has been involved in the editing of the entry for Frank Lorenzo, a former airline CEO, and explains how personal bias seeps into the entry:

    There is a user who apparently feels on a personal level that Lorenzo’s actions at Eastern Airlines — 18 or so years ago — were personally life-altering. [The user] tries to change the wording regarding the strike that essentially bankrupted the company to indicate that it was some sort of attack on the employees. Here’s what the user has put into the article:

    ‘The Machinists, fight attendants, and pilot unions were forced into a strike on March 3, 1989 after a company lock-out. On 3 March 1989, President George H. W. Bush and his lackey, Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner, issued a statement…’ (You can see this version of the article here.)

    Note the use of the words ‘forced’ and ‘lackey.’ Also, note that the first sentence is not followed by a reference. That’s a point of view statement. It may actually be true — but without a reference, it can’t really stay in the article. So the current version says that they went on strike without attempting to say why. Now a user might be upset at removing that version, but it is not in keeping with the mission of Wikipedia, so if there’s any activity at all on an article, it will be changed.

    One of Wikipedia’s missions — and one of its 5 Pillars — is to provide information with a neutral point of view, so don’t go injecting your opinion into an entry, even in subtle ways.


    Wikipedia’s 5 Pillars

    8. Always Provide References.
    References are a rule on Wikipedia. Wikipedia states that “articles should rely on reliable, third-party published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy.” As Issacs points out above, the article that was deemed lacking in neutrality was also lacking in references to back up its claims.

    David Gerard is emphatic about this point. “Always put a reference. Always. Always. Always put a reference,” he says. If you are writing a new entry, and it contains no references, it’s likely that it will be quickly deleted. Wikipedia spells out all the reasons why you should cite sources and how to do it in a guide called Citing Sources.

    This also means that no original research is allowed. Gerard told me that Wikipedia gets its fair share of “physics cranks” that claim they can debunk Einstein’s theories. There is no place for stuff like that on Wikipedia. If it can’t be corroborated, it doesn’t belong, so don’t even try it. That goes for ego-trippers looking to use Wikipedia as their own personal fan site by creating entries for themselves. If you think you’re famous and you’re not, you’ll quickly be outed by the Wikipedia community, which will look for evidence of your alleged notoriety.

    What do you think? Are you a Wikipedia consumer, contributor or both? Why do you choose to edit and add to Wikipedia or why don’t you? What things are good about contributing to Wikipedia and what could be improved? Share you thoughts in the comments below.

    Jennifer Woodard Maderazo is the associate editor of PBS MediaShift. She is a San Francisco-based writer, blogger and marketer, who covers Latino marketing at Latin-Know and Latino cultural issues at VivirLatino.

    Tagged: online etiquette web 2.0 websites wikipedia

    27 responses to “How to Be a Model Wikipedia Contributor”

    1. “Most users are more than likely good people. ***David Gerard�s*** advice to newcomers reluctant to stick a toe in the Wikipedia pond is comforting: ‘There are lots of nice people and a few obnoxious ones. Don�t let the ***obnoxious ones*** get you down.'”

      You journalists who don’t do your homework are delightfully funny to watch, as you fall into the hypocritcal culture (cult?) of Wikipedia. My guess is that it’s just easier for you to swallow hook, line, and sinker, whatever drivel some Wikipediot with a real name feeds you.

      Gerard advises you not to let the obnoxious ones get you down? Here are some past quotes from Gerard himself on Wikipedia and its related communications channels:

      “[User:]Cla68 has been a dick about this for quite some time, knew *precisely* how much of a dick he was being, and thoroughly deserved
      the block, and probably a longer one. He’s not here to write an encyclopedia.” — David Gerard

      Cla68 has sixteen Wikipedia “Featured Articles” to his credit, one of the finest editors on the project.

      Judd Bagley spent about a year of his life trying to prove to the Wikipedia administrator community that someone was operating a team of sockpuppets to influence content about a real-world company (Overstock.com) and about naked short selling. Gerard and his Wikipedia minions response? Block and insult Bagley, and protect and coddle the sockpuppeteer(s).

      Read up a little bit more on Gerard and his personal life. That’s interesting, too.

      I feel bad for Maderazo. It’s going to probably take another 18 months or so for her to come to the conclusion that the rest of us have, once the scales fall from her eyes.

    2. Nihiltres says:

      Mr. Kohs’ comment here is ironic; he fails to mention that he’s been permanently banned because he tried to run a commercial service writing articles on behalf of people or companies, for money. Don’t worry about his ad hominem attacks on Gerard et. al; he’s merely sore because his approach was rejected.

      My opinion is biased too; I truly appreciate Wikipedia as a hobby; it’s ironically a great way to blow off steam in an intellectually-satisfying way, and if you can get around the obnoxious users (and perhaps even abusers), it’s, in my humble opinion, a genuinely friendly environment. As one of about (currently) 1500 administrators, I’ve helped run the site in my spare time from being, yes, a student.

      It’s somewhat of a symbiotic relationship: I volunteer some time to maintain existing articles, write or clean up newer or incomplete ones, and in return I am presented with the mutual work that others have done. I appreciate the convenience of the conveniently interlinked, searchable information source, and helping write it (an admittedly gargantuan task) is fun, if you can appreciate intellectual pursuits as some of us do.

      The site does have some issues; technically and socially, we must keep working to make it easy to start editing, friendly to continue, and accessible to the technologically-challenged, whether by hardware or by technical ignorance (not to be insulting, I can say that I am ignorant certainly of such subjects as marine biology or the German language, to name a few). We need to work on that, and whether it’s programmers working towards developing a WYSIWIG interface (far off) to community discussion on what text to display on tabs (should it be “+” to add a new section on a talk page, or “new comment”, or “new section”, or “leave a comment”?), Wikipedia is a work in progress and I invite anyone to join who genuinely wants to help.

    3. Mike says:

      GREAT article. Frankly the best introduction to Wikipedia article I’ve seen for newbies.

      I use Wikipedia as both a reader and a contributor, with about 1,000 edits. Why do I contribute? That’s like saying why do humans learn. Because I possess knowledge which should be shared with others. It’s that simple, but you’re article is great because it’s so common for a newbie meaning well to accidentally break the rules unintentionally.

    4. One step your writer overlooked: carefully read John Broughton’s book Wikipedia: The Missing Manual, published this year by O’Reilly. It is packed with suggestions and information that even a long-time contributor (since October, 2002) learned new things from reading.


    5. Nihiltres says that I was “permanently banned because he tried to run a commercial service writing articles on behalf of people or companies, for money”. Once again, we see how the hivemind allows group-think to brainwash everyone’s understanding of what they THINK is reality.

      Nihiltres is too young and too inexperienced to understand the underlying reasons why my Wikipedia account was blocked in October 2006 (hint, it had more to do with Jimmy Wales’ inability to come to terms with the fact that his personal support and direction to MyWikiBiz conflicted with the community’s consensus on the matter), and — more importantly — why my “re-block” in the Spring of 2007 had NOTHING to do with a service writing articles for payment. My business had ceased by then! No, I was banned because I had the nerve to ask a pseudonymous administrator named “Durova” to explain why she said that I had “given misleading information to journalists”. Instead of backing up her defamation with factual evidence, it was easier for her to have another buddy admin ban my account. Silly Wikipediots, though — I still gleefully edit Wikipedia whenever I care to (you just change your screen name after power-cycling your modem), and sweet justice arrived later that year when Durova was all but forced to give up her administrator’s bit, out of sheer embarrassment over her overreaching “sleuthing” investigations into other productive contributors to the project.

      The place is a complete mess of political sniping and gamesmanship, and anyone who doesn’t believe that — go try to create an article in Wikipedia entitled “Carolyn Doran”. Have fun, Wikipediots.

    6. Jon Awbrey says:

      What are the effects of the Wikipedia environment on the critical thinking, information literacy, and research skills of its participants?

      Too much commentary on what students learn from Wikipedia stops with the content of articles and fails to examine what students learn from participating in the culture of Wikipedia.

      Educators know that education is as much about process as it is about product. They understand that students learn by doing, by taking part in communities of practice. What do students learn by playing the Wikipedia online game? Answers to that question can be gleaned from those who have particpated in the full range of Wikipedia activities and seen how it really operates beneath the surface. Those who wish to learn more, while escaping the troubles of personal participation, may sample the narratives and the occasional critical reflection that one finds at The Wikipedia Review.

      The effect of using Wikipedia as a source of information is a research question.

      The effect of participating more broadly in Wikipedian activities, from the editing game to the policy-making game, is another research question.

      Even a bad source of information and a bad guide to the norms of research methodology can up the ante on critical thinking and information literacy if the user is capable of reflecting on its deficiencies.

      Whether Wikipedia helps or hinders the user in gaining that capacity is yet another research question.

      Educators are aware that learners have many different paths to knowledge. Among the most obvious are these:[list=1]

      1. Learning by being told.
      2. Learning by doing things for oneself.
      3. Learning by watching what others do.

      What do people learn from participating in the full range of activities provided by the Wikipedia website, considered with regard to each of these modes?

      Some of the questions that educational researchers would naturally think to ask about the Wikipedia experience are these:[list=a]

      a. What do people learn about the ethical norms of journalism, research, and scholarship?

      b. What do people learn about the intellectual norms of journalism, research, and scholarship?

      For example, questions that one might ask under the indicated headings are these:

      {1 b} What do people learn about the relative values of primary and secondary sources from reading the relevant policy pages in Wikipedia?

      {3 a} What do people learn about plagiarism from watching what others do in Wikipedia?

      See Wikipedia Review : Guide to Wikipedia for Reporters and Researchers for ongoing discussion.

    7. If you visit the entry for Carolyn Doran on the wikipedia:


      you get redirected to the Wikipedia Fundation page, where the whole incident with Doran is narrated and sourced. This decision to make her entry a redirect was because, by wikipedia’s notability standards, Doran was not notable enough to warrant an entry
      of her own, and all her case for notability came from working for Wikipedia Foundation. Otherwise, she would have no entry whatsover.

      Of course, if you have some grudge against wikipedia, like Gregory seems to have, then you want to create an article just to point at it and try to make Wikipedia look bad. Tough luck there, Gregory, it ain’t gonna

      Btw, the process of deleting her article and placing a redirect instead was held on the open, and decided by consensus. This the actual page where the decision to keep the article deleted and use a redirect was taken (look for the Carolyn Doran entry and click on “show”):


      The policy being applied was WP:BLP1E (Articles about people notable only for one event), as I am sure that Gregory is aware of, since the argument was beaten to death on the deletion review, and Doran is not the first person to have that policy applied and won’t be the last one.

      Link to the policy:

      The administrator noticeboard for incidents includes some details on the incident and what actions were taken:


      On a deletion review on 2008, the Doran case was cited as an argument for another biography, as a case of correct application of WP:BLP1E:


      And every page including links towards the Doran page is listed here (wikipedia decision process is *very* transparent once you know where to look at):


    8. lucasbfr says:

      Great article! You can be sure it is now in my short list of useful links I sometimes give to newcomers.

      Wikipedia immune system can sometimes be harsh to them, and a helpful resource can prove handy.

    9. Creating a new entry requires writing a stub article first. No, no, no, no! Creating a new entry (article) should be done on a personal subpage, with the goal of writing a fully fleshed-out article before moving the page to mainspace (where the official Wikipedia articles are). If you can’t find enough information on a subject to get the article to be longer than stub length, you should strongly consider coming back and working on it later. Stubs get deleted a lot. Fully cited, at least mildly lengthy articles, do not.

    10. Jon Awbrey says:

      I sincerely hope that Enric Naval does not think we are so naive as to believe that this WP:BLIMPIE policy is applied equally across the board to all individuals who are notable solely for a single event, no matter what their COI links to the WikiMedia Foundation.

      Or shall we start making him a list?

    11. Mr. Awbrey, there would be no point in generating a list of BLPs on WP that exist in “violation” of BLP1E. Why? Because the Wikipediot retort is invariably WP:OTHERSTUFFEXISTS. You could point out 25 different biographies of people made (in)famous only through one action of theirs, but not a one of them will be deleted or redirected, since they don’t bring disrepute on Jimmy Wales, the Wikimedia Foundation, or any noted members of the Cabal-like team of Wikipedia administrators.

      Conversely, articles like [[Carolyn Doran]], [[Ryan Jordan]], and [[Openserving]] all get their redirects and ambiguous disambiguations. Because each is an embarrassment to Jimmy Wales.

    12. Mike Hardy says:

      This article says:

      > The MyTalk page, which can be accessed
      > from your account (it�s a link at the
      > top right hand of your screen), is a
      > running list of all of your edits and
      > contributions on Wikipedia.

      That is nonsense. It’s when you click
      on “my contributions” that you see that.
      When you click on “MyTalk”, you see your
      user discussion page.

    13. Mike,

      Thanks for the correction. I’ve updated the post to clarify that. Let me know if it still isn’t clear.

    14. You know what’s funny? My repeat of a David Gerard quote on Wikipedia, directed toward Judd Bagley, was (rightly?) CENSORED by some moderator here at PBS.org as being too profane for this site! So, make sure you understand this, people.

      David Gerard advises the author of this article, “Dont let the obnoxious ones [on Wikipedia] get you down.” Yet, Gerard’s own comments on Wikipedia toward Judd Bagley are TOO PROFANE to even repeat in public here!

      Maderazo, please check in again with us in December 2009, and let us know your feelings about Wikipedia, once you’ve been exposed to more truth about the community that controls it.

    15. Jon Awbrey says:

      I think it might be instructive to examine some of the words that Mr. Naval uses in his account of decision processes in Wikipedia, for example, “consensus”, “open”, and “transparent”.

      In both ordinary and technical usage “consensus” means “universal agreement”. There are more than 6 million user accounts on the English Wikipedia alone. I think it’s clear that nothing remotely approaching consensus is ever reached on any decision made in Wikipedia.

      Moreover, as a practical matter, one finds that “consensus” means very little in a group where dissenters are quickly excluded from decisions.

      As used in this context the words “open” and “transparent” mean that all of the communications and deliberations that determine a decision are public and easily available. Those of you who live in States where some form of “Open Meetings Act” applies to the agendas of public bodies will know what I mean.

      The words “open” and “transparent” do not mean that some of the negotiations are public any “show trial” could boast as much for itself.

      It is well-known and amply documented that many important decisions presented for the consumption of the Wikipedian Public are campaigned, politicked, and prejudiced by discussions that take place in the Internet equivalent of “smoke-filled rooms”, for example, closed-door email lists and IRC channels, to name just a couple.

      In summary, those of who have spent a lot of time talking to Wikipedians know that they have a habit of divorcing words from the meanings that most of us know and love.

      So watch out for that

    16. Jsk Couriano says:

      I’m not going to comment on anything Awbrey or Kohs has said, reason being that they would instantly descend upon it and carve it to shreds (myself being a Wikipedia administrator).

      However, I can and will say one thing that helped me when I started and still helps me somewhat to this day: Keep a low profile.

      If you go onto Wikipedia as a new editor and quickly gravitate to controversial or oft-targeted subjects (such as Eastern Europe) and/or head to an article and start displaying ownership tendencies (including, but not limited to, blindly reverting others’ edits and being fiercely incivil on the talk page), you’re going to end up raising suspicions about yourself.

      However, if you stick to articles that don’t attract much controversy or vandals, you aren’t as likely to be (illegitimately) called a sockpuppet (i.e. alternate account) or vandal by more rabid (and, I will admit, in some cases lynchmob-esque) editors. And, if you approach an article with dispassion, you aren’t as likely to be seen as a man on a mission from God.

      Keeping off of other editors’ radars helps keep the unfriendlies away from you, and if you have no qualms about reporting persistent vandals if you see them, it can also prove to be a good way to help fellow editors.

    17. Jon Awbrey says:

      Wait, did Jsk Couriano just insinuate that Jon Awbrey and and Greg Kohs are really the sockpuppets of “Joliet” Jake and Elwood Blues ???

      We Are Not Worthy !!!

    18. J�sk� Couriano says:

      JON) I did not imply or state that (reason being I have not closely studied the incidents leading to both of your bans yet owing to 4channers and the Bates method), though (no offense) it was nice of you to display a fair amount of humor.

      Indeed, I intended my post to be as neutral as possible. Any insinuations are unintentional.

    19. Jon Awbrey says:

      Jsk and All,

      I suspect that the readers of this forum would trouble themselves with the circumstances of individual Wikipedia “bans” only if it could shed a broader light on the properties of a media environment where such exclusions have become routine for all manner of reasons and excuses, both good and bad.

      That is more in line with my own long-pursued interests, namely, the dynamics of social and technical architectures that are designed to facilitate public information and inquiry.

      So I will try to stay focused on that.

    20. While I’ve had lunch with Mr. Awbrey once, I can assure you we’re not related.

      If you’re interested in the “nutshell” version of why I’m banned from Wikipedia:

      (1) First ban came in October 2006, when I had the audacity to ask Jimmy Wales if his public compact with me had been overruled by the Wikipedia community’s “conflict of interest” (WP:COI) policy. He banned me for trolling, and he used a convenient excuse later that somehow my website was in violation of Wikimedia Foundation trademarks — despite my having received no formal take-down notice at any time from anyone acting in the official capacity of the Foundation.

      (2) After Jimmy Wales sheepishly un-blocked me in the Spring of 2007, I was shortly thereafter re-banned by “the community” for having the audacity to suggest that User:Durova writing that I had “given misleading information to journalists” — without any evidence to support the claim — could be construed as “defamatory”. That set me up as a violator of Wikipedia’s “no legal threats” (WP:NLT) rule, thus greasing the re-ban.

      Jimmy remains beloved even while getting Moscow massages and $450 a plate dinners and trying to expense them back to the Foundation, and Durova can still waltz around Wikipedia awarding her “Triple Crowns” to good contributors, but me? I’m banned from Wikipedia.

      Before I even envisioned MyWikiBiz, I had created about a dozen articles on Wikipedia — articles which in February 2008 alone had garnered over 13,600 views.

      My “thank you” from the Wikipedia community is a perma-ban on my account, blocks on my home and office IP addresses, and a lovely Google PageRanked emblem as a “banned sockpuppeteer” whenever anyone searches for “MyWikiBiz”. Oh, Wikipedia, you’re too terribly kind. I’m not worthy of your dedicated attention.

    21. Nathaniel says:

      I’d like to note that plenty of things in society don’t require everyone’s participation: we don’t demand 100% participation for an election to be democratic. Why should we say that “consensus” requires everyone’s agreement? Consensus is used in a specific way: we don’t simply vote on issues; instead, it’s the general trend obvious in those who discuss. You can see on any Articles for Deletion page (here’s today’s) that debates with too few comments get relisted. If there are 6 million accounts, and 5,999,990 of them don’t choose to participate, there’s nothing wrong with the system.

      One thing that will help explain note the way Wikipedia consensus works is to look at a page on the Requests for Adminship page: the community discusses the candidate, and in this case the request was declined for lack of consensus. This request (not picking on this user; it was simply at the top of the list) had 89 different people vote in it: 61 said yes, 24 said no, and 4 were unsure; but the request was declined because “consensus not reached”.

      When I joined Wikipedia, my first work was with my denomination’s article. I committed a basic violation (original research, as noted above), but all that happened was that it was removed and a friendly comment left by a more experienced user. I’ve been in some unhappy discussions, and in one big controversy with someone posing to be several different people at war with each other, but the community as a whole is helpful. Why would most of us edit (and 1500+ of us accept admin positions) without hope of any personal benefit, if we didn’t want to be helpful? As long as you don’t repeatedly violate rules, or do blatantly wrong things (for example, creating pages to attack people), you’re safe from problems, even if you make a mistake. There have to be rules, of course (freedom isn’t license), and nothing is wrong with you if you disagree with them (if you want to write your own point of view, there are free blog websites), but the calls of those who find those rules oppressive are no reason to find them oppressive yourself.

    22. Nathaniel says:

      By the way, the link for articles for deletion should be here, and the no personal attacks should be here. Sorry for the typos.

    23. Jon Awbrey says:


      I know the preachings of Wikipedians and I know the practices of Wikipedians. And I know the Grand Canyon that looms between them.

      If you want to know what Wikipedians mean by “consensus” and “democracy”, you will have to crack open a few closed doors and take a peek inside Wikipedias Kangaroo Court complete with secret evidence and fly-by-night lynch mobs of “masked and anonymous” hangmen, 8 or 9 of have no compunction about arrogating to themselves the audacity of speaking for a so-called community or 6 million accounts.

      Case after concrete case of that sort is enough to prove my point that Wikipedians have disconnected many fine words and phrases, like “community”, “consensus”, and “due process”, from the meanings that everyone else holds dear.

      It makes you wonder How did our traditional encyclopedias ever get along without the modern convenience of their very own Camp X-ray?

    24. Jon Awbrey says:

      By the way, there is an ongoing discussion of these issues on the thread devoted to this article at The Wikipedia Review.

    25. Anyone who has read this far in the Comments should benefit from reading what award-winning physicist Dr. John Harnad said about his being blocked from editing Wikipedia:

      Absurdity upon absurdity. Self appointed pundits who have no scientific competence whatsoever casting aspersions upon precise and pertinent remarks by experts in the field; then insulting them with their derisory remarks and even imperiously commanding them to desist from expressing themselves! “Administrators” with no other visible qualifications than the fact that they have made thousands of edits to Wikipedia, and have attained to certain special powers through a questionable process of scrutiny within this self-referential setting. The latter, or at least some of them, apparently feel entitled to register totally unfounded, intimidating and derisory remarks like “…a new account. Possibly suspicious.” that would be worthy of thought police, to redefine the English language so as to comply with their notions of “Wikipedia usage” and “good practice”, and to overtly express their hostility to anything that might be viewed as “expert knowledge”. Users hiding behind anonymous pseudonyms casting aspersions on the integrity of highly respected, well-known scientists, who have no other motive than to set the record straight regarding scientific content. The same users reorganizing the material in arbitrary tendentious ways, to suit their tastes, deleting legitimate contributions, hiding them in boxes, transferring them to other pages, and reordering so as to lose all logic or sense in the sequence of contributions and edits; in short, creating an anarchic circus, all within view of these “Administrators”, who do nothing to intervene.
      Is this science fiction, fantasy, an “other-world” nightmare or reality.? What is Wikipedia all about? The tyranny of the ignorant? I am very curious what all the threatening remarks, gratuitous insults and assaults by the uneducated upon the integrity of the knowledgeable leads up to. Is this a serious process, or one in which a small number of Wikipedia “insiders” act out fantasies of power and importance, while those who, in the real world, are highly qualified scientists and professionals devoted to advancing our actual state knowledge, are silenced by threats, intimidation, and manipulative tactics, while administrators who believe that “expertise” is irrelevant, do nothing to intervene? Is it that only Wikipedia experience and status has any importance in this environment?
      I have a feeling the outcome of this debate will have more significance for Wikipedia than merely whether this poor article is kept or deleted. If the questionably empowered class of “Administrators” turns out to be the only real decision makers, wielding the power to overrule all others, then all depends on them. If they choose to ignore the advice of those who are best placed to provide expert opinion on the substance of the article in question, and decide simply according to their own notions, even though they have no knowledge, but prefer to heed the “all-inclusive” principle, or the views of other users who are equally ignorant of the subject, the outcome is meaningless, and the implication for the reliability of Wikipedia as a source of knowledge is clear.
      Having said this, I expect to receive a barrage of attacks, threats, intimidating remarks, citations for violations of rules, aspersions cast on my character, integrity, competence, etc. from those seasoned “insiders” who feel insulted or threatened by these self-evident remarks. But are there also those who believe in the value of Wikipedia and hold another view? Are there enough of those who do have an adequate respect for knowledge, qualifications, real-word competence and, simply, the truth, who have a say in how Wikipedia is run and decisions are made to tilt the balance? I am curious to see who actually holds sway in this strange setting, that claims to represent “the masses” and knowledge simultaneously. R_Physicist (talk) 08:14, 23 March 2008 (UTC)

    26. John Cooper says:

      Kohs, himself an admitted Wikipedia profiteer, omitted from his account the fact that Judd Bagley was banned for promoting his company.

      Corporate abuse of Wikipedia is a serious problem, and people like Kohs and Bagley are examples of that.

    27. Pseudonymous John Cooper doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Judd Bagley had nothing to do with MyWikiBiz. And if you think either MyWikiBiz or Bagley represent “corporate abuse”, then Cooper’s breathing of “my” air might equally constitute “oxygen abuse”.

      Isn’t it amazing how those who fire back from the Wikipedia side can’t even get the basic facts correct? No wonder they don’t use their real names or link to their own websites!

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