Relevant Irrelevancy

There has been quite a discussion raging throughout the German blogosphere about the question of relevance in the Wikipedia. German admins, the people who can delete articles, use a complicated document that they have produced called the relevance criteria to determine what is relevant and what is not. Pavel Meyer wrote a good blog article called 99% of all Germans are irrelevant.

The fight all began with the deletion of an entry (called a lemma) about a group of people who are fighting the silly German government idea of putting stop signs in the Internet to stop child pornography. Right. I have actually offered to give a course Internet 101 to the members of parliament, but I am afraid they are too busy to attend.

Anyway, the German A-Team blogger picked it up, some Wikipedia authors and admins retaliated by deleting all sorts of other articles, and the fight raged on.

There was a meeting, packed into two rooms at the Wikimedia headquarters in Berlin, where everyone had their say, but nothing was actually decided. Many people do not understand that Wikimedia has nothing to do with the Wikipedia on the level of content or administration. That is for the community to do. Wikimedia can encourage community, but has other jobs in the area of wrenching knowledge and information and data that has already been paid for by the taxpayer from the claws of those who want to make money with it and get it put into the public domain.

And of course this falls at a perfect time, when Wikimedia itself is having communication problems between the leadership and the general membership and having a ton of vague notions about where they want to be in 10 years without realizing that the whole project may implode if they don't solve the current problems.

To me it just seems to be an exercise in Applied Anarchy. There is no government in the Wikipedia, just a bunch of rules and regulations that have developed over the years (including the rule to ignore all rules). But this means that people who delight in the attention they get by destroying work that others have done or who cannot tolerate any view of the world that is not their own, have very few checks and balances on their doings.

Oh, sure, we suggest that authors don't feed the trolls, and there is a vandalism patrol that keeps check on the most virulent of the vandals. But there are enough ways around this, and so many are calling for the installing of a Wikipedia Police Force (or at least a full-time editorial board with sweeping rights). But this opens up the whole thing to the lawyers, with people then having someone to sue to get an article about themselves or their companies either included or cast in a more flattering light.

Lighten up, people. If we could just channel this energy into writing articles and not deleting things that have promising beginnings (and not trying to stuff a doctoral thesis about topic X into the lemma) we can start to get the Wikipedia on better footing, so that we have a chance to indeed still be around in 2020.

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