Wikimedia Foundation Advisory Board

A few days ago, the Wikimedia Foundation announced the creation of an advisory board of which I am thrilled to be a member. I’m honored to be on a board among many folks whose work has provided and example and inspiration for me and helped bring me, and my own work and activism, to where it is today.

But most of all, I’m thrilled to be able to help Wikimedia Foundation. I’ve been reasonably convinced that WMF’s projects, Wikipedia being most notable among them, are the single most important and exciting project in the world that I was not already involved in in some official capacity.

7 thoughts on “Wikimedia Foundation Advisory Board”

  1. An email system would be nice — email subscriptions are in fact something people arrange for Wikipedia and that is built into Mediawiki.

    But they’re not really necessary (I don’t use them for example even though I do almost everything over email). If you have put an article on your watchlist, you will be notified when it goes up for a PROD or AfD because it will involve at least one (and probably two) edits to the page.

    Of course, as you point out policy is often messy or could use adjustments but, like everything else, you can fix it! I recently made a bunch of edits to the notability criteria for people because I wasn’t happy them. My changes have stuck.

    Some of the minor technical enhancements you suggest would be good, but they don’t address what I think is the real problem underlying your complains. At the end of the day, regular editors are more comfortable changing policy, more comfortable making edits, etc.

    This becomes an issue because deletionists tend to be regulars and inclusionists are often not. The policies and procedure and even the technology is pretty good — but it doesn’t make a difference if  you have a good watch list if the anonymous editors who add most content to Wikipedia don’t use them.

    That’s a social problem, and a very difficult one because it’s not clear to me that we even understand who these people are and how we need to tweak things to ensure that the playing field is in fact balanced.

  2. If the authors of the sites you had mentioned had made the arguments they did in the AfD article, they would, in all likelihood, have saved the articles.

    True, but you shouldn’t need to constantly police articles you have an interest in just to keep them from deletion.

    I understand that the advisory board doesn’t control individual administrators.  I do, however, suspect that the advisory board could have some influence on the underlying policies applied by those administrators.  A little work here and there to establish the ever-desirable bright-line tests desired by administrators would go a long way.

    Even some simple steps could help here.  What about a system where you could get an email whenever an article you care about goes up on AfD?  How about a “devil’s advocate” system, where any article not completely devoid of merit gets a defender?  Would it hurt to greatly increase the discussion period for an AfD, such as to a minimum of a few weeks or a month, to give people time to notice?  Five days seems excessively fast; speedy deletion already exists for obvious vandalism and similar.

  3. Josh,

    I’m fully aware of deletionists in Wikipedia and issues with notability for Internet sites. I’ve authored articles for web sites and had them proposed for deletion. In each case, I’ve worked hard to get people together and saved the site from inclusion. If the authors of the sites you had mentioned had made the arguments they did in the AfD article, they would, in all likelihood, have saved the articles. Of course, all of this machinery  is invisible to most people and getting editors off to a running start is tricky. That’s a tough problem. All I can say is that as an editor, I’ve had my share of articles deleted or proposed for deletion and I understand.

    In any case, the advisory board is meant to advise the Wikimedia Foundation. They don’t set editing policy (except perhaps legal policy) for Wikipedia or other wikis so I’m not sure what change I’ll be able to push in this regard.

  4. Would you consider taking a look at
    http://www.schlockmercenary.com/blog/index.php/2007/02/05/webcomics-wikiwatch/
    and http://www.evil-comic.com/2007/02/wikiwatch-1.html ?  If you look past the
    bits of mildly inflammatory language (rather forgivable after observing the
    less savory aspects of the Wikipedia community), you will see an important
    point about Wikipedia policies: “notable” often equates to “non-Internet”,
    which impedes the ability to document online entities.  While I understand the
    origins of this policy (a site as popular as Wikipedia makes for a tempting
    promotional vehicle for random sites), notability criteria still need work.
    People want a bright-line test, but one does not always exist, and when it
    does people don’t always apply it.  Finally, it becomes difficult to create
    standards for notability while simultaneously having to apply those standards
    to themselves; for instance, consider trying to define notability for
    webcomics while simultaneously dealing with claims of non-notability for
    webcomic awards.  Metaturtles all the way down. :)

    I think that Wikipedia’s standards generally bias in favor of removing content
    rather than adding it, and that seems completely backwards.

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