This post presents two notes I have posted at Wikipedia. The general concept is that Wikipedia's editors have gone overboard. This is visible to the end user in the form of obtrusive stickers pasted onto the tops of articles, and it is apparent to contributors whose work is summarily deleted. The first note, posted July 16, 2010, is as follows:
With some frequency, I am seeing messages, like this one from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tools_to_create_Live_USB_systems:
"This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. Please improve this article by removing excessive and inappropriate external links or by converting links into footnote references."
The article in question is entitled, "List of tools to create Live USB systems." It is a list. Various items in the list are hyperlinked directly to other articles.
I love footnotes. But in this case, footnotes would add an unnecessary intervening step. They would also confuse the presentation and diminish the user's experience. If the creator had followed the wishes of the benighted editor who added this remark, then for every link that I wanted to follow, I would have had to jump to the bottom of the page to find the link that I would intend to open in a separate tab. Then back up to the list; then back down to the footnotes; etc.
I send you this remark because these pseudo-editorial remarks have infected a remarkable number of Wikipedia pages. As I have become more consciously aware of them, I have also found them more distracting. Sometimes such remarks linger for years, without anyone other than the original "editor" finding it especially important to administer the prescribed medication to a healthy page.
In lieu of a system in which self-appointed overseers apparently have free rein to mark up wiki pages with their notions of purity, I suggest that such editorial remarks themselves be submitted as tentative or proposed, visible not in full text but in the form of an icon or other indicator (e.g., "Editor Requests Improvements"), to which likeminded individuals can turn if they wish to get lost in the arcana together -- without, that is, screwing up the ordinary user's experience.
The second note, posted yesterday, reads thus:
I have a law degree from my youth, and am now completing a Ph.D. I have published books and articles. This, one would think, is the sort of person who probably has something to contribute to Wikipedia. Let me tell you how that is working out.
I have spent a half-hour, just now, trying to figure out where to get an answer to a simple question about Wikipedia editors' deletions of newcomers' contributions. I don't have that answer yet. I'm out of time. So, even if there were no other considerations, I would not be making a contribution today after all.
I started in the vicinity of this page, looking for some way to file a complaint or grievance. I couldn't figure it out. Yes, I'm tired and only waking up. If Wikipedia would prefer that I come back in the peak of my day to spend an uncertain amount of key time on this very minor part of my life, well, I suppose that's possible. But it's not likely.
Aside from running out of time, the other reason I won't make the contribution that I was going to make is that, on at least two prior occasions, I have submitted new pages. I have added information where there was none. Those hours of work were wiped out, in each case, by one so-called editor who felt the content was unworthy. I objected, but nobody responded. Twice is enough. I won't be doing that again.
What I wanted, this morning, was some kind of assurance that today's contribution would be vetted by more than one idiot before it could be eliminated. I also wanted to know that there would be a streamlined and intelligent process for getting it back, should said idiots err. I don't have that assurance. So, as I say, no contribution from me.
The general problem seems to be that Wikipedia's editorial energies are misdirected. In search of answers, I went to the main Wikipedia webpage. There, I saw the same sprawl as on the dispute resolution page. While there is an abundance of people willing to put fault-finding stickers front and center on newcomers' contributions, ironically, there seems to be nobody willing and able to provide editorial discipline on the main page about Wikipedia itself or, as I say, on the dispute resolution page.
I'm glad we have all these people willing to find fault with other people's contributions. The volunteer spirit lives. But these marvelous energies seem misdirected. Why would anyone want to post a contribution, only to come back and see that some putative representative of Wikipedia has given it an F?
I suggest Wikipedia review its editorial system. I expect this will take months, if not years. I don't have time for, or interest in, this sort of frustration, so I plan to refrain from contributing to Wikipedia during 2011. I have a note to myself to revisit this question next January.
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