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Wikipedia makes me cry
Submitted by Bart on Wed, 2008-05-14 12:19
I said a while back that I was done with contributing content to Wikipedia. I'll stand by this. But I've been at least willing to contribute typo fixes and clarifying text, as long as I could do it anonymously.
Now I'm closer to being done with that too…
I was reading about Jim Crow Laws in Wikipedia today, and found an ugly little sentence that began "In 1913, for instance, the acting Secretary of the Treasuryâ€”an appointee of the first Southern-born president of the postwar periodâ€”was heard to express his consternation…" It seemed to me that adding actual names with wiki links might improve the sentence substantially. The sentence pretty clearly was referring to Woodrow Wilson, perhaps the most racist president in our nation's history (although James Buchanan was pretty bad).
I then looked for the edit button—and found that the page is locked. That's OK—I'm sure a page like "Jim Crow Laws" is a frequent target of racist garbage, so that makes sense. I next tried to find where in the revision history the page was locked, and where in the talk section it explained why. No luck: the revision history had no obvious explanation, and the talk section was pretty clearly an evolving set of page amendments that people couldn't get onto the page because it was locked, rather than actual discussion. There was, however, a hint that I could edit the page if I logged in.
I don't want to do edits on Wikipedia as myself; I want to do them anonymously, to reflect my lack of support for the organization. I thus decided to create a second account for myself. The first time I tried, I failed the CAPTCHA test. I was pretty sure I had typed it right, but oh well, I tried again and got past that hurdle.
Then I hit the final roadblock. The page informed me that an automatic username policy checker had decreed that my chosen username of "WikipediaFixer" violated the username creation policy of Wikipedia. So I went to the provided link to this policy (which is, by the way, not obviously available through Wikipedia's search function).
Oh my. The username policy of Wikipedia is about 2500 words. I kid you not. It wasn't obvious that "WikipediaFixer" violated the policy, but it wasn't obvious that it didn't, either.
Anyhow, by this time I had expended enough effort trying to make Wikipedia better—especially since I now had a long blog entry to write. I suppose I'll still do whatever typo fixes and minor corrections to Wikipedia that it lets me do truly anonymously. However, my commitment to helping Wikipedia has just gone down again.
I hadn't quite realized that was possible.
Update, a few minutes later: I note that the Wikipedia entry for tvtropes.org is marked for deletion due to lack of "notability" and of all things "verifiability". Hah. Go go Guardians of the Purity of Wikipedian Knowledge!]