Threats to Wikipedia

Tits taste like cotton candy!!!” — Anonymous Wikipedia user with IP address making a substitution for the text in the article “Breast“.

Those who speak of vandalism on Wikipedia as being a significant issue, as those at Encyclopaedia Britannica tend to do, are out of touch. Vandalism at Wikipedia is an annoyance, but in the grand scheme of things is no worse than the occasional blemish on an orange; it doesn’t look nice, but its easy to fix. And for the price of the information, it can’t be beat.

I’ve seen other articles deleted about topics of greater claimed notability than this pet project.” — self-described deletionist Wikipedia user “Chardish” on the Solarwolf article stub.

What I’ve come across as being a far more dangerous threat are the “deletionists”, those who feel that deleting a flawed article or stub is better than fixing it. In reality, these people have crossed the boundary from helpful housekeepers to censors, the kind if left unchecked will gut Wikipedia by deleting perfectly good articles and stubs rather than expending the effort required to fix them; consider the fate many webcomic entries have met and the pushback that’s resulted. What’s worse is that the deletionists’ mischief is far more difficult to control than the vandals’, especially since they think that what they’re doing is the right thing to do.

“Due to the nature of this investigation, our normal open discussion isn’t really feasible.” — Wikipedia user Durova justifying secret police activities on Wikipedia.

Finally, you have secret mailing lists where decisions are being made away from the scope of public viewing. This is probably the biggest threat to Wikipedia; its strength really is in its openness…

“Let me use the example of Wikipedia. You know as the [Ballmer raises his right hand, e.g. ‘it was me’] as formerly the world’s largest encyclopedia vendor. Used to be other guys and we took the crown [Ballmer pumps his fist, speaking triumphantly] with Expedia and now what we’ve found is essentially encyclo… the most popular encyclopedia in the world has no funding, it has no monetization model you could sort of say, its got kind of got an open source approach but for content eh as opposed to software in this case.” Steve Ballmer, October 2007.

I will predict in no uncertain terms that if ever Wikipedia collapses, it will not be from an outside attack by vandals or publishers like Britannica or Microsoft, but from the ‘good intentions‘ of people zealously working inside.


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