Sunday, April 30, 2006


Policies from Hell II – WP:POINT

This is actually part two in a series of many to come of the Wikipedia arrogance towards the world outside the world's greatest rumor mill, aka the incredible free encyclopedia. WP:POINT seems an unlikely candidate for Rogue Rule of the Day, but you'll quickly see, it might even qualify for the monthly prize. Like many Wikipedia policies, WP:POINT makes sense at first glance, but given a little, just a tiny-winy little, further thought, it's utterly contemptible. This official policy demands you not to disrupt Wikipedia by experimenting with its bugs, err, features. Interestingly, on the German Wikipedia it's even more presumptuously called the "do not to disturb" rule.

First of all, it seems a bit rich of a site that has disrupted the Internet like no other single site before it, to demand to be left alone. This is a site that, thanks to the slavish work of gazillions of He-Men and Ashley_Simpson_467246s, clutters with its myriad of clones the search engines of the world, so you get Wikigibberish as the first result in your web search on anything from "Stalinism" to "Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy," from "Mussolini" to "Scientology versus the Internet." It's also the site where countless rumors are spread, few of which get as easily exposed as the case of Norway's prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, whose defamation through Wikipedia was initially replicated by some Norwegian newspapers. (I will expose a few rumors in future posts).

Well, you might think, that such chutzpah should rule, and "we fuck you, but don't fuck us" is a reasonable approach to maintain your street, err, web credibility. Yet, even if you play Jimbo's advocate, WP:POINT is utterly useless.

For most neat fluffy rules of Wikipedia can only be proven useless, when you put them into practice, or, rather you try to put them into practice. Let me give you an example: Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee, a lower Wikicourt for disputes between "editors": If you read its rules, you might think that you have a neat institution to resolve conflicts. Unless you try to put it into practice, thereby violating WP:POINT. Let me give you two examples I ran across (I apologize, these examples are from the German Wikipedia, but the workings don't differ dramatically from its English twin, only it's not yet as sophiscated with respect to rule fiddling, so it's a bit more blunt).

Exhibit A: This is a dispute I was involved in myself. It concerned an "edit war" about the "Scientology" article. Myself and an anti-cult activist were bickering about a State Supreme Court judgment on the surveillance of Scientology by the Verfassungsschutz, a peculiar melange of the CIA and the FBI for Germany and its constituent states. The Court had ruled that the long-term concealed surveillance of Scientology in the Saarland, a German State (Land), was unconstitutional. The ruling itself was uncontested, but we were warring about the reasons for this ruling. I'm not sure, how many people partake in the German Wikipedia, but my roll call number is 50,217 and I registered some time in 2004, well before Wikipedia was a staple name in Germany. So, you'd think that there would be quite a few lawyers, solicitors, or at least some students in some legal subjects, who could quickly figure out, who was right (I was, of course ;-)) and who was wrong. But, no, absolutely no-one was interested in our dispute and, after nothing had happened for a couple of weeks the dispute was non-chalantly filed under "solved disputes."

Exhibit B: This is a case between a minor, well maybe, mediocre Wikipedia celebrity, her User name is Juliana da Costa José, and some quite, let's say, conservative guys. On the German Wikipedia, a rather half-baked and, I am tempted to say: hence, widespread idea exists that editors should "evaluate" each others work. Picking up on this idea, Ms. Self-Declared Cool has created a sub-user page, where she characterizes, no, really, slants, some Wikipedia characters she ran across. Let's listen to her judgements:

Well, you'd think such distasteful crap, err Wikiquette violations, would be met with some lame sanctions. But, no, they are greeted with approval by an admin, who claims to be, and very likely is, a lawyer in life outside Wikipedia. Instead of debating the (in)adequacy of the insults, he immediately jumps to further ad hominem atacks of those figures that had been slanted. What follows is mainly a rather dull chitty-chat among members of da Costa José's fanclub and their long-time detractors, without any recourse to the incident itself, the slanting of characters. Needless to say, that there was no resolution in this case, either. Instead, Ms. da Costa José was even tapped on her back by her fan club for her charitable efforts in online mobbing and some crocodile tears were shed over the fact that a few IPs made some, rather clumsy and distasteful, ad hominem attacks on Ms. da Costa José in the course of the chat. Thus, rather than the "victim", the wrong-doer was gratified by the workings of the arbitration committee.

I have a couple of more examples along these lines, but my heart is weak, and I don't want to get too agitated at the moment.

The point ist WP:POINT hampers the critcism of rules that are well in theory, but turn out all too wrong in practice.

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