Wikipedia – hypocritical?

wikipedia.jpgNow I’m a big defender of Wikipedia – I think it’s a wonderful resource and a wonderful phenomena… one of the best examples of user-generated content, citizen journalism and the wisdom of the masses out there on the Web – so it is with some reluctance and trepidation I criticise its policies which, by the main, seem to be reasonable.

There has been a debate over the recently-deleted entry to Zeitgeist the Movie (thanks to Leigh for the pointer) that has really fired me up and got my goat.

You can see some of that debate in the archived discussion page.

I won’t go into what I think about the movie here… my concern is with Wikipedia’s policies.

Now I agree that many of the supporters of keeping the entry were more concerned about keeping the content rather than whether or not the article conformed to Wikipedia guidelines. They saw the removal of the article as censorship of the movie’s content. But that wasn’t really the issue here – the real issue was whether or not it conformed to Wikipedia guidelines on notability.

In the end the editors decided that the entry failed to meet the criteria. To be fair to editors they did do the right thing by following the guidelines (albeit a strict interpretation – some have disputed that there is room for flexibility).

The problem is that the guidelines for notability state that the subject of an entry must be mentioned in the mainstream media before it is deemed notable. Despite being discussed vigorously on blogs, forums and in chat rooms, and despite getting millions of hits on Google (it’s also been Dugg several times) , apparently a movie has to be receive “full length reviews by two or more nationally known critics” to become notable!

Does anyone else see the contradiction here? The irony even? Wikipedia – the poster child of user-generated content, citizen journalism and the wisdom of the masses says that extensive reference to a topic on blogs, forums, chat rooms and wikis does not constitute notability.

If that is true… then what the policy is saying is that Wikipedia itself is not a reliable source!

Despite what you may think of the content of the movie itself, Zeitgeist the Movie has become a phenomenon. Surely this in itself means it warrants an entry in Wikipedia?

I’m no expert on Wikipedia policy, nor have I followed the debate too closely, but there is something deeply disturbing to me about this situation, and I think that the editors really need to take another look at that particular policy.

11 responses to “Wikipedia – hypocritical?

  1. Pingback: Wikipedia bureaucrat action and the policy itself discredits wikipedia? « Learn Online

  2. Pingback: OLDaily[中文版] » Blog Archive » 2007年7月16日

  3. Pingback: Zeitgeist - too hot for Wikipedia? at HotnStinky

  4. what about anticonsumer and youtube? way too many coincidences these days

  5. i run a magazine here in the UK and would love to do an article on both the movie and the uproar it has caused. how can i get in touch with the film makers? a quick look on the website reveals no contact details!


  6. Norman: The producer has removed his contact details from his website due to an overwhelming response. It looks like you will just have to wait for him to make himself available again.

    Of course if there’d been a wiki page up about the movie… :-/

  7. First time I see something removed from wikipedia (or something I cant wiki-lookup). When I googled “zeitgeist wiki”, as i often do to get info on stuff, all I got was an angry discussion page. LOL! It seems this movie have struck a few and make hairs stand on both sides. Will be excellent entertainment to follow the circus!

    However, Im very disappointed in wikipedia. I have seen a lot worse things having their own wiki page. Just about ANYTHING has its own wikipage these days!

  8. @mikkybkk: I’ve seen a lot worse too. For example, I’ve seen whole pages lifted off company’s website that easily violate Wikipedia’s ‘no promotion’ policy.

  9. Are you really so dense as to not see why this was pulled off the site? Or to even say that wikipedia is a reliable soruce of information? Yeah well next time you write a professional paper anything college level or higher, you turn in wikipedia as one of your sources, go right ahead, youll be laughed at. Wikipedia cannot be used as reliable source for anything that requires validated information. And the reason why this was pulled and others are not is because no ones cause a fuss over the other ones that are violating the policy, I havent even seen this movie but if its causeing as much controversy as everyone says then someone’s going to have a problem with it and eventually someone’s going to get a bunch of someones and make a problem for sites like Wikipedia. I dont think wikipedia’s going to stick their neck on the chopping block just so people like you can think they are a “reliable” source.

  10. Dear Sean: Great article here. In fact, I tried to create an entry for someone with substantial academic and professional credentials, and Wikipedia told me that this person is not “noteworthy”. I also cited to the administrators a few other wiki pages of individuals on the same level, or even less “notable”, and they came back with “well, this guy (in Wikipedia) was mentioned in the New York Times”. Unbelievable. So, an infamous spammer gets written up in the Times and gets to have a Wiki page and someone else with a PhD is called “not worthy of recognition”? Where has our society gone? To the dogs? I believe so. Comments welcome. Regards.

  11. Goodness Keith! Where did you come from? No-one has commented on this blog for years!

    From what I’ve seen the problem with the editors of Wikipedia has gotten worse in the years since I made this post.

    The situation is reflective of a general cultural malaise, I think. As society is becoming more complex and unpredictable, and the traditional grand narratives that gave life meaning (Modernism, unfettered technological progress, traditional religion etc.) are starting to break down, and the world becomes more scary for many people, we see more controlling behaviours everywhere, like the resurgence of fundamentalist religon and the epidemic of anti-immigrant xenophobia we see sweeping the world.