Over in the little kingdom of Wikipedia, a war is brewing that’s just pissing me off. There’s a specific user who seems to have an enormous, overarching hatred of Ajax (the web development technology encompassing asynchronous JavaScript, the Document Object Model, and DHTML), and in the furtherance of his hatred, appears to be absolutely hellbent on pissing all over everything related to it on Wikipedia. (He even chose his name to be a pun on the name of a well-known user who is proficient in Ajax technologies.) The user has been involved in huge revert wars on the Ajax article itself, and recently has also started monomaniacally adding a critical section to the page of Jesse James Garrett (the author of the article coining the Ajax name). Whenever anyone challenges his edits, the user throws a tantrum, makes wild accusations, and reverts the page to the last version he had defaced. (For example, when I edited his section to remove a falsely-attributed quote, remove a bit of bile, and delete a pointedly biased link to the defacer’s own website, he just called my edits “vandalism” and reverted them.) As of today, he’s managed to get an administrator to lock both pages from further edits, freezing them in a state that includes his vomitus.

To me, this highlights my biggest frustration with Wikipedia — that in an effort to allow communal access and editing of the encyclopedia, it makes the entire product susceptible to childish wailing and harrassment, and only pages that become high-profile develop enough community defense and generate enough community discussion to keep the miscreants at bay. When the pages aren’t high enough profile, such as the the case with the pages on Ajax and Jesse James Garrett, users with grudges might be able to pull the wool over the eyes of a gullible administrator and get him or her to intervene, lock the pages, and prevent anyone else from having an opinion. It’s all just screwed up beyond belief.

What can you do? I’m not all that sure. For now, you can go over to the relevant pages — the discussion page on the Jesse James Garrett article, the discussion page on the Ajax article, and the talk page for the admin user who locked the pages — and engage in reasoned discourse on why this whole mess is stupid. Perhaps logic and discussion might help (although I doubt it, since I’ve been trying for a week or two without much success). If that doesn’t work, perhaps others can try to bring this in front of the arbitration committee over at Wikipedia, since I’m rapidly losing both the energy and the interest in saving Wikipedia from itself. Maybe someone else has a better answer, though; I certainly don’t.

Update: a nice user dropped me an email that comments were totally broken; it’s fixed now.


This is a great example of why we are trying a different approach with Consumerpedia.org

All feedback and suggestions from you or your readers on how to make the Consumerpedia system better would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

A quick short-hand version of the core difference (more on our Blog and About page…)

“Eternal vigilance is the price of a wiki” - meaning that with a system like Wikipedia, since anyone can edit anything at any time, you need people who are willing and able to watch and correct “bad” edits at any time. The stabilizing factor with Wikipedia is the ever vigilant users.

“Cumulative vigilance is the benefit of Consumerpedia” - meaning that with a system like Consumerpedia, as users rate the helpfulness of comments and suggestions (and thus indirectly also rate the users who made those comments and suggestions - and also indirectly rate themselves as to how well their ratings correlate with those provided by others), the collective wisdom of what and who is good and bad (helpful and not helpful) grows over time. The stabilizing factor of Consumerpedia is the nature of the Consumerpedia system itself.

• Posted by: Consumerpedia on Aug 16, 2005, 6:15 AM

You find it “beyond belief” that a high-profile encyclopedia that can be modified by any idiot with a computer might get screwed up? Well, I admit that Wikipedia is far more robust than I would have thought possible, as this “healing experiment” demonstrates:


And I think the quality of the articles that I’ve looked at is quite good. But I’ve noticed a trend for people to link to Wikipedia articles as a catch-all reference, and I think this might be unwise: when your reader follows your link, he might find something that has been modified to be far different from the article you thought you were sending him to. So while Wikipedia might be fascinating and the efforts of its contributors admirable, it would seem to be fundamentally too unstable to be used as an actual online encyclopedia.

• Posted by: Lee Phillips on Aug 16, 2005, 10:39 AM

I’ve become frustrated with Wikipedia for just such reasons — and I agree with Lee Phillips’ comment above that it’s a good resource, but shouldn’t be considered an actual encyclopedia. I think certain users look at certain articles as their exclusive fiefs, and brook no updates unless they wrote them themselves. An example: I was doing some research on the Boeing 737 aircraft series a little while back, and in the course of doing so ran across a Boeing.com page with information that made it clear that some of the Wikipedia article on the 737 was outdated. I made some fixes and linked to the reference page, but the page was quickly reverted to its older version, with no reason given. I tried to make the fix again, with the same result. And again a third time.

(I decided that I’m not gonna fight the guy, whoever he is, because that’s really not how I care to spend my time.)

• Posted by: Vidiot on Aug 16, 2005, 12:35 PM

Of course! It’s allways the wrong version.

• Posted by: Matt Hampel on Aug 16, 2005, 5:13 PM

Shit does indeed happen, and from all accounts (though I’m not versed in AJAX enough to know) this situation sucks. But give it a bit of time. I’d be willing to take bets that the mistakes Q pointed out will be fixed within a month. (Yes, this is only one instance, a high-profile example, and more tends to get done about high-profile examples.

Consumerpedia: I’m not sure relying on auto-summed, explicit, numerical repuations systems will work. Two thirds of our brains are devtoed to natural social interaction; there’s some incredibly powerful stuff there. Explicit reputation systems tend to break the inbuilt implicit reputation systems (scaling that implicit system can be a bitch, of course, but wikipedia’s done well so far).

I think, really that more people of expertise need to get involved in things they know about and start treating wikipedia as a serious resource to be protected. Some work is involved, yes, but not very much if it’s distributed well. The balance of wikipedia power has been shifting away from the crackpots for awhile now.

• Posted by: Ben Yates on Aug 17, 2005, 2:21 AM
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