Surviving Wikipedia Grinchs

Ra’al Ki Victorieux

After receiving bullying and censorship on Wikipedia, I have written this article to give tips to those who wish to participate in “free” online collaboration projects, such as those of the Wikimedia Foundation.

During November I participated in the Asia Month on Wikipedia, I was bullied during the process. I related my experience with an article that I published on December 3, entitled: Let me tell you about Wiki-bullying in Asian Month 2020. This seems to have motivated the Wikipedia Grinchs, Grinches, to delete almost in their entirety the 44 articles that I had made concerning Asian art. These Internet librarians get a bit extreme. I am sure that this experience is common for many who wish to collaborate on Wiki, and I want to give some tips on how to survive these situations. ; ”)

By the way, today is the 20th anniversary of Wikipedia, a “free” online collaboration project. You can find more information about the celebration in this Wikimedia link. In computing, a “Wiki” it is known as the computer work systems used in websites that allow users to modify or create their content quickly and easily. Wikipedia was founded by Larry Sanger and Jimmy Donal, known as “Jimbo.” While Larry is a philosopher, Jimbo is a businessman. This causes that the results for the searches of one and the other return very different results. Larry calls him self an “ex-founder” and insists on exposing Wikipedia’s rifts and conflicts, as in this video from Why Wikipedia is Broken.

Wikipedia. Atma Unum.

Due to the success that Wikipedia provides enormous visibility, many people want to volunteer. In principle it is necessary to learn some basic rules of editing, format, software, etc. In 2014 I held several conferences and workshops to invite cultural professionals to collaborate with information on Mexican art. One of the posts I published is Become a Wikipedian! With the mentorship of Leigh Thelmadatter, then an ambassador for Wikipedia, we conducted an editaton at the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana. Then I paused in my collaborations, and in 2020 I began to hear the controversy about the reliability of the online encyclopedia, I read about the “edition wars” between collaborators, some even linked to people from the extreme right who seek to make their worldview prevails in content. Hence, in 2020 I decided to have a second approach to Wikimedia. I chose the Month of Asia, which is celebrated every November. Because it is a subject that I am personally passionate about, I have taken workshops, read books, taught courses about it. However, I encountered bullying, not only a lot of resistance to enter with content in such a competition, but constant attempts to eliminate the content that I was generating, to the point that I lost access to the page where I could add my contributions. Later, after posting my experience on this blog, I even had an “attack” on accessing my blog. I was worried, right, because the wiki-grinchs, which although they may not be all wikipedia volunteers, were turning out to be a kind of aggressive hackers. A librarian from Argentina even sent me a friend request to my personal facebook, not on my official page (although I have disabled the option for my personal profile to appear in search engines), to “warn me” that he would start deleting my content. I asked him – “why do you let me know by private message when it comes to something public like a Wiki edit?” And his answer was that because it was private like that, that if I wanted to learn, he could help me with a video conference one of these days. I blocked him, I am not interested in any “personal” relationship or “editorial blackmail”. Point.

If you still have doubts about who censors on Wikipedia ?, I will explain it in more detail: The “editorial” area -those who censor / decide what remains and what to delete- are the volunteers who have more time (sometimes only a little more than one year) or activity, and “apply” to the position of “librarian” by votes (which means that they have the support of other profiles). Sort of like a “presumably-democratic-voting-wiki.” The point is that when many people from the extreme right join as volunteers and editors “take” this project to impose their very particular way of seeing the world, censoring / erasing the content of others who do not belong to that clan. This is the problem of self-regulation in free collaborative software in which freedom is misunderstood and functions as censorship.

During the end of the year, as usual, I did a recap of my learnings. I also considered: What people who still want to enter the battlefield of knowledge can do on wikipedia? I suggest following these points: 1. Practice and learn about technical procedures first, so that this is not one of your weaknesses. 2. Gather the content of what you want to publish, and preferably document it with reliable documents such as hemerography, bibliography, academic papers, etc. 3. Make your text, “translate” it into the wiki format, and upload it to an “editing workshop” or sandbox. Always keep a backup of your collaborations on your computer, so you will have your material to collaborate on other sites, or to nurture your own work, in case the text is deleted from the wiki. 4. Request support from a librarian in the mentoring program. 5. Be patient and be constant, remember that it is a community of “specialists”, and its seems to be “dominated” by the “strongest” (or abusive ones). 6. Avoid starting by entering any competition, and preferably also do not post against the wikipedia grinch, who can be quite angry and take things personal. I understand that I am advising NOT to do what I did, hehehe, but I think it is a good idea that people can avoid conflicts, or at least be warned that they will not necessarily find a community with open doors, a peaceful and collaborative attitude.

Now, it is also good to remember that although this popular project has deviated from the collaborative, respectful and generous way, there are many other online knowledge projects, both general and specialized, encyclopedias, databases, dictionaries, etc., in which you can collaborate. You can even create your own project to collect and share knowledge.

I hope this article has been interesting for you. Thanks for the likes, comments and sharing. See you soon.

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