Wikicrap

Wikipedia is a perfect example of the tragedy of the commons: where multiple individuals acting independently in their own self-interest can ultimately destroy a shared resource even where it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long term interest for this to happen.

I love Wikipedia. I use it constantly, like in the sentence above. For the big picture stuff, Wikipedia works. Take the article on Hamas for example – a nuanced treatment of currently one of the most explosive (literally) topics in the news today. In this, it benefits from high visibility, and a lot of people pushing and pulling at cross-currents to come up with the “conventional wisdom” on a given subject. It has about 10 or so edits a day, and editing with an axe to grind is treated as vandalism and pruned in short order. Wikipedia works precisely as advertised here – the wisdom of the many is outed in the struggle of the everyday. Beautiful phrase,  no? Pity it doesn’t work anywhere else.

Let’s take a look at two people: Raph Koster and myself. You know, I’m going to just go out on a limb here and say Raph’s had a bit more impact on virtual world development than I have. Yet poor Raph gets one breezy paragraph and a credits list, and I get a loving dissertation (which I didn’t write, by the way) on the various ebb and flows of my blogging history. (Which mind you, used to be even longer.) Richard Bartle freaking helped invent MUDs and his entry is mostly about how he pisses World of Warcraft players off. Good thing Rob Pardo has a good entry! Oh wait, no, he doesn’t, his entire biography is how he hates Paladins. NO, I AM NOT JOKING AT ALL. Thanks, Wikipedia, for focusing on what’s really important about the career of the lead designer of the most successful MMO in history. You rock. Especially since, apparently according to Wikipedia, I am the most important MMO developer of our time. I’m getting a plaque or something now.

As a result, we have a bit of a kerfluffle (described by Bartle and Koster) where an angry Wikipedian decided that a MUD he may or may not have used to play isn’t “notable“, meaning that it isn’t worthy of being included in the same category of knowledge as, say, ponyplay. To be fair, the article in question does read more like an ad than a descriptor. But the talk page (a page attached to each wiki entry where people can discuss the pros and cons of MUDding, ponyplay, or both) descends into Shakespearean madness and it’s pretty clear that some uninvolved rational adult needs to step in and thwap everyone on the nose. Of course, no such individual actually exists, so we get people with duelling ASCII signature tags arguing over encyclotrivia.

But maybe it’s just MMOs where Wikipedia falls down. Let’s look at two other people: Barack Obama and Lyndon LaRouche. Space aliens would, just judging from Wikipedia, judge LaRouche as equally notable as Obama. (Luckily, they’d probably also find it easier to communicate with him). This is a good example of where Wikipedia just craps all over itself – since Wikipedia is a hivemind, there’s no policing save that of interested parties – and the interested parties in LaRouche’s case happen to be, well, LaRouchies who think he’s the pre-eminent economist of our times or something. Again, there’s no controlling legal authority (thanks, Al Gore!) so the occasional random visitor dumbstruck by such statements as “LaRouche was credited by press in Italy and Argentina as the economist who successfully forecast the financial crisis of 2007–2008” (note: this may in fact be true, if you come from the Moon) are attacked themselves as having “conflicts of interest“.

Wikipedia is like the web writ manifest – a huge body of knowledge, with no guidance save that of its priesthood, who ensure that there is no editorial voice whatsoever. Which would work, if everyone on the planet agreed on important moral issues, and was sane, and didn’t have axes to grind, and knew what they were talking about. Failing that, it’s much like, well, reading a blog. You might get something of interest, or you might get the leavings of some random game developer ranting about arcane geeky political issues on his lunch break.

And hey, if you think I’m off the wall when it comes to Wikipedia, try Prokofy Neva’s opinion. Having Wikipedia vetted through Second Life? Well, at least then we’d be able to grief the LaRouchies, I suppose.

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67 Responses to Wikicrap

  1. sinij says:

    Would the world be better is Wiki never existed? I don’t think so. So whatever its flaws are, and there are numerous, it is a net gain for humanity.

  2. breed says:

    I only use Wiki to look up band bio information. Other than that it is mostly worthless.

  3. Zuzax says:

    I think Wikipedia is now an MMOG, populated by rival editing guilds.

  4. This is what we blog about in 2009 – Wikipedia isn’t 100% perfect?

    To see Wikipedia’s success look no further than this post – instead of comparing Wikipedia to other resource sites, news outlets or the Encyclopedia Britannica, we compare Wikipedia to Utopian perfection.

    So how does your Wikipedia article stand up when compared to your Encyclopedia Britannica article?

  5. greglas says:

    It’s “the Web writ manifest” — that’s quite right! You shouldn’t expect anything more (or less) out of it…

  6. sidereal says:

    The problem is you’re equating Wikipedia content length or coverage with objective importance. There’s no correlation between the two, as should be apparent to anyone who uses it frequently (especially for fringe topics). That is not Wikipedia’s function. If you want an importance metric, go to PageRank or something similar.

    I can’t remember a single time anyone has cited length of Wikipedia article as evidence of something or someone’s importance, so I really don’t think it’s a problem. It only comes up in vanity peen-waving contexts, and is therefore irrelevant to most users and uses.

  7. JuJutsu says:

    Congratulations on being less off-the-wall than Prokofy Neva.

  8. Mode says:

    LaRouchies used to be pretty common on Wikipedia. You’d be reading an article on nuclear power and there’d be a section on what LaRouche thought of it. Eventually saner minds got fed up with them and they were mostly banned.

    The majority of articles on Wikipedia have a singular author that is responsible for the majority of content. So the lack of a good article on Raph is mostly that no-one has ever sat down and said “I would like to make this article on Raph good”. Eventually, someone will do just that.

  9. Sullee says:

    Like most things internet you simply need to take the good and filter the bad yourself. And I agree with sidereal entirely; not sure why you are using length as a metric.

    On the peen-waving front I’m not sure notoriety is any metric either. The top people in specialized fields are not broadly known. I think you are confusing the industry with the product which is likely easy to do from the inside. Any gamers enjoyment of WoW is likely not related to their knowledge of Rob Pardo for example. Conversely the notoriety of e.g. Raph or you is likely not a good indication of your contributions to the field.

  10. mandrill says:

    You’re right Wikipedia is good at the big picture. It is also good at hard and fast facts, rather than opinions. Discerning one from the other is your responsibility, and if you think someone is wrong then the beauty of Wikipedia is that you can say so and add your subjective facts (ie opinion) to the mix.

    Wikipedia is far from perfect (I don’t have my own page for a start, mebbe I should fix that…) but nothing built by human hands is. It is however one of the better resources on the internet as long as you do your own fact checking, which can be said of any media. You have to work to get anything worth having in this world and that includes accurate information, expecting to be spoon fed it is just asking to be lied to.

  11. Pinwiz says:

    It’s a great starting point. That’s all that matters.

  12. Openedge1 says:

    Wiki for me can be summed up in the area of work for my contracts..

    I work for a Religious organization.

    In the many attempts to add the specific organization I work with to Wikipedia, the constant whole hearted deletions of said article got to be a major argument day in and day out.
    Each time it was another deleter. Everytime it was either someone who was a noted Atheist or other dissenter.
    It does not bother me how people feel about it (believe? don’t believe? that is fine…isn’t it why we are a “Free” society?). It really was the matter of having the article posted in the first place.
    My arguments of “Why can Scientology” have a page and our organization (which is a Methodist based group) not be noted, went on deaf ears.
    I finally gave up after the 5th deletion, and was able to at least link the organization on a famous Bishop’s page who was the creator of the organization…

    Then they decided to delete his image there even though it was under Creative Commons…

    Wikipedia is VERY opinionated.

  13. Vetarnias says:

    As a starting point, it’s good. But it’s as someone once posted elsewhere, on Wikipedia, a study of Klingon used to rate longer than an entry for your average philosopher. I haven’t checked recently to see if that has changed, but I suspect it hasn’t.

    As an encyclopedia, it never ranked very highly, its appeal being based mostly on the fact that it’s free, something that no professional encyclopedia could ever achieve unless it benefited from major donations by Bill Gates or others.

    I think Wikipedia’s greatest purpose will be revealed over time, as a structured repository of miscellaneous trivia of varying relevance. That’s if it resists the urges of those who’d delete entire entries on the ground that they’re no longer newsworthy. In this respect the “encyclopedists” at Wikipedia are more to fear than the populists or the trivia compilers.

  14. Mist says:

    LaRouche and random MMO devs don’t really matter. The fact that Wikipedia can get the big things that matter right, means, with enough involvement, it could get just about everything right.

  15. Muckbeast says:

    I am the owner of Threshold (http://www.thresholdrpg.com), and I appreciate Scott and other blogs bringing some attention to this issue.

    The reason this whole debacle is, imho, noteworthy and important, goes far beyond the entry for my company’s game: Threshold. We have had entries for other games or aspects of our company created and deleted on Wikipedia in the past, and we didn’t get involved. We get ZERO customers from Wikipedia, so what happens there is largely irrelevant.

    What made us get actively involved in this instance was the nefarious campaign of a small cabal of Wikipedia editors and admins, and the pernicious way they behaved. They spent a few weeks poking and proding at people who spent 4 years working on the entry, and the instant they slipped up on some Wiki policy, they banned them. Once they had everyone banned, they moved in with an AfD (article for deletion) – obviously thinking there would be nobody left with the power to post who would argue to KEEP it.

    They were wrong, and a lot of people in the MUD community started adding their views. This same group of people immediately started labelling them all sockpuppets or meatpuppets, and the bans were falling like raindrops. That happens to be an absolute violation of Wikipedia’s own policy, interesting nicknamed “WP:BITE” (bascially, don’t bite the newbies).

    As the AfD progressed, they made it clear they intended to remove *ALL* similar MUD or MUD related pages, as they were all too irrelevant for Wikipedia. That is when we REALLY got involved, because we definitely feel MUDs have a significant place in the history of the internet and online games.

    It was at this point that a bunch of respected gaming blogs picked it up (Dr. Bartle’s, Raph Koster’s, like this one, and others) and the discussion has spread like wildfire.

    I think it raises some interesting issues for gamers and internet “netizens” in general. Wikipedia is the 4th most popular web site on the internet and it gets preferably placement on google. With great power comes great responsibility. If Wikipedia wishes to hold itself out as a repository of all human knowledge, and solicit millions of dollars of donations to that end, it needs to hold itself to a higher standard when deciding to completely purge the historical record of major concepts like MUDs or specific, established MUDs.

    -Michael
    Muckbeast – Game Design and Online Worlds
    http://www.muckbeast.com
    http://www.thresholdrpg.com

  16. Vetarnias says:

    Oh, we could discuss Wikipedia politics for hours — it’s really fascinating.

    If you want to read some serious criticism of Wikipedia, I refer the readers here to the British IT publication “The Register” (if you didn’t know about it already), which turned this into an art.

  17. TPRJones says:

    Wikipedia is a good starting point, but that’s all it is: a place to start. Trust nothing; verify anything that seems important. This is true not only of Wikipedia, but also of Time Magazine, ABC News, The New Yorker, BrokenToys.org, and EVERY other source of information that exists, online or off.

    The problem isn’t Wikipedia, the problem are the idiots that believe anything they read and trust sources instead of their own research efforts and ability to think.

  18. Brask Mumei says:

    WP:N is the Achilles heel of Wikipedia. It is needed to keep the cranks out, but then is often perverted to delete perfectly accurate, non-biased, articles on the crazy grounds that they are not “notable enough”. This leads people to conclude that the articles that *do* survive, ie, treatsies on obscure characters in pokemon, must have been considered more notable than the deleted article. This leads people to becoming extraordinarily frustrated with the whole system and quit in disgust. Which is a loss to us all because that accurate and non-biased article should have been kept as the only people that would encounter it are those who are searching it.

    I’ve often seen articles up for deletion where people would write in: “I found this article useful as it answered my question when I searched on it.” yet this being rejected as an irrelevant note.

    My exposure to Wikipedia politics has been equally negative. Rules-lawyering trolls trying to burn things down, claims of “meatpuppeting” (an extremely offensive term, it is antithetical to the idea of WP:BITE. Yes, AFDs are not about voting. But it isn’t about dismissing people either.) to deflect the rather simple fact that experts in the field (in this case, the MUD playing community) all reject their opinion.

    The problem with Wikipedia is *not* the tragedy of the commons. It actually skirts that issue extremely skillfully. The problem with Wikipedia is that it is easier to destroy than create. Thus, the destroyers and banners who focus their energy on that will always win over the builders. It is hard enough to write a good article without also being expected to stand watch over it. Nothing pisses me off more than searching for something, finding it on Wikipedia well answered in a fashion that is useful and interesting, and seeing the inevitable: “This article was nominated for deletion…”

  19. Skelanth says:

    Lum deserves such a large entry because Lum will lead us to the promised mmog.

  20. dartwick says:

    lum gave up

  21. Boanerges says:

    If you really want to see editor bias, go into any topic on global warming and just hint that maybe it might not be true. It will be gone within the hour.

    The problem with Wikipedia is two prong
    1. It’s often whatever random-person-x THINKS the truth is (or would like the truth to be)
    2. It’s seen as an authority on the Internet by many people. Probably most notably Google, who highly ranks it articles. Many schools now warn students to not cite Wikipedia as a source.

    Wikipedia is at its best when it’s a general or obscure topic and there are few people with axes to grind. They have some superb episode guides to various TV series. And wikis are great when you have a strong community standing behind them.

    The silliest thing, tho, are people who get uppity when Wikipedia wars break out. If you want your content on the Internet then post it somewhere. I’m amazed at people who spend long hours posting content on Wikipedia where anyone can edit it. If you really want your article published then find a free publisher that is NOT Wikipedia. Google still does pay attention to the rest of the Internet, I promise.

  22. Freakazoid says:

    Didn’t we have this conversation last year?

    Also, I really do think you were far more important at the time than you realise, but it’s not worth trolling wikipedia over it. The disunion between pre-WoW and post-WoW player/developer communication is so wide, we will never again see a single ranter have such influence over MMOs in our lifetime.

  23. Hirvox says:

    IMHO, one of the greatest things that has happened to Wikipedia has been the founding of topic-specific sub-wikis under wikia.com. If you want a general idea, you go to Wikipedia. If you want specific knowledge, you go to the sub-wikis. Communities are free to have their own stomping grounds and Wikipedia editors do not have to engage in wars about notability.

  24. D-0ne says:

    Wiki biographies are based on being hated or loved enough for someone to take the time to write about you.

    I consider Lum’s wiki an example of Internet drama driving a wiki entry. To the credit of wiki the defensive topics have been mostly removed from the article.

  25. Vetarnias says:

    I also have to ask: What exactly is wrong with being considered worthy of a Wikipedia entry? Sure, maybe you’d like to be remembered for something else than “I think paladins suck”, but at least they considered you were worthy of being remembered in the first place.

    It’s not as though your entry claimed you killed both Kennedys.

  26. wowpanda says:

    Maybe they should not delete, just make all posts searchable, and put on a recommendation system, posts sorted by recommendations.

  27. Muckbeast says:

    > Brask Mumei wrote:
    > WP:N is the Achilles heel of Wikipedia.
    > It is needed to keep the cranks out, but then
    > is often perverted to delete perfectly accurate,
    > non-biased, articles on the crazy grounds that
    > they are not “notable enough”.”

    That is so incredibly true. WP:V (verifiability) is considered the threshold and foundation of whether an article exist, and there was a time where WP:V loomed large and was the most important consideration. But lately, WP:N (notability) has become the 700 pound gorilla running rampant through Wikipedia and stomping everything in its path.

    > The problem with Wikipedia is that it is easier
    > to destroy than create. Thus, the destroyers and
    > banners who focus their energy on that will always
    > win over the builders.

    Exactly. And I suspect that is why WP:N is en vogue and WP:V is deemed irrelevant.

    Also, there are aspiring Wikipedia editors with visions of administratorhood in their eyes, and the only way to move up the ranks is to have a lot of “contributions.” Well, that’s not easy since most topics are already written about. So that leaves destroying things, or only supporting your own pet, obscure topics.

    The person who spearheaded the move to destroy Threshold’s entry has an entry on the 1993 PC game “Buzz Aldrin’s Race into Space.” Now, that’s a pretty darn obscure topic, but since its his baby and he has his admin friends helping protect it, it is safe.

    The system itself is cooked, and the tiny cabal of editors who rule the place act like the rules do not apply to them (and in effect, they don’t).

    Wikipedia is a cool idea gone horribly wrong.

  28. Vetarnias says:

    And let’s not forget the “no original research” clause which can get stretched pretty far when the occasion lends itself to it. In a way, it’s necessary to avoid all those conspiracy theorists coming up with links between the Vatican, aliens, the CIA, Wal-Mart, global warming and a one-legged Senegalese medium who can channel Queen Victoria — as well as all the lawsuits that could come as a result of them (and of course prove them right).

    But sometimes it was getting absurd. I vaguely recall the case of one minor (but litigious) public figure without much claim to fame where someone posted something to the effect that said figure had had a few court rulings against him. As factual as it gets. But Wikipedians came to the conclusion that although court rulings were indeed factual, they were not easily obtainable by the community to be verified, so any mention of court cases could also fall under Original Research.

    So what is original research? Something not available online for confirmation by millions?

  29. Darby says:

    I agree, who ever invented wikipedi, may have not had a reviser to revise there website. but, it is fun answer questions that others do not know.

    fortune cookie fact:
    “A man does not fail until he gives up.”

  30. Iconic says:

    Slow news day, huh?

  31. DOTAMONSTER says:

    Hm. I’m usually satisfied with the majority of Wikipedia’s content. I even find some of the trolling on articles amusing.

    But I feel ya on this. There’s times where I’m trying to look for a credible source that’s linked to wikipedia and all that’s filled in the article is utter crap.

  32. Adam Hyland says:

    I’m sorry, but where is Britannica’s article on Threshold?

    http://www.britannica.com/bps/fulltext?query=threshold

    I can’t seem to find it.

  33. Muckbeast says:

    In case anyone is interested, they deleted the entry. There were 17 votes for DELETE, 22 votes for KEEP, with Wikipedia admins on both sides. The supposed rules for an “Article for Deletion” discussion were completely ignored. The AfD was closed after 3 days when the rule is 5 minimum. An article is only supposed to be deleted if there is a CONSENSUS FOR DELETE. With more people on the KEEP side, it is absurd to argue there was consensus to delete.

    Furthermore, the “closing admin” substituted his own pure opinion and completely ignored everything discussed on the page, the input of experts, etc.

    Basically, Wikipedia is run by a bunch of hard core lifers willing to break any and all rules and policies of Wikipedia to get their way and protect their buddies.

    If you look at the stats of recent admins and people trying to become admins, almost everything they do is negative. You will see stats like “1370 deletions, 27 pages rescued or created.” Basically, the only way to “move up” on Wikipedia is to destroy, since that is so much easier than improving or creating things.

    The only upside is that the word has really gotten out about how crooked Wikipedia’s operations are becoming.

    -Michael
    Muckbeast – Game Design and Online Worlds
    http://www.muckbeast.com
    http://www.thresholdrpg.com

  34. Milawe says:

    @Hirvox

    Wikipedia only serves as a testing grounds for the Media Wiki software, the true genius of an invention here. Wikipedia itself is pretty much crap due to the way administrators are created and uncontrolled. Media Wiki, the software used to run Wikipedia, however, is pretty spectacular.

  35. Vetarnias says:

    @Muckbeast: I suggest you try to locate some of the Wikipedia critics out there (and there are many) to bring this particular case to a broader audience. If the vote had been for deletion, we could have been discussing the concept of “tyranny of the majority” until we had fallen asleep from the effort, but in this case it wasn’t even that…

  36. Klaitu says:

    I guess I missed the point of the article.

    Was it that wikipedia isn’t an actual encyclopedia?

    Was it that people don’t give the same amount of detail on one person as opposed to another?

    Does anyone really care who LaRouche is?

  37. Raph says:

    @Adam Hyland

    I use Wikipedia because it is more inclusive than Britannica. I hope the goal isn’t to emulate Britannica?

  38. Brask Mumei says:

    Reading the deletion review is particularly humorous. Apparently, the very fact that us mere outsiders dare to talk about the article is grounds for deletion. “Canvasing” is considered disruptive to the proper establishment of consensus – how can that not be seen as the utmost in elitist reasoning? Canvasing should be irrelevant. The new comers will either make reasonable arguments or not. The whole idea of consensus is for the arguments to stand on their own! Statements made by anon should have the same weight as those by established editors – the truth of the statement is not governed by the author.

    I just wish Wikipedia recognized what it is good at: documenting *exactly* these sorts of articles. I don’t think lavish attention to random 80’s punk bands is a problem – it is a feature, that is what is notable to us mere peons of humanity. Likewise, proper verifiable articles about obscure muds are equally legitimate. WP:V should be the key question. I don’t think anyone was trying to say that the mud didn’t exist, or didn’t exist in the way it was portrayed.

  39. Muckbeast says:

    The irony with the WP:N obsession is that non-notable stuff is what Wikipedia does best. If I wanted to learn something about George Washington, would I go to Wikipedia? Not by a longshot. I’d find a well researched book by an expert in the field.

    But when I hear about a comic book hero, or I want some details about a character from Dune, or I’m trying to remember what happened last season on Dancing with the Stars, Wikipedia is great.

    I will put aside the HORDES of editors who delete anything they can because it pads their stats towards becoming an administrator (for the moment). The rest are pushing Wikipedia in the direction it is least well suited for. No matter how much these unqualified, undisciplined, lazy, sloppy, hasty, and often uneducated work on an entry, it will never be as good as a trained, well educated, disciplined expert in a field. So on all the complicated or “important” issues, Wikipedia is always going to be crap compared to a “real” source.

    That is why WP:V was the original standard, and it was a better standard. Try hard to keep things accurate and verifiable, and let the content fall where it may.

    -Michael
    http://www.thresholdrpg.com

  40. Wikipedia being what it is, there is a suitably meta discussion of the deletion in progress: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_review/Log/2009_January_7#Threshold_.28online_game.29 I left a comment which I’m sure will be picked apart in short order.

  41. Vetarnias says:

    Raph :
    @Adam Hyland
    I use Wikipedia because it is more inclusive than Britannica. I hope the goal isn’t to emulate Britannica?

    Unfortunately, that’s the goal of some of the “editors” over there, who fail to realize that the reason why Wikipedia will never have nearly the same amount of credibility of Britannica is that it allows them to proclaim themselves “editors” in the first place without outside scrutiny or expert oversight.

    Ephemeral trivia is what Wikipedia does best. Nobody’s going to turn to it for the finer points of Kantian ethics or quantum theory — and those who do, won’t take it seriously.

    Oh, and to confirm my earlier post: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/10/the-laws-of-wik.html

    “What makes a fact or statement fit for inclusion is that it appeared in some other publication–ideally, one that is in English and is available free online. “The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth,” states Wikipedia’s official policy on the subject.”

    If you feel up to it, just compare the English Wikipedia with those in other languages. Everybody wants to play editor, but nobody wants to be the grunt stuck with doing translations of whatever mishmash the original “editing” led to.

  42. D-0ne says:

    Sandboxes. Everyone has to play in someone else’s sandbox eventually.

    The sad thing is, people jump in to a sandbox and start playing without realizing it isn’t there’s to play in; others are already playing and working out a pecking order… How dare you get there idol’s attention!

    Trust me, watching the online gaming forum and blog community big dogs running head on in to the wiki big dogs is a train wreck to behold.

    Well, fellow gaming nerds, guess what? It’s there sandbox. You are powerless.

  43. xzzy says:

    If you think Mr. Koster is more influential than you, why aren’t you editing his page to describe his distinguished career? 😉

    To my mind, that’s the real limitation of wikipedia, the submitters are self selecting. If a topic doesn’t attract the attention of someone who’s knowledgeable on the subject, it’s going to languish in obscurity.

    Computing history in general is documented pretty poorly (check out the email article as an example). There’s no permanent record of which nerd did what. It’s mostly a bunch of gray haired old men staring off into the distance and creating their version of events, and the only real exceptions are the events that caught the attention of mass media.. and this seems to be happening with MMO history as well. Putting “Abashi” into google wouldn’t give anyone a solid idea who the guy is and why his actions were significant.

    So I guess the point is that all you MMO developer types need to document this stuff before you get too old to recall it. 😉 As long it doesn’t turn into MMO veterans sniping at each other, the odds of the wikipedia priesthood taking exception are negligable.

  44. Adam Hyland says:

    @Raph
    I sure hope not (though the comments above about some editors wishing it were is correct). My point was more that we need to compare wikipedia to the alternatives at hand, not some utopian alternative where no article is ever deleted yet it isn’t taken over by spam and nonsense (and subject matter experts work for free). I don’t want to be glib, but the expectations game is a killer.

  45. Baroo says:

    What a fascinating glimpse inside the weird and wacky world of Wikipedia politics. I had no idea.

  46. […] major write-up on the issue, citing well known RPG developers like Richard Bartle, Raph Koster and Scott “Lum the Mad” Jennings as voices urging of the salvage and preservation of internet and gaming history. It turns out that […]

  47. Muckbeast says:

    The drama continues over there, and now the embarassed admins are using their various powers and influence in about 12 different ways to get me banned, criticized, tarred, feathered, pilloried, smacked with an anvil, and goodness knows what else.

    When Wikipedia cared more about WP:V than WP:N, it operated pretty smoothly. Unimportant articles were simply ignored and not searched for. Pure spam articles were deleted, which is fine.

    The new obsession with notability is purely driven by editors bucking for adminhood. This is no different than the early mud days when “Wizards” would figure out the path of least resistance to Arch-Wizard or even (gasp) Admin status.

    As has been stated numerous times, the obscure stuff is what Wikipedia does well. The serious stuff is what it does poorly, because most of the editors are (to be frank) incompetent and unqualified.

    But worst of all is the insane amounts of insider abuse. I have never in my life experienced such hostility to outsiders, and I’ve visited 3rd world countries with multiple pejorative words in their common parlance for “foreigner.” The degree to which the “powers that be” will use any means necessary to get their way is amazing.

    Most insulting of all is the fact that on top of the abuse, they actually try to force you to accept they are actually being righteous. At least when I encountered abusive Wizzes on muds, they would come right out with the “this is my mud, accept it or leave” truth. On Wikipedia, they want you to lick their boots, but pretend everyone is equal while doing so.

    -Michael
    Threshold RPG
    http://www.thresholdrpg.com

  48. UnSub says:

    Scott Jennings :
    Wikipedia being what it is, there is a suitably meta discussion of the deletion in progress: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_review/Log/2009_January_7#Threshold_.28online_game.29 I left a comment which I’m sure will be picked apart in short order.

    I just read through most of that. It’s like nerds interbred with lawyers who in turn interbred with English undergrads who then bred with old-school English class system. All attention to the rules while completely ignoring what doesn’t fit, trolling while mostly being polite in the words and making sure that tangents are being argued rather than the main point and it is seniority that counts, not merit.

    I’m impressed at the level of nerd elitism that actually involved mostly correct spelling and grammar 🙂

  49. […] begann mit einem Artikel im Blog von Scott Jennings aka Lum the Mad, wahrscheinlich beeinflusst von Raph Kosters Artikel in […]

  50. Andrew says:

    Followed this here from Raph’s website, sorry to hear that Michael, I’ve made a note of it on the preservation SIG’s blog I run but I just wish either I was an admin there (but man, I’ve not ever moderated such a wild bunch), or there was an alternative people turn to. Sigh.

    I wish they had an actual paid admin team who had editorial oversight. They don’t want to do it though, I wish I knew why but I strongly suspect it means actual work for the foundation, shockingly (rather then what they do now which is to let it run the course and maintain the servers and software, a noble goal indeed).

  51. D-0ne says:

    Excuse me if I delight in the Wiki Big dogs calling the Gamer Big Dogs… Trolls. /grabs pop corn

  52. Vetarnias says:

    D-0ne :
    Excuse me if I delight in the Wiki Big dogs calling the Gamer Big Dogs… Trolls. /grabs pop corn

    And what bothers me is that even if the Wikipedians lose, they can edit out all trace that the whole controversy ever happened. How many times did Orwell get name-dropped, by both sides?

  53. Muckbeast says:

    In this discussion, I’m not sure if Orwell was ever mentioned. But you make a very good point. They eventually admin-delete it all, and then only drag it up if they want to use it against you.

    On two separate occasions, I had things brought up against me that were written on a page in my own userspace (your sandbox/work area). It was a page that existed for about 5 minutes while I worked on phrasing and formatting. I then used the required method of having a page in my own userspace “permanently deleted.” Of course, admins can still read it. And they’d pull things from it and use it against me in an argument. Totally corrupt.

    -Michael
    Muckbeast – Game Design and Online Worlds
    http://www.muckbeast.com

  54. D-0ne says:

    To consider even for a second that the history of this event won’t be re-written wikipedia editors is a gross misunderstanding of how sand boxes’ work.

    When the history is written by the wikipedia editors they will be the victims and they will effectively ban the other side for all eternity from wikipedia and mind you, based on the re-written history rightfully so.

  55. Vetarnias says:

    On Wikipedia, yes. But the rewriting of history can only work if there are no outside sources to shed light on its activities. Certainly a few of those sources are verging on paranoia like Daniel Brandt, but there are groups and people asking very serious questions about Wikipedia. What they don’t have, however, is a powerful structure to back them up like the Wikipedians have.

  56. Daniel Speed says:

    I wish someone who has a good memory of these things and was there, would document that the key game design features of a DIKU are, if everyone is going to refer to MMOs as DIKU derivatives. The last time I mentioned this on Terranova, someone told me to read the source-code, which only works if you’re a programmer who has a lot of time to spend working backwards from the implementation to the actual design.

  57. Iconic says:

    “When the history is written by the wikipedia editors they will be the victims and they will effectively ban the other side for all eternity from wikipedia and mind you, based on the re-written history rightfully so.”

    Isn’t that how history works? If the Nazis had won, do you think they write books about being villains?

  58. Vetarnias says:

    Iconic :
    “When the history is written by the wikipedia editors they will be the victims and they will effectively ban the other side for all eternity from wikipedia and mind you, based on the re-written history rightfully so.”
    Isn’t that how history works? If the Nazis had won, do you think they write books about being villains?

    I invoke Godwin’s Law. We all lost.

  59. Raph says:

    “I wish someone who has a good memory of these things and was there, would document that the key game design features of a DIKU are, if everyone is going to refer to MMOs as DIKU derivatives.”

    A class-based RPG with the principal classes being fighter, healer, wizard. Advancement handled by earning experience points through combat, reaching a set amount of points, returning to town and “levelling up,” which unlocked new abilities. Classes were immutable (though eventually systems such as remorting, etc were added). Rewards for killing things also included equipment, which affected your stats and damage capability. If you reached the maximum level, common cultural practice was that you were invited to become a game admin (this practice dates back to MUD1).

    Combat was generally on a fixed rate, with “faster attacks” consisting of actually running the same attack multiple times in a row (so you could only do damage on multiples: 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, 6x, 7x, 8x, 9x). Tactics were centered around controlling which target the mob was attacking, and using special state-affecting attacks that did things like trigger periods of indenfensibility (stun), periods of damage multipliers, etc.

    Much of the gameplay consisted of moving about solo or in groups attacking monsters for XP and loot. Grouping was a typical strategy because it was a large force multiplier, permitting players to kill targets much more powerful than they were alone. Because of this, an array of systems including level limits on equipment, on grouping, and even on monster attacking were in place. A command called “consider” told you whether the monster was too easy or too hard.

    Weapons, potions, and the like were all based on simply on performing spell effects, in the fashion today referred to as a “proc.” They were hardcoded back then, however.

    DikuMUDs did not come out of the box with any quests, because they were not a programmable game engine. They were about combat and levelling up. There was no crafting either. They did come with good chat features, grouping, etc. “Clans” were a common addition — you would call them guilds today, except that they were formed by admin command, not formed freely by players. (Honestly, I am not sure where freeform clan formation came from. I know we did it on Legend, and we did it in UO, but I don’t even remember which came first!)

    Eventually Diku games added questing engines, then scripting languages, etc, and diversity developed. But the core of Diku gameplay is the above. Because they were template fill-in-the-blank muds, most of them were very similar, and had to differentiate solely on their worldbuilding and fiction. However, few altered the basic combat equation. Among other terms “tanking” “nuking” and the like were common. In fact, “kiting” also took place quite a lot, by leading high level aggressive mobs into low level areas.

    In the end, the central elements of phase-based combat, combat states, cool-down based special attacks, tank-healer-nuker triad, and basic aggro management are what you play today in WoW. A Diku player from the late mudding period would feel completely at home if you just gave them slash commands and a text box. They’d be astonished by the number of quests, would think the crafting system was insane, and would think that the entire PvP system was either a rip from an EmlenMUD or was teleporting you to HoloMUD, in the case of the battlefields.

  60. […] – a comment from Daniel Speed on Broken Toys » Wikicrap. […]

  61. Raph says:

    I ended up taking the above reply and turning it into a freakin’ novel. It’s on my blog.

  62. Enigmax66 says:

    Paranoia and jealousy ftw.

  63. Muckbeast says:

    I finally had time to write up an article with the full details of the incident, from beginning to end (well, end at the time of the writing). You all might find it an interesting read:

    http://www.brighthub.com/computing/windows-platform/articles/22166.aspx

  64. […] of Threshold’s entry in Wikipedia. MMO maven Scott Jennings has also written a great article that illustrates the absurdity that has characterized Wikipedia editorial […]

  65. Rasputin says:

    Uhhh, wasn’t this what I set up the Wiki for anyway???

  66. […] to what can be found in Wikipedia. [Which has had its own debacle, as of late, with some virtual world designers and researchers pointing out the lack of record keeping for some virtual worlds.] I mean […]

  67. Prokofy says:

    Lum, you are so literal and for a game god dude, so lack imagination.

    I didn’t say “vet” Wikipedia through SL. What I said is that Wikipedia needs a social media voting component that would help make it honest, and tried a few prototypes here:
    http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/voting_wikipedia/

    Then I theorized that the way to make the editors of Wikipedia become more accountable and less sectarian and less governed by arcane orthodox rules and more governed by common sense and the public interest would be to have a platform that would enable the passive public to interact with these anonymous and unaccountable avatars. Wikipedia is not social media and is not new media; a wiki in fact is not social media most of the time. It is the most brutal form of old media.

    So to have the experts/editors/writers of pages to be in a world where you could go to their sim/page and talk to them, where their avatar would build up reputation points, where you could have discussions for the public, where you could rate/vote entries — well, it might make it better. It might save the project from its inevitable communist end.

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