In Defense of Inclusionism

Iron Law of Bureaucracy: the downwards deletionism spiral discourages contribution and is how Wikipedia will die.
Wikipedia, experiments, predictions, sociology, Haskell, anime, shell, R, survey
2009-01-152018-11-28 finished certainty: highly likely importance: 8


Eng­lish Wikipedia is in de­cline. As a long-time ed­i­tor & for­mer ad­min, I was deeply dis­mayed by the process. Here, I dis­cuss UI prin­ci­ples, changes in Wikipedian cul­ture, the large-s­cale sta­tis­ti­cal ev­i­dence of de­cline, run smal­l­-s­cale ex­per­i­ments demon­strat­ing the harm, and con­clude with part­ing thoughts.

Wikipedia is de­clin­ing, fun­da­men­tal­ly, be­cause of its in­creas­ingly nar­row at­ti­tude as to what are ac­cept­able top­ics and to what depth those top­ics can be ex­plored, com­bined with a nar­rowed at­ti­tude as to what are ac­cept­able sources, where aca­d­e­mic & me­dia cov­er­age trumps any con­sid­er­a­tion of other fac­tors. This dis­cour­ages con­trib­u­tors—the pre­req­ui­site for any con­tent what­so­ev­er—and cuts off growth; per­verse­ly, the lack of con­trib­u­tors be­comes its own ex­cuse for dis­cour­ag­ing more con­tri­bu­tion (s­ince who will main­tain it?), a self­-ful­fill­ing norm (we fo­cus on qual­ity over quan­tity here!) and dri­ves away those with dis­sent­ing views, since un­sur­pris­ingly those who ad­vo­cate more con­tent tend to also con­tribute con­tent and be dri­ven away when their con­tent is. One bad ed­i­tor can de­stroy in sec­onds what took many years to cre­ate. The in­clu­sion­ists founded Wikipedia, but the dele­tion­ists froze it.

I started as an anon, mak­ing oc­ca­sional small ed­its after I learned of WP from in 2004. I hap­pened to be a con­trib­u­tor to at the time, and when one of my more en­cy­clo­pe­dic ar­ti­cles was re­ject­ed, I de­cided it might as well go on Wikipedia, so I reg­is­tered an ac­count in 2005 and slowly got more se­ri­ous about edit­ing as I be­came more com­fort­able with WP and ex­cited about its po­ten­tial. Be­fore I wound down my edit­ing ac­tiv­i­ty, dis­mayed by the cul­tural changes, I had done . And old Wikipedia was ex­cit­ing.

You can see this stark differ­ence be­tween old Wikipedia and mod­ern Wikipedia: in the early days you could have things like ar­ti­cles on each chap­ter of At­las Shrugged or each Poke­mon. Even if you per­son­ally did not like Ob­jec­tivism or Poke­mon, you knew that you could go into just as much de­tail about the top­ics you liked best—Wikipedia was not pa­per! We talked ide­al­is­ti­cally about how Wikipedia could be­come an en­cy­clo­pe­dia of spe­cial­ist en­cy­clo­pe­di­as, the su­per­set of en­cy­clo­pe­dias. “would you ex­pect to see a Bul­basaur ar­ti­cle in a Poke­mon en­cy­clo­pe­dia? yes? then let’s have a Bul­basaur ar­ti­cle”. The po­ten­tial was that Wikipedia would be the sum­mary of the In­ter­net and books/media. In­stead of punch­ing in a key­word to a search en­gine and get­ting 100 pages deal­ing with tiny frag­ments of the topic (in how­ever much de­tail), you would get a co­her­ent overview sum­ma­riz­ing every­thing worth know­ing about the top­ic, for al­most all top­ics.

But now Wikipedi­a’s nar­row­ing fo­cus means, only some of what is worth know­ing, about some top­ics. Re­spectable top­ics. Main­stream top­ics. Unim­peach­ably En­cy­clo­pe­dic top­ics.

These days, that ideal is com­pletely gone. If you try to write niche ar­ti­cles on cer­tain top­ics, peo­ple will tell you to save it for Wikia. I am not ex­cited or in­ter­ested in such a parochial project which ex­cludes so many of my in­ter­ests, which does not want me to go into great depth about even the in­ter­ests it deems mer­i­to­ri­ous—and a great many other peo­ple are not ex­cited ei­ther, es­pe­cially as they be­gin to re­al­ize that even if you nav­i­gate the cul­ture cor­rectly and get your ma­te­r­ial into Wikipedia, there is far from any guar­an­tee that your con­tri­bu­tions will be re­spect­ed, not delet­ed, and im­proved. For the am­a­teurs and also ex­perts who wrote wikipedia, why would they want to con­tribute to some place that does­n’t want them?

The Wiki­Me­dia Foun­da­tion (WMF) seems un­able to ad­dress this is­sue. I read their plans and pro­jec­tions, and I pre­dicted well in ad­vance that they would to­tally fail, as they have. Their ‘so­lu­tions’ were band-aids which did­n’t get at what I or oth­ers were di­ag­nos­ing as the un­der­ly­ing prob­lems. The “bar­ri­ers to en­try” like the com­plex markup are not the true is­sue. They are prob­lems, cer­tain­ly, but not the core prob­lem—if they were re­solved, Wikipedi­a’s de­cline would con­tin­ue. WMF seems to think that a lit­tle more lip­stick on the pig will fix every­thing. Bar­ri­ers to en­try are a prob­lem for non-tech­ni­cal new users, yes, but it does not ex­plain why tech­ni­cal new users are also not ap­pear­ing. Where are all the young pro­gram­mers? They can eas­ily learn the markup and han­dle the other bar­ri­er­s—if those bar­ri­ers were the only bar­ri­ers, Wikipedia should be hav­ing no prob­lems. Plenty of po­ten­tial ed­i­tors in that sea. But if you go to pro­gram­mer hang­outs like Hacker News, you’re not go­ing to find every­one go­ing “I don’t know what peo­ple are com­plain­ing about, edit­ing Wikipedia works just great for me!”, be­cause they’re quite as em­bit­tered and jaded as other groups.

What is to be done? Hard to say. Wikipedia has al­ready ex­iled hun­dreds of sub­jec­t-area com­mu­ni­ties to Wikia, and I’d say the nar­row­ing be­gan in 2007, so there’s been a good 6 years of in­er­tia and time for the rot to set in. And I haven’t thought much about it be­cause too many peo­ple deny that there is any prob­lem, and when they ad­mit there is a prob­lem, they fo­cus on triv­ial is­sues like the Me­di­aWiki markup. Noth­ing I can do about it, any­way. Once the prob­lem has been di­ag­nosed, time to move on to other ac­tiv­i­ties.

Wikipedia will still ex­ist. The cor­pus is too huge and valu­able to rot eas­i­ly. A sys­tem can de­cline with­out dy­ing. My­Space still ex­ists, and there is no rea­son Wikipedia can­not be My­Space—use­ful for some pur­pos­es, a shell of its for­mer glo­ry, a ma­jor break­through in its time, but fun­da­men­tally by­passed by other sources of in­for­ma­tion. I don’t know what the Face­book to Wikipedi­a’s My­Space is, but the In­ter­net sur­vived for decades with­out Wikipedia, we’ll get along with­out a live Wikipedia. Even though it is a huge loss of po­ten­tial.

Friction

A peren­nial lure of tech­nol­ogy is its promise to let us do things that we could­n’t do be­fore, and in ways we would­n’t be­fore.

An ex­am­ple here would be Wikipedia and wikis in gen­er­al: by low­er­ing the ‘cost’ of chang­ing a page, and us­ing soft­ware that makes un­do­ing most van­dal­ism far eas­ier than do­ing it, the par­tic­i­pa­tion goes through the roof. It’s not the tech­nol­ogy it­self that re­ally mat­ters, but how easy and com­fort­able it is to con­tribute. has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing why Wikipedia, out of 8 com­pa­ra­ble at­tempts to write an on­line en­cy­clo­pe­dia, suc­ceed­ed; his con­clu­sion seems to be that Wikipedia suc­ceeded by fo­cus­ing on de­vel­op­ing con­tent and mak­ing con­tri­bu­tion easy. “The con­tri­bu­tion co­nun­drum: Why did Wikipedia suc­ceed while other en­cy­clo­pe­dias failed?”:

One an­swer, which seems ob­vi­ous only in ret­ro­spect: Wikipedia at­tracted con­trib­u­tors be­cause it was built around a fa­mil­iar pro­duc­t—the en­cy­clo­pe­dia. En­cy­clo­pe­dias aren’t just ar­ti­facts; they’re also epis­temic frames. They em­ploy a par­tic­u­lar—and, yet, uni­ver­sal—ap­proach to or­ga­niz­ing in­for­ma­tion. Prior to Wikipedia, on­line en­cy­clo­pe­dias tried to do what we tend to think is a good thing when it comes to the web: chal­leng­ing old metaphors, ex­plod­ing ana­log tra­di­tions, in­vent­ing en­tirely new form­s…An­other in­trigu­ing find­ing: Wikipedia fo­cused on sub­stan­tive con­tent de­vel­op­ment in­stead of tech­nol­o­gy. Wikipedia was the only project in the en­tire sam­ple, Hill not­ed, that did­n’t build its own tech­nol­o­gy. (It was, in fact, gen­er­ally seen as tech­no­log­i­cally un­so­phis­ti­cated by other en­cy­clo­pe­di­as’ founders, who saw them­selves more as tech­nol­o­gists than as con­tent provider­s.) , for ex­am­ple, had sev­eral peo­ple ded­i­cated to build­ing its in­fra­struc­ture, but none de­voted to build­ing its ar­ti­cles. It was all very if you build it, they will come…There are two other key con­trib­u­tors to Wikipedi­a’s suc­cess with at­tract­ing con­trib­u­tors, Hill’s re­search sug­gests: Wikipedia offered low trans­ac­tion costs to par­tic­i­pa­tion, and it de-em­pha­sized the so­cial own­er­ship of con­tent. Edit­ing Wikipedia is easy, and in­stant, and vir­tu­ally com­mit­men­t-free. “You can come along and do a dri­ve-by edit and never make a con­tri­bu­tion again,” Hill pointed out. And the fact that it’s diffi­cult to tell who wrote an ar­ti­cle, or who edited it—rather than dis­cour­ag­ing con­tri­bu­tion, as you might as­sume—ac­tu­ally en­cour­aged con­tri­bu­tions, Hill found. “Low tex­tual own­er­ship re­sulted in more col­lab­o­ra­tion,” he put it. And that could well be be­cause Wikipedi­a’s au­thor­less struc­ture low­ers the pres­sure some might feel to con­tribute some­thing stel­lar. The pull of rep­u­ta­tion can dis­cour­age con­tri­bu­tions even as it can also en­cour­age them. So Wikipedia “took ad­van­tage of mar­ginal con­tri­bu­tions,” Hill not­ed—a sen­tence here, a graf there—which, added up, turned into ar­ti­cles. Which, added up, turned into an en­cy­clo­pe­dia.

I’ve often thought that if the ‘bar­ri­ers to en­try’ were charted against ‘con­tributed effort’, one would see an re­la­tion. An en­tire es­say could likely be writ­ten on how the Wikipedia com­mu­nity put up small bar­ri­er­s—each in­di­vid­u­ally rea­son­able, and not too oner­ous even in the ag­gre­gate—of ref­er­enc­ing, of ban­ning anony­mous page cre­ation, etc. led to the first sus­tained drop in con­trib­u­tors and con­tri­bu­tion. The effect is non­lin­ear.

New regimes

The best rule of thumb here is per­haps the one cited by in :

Ac­cord­ing to a rule of thumb among en­gi­neers, any ten­fold quan­ti­ta­tive change is a qual­i­ta­tive change1, a fun­da­men­tally new sit­u­a­tion rather than a sim­ple ex­trap­o­la­tion.

Clear as mud, eh? Let’s try more quotes, then:

The hu­man long­ing for free­dom of in­for­ma­tion is a ter­ri­ble and won­der­ful thing. It de­lin­eates a piv­otal differ­ence be­tween men­tal eman­ci­pa­tion and slav­ery. It has launched protests, re­bel­lions, and rev­o­lu­tions. Thou­sands have de­voted their lives to it, thou­sands of oth­ers have even died for it. And it can be stopped dead in its tracks by re­quir­ing peo­ple to search for “how to set up proxy” be­fore view­ing their an­ti-gov­ern­ment web­site.

I was re­minded of this re­cently by Eliez­er’s Less Wrong Progress Re­port. He men­tioned how sur­prised he was that so many peo­ple were post­ing so much stuff on Less Wrong, when very few peo­ple had ever taken ad­van­tage of Over­com­ing Bias’ pol­icy of ac­cept­ing con­tri­bu­tions if you emailed them to a mod­er­a­tor and the mod­er­a­tor ap­proved. Ap­par­ently all us folk brim­ming with ideas for posts did­n’t want to deal with the ag­gra­va­tion.2

We ex­am­ine open ac­cess ar­ti­cles from three jour­nals at the Uni­ver­sity of Geor­gia School of Law and con­firm that le­gal schol­ar­ship freely avail­able via open ac­cess im­proves an ar­ti­cle’s re­search im­pact. Open ac­cess le­gal schol­ar­ship—which to­day ap­pears to ac­count for al­most half of the out­put of law fac­ul­ties—­can ex­pect to re­ceive 50% more ci­ta­tions than non-open ac­cess writ­ings of sim­i­lar age from the same venue.34

There are tools to just say, “Give me your so­cial se­cu­rity num­ber, give me your ad­dress and your moth­er’s maiden name, and we send you a phys­i­cal piece of pa­per and you sign it and send it back to us.” By the time that’s all ac­com­plished, you are a very safe user. But by then you are also not a user, be­cause for every step you have to take, the dropoff rate is prob­a­bly 30%. If you take ten steps, and each time you lose one-third of the users, you’ll have no users by the time you’re done with the fourth step.5

For ex­am­ple, us­abil­ity the­ory holds that if you make a task 10% eas­ier, you dou­ble the num­ber of peo­ple that can ac­com­plish it. I’ve al­ways felt that if you can make it 10% eas­ier to fill in a , you’ll get twice as many bug re­ports. (When I re­moved two ques­tions from the signup page, the rate of new signups went up dra­mat­i­cal­ly).6

Think of these bar­ri­ers as an ob­sta­cle course that peo­ple have to run be­fore you can count them as your cus­tomers. If you start out with a field of 1000 run­ners, about half of them will trip on the tires; half of the sur­vivors won’t be strong enough to jump the wall; half of those sur­vivors will fall off the rope lad­der into the mud, and so on, un­til only 1 or 2 peo­ple ac­tu­ally over­come all the hur­dles. With 8 or 9 bar­ri­ers, every­body will have one non-ne­go­tiable deal killer…By in­ces­sant pound­ing on elim­i­nat­ing bar­ri­ers, [Mi­crosoft] slowly pried some mar­ket share away from Lo­tus.7

The vast ma­jor­ity of raters were pre­vi­ously only read­ers of Wikipedia. Of the reg­is­tered users that rated an ar­ti­cle, 66% had no prior edit­ing ac­tiv­i­ty. For these reg­is­tered users, rat­ing an ar­ti­cle rep­re­sents their first par­tic­i­pa­tory ac­tiv­ity on Wikipedia. These ini­tial re­sults show that we are start­ing to en­gage these users be­yond just pas­sive read­ing, and they seem to like it…Once users have suc­cess­fully sub­mit­ted a rat­ing, a ran­domly se­lected sub­set of them are shown an in­vi­ta­tion to edit the page. Of the users that were in­vited to ed­it, 17% at­tempted to edit the page. 15% of those ended up suc­cess­fully com­plet­ing an ed­it. These re­sults strongly sug­gest that a feed­back tool could suc­cess­fully con­vert pas­sive read­ers into ac­tive con­trib­u­tors of Wikipedia. A rich text ed­i­tor could make this path to edit­ing even more promis­ing.8

Toeing the precipice

It may take only a few re­stric­tions be­fore one has inched far enough the ‘bar­ri­ers’ axis that the ‘con­tri­bu­tions’ does in fact fall by ten­fold. One sees Wikipedia slowly adding re­stric­tions:

An im­por­tant edit­ing con­tri­bu­tion

Each of these steps seems harm­less enough, per­haps, be­cause we can’t see the things which do not hap­pen as a re­sult (this is a ver­sion of Frédéric Bas­tiat’s ). The le­gal­is­tic motto “that which is not ex­plic­itly per­mit­ted is for­bid­den” has the virtue of be­ing easy to ap­ply, at least.

Few ob­jected to the ban­ning of anony­mous page cre­ation by dur­ing the (we had to de­stroy the wiki to save it), and most of those were un­prin­ci­pled ones. The ob­jec­tor was all for a tougher War on Drugs—er, I mean Ter­ror, or was that Van­dal­ism? (maybe Pover­ty)—but they did­n’t want to be stam­peded into it by some bad PR. Too, few ob­jected to CAPTCHAs: ‘take that you scum­bag spam­mers!’ The ironic thing is, as a frac­tion of ed­its, van­dal­ism shrunk from 2003–2008 (re­main­ing roughly sim­i­lar since) and sim­i­lar­ly, users spe­cial­iz­ing in van­dal fight­ing and their work­load of ed­its have shrunk; graph­ing new con­tri­bu­tions by size, one finds that for both reg­is­tered and anony­mous users, the apogee was 2007 and van­dal­ism has been de­creas­ing ever since. (A more am­bigu­ous sta­tis­tic is the re­duced num­ber of ac­tions by new page pa­trollers.)

Falling

“Who alive can say,
‘Thou art no Po­et­—­may’st not tell thy dreams?’
Since every man whose soul is not a clod
Hath vi­sions, and would speak, if he had loved,
And been well nur­tured in his mother tongue.”

; I 11-5

But by 2007 the wa­ter had be­come hot enough to be felt by devo­tees of mod­ern fic­tion (that is, anime & manga fran­chis­es, video games, nov­els, etc.), and even the great Jimbo could not ex­pect to see his ar­ti­cles go un-AfD’d.

But who re­ally cares about what some nerds like? What mat­ters is No­ta­bil­ity with a cap­i­tal N, and the fact that our feel­ings were hurt by some Wiki­groan­ing! After all, clearly the proper way to re­spond to the ob­ser­va­tion that was longer than is to delete its con­tents and have peo­ple read the short, scrawny—but se­ri­ous!— ar­ti­cle in­stead.

If it does­n’t ap­pear in En­carta or En­cy­clo­pe­dia Bri­tan­ni­ca, or is­n’t treated at the same (pro­por­tion­al) length, then it must go!

By the numbers

“Imag­ine a world in which every sin­gle per­son on the planet is given free ac­cess to the sum of all hu­man knowl­edge. That’s what we’re do­ing.”

Jimmy Wales, 2004

“…in­clu­sion­ism gen­er­ally is tox­ic. It lets a huge vol­ume of garbage pile up. Dele­tion­ism just takes out the trash. We did it with damn Poke­mon, and we’ll even­tu­ally do it with junk foot­ball”bi­ogra­phies“, with”foot­ball" in the sense of Amer­i­can and oth­er­wise. We’ll sooner or later get it done with “pop­u­lated places” and the like too."

Todd Allen, 2019-07-05 (WP ed­i­tor 2004, ad­min 2007, Ar­b­com 2014–2016)

Delet­ing based on no­ta­bil­i­ty, fic­tion ar­ti­cles in par­tic­u­lar, does­n’t merely il­l-serve our read­ers (who are nu­mer­ous; note how many of Wikipedi­a’s most pop­u­lar pages are fic­tion-re­lat­ed, both now and in 2007 or 2011, or how many In­ter­net searches lead to Wikipedia for cul­tural con­tent9), but it also dam­ages the com­mu­ni­ty.

We can see it in­di­rectly in the global sta­tis­tics. The analy­ses (2007, 2008) show it. We are see­ing fewer new ed­i­tors, few new ar­ti­cles, fewer new im­ages; less of every­thing, ex­cept te­dium & bu­reau­cra­cy.

Worse, it’s not that the growth of Wikipedia has stopped ac­cel­er­at­ing in im­por­tant met­rics. The rate of in­crease has in some cases not merely stopped in­creas­ing, but started drop­ping!

"…the size of the ac­tive edit­ing com­mu­nity of the Eng­lish Wikipedia peaked in early 2007 and has de­clined some­what since then. Like Wikipedi­a’s ar­ti­cle count, the num­ber of ac­tive ed­i­tors grew ex­po­nen­tially dur­ing the early years of the pro­ject. The ar­ti­cle cre­ation rate (which is tracked at Wikipedi­a:­Size of Wikipedia) peaked around Au­gust 2006 at about 2400 net new ar­ti­cles per day and has fallen since then, to around un­der 1400 in re­cent months. [The graph is mir­rored at An­drew Li­h’s “Wikipedia Plateau?”.]

User:M­Bisanz has charted the num­ber of new ac­counts reg­is­tered per mon­th, which tells a very sim­i­lar sto­ry: March 2007 recorded the largest num­ber of new ac­counts, and the rate of new ac­count cre­ation has fallen sig­nifi­cantly since then. De­clines in ac­tiv­ity have also been not­ed, and fret­ted about, at Wikipedi­a:Re­quests for ad­min­ship…"

This been noted in mul­ti­ple sources, such as Fe­lipe Or­te­ga’s 2009 the­sis, “Wikipedia: A Quan­ti­ta­tive Analy­sis”:

So far, our em­pir­i­cal analy­sis of the top ten Wikipedias has re­vealed that the sta­bi­liza­tion of the num­ber of con­tri­bu­tions from logged au­thors in Wikipedia dur­ing 2007 has in­flu­enced the evo­lu­tion of the pro­ject, break­ing down the steady grow­ing rate of pre­vi­ous years…

Un­for­tu­nate­ly, this re­sults raise sev­eral im­por­tant con­cerns for the Wikipedia pro­ject. Though we do not have em­pir­i­cal data from 2008, the change in the trend of births and deaths [new & in­ac­tive ed­i­tors] will clearly de­crease the num­ber of avail­able logged au­thors in all lan­guage ver­sions, thus cut­ting out the ca­pac­ity of the project to effec­tively un­der­take re­vi­sions and im­prove con­tents. Even more se­ri­ous is the slightly de­creas­ing trend that is start­ing to ap­pear in the monthly num­ber of births of most ver­sions. The rate of deaths, on the con­trary, does not seem to leave its as­cend­ing ten­den­cy. Eval­u­at­ing the re­sults for 2008 will be a key as­pect to val­i­date the hy­poth­e­sis that this trend has changed in­deed, and that the Wikipedia project needs to put in prac­tice more ag­gres­sive mea­sures to at­tract new users, if they do not want to see the monthly effort de­crease in due course, as a re­sult of the lack of hu­man au­thors.10

Or­tega notes in­di­ca­tions that this is a pathol­ogy unique to En:

“In the first place, we note the re­mark­able differ­ence be­tween the Eng­lish and the Ger­man lan­guage ver­sions. The first one presents one of the worst sur­vival curves in this se­ries, along with the Por­tuguese Wikipedia, whereas the Ger­man ver­sion shows the best re­sults un­til ap­prox­i­mately 800 days. From that point on, the Japan­ese lan­guage ver­sion is the best one. In fact, the Ger­man, French, Japan­ese and Pol­ish Wikipedias ex­hibits some of the best sur­vival curves in the set, and only the Eng­lish ver­sion clearly de­vi­ates from this gen­eral trend. The most prob­a­ble ex­pla­na­tion for this differ­ence, tak­ing into ac­count that we are con­sid­er­ing only logged au­thors in this analy­sis, is that the Eng­lish Wikipedia re­ceives too con­tri­bu­tions from too many ca­sual users, who never come back again after per­form­ing just a few re­vi­sions.”11

Erik Moeller of the WMF tried to wave away the re­sults in No­vem­ber 2009 by point­ing out that “The num­ber of peo­ple writ­ing Wikipedia peaked about two and a half years ago, de­clined slightly for a brief pe­ri­od, and has re­mained sta­ble since then”, but he also shoots him­self in the foot by point­ing out that the num­ber of ar­ti­cles keeps grow­ing. That is not a sus­tain­able dis­par­i­ty. Worse, as the orig­i­nal writ­ers leave, their ar­ti­cles be­come —on which later ed­i­tors must en­gage in , try­ing to re­trieve the orig­i­nal ref­er­ences or un­der­stand why some­thing was omit­ted, or must sim­ply re­move con­tent be­cause they do not un­der­stand the larger con­text or are ig­no­rant. (I have had con­sid­er­able diffi­culty an­swer­ing some straight­for­ward ques­tions about er­rors in ar­ti­cles I re­searched and wrote en­tirely on my own; how well could a later ed­i­tor have han­dled the ques­tion­s?)

The num­bers have been de­press­ing ever since, from the 2010 in­for­mal & Foun­da­tion study12 on ed­i­tor de­mo­graph­ics to ; the WSJ’s sta­tis­ti­cian Carl Bia­lik wrote in Sep­tem­ber 2011 that “the num­ber of ed­i­tors is dwin­dling. Just 35,844 reg­is­tered ed­i­tors made five or more ed­its in June, down 34% from the March 2007 peak. Just a small share of Wikipedia ed­i­tors—about 3%—ac­count for 85% of the site’s ac­tiv­i­ty, a po­ten­tial prob­lem, since par­tic­i­pa­tion by these heavy users has fallen even more sharply.”

Only in 2010 and 2011 has the Foun­da­tion seemed to wake up and see what the num­bers were say­ing all along; while Wales says some of the right things like “A lot of ed­i­to­r­ial guide­li­nes…are im­pen­e­tra­ble to new users”, he also back­-hand­edly dis­misses it—“We are not re­plen­ish­ing our ranks. It is not a cri­sis, but I con­sider it to be im­por­tant.” By De­cem­ber 2011, Sue Gard­ner seems to re­flect a more re­al­is­tic view in the WMF, call­ing it the “holy-shit slide”; I think she is worth quot­ing at length to em­pha­size the is­sue. From the 2011-12-19 “The Gard­ner in­ter­view”:

Much of the in­ter­view con­cerned the is­sues she raised in a land­mark ad­dress in No­vem­ber to the board of Wiki­me­dia UK, in which she said the slide show­ing a graph of de­clin­ing ed­i­tor re­ten­tion (be­low) is what the Foun­da­tion calls “the holy-shit slide”. This is a huge, “re­ally re­ally bad” prob­lem, she told Wiki­me­dia UK, and is worst on the Eng­lish and Ger­man Wikipedias.

A promi­nent is­sue on the Eng­lish Wikipedia is whether at­tempts to achieve high qual­ity in ar­ti­cles—and per­cep­tions that this is en­tan­gled with un­friendly treat­ment of new­bies by the com­mu­ni­ty—are as­so­ci­ated with low rates of at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing new ed­i­tors. Al­though Gard­ner be­lieves that high qual­ity and at­tract­ing new ed­i­tors are both crit­i­cal goals, her view is that qual­ity has not been the prob­lem, al­though she did­n’t de­fine ex­actly what ar­ti­cle qual­ity is. What we did­n’t know in 2007, she said, was that “qual­ity was do­ing fine, whereas par­tic­i­pa­tion was in se­ri­ous trou­ble. The Eng­lish Wikipedia was at the tail end of a sig­nifi­cant drop in the re­ten­tion of new ed­i­tors: peo­ple were giv­ing up the edit­ing process more quickly than ever be­fore.”

Par­tic­i­pa­tion mat­ters be­cause it dri­ves qual­i­ty. Peo­ple come and go nat­u­ral­ly, and that means we need to con­tin­u­ally bring in and suc­cess­fully ori­ent new peo­ple. If we don’t, the com­mu­nity will shrink over time and qual­ity will suffer. That’s why par­tic­i­pa­tion is our top pri­or­ity right now.

…Dele­tions and re­ver­sions might be dis­taste­ful to new ed­i­tors, but how can we, for in­stance, main­tain strict stan­dards about bi­ogra­phies of liv­ing peo­ple (BLP) with­out re­vert­ing prob­lem­atic ed­its and delet­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate ar­ti­cles? Gard­ner re­jected the premise:

I don’t be­lieve that qual­ity and open­ness are in­her­ently op­posed to each oth­er. Open­ness is what en­ables and mo­ti­vates peo­ple to show up in the first place. It also means we’ll get some bad faith con­trib­u­tors and some who don’t have the ba­sic com­pe­tence to con­tribute well. But that’s a rea­son­able price to pay for the over­all effec­tive­ness of an open sys­tem, and it does­n’t in­val­i­date the ba­sic premise of Wikipedia: that open­ness will lead to qual­i­ty.

…While stak­ing the Foun­da­tion’s claim to the more tech­ni­cal side of the equa­tion, Gard­ner does­n’t shrink from pro­vid­ing ad­vice on how we can fix the cul­tural prob­lem.

If you look at new ed­i­tors’ talk pages, they can be pretty de­press­ing—they’re often an un­in­ter­rupted stream of warn­ings and crit­i­cisms. Ex­pe­ri­enced ed­i­tors put those warn­ings there be­cause they want to make Wikipedia bet­ter: their in­tent is good. But the over­all effect, we know, is that the new ed­i­tors get dis­cour­aged. They feel like they’re mak­ing mis­takes, that they’re get­ting in trou­ble, peo­ple don’t want their help. And so they leave, and who can blame them? We can mit­i­gate some of that by ton­ing down the in­tim­i­da­tion fac­tor of the warn­ings: mak­ing them sim­pler and friend­lier. We can also help by adding some praise and thanks into the mix. When the Foun­da­tion sur­veys cur­rent ed­i­tors, they tell us one of the things they en­joy most about edit­ing Wikipedia is when some­one they re­spect tells them they’re do­ing a good job. Praise and thanks are pow­er­ful.

…[Around the time of the and con­tro­ver­sies] Jimmy went to Wiki­me­dia and said “qual­ity … we need to do bet­ter”, [and through the dis­tor­tions of the rip­ple-effect in the pro­jects] there was this moral panic cre­ated around qual­ity … what Jimmy said gave a whole lot of peo­ple the li­cense to be jerks. … Folks are play­ing Wikipedia like it’s a video game and their job is to kill van­dals … every now and again a nun or a tourist wan­ders in front of the AK47 and gets mur­dered …

Many peo­ple have com­plained that Wikipedia pa­trollers and ad­min­is­tra­tors have be­come in­su­lar and taken on a bunker men­tal­i­ty, dri­ving new con­trib­u­tors away. Do you agree, and if so, how can this at­ti­tude be com­bated with­out alien­at­ing the cur­rent core con­trib­u­tors?

I would­n’t char­ac­ter­ize it as bunker men­tal­ity at all. It’s just a sys­tem that’s cur­rently op­ti­mized for com­bat­ing bad ed­its, while be­ing in­suffi­ciently con­cerned with the well-be­ing of new ed­i­tors who are, in good faith, try­ing to help the pro­jects. That’s un­der­stand­able, be­cause it’s a lot eas­ier to op­ti­mize for one thing (no bad edit should sur­vive for very long) than for many things (good ed­its should be pre­served and built up­on, new ed­i­tors should be wel­comed and coached, etc.). So I don’t think it’s an at­ti­tu­di­nal prob­lem, but more an is­sue of fo­cus­ing en­ergy now on re-bal­anc­ing to en­sure our processes for pa­trolling ed­its, delet­ing con­tent, etc. are also de­signed to be en­cour­ag­ing and sup­port­ive of new peo­ple.

How can a cul­ture that has a heavy sta­tus quo bias be changed? How can the com­mu­nity be per­suaded to be­come less risk-a­verse?

My hope is that the com­mu­nity will be­come less risk-a­verse as the Foun­da­tion makes suc­cess­ful, use­ful in­ter­ven­tions. I be­lieve the Vec­tor us­abil­ity im­prove­ments are gen­er­ally seen as suc­cess­ful, al­though they of course haven’t gone far enough yet. Wik­ilove is a small fea­ture, but it’s been adopted by 13 Wikipedia lan­guage-ver­sions, plus Com­mons. The ar­ti­cle feed­back tool is on the Eng­lish Wikipedia and is cur­rently be­ing used in seven other pro­jects. The new-ed­i­tor feed­back dash­board is live on the Eng­lish and Dutch Wikipedias. New warn­ing tem­plates are be­ing tested on the Eng­lish and Por­tuguese Wikipedias. And the first op­t-in user-fac­ing pro­to­type of the vi­sual ed­i­tor will be avail­able within a few weeks. My hope is all this will cre­ate a vir­tu­ous cir­cle: sup­port for open­ness will be­gin to in­crease open­ness, which will be­gin to in­crease new ed­i­tor re­ten­tion, which will be­gin to re­lieve the work­load of ex­pe­ri­enced ed­i­tors, which will en­able every­one to re­lax a lit­tle and al­low for more ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and play­ful­ness.

Re­gain­ing our sense of open­ness will be hard work: it flies in the face of some of our strongest and least healthy in­stincts as hu­man be­ings. Peo­ple find it diffi­cult to as­sume good faith and to de­volve pow­er. We nat­u­rally put up walls and our brains fall into us-ver­sus-them pat­terns. That’s nor­mal. But we need to re­sist it. The Wiki­me­dia projects are a tri­umph of hu­man achieve­ment, and they’re built on a be­lief that hu­man be­ings are gen­er­ally well-in­ten­tioned and want to help. We need to re­mem­ber that and to be­have con­sis­tently with it.

I am skep­ti­cal that Gard­ner’s ini­tia­tives will change the curves (although they are not bad ideas); my gen­eral be­lief is that delet­ing pages, and the om­nipresent threat of dele­tion, are far more harm­ful than com­plex markup. (I should note that Gard­ner has read and praised this es­say, but also that much of this es­say is based on my feel­ings and .)

Re­gard­less of whether the WMF re­ally un­der­stands the is­sue, it is al­most un­in­ten­tion­ally hi­lar­i­ous to look at the pro­posed so­lu­tion­s—­for ex­am­ple, one amounts to restor­ing early Wikipedia cul­ture & prac­tices in pri­vate sand­box­es, pro­tected from the reg­u­lars & their guide­li­nes! Band-aids like Wik­ilove or ar­ti­cle rat­ing but­tons are not get­ting at the core of the prob­lem; a com­mu­nity does not live on high­-qual­ity rat­ing tools () or die on poor ones (Y­ouTube). The Foundation/developers some­times do the right thing, like strik­ing down an Eng­lish Wikipedia ‘con­sen­sus’ to re­strict ar­ti­cle cre­ation even fur­ther, but will it be enough? To quote Carl Bia­lik again:

Adding more ed­i­tors “is one of our top pri­or­i­ties for the year,” says Howie Fung, se­nior prod­uct man­ager for the Wiki­me­dia Foun­da­tion, which aims to in­crease the num­ber of ed­i­tors across all lan­guages of Wikipedia to 95,000 from 81,450 by June of next year.

The sub­se­quent re­search has in some re­spects vin­di­cated my views: some have tried to ar­gue that the de­clines are due to pick­ing all the low-hang­ing fruit in ar­ti­cles or in avail­able ed­i­tors, that lower qual­ity ed­i­tors mer­ited ad­di­tional pro­ce­dures. But what we see is not that new ed­i­tors are worse or low­er-qual­i­ty, but that they are as high­-qual­ity and use­ful as they have been since 2006; nor is this due to a de­clin­ing sup­ply of new ed­i­tors plus bet­ter pro­ce­dures for win­now­ing them out, from “Kids these days: the qual­ity of new Wikipedia ed­i­tors over time” (“Re­search:New­comer qual­ity”):

What we found was en­cour­ag­ing: the qual­ity of new ed­i­tors has not sub­stan­tially changed since 2006. More­over, both in the early days of Wikipedia and now, the ma­jor­ity of new ed­i­tors are not out to ob­vi­ously harm the en­cy­clo­pe­dia (~80%), and many of them are leav­ing valu­able con­tri­bu­tions to the project in their first edit­ing ses­sion (~40%). How­ev­er, the rate of re­jec­tion of all good-faith new ed­i­tors’ first con­tri­bu­tions has been ris­ing steadi­ly, and, ac­cord­ing­ly, re­ten­tion rates have fall­en. What this means is that while just as many pro­duc­tive con­trib­u­tors en­ter the project to­day as in 2006, they are en­ter­ing an en­vi­ron­ment that is in­creas­ingly chal­leng­ing, crit­i­cal, and/or hos­tile to their work. These lat­ter find­ings have also been con­firmed through pre­vi­ous re­search.

(I am struck by the fall in new­bie sur­vival rates for the high­est-qual­i­ty—‘golden’—ed­i­tors in 2006–2007. The Seigen­thaler affair was, rec­ol­lect, No­vem­ber–De­cem­ber 2005.)

I sus­pected that Fung’s ob­jec­tive would not be reached, as in­deed it was not13.

Re­mem­ber, most mea­sures are di­rected against ca­sual users. Power users can nav­i­gate the end­less process­es, or call in pow­er­ful friends, or sim­ply wait a few years14 The most pow­er­ful pre­dic­tor of whether an ed­i­tor will stop edit­ing is… how much they are edit­ing.15 User:Res­i­dent Mario (joined 2008) points in his De­cem­ber 2011 es­say “Open­ness ver­sus qual­i­ty: why we’re do­ing it wrong, and how to fix it”16 to a dra­matic graph of ed­i­tor counts17:

Ac­tive Wikipedi­ans: Ac­tual ver­sus Strat­egy

And it’s ca­sual users who mat­ter. We lost the cre­den­tialed ex­perts years ago, if we ever had them. Sur­veys ask­ing why are al­most otiose; they will do so if they are ex­cep­tional or if they are man­ag­ing PR around a dis­cov­ery. But Wikipedia is not Long Con­tent; why would they con­tribute if they can get the traffic they de­sire just by in­sert­ing links18? Why would they build their in­tel­lec­tual houses on sand?19 They get the best of both world­s—­gain­ing traffic and avoid­ing the toxic dele­tion­ists.

And we can see this quite di­rect­ly: when the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion of ed­i­tors get so­licited to con­tribute to AfD, their !votes are differ­ent from the AfD reg­u­lars, and in par­tic­u­lar, when keep !vot­ers spread the word about an AfD, their re­cruits are much more likely to !vote keep a well, while would-be deleters do their cause no fa­vor with pub­lic­ity20. Can there be any more con­vinc­ing proof that dele­tion­ism and its man­i­fes­ta­tions are a can­cer on the Wikipedia cor­pus?

The editing community is dead; who killed it?

Hav­ing dis­cussed the broad trend of dele­tion­ism and prob­lems with ed­i­tors, let’s look at one spe­cific dele­tion­ist prac­tice which has, as far as I know, never been ex­am­ined be­fore, de­spite be­ing a clas­sic dele­tion­ist prac­tice and, like most dele­tion­ist prac­tices, one that by the num­bers turns out to badly mis­serve both ed­i­tors and read­ers: the prac­tice of mov­ing links from Ex­ter­nal Links to the Talk page.

The rea­son for my in­ter­est in this mi­nor dele­tion­ist prac­tice is that I no longer edit as much as I used to, and so fre­quently when I find an ex­cel­lent ci­ta­tion (ar­ti­cle, re­view, in­ter­view etc.) I will often just copy it into the Ex­ter­nal Links sec­tion or (if I am feel­ing es­pe­cially en­er­get­ic) I will ex­cerpt the im­por­tant bits onto the ar­ti­cle’s Talk page. I re­al­ized that this con­sti­tutes what one might call a “”: I could go back and see how often the ex­cerpts were copied by an­other ed­i­tor into the ar­ti­cle. This is bet­ter than just look­ing at “how often anime ed­i­tors edit” or “how often anime ar­ti­cles are edited” be­cause it is less re­lated to out­side events—per­haps anime news was sim­ply bor­ing over that pe­riod or per­haps some new bots or scripts were rolled out. Whereas if there are no anime ed­i­tors who will edit even when pre­sented with gift-wrapped RSs (links & ex­cerpts specifi­cally called out for their at­ten­tion, and triv­ially copy­-pasted into the ar­ti­cle), then that’s pretty con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence that there is no longer a ‘there’ there—that the ed­i­tors are no longer ac­tive.

Sins of Omission: experiment 1

On at least two ar­ti­cles (Talk:Gur­ren La­gan­n#In­ter­views & Talk:Royal Space Force: The Wings of Hon­nêamise#­Sources), I have been stren­u­ously op­posed by ed­i­tors who ob­ject to hav­ing more than a hand­ful of links in the des­ig­nated Ex­ter­nal Links sec­tion; they ac­knowl­edged the links were (most­ly) all un­doubted RSs and rel­e­vant to the ar­ti­cle—but they re­fused to in­cor­po­rate the links into the ar­ti­cle. This is bad from every an­gle, yet few other ed­i­tors were in­ter­ested in help­ing me.

So I’ve be­gun go­ing through my old main­space Talk ed­its us­ing Special:Contributions, start­ing all the way back in April 2007 (>4 years ago, more than enough time for ed­i­tors to have made use of my gift­s!), look­ing for cases where I’ve dumped such ref­er­ences. I com­piled two lists, of 146 ani­me-re­lated ed­its, and 102 non-anime-re­lated ed­its.

Be­fore go­ing any fur­ther, it’s worth ask­ing—to avoid and post hoc ra­tio­nal­iza­tion—what you ex­pect my re­sults to be.

When ask­ing your­self, re­mem­ber that these ed­its, and a larger set of edit we’ll soon ex­am­ine, are se­lected ed­its; they are high­-qual­ity ed­its, ones where I thought the rel­e­vant ar­ti­cle must cover it. They are not low-qual­ity dumps of text or links by a pass­ing anony­mous ed­i­tor or done out of idle amuse­ment. What per­cent­age would you ex­pect to have been used after a week, enough time that most ar­ti­cle-watch­list­ing ed­i­tors will have seen the diff and had leisure to deal with task more com­plex than re­vert­ing van­dal­ism? 50% does­n’t seem like a bad start­ing point. How about after a year? Or two? Maybe 70% or 90%? After that, if it has­n’t been dealt with, it’s prob­a­bly not ever go­ing to be dealt with (even as­sum­ing the sec­tion has­n’t been stuffed in an archive page). Hold onto your es­ti­mate.

Once the lists were com­piled and weed­ed, I wrote a Haskell pro­gram to do the analy­sis. The pro­gram loads the spec­i­fied Talk page URLs and ex­tracts all URLs from the Talk diff so it can check whether any of them were linked in the Ar­ti­cle (which, in­ci­den­tal­ly, leads to false pos­i­tives and an overes­ti­ma­tion21).

Results

The re­sults for my ed­its when run on the two lists:

  • ani­me: of 146 ed­its, 11 were used, or <8%
  • non-anime: 102 ed­its, 3 used, or <3%

For com­par­ison, we can look at an ed­i­tor who has de­voted much of her time to find­ing ref­er­ences for anime ar­ti­cles—but made the colos­sal mis­take of be­liev­ing the EL par­ti­sans when they said ex­ter­nal links should ei­ther be in­cor­po­rated into ar­ti­cle text or listed on the talk page. User:Kreb­Markt has made per­haps thou­sands of such ed­its from im­pec­ca­ble RSs; it is pos­si­ble that my own con­tri­bu­tions are skewed down­wards, say, by a con­gen­i­tal in­abil­ity to se­lect good ref­er­ences. Hence, look­ing at her ref­er­ence-ed­its will pro­vide a cross-check.

I com­piled her most re­cent 1000 ed­its to the ar­ti­cle talk space with a quick down­load: elinks -dump 'http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Contributions&limit=500&contribs=user&target=KrebMarkt&namespace=1' 'http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Contributions&offset=20110227162151&limit=500&contribs=user&target=KrebMarkt&namespace=1' | grep '&diff='. Then I man­u­ally re­moved ed­its which were mi­nor or did not seem to be her usual ref­er­ence-ed­its, re­sult­ing in the fol­low­ing list of 958 ed­its from De­cem­ber 2010 to De­cem­ber 2011. (Kreb­Markt al­most ex­clu­sively adds ani­me-re­lated ref­er­ences, so I did not pre­pare a non-anime list.) The re­sults:

  • Of the 958 ed­its adding ref­er­ences, 36 were used in the ar­ti­cle, or <4%
  • Com­bin­ing my anime & non-anime with Kreb­Mark­t’s ed­its, we have 1206 ed­its adding ref­er­ences, of which less than 50 were used in the ar­ti­cle, or <4.15%

Be­sides it be­ing sur­pris­ing that Kreb­Markt (not a par­tic­u­larly com­mit­ted in­clu­sion­ist, if she be an in­clu­sion­ist at all) had a suc­cess rate half mine, <4.15% is shock­ingly low.

1156 ig­nored ed­its rep­re­sents a stag­ger­ing waste of ed­i­tor-time22. This can­not be ex­plained as our faults: we are both ex­pe­ri­enced ed­i­tors (I be­gan edit­ing in 2004, and Kreb­Markt in 2008), who know what good RSs are. And all of the ed­its con­tain good RSs. (The reader is in­vited to check ed­its and see for him­self whether they are solid and valu­able RSs, like re­views by the .) That per­haps 1⁄10 of our sug­gested ref­er­ences are in­cluded is due solely to the ap­a­thy or nonex­is­tence of other ed­i­tors. (If such a rate is a ‘suc­cess’, may the Almighty pre­serve us from a fail­ure!)

Since that will not soon change for the bet­ter, this leads to one con­clu­sion: the idea that ref­er­ences hid­den on Talk pages will one day be used is false.

Sins of Omission: experiment 2

“Some­body re­marked: ‘I can tell by my own re­ac­tion to it that this book is harm­ful.’ But let him only wait and per­haps one day he will ad­mit to him­self that this same book has done him a great ser­vice by bring­ing out the hid­den sick­ness of his heart and mak­ing it vis­i­ble.”

, §58 As­sorted Opin­ions and Max­ims

We have looked at what sug­gest­ing ad­di­tions re­sults in: ab­ject fail­ure. The Wikipedia com­mu­nity is fail­ing at in­cor­po­rat­ing new links. Some at­tempted to jus­tify my ex­per­i­ment above: it’s OK be­cause at least the ex­ist­ing Ex­ter­nal Links sec­tions are qual­ity sec­tions. This is des­per­ate spe­cial plead­ing, but we should test it. How is the edit­ing com­mu­nity at the flip side of the coin—re­tain­ing old links? If in­clu­sion­ists’ sug­ges­tions are be­ing ig­nored, is this at least fairly ap­plied, with dele­tion­ists’ ed­its also fu­tile?

Un­for­tu­nate­ly, test­ing this re­quires de­struc­tive edit­ing. (We can’t sim­ply sug­gest on talk pages that ex­ter­nal links be re­moved be­cause that is both not how dele­tion­ists op­er­ate and likely will re­sult in no changes, per the pre­vi­ous ex­per­i­ment demon­strat­ing in­ac­tion on the part of ed­i­tors.)

The pro­ce­dure: re­move ran­dom links and record whether they are re­stored to ob­tain a restora­tion rate.

  • Ed­i­tors might de­fer to other ed­i­tors, so I will re­move links as a anony­mous IP user from mul­ti­ple prox­ies; the restora­tion rate will nat­u­rally be an un­deres­ti­mate of what a reg­is­tered ed­i­tor would be able to com­mit, much less a ten­den­tious dele­tion­ist.

  • To avoid is­sues with cher­ry-pick­ing or bi­ased se­lec­tion of links23, I will re­move only the fi­nal ex­ter­nal link on pages se­lected by Special:Random#External_links which have at least 2 ex­ter­nal links in an ‘Ex­ter­nal links’ sec­tion, and where the fi­nal ex­ter­nal link is nei­ther an ‘offi­cial’ link nor tem­plate-gen­er­at­ed. (This avoids is­sues where pages might have 5 or 10 ‘offi­cial’ ex­ter­nal links to var­i­ous ver­sions or lo­cal­iza­tions, all of which an ed­i­tor could con­fi­dently and blindly re­vert the re­moval of; tem­plate-gen­er­ated links also carry im­pri­maturs of au­thor­i­ty.)

  • The edit sum­mary for each edit will be rm external link per [[WP:EL]]—which has the nice prop­erty of be­ing mean­ing­less to any­one ca­pa­ble of crit­i­cal thought (by de­fi­n­i­tion, a link re­moval should be per one of WP:EL’s cri­te­ri­on­s—but which cri­te­rion?) but also offi­cial-look­ing like many dele­tion­ist ed­it-sum­maries.

    This point is very im­por­tant. We are not in­ter­ested in “van­dal­ism in gen­eral”, nor “all pos­si­ble forms of ex­ter­nal link van­dal­ism” (like adding spam links, in­sert­ing gib­ber­ish, break­ing syn­tax), but in bad ed­its which mimic how a dele­tion­ist would ed­it. A dele­tion­ist would avoid cer­tain links, and would be sure to make some al­lu­sion to pol­i­cy. (Shades of : it is im­pos­si­ble to dis­tin­guish an ac­tual dele­tion­ist’s ed­its from ran­dom dele­tions ac­com­pa­nied by repet­i­tive jar­gon.) If our ex­per­i­ment does not mimic these traits, our fi­nal mea­sure­ment of bad-edit re­ver­sion rate will sim­ply not be mea­sur­ing what we hoped to mea­sure.

  • To avoid flood­ing is­sues and be less no­tice­able, no more than 5 or 10 links a day will be re­moved with at least 1 minute be­tween each ed­it.

  • To avoid build­ing up cred­i­bil­i­ty, I will not make any real ed­its with the anony­mous IPs

  • After the last of the 100 links have been re­moved, I will wait 1 month (long enough for the edit to drop off all watch­lists and re­ver­sion rates be­come close to nonex­is­tent24) and re­store all links. I pre­dict at least half will not be re­stored and cer­tainly not more than 90%.

The full list of URL diffs is avail­able as an ap­pen­dix.

After fin­ish­ing the link re­movals, I briefly looked over the ed­its con­tri­bu­tion pages for (top), which spec­i­fies whether an edit is still the lat­est edit for that page (all re­verted re­movals will by de­fi­n­i­tion not still be the lat­est ed­it, but some non-re­verted ed­its will have un­re­lated ed­its steal­ing the sta­tus, so the num­ber gives an up­per bound on how many re­movals were re­vert­ed). It looked like <10%.

I was also struck dur­ing the process of go­ing through Special:Random by how many ‘Ex­ter­nal Links’ sec­tions have been, in wretched sub­terfuges, re­named ‘Sources’, ‘Ref­er­ences’, ‘Fur­ther read­ing’, or the ar­ti­cle has a long Ref­er­ences sec­tion stuffed with ex­ter­nal links which are used on­ce; per­haps ed­i­tors col­lec­tively know that putting a link into a sec­tion named ‘Ex­ter­nal Links’ is paint­ing a cross-hair on its fore­head. Too, I was struck by the gen­eral qual­ity of the links: of the 100, I would have as­sented to the re­moval of no more than 5 (10 at the most). In gen­er­al, ar­ti­cles err far on the side of in­clud­ing too few ex­ter­nal links rather than too many.

How many read­ers were affected by my ex­per­i­ment over the course of the month of wait­ing? Feel free to es­ti­mate or give a range—1,000 or 10,000 or maybe 100,000 read­ers? The ar­ti­cles are ran­domly picked, so it seems highly un­likely that there is sig­nifi­cant over­lap. But my best es­ti­mate, based on stats.grok.se data for the 100 ar­ti­cles’ traffic in March 2012, is that some­where around >~335,000 read­ers were affected25.

How many ed­i­tors were affect­ed? The 100 ar­ti­cles edited were watch­listed by a me­dian of 5 ed­i­tors each; un­for­tu­nate­ly, in lieu of tech­nolo­gies like Pa­trolled Re­vi­sions, we can­not es­ti­mate how many times each edit was checked by a hu­man (as many of those ed­i­tors no doubt are in­ac­tive or do not mon­i­tor their watch­list close­ly).

What was the early re­ac­tion when I men­tioned this ex­per­i­ment? Ian Wool­lard said

…if you’d have picked some­thing other than ex­ter­nal links, that might, or might not have been a good test.

Last time I checked (which ad­mit­tedly was a while ago) Wikipedia had a no­tice­board whose en­tire pur­pose, was es­sen­tially to delete as many ex­ter­nal links as pos­si­ble, they’d even added a pol­icy that said they could do that in every sin­gle case un­less you could get a ma­jor­ity in a poll to keep in­di­vid­ual links; oh and in prac­tice they pretty much !vote-stuffed those polls too by an­nounc­ing the polls on the no­tice­board, so the chances of a clear ma­jor­ity was low. Oh, and there was a bunch of shady anony­mous IPs in­volved as well that swing around after the fact to edit war them away any­way if an ex­ter­nal link they did­n’t fa­vor gets through all that.

Ba­si­cal­ly, ex­ter­nal links are one of the most hated parts of Wikipedia, and if hardly any of them got fixed it would­n’t sur­prise me, and would­n’t prove any­thing very much.

Ex­ag­ger­a­tion? Well, con­sider what the ac­tive ad­min­is­tra­tor User:­Fu­ture Per­fect at Sun­rise wrote in the WP:AN/I dis­cus­sion:

Hmm, strange ex­per­i­ment. Given the huge num­ber of in­ap­pro­pri­ate ex­ter­nal links we have, I re­ally won­der: would­n’t a ran­dom re­moval of a hun­dred links catch so many bad links ob­jec­tively wor­thy of re­moval that the net effect of the “van­dal­ism” might be more ben­e­fit than harm? If the ex­per­i­ment is meant to mea­sure how good the com­mu­nity is at re­vert­ing van­dal­ism, I can’t see how they can do that with­out hav­ing a mea­sure for these ran­dom ben­e­fi­cial hits.

None of the com­menters rose to my chal­lenge to es­ti­mate what the re­vi­sion rate should be, with the ex­cep­tion of the ad­min­is­tra­tor User:Horologium (who iden­ti­fies as an tran­swik­i-ing ex­clu­sion­ist26, which in prac­tice means dele­tion­ism) who looked at 19 ar­ti­cles and es­ti­mated that ~30% of ELs were bad by his stan­dards (so we can in­fer that a re­ver­sion rate of any­thing but 70% will highly likely ei­ther be al­low­ing good links to be deleted or de­fend­ing bad links by his stan­dard­s).

Results
  1. nei­ther IP ad­dress was con­tacted at any point in the ex­per­i­ment, blocked, or banned

  2. One ar­ti­cle was delet­ed; my edit was not re­verted be­fore dele­tion (ac­cord­ing to the ad­min Toby Bartel)

  3. Of the 100 ed­its, 3 were re­vert­ed:

3% is far worse than I had pre­dict­ed, and sta­tis­ti­cally sug­gests that the true rate is no higher than 7%27. This leads to one con­clu­sion: ex­ter­nal links are highly vul­ner­a­ble to dele­tion­ism.

Followup

A month after this ex­per­i­ment, I resur­veyed the 100 ed­its to see how many restora­tions had been re­vert­ed. 4 had been re­vert­ed:

  1. Castell Di­nas Bran
  2. Pro­tec­tor (2009 film) (no ex­pla­na­tion)
  3. Os­prey Pub­lish­ing (part of a whole­sale dele­tion of links)
  4. Mar­i­lyn vos Sa­vant (this one is ques­tion­able as well; link­ing to the Pa­rade home­page seems dis­tinctly less use­ful to the reader than link­ing to Pa­rade’s back­-archives where vos Sa­van­t’s columns are…)

Those who think that 3% was the cor­rect re­ver­sion rate for the re­movals are in­vited to ex­plain how 4% could be the cor­rect re­ver­sion rate for the re-adding of the same links—if it was ac­cept­able for 97% to be re­moved in the first place, how could it also be ac­cept­able for 94% to then be re­stored?

Tallying the Damage

Ignoti, sed non occulti

One might try to de­fend this waste­ful prac­tice by claim­ing that some ed­i­tors and read­ers will go to the Talk page and there might no­tice and visit the deleted links. This could only ame­lio­rate the prob­lem slight­ly, but it’s worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing just how rarely Talk pages are vis­ited so we can ex­plode this par­tic­u­lar in­stance of the ‘fal­lacy of the in­vis­i­ble’. How many of our read­ers ac­tu­ally look at the talk page as well? (Do a quick es­ti­mate, as be­fore, so you can know if you were right or wrong, and by how much.) I know some writ­ers writ­ing ar­ti­cles on Wikipedia have men­tioned or rhap­sodized at length on the in­ter­est of the talk pages for ar­ti­cles, but they are rare birds and sta­tis­ti­cally ir­rel­e­vant.

It might be enough sim­ply to know how much traffic to talk pages there is pe­ri­od. I doubt ed­i­tors make up much of Wikipedi­a’s traffic, with the shriv­el­ing of the edit­ing pop­u­la­tion, which never kept pace with the growth into a top 10/20 web­site, so that would give a good up­per bound. It would seem to be very small; there’s not a sin­gle Talk page in the top 1000 on stats.grok.se’s top ar­ti­cles. We can look at in­di­vid­ual ar­ti­cles; Talk:Anime has 273 hits over one month while the ar­ti­cle has 128,657 hits (a fac­tor of 471); or Talk:Barack Obama with 1800 over that month com­pared to with its 504,827 hits (a fac­tor of 280).

The raw stats used by stats.grok.se are avail­able for down­load, so we can look at all page hits, sum all ar­ti­cle and all Talk hits and see what the ra­tio is for the en­tire Eng­lish Wikipedia is on one day. (each file seems to be an hour of the day so I down­loaded 24 and gunzipped them al­l.) We do some quick shell script­ing. To find the ag­gre­gate hits for just talk pages:

grep -e '^en Talk:' -e '^en talk:' pagecounts-* | cut -d ' ' -f 3 | paste -sd + | bc
582771

To find ag­gre­gate hits for non-talk pages:

grep -e '^en ' pagecounts-* | grep -v -e '^en Talk:' -e '^en talk:' | cut -d ' ' -f 3 | paste -sd + | bc
202680742

The num­bers look sane—58,2771 for all talk page hits ver­sus 2,0268,0742 for all non-talk page hits. A fac­tor of 347 is pretty much around where I was ex­pect­ing based on those pre­vi­ous 2 pages. The traffic data de­vel­op­er, Do­mas, says the sta­tis­tics ex­clude API hits but in­cludes logged-in ed­i­tor hits, so we can safely say that anony­mous users made far fewer than 58k page views that day and hence the true ra­tios are worse than our pre­vi­ous ra­tios of 471/280/347. To put the rel­a­tive num­bers into proper per­spec­tive, we can con­vert into per­cent­ages:

  • If we take the ab­solutely most fa­vor­able ra­tio, Oba­ma’s at 280, and then fur­ther as­sume it was looked at by 0 logged-in users (yeah right), then that im­plies some­thing posted on its talk page will be seen by <0.35% of in­ter­ested read­ers ().
  • If we use the ag­gre­gate sta­tis­tic and say, gen­er­ous­ly, that reg­is­tered users make up only 90% of the page views, then some­thing on the talk page will be seen by <0.028% of in­ter­ested read­ers ().
Measuring Talk page clicks: dual n-back experiment

Page views don’t tell us the most in­ter­est­ing thing, how many peo­ple would have clicked on the link if it had been on the ar­ti­cle and not the Talk page. It’s im­pos­si­ble to an­swer this ques­tion in gen­er­al, un­for­tu­nate­ly, since Wikipedia does not track clicks.

How­ev­er, I have ap­prox­i­mated the ra­tio for at least one ar­ti­cle: the ar­ti­cle links to my DNB FAQ. There are a few dozen vis­i­tors each day from Wikipedia, Google An­a­lyt­ics tells me. What will hap­pen if the link is re­moved to the Talk page? The ar­ti­cle and gen­eral in­ter­est in n-back haven’t changed—those vari­ables are still the same. The same sort of peo­ple will be vis­it­ing the ar­ti­cle and (not) vis­it­ing the Talk page. The vis­i­tor count will dra­mat­i­cally fall, prob­a­bly to less than 1 a day. The link was in the ar­ti­cle for per­haps half a year, since ~2011-07-14; on 2012-02-09, I shifted it to the Talk page with a fake mes­sage prais­ing the con­tents, to mimic how an ed­i­tor might gen­uinely post the link on the Talk page (ask­ing the for­bear­ance & co­op­er­a­tion of my fel­low ed­i­tors in hid­den com­ments). I then sched­uled a fol­lowup for 100 days: 2012-05-19.

It ought to be triv­ial and point­less—ev­ery­one should ac­knowl­edge that es­sen­tially no read­ers also read Talk pages, but it’s still worth pre­com­mit­ting: I pre­dict that Talk click­-throughs will av­er­age <5% of Ar­ti­cle click­-throughs, and the differ­ence be­tween the 2 datasets will be sta­tis­ti­cal­ly-sig­nifi­cant at p < 0.05.

As promised, on 2012-05-20 I re­stored my FAQ link and be­gan analy­sis:

  1. Be­fore:

    Be­tween 2011-07-14 and 2012-02-08 (a longer pe­ri­od), the to­tals were 31,454/23,538 (pageview/unique pageview), with 1,910/1,412 from the Eng­lish Wikipedia and as one would ex­pect, a lesser 740/618 from the Ger­man Wikipedia28. n = 209, so the daily av­er­age click from the Eng­lish Wikipedia is

    PDF overview, Eng­lish hits CSV

  2. After:

    Be­tween 10 Feb­ru­ary and 12:50 PM 2012-05-20, my DNB FAQ re­ceived from all sources 21,803/16,899 page views (raw/unique). 327/164 page views were from the Ger­man Wikipedia, and there were 161/155 page views from the Eng­lish Wikipedia. n = 100, so the daily av­er­age is .

    PDF overview, Eng­lish hits CSV

Di­vid­ing the two av­er­ages shows that the av­er­age clicks in this pe­riod were ~17.6%, not <5% as I had pre­dict­ed. This differ­ence be­tween the two groups is sta­tis­ti­cal­ly-sig­nifi­cant at p < 0.001, need­less to say29.

So, Talk page click­-throughs are in­deed lower than Ar­ti­cle click­-throughs, but al­most 3 times larger than I ex­pect­ed. What hap­pened? We know this can’t be the gen­eral case from look­ing at the states.grok.se data—there just is­n’t enough traffic to Talk pages for any rea­son.

My best guess is that the dual n-back ar­ti­cle is sim­ply a bad ex­am­ple. If we look at the April 2012 data as an ex­am­ple, we see that it gets some­thing like 15 page views a day with oc­ca­sional spikes and throughs, 568 vis­its over 30 days av­er­ag­ing 19 vis­its a day. There were 9 click­-throughs on av­er­age dur­ing the pre­vi­ous sam­ple—­sug­gest­ing that some­thing like half the read­ers are click­ing through to one ex­ter­nal link! This does not sound like “nor­mal” ar­ti­cle be­hav­ior, and sug­gests to me that the very short and in­com­plete na­ture of the dual n-back Wikipedia ar­ti­cle is caus­ing read­ers to look for fur­ther bet­ter in­for­ma­tion like my FAQ, which might cause read­ers to also re­sort to check­ing the talk page for in­for­ma­tion (where they would run into my glow­ing fake blurb vis­i­ble on the first screen). Un­for­tu­nate­ly, I can­not check this the­ory be­cause cur­rently only one ar­ti­cle links to my site where I can gather Google An­a­lyt­ics in­for­ma­tion.

The Forgotten Reader

More in­struc­tive is es­ti­mat­ing how many read­ers have been de­prived of the chance to use the ref­er­ences for just the sub­set of 1206 ed­its we have al­ready looked at above. We can reuse stats.grok.se with a lit­tle more pro­gram­ming; we will ask it how many hits/page-views, in to­tal, there were in No­vem­ber 2011 of the 472 unique ar­ti­cles cov­ered by those 1206 ed­its.

The to­tal: 8,480,394.

Ex­trap­o­lat­ing back­wards to 2007/2008 is left as an ex­er­cise for the read­er.

When we con­sider how false the idea that this prac­tice serves the ed­i­tor, and when we con­sider how many read­ers are il­l-served, they sug­gest that the com­mon prac­tice of ‘mov­ing reference/link to the Talk page’ be named for what it is: a sub­tle form of dele­tion.

It would be a ser­vice to our read­ers to end this prac­tice en­tire­ly: if a link is good enough to be hid­den on a Talk page (sup­pos­edly in the in­ter­ests of in­cor­po­rat­ing it in the fu­ture, which we have seen is a empty promis­sory note), then it is good enough to put at the end of Ex­ter­nal Links or a Fur­ther Read­ing sec­tion, and the lit­er­ally mil­lions of affected read­ers will not be de­prived of the chance to make use of them.

I fully ex­pect to see this prac­tice for years to come.

No club that would have me

“Elab­o­rate eu­phemisms may con­ceal your in­tent to kill, but be­hind any use of power over an­other the ul­ti­mate as­sump­tion re­mains: ‘I feed on your en­er­gy.’”

Frank Her­bert’s (“Ad­denda to Or­ders in Coun­cil—The Em­peror Paul Muad’dib”)

This re­sult will come as no sur­prise to long­time in­clu­sion­ists. The dele­tion process deletes most ar­ti­cles which en­ter it, and has long been com­plained about by out­siders. En­tire com­mu­ni­ties (such as the 30 or on­line com­mu­ni­ties31) have been alien­ated by purges of ar­ti­cles—purges which not in­fre­quently re­sult in abuse of process, much new­bie bit­ing, and com­i­cal spec­ta­cles like AfD reg­u­lars (usu­ally dele­tion­ists) in­sist­ing a given ar­ti­cle is ab­solutely non-no­table and ex­perts in the rel­e­vant field de­mur­ring; a par­tic­u­larly good AfD may see state­ments of ex­perts dis­missed on spe­ciously pro­ce­dural grounds such as hav­ing been made in the ex­pert’s blog (and so fail­ing WP:RS, or per­haps sim­ply be­ing dis­missed as WP:OR) and not a tra­di­tional medium (de­spite the ac­cel­er­at­ing aban­don­ment of ‘tra­di­tional’ RSs by ex­perts in many fields32). The trend has been clear. , who has been edit­ing Wikipedia even longer than my­self (s­ince 2003) and who wrote on Wikipedia, writes in “Un­want­ed: New ar­ti­cles in Wikipedia”:

’It’s in­cred­i­ble to me that the com­mu­nity in Wikipedia has come to this, that ar­ti­cles so ob­vi­ously “keep” just a year ago, are be­ing chal­lenged and locked out. When I was ac­tive back on the mail­ing lists in 2004, I was a well known dele­tion­ist. “Wiki is­n’t pa­per, but it is­n’t an at­tic,” I would say. Se­lec­tiv­ity mat­ters for a qual­ity en­cy­clo­pe­dia. But it’s a whole differ­ent mood in 2007. To­day, I’d be la­beled a wild eyed in­clu­sion­ist. I sus­pect most vet­eran Wikipedi­ans would be la­beled a bleed­ing heart in­clu­sion­ist too. How did we raise a new gen­er­a­tion of folks who want to wipe out so much, who would shoot first, and not ask ques­tions what­so­ev­er? [If Lih can write this in 2007, you can imag­ine how peo­ple who iden­ti­fied as in­clu­sion­ists in 2004, such as my­self or The Cunc­ta­tor, look to Wikipedi­ans who re­cently joined.]

It’s as if there is a cul­ture now in Wikipedia. There are throngs of dele­tion happy users, like grumpy old gate­keep­ers, toss­ing out cus­tomers and ar­ti­cles if they don’t com­ply to some new prickly hard-nosed stan­dard. It used to be if an ar­ti­cle was short, some­one would add to it. If there was spam, some­one would re­move it. If facts were ques­tion­able, some­one would re­search it. The beauty of Wikipedia was the hu­man fac­tor—rea­son­able peo­ple in­ter­act­ing and col­lab­o­rat­ing, build­ing off each oth­er’s work. It was im­por­tant to start stuff, even if it was­n’t com­plete. As­sume good faith, neu­tral point of view and if it’s not right, {{sofixit}}. Things would grow.’

I was par­tic­u­larly de­pressed to read in the com­ments things from ad­min­is­tra­tors whose names I rec­og­nize due to their long tenure on Wikipedia, like Lly­wrch (joined 2002):

“I’m sorry that you en­coun­tered that, An­drew—but not sur­prised. I had my own en­counter with the new gen­er­a­tion of”quote pol­i­cy, not rea­son­ing" dele­tion­ists; I feel as if I en­coun­tered (to quote from the song) “the forces of evil from a bozo night­mare.” No one—in­clud­ing me—looked good after that ex­change. (I keep think­ing that I should have said some­thing differ­ent, but the sur­re­al­ism of the sit­u­a­tion mul­ti­plied with the square of my frus­tra­tion kept me from my best.)"

Or St­bal­bach:

“I’m a long time ed­i­tor, since 2003, ranked in the top 300 by num­ber of ed­its (most in ar­ti­cle space). On May 11th 2007 I mostly gave up on Wikipedi­a—there is some­thing wrong with the com­mu­ni­ty, in par­tic­u­lar peo­ple delet­ing con­tent. I’d never seen any­thing like it prior to late 2006 and 2007. Fur­ther, the use of”nag tags" at the top of ar­ti­cles is out of hand. It’s eas­ier to nag and delete than it is to re­search and fix. Too many know-noth­ings who want to “help” have found a pow­er­ful niche by nag­ging and delet­ing with­out en­gag­ing in di­a­log and sim­ply cit­ing 3 let­ter rules. If a user is un­will­ing or in­ca­pable of work­ing to im­prove an ar­ti­cle they should not be plac­ing nag tags or delet­ing con­tent."

Also in­ter­est­ing is Ta bu shi da yu’s com­ment, inas­much as Ta bu in­vented the in­fa­mous {{fact}}:

“I have also seen this hap­pen­ing. It’s in­cred­i­ble that those who are so in­cred­i­bly stu­pid can get away with mis­us­ing the speedy dele­tion tag! As for DRV… don’t make me laugh. It seems to be slanted to keep ar­ti­cles delet­ed. I can’t agree more with your sen­ti­ments that if you know all the codes to WP:AFD, then you are a men­ace to Wikipedia.”

Why is this cul­ture chang­ing? In part be­cause ar­ti­cle writ­ing seems to get no more re­spect. A re­view ar­ti­cle sum­ma­rizes the find­ings of Burke and Kraut 200833:

…it is prov­ing in­creas­ingly hard to be­come a Wikipedia ad­min­is­tra­tor: 2,700 can­di­dates were nom­i­nated be­tween 2001 and 2008, with a suc­cess rate of 53%. The rate has dropped from 75.5% un­til 2005 to 42% in 2006 and 2007. Ar­ti­cle con­tri­bu­tion was not a strong pre­dic­tor of suc­cess. The most suc­cess­ful can­di­dates were those who edited the Wikipedia pol­icy or project space; such an edit is worth ten ar­ti­cle ed­its.

What sort of ed­i­tor, with a uni­verse of fas­ci­nat­ing top­ics to write up­on, would choose to spend most of his time on the pol­icy name­space? What sort of ed­i­tor would choose to stop writ­ing ar­ti­cles?34 Ad­min­is­tra­tors with min­i­mal ex­pe­ri­ence in cre­at­ing con­tent—and much ex­pe­ri­ence in de­stroy­ing it and rewrit­ing the rules to per­mit the de­struc­tion of even more. Is this not al­most the op­po­site of what one wants? And imag­ine how the au­thors must feel! An ar­ti­cle is not a triv­ial un­der­tak­ing; some­time sit down, se­lect a ran­dom sub­ject, and try to write a well-or­ga­nized, flu­ent, com­pre­hen­sive, and ac­cu­rate en­cy­clo­pe­dia ar­ti­cle on it. It’s not as easy as it looks, and it’s even harder to write a well-ref­er­enced and cor­rectly for­mat­ted one. To have an ar­ti­cle deleted is bad enough; I can’t imag­ine any neo­phyte ed­i­tors want­ing to have any­thing to do with Wikipedia if an ar­ti­cle of theirs got rail­roaded through AfD. It is eas­ier to de­stroy than to cre­ate, and de­struc­tion is in­fec­tious. (In the study of 3.3 years of the on­line SF game , play­ers were found to ‘pay it for­ward’ when the sub­ject of neg­a­tive ac­tions; the com­mu­nity was only saved from an epi­demic of at­tacks by the high mor­tal­ity & quit­ting rate of neg­a­tive ed­i­tors—I mean, neg­a­tive play­ers35.)

Delet­ing ar­ti­cles and pil­ing on pol­icy after guide­line after pol­icy are both di­rectly op­posed to why Wikipedi­ans con­tribute! When sur­veyed in 2011:

‘The two most fre­quently se­lected rea­sons for con­tin­u­ing to edit Wikipedia were “I like the idea of vol­un­teer­ing to share knowl­edge” (71%) and “I be­lieve that in­for­ma­tion should be freely avail­able to every­one” (69%), fol­lowed by “I like to con­tribute to sub­ject mat­ters in which I have ex­per­tise” (63%) and “It’s fun” (60%).’

And iron­i­cal­ly, the more effort an ed­i­tor pours into a topic and the longer & more de­tailed the ar­ti­cle be­comes, the more blind ha­tred it in­spires in dele­tion­ists. If you look at AfDs for small ar­ti­cles or stubs, the dele­tion­ists seem pos­i­tively lu­cid & ra­tio­nal; but make the ar­ti­cle 50kB long, and watch the rhetoric fly. I call this the effect: dele­tion­ists are men­tally al­ler­gic to in­for­ma­tion they do not care about or like.

If a dele­tion­ist sees an ar­ti­cle on “Lightsaber com­bat”36 and it’s just a page long, then he has lit­tle prob­lem with it. It may strike him as too big, but rea­son­able. But if the ar­ti­cle dares to be com­pre­hen­sive, if it is clearly the prod­uct of many hours’ la­bor on the part of mul­ti­ple ed­i­tors, if there are touches like ref­er­ences and quotes—then some­thing is wrong on the In­ter­net, the very uni­verse is out of joint that this ar­ti­cle has been so well-de­vel­oped when so many more de­serv­ing top­ics lan­guish, it is a cos­mic in­jus­tice. A dirty beg­gar is parad­ing around act­ing like an em­per­or. The ar­ti­cle does not know its place. It needs to be smacked down and hard. And who bet­ter than the dele­tion­ist?

What is the ul­ti­mate sta­tus-low­er­ing ac­tion which one can do to an ed­i­tor, short of ac­tu­ally ban­ning or block­ing them? Delet­ing their ar­ti­cles.

In a par­tic­u­lar sub­ject area, who is most likely to work on ob­scurer ar­ti­cles? The ex­perts and high­-value ed­i­tors—they have the re­sources, they have the in­ter­est, they have the com­pe­ten­cy. Any­one who grew up in Amer­ica post-1980 can work on [[Darth Vader]]; many fewer can work on [[Grand Admiral Thrawn]]. Any­one can work on [[Basho]]; few can work on [[Fujiwara no Teika]].

What has Wikipedia been most likely to delete in its shift dele­tion­ist over the years? Those ob­scurer ar­ti­cles.

The proof is in the pud­ding: all the high-value/status Star Wars ed­i­tors have de­camped for some­where they are val­ued; all the high-value/status Star Trek ed­i­tors, the Lost ed­i­tors… the list goes on. They left for a com­mu­nity that re­spected them and their work more; these spe­cific ex­am­ples are strik­ing be­cause the ed­i­tors had to make a com­mu­ni­ty, but one should not sup­pose such de­par­tures are lim­ited to fic­tion-re­lated ar­ti­cles. There may be evap­o­ra­tive cool­ing of the com­mu­nity but it’s not to­wards the ob­ses­sive fans.

“The great­est plea­sure is to van­quish your en­e­mies and chase them be­fore you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bo­som their wives and daugh­ters.”

At­trib­uted to

Out­siders! I re­al­ize it might sound like a stretch that any­one en­joys the power of nom­i­nat­ing ar­ti­cles, that be­ing a dele­tion­ist could be a joy­ful role. You say you un­der­stand how ad­min­is­tra­tors (with their abil­ity to di­rectly delete, to ban, to roll­back etc.) could grow drunk on pow­er, but how could AfD nom­i­na­tions lead to such a feel­ing?

But I know from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence that there is power ex­er­cised in nom­i­nat­ing for dele­tion. Well do I know the dark arts of gam­ing the sys­tem: of the clever use of tem­plates, of the process of delet­ing the ar­ti­cle by care­fully chal­leng­ing and re­mov­ing piece after piece, of in­vok­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate guide­lines and poli­cies to de­mol­ish ar­gu­ments and ref­er­ences.

I have seen the wails and groans in the edit sum­maries & com­ments of my op­po­nents, and ex­ulted in their de­feat. It’s very re­al, the temp­ta­tion of ex­er­cis­ing this pow­er. It’s easy to con­vince your­self that you are do­ing the right thing, and merely en­forc­ing the policies/guidelines as the larger com­mu­nity set them down. (Were all my nom­i­na­tions just? No, but I have suc­ceeded in fool­ing my­self so well that I can no longer tell which ones truly did de­serve dele­tion and which ones were deleted just be­cause I dis­liked them or their au­thors.)

Who can say how many au­thors take it per­son­al­ly? The dele­tion process is in­her­ently in­sult­ing: “Out of 2.5 mil­lion ar­ti­cles, yours stands out as suck­ing so badly that it is ir­re­deemable and must be oblit­er­at­ed.” And it is ul­ti­mately sad37—life is short but must that be true of ar­ti­cles as well as men?

A Personal Look Back

“Once more and they think to thank you.”

, A Novel of Thank You

I have , so I think I can speak from first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence here.

The prob­lem with de­vot­ing this much effort to Wikipedia is not that your time is wast­ed. If you get this far, you’ve ab­sorbed enough that you know how to make ed­its that will last and how to de­fend your ma­te­ri­al, and this guy in par­tic­u­lar is mak­ing ed­its in ar­eas par­tic­u­larly aca­d­e­mic and safe from dele­tion­ists; and your ar­ti­cles will re­ceives hun­dreds or thou­sands of vis­its a month (see stat­s.­grok.se—I was a lit­tle shocked at how many page hits my ar­ti­cles col­lec­tively rep­re­sent a mon­th).

The prob­lem is that the ben­e­fits are go­ing en­tirely to your read­ers. It’s a case-s­tudy in . Un­like FLOSS or other forms of cre­ation which build a port­fo­lio, you don’t even get in­tan­gi­bles like rep­u­ta­tion—to the ex­tent any reader thinks about it, they’ll just men­tally thank the Wikipedia col­lec­tive. When you make 10,000 ed­its to your per­sonal wiki, you will prob­a­bly have writ­ten some pretty de­cent stuff, you will have es­tab­lished a per­sonal brand, etc. Maybe it’ll turn out great, maybe it’ll turn out to be worth noth­ing. But when you make 10,000 ed­its to Wikipedia, you are guar­an­teed to get noth­ing.

No doubt one can point to the oc­ca­sional Wikipedia ed­i­tor who has ben­e­fited with a book con­tract or a job or some­thing. But what about all the other ed­i­tors in Wikipedi­a:List of Wikipedi­ans by num­ber of ed­its?

To again turn to my­self; when I was pour­ing much of my free en­ergy and re­search in­ter­est into im­prov­ing Wikipedia, I got noth­ing back ex­cept sat­is­fac­tion and be­ing able to point peo­ple at bet­ter ar­ti­cles dur­ing dis­cus­sions. I be­gan writ­ing things that did­n’t fit on Wikipedia and got a per­sonal web­site be­cause I did­n’t want to use some flaky free ser­vice, and the world did­n’t end. I now have an ac­tual rep­u­ta­tion among some peo­ple; on oc­ca­sion, peo­ple even email me with job offers to write things, hav­ing learned of me from my web­site. I owe my cur­rent (very mod­est) liv­ing to my writ­ings be­ing clearly mine, and not “ran­dom stuff on Wikipedia”. I’m not say­ing any of this is very im­pres­sive, but I am say­ing that these are all ben­e­fits I would not have re­ceived had I con­tin­ued my edit­ing on Wikipedia. Now I oc­ca­sion­ally add ex­ter­nal links, and I try to de­fend ar­ti­cles I pre­vi­ously wrote. Once in a blue moon I post some highly tech­ni­cal or fac­tual ma­te­r­ial I be­lieve will be safe against even hard­core dele­tion­ists. But my glory days are long over. The game is no longer worth the can­dle.

Wikipedia is won­der­ful, but it’s sad to see peo­ple sac­ri­fic­ing so much of them­selves for it.

What Is To Be Done?

Wikipedia was en­abled by soft­ware. It en­abled a com­mu­nity to form. This com­mu­nity did truly great work; it’s often said Wikipedia is his­toric, but I think most peo­ple have lost sight of how his­toric Wikipedia is as it fades into the back­ground of mod­ern life; per­haps only schol­ars of the fu­ture have enough per­spec­tive on this leviathan, in the same way that Diderot’s en­cy­clo­pe­dia was—­for all the con­tro­versy and ban­ning—not given its full due at pub­li­ca­tion. (But how could it? En­cy­clo­pe­dias are more processes than fin­ished works, and of no en­cy­clo­pe­dia is this more true than Wikipedi­a.)

That com­mu­nity did great work, as­ton­ish­ing in breadth and depth, I said. But that com­mu­nity is also re­spon­si­ble for mis­us­ing the tools. If van­dal­ism is eas­ier to re­move than cre­ate, then it will tend to dis­ap­pear. But AfD is not van­dal­ism. There are no tech­ni­cal fixes for dele­tion­ist ed­i­tors. As long as most ed­i­tors have weak views, are will­ing to stand by while ‘nerdy’ top­ics feel the ax, who think ‘dele­tion­ists mostly get it cor­rect’, then the sit­u­a­tion will not change.

Could dele­tion be a pos­i­tive feed­back cy­cle? Will the waves of dele­tion con­tinue to en­cour­age ed­i­tors to leave, to not sign up, to let the dele­tion­ists con­tinue their grisly work un­op­posed, un­til Wikipedia is a shell of what it was?

Like the cool­ing dwarf star left by a su­per­nova—its lost bril­liance trav­el­ing on­wards to eter­ni­ty.

See Also

Appendices

Analysis script

The fol­low­ing Haskell pro­gram re­quires the Haskell base li­braries and the Tag­Soup li­brary (cabal install tagsoup). The script is par­al­lel. One can com­pile it like ghc -threaded -rtsopts -O2 script.hs; to run it one pipes in a list of new­line-de­lim­ited Talk page ed­its, like ./script +RTS -N4 -RTS < urls.txt38 which will then print out a sum­mary like

Checked 1024 edits
112 were used

The fol­low­ing sec­tions pro­vide 3 lists of se­lected ed­its which one could in­put.

import Control.Concurrent (forkIO, newEmptyMVar, putMVar, takeMVar, MVar)
import Control.Monad (liftM, void)
import Data.List (elemIndices, intersect, isPrefixOf, nub, sort)
import Network.HTTP (getRequest, rspBody, simpleHTTP)
import Text.HTML.TagSoup (parseTags, Tag(TagOpen, TagText))

main :: IO ()
main = do args <- liftM lines getContents

          results <- mapM parallel args
          results' <- mapM takeMVar results
          count <- liftM (length . filter id) $ sequence results'

          putStrLn $ "Checked " ++ show (length args) ++ " edits"
          putStrLn $ show count ++ " were used"

parallel :: String -> IO (MVar (IO Bool))
parallel s = do m <- newEmptyMVar
                _ <- forkIO $ void (putMVar m (comparePages s))
                return m

comparePages :: String -> IO Bool
comparePages url = do src <- liftM parseTags $ openURL url
                      let talkUrls = rmDupes $ concatMap urlsExtract $ text $ diff src

                      artcl <- liftM parseTags $ openURL (article url)
                      let articleUrls = uniq $ extractURLs artcl

                      return $ 0 /= length (talkUrls `intersect` articleUrls)
                   where uniq = nub . sort -- don't double-count in `intersect`!
                         -- throw out any URL appearing twice in a diff -
                         -- must be an old URL in both new and old pages!
                         -- only unique URLs could have been added.
                         rmDupes x = filter (\y -> length (elemIndices y x) <= 1) x

openURL :: String -> IO String
openURL u = do res <- simpleHTTP $ getRequest u
               case res of
                 Left _ -> return ""
                 Right y -> return $ rspBody y

-- pull all text; hopefully, out of the diff-only part of the HTML page
text :: [Tag String] -> [String]
text src = [x | (TagText x) <- src]

urlsExtract :: String -> [String]
urlsExtract = filter (not . null) . map trimmer . words

{- crop a string down to the "http://" prefix, or return nothing
    > trimmer "* http://foo.com"       → "http://foo.com"
    > trimmer "* [http://foo.com]"     → "http://foo.com"
    > trimmer "* [http://foo.com Foo]" → "http://foo.com"
    > trimmer "# It will break!"       → "" -}
trimmer :: String -> String
trimmer [] = []
trimmer y = fst $ break (\x -> x=='[' || x ==']' || x==' ') $ if "http://" `isPrefixOf` y
                                                    then y else trimmer (tail y)

-- "http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Princess_Jellyfish&diff=prev&oldid=403146531"
--  → "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Jellyfish"
article :: String -> String
article url = "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/" ++ takeWhile (/= '&') (drop 47 url)

-- pull out all external links (but not local relative links)
extractURLs :: [Tag String] -> [String]
extractURLs arg = [x | TagOpen "a" atts <- arg,
                       (_,x) <- atts,
                       "http://" `isPrefixOf` x]

-- cut everything up to "<table class='diff diff-contentalign-left'>", then cut everything after
-- "<!-- diff cache key enwiki: ... --> </table><hr class='diff-hr' />"
diff :: [Tag String] -> [Tag String]
diff = takeWhile ast' . dropWhile ast
        where ast, ast' :: Tag String -> Bool
              ast x = case x of
               TagOpen "table" [("class","diff diff-contentalign-left")] -> False
               _ -> True
              ast' x = case x of
               TagOpen "hr" [("class","diff-hr")] -> False
               _ -> True

stats.grok.se script

This is com­piled and run much the same way, mi­nus the -rtsopts -threaded op­tions (it is not par­al­lel).

import Data.List (isInfixOf, nub, sort)
import Network.HTTP (getRequest, rspBody, simpleHTTP)
import Text.HTML.TagSoup (parseTags, Tag(TagText))

main :: IO ()
main = do stats <- fmap (nub . sort . map article . lines) getContents
          srcs <- mapM openURL stats
          print $ sum $ map total srcs

openURL :: String -> IO String
openURL u = do res <- simpleHTTP $ getRequest u
               case res of
                 Left _ -> return ""
                 Right y -> return $ rspBody y

article :: String -> String
article url = "http://stats.grok.se/en/201111/" ++ takeWhile (/= '&') (drop 47 url)

total :: String -> Int
total s = read (head $ text $ parseTags s) :: Int

-- target: TagText " has been viewed 215 times in 201111. "
text :: [Tag String] -> [String]
text src =  map (takeWhile (/= ' ') . drop 17) [x | (TagText x) <- src, " has been viewed " `isInfixOf` x]

Gwern

Anime edits

Base URL: `http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=

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Sub­se­quent De­cem­ber 2011 ed­its adding Manga Im­pact! ex­cerpts, for use in fu­ture up­dates:

Talk:Hideaki_Anno&diff=prev&oldid=467386283
Talk:Cat_Soup&diff=prev&oldid=467386278
Talk:Devilman&diff=prev&oldid=467386273
Talk:Gainax&diff=prev&oldid=467386266
Talk:Edward_Elric&diff=prev&oldid=467386264
Talk:Mushishi&diff=prev&oldid=467386253
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Talk:Interstella_5555:_The_5tory_of_the_5ecret_5tar_5ystem&diff=prev&oldid=467386198
Talk:Jin-Roh:_The_Wolf_Brigade&diff=prev&oldid=467386191
Talk:Perfect_Blue&diff=prev&oldid=467386187
Talk:Tekkonkinkreet&diff=prev&oldid=467386185
Talk:Serial_Experiments_Lain&diff=prev&oldid=467386174
Talk:Royal_Space_Force:_The_Wings_of_Honn%C3%AAamise&diff=prev&oldid=467386170
Talk:Mahiro_Maeda&diff=prev&oldid=467386163
Talk:Mind_Game_(film)&diff=prev&oldid=467386158
Talk:Nadia:_The_Secret_of_Blue_Water&diff=prev&oldid=467386156
Talk:Only_Yesterday_(1991_film)&diff=prev&oldid=467386148
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Talk:Pom_Poko&diff=prev&oldid=467386136
Talk:Haibane_Renmei&diff=prev&oldid=467386126
Talk:Paranoia_Agent&diff=prev&oldid=467386123
Talk:Ryuichi_Sakamoto&diff=prev&oldid=467386120
Talk:Blood:_The_Last_Vampire&diff=prev&oldid=467386117
Talk:Rumiko_Takahashi&diff=prev&oldid=467386112
Talk:Revolutionary_Girl_Utena&diff=prev&oldid=467386109
Talk:Urusei_Yatsura&diff=prev&oldid=467386107
Talk:Shinichi_Watanabe&diff=prev&oldid=467386100
Talk:Vampire_Hunter_D&diff=prev&oldid=467386098
Talk:Shinichir%C5%8D_Watanabe&diff=prev&oldid=467386083
Talk:Ikuto_Yamashita&diff=prev&oldid=467386074

Us­ing solid RSs from var­i­ous places:

Talk:Miu_Nakamura&diff=next&oldid=443586698
Talk:Mobile_Suit_Gundam_Unicorn&diff=next&oldid=447787978
Talk:List_of_Code_Geass_chapters&diff=next&oldid=437716103
Talk:Tales_of_the_Abyss&diff=next&oldid=420771901
Talk:Lucky_Star_%28manga%29&diff=next&oldid=423381723
Talk:Mobile_Suit_Gundam_00&diff=next&oldid=413740770
Talk:Gurren_Lagann&diff=next&oldid=460101766
Talk:Kannagi:_Crazy_Shrine_Maidens&diff=next&oldid=256174496
Talk:Code_Geass&diff=next&oldid=466283941
Talk:Eureka_Seven&diff=next&oldid=446508979
Talk:Mobile_Suit_Gundam_Wing&diff=next&oldid=374026158
Talk:Haruhi_Suzumiya&diff=next&oldid=468788910
Talk:Outlaw_Star&diff=next&oldid=460958274
Talk:The_Vision_of_Escaflowne&diff=next&oldid=451719732
Talk:Cowboy_Bebop&diff=next&oldid=448951537
Talk:Katawa_Shoujo&diff=next&oldid=463907489
Talk:%C5%8Ctar%C5%8D_Maij%C5%8D&diff=next&oldid=398585286
Talk:Hatsune_Miku&diff=next&oldid=454344731
Talk:Escaflowne_%28film%29&diff=next&oldid=376488604
Talk:Eureka_Seven&diff=next&oldid=469409898
Talk:The_Animatrix&diff=next&oldid=435026766
Talk:Samurai_Champloo&diff=next&oldid=453680670
Talk:Takashi_Murakami&diff=next&oldid=398800894
Talk:Ghost_in_the_Shell:_Stand_Alone_Complex&diff=next&oldid=468305128
Talk:Yoko_Kanno&diff=next&oldid=460616030
Talk:Eiji_%C5%8Ctsuka&diff=next&oldid=427434029

A differ­ent ex­per­i­ment: will links to solid RSs and even links to the be re­moved? So far one was.

2009_Lost_Memories&diff=prev&oldid=470467955
Motoko_Arai&diff=prev&oldid=470467674
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Jonathan_Clements&diff=prev&oldid=470462657
Edogawa_Rampo&diff=prev&oldid=470462397
Princess_Hours&diff=prev&oldid=470462001
Grey_(manga)&diff=prev&oldid=470461371
Xiaolu_Guo&diff=prev&oldid=470461100
Ry%C5%8D_Hanmura&diff=prev&oldid=470460758
Yukinobu_Hoshino&diff=prev&oldid=470460161
Hisashi_Inoue&diff=prev&oldid=470459933
Fujio_Ishihara&diff=prev&oldid=470459755
Shotaro_Ishinomori&diff=prev&oldid=470459462
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Kamishibai&diff=prev&oldid=470458875
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Musashi_Kanbe&diff=prev&oldid=470457883
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Chiaki_Kawamata&diff=prev&oldid=470361568
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Yasumi_Kobayashi&diff=prev&oldid=470358288
Satoshi_Kon&diff=prev&oldid=470358071
Takao_Koyama&diff=prev&oldid=470357021
Maeda_Corporation&diff=prev&oldid=470356706
Mama_wa_Sh%C5%8Dgaku_4_Nensei&diff=prev&oldid=470356597
Gor%C5%8D_Masaki&diff=prev&oldid=470356471
Leiji_Matsumoto&diff=prev&oldid=470356001
Taku_Mayumura&diff=prev&oldid=470355797
Memories_(film)&diff=prev&oldid=470355672
Katsumi_Michihara&diff=prev&oldid=470355441
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Hiroyuki_Morioka&diff=prev&oldid=470355097
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Japan_Sinks&diff=prev&oldid=470353262
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Issui_Ogawa&diff=prev&oldid=470352693
Shunr%C5%8D_Oshikawa&diff=prev&oldid=470345592
Katsuhiro_Otomo&diff=prev&oldid=470331626
Roujin_Z&diff=prev&oldid=470331486
Hiroshi_Sakurazaka&diff=prev&oldid=470331348
Haruo_Sat%C5%8D&diff=prev&oldid=470331099
Seiun_Award&diff=prev&oldid=470330908
Makoto_Shinkai&diff=prev&oldid=470330566
Spriggan_(manga)&diff=prev&oldid=470330325
Steamboy&diff=prev&oldid=470330011
Jun_Suemi&diff=prev&oldid=470329717
Hiroe_Suga&diff=prev&oldid=470329562
Kaoru_Abe&diff=prev&oldid=470329401
Haruhi_Suzumiya&diff=prev&oldid=470329105
Haruka_Takachiho&diff=prev&oldid=470328354
Haruhi_Suzumiya&diff=prev&oldid=470182038
Nagaru_Tanigawa&diff=prev&oldid=470181840
The_Girl_Who_Leapt_Through_Time_(2006_film)&diff=prev&oldid=470181693
Yoshiyuki_Tomino&diff=prev&oldid=470168920
My_Neighbor_Totoro&diff=prev&oldid=470168439
Yasutaka_Tsutsui&diff=prev&oldid=470168177
Tow_Ubukata&diff=prev&oldid=470168018
Unno_Juza&diff=prev&oldid=470167739
Naoki_Urasawa&diff=prev&oldid=470167558
Wang_Lixiong&diff=prev&oldid=470167326
Wasei_Kingu_Kongu&diff=prev&oldid=470167191
Masaki_Yamada&diff=prev&oldid=470167024
Tetsu_Yano&diff=prev&oldid=470166475
Ai_no_Kusabi&diff=prev&oldid=470166234
The_Irresponsible_Captain_Tylor&diff=prev&oldid=470165787
Flowers_for_Algernon&diff=prev&oldid=470165470
Makoto_Yukimura&diff=prev&oldid=470165409
Sakyo_Komatsu&diff=prev&oldid=470165161
Mecha&diff=prev&oldid=470165105
Takumi_Shibano&diff=prev&oldid=470164922
Redline_%282009_film%29&diff=next&oldid=471537783
Wandering_Son&diff=next&oldid=470176035
Redline_%282009_film%29&diff=next&oldid=471777955
Ry%C5%8Dsuke_Takahashi&diff=next&oldid=449407491
House_of_Five_Leaves&diff=next&oldid=467143626
The_World_God_Only_Knows&diff=next&oldid=475694543
The_Secret_World_of_Arrietty&diff=next&oldid=477528091
Xam%27d:_Lost_Memories&diff=next&oldid=475503315
The_Secret_World_of_Arrietty&diff=next&oldid=478900309
Lupin_III&diff=next&oldid=478919543
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Gasaraki&diff=next&oldid=473622482
Princess_Jellyfish&diff=next&oldid=479014133
House_of_Five_Leaves&diff=next&oldid=475618551
Grave_of_the_Fireflies&diff=next&oldid=479452287
Durarara!!&diff=next&oldid=480198773
Leiji_Matsumoto&diff=prev&oldid=480936869
Leiji_Matsumoto&diff=prev&oldid=482070937
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Noboru_Ishiguro&diff=prev&oldid=483189593
Shigurui&oldid=560964921
Blue_Sonnet&diff=prev&oldid=561690345
Children_Who_Chase_Lost_Voices&diff=571251542&oldid=571023809
Neon_Genesis_Evangelion_%28manga%29&diff=prev&oldid=562036204
Nadia:_The_Secret_of_Blue_Water&diff=prev&oldid=562134708
The_Flowers_of_Evil_%28manga%29&diff=prev&oldid=565907864
Wolf_Children&diff=prev&oldid=584892972
Akira_(film)&diff=588087812&oldid=587682260
Sakura_Wars%3A_The_Movie&diff=588403566&oldid=587653050
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Shigurui&diff=prev&oldid=560964921
Neon_Genesis_Evangelion_(franchise)&diff=prev&oldid=497655879
Evangelion:_2.0_You_Can_(Not)_Advance&diff=prev&oldid=499537118
Hideaki_Anno&diff=prev&oldid=502275260
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Royal_Space_Force:_The_Wings_of_Honn%C3%AAamise&diff=prev&oldid=508327637
Summer_Wars&diff=prev&oldid=508328050
Toshio_Maeda&diff=prev&oldid=508628240
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Chihayafuru&diff=prev&oldid=513281750
Texhnolyze&diff=prev&oldid=514264118
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RahXephon&diff=prev&oldid=516668229
Moyasimon:_Tales_of_Agriculture&diff=prev&oldid=519959170
The_Rose_of_Versailles&diff=prev&oldid=520659364
Hellsing&diff=prev&oldid=526359534
Space_Battleship_Yamato&diff=prev&oldid=533619827
House_of_Five_Leaves&diff=prev&oldid=534029240
Toren_Smith&diff=prev&oldid=542618504
Cromartie_High_School&diff=prev&oldid=543478733
Baccano!&diff=prev&oldid=549343791
Hon%C5%8D_no_Tenk%C5%8Dsei&diff=prev&oldid=550669041
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Panty_%26_Stocking_with_Garterbelt&diff=prev&oldid=551982839
List_of_Kara_no_Ky%C5%8Dkai_films&diff=prev&oldid=552752933

Non-anime edits

Talk:Gordon_Bell&diff=prev&oldid=182321884
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Re­cent ed­its:

Talk:Okinawa_diet&diff=next&oldid=460765305
Gyaru&diff=next&oldid=477996685
Cleve_Cartmill&diff=prev&oldid=584474394
Deadline_(science_fiction_story)&diff=prev&oldid=584474333
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  1. From “Dig­i­tal Fil­ters II” in The Art of Do­ing Sci­ence and En­gi­neer­ing, 1997:

    This is ex­actly the same mis­take which was made end­lessly by peo­ple in the early days of com­put­ers. I was told re­peat­ed­ly, un­til I was sick of hear­ing it, com­put­ers were noth­ing more than large, fast desk cal­cu­la­tors. “Any­thing you can do by a ma­chine you can do by hand.”, so they said. This sim­ply ig­nores the speed, ac­cu­ra­cy, re­li­a­bil­i­ty, and lower costs of the ma­chines vs. hu­mans. Typ­i­cally a sin­gle or­der of mag­ni­tude change (a fac­tor of 10) pro­duces fun­da­men­tally new effects, and com­put­ers are many, many times faster than hand com­pu­ta­tions. Those who claimed there was no es­sen­tial differ­ence never made any sig­nifi­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the de­vel­op­ment of com­put­ers. Those who did make sig­nifi­cant con­tri­bu­tions viewed com­put­ers as some­thing new to be stud­ied on their own mer­its and not as merely more of the same old desk cal­cu­la­tors, per­haps souped up a bit.

    ↩︎
  2. Yvain, . The con­nec­tion to Wikipedia is ob­vi­ous.↩︎

  3. Ab­stract of “Ci­ta­tion Ad­van­tage of Open Ac­cess Le­gal Schol­ar­ship”, Dono­van & Wat­son 2011. Are le­gal schol­ars lazy? Are law li­braries il­l-funded? Do le­gal schol­ars have lit­tle in­cen­tive to write well-re­searched pa­pers? And yet, mak­ing pa­pers a lit­tle eas­ier to ac­cess re­sults in a dra­matic differ­ence in ci­ta­tion.

    Swan 2010 sur­veyed a 31 stud­ies and found 27 show­ing ben­e­fits to OA. For ex­am­ple, ben­e­fits to were found in bi­ol­ogy by , and found sim­i­lar re­sults for com­puter sci­ence ar­ti­cles on­line or offline:

    The mean num­ber of ci­ta­tions to offline ar­ti­cles is 2.74, and the mean num­ber of ci­ta­tions to on­line ar­ti­cles is 7.03, or 2.6 times greater than the num­ber for offline ar­ti­cles. These num­bers mask vari­a­tions over time—in par­tic­u­lar, older ar­ti­cles have more ci­ta­tions on av­er­age, and older ar­ti­cles are less likely to be on­line. When con­sid­er­ing ar­ti­cles within each year, and av­er­ag­ing across all years from 1990 to 2000, we find that on­line ar­ti­cles are cited 4.5 times more often than offline ar­ti­cles.

    We also an­a­lyzed differ­ences within each pub­li­ca­tion venue, where mul­ti­ple years for the same con­fer­ence are con­sid­ered as sep­a­rate venues. We com­puted the per­cent­age in­crease in the av­er­age num­ber of ci­ta­tions to on­line ar­ti­cles com­pared to offline ar­ti­cles. When offline ar­ti­cles were more highly cit­ed, we used the neg­a­tive of the per­cent­age in­crease for offline ar­ti­cles. For ex­am­ple, if the av­er­age num­ber of ci­ta­tions for offline ar­ti­cles is 2, and the av­er­age for on­line ar­ti­cles is 4, the per­cent­age in­crease would be 100%. For the op­po­site sit­u­a­tion, the per­cent­age in­crease would be -100%. Fig­ure 2 shows the re­sults. Av­er­ag­ing the per­cent­age in­crease across 1,494 venues con­tain­ing at least five offline and five on­line ar­ti­cles re­sults in an av­er­age of 336% more ci­ta­tions to on­line ar­ti­cles com­pared to offline ar­ti­cles pub­lished in the same venue [the first, sec­ond (me­di­an), and third quar­tiles of the dis­tri­b­u­tion are 58%, 158%, and 361%].

    ↩︎
  4. On the other hand, one eco­nom­ics study showed no ben­e­fit, Craig et al 2007 found no ben­e­fit in one physics sub­field:

    Three non-ex­clu­sive pos­tu­lates have been pro­posed to ac­count for the ob­served ci­ta­tion differ­ences be­tween OA and non-OA ar­ti­cles: an open ac­cess pos­tu­late, a se­lec­tion bias pos­tu­late, and an early view pos­tu­late. The most rig­or­ous study to date (in con­densed mat­ter physics) showed that, after con­trol­ling for the early view pos­tu­late, the re­main­ing differ­ence in ci­ta­tion counts be­tween OA and non-OA ar­ti­cles is ex­plained by the se­lec­tion bias pos­tu­late. No ev­i­dence was found to sup­port the OA pos­tu­late per se; i.e. ar­ti­cle OA sta­tus alone has lit­tle or no effect on ci­ta­tions. Fur­ther stud­ies us­ing a sim­i­larly rig­or­ous ap­proach are re­quired to de­ter­mine the gen­er­al­ity of this find­ing.

    ↩︎
  5. , Pay­Pal co-founder; pg 11, Founders at Work↩︎

  6. Joel on Soft­ware, “Fog­Bugz”↩︎

  7. Joel on Soft­ware, “Strat­egy Let­ter III: Let Me Go Back!”↩︎

  8. “Rate this Page” is Com­ing to the Eng­lish Wikipedia, WMF blog↩︎

  9. “The search queries that took Aus­tralian In­ter­net users to Wikipedia”, Waller 2011:

    This ex­ploratory study analy­ses the con­tent of the search queries that led Aus­tralian In­ter­net users from a search en­gine to a Wikipedia en­try. The study used trans­ac­tion logs from Hit­wise that matched search queries with data on the lifestyle of the searcher. A to­tal sam­ple of 1760 search terms, strat­i­fied by search term fre­quency and lifestyle, was drawn…The re­sults of the study sug­gest that Wikipedia is used more for lighter top­ics than for those of a more aca­d­e­mic or se­ri­ous na­ture. Sig­nifi­cant differ­ences among the var­i­ous lifestyle seg­ments were ob­served in the use of Wikipedia for queries on pop­u­lar cul­ture, cul­tural prac­tice and sci­ence.

    ↩︎
  10. pg 136, “4.4 De­mo­graphic Analy­sis of the Wikipedia Com­mu­nity”↩︎

  11. ibid. pg 137↩︎

  12. The Kag­gle back­ground in­for­ma­tion on the “Wikipedi­a’s Par­tic­i­pa­tion Chal­lenge” in­cludes an in­ter­est­ing ex­tract from the WMF re­port:

    “Be­tween 2005 and 2007, new­bies started hav­ing real trou­ble suc­cess­fully join­ing the Wiki­me­dia com­mu­ni­ty. Be­fore 2005 in the Eng­lish Wikipedia, nearly 40% of new ed­i­tors would still be ac­tive a year after their first ed­it. After 2007, only about 12-15% of new ed­i­tors were still ac­tive a year after their first ed­it. Post-2007, lots of peo­ple were still try­ing to be­come Wikipedia ed­i­tors. What had changed, though, is that they were in­creas­ingly fail­ing to in­te­grate into the Wikipedia com­mu­ni­ty, and fail­ing in­creas­ingly quick­ly.”

    ↩︎
  13. Rather than reach­ing 95k ed­i­tors, the ac­tual March-July 2012 num­bers were 76,274/75,141/76,956/74,402/76,400. In ret­ro­spect, my pes­simistic 75% pre­dic­tion that 95k would not be reached was ac­tu­ally lu­di­crously op­ti­mistic, given that the 95k ed­i­tor mark has never been reached: the high­-wa­ter mark seems to have been March 2007 with 90,618 ed­i­tors >5 ed­its that month. So we have been shrink­ing ~2.8k ed­i­tors a year: ((91 - 77) / (2012 - 2007)).↩︎

  14. The suc­cess­ful recre­ation of ar­ti­cle and the end­less dele­tion de­bates about Daniel Brandt (crowned in suc­cess for the dele­tion­ists) again come to mind.↩︎

  15. In June 2011, and the WMF an­nounced a “Wikipedi­a’s Par­tic­i­pa­tion Chal­lenge” to de­velop a bet­ter sta­tis­ti­cal model for pre­dict­ing ed­i­tor re­ten­tion; while the train­ing data was bi­ased, the re­sults are not too sur­pris­ing: the sin­gle best pre­dic­tor is the fre­quency of any ed­its prior to the cut­off. See 2nd place, Ernest Shack­le­ton or con­tes­tant Keith T. Her­ring:

    A ran­domly se­lected Wikipedia ed­i­tor that has been ac­tive in the past year has ap­prox­i­mately an 85% prob­a­bil­ity of be­ing in­ac­tive (no new ed­its) in the next 5 months. The most in­for­ma­tive fea­tures (w/r/t the fea­tures I con­sid­ered) cap­tured both the edit tim­ing and vol­ume of an ed­i­tor. More specifi­cally the ex­po­nen­tially weighted edit vol­ume of a user (edit weight de­creases ex­po­nen­tially with in­creased time be­tween the edit and the end of the ob­ser­va­tion pe­ri­od) with a half-life of 80 days pro­vided the most pre­dic­tive ca­pa­bil­ity among the 206 fea­tures in­cluded in the mod­el.

    Other at­trib­utes of the edit his­to­ry, such as unique­ness of ar­ti­cles, ar­ti­cle cre­ation, com­ment be­hav­ior, etc. pro­vided some ad­di­tional use­ful in­for­ma­tion, al­though roughly an or­der of mag­ni­tude or less than the edit tim­ing and vol­ume when mea­sured as global im­pact across the full non-con­di­tioned ed­i­tor uni­verse.

    ↩︎
  16. I dis­agree with parts of Mar­i­o’s es­say; for ex­am­ple, his first ex­am­ple is wrong as there are count­less ar­ti­cles to write from the sis­ter wikis, and many spe­cial­ist sources like _ have hun­dreds or thou­sands of en­tries that Wikipedia does not (I counted a dozen or so just link­ing to the ar­ti­cles writ­ten by Jonathan Clements—eg. many of the bi­og­ra­phy redlinks in “” or “”.) And every day, sites like the Anime News Net­work or New York Times post dozens of re­views or other ref­er­ences that can be eas­ily & profitably worked into ar­ti­cles—but aren’t.

    One com­ment makes the good point that the the­ory of com­plete­ness would not pre­dict any flatlin­ing in the smaller and less com­plete wik­is, yet we seem to ob­serve a gen­eral flatlin­ing.

    How­ev­er, his rea­son 2 is sim­i­lar to my own the­ory about the Seigen­thaler affair and the BLP re­ac­tion, and his rea­son 3 is my pre­vi­ous point about process & the fal­lacy of the invisible/broken win­dow fal­la­cy.↩︎

  17. Gard­ner’s De­cem­ber UK ad­dress con­tained other graphs worth look­ing at.↩︎

  18. Which as links to cre­den­tialed sources will be un­con­tro­ver­sial and re­quire lit­tle de­fense, vastly im­prov­ing the ROI of edit­ing Wikipedia. Wikipedia gets a great deal of traffic, and even highly ob­scure ar­ti­cles ex­ert sur­pris­ing in­flu­ence; one can look at the traffic rates on spe­cific pages with stats.grok.se.↩︎

  19. To quote the great com­puter sci­en­tist in 2006:

    I think that Wikipedi­a’s enor­mously suc­cess­ful, but it’s so brit­tle, you know, if I was, if I spent a lot of time writ­ing an ar­ti­cle for the Wikipedia, and I wanted to make sure no­body screwed it up, I would have to check that ar­ti­cle every day to make sure that it was still okay, and you know, after I’ve done that I want to move on and go on to oth­er, other things in my life. With , I wanted sta­bil­ity es­pe­cially ur­gently be­cause peo­ple are de­pend­ing on it to be a fixed point that they can build on, so in that re­spect, I differ from the .

    (The GPL con­tains clauses that users of GPLed code may use the terms of later ver­sions of the GPL, which may fix any le­gal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties or ex­ploits dis­cov­ered. This is a com­mon prac­tice among copy­left li­censes and in fact, the WMF it­self cross-li­censed the en­tire set of Wikipedias and other projects from the to as well based on a one-time pro­vi­sion GNU added at WMF’s re­quest.)↩︎

  20. “The Effects of Group Com­po­si­tion on De­ci­sion Qual­ity in a So­cial Pro­duc­tion Com­mu­nity”, Lam et al 2010, pg 7:

    "We also found that there have been two bots (com­puter pro­grams that edit Wikipedi­a)—BJBot and Jayden54Bot—that au­to­mat­i­cally no­ti­fied ar­ti­cle ed­i­tors about AfD dis­cus­sions and re­cruited them to par­tic­i­pate per the es­tab­lished pol­i­cy. These bots per­formed AfD no­ti­fi­ca­tions for sev­eral months, and offer us an op­por­tu­nity to study the effect of re­cruit­ment that is purely pol­icy dri­ven. We use a process like one de­scribed above to de­tect suc­cess­ful in­stances of bot-ini­ti­ated re­cruit­ment: if a re­cruit­ment bot edited a user’s talk page, and that user !voted in an AfD within two days, then we con­sider that user to have been re­cruited by the bot.

    Us­ing the above process­es, we iden­ti­fied 8,464 in­stances of suc­cess­ful re­cruit­ing. Ta­ble 2 shows a sum­mary of who did the re­cruit­ing, and how their re­cruits !vot­ed. We see large differ­ences in !vot­ing be­hav­ior, which sug­gests that there is bias in who peo­ple choose to re­cruit. (From these data we can­not tell whether the bias is an in­ten­tional effort to in­flu­ence con­sen­sus, or the re­sult of so­cial net­work ho­mophily [14].) Par­tic­i­pants re­cruited by keep !vot­ers were about four times less likely to sup­port dele­tion as those re­cruited by delete !vot­ers. The par­tic­i­pants that bots re­cruited also ap­pear un­likely to sup­port dele­tion, which re­flects the pol­icy bias we ob­served ear­li­er.

    To see what effect par­tic­i­pant re­cruit­ment has on de­ci­sion qual­i­ty, we in­tro­duce four bi­nary vari­ables: BotRecruit, NomRecruit, DeleteRecruit, and KeepRecruit. These vari­ables in­di­cate whether a bot, the AfD nom­i­na­tor, a delete !voter, or a keep !voter suc­cess­fully re­cruited some­body to the group, re­spec­tive­ly.

    Look­ing back to ta­ble 1, we find that re­gard­less of the de­ci­sion, none of the first three vari­ables has a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly-sig­nifi­cant effect. On the other hand, when a keep !voter re­cruited some­one to the dis­cus­sion, we see a sig­nifi­cant effect: delete de­ci­sions are more likely to be re­versed. We offer two pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tions: the first is that re­cruit­ment by keep !vot­ers, bi­ased as it may ap­pear, is a sign of pos­i­tive com­mu­nity in­ter­est, and sug­gests that the ar­ti­cle should be kept. If the com­mu­nity de­cides oth­er­wise and deletes the ar­ti­cle, then de­ci­sion qual­ity suffers. An al­ter­na­tive ex­pla­na­tion is that keep !voter re­cruit­ment is a sign of ac­tivism among those who pre­fer to keep the ar­ti­cle. These pro­po­nents may be es­pe­cially per­sis­tent in main­tain­ing the ar­ti­cle’s ex­is­tence in Wikipedia, even if it re­quires work­ing to re­verse a delete de­ci­sion."

    ↩︎
  21. It was too hard to ex­tract only the URL(s) be­ing added by a diff, so the script sim­ply ex­tracts all URLs it can find in the diff part of the HTML; so if an ed­i­tor made 4 ed­its adding URLs A, B, C, and D, and only A were added to the ar­ti­cle, then the script would 4 times ex­tract A-D, spot A in the ar­ti­cle, and de­clare vic­to­ry. This may ac­count for Kreb­Mark­t’s in­creased suc­cess rate com­pared to my ed­its, be­cause she is ac­cus­tomed to pil­ing up her sug­gested links in one tidy sec­tion.↩︎

  22. I added a few links to Talk pages to time how long it took for a Kreb­Mark­t-style ed­it: to go from the ANN page to a saved and re­loaded page which I had checked by eye that the edit was cor­rect was up­wards of 30 sec­onds. >30 sec­onds times 958 edit is >479 min­utes or >8 hours; my ex­cerpt­ing ed­its take at least 5 min­utes to do, so those 248 ed­its rep­re­sent >21 hours of work.↩︎

  23. Some­one might ob­ject that pick­ing the last link in an Ex­ter­nal Link sec­tion is not ran­dom at all. I am re­minded of an anec­dote de­scrib­ing a court case in­volv­ing the draft back in Viet­nam, where the plain­tiff’s lawyer ar­gued that the lit­tle cage and balls method was not ran­dom and was un­fair be­cause the balls on top were much more likely to be se­lect­ed. The judge asked, “Un­fair to whom?”

    As well, this method­ol­o­gy, while be­ing quite as ran­dom as most meth­ods, car­ries the usual ad­van­tages of de­ter­min­ism: any­one will be able to check whether I did in fact re­move only last links which are not offi­cial or tem­plate-gen­er­ated in Ex­ter­nal Link sec­tions. This is ev­i­dence that I did not sim­ply the links that I thought were worst and so least likely to be re­stored.

    (If I were go­ing to cherry pick un­der this pro­ce­dure, I would have had to in­vest a great deal more effort: for each re­moval, I would have to find mul­ti­ple can­di­dates each of which sat­is­fied the cri­te­ria and only then could I pick the worst fi­nal link; and then I would have to start over for the next re­moval, and since I had to check ~10 ran­dom ar­ti­cles for a pos­si­ble fi­nal link, this im­plies for every re­moval, I’d be look­ing at some­thing like 40+ ran­dom ar­ti­cles to do one re­moval or 200+ ran­dom ar­ti­cles a day! And this de­cep­tion would have to be de­lib­er­ate & planned—while most cases of bias are un­con­scious.)↩︎

  24. Some ed­i­tors pride them­selves on de­tect­ing van­dal­ism weeks or months after cre­ation; they are highly un­usu­al. When I was spend­ing time read­ing aca­d­e­mic pub­li­ca­tions on Wikipedia a few years ago, a num­ber of them dealt with quan­ti­fy­ing van­dal­ism and re­ver­sions; al­most all van­dal­ism was re­verted within days, and re­ver­sions which took longer than a month were very rare (0-10%, to be very gen­er­ous). This was why I chose to wait a mon­th, be­cause wait­ing longer added noth­ing. A week would have been ad­e­quate.

    Rel­e­vant re­search on quan­ti­fy­ing re­ver­sion rates over time:

    ↩︎
  25. It’s not hard to es­ti­mate. Take the list of 100 diffs, and use an ed­i­tor macro or a shell tool like sed to strip it down to a list of URL-encoded ar­ti­cle names like so:

    Castell_Dinas_Bran
    Ron_O%27Neal
    HUD_(video_gaming)
    Protector_(2009_film)
    ...

    Then, loop over the list to down­load the March 2012 sum­mary page for that ar­ti­cle, and fil­ter out the to­tal monthly hit-count (s­ince we don’t care about dailies); ex­am­ple code:

    $ for URL in `cat articles.txt`
      do elinks -dump "http://stats.grok.se/en/201203/$URL" | fgrep " has been viewed "
      done
       [1]Castell_Dinas_Bran has been viewed 914 times in 201203.
       [1]Ron_O'Neal has been viewed 7446 times in 201203.
       [1]HUD_(video_gaming) has been viewed 7579 times in 201203.
       ...

    This out­put is also easy to process with a macro or reg­exp, and once we have the monthly num­ber for each ar­ti­cle, all that re­mains is to­tal­ing them:

    sum [914,7446,7579,542,3103,91,1665,5291,2452,102,272,3344,16214,32268,863,10307,476,
        3825,310,205,441,3028,187,94,115,211,207,522,269,182,1324,950,25660,162,14457
        3881,200,3510,606,430,2048,164,214,136,77,8075,99,255,278,148,525,192,108,295
        61,597,180,3491,753,527,766,113,1405,770,3683,288,873,26811,131,6625,93,212
        538,313,7119,212,76,1130,7741,2136,179,263,632,870,714,338,2517,456,90,621
        1323,316,1125,413,73223,122,12707,6573]
    -- 335445

    Note that this is prob­a­bly an un­der­es­ti­mate. It took weeks to re­move all the links, do­ing it just 5 or 10 at a time, and the 30 day timer only started when link #100 was re­moved. So for link #1, some­thing closer to 2 months passed…↩︎

  26. His user page states as of 2012-05-19 un­der “My ac­tiv­i­ties on Wikipedia” that

    …My Wikipedia phi­los­o­phy is quite com­plex, and de­fies easy cat­e­go­riza­tion. My ideal for a more per­fect Wikipedia would be to cre­ate many wikis for pop cul­ture top­ics and tran­swiki many of the re­lated ar­ti­cles on Wikipedia to them. (Some of these al­ready ex­ist in a fairly sub­stan­tial for­mat, such as and ). I see no rea­son why all 703 episodes of the live-ac­tion (and 17 of the 22 an­i­mated episodes) should have ar­ti­cles on Wikipedia, when Mem­ory Al­pha ex­ists. (Be­fore you go hat­ing on me for that, note that I own all 720 episodes on DVD, as well as all but three of the movies.) This does not make me a dele­tion­ist, how­ev­er. I also be­lieve in struc­tur­ism, and a com­bi­na­tion of two op­pos­ing philoso­phies mer­gism and seper­atism; merg­ing in small ar­ti­cles rather than delet­ing them and sep­a­rat­ing large ar­ti­cles rather than delet­ing con­tent. I also agree with the tenets of ex­clu­sion­ism, al­though that also leads back to tran­swik­ism again.

    ↩︎
  27. Since no one no­ticed the 100 re­movals were con­nect­ed, we can as­sume each re­moval was sta­tis­ti­cally in­de­pen­dent; this lets us cal­cu­late a . Specifi­cal­ly, with 3 suc­cesses and 100 sam­ples, the 99% is 0-7%. We can de­rive this from Wol­fram Al­pha or one’s fa­vorite sta­tis­ti­cal pack­age if one does­n’t want to crunch the for­mula one­self.

    (In­ci­den­tal­ly, Wikipedia has 3,960,143 as of 2012-06-01 ac­cord­ing to Spe­cial:S­ta­tis­tics, and I went through per­haps 10 pages for each re­moval, so the to­tal pos­si­ble sam­ple size is ~396,014. That 100 sam­ples can give such a good es­ti­mate—as long as they are in­de­pen­den­t—is the same magic that makes things like s work; at least, as a child I found it mag­i­cal that a sam­ple of <1000 vot­ers could pre­dict so ac­cu­rately the elec­tion re­sults in a pop­u­la­tion of >300 mil­lion peo­ple.)↩︎

  28. One might won­der why I had so much traffic to an Eng­lish page; do just that many Ger­mans know Eng­lish? No, it turns out my link in their page did­n’t come with an “Eng­lish” warn­ing. I added this warn­ing on 2012-05-20, and while there was a ma­jor traffic spike after that and then a long out­age June-Sep­tem­ber 2012 where the link was bro­ken due to my own care­less­ness, the warn­ing seems to have sub­stan­tially re­duced click­-throughs ac­cord­ing to my an­a­lyt­ics.↩︎

  29. It’s ac­tu­ally closer to p = 0.00000000000000022. As­sum­ing one has cleaned up the two CSVs by re­mov­ing the ini­tial sum­mary data and the fi­nal to­tal line, the sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis goes like this:

    before <- read.table("https://www.gwern.net/docs/wikipedia/2012-gwern-dnb-wikipedia-before.csv", header=TRUE,sep=",")
    after  <- read.table("https://www.gwern.net/docs/wikipedia/2012-gwern-dnb-wikipedia-after.csv", header=TRUE, sep=",")
    before$Pageviews
      [1]  1  0  2  3 12  3  9  3  3  2  3  0  3  1  9 11  5  6  7  7  7  5  5  7  0
     [26]  1  9 21  3  6  6 12  5  9  7 13 11 11 11 10 12  5 12 16 13  4 14 14  9  3
     [51]  9 11  4 10  5 11  4 21 15  3  7  1  7  4  5  2  4  7  4  5  5 12 14  9  5
     [76]  7  3  3 16  9  6 15 12  6  7  4 14  5 13  5 11  3  2 12  2 19  5  5  9 14
    [101]  6  6 14 11 17  5  3  2  3  6  8 26  5  8  5 10  9  3  7 11  7  7 17 14 16
    [126]  7  3  4  5 13  8  7 11  3  6  7  8  6 11 16 13 15 11  9  5  6  3 11  7  7
    [151]  6  7  6  9 11  6  8 16 10  4  5  9 10  3  6  5 11 25  9  9 17 17 23 21 23
    [176] 34  8 15 10 21 20 10 12 21 17 11 30 17  6  7  9 17 12 19  6  7 13 12 12 10
    [201] 14 11 13 14 13  9 10  6 10  8
    after$Pageviews
      [1] 7 5 3 5 2 2 3 2 1 2 2 2 0 1 1 3 1 2 3 2 1 5 1 0 1 2 1 0 3 2 0 2 1 0 1 1 4
     [38] 2 1 1 1 0 1 0 1 4 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 3
     [75] 2 4 1 3 2 3 3 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 3 2 4 1 2 4 2 2 2 2 1 1
    
    wilcox.test(before$Pageviews, after$Pageviews)
    
        Wilcoxon rank sum test with continuity correction
    
    data:  before$Pageviews and after$Pageviews
    W = 20084, p-value < 2.2e-16

    I’m not sure why R is re­port­ing slightly differ­ent means than I listed pre­vi­ous­ly, but the fi­nal re­sult is not too sur­pris­ing when you eye­ball the data—this is a very large . Specifi­cal­ly, the effect size as Co­hen’s d is 1.28 (where 0.5 is de­scribed as “medium”, and >0.8 is “large”):

    (mean(before$Pageviews) - mean(after$Pageviews)) / sd(append(before$Pageviews, after$Pageviews))
    1.275841
    ↩︎
  30. See “Call For Halt To Wikipedia We­b­comic Dele­tions” for an overview.↩︎

  31. MUD his­tory dis­solv­ing into the wa­ters of time”↩︎

  32. Anime and manga are par­tic­u­larly bad. The Amer­i­can and Japan­ese anime bub­bles of the 2000s popped, and with them went a flood of mag­a­zines and book­s—the eco­nomic re­al­ity has set in that they are sim­ply not sus­tain­able in a mod­ern en­vi­ron­ment, which of course is very use­ful to dele­tion­ists who want to ap­ply rigid uni­ver­sal norms to ar­ti­cles sans any con­text. This leads to odd sit­u­a­tions like ex­perts self­-pub­lish­ing; from Brian Ruh’s ANN col­umn “The Ghost with the Most”:

    This time, though, in­stead of a fic­tional book about the su­per­nat­ural I’m go­ing to be ex­am­in­ing a non­fic­tion book about Japan­ese ghost­s—­Patrick Drazen’s A Gath­er­ing of Spir­its: Japan’s Ghost Story Tra­di­tion: From Folk­lore and Kabuki to Anime and Manga, which was re­cently self­-pub­lished through the iU­ni­verse ser­vice. This is Drazen’s sec­ond book; the first one, Anime Ex­plo­sion! The What? Why? & Wow! of Japan­ese An­i­ma­tion, came out in 2002 from and was an in­tro­duc­tion to many of the gen­res and themes that can be found in ani­me.

    I think the switch from a com­mer­cial press to self­-pub­li­ca­tion may in­di­cate the di­rec­tion Eng­lish-lan­guage anime and manga schol­ar­ship may be head­ing in. A few years ago, when Japan­ese pop­u­lar cul­ture seemed like the Next Big Thing, there were more pub­lish­ers that seemed like they were will­ing to take a chance on books about anime and man­ga. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, as I know first­hand (and as I’ve heard from other au­thors, con­firm­ing that it’s not just me) these books did­n’t sell nearly as well as any­one was hop­ing, which in turn meant that these pub­lish­ers did­n’t want to take risks with ad­di­tional books along these lines. After all, all pub­lish­ers need to make money in one way or an­other to stay afloat. In the last few years, the ma­jor­ity of books on anime and manga have been pub­lished by uni­ver­sity press­es, per­haps most no­tably the Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota Press. But I al­ready gushed about them in my last column, so I’ll spare you from any ad­di­tional pub­lic dis­plays of affec­tion.

    How­ev­er, this puts books like Drazen’s in an odd predica­ment. It’s not re­ally an aca­d­e­mic book, since it lacks the ref­er­ences and the­o­ries some­thing like that would en­tail, which means it’s not a good can­di­date for a uni­ver­sity press. How­ev­er, since few pop­u­lar presses have seen their books on anime and manga re­flect pos­i­tively on their bot­tom lines, there aren’t many other op­tions these days other than self­-pub­lish­ing. Of course, these days pub­lish­ing a book on your own does­n’t have nearly the same con­no­ta­tions it did decades ago, when van­ity presses were the do­main of those with more money (and ego) than sense. These days you can self­-pub­lish a qual­ity pro­duct, get it up on Ama­zon for all to see, and (if you’re savvy about these things) per­haps even make a tidy profit.

    ↩︎
  33. ‘Tak­ing Up the Mop: Iden­ti­fy­ing Fu­ture Wikipedia Ad­min­is­tra­tors’, Moira Burke and Robert Kraut, in Pro­ceed­ings of the Con­fer­ence on Hu­man Fac­tors in Com­put­ing Sys­tems, Flo­rence, Italy, 5-10. April 2008, pp. 3441-6↩︎

  34. From “Cul­tural Trans­for­ma­tions in Wikipedia or ‘From Eman­ci­pa­tion to Prod­uct Ide­ol­ogy’: An In­ter­view with Chris­t­ian Stegbauer”, col­lected in A Wikipedia Reader:

    "Our 2006 re­search [Chris­t­ian Stegbauer, ‘Wikipedia. Das Rät­sel der Ko­op­er­a­tion’ (‘Wikipedia: the mys­tery be­hind the co­op­er­a­tion’), Wies­baden: VS, 2009, p. 279 et se­q.] com­pared con­tent on user pages from their orig­i­nal start­ing date to the pre­sent. 13 We no­ticed a trans­for­ma­tion from eman­ci­pa­tion to prod­uct ide­ol­ogy among those who had reached lead­er­ship sta­tus, but not for ones less in­te­grat­ed. Typ­i­cal state­ments from a user site’s first days would be: ‘Wikipedia is a great idea’; ‘[a] nev­er-end­ing en­cy­clo­pe­dia cre­ated by many differ­ent au­thors’; ‘every­one should be able to ex­change their knowl­edge for free’; ‘Wikipedia is like ful­fill­ing a dream—a book in which every­one can write what they want’; ‘the In­ter­net should­n’t be re­garded as a gold­mine’; ‘Mak­ing in­for­ma­tion avail­able free of charge is an im­por­tant task’; ‘the pro­jec­t’s con­cept is fan­tas­tic’; ‘the idea be­hind Wikipedia is well worth sup­port­ing’.

    Six out of seven users who changed their ide­o­log­i­cal state­ments were core users, and five of these were ad­min­is­tra­tors. Half of them deleted their opin­ion on eman­ci­pa­tion ide­ol­ogy in the same in­stance they be­came ad­min­is­tra­tors. In five out of nine cas­es, they ex­pressed the prod­uct ide­ol­o­gy, in­clud­ing re­marks about ‘un­rea­son­able’ peo­ple dam­ag­ing the pro­ject, about end­less dis­cus­sions that should not take place when en­ergy should be in­vested in the ar­ti­cles in­stead, and about ‘diffi­cult’ peo­ple who are not wel­come at Wikipedia. We also found phras­ing such as ‘cer­tain level of ex­per­tise is nec­es­sary for writ­ing the ar­ti­cles’ or that lib­eral pro­cess­ing is the rea­son be­hind low qual­ity con­tri­bu­tion­s."

    ↩︎
  35. From pg 5 of Thurner et al 2012 (or see pop­u­lar cov­er­age in eg. Tech­nol­ogy Re­view):

    Tran­si­tion rates of ac­tions of in­di­vid­u­als show that pos­i­tive ac­tions strongly in­duces pos­i­tive re­ac­tions. Neg­a­tive be­hav­ior on the other hand has a high ten­dency of be­ing re­peated in­stead of be­ing rec­i­p­ro­cat­ed, show­ing the ‘propul­sive’ na­ture of neg­a­tive ac­tions. How­ev­er, if we con­sider only re­ac­tions to neg­a­tive ac­tions, we find that neg­a­tive re­ac­tions are highly over­rep­re­sent­ed. The prob­a­bil­ity of act­ing out neg­a­tive ac­tions is about 10 times higher if a per­son re­ceived a neg­a­tive ac­tion at the pre­vi­ous timestep than if she re­ceived a pos­i­tive ac­tion.

    …The analy­sis of bi­nary time­series of play­ers (good-bad) shows that the be­hav­ior of al­most all play­ers is ‘good’ al­most all the time. Neg­a­tive ac­tions are bal­anced to a large ex­tent by good ones. Play­ers with a high frac­tion of neg­a­tive ac­tions tend to have a sig­nifi­cantly shorter life. This may be due to two rea­sons: First be­cause they are hunted down by oth­ers and give up play­ing, sec­ond be­cause they are un­able to main­tain a so­cial life and quit the game be­cause of lone­li­ness or frus­tra­tion. We in­ter­pret these find­ings as em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence for self or­ga­ni­za­tion to­wards rec­i­p­ro­cal, good con­duct within a hu­man so­ci­ety. Note that the game al­lows bad be­hav­ior in the same way as good be­hav­ior but the ex­tent of pun­ish­ment of bad be­hav­ior is freely de­cided by the play­ers.

    It’s worth not­ing the dis­tinc­tion be­tween ‘rec­i­p­ro­ca­tion’ and ‘re­peated’; oth­er­wise this phe­nom­e­non might have an ex­pla­na­tion as a sta­tis­ti­cal ar­ti­fact re­sult­ing from an or­di­nary game ac­tiv­ity like 1-on-1 fights or du­els.↩︎

  36. I bring up the ‘Lightsaber com­bat’ ar­ti­cle be­cause I did sub­stan­tial work ref­er­enc­ing it be­fore its wik­i-dele­tion, but be­cause it was redi­rected the orig­i­nal page his­tory still sur­vives. It is worth­while com­par­ing the orig­i­nal page with its in the ‘Lightsaber’ ar­ti­cle.

    I am chuffed to note that the merge has re­sulted in in­fe­rior ref­er­ences! eg. the quote in para­graph 2 is un­sourced and has a {{fact}} tem­plate, but was ref­er­enced in the orig­i­nal. Fur­ther, that quote is triv­ially re-ref­er­enced (#3 hit in Google). My stan­dards may be too high, but I can’t help but think that it takes real in­com­pe­tence to not only lose a ref­er­ence, but be un­able to re-find such an eas­ily found quote.↩︎

  37. The pathos has, at times, moved me to verse. To quote one of mine from WP:HAIKU (a homage to Basho’s fa­mous verse in ):

    Summer AFD -
    the sole remnant of many
    editors' hard work.

    It is not a co­in­ci­dence that I put that haiku be­fore the fi­nal haiku on the page—a haiku com­ment­ing on ed­i­tors who have aban­doned or left the project:

    The summer grasses.
    I edit my user page
    One last time - really.
    ↩︎
  38. One could also avoid com­pi­la­tion and run it much more slowly as cat urls.txt | runhaskell script.↩︎