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Crowdsourcing Information Worldwide: The Wikipedia Phenomenon
Tuesday 25-Oct-2011 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM EDT
Rutgers University Libraries --Alexander Library
Wikipedia Loves Libraries: Leveraging Library Expertise and Collections in the Wikipedia Environment
Tuesday 27-Sep-11 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM EDT
Metropolitan New York Library Council -- 57 East 11th Street, 4th Floor New York, NY 10003-4605
presentation at CCNY, Sept 13, 2011 for Wikipedia:Ambassadors/Courses/English Composition (Amrita Dhawan)
Librarian's Guide to the way Wikipedia works (What Librarians Can Do at Wikipedia)           – –      Librarian's view of Wikipedia and Reliability

Princeton Talk, Oct.13, 2010 )and see Wikipedia:Meetup/Princeton University Edit-a-thon

NYCCT presentation     – –      Princeton Theological Seminary presentation
Wikipedia class at NYPL     ––     (and see also the FAQ for Librarians at Outreach Wiki)

Open access note: Varmus original proposal, NIH 1999

People who use WP expect when they look for an article, to find something.

  • To expand in terms of images: The only restrictions should be encyclopedic purpose and fair use in US law. We should interpret the "minimal use" requirement of the foundation as meaning the minimum that would allow us to give as much good encyclopedic content as possible in the widest sense that the words will bear. And at another level, I'd support a campaign for the WMF to change or remove the NFCC policy and agree to host anything that's educational & legal. The purpose of Wikipedia is to provide freely accessible content. The purpose of Commons is to provide free images for reuse. They are different projects.
I do not attempt to convert my opponents--I aim at converting their audience. *

  • To elucidate, this is why I try to avoid head-to-head debates with other editors. Once things have reached that stage, experience here as elsewhere shows that people are not generally successful in convincing their direct opponents to reverse their views. If I think my views are right, the only practical audience is the uncommitted—and especially the newcomers. This is a different situation than attempts to reach a compromise solution where people continue to disagree, but find enough common ground for acceptable action, something which can be done without the least giving up one's principles--but the first step in working towards it is generally as clear a statement as possible of what one's principles actually are. In debate between sensible people, this can be done without it being taken as hostility.


  1. notability and inclusion

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Who I am[edit]

My real name is David Goodman, and I would have used it from the beginning if I had understood WP better.

What I believe about current issues at Wikipedia[edit]

The only 2 positions I see here that I have an uncompromising disagreement with are: consulting subject's preferences about whether to have an article (because I think it an invitation to writing to please the subject), and using arguments that would not be used for routine subjects in order to eliminate articles on unpopular subjects -- they are both questions of NPOV/Censorship & if we compromise about that we lose our purpose. There is a popular-liberal flattening of positions here, and I do not speak from any conceivably right-wing position. I am willing to compromise on NOT NEWS and NOT FICTION, because they just harm the scope of the encyclopedia, not the reliability.

There are also 2 patterns of interacting I unhesitatingly condemn: First, those who badger other contributors to the discussion: people should perhaps reach conclusions based both on the arguments and the degree of support for them, not the behavior of those supporting a particular position, but people in all contexts tend to discount the views of those who interfere with the proceedings. The other, often related, is the attempt to win arguments by maneuvering the opponents into poor behavior, even though this is often successful--people actually keep track of how many have been banned on their side vs. the enemy

  • DGG by David Shankbone
DGG by David Shankbone.jpg

What I know[edit]

I'm a librarian, among other things,(with a MLS from Rutgers), and I claim the traditional ability of librarians to help users in subjects they know only a little about.
But the ones that I think I do actually know something about are

  • scientific publishing, and libraries and higher education in general.
  • science librarianship, especially serials librarianship--I was responsible for the coordination of online journals for a major university library--Princeton--for about 10 years (before that I was responsible for the paper serials lists) -- and I have kept up with this field, and I have been on some of the relevant international committees.
  • open access (as an obvious development from the previous item). Here I am an advocate and commentator, making postings and writing reviews. No two advocates agree completely on anything, but I'm on speaking terms with most of them, and a good many of the publishers. To do this effectively, I keep up with the detail, & what the major scientific societies and publishers are doing.
  • I still know something about molecular biology, which is the field of my Ph.D. (from Berkeley) under Gunther Stent, and human biology, the field of my post-doc with Allan Wilson.
  • As hobbies: printing history, medieval history (mainly western Europe), 18th century English literature, (especially the 2nd half of the century), history of religions (mainly the Jewish and Christian religions), history of biology, (particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries).

My professional bent has been to look for lack of clarity, nonsense, or contradiction, whether in contracts, advertisement, alleged facts, or argumentation. I've found my destined home in WP, for I see more than I would have imagined. Not all of it seems curable, but I expect to upgrade some of the librarianship pages, and some of the higher education ones, and perhaps all of the publishing ones. Plus, as all of the WP people do, whatever I happen to come across. Lately, I've also been working a little more with WP processes and standards, towards the possibiliity of increasing their clarity, reasonableness, and consistency. As the standards seem in practice to be defined by practice at AfD, I've also been working there.

But what I have been also doing is trying to improve the weak articles about probably notable figures or organizations that I come across, sometimes in WP:CSD, sometimes in WP:PROD, sometimes after they've been sent to WP:AFD. I try to send a customized message to the author, explaining in exact detail what's needed. To the extent I have time, I also try to re-write some of the most deserving of these articles when it seems there is no one else around to do the job. I can only manage 1 or 2 a week, but if all WP editors did the same--as some already do--we would make very satisfying progress towards a better encyclopedia.
Since I have access to databases such as Scopus and WebofScience that are very useful in considering the notability of academic people, I try to find information there for lists of their most cited work. I also find sources for unlikely subjects, sometimes in unlikely places, but usually just in Google. The trick is patience, and figuring out what to expect.
but as for expertise at WP in general, I cannot say it better than Slim Virgin did:
"The importance of our content policies lies in the fact that, when someone arrives claiming to be an expert, we don't have to worry about whether they're telling the truth. What we ask of all editors (expert and non-expert alike) is that they rely on the best secondary sources they can find. This is something that real experts will be able to do, because they'll have read the secondary literature. You'll know the real experts by their edits, because they'll be able to tell us what other experts think about the subject, not only what they think about it themselves."

How I communicate[edit]

I post my email address, because sometimes it's better to argue in private. But normally I use the article and user talk page. I think it highly advantageous to respond on the page that the question was asked, and keep article discussions in article space. If you ask me a question on my talk page, look there for the answer--it's the only way I can keep track of what needs to be followed up further.

How I work[edit]

On a page totally new to me, I'll ask before I edit to any radical extent--if nobody responds, then I will go ahead. I generally wait a week. If the editors there do not like what I do, I sometimes go elsewhere. WP:OWN is a good policy, but hard to enforce. WP:BRD when used for major changes seems mainly designed to increase the work at the Arbitration Committee.

If anyone who knows less than me tries to lecture to me, I know and use a good many ways of responding, other than simply asserting authority. But when someone knows more, I want to be taught. If I'm wrong, I say so. If I've messed things up, I apologize. If someone even thinks I've messed things up, I also apologize, for I must have been unclear in what I did. I'd rather get things right, than get them my way & wrong. For most things, there are several alternative right ways, but there will also be several alternative wrong ways.
If I adopt too much of a lecturing tone myself, I hope people alert me, because it usually wasn't intended. I've taught (biology, and librarianship), and the manner stays with you.

I have never been able to spell; if I've made a typo, just fix it--don't lecture me about it, for it won't do any good. Other people make typos too, and if I notice them, I fix them quietly. I think I'm good at straightening out unclear sentences, and I do some of this sort of copyediting as I go.


  • Not relevant-- because I can fairly present all positions, as I think the other side, although wrong, may be intelligent:
very strong political views, and
very definite religious ones.
I try not to let on what they are in editing or commenting--anyone who wants to know about either can email me from this page & I'll discuss off-wiki.
  • Relevant because I have some difficulty keeping an open attitude, as I think the other side is generally not intelligent, and is determined to remain untaught; I therefore usually avoid such topics on WP unless help is needed there--I can write against my convictions to strengthen an article that needs support, but not happily.
distaste for quack anything: medicine, science, psychology, social science ... I often vote to keep articles on these subjects, because the advocates of orthodoxy here sometimes seem to be even less reasonable than the quacks--and because I think the best way to expose quacks is to let them state their views plainly.
  • Relevant because it will affect what I say here on the talk and WP pages):
A dislike for deciding matters by technicalities rather than by merits, balanced with a preference for guidelines rather than unbridled discretion
Reasonable, not hidebound, definitions of "sources" and "notability" appropriate to the way people communicate in the 21st century
Confidence that the sensible interpretation of WP basic principles can cope with even difficult situations
  • Relevant because it is the ideological basis of my work here:
an extremely strong opinion that the uninhibited free play of ideas is essential to a free society and to humanity in general. (I basically follow J.S. Mill in this.) I will support reasonable articles or edits when I think the opposition is motivated by political or nationalist or religious sentiment--regardless of what I think of the views being expressed, and I apply this especially to the criticism of WP. I take pride in being what some call a First Amendment Absolutist, and I mean it in the literal sense. We are responsible for presenting information accurately and honestly, not for what people will do with it. The way to prevent them from interpreting it wrong, is to present it better, not to conceal it. If anyone thinks I have deviated from that position, I'd like to be told, so I can correct myself.

note about professors[edit]

People unfamiliar with the academic world may not realize that even a full professor at a major university is very likely to be notable, and thus sometimes nominate these articles for deletion--occasionally even by Speedy. It is therefore advisable to include from the first more than minimal information: at least their major publications, their honors and awards, the most important work they did--with a link to the WP article on that subject. This makes them more informative from the start, just as all WP articles should be. I try to defend articles on such people when justified, but it is better if they are never nominated.

I like judging by quantitative information: books by library holdings, articles by citations. Once we guessed as through a fog of words darkly, but now we can measure face to face. DGG (talk) 16:11, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

my approach to spam[edit]

Wikipedia is always dealing with paid spammers, people who earn their living by putting links to their own sites into web pages elsewhere. It is a large and well paid profession, and their activities are a serious danger to the integrity of any good site like ours. We have our methods for detecting and dealing with them. The most effective way is to block access to their web sites, by preventing links to known spam sites from appearing in Wikipedia. This is a partially automated procedure, carried out at several different levels, both at enWP and cooperatively by the different WPs. The other method is denying access to known spammers; this is a never-ending battle, for they just switch to a new account. Detecting these accounts, which we call "sock-puppets", puppets made by stuffing one sock into another as done to amuse young children, needs to be very fast and very stringent to be effective. This has led to a practice of blocking on any reasonable suspicion. Alas, anyone who deals with this much of the time will soon become over-suspicious, baning well-intentioned people and blocking good links. It's an inevitable side-effect of policing work.

This applies equally to commercial and non-commercial sites. I find the commercial ones easier to deal with, because they tend to add even larger numbers, and get caught all the sooner. And the non-commercial spammers have a narrower line between them and the well-intentioned people.

As for paid editing, I think it is generally wrong, because it interferes with the normal way people work here, and interferes with the good faith we extend to all users. The effects of such editing as we know about has usually been very poor articles. That need not be the case, but so far almost nobody who understand Wikipedia well enough to write good articles has been willing to do it for money.

my approach to admin functions[edit]

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia with user contributed content, edited according to our policy, WP:PILLARS, by which anyone can edit, and several million people do. About 700 of them are active administrators (essentially, what is often called moderators elsewhere)--they have the ability and the responsibility to enforce the policies, in accordance with community guidelines and general consensus. In particular, they have the abilities to delete articles--either immediately in obvious cases or after community discussion, to limit editing on them, to block individual accounts from editing, and a few related functions. Otherwise, they have no more prerogatives than any other editor. I'm an administrator, but when I am not performing the above functions (and the only one I do much of is delete a few thousand obviously inappropriate articles a year, and when necessary protect them against re-creation), I'm just an editor. Like most experienced editors, and as required for all administrators, I do know the policies, and I remind people of them if I think it appropriate, but any editor can do as much.

When I comment, I try to distinguish between my own views, and those accepted here. There are some guidelines I do not like myself, & I try to change a few by giving my opinion at discussions from time to time, but I state it as my opinion and explain why. In a few cases, the guidelines have changed in the direction I preferred; in a few I have come to recognize the established guidelines better than my own idea; in a few, I have given up altogether but without changing my mind; in a few I once a month or so state my disagreement with the guideline to keep the issue alive. But I don't go around trying to argue (for example) each image deletion where I think the rule should be more liberal.

Nobody should take anyone's advice as Gospel; I give the best I can, but I've been sometimes wrong. A person who knows enough to decide for themselves should do so. A person who does not, should learn. A person who just comes here once should be helped to do what they intend.

Current projects[edit]

  1. Rescuing worthy speedies & prods in all fields & discussing the procedure
  2. keeping articles about academics & academic organizations from deletion
  3. upgrading "list of journals in .." and " access journals"
  4. adding articles for major ref. sources
  5. keeping important "in popular culture" articles from deletion, and upgrading their content
  6. Changing AfD to "Articles for Discussion" and considering all good faith disputed merges and redirect there also. As of Dec. 2009, this is under active discussion.
  7. making some possible changes to speedy deletion criteria. I have been reluctant to add to the work at Del Rev by appealing the many incorrect speedies I come across but which are for articles that have no chance of surviving AfD, but perhaps we really should be doing this to make the teaching point.
I have 3 suggestions that, together or separately, might reduce the ambiguity at Speedy:
  1. The first is rather simple: remove "organizations" and "companies." "Organizations" was added by [1] on Oct 11, 2007, without any visible discussion, in the midst of a more general discussion about CSDA7 (now in Archive24). "Companies" was first added, without significant discussion (there then followed some shifting back and forth between "companies" and "corporations"). The major disputed instances we have been discussing come under the rubrics of "organisations;" and "companies" has always been a problem because it is extremely hard to tell if an article about a company is making a credible assertion. "X is an ice-cream shop" is obviously not a credible assertion, but "X is a large accounting firm in Y country" is disputable. I am not certain about groups; I think it was originally intended to apply to musical groups that are not bands, and it makes sense in that meaning. Otherwise it is too general--it's been claimed from time to time that churches and schools are "groups"
  2. The second is a little more complicated: An article may be deleted under criterion A7 only if it contains nothing that any reasonable person would think amounts to suitability for an encyclopedia, not just that it will probably not be accepted in Wikipedia. (with possible examples) . I see that by Dec. 2009, this is becoming the usual interpretation.
  3. The third is even trickier: A good faith request by any established editor is sufficient for any administrator, whether or not the deleting administrator, to undelete an article deleted under speedy, except for BLP and copyvio. This should be automatic, and need not involve Deletion Review. It is polite to ask the original administrator first, but not necessary, and, even if s/he refuses, any administrator can undelete it without it being considered inappropriate. The article would normally be immediately sent for AfD. By definition, if an established editor disagrees, it is not uncontroversial and needs community involvement. (This one is a first draft, and may need more delicate wording).

Future projects[edit]

  1. adding refs to old articles, & marking parts that were plagiarised from PD sources
  2. spam removal from existing articles. What most needs removal around here isn't inappropriate articles, but the excessive spam in a great many articles.

General view of things here[edit]

I think an encyclopedia should be useful, but how many people a particular part of it might find it useful doesn't matter. I've been a teacher and a librarian all my life, and my satisfaction from it is in the individual people I know I've helped and taught, and the ones unknown to me who will be helped by the work I've done. I'm here to continue that work, with what skill I have acquired. I know it sounds idealistic. But I speak seriously, for if you are here I think you might share that idealism. One person at time, one article at a time. The person before me, the piece of work before me. The single talent, as the parable words it.

with respect to consensus at AfDs[edit]

"In general I do not think it is the business of the closer to decide between two conflicting policies. Their job is to discard arguments not based on any policy, or, sometimes, by SPAs, and then judge consensus. The questions asked at RfAdmin are enough to identify admins who know enough to tell what is policy and what is not, as long as things don't get too complicated. It is not enough to identify admins who understand all policies well enough to judge which of conflicting ones to apply, or how to interpret them in difficult situations. A good thing, too, or we'd have no admins, because none of us agrees on all of that. The only people here competent to judge conflicting content policies or how to interpret them are the interested members of the community as a whole, acting in good faith.

The assumption in closing is that after discarding non-arguments, the consensus view will be the correct one, and that any neutral admin would agree. Thus there is in theory no difference between closing per the majority and closing per the strongest argument. But when there is a real dispute on what argument is relevant, the closer is not to decide between them, but close according to what most people in the discussion say. If the closer has a strong view on the matter, they should join the argument instead of closing, and try to affect consensus that way. I (and almost all other admins) have closed keep when we personally would have preferred delete, and vice-versa. If I wanted a place where my view of proper content would prevail, I'd start a blog or become an editor of some conventional publication.

with respects to making and changing policy[edit]

Policy and guidelines are hard to change; essays often remain essays, because one or two people persistently objecting with or without reason can in practice filibuster a change to a guideline. That has happened here repeatedly: schools, places, shopping centers.--not always in the direction of permissiveness--a considerably more restrictive shopping center guideline which I supported did not attain guideline status because one person pretended there was wide objection. None the less, many such almost-guidelines are widely followed. Wikipedia is NOT BURO, and what we do here consistently is the policy and the guidelines. (We could probably get many essays established as a formal guideline by trying again, but people rarely try, because it is not worth the debate--it operates as a guideline just the same if we follow it. Most people who are interested in writing articles would rather write them than argue about the wording of what everyone more or less agrees on anyway. It is that spirit of paying more attention to the articles than the formalities that is responsible for the success of Wikipedia. In other projects people talk about the project; here we reach a practical working agreement and do positive work.. (if it sometimes seems the other way around, it's less so here than elsewhere, but further motion in that direction is to be resisted.)

current views on particular policies[edit]

BLP Prod[edit]

I opposed the adoption of this as unnecessary from beginning to end, but of course i work according to it now that it has been adopted. We need to see good data on it. My current view is that, quite clearly:
I. It has kept a considerable number of bad articles out of Wikipedia.
II. Essentially all of them could have been just as easily kept out by other means.
A little more tentatively:
III. It has prevented the keeping and improving of some articles which could have been improved into acceptability. It certainly would have done so if I & one or two others did not try to source all such before deletion; the ones that get unreasonably deleted are the ones I don't have time to work on. (except I've given up on athletes and entertainers)
IV. It has discouraged some people who might have been useful contributors from continuing to contribute. I'd consider this certain, except there are no adequate statistics.
The problem that I regard as most serious is IV, It's much more important to retain every possibly useful contributor than to avoid having a minute number of unverifiable articles, as long as what is asserted does no harm.


Wikipedia is unreasonably restrictive about many elements of copyright. The effective rationale behind Wikipedia's over-restriction is the need to appear squeaky-clean to those who would oppose us. I accept this, but even so we overdo this. The US courts are quite flexible about what constitutes fair use (as a compensation perhaps for the extreme vigour of the law in other respects, like duration). We could go very far before we came near it. We could for example, justify almost any informative use of a low resolution image. The principle that our material must be free for others, who might be making commercial use which doesn't have as much protection, does not justify it, because a warning is sufficient.

On another tack, if Close paraphrase is thorough enough it is an effective way of escaping the automated copyright detectors, especially if the first sentence is replaced entirely--when it gets detected, is because we're suspicious, or the person involved gets lazy and lets too much stand unaltered. People including those at Wikipedia react the usual way to something wrong that they cannot prevent or catch except occasionally--go overboard with the ones that have been detected.

Even well-done Close paraphrase normally changes the wording, but retains the sequence of ideas. This is wrong in schools, because the entire point of academic writing is to show you can create an original sequence of ideas. But we don't do original research, and copying someone else's formulation does not hinder the purpose of an encyclopedia. The courts are clear that retaining the sequence does constitutes copyvio, but their standards except for creative works are much laxer than ours, on the basis of it not normally having done any actual harm.

General view on strategy[edit]

Adapted from Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution:

In the period after the February Revolution had overthrown the Tsar, when the Bolsheviks were a very small minority, Lenin's slogan was "patiently explain", as he urged the policy of talking to workers and soldiers individually to convince them of the validity of the party's program. Most of his colleagues wanted either to compromise with the more moderate politicians, in which case they would have been quickly swallowed up by their opponents, or go out immediately on the streets, where they would have been destroyed immediately. Lenin and his co-workers continued persuading until they were a majority in the key places--the forces of soldiers and sailors who would have been sent to suppress them. That's when they went out on the streets, in October, and they succeeded immediately. DGG (talk) 19:50, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

How primates work[edit]

We all know it is difficult to work here, and care about something, and maintain perspective, for it does not come naturally. And when there are people on the other side willing to exploit weaknesses, then it results in Mobbing, to which there is no helpful response for the victims. Primates have evolved to do things that way; further evolution will only take place if the environment requires it. Fortunately, the environment can be modified. One of the ways of modifying it is over-abundant resources--which, as applied here, means having so many topics to work on that individuals can choose their own area. But when there are many people who want to work in an area, and they each therefore want their views to prevail, there are traditional ways: either the stronger drives out the weaker, or someone stronger yet-- or the community generally--feels bothered and forces a peace (either by dividing things up or choosing one side and exiling the other). But if the net result is dysfunctional, there's room for a little evolution, and those willing to make only moderate demands and show prudence in making them win in the long run. More precisely, their descendants do. DGG (talk) 16:04, 15 April 2009 (UTC)

Possible essays[edit]

my view of WP
my view of general WP editing difficulties
my view of biographies in WP
my view of the meaning of NPOV
my view of notability
my view of content and behavior
my view of copyright policy
interface comments

nice things,[edit]

moved to their own page: User:DGG/appreciation received

User:DGG, User_talk:DGG,
/controversy, /pages to revisit, /RS, /priorities. /std talk pp, /userhelp, , /AfD comments, /journals, /to insert, /OtherDels, /to delete; /to restore ; /sandbox,
/projects, /WP Projects, /tech notes / /sandbox unserified / sandbox userified 2 ,
/My Dels , / sandbox conferences , /sandbox libraries, /Sandbox ChB, / Watch, /admin , /references
User:DGG/PROD log , User:DGG/CSD log.

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