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Hello! Wikipedia is my favourite MMORPG. I'm nice, bold and peaceful, and follow the one-revert rule. Almost all my edits are small, incremental improvements. Small things can make a big difference, such as adding captions or improving neutral point of view — and occasionally I make major copyedits and additions (here are some examples).


I have made many! contributions, of many kinds:

Commons picture of the day
Saint Isaac's Cathedral Sept. 2012 Interior.jpgInterior of St. Isaac's Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia


The Signpost
27 February 2017

Earlier in my time as a Wikipedia editor I had a role in developing policy, because I saw how well-defined policies help prevent a lot of arguments and wasted time. Over my thirteen years of experience I've seen how policy has gradually changed - not officially, but effectively.


My essay What is a category? pointed out why categories should be sets rather than hierarchies, and this is now policy.[dubious ] A simple change for the better.

Criteria for article inclusion[edit]

I also worked on the creation of the policy on notability / importance: I believe in the founding principle of Wiki is not paper, and I was tired of many deletionists acting as if such a policy existed, giving them reason to delete articles, regardless of good references. So I decided to see if they really did have a consensus view. Fortunately they didn't; the community still backs the status quo so the current page mostly just points to the other older policies — ie. article notability is still determined by verifiability and "What Wikipedia is not". There is notability so far as article assessment is concerned; but not for article inclusion.

Unfortunately the idea that article inclusion depends on notability is still very common, and arguments about it are more numerous than ever. In my experience, whether with files or articles, some people prefer to delete things instead of fixing them — this is the fundamental problem with deletionism. Often articles are successfully reintroduced (and never again voted for deletion) by someone who does a better job of it (there's also now a crazy workaround called the Article Incubator). The effect is to create a high entry barrier for new articles — new stubs are far less common now (even in areas with no lack of potential good new articles), because they're more likely to be deleted than improved. Policy and the five pillars are one thing, but what actually happens is determined by an unorganized but active minority of self-appointed content police.

Over time, the subjects of new articles will naturally be more esoteric, and in combination with the raised entry barrier, it is quite unlikely that an article created by a newcomer will survive.

It's a huge, time wasting problem that is probably the biggest discouragement to Wikipedia contributions, and is often the reason people leave Wikipedia. There are also crazy effects like how pornstars are more notable than highly-published scientists. See deletionism and inclusionism in Wikipedia for more.


Over-reliance on polls is against the spirit of Wikipedia - Wikipedia is about creating consensus, not taking sides. Official policy is still that consensus is based on discussion, not voting, however in practice that didn't last long and now voting is the norm. People commonly add their votes even when they don't have anything to add to the discussion, and admins consider consensus based on a count of people for versus people against, rather than on a summary of the arguments. See also Polls are evil and Voting is not evil.

Deletion discussions heavily bias deletion since the vast majority of people who participate are either people who worked on the page (almost always only a few), and people who like to delete things and thus contribute to large numbers of discussions on pages they've had nothing to do with. If anything, the opinion of those with skin in the game should be more weighty than that of others, not less. Worse, although a lack of consensus is supposed to result in non-deletion, discussions are often extended instead. Discussions for the same page are often created over and again for years until consensus for deletion is achieved.

Deletion discussions used to be explicitly called "Votes for deletion". Now we now pretend we're not voting, in accordance with policy. Voting further increases the deletionist bias since participants can quickly vote on a large number of "discussions", perhaps adding a token point that has already been covered by someone else, instead of contributing anything of substance.


The fifth article I created, in 2004, was Phantom mobile device vibration. It was deleted, but shouldn't have been, as there was nothing close to a consensus with people for and against split 5/5. The article was later recreated by another editor, successfully voted for deletion again, recreated by yet another editor, voted for deletion a third time, and then speedily deleted (again, against policy).

As a result of being wrongly deleted, good writing was lost (you can't see the history of a deleted page), making the eventual article weaker and more likely to be deleted each subsequent time, instead of gradually improving. In 2006 it was recreated for the fourth time, under the title ringxiety, and this time it got lucky and survived, and looks to be here to stay under the title phantom ringing.

While it's not a terribly important article, in hindsight it's clearly important enough to deserve an article, with several research papers written on it, and chosen as "word of the year" by Australia's most authoritative dictionary in 2012. Similar deletions have happened to many better articles. It's an example of how deletionism involves predicting the future, and is often wrong. It's an example of why deletionism tends to make the encyclopedia worse for highly questionable benefit, how the voting process is biased in favour of deletionism, and why voting has always been against policy.

For more reasons behind my thinking on inclusion and voting, see Who Writes Wikipedia? (Aaron Swartz, 2006).


As Wikipedia gains acceptance in academia, these issues are only becoming more important. We are not only discouraging not only new editors from contributing, but also world experts and academic organisations. We need to make Wikipedia easier to use, and this is more of a cultural problem than a technical one.

These issues are a result of large-scale "consensus" decision-making, with a lack of central leadership (for an example, see this essay). The problem originates in the technoutopian anarchist philosophies common among first-generation Internet geeks. In reality, crowd collaboration is excellent for highly parallel tasks that benefit from diverse viewpoints, like bug-fixing and feedback — and the core task of improving encyclopaedia articles — but it cannot replace centralized vision and leadership, or highly skilled teams. See The ignorance of crowds by Nicholas Carr.

Without stronger direction, bureaucratic complexity will grow and Wikipedia will continue to become less friendly to newcomers, and less open and transparent in its actual operation.

Useful stuff[edit]

Help & Community Interesting stuff Tools

Analysis of contributions



Things to do

Random interesting articles[edit]

This is an occasionally-updated list of random articles I find interesting (most recent at the top). For other interesting articles, see Wikipedia:Unusual articles. And of course, there's always featured content and today in history.

  1. One-syllable article - in Chinese you can write and say an entire story with a single syllable
  2. Unintended consequences, especially perverse incentives
  3. Bat bomb - potentially very effective incendiary device, abandoned in favour of the atomic bomb
  4. Door to Hell - the most famous persistent natural fire; there are many such massive fires around the world that are almost impossible to put out and expected to burn for hundreds of years
  5. Cadaver Synod - impressive Catholic bureaucracy (see also List of sexually active popes)
  6. Spite house - impressive passive-aggressive behavior
  7. Tanganyika laughter epidemic - psychogenic virus
  8. Prince Philip Movement - the most famous cargo cult
  9. Sir Nils Olav, Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian Royal Guard, a penguin
  10. Euthanasia Coaster - the ultimate roller coaster
  11. 52-hertz whale - the most mysterious whale
  12. List of unexplained sounds
  13. Cryptophasia - secret languages of twins
  14. Toynbee tiles - mysterious street art
  15. Kármán vortex street - aerodynamic effect
  16. Human - amusing attempt at neutral point of view
  17. Wikipedia:Lamest edit wars - funny
  18. Wikipedia:Getting to Philosophy - demonstrating that philosophy is the grandfather of knowledge
  19. Phoenix Jones - a real-life superhero
  20. Geneva drive - a clever mechanism used in watches and film projectors
  21. Antikythera mechanism - an ancient Greek astronomical computer
  22. Bag of holding (fantasy) - a magical item
  23. Polypropylene stacking chair - the most popular chair in the world
  24. List of common misconceptions (common knowledge)
  25. Sybil attack (reputation systems)
  26. Countersteering (physics) - did you know to steer left on a bike you have to momentarily steer or lean right?
  27. Doomsday rule (maths) - look like a mathematical genius using this to calculate the day of the week for any date
  28. Raining animals (meteorology)
  29. Proof by intimidation (logic)
  30. LOLCODE (programming / Internet humour)
  31. Rule 110 (maths)
  32. Bridge jumping (Sport) — (now removed) - see also List of bridges in Cambridge
  33. 9814072356 (maths)

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