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Hello! Wikipedia is my favourite MMORPG. I'm nice, bold and peaceful, and follow the one-revert rule (i.e. the standard be bold, revert, discuss cycle). 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. Occasionally I make bigger edits (see some examples).


I have made many! contributions+, of many kinds:

  • Initially I did a fair bit of maintenance and greeting.
  • Early on I helped with the new citation templates, creating {{cite book}} to replace {{book reference}}, and the other templates incorporated the same code. See User:gracefool/cite book for the earliest development — this was in the days before complex templates were supported in the software via ParserFunctions (which have themselves thankfully been replaced with lua scripting), so the code was very hard to read, but it worked. I like to see citation templates being used — not only do they make following standards easy, using them usually means adding information to the citation. Note that you can use the reFill tool to get you started. Also for web links you should use a tool like WebCite or to create a lasting copy of the page. However I'm hoping all this will be replaced by the Wikicite project.
  • I tweaked a bunch of userboxes, and created a few variations that are used by hundreds of people.
  • I've uploaded 36 images and created 41 articles.
  • I like to create redirects to make it easier for people to find articles, and so new article creators are aware of the article space they share.
  • I'm in the tyop team, and I use my alternate account for the TypoScan Wikiproject.
  • I'm available to mentor users.

Commons picture of the day[edit]

Clementines – peeled and unpeeled


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 seventeen 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]

Probably the most fundamental political conflict on Wikipedia is between two viewpoints: deletionism and inclusionism. Deletionists believe the quality of Wikipedia is significantly improved by deleting obscure articles, keeping the average article quality higher. Inclusionists such as myself believe deletion on the basis of notability is counterproductive for many reasons: essentially, deletion removes work that could contribute to worthwhile articles, even if it isn't initially up to standard. Further, we don't see why average article quality has any relevance at all: we believe the founding principle that Wiki is not paper; that is, there is no reason why the existence of stub articles on relatively obscure topics lowers the quality of the encyclopedia - quite the opposite, the strength of Wikipedia is in the way it can have a page on anything without any problem of overhead.

Thus I also worked on the creation of the policy on notability / importance: 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. Whether with files or articles, some people just prefer to delete things instead of fixing them — that is after all easier, and it is the fundamental problem with deletionism: it's essentially destructive. 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 success of deletionism means the standard for new articles has gradually increased over time, so where once a new article would be tagged as a wp:stub for later expansion, it is now more likely to be removed for not meeting a relatively high standard from the start.

Over time, the subjects of new articles will naturally be more esoteric, and in combination with the raised entry barrier, it is now unlikely that any article created by a newcomer will survive. This is one of the reasons that numbers of both new Wikipedians and active Wikipedians have declined every year since 2007.

Policy and the five pillars are one thing, but what actually happens is determined by an active minority of self-appointed content police.

It's a huge, time wasting problem that is probably the biggest discouragement to Wikipedia contributions, and is often the reason people leave Wikipedia. It has crazy effects such as making pornstars more notable than highly-published scientists, and increasing Wikipedia's systemic bias. 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. See also Polls are evil and Voting is not evil.

More than that, what is called "consensus" is usually only a slim majority, and effectively not even that. 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 whose goal it is to improve the quality of Wikipedia by deleting articles, and who 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.

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.

Although a lack of consensus is supposed to result in non-deletion, discussions are instead often extended instead until deletion results. Of course this undermines the integrity of voting, since there's no clear limit on how long a discussion can be extended if someone doesn't like the outcome (most of the time that someone is a deletionist, for reasons stated above). Worse, discussions for the same page are often created over and again for years until a greater number of people are calling for deletion, or more often, merely a greater number of people have recently called for deletion, since arguments in older iterations of the discussion aren't counted.


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, how it 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).

Conclusion: Wikipedia is a zombie[edit]

As Wikipedia gains acceptance in academia, these issues are only becoming more important. We are 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 problems are ultimately 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 techno-utopian 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 (such as those that maintain Wikipedia's technical infrastructure). 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. Further evidence of this is the massively increasing budget of the Foundation.

By social media standards, Wikipedia has been slowly dying for most of its existence (since its peak in early 2007, measured by active users, edits, and new articles). If stronger direction continues to be seen as contrary to its founding principles, it is doomed to continue to stagnate.

Postscript: Sockpuppetry[edit]

A related issue is that paid edits and conflicts of interest on Wikipedia are rarely disclosed. Everyone wants articles covering themselves to be more favourable, but organisations have extra motivation to do something about it directly — not realising that such covert marketing is likely against the rules. While unsophisticated marketing / comms people perform edits themselves, and often fail due to their complete lack of subtlety, the clever ones pay for experts. I've been offered money for editing a company's page (I refused, instead just giving advice about how to go about editing the right way to increase their chances of success) — so I wonder how much Wikipedia editing is paid promotion. What leadership Wikipedia does have often prefers to minimize the problem, as it's bad for Wikipedia's reputation — most common challenges to Wikipedia's reputation are ignorant or unreasonable, so leadership has a habit of defensiveness. Of course conflicts of interest can never be eliminated, but blatant sockpuppets can. For instance there are many accounts that are almost certainly fronts for organisations, but that leadership flatly denies.

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. The Third Wave experimental social movement conducted at a California high school demonstrating the ease of creating a fascist-like movement. Reminiscent of the (much worse) Stanford prison demonstration.
  2. Poseidon autonomous nuclear torpedo (Russian stealth weapon designed to bypass defences against nuclear weapons attacks on the United States)
  3. NUKEMAP (tool estimating the effects and casualties of nuclear bombs)
  4. On the diameter of the sewer cover in front of Greg L’s house − important article
  5. List of largest artificial non-nuclear explosions - terrifying accidents
  6. Internal contradictions of capital accumulation − the inevitable cycle of modern consumerist economies
  7. List of chemical compounds with unusual names − for instance Draculin, Adamantane and its cousin Bastardane, Arsole, Crapinon, Fartox, Dickite, Fucitol, Fukalite, Fornacite, Cummingtonite, Orotic acid, Nonanal, Moronic acid, and Noggin
  8. One-syllable article - in Chinese you can write and say an entire story with a single syllable. See also James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher.
  9. Unintended consequences, especially perverse incentives
  10. Bat bomb - potentially very effective incendiary device, abandoned in favour of the atomic bomb
  11. 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
  12. Cadaver Synod - impressive Catholic bureaucracy (see also List of sexually active popes)
  13. Spite house - impressive passive-aggression
  14. Tanganyika laughter epidemic - psychogenic virus
  15. Sir Nils Olav, Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian Royal Guard, a penguin
  16. Euthanasia Coaster - the ultimate roller coaster
  17. 52-hertz whale - the most mysterious whale
  18. List of unexplained sounds
  19. Cryptophasia - secret languages of twins
  20. Toynbee tiles - mysterious street art
  21. Kármán vortex street - aerodynamic effect
  22. Human - amusing attempt at neutral point of view
  23. Wikipedia:Lamest edit wars - funny
  24. Wikipedia:Getting to Philosophy - demonstrating that philosophy is the grandfather of knowledge
  25. Phoenix Jones - a real-life superhero
  26. Geneva drive - a clever mechanism used in watches and film projectors
  27. Antikythera mechanism - an ancient Greek astronomical computer
  28. Bag of holding (fantasy) - a magical item
  29. Polypropylene stacking chair - the most popular chair in the world
  30. List of common misconceptions (common knowledge)
  31. Sybil attack (reputation systems)
  32. Countersteering (physics) - did you know to steer left on a bike you have to momentarily steer or lean right?
  33. Doomsday rule (maths) - look like a mathematical genius using this to calculate the day of the week for any date
  34. Raining animals (meteorology)
  35. Proof by intimidation (logic)
  36. LOLCODE (programming / Internet humour)
  37. Rule 110 (maths)
  38. Bridge jumping (Sport) — (now removed) - see also List of bridges in Cambridge
  39. 9814072356 (maths)

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