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Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear[edit]

Here is the complete text of the article Gayness when created at 13:10, August 21, 2005 by the unregistered User:

Nothing surprising, just typical Newpages nonsense. Within minutes it had been tagged for WP:CLEANUP. A few minutes later a whole new paragraph was added, the final act of User:'s brief career as a Wikipedian. This extra paragraph, presumably added to comply with the request for cleanup, read:

Knowing that the article still required some tender love and attention, the creator kindly left the cleanup tag. The Wikipedian community took pity on the article, cared for it, nurtured it, and helped it to grow... so that by the time it was nominated for deletion in November 2007, some time after the article's second birthday, it had been transformed into an encyclopedic classic:

The frightening thing isn't that this article was able to sit on Wikipedia for two years before anybody noticed it. The really frightening thing is that people did. Actually the edit history is quite long. It was tended to. The name of the article was bolded; the article was categorized; the categorization was changed (from Category:Homosexuality to Category:LGBT); passing bots descended to fix and date the cleanup tags. At one stage, a vandal attacked the page by adding Image:Example.jpg to it, but fortunately a dedicated vandal-fighter restored the page to its former glory within minutes, and admonished the vandal with a warning. It worked — the user never vandalized Gayness again. On several occasions, the page was reduced to a redirect to Gay, but vigilant IP users reverted this. Not all unregistered users were unproductive: one was thoughtful enough to leave the talk page comment "What the hell is this? Looks like vandalism to me"... but the article stood for several months before these words were heeded.

Fortunately, for most of the two years, the page only appeared as a redirect. However, there were considerable periods (days rather than minutes) of time for which the nonsense was displayed. What valuable conclusions can we draw from two years in the life of Gayness on Wikipedia?

  • Although many articles created or edited by unregistered users are (or will evolve to be) useful, they also need special scrutiny. (For more recent editors: yes, in the past, unregistered users had the right to create articles, and did so at some rate. This project has become far more closed in recent years, so it's important to be more hospitable to new users to compensate for this.)
  • Most edits add little value. Bearing in mind this page's extensive edit history, by the time of its deletion it should have been one of the most outstanding examples of literature on gayness available on the internet... but it wasn't. It's a good demonstration that many edits are either cosmetic or trivial. There is a theory that as the number of edits per page on Wikipedia grows, the encyclopedia will substantially increase in quality — some skepticism may be warranted.
  • There's not much point performing minor cleanup tasks (like emboldening the article name) on an article that really requires deletion. Read before you tag.
  • Orphaned and dead-end articles that have existed for some time (so don't appear on newpages lists) are hard to come across. Something rubbish may sit unnoticed for a long time, and may only be noticed if a user performs a (possibly unusual) search or reaches it via the random page feature.
  • Tagging a page for cleanup may result in a long wait before anything gets done about it.
  • If an article (including its previous revisions) lacks value or is harmful, changing the page to a redirect and leaving the rubbish version in the history makes it easy for vandals to revert back and such a reversion may go undetected. It might be worth deleting first, then creating a redirect as a new article.
  • Administrative law is boring.

All of these things are well-known already, but the Gayness incident is a pretty scary example of how they can all come together...

Stuff I need to get round to doing at some point....[edit]

  • List of lakes in Norway: do something about this at some point. Potential FLC?
  • Want to write Echelsbach Bridge: once Germany's largest single-span reinforced concrete bridge... how interesting is that? :-)
  • Hochtief: I got this to good article status a while back but the article is now rather out of date. I'd rather businesses did more editing of their own articles on Wikipedia; this is a major construction company who've done some very well-known projects (built the Führerbunker and moved Abu Simbel) yet their article is unprofessional and out of date.

Stuff that I somehow have already got round to[edit]

  • Category:Wikipedia requested photographs in places and its subcategories: if you want to help make Wikipedia beautiful and give readers a sense of place, find the category for your locality, press a button, and you'll get a map of all the photo requests around where you live. Good stuff.
  • {{harvnb}} has altered the way a lot of our larger and more complex articles are referenced - it's used in many featured articles now. I'm not sure if that is for the best or not, since it is something of a non-standard format, but it does encourage tighter referencing and also makes the citations easier to read through.
  • Good article statistics: I've been around the good article project, loosely, pretty much since it began. Other people keep the stats page up to date now but it shows how far the project has come, and what its likely trajectory is for the future. I also created the handy {{WikiProjectGATasks}}.
  • The CIA and September 11: an emergency AFD save on an area of fringe, conspiracy theory and sharply contrasting viewpoints, that ended up passing as a good article.
  • Subcategories for Category:AfD debates: I helped select the scheme of categorization for an easier way to browse AFD. If you dislike the stress and toxicity, and would prefer to selectively expose yourself to only surreal or comical nominations, then I heartily recommend Category:AfD debates (Indiscernible or unclassifiable topic).
Thanks and awards

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