Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Wicked-Pedia: Volume III

Behind the Curtain

Taking a sneak peak behind Wikipedia, helps us learn a little about what is really going on.

Wikipedia is constantly behind re-written, changed and updated, negotiated, and developed. There are rules that need to be adhered to and often a finished article comes after a process of development through negotiation, sometimes arbitration and final editing. Under Wikipedia rules contributors to an article must check for neutrality, weighting and reliability through a dialogue process that includes patience, fairness of intent and "wikilove". See the flowchart below to see how the process works.

Case Study: Talk: Criticism of the Roman Catholic Church

The case study I explore here looks at what is going on "behind the scenes" in an article that appears in Wikipedia entitled Criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. Let me begin with a disclaimer - I'm not writing about Roman Catholicism; what I'm doing is taking a look at some aspects of the debate that go on before a "finished" article in Wikipedia can come into fruition. There's a good deal of debate between contributors here, some early debates about the direction, and thus the title of the page. Bearing in mind, the central tennant of NPOV (neutral point of view), an adminstrator has at some point locked the page from further editing to allow the contributors to reflect on their own agendas and to allow them to reach a consensus after an edit-war between differing contributors has pursued. It's easy to follow one's own bias and in this example, the adminstrator is trying to get the contributors to avoid making general statements that could be deemed biased (in the sense of the religion) but to consider the sense of wider social threat that existed in 17th Century France - there was general anti-Huguenot sentiment in France from secular bodies during Louis XIV's reign, as well as the RC establishment.

During the processes involved in the various Wikipedia edits, the adminstrator reminds contributors to consider weighting given to subtopics (in this case, the arbitrator suggests that the debate is headed off topic). The adminstrator also reminds the contributors that they need to avoid maligning each other's sources/cited historians, encouraging them to seek resolution, through Wikiquette, ultimately threatening to lock them out completely.

Behind the curtain ... it's all very interesting.


  1. Thanks for the 3-part series to Wicked-pedia - pedia (or paideia), by the way, in Greek, could be taken to mean children or education.

  2. Being interested in the etymology of words, I like little snippits of info like this, thanks George.


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