Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Friday, February 29, 2008

Deletion Solution

Okay, I've been railing on for awhile about how bad it is when articles get deleted. It doesn't focus energy on more "serious" articles; instead, it frustrates people, drives them away, and has a chilling effect on the whole project.

The irony, of course, is that "deletion" is the wrong word -- the article's just hidden.

The obvious solution is to move the "deleted" article somewhere off-wiki. It's a shiny happy utopian obama-like solution because it resurrects the thousand-flowers-bloom spirit wikipedia once had, where every action seemed somewhat focused on building an awesome body of work that anyone could enjoy.

Four things prevent it from happening, though:

1. Inclusionists fear wikipedia will lose even more articles because they won't be able to argue "if you delete this, nobody will see it".

This is a bad strategy! It forces people to choose between two opposites (delete or keep); "delete" will eventually win, and that will be that. Plus, it's wrong on principle because it impoverishes the conceptual space and constrains what's possible.

2. There's nowhere else like wikipedia.

Telling someone to move from Wikipedia to Everything2 is like kicking your friend off your living room couch because "I think there's a pillow or something in that alley".

This will only be solved when other places get more vibrant. The more articles are moved, the faster that happens.

3. The interface between wikipedia and the rest of the web is really bad. To put it another way:

(a) There's no easy or automatic way to move an article off-wiki because you've got to move its whole history to preserve the authorship record.

(b) Once the article's been moved, it leaves no trace. The deleted wikipedia article is an ordinary blank page, with no indication that the content is still there, potentially a click away.

4. Over-caution. The best place to move things is Wikia, which is a commercial wiki farm that for all sorts of reasons (taxes, culture, brandt) can't be seen as an appendage of the non-profit wikipedia; it has to be walled off, like the church and state. This adds some friction to the export process and generally makes people shy away from working on it.

The fix is obvious enough: always provide a bunch of different links (to wikia, bluwiki, and wherever else). It would help if other wiki providers knew their shit as well as wikia.

Anyway, the main point is that all of these problems are solvable. There aren't any insurmountable obstacles.


Dhartung said...

There's actually a wikia intended to be a dumping ground for Wikipedia-rejected articles --

It's limited to "fiction-related" articles, though, and presumably those that don't already have their own Wikia.

Ben Yates said...

From what I understand, Wikia staffers will move any article at the annex that doesn't belong there to somewhere it does belong.

The annex is a great idea, but because it's wikia people are going to be hesitant to use it as a semi-official grand central transwiki station. The pneumatic tube system has to be manned by the wikipedia community, I think.

Taran Rampersad said...

I left partly because of deletionism. I just don't have the energy and time to deal with biased folk deciding what should be kept or not.

This isn't as much of a solution as a clever way around. The real problem, I think, is people.

Chriswaterguy said...

I've been thinking about this as well - also whether there's a need for a grand wiki for all things non-encyclopedic... I doubt that it would work though. Wikipedia's guidelines would need to be replaced by something, and it's easier to set those guidelines on a more focused wiki.

Re "There's nowhere else like wikipedia" - if we want to see content find its home, the important thing is to have it accessible (preferably with edit history, available through [[Special:Export]] prior to deletion) so it can be taken and improved, transwikied, whatever.

See my jottings Turning deletion into a good faith process which I want to turn into an essay.

jidanni said...

Administrators like nothing better than waiting around until nobody is
looking, then deleting many hours x people x bytes worth of work
for not meeting criteria 57 paragraph 32 of fine print rule 3.

Only years later there is the slight chance the destruction is
discovered, when somebody just happens to create an article of the
exact same name and sees the note left behind and then wants to see
the carcass.

Ben Yates said...

I don't think administrators intend to delete behind people's backs; it's just that most content writers don't spend every waking minute online and miss the window.