Wikipedians/History talk

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Discussion of Wikipedians/History

I don't want to spoil your fun (and this is admittedly lots of fun :-) ), but I suspect this page is a bad idea. It encourages the idea that we ought to distinguish ourselves based on our seniority, as opposed to our ability to write good articles, which is what really matters. I think we ought to do our best to underemphasize seniority, which can be used, often illegitimately, as a way of deciding who to accord how much respect. Of course, sometimes how long someone has been here does bear on, for example, how well they understand Wikipedia policy and why Wikipedia works as it does. But it doesn't bear on much else.

For "historical" purposes :-) , perhaps we should each keep a record on our own personal pages of when we arrived. That should do the trick, eh? Having the data all on one page invites comparison, thus the above-mentioned problem. --LMS

Its kind of wierd for me because I wrote some stuff long before I saw the light and became a "member". Its kind of an elitist thing to be able to put yourself before a bunch of people on the list, but I honestly can't remember! I first made an entry when it showed up on that banner on When would that be roughly? Does anyone know? --Alan D

One more thing to add to what I wrote above. C'mon guys, let's not take ourselves too damn seriously. Sure, Wikipedia might take over the world of encyclopedias. Yes, it's possible. But nobody knows how probable it is, and frankly, given what an unusual thing that would be, I have to grudgingly admit that it's pretty damn improbable. Besides, I don't see a great need to do 24th century historians' work for them. Heck, by then, artificial intelligence will be able to construct the database in a millisecond, based on ancient, archived personal pages.

Besides all that, I really do think the only reason why this page is so much fun is precisely that it sort of creates a pecking order of sorts. Let us resist that as much as possible. --LMS

Actually, I suspect that Wikipedia may very well become the king of encyclopaedias. It has everything it needs (even the almost Borgia-like internecine power struggles) to make it this: a committed and dedicated and growing band of serious contributors, a fast and reliable search engine, and is rapidly becoming encyclopaedic in scope. Given that we have gone from 0 - 15k articles within the first ten months (and the rate of work is increasing and not decreasing) we will have an extrapolated 40k articles by next summer.
As a historian, one of my biggest problem 99.9% of the time is attribution of sources. I hate to think of the great debates looming 100 years down the road about the History of Wikipedia if we don't capture precisely this sort of information in a fairly sensible fashion. Certainly, with a port across to Magnus' new implementation imminent, (and others as we go along) can we be certain that a full revision history for every article will be available, for example? All information is important: attribution is paramount. sjc

Two points: (1) attribution isn't important on Wikipedia. That's my opinion and it's one that I've tried to encourage nearly from the beginning. (People no longer sign articles, as they did in the first few months.) That's one of the things that makes Wikipedia work. I think we have got to work hard to leave our egos out of this project, or the collaborative love-fest that makes the project work will suffer. (2) Very probably, all the necessary information will be available for researchers in archives. We don't have to start doing their work for them in order for them to be able to do their work. Besides, defending this page on grounds of "it's historically important" only exacerbates the ego problem. If we start saying (a lot more than we've been doing), "Hey, I was here from the beginning (and I wrote all these articles, etc.)," we're going to start taking our contributions personally. This is contrary to the collaborative spirit of Wikipedia. --LMS

I fully agree with what you have to say. But. It would be a useful roadmap to future researchers trying to assess the evolvement of Wikipedia if we were kind enough to provide them with a roadmap is what I'm really driving at here. Surely not, in itself, harmful? We are in the information provision business, after all. sjc

I think that it's probable that a descendant of Wikipedia will take over the world of encyclopedias.

How would AI be able to construct the database? If you could demonstrate exactly how one would be able to construct it based on ancient, archived personal pages (or by some other method) some of my objections to deletion would be mollified.

I have strong objections to the deletion of the page. I'm hoping that, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, you'll not discount my opinion. They fall into three categories:

  • Destruction of information: There's no clear alternative to the current method of reconstructing this information. Similarly, if this information were stored off-site it would be much more likely to be lost or poorly maintained.
  • Potential Usefulness vs. Harm: I believe that such information is potentially useful in ways we can't even determine now, and that the potential harm by this page should be dealt with through social means rather than censorship
  • Control: if the information were stored off-site, it would be much more difficult for the Wikipedian community to control its use through social means; on-site, consensus and Wikipetiquette can control its presentation and use


Maybe this page might cause harm at some stage... but its easy for people to pull seniority even without a list like this. I'm opposed to deleting it, because while it might cause harm eventually, it hasn't yet. -- SJK

Arguably, it reflects harm already done: our egos are so involved in our contributions and our individual roles in the project so much that this page seemed like a pretty neat idea. By deleting it, we can take a stand against the further social divisions that ego-tripping and hierarchicalizing (well, you know what I mean :-) ) can cause. --LMS

I have to say I oppose the idea behind the page - if it really is for 24th century historians then I doubt they will care whether it was May or December. I threw in the "sometime in 2001" category for the conscientious objectors among us. This of course (for the moment) puts ALL of us on a level footing, hierarchy-wise. But I am also against deleting the page for the reasons SJK gave. - MMGB

I don't really see a problem with the page. Is anyone really going to try and "pull rank" because of how early they joined up? (Actually, we do this already in a sense; regulars have to "correct" newcommers who don't quite understand what's going on, but I don't think that's what we're talking about here). But I wouldn't say I have any strong opinions either way. --STG

You're absolutely right, that's not what we're talking about here. I have to agree that it seems unlikely that anyone in the present crowd would, today, try to "pull rank." They know it would be anti-wiki. But I imagine it could happen in the future. This sort of page would foster an environment of, and move us in the direction of, a more competitive and uncooperative sort of environment. If we're constantly pointing out to each other, "This is what I've done, I've been here since T, how about you" we're going to be taking credit for and "owning" articles emotionally in a way that will make it harder for us to work together smoothly and to view articles as community-created. --LMS
Ah, I see. In that case, I would suggest that the comprehensive contribution lists that many people keep on their personal pages have a much greater potential for that sort of thing. --STG
Perhaps. Most people do understand that in this collaborative format they can't bill an article as their own. They could say, "Hey, here's a list of articles that I've worked on and that I particularly care about--you could join in!" I can't see a single thing wrong with that. Moreover, it's hard to blame someone for wanting to take credit for what they've done, actually. Also, some people make the lists just in order to periodically check up on articles they've worked on, which is just plain useful. So, I wouldn't ask people to remove such lists, and I wouldn't blame anyone for making them, either. If they want to keep track of what they've worked on, I'd have no serious objections--at least, not as long as they don't say that the articles are their articles. --LMS
What if someone says that an article is someone else's article (GNU Free Documentation License/Workshop)? When is that okay?

I really like it and think it's cool. IMHO, There's nothing wrong with giving some credit to those who worked with it, especially before it became a success... I feel no inferiority from listing my name under November 2001. --ChuckSmith

Yes, it is cool, I don't deny that one bit. --LMS

The page should not be deleted because it contains accurate information about one aspect of the world (the Wikipedia) and therefore belongs into the Wikipedia. --AxelBoldt

An encyclopedia should contain accurate and useful information. No one questions whether this is accurate--just as a page listing what all of us ate for breakfast would be. But is it useful? --LDC
Several people seem to find it useful enough to fight for it, so by definition it is useful. --AxelBoldt
Hmm. O is useful iff several people find O to be useful enough to fight for. --LMS
Yes, I think that's the only way to define "useful". Something is useful iff people find it useful. --AxelBoldt
The Las Vegas telephone book contains accurate information about one place in the world but it does not therefore belong in Wikipedia. --LMS

It's looking like my view is unpopular, but I'd be curious to learn if I've changed any minds or if others might agree with me. It might suffice simply to say on the page itself that I'm opposed to the existence of the page. --LMS

My butt remains firmly on the fence. The page seems harmless to me. --STG

I disagree with Larry. I don't think it's likely that seniority is going to change anyone's behavior. Give the 'pedians some space to play. <>< tbc

OK, I can respect that. (And I do want to give 'pedians some space to play, as I've been arguing elsewhere. :-) ) But when people are made aware of seniority, as repeated additions to the Wikipedians/History page over the months and years is likely to do, then they naturally do, in many different contexts, start a sort of pecking order in terms of seniority. This occurs at all levels of schooling, from primary school up to the hierarchy of professors (from "named chair" positions down to lowly "visiting assistant professors" or "lecturers"). It is usually one of the main bases for advancement in business. So people are used to it and expect it, and hence it would be useful to deemphasize it here on Wikipedia, where it serves no purpose. --LMS

Good point about schooling hierarchies, Larry. I found an interesting (albeit perhaps oversimple) analysis of this phenomenon in Brian Martin's book.

Sorry, all, but I don't see that this is an issue. I HAVE been asked about my credentials in order to justify what I've written as a correction. In those cases, it has never occurred to me to mention how long I've been here (or not, as the case may be). I pull out my hard-earned scholarly credentials (and occasionally, my geek-who-used-to-play-college-bowl and reads way too many comix and never too much Jane Austen credentials) instead. And even there, I generally have the decency to check current scholarship before I descend upon the unfortunate! I think the whole idea of using how long you've been a wikipedian to justify your argument is kind of bogus, m'self. Why would anyone with half a brain think it mattered? J Hofmann Kemp

On articles it wouldn't, but some might end up taking it to matter in discussions on wikipedia policy, as sort of an experience thing. Since it seems to be the juniors who are most in favor of the list and a founder who is most opposed, though, I wouldn't worry too much (over-generalizing for the sake of simplicity).

I personally much prefer facts and references than credentials as justifications for edits.

So does everybody, but credentials are a heck of a lot easier to check.

I relent! I will leave the list alone! :-) --LMS