There was a disturbing exchange on the HacDC mailing list that I thought I should share here. As one contributor to the conversation characterized it, an editor on Wikipedia seems to be acting as a “one man cleaning service” of content. Among his many suggested deletions on Wikipedia are a number of hackerspaces, including HacDC. And when called to account, his rationalizations are, quite frankly, lame. This post to the HacDC list (and the linked-to article), by Rory McCann, explain the situation:

On Sat, Feb 19, 2011 at 6:51 PM, Rory McCann wrote:

As others have noticed, lots of hackerspaces on Wikipedia are suggested for deletion.

I noticed it first for the hackerspace I’m a member of, TOG in Dublin, Ireland. The article was lacking decent sources, so I’ve researched and updated it a lot now. (That’s one benefit from this, I’ve managed to improve that Wikipedia article a lot (I think)). I’ve written up my dealings so far.

The Wikipedia editor suggesting the deletion has made some strange claims, and seems to want to delete all hackerspaces. He seems to think hackerspaces are all in some big conspiracy. I added some sources to other hackerspaces (e.g. when we did the cupcake challenge) and he thought they were unsuitable, since “Artifactory is a hackerspace site, so it’s not independent of the subject. Same with 091Labs.”

If you have a hackerspace on Wikipedia, you should check it out, see if you need to add any sources, if the article is lacking. This might be a good thing for your hackerspace — since I spruced up the TOG article, I’ve realized how much our members have done!

If you’re a Wikipedia expert, could you have a look at that article and the AfD page for it. Do you have any advice on improving the article, any feedback? I’m not sure if I’m doing everything right and would appreciate feedback.

30 thoughts on “Is a Wikipedia Editor on a Mission to Delete Hackerspaces?

  1. I’ve been following the conversation, too, but haven’t weighed in yet… One of the cardinal attributes of Wikipedia is that you shouldn’t be editing your own page – not just because of the obvious fear of people trumping themselves up, but because it is a natural filter for “you aren’t important enough to be in an encylopedia”. If you are important enough, someone ELSE will fill in the info. The deleter is being a little firm, perhaps, but not behaving improperly. Wikipedia isn’t meant to be a compendium of all knowledge everywhere, but an encyclopedia. Your hackerspace has a website – spend time making IT good, and maybe someday some hackerspaces will really warrant their own Wikipedia articles, which someone else will write.

    1. The way I read the policy, “don’t edit yourself” only applies to actual biographical articles about you, the human. I couldn’t find anything either way about organizations you’re a member of, and I assume that since some organizations have zillions of members, it’s acknowledged that much of the effort and knowledge to write good articles would come from people who happen to be members of an organization.

      As for the “get your house in order first” argument, you’ve hit the nail on the head. One of the things we’ve done at i3detroit is compile a list of media hits, which will be invaluable if/when another Wikipedia page pops up with our name on it. Personally, I’m not holding my breath. If you care about whether Wikipedia thinks you’re notable, you’re not.

  2. Granted, my understanding of Wikipedia’s guidelines is not the strongest, so I could be wrong. But I don’t think individual hackerspaces would be the kind of thing that would warrant their own Wikipedia entries. The concept of a hackerspace, yes, but each individual hackerspace should have their own websites on which to promote themselves.

    1. It’s a bit more subtle than that. Wikipedia’s notability guidelines don’t decide on whole classes of articles but on whether notability can be established for particular things. So, take a band like Radiohead. They obviously are notable, and so is OK Computer. But is the obscure Japanese-only EP? Maybe, maybe not. The notability guidelines come into play there.

      As for hackerspaces? I can imagine some might be notable on their own: the way to establish that is reference to independent reliable sources (i.e. newspaper articles, mentions in published books etc.). If they don’t pass the notability test, I’d suggest that a merge into a list might do the job. “List of hackerspaces in the United States” (for all the other regions etc.) would do the job. Or just “List of hackerspaces”.

  3. I think hackerspaces should get together and form a Hackerspace specific wiki, and only the larger ones, or ones that have done important influential things should belong on Wikipedia

  4. I think Rory McCann might not be reading the AfD quite right. You can include those sources but other hackerspace sites would be self-published sources and a network of interlinked self-published sources don’t establish notability.

    On Wikipedia, we see hundreds of crappy little garage bands start up articles about themselves. If they all linked their MySpaces together, that wouldn’t mean they suddenly become notable. That’s not to say that the AfDer thinks hackerspaces are in a “conspiracy”. It’s just he or she is saying that other hackerspaces as sources don’t necessarily establish any particular hackerspace as being notable.

    I’m not a huge fan of deletionists on Wikipedia, but we have to assume good faith on the part of deletionists. They scout round the wiki and spot things that while often cool or interesting or useful or socially valuable often aren’t encyclopedic. I love hackers and hackerspaces (although I’m a software guy who has the opposite of a Midas touch for anything electronic so I stay well away from hardware hacking), but I’m conflicted about whether this is a keep or delete. Please don’t just pile on. AfD discussions require intelligent arguments, not just people doing a ‘get out the vote’ campaign to keep articles about their hobby-horses.

  5. Hackerspaces need to do their own Hakipedia. Bypass the problem and it will go away. Leave Wikipedia for the dry details, they aren’t concerned with R&D and the other stuff we do and are better suited to telling people how TTL logic works and who Marconi was.

  6. The person who marked all these hackerspaces keeps going back to lack of newspaper and article sources, and as of this moment all of the hackerspace articles have been decided to be kept, except 091 Labs in Galway, Ireland, which is still under discussion. I was able to find some relevant press for them, but the article still needs a lot of work. I’d like to make this 4-for-4 in having them all kept! Can any of you readers help?

  7. Hello!
    I can understand that. One of them, here in NYC would make people think of the times of the anarchists. Certainly their illogical and desperate attempts for legitimacy would certainly call for that one.

    But as for the others? Strange.

  8. To me, the whole issue of whether a member of a group should post about that group is not the point here (a legitimate issue, just not the point here), it’s that somebody is putting up hackerspaces for deletion based on the assertion that they can’t find evidence of notability for them and then ceding when evidence (easily gathered via Google) is provided. And it’s not other hackerspaces linking to their MySpace pages that are these sources, it’s reputable publications like the Irish Times, Wired, NPR, MSN, and yes, MAKE.

  9. This has very muuch the same feel about it as when Jimmy Wales went off on a one-man crusade a year or so back – all people discovered was when someone autocratically destroyed their baby, often with little rationale behind the deed.

  10. I’ve long since given up on wikipedia and their notability trolls. They always favor big media and mainstream items and have no artistic vision, so who cares? I only use wikipedia to solve bar bets anymore.

  11. While I agree that the hackerspaces should be listed, I can also see the point of the editor. Wikipedia has a policy of checking sources, relying heavily on publishing on the theory that if an editor/publisher has looked at it, it’s more likely to be good information. Hence the whole [citation needed] thing.

    There is some truth to this. The challenge, these days is that while the Internet has made communication easier, it has conversely made the valuation/verification of information authority more difficult, the signal to noise ratio has dropped now that it costs nothing to publish.

    So sourcing is important, and getting some media coverage of your hackerspace is a really good idea anyway.

    All that said, this editor does seem to be having a bad day. There is more to research than poking a link or two or using google, and that doesn’t seem to be happening here.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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