Have You Been To BASFA?

Over at Kevin’s LiveJournal there is some discussion of an effort that is currently underway to have the Bay Area Science Fiction Association’s entry in Wikipedia deleted. Wikipedia, you see, is not intended to be a universal source of information, but only a source of information about things that the pathetic little tinpot dictators who maintain the site deem “worthy”. And one of those miserable shits is currently conducting a crusade to remove all references to science fiction clubs because, you know, he can.

Despite three Hugo wins, I don’t have a Wikipedia entry. I’m very happy about that and would like it to stay that way. After all, I’m not hard to find on Google, and if I did have a Wikipedia page an awful lot of time would be wasted combating edits that claimed my Hugo wins were fraudulent, or that I am a freak and a pervert. However, Kevin seems rather attached to BASFA’s entry, and as Wikipedia won’t take the word of anyone who is a member of the club regarding its notability or lack thereof, we need people who are not members to speak up for it.

It does seem all very trivial, but there is a certain satisfaction to be gained from frustrating the machinations of a selfish coward who spends his life persecuting strangers from behind the safety of a pseudonym. If this scumbag went out dressed in a mask and went around spray-painting abuse on people’s houses he’d probably get arrested, but amongst Wikipedia admins this sort of thing is normal behavior. I’d like to see him taken down a peg.

So if you happen to have encountered BASFA in some way, but have no actual connection to the club, and would like to help out, please pop over to Kevin’s LJ and comment. People there will know better than I do how to help.

14 thoughts on “Have You Been To BASFA?

    1. I have no idea. If you had asked about the internal politics of WSFS I’d be able to advise, but Wikipedia’s internal politics are a mystery to me. That’s why I suggested asking questions on Kevin’s LJ. There are people commenting there who seem to know what is required.

  1. Hi, I came here via James Nicoll’s LJ – I’m familiar with the deletion process so I thought I’d offer some unsolicited advice here.

    It’s important to understand that the Wikipedia deletion process is not a vote, and it’s not about getting editors in to vouch for an article. The way to prevent an article being deleted is to show that it can comply with the relevant policies on verifiability & notability.

    In this case the main issue is notability. To establish notability, you want to be able to cite respectable sources that treat BASFA as significant (more than just a brief mention). Despite what some editors might try to assert, those do NOT have to be on-line sources; they just need to be something that another editor can verify, even if it means going to the library. (But they do need to be respectable sources in themselves – self-published newsletters etc don’t cut it.)

    “amongst Wikipedia admins this sort of thing is normal behavior” – I don’t think this guy is an admin. Anybody can nominate a page for deletion, though only an admin can implement deletion.

    There are reasons why these policies exist; that said, this guy is being a jerk. I don’t know whether BASFA is notable, but it would have been better form to raise the issue and give people a chance to improve the article before leaping for deletion.

    1. Notability is a fuzzy concept. We are dealing with a science fiction fan club here, which is the sort of thing that the mainstream media is unlikely to talk about, except in condescending terms. Talk about it will almost entirely be in fanzines and online equivalents thereof, all of which fail the “self published” test. The club has had a number of guest speakers, but they have a habit of giving all such people honorary memberships, which makes those people ineligible to speak on the club’s behalf. It is hard to see how the club could defend itself.

      I can see that an encyclopedia wants to defend itself against self-promotion, but that’s not what is at issue here. What’s happening is that one individual has decided that science fiction fan groups do not warrant a place in Wikipedia, no matter how venerable and well-known they are.

  2. Cheryl: Please note that RadioFan, the person who nominated the page for deletion, is not a Wikipedia administrator. Furthermore, he has not deleted the page (which he cannot do, since he’s not an administrator), just nominated it for deletion — and various other Wikipedia editors have opposed this by recommending “keep”. In fact, I think it is unlikely that the page will wind up being deleted based on the trend of the deletion discussion so far.

    On the other hand, I am a Wikipedia administrator, and I can’t say that I’m particularly thrilled by your references to “the pathetic little tinpot dictators who maintain the site,” “those miserable shits,” and “amongst Wikipedia admins this sort of thing is normal behavior,” when the behavior in question is being perpetrated by someone who isn’t actually an administrator there and doesn’t have the authority to delete the page himself.

    1. Hi Joshua:

      Clearly I am confused as to the terminology regarding people who can and cannot update Wikipedia. As I understand you, there are different levels of seniority with different powers, and RadioFan is a lower level functionary. For that I think we should all be grateful.

      However, one of the reasons I am poorly informed is that everything I hear about your site horrifies me. As a private individual, I have absolutely no desire to have a Wikipedia page devoted to me, or anything I do. That’s because I have an expectation that any information about me would be constantly under attack by people like RadioFan, and that there would be nothing that I could do about because I would be the last person whose word would be accepted as regards the veracity of what was written. If you run a site that is an ideal playground for trolls you have to expect people to despise it.

  3. I don’t have “an answer” to that, but I do have a tip to offer that could be of use to you, or anyone reading this, in dealing with a different Wikipedia problem in the future:

    If you (i.e. anyone) see a statement made about a living person that is untrue and unsourced (or inaccurately sourced), go ahead and remove that statement from the article, and use the edit summary: “rm per [[WP:BLP]]”.

    That means “remove per the policy Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Biographies_of_living_persons“. It’s a pro-respect policy, not a pro-troll policy, and it’s one of the most powerful policies on Wikipedia (in my opinion).

    [[WP:BLP]] is not a cure-all, but it is a cure-some, and feel free to spread the word about it.

    1. Ah, thank you. Things have clearly come a long way in the past few years.

      I am, however, still somewhat concerned about how easy it is to get material removed. The impression I have got is that you have to be prepared to engage in a sustained edit war if someone is determined to smear you in Wikipedia.

      Also, regardless of how good your policy of deleting inaccurate and unsubstantiated material might be, every single word ever written on Wikipedia is available via the history pages. So while smears and gossip might be deleted from the main page, they sit there forever in the history muttering “no smoke without fire” and providing a very effective source of exactly the sort of gossip your guidelines try to discourage.

      If I were to apply for a job, I am sure that the HR department would check Wikipedia, including any deleted material, as part of their vetting process.

  4. Well, the deletion discussion is still open but currently the argument seems to be going strongly in favour of keeping the BASFA article – though I daresay BASFA members would appreciate a few more “Keep”s still. In practice, I think fandom has fewer problems in averting drive-by deletions than most other groups – quite a few fans are also Wikipedia editors of long-enough standing to know what will or won’t work in this kind of Wikipedia spat, provided they are aware that it’s going on.

    I quite understand your wish not to have a Wikipedia entry – though I was actually on the point of trying to compile one when I read this post (substantive links into an article are not supposed to establish notability on Wikipedia, but they do tend to imply it. Even without an article, you have more inward Wikipedia links than BASFA, and it would have been easy enough to mention your membership of BASFA in an article on you).

    To be fair, though, your statement that every single word ever written on Wikipedia is available via the history pages is not strictly true. The most obvious way it isn’t is that if an article is deleted, its history pages disappear (at least from public view) along with it. It is also possible in principle to get the history of an article revised so that unsubstantiated smears are removed from public view – however, this does require the intervention of a senior administrator, and the process for getting it done looks distinctly bureaucratic. And it would probably take long enough that a dozen other sites would have copied the smear before you got it deleted.

    By the way, if despite your wishes you ever become the subject of a Wikipedia article, try to find other people (preferably existing Wikipedia editors who are not family members or known close friends) to combat hostile edits rather than doing it yourself. Not only will it save you time and energy, but they are less likely to get accused of conflicts of interest.

    1. Darn, after all that good work that Joshua did, you have just got me loathing Wikipedia all over again. It really is just a playground for grown up schoolboy bullies who no longer have fellow pupils to gang up on, isn’t it.

      Really, no, I do not want to have to find powerful people within the Wikipedia community to fight on my behalf. I want them to keep the fuck out of my life.

  5. Cheryl: I don’t understand. You loathe Wikipedia more now that you know that not every single word ever written on Wikipedia is available via the history pages? Peter correctly stated that it is possible to get libelous content out of the Wikipedia history, albeit with some difficulty. That ought to be better than not being able to remove the libelous content at all.

    1. Joshua: Your arrogance astounds me. No one elected you. No one appointed you except yourselves. You’ve set up a web site that anyone can write any nonsense on whatsoever, and in order to get it removed people have to come crawling to you through some bureaucratic nightmare, of persuade one of you to act as her champion. I’m sure it makes you feel very big and important to have such power over other people. It must be really cool to be able to ruin other people’s lives in this way and lord it over them when they get upset. But don’t complain to me when I call you on your power fantasies.

      1. Cheryl: Who elects or appoints SMOFs? Fandom and Wikipedia are both somewhat impure reputational anarchies, where what gains people influence is kudos (or whuffie or whatever you choose to call it) – and, at a parasitical level, knowing how to game the system to gain kudos for performance indicators rather than for performance. And I would agree that Wikipedia does tend to suffer from too many parasites (and a noticeably higher proportion than fandom) – including vigilantes like RadioFan who makes several dozen edits a day, which typically appear to be equivalent to pouring weedkiller on a lawn (on his own definition of weed) and gets rewarded with a couple of minor privileges that make it easier to continue the exercise.

        The admin side of Wikipedia is, I think, a different problem, although one that outsiders may find difficult to disentangle from the parasites. The problem with Wikipedia is, I suspect, that of any anarchy trying to maintain a Big Dumb Object – to keep it going, a number of rough guidelines have been implicitly agreed by insiders (and to this extent, the same is true of fandom) that have then mutated into increasingly baroque customary law that the “lawyers” themselves only roughly agree on.

        Actually, a number of admin positions on Wikipedia are subject to election – though qualifications to vote tend to be the kind (for instance, numbers of edits, whether large or small) that are rather easy to get if you have a lot of time and do a lot of small edits to (or deletions from) articles, awkward but possible if only one of those applies and almost impossible if neither does. And if you don’t spend a lot of time to Wikipedia, both the issues that come up in the elections and the functions of the posts being elected can be pretty incomprehensible. Despite that, while quite a few parasites (and/or amateur lawyers) on a power-trip do get elected, they do seem to be surprisingly outnumbered by worthy volunteers trying, if not always competently, to do the constructive best they can with limited spare time and resources – but so familiar with how it looks from inside that they forget how alien and frightening it seems to most outsiders.

        1. Peter: I understand that people inside Wikipedia think they are trying hard, and that they are volunteers. But they are not an insignificant organization like WSFS. They have the power to wreck people’s lives, and despite the obvious efforts of whoever crafted those guidelines Joshua pointed to, the site is still deeply hostile to outsiders.

          Given that you compared them to convention runners, let’s carry that forward. In the UK we have people who prefer not to have their names listed on convention web sites. Some of them genuinely fear that their careers will be damaged if their employers know that they are science fiction fans. That’s not a joke, it is a very real fear. Some UK conventions, as a matter of course, give members the choice as to whether have their names listed. If a member had their name posted in error, all they would have to do is contact the convention. Any responsible group of conrunners would take the name down immediately.

          What would happen if that convention was being run by Wikipedia? Well to start with the person in question would not be able to complain themselves. The one person who has no chance of changing something on Wikipedia is the person who has been written about. Any random, anonymous troll has more rights. Next Wikipedia would probably claim that the information was true, and could therefore not be taken down. The only possible defense is that the information was not relevant.

          Now obviously the fact that someone is a member of science fiction convention isn’t a matter if great import, so in this example the information could probably be edited out, but would still remain online forever unless that piece of information was the only thing in the person’s entry.

          Can you see why people who are not part of the Wikipedia club think the site is a monstrous juggernaut likely to trample roughshod over people’s privacy?

          And if not maybe if someone tried to wreck your life by posting something about you on Wikipedia you might feel differently about it.

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