This technological innovator’s experience is far from the only one of its type, and demonstrates that the Impossibility of Social Justice Convergence renders Wikipedia unfit for purpose:
My primary reasons for writing this article are to record a bit of personal history, describe programming before the personal computer, and reminisce a bit. But I have another reason — some of my regular readers know there’s an article about me on Wikipedia, but that article is likely to be deleted (update: it’s gone — see below). The stated reason for deleting it is because it doesn’t have enough references for its claims — for example, that I wrote a solar system model that was used by JPL during the Viking lander mission. Wikipedia rightly requires documentation for any claims made in its articles, and until this article, the article you’re reading, that claim wasn’t documented. It is now, by this article and by its attached correspondence. Nevertheless, once I saw that the article was being considered for removal, I added my own vote in favor of deletion. Why? Because it had become a cheap sounding board for people annoyed at my positions on controversial topics, particularly psychology and stockbrokers.
That’s the real reason the self-appointed editors over at Wikipedia moved to delete the article (remember that anyone can sign up and edit Wikipedia articles). I’ve been tracking the article since it first appeared in 2006, and there have been any number of efforts to delete or destroy the article by people of varying levels of skill. One of the cleverer tactics has been to delete the list of references, wait 24 hours, then argue for the article’s deletion on the ground that the article’s claims have no references — that’s been tried several times.
What’s behind this? Why does anyone care so much about a short article that describes my activities? Well, I’ve noticed a correlation between my publishing something about psychology (I’m a critic of psychology’s theoretical basis and practice, example: The Trouble with Psychology) and a subsequent effort to delete the Wikipedia article. Apparently some psychologists or fans of psychology think it’s an appropriate response to criticism of their field — not to debate the issues honestly in public forums — but to try to remove any references to the critic.
The single best thing about Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it. That’s also the single worst thing. It was my hope that a Wikipedia editor, one who doesn’t care that I’m a psychology critic, would add a footnote reference to this article’s documentation in the Wikipedia article, thereby removing an excuse to delete the article. That wouldn’t have solved the problem, because I plan to continue criticizing psychology, but it woiuld have made it harder to justify future attacks.
Update: Through a combination of my efforts and that of others, and since I couldn’t protect it from vandalism, the Wikipedia article has been deleted. During my research on this topic, I encountered this almost identical incident:
Seth Finkelstein reported in an article in The Guardian on his efforts to remove his own biography page from Wikipedia, simply because it was subjected to defamation:
“Wikipedia has a short biography of me, originally added in February 2004, mostly concerned with my internet civil liberties achievements. After discovering in May 2006 that it had been vandalised in March, possibly by a long-time opponent, and that the attack had been subsequently propagated to many other sites which (legally) repackage Wikipedia’s content, the article’s existence seemed to me overall to be harmful rather than helpful. For people who are not very prominent, Wikipedia biographies can be an “attractive nuisance”. It says, to every troll, vandal, and score-settler: “Here’s an article about a person where you can, with no accountability whatsoever, write any libel, defamation, or smear. It won’t be a marginal comment with the social status of an inconsequential rant, but rather will be made prominent about the person, and reputation-laundered with the institutional status of an encyclopedia.”
In the same article Finkelstein recounts how he voted his own biography as “not notable enough” in order to have it removed from Wikipedia.
As explained above, once I saw how often opponents of my views on psychology tried to rewrite or delete my Wikipedia article, I took the same action for the same reason. Those who want to read a short biographical note, one not subject to controversy or vandalism, may click here.
What does this mean about Wikipedia? It means that controversial issues and people won’t be described fairly, or sometimes at all. The idea behind Wikipedia is that it’s a people’s encyclopedia, not an ivory tower production. The problem with this egalitarian ideal is that special interests can, and do, struggle to see their particular outlook become the only outlook in the pages of Wikipedia. And, since my view of psychology is quickly becoming the majority view, psychologists found themselves unable to argue against that position using reason and fair tactics. So, just as when they chose to study psychology in college, they took the low road, the easy path — they resorted to gangster tactics.
We’re going to do this, the only questions are a) when, b) how much will it cost, and c) who is with me? I’ve had much the same experience. The three most notable and significant things I have done are completely absent from Wikipedia despite my being deemed notable by the editors and those three things being documented by reliable sources. And I’m far from alone in that.