Digital Maoists prevent Articles about Digital Maoism!

by Robert Nagle on 5/3/2008

in Open Media,Personal

While launching a protest against an overzealous Wikipedia editor for deleting a link to an article I added, I noticed a hilarious thing. Apparently Wikipedia had not yet allowed an article on Digital Maoism to exist on its own. Instead it redirects to a bio article of Jaron Lanier, the man who coined the phrase. The irony of Wikipedia not providing a separate page about the concept about why online collectivism will corrode human thought is delicious.

See also: my thoughts about Wikipedia and vanity pages.

May 9 Update: I forgot to give the link of my previous NSFW post about Haley Paige which apparently was rejected by the Wikipedia editor as spam. Warning: my post has one semi-nude nonpornographic photo. The ludicrous thing about the rejection is that almost every link which was approved on the Haley Paige wikipedia page had pornographic pictures and porn banner ads. This is not surprising or intrinsically bad (because she worked in the industry), but the contrast between my own post (which was thoughtful and well-written and ad-free ) and the others (which were minimally informative and loaded with porn ads) was astounding. Even the non-adult link (a local newspaper) was replete with ads.

May 9 Update #2: Out of boredom I googled “Digital Maoism” to see what would show up. Keep in mind that the Edge discussion featured dozens of contributors by Internet illuminati; it was blogged about and cited in numerous places, including the New York Times. Search results 1 and 2 are from the Edge (where the article first appeared). Search results #3 and 4 come from NYT (no surprise), #5 comes from the Wikipedia article about Jaron Lanier (no suprise), and #6 contains the User Talk link I linked to above by Tabercil. Now it’s possible that my blogpost alone brought it good search position. But I suspect wikipedia’s privileged status on google is the reason why it received such prominence. We need to ask: does Wikipedia truly deserve the privileged search position Google gives it?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tabercil May 3, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Nice… move the debate to where you can set the rules. In any case, I looked at the article link which you contributed to the Hailey Paige article and felt it violated the rules we have against linkspam, specifically this one:

* “Links to blogs and personal web pages, except those written by a recognized authority.”

Luke Ford’s website may well be ad-supported (which I don’t see any of due to having the Adblock add-on for Firefox), but he is a long-time journalist and commentator on the porn industry, thus meeting the “recognized authority” requirement. Especially when you consider that Bill Margold (who is one of the elder statesmen of porn and is in the AVN Hall of Fame, among other accolades) has said: “Luke’s not really a blogger as much as is an Internet journalist”

As for the “Digital Maoism”, we already have mention of that in Wikipedia; please see here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Wikipedia#The_.22hive_mind.22

Lastly, “overzealous”?!?? LOL…

Robert Nagle May 3, 2008 at 8:26 pm

“Nice… move the debate to where you can set the rules.” Huh? I already said I don’t accept the basis for Wikipedia’s rules. You yourself have demonstrated that Wikipedia’s rules can be used to stifle alternate viewpoints.

Luke Ford is a gossip columnist. That’s all. He’s entertaining and a decent writer (and I certainly don’t imply disrespect), and he does get scoops about the industry by virtue of his standing, but essentially he is a gossip columnist. He frequently just copies verbatim notes from people in the adult industry and calls it news. I don’t consider the ability to pass on gossip as news a basis of authority. And the implication that because I am a blogger my words somehow lack authority is not something you have demonstrated. And if you try to demonstrate it, you will first need to refute my arguments about why journalists can be less reliable than bloggers .

As for your point that Digital Maoism has already been covered, Nope, the URL doesn’t say that at all. Digital Maoism inspired a series of dozens of essay by notable thinkers (including by Jimmmy Wales himself). Perhaps I am reading too much significance into what may simply be an oversight on Wikipedia, but this Digital Maoism criticism certainly warrants a separate Wikipedia page, and it is not surprising that such a page should take so long to appear on a web collective oblivious to its dangers. Please note that when you subsume an important concept under “Criticisms” on the same page, you are essentially demeaning the concept itself. Pretending to allow dissent in a context where dissent is limited to a few sentences is not an example of balanced treatment on the topic. I’m sure communist economic textbooks included a (cursory) discussion of Adam Smith and entrepreneurship.

I have lived in two communist countries where rule-mongers drained the vitality out of its culture. I fear the Digital Maoism of Wikipedia is causing the same thing to happen.

Tabercil May 3, 2008 at 11:46 pm

If you feel that Digital Maoism truly deserves its own page on Wikipedia, then by all means, WRITE IT! But beyond that, I feel we will simply have to agree to disagree because I don’t see Wikipedia as being this inherent evil that you seem to fear. It represents change, a new way of collecting and organizing information on a massive, decentralized scale and it’s obviously something I’m excited to be a part of.

Robert Nagle May 4, 2008 at 6:49 am

I am merely pointing out the ways in which Wiki’s editorial process for Wikipedia has become corrupted and even politicized by its so-called quality standards.

I used to trust Wikipedia for at least providing outside links that were notable and/or interesting. Now I really have to question that assumption. What articles were excluded as a result of the spam policy? What articles were rewritten in bland prose to acknowledge the “he said, she said” dilemma? In USA our news media is afflicted with the problem of shallowness. Limiting reporting to the the objective and verifiable actually undermines deep understanding. (To put it another way: in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq, did we need articles about the mundane details of the military action–the weapons, the war plan, the progress reports etc–or a discussion about its regional impact or likelihood of success?) When I lived in Albania, the state-controlled media simply covered the press conferences and itineraries of its leaders. That was safe. It was not censorship per se, but it ended up excluding lots of important social issues (that became apparent when the country fell in civil war–see my essay about the topic .). It looks like Wikipedia is suffering from the same kinds of problems.

The reason I will not write the Digital Maoism article is that institutionally Wikipedia members will be able to shape the presentation of thought. I don’t trust Wikipedia editors. About the only trustworthy thing Wikipedia can do is to provide a simple definition of the term with links to people who have written about it. But as your action has shown, Wikipedia has implemented policies to prevent Wikipedia from performing even that minor function.

Let me ask you another thing. According to the thread linked to by my article (and tossed out by you), H.P.’s father was planning to write a memoir about the years before her death. If her father published the essays on the web and added a link on the wikipedia page himself, wouldn’t your spam exclusion policy apply to him as well?

Wikipedia’s modus operandi seems to be to wait for certain authorities (translation: commercial entities) to discover cultural trends. If my H.P. article were published in Time magazine or paraphrased by Luke Ford (who apparently was the target of several libel suits, btw), apparently Wikipedia’s objection to the link might disappear. Sadly, bloggers are used to this kind of cultural poaching.

Robert Nagle May 9, 2008 at 4:55 am

I will summarize what we have learned here: Wikipedia is useful for finding out information which is verifiable (and found in some commercially maintained databases). That means birth dates, death dates, colleges attended, ISBN numbers, awards, etc. It is minimally useful for acknowledging controversy about a topic. Wikipedia is semi-competent for providing overviews of laws and physical sciences. Wikipedia is now inadequate in identifying notable people, notable ideas, notable works of art. It is also inadequate in assessing value of a contributed link. It also is inadequate at handling independent media or in documenting phenomenon of no economic value.

The need to have “notability” and “reliability” causes Wikipedia to trust known commercial media sources more than unknown ones. That is a bias which ultimately will limit Wikipedia’s usefulness and cause lesser known encylopedias to be more informative and insightful.

Wikiwatcher June 16, 2008 at 11:19 pm

Digital Ultracapitalism might be a bigger threat to information than Digital Maoism. Ultracapitalism produces a great deal of unworthy content in an attempt to generate ad clicks or affiliate sales. Information producers have become interested only in generating traffic, getting clicks, and making sales conversions. Quality information no longer matters. Read more here:
http://wikiwatch.wordpress.com/2008/06/17/digital-maoism-versus-digital-ultracapitalism/

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: