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Pedia again

danah boyd is going through Wikipedia deletion pains. The comments on her Articles for Deletion page and Discussion page have been very interesting reading.

Marshall Kirkpatrick has been pointing out my own entry on women in Wikipedia, but my preferred post on that particular event was Yo Sock Puppets; much of the discussion about Wikipedia occurred in the later post.

One of the most fascinating elements to come out of the discussion on danah’s entry has to do with her name: danah is legally ‘danah boyd’. She was born ‘danah michele mattas’–different last name, but same use of lowercase; she uses danah boyd for all of her own work. However, the Wikipedia editors won’t allow her entry to reflect the case on her name–insisting that since the publications that reference her name give her name as “Danah Boyd”, the Wikipedia entry must do the same. Why? Because, to quote a Wikipedia editor:

Unfortunately, you seem to have a misconception of how Wikipedia works. I strongly recommend reading the policies and guidelines at Wikipedia:Autobiography, Wikipedia:Verifiability, and Wikipedia:No original research. In a nutshell: Wikipedia is not for placing “the truth”, it is for placing summaries of information that is already published in other credible news sources. If you can’t convince the NY Times, NPR, USA Today, and Fox News to lowercase your name, that makes a really tough case to argue on Wikipedia, since the policy here is to only incorporate information after it’s been published elsewhere. If, however, you *can* convince the major media outlets to print it differently in future press, then that will make a stronger case to get the Wikipedia article adapted to match. Or in other words, don’t sweat it for an immediate change — take the long view.

(emph. mine)

The point of the editor is that because of danah’s appearance in these publications as Danah Boyd, most lookups on her name would occur because of this case. Those who know danah as ‘danah’, most likely wouldn’t be looking up her name. Still, I would assume that Wikipedia would accept danah’s verification of the accuracy of her name, and that the tool is intelligent enough to manage differing case when performing a lookup on her name.

What’s more relevant to a discussion on Wikipedia at large is the direct admission that Wikipedia is not the place for ‘truth’. This, to me, is an extremely honest and important statement to make. I would hope the statement is pasted all over Wikipedia, because this is the ‘truth’ of Wikipedia, of any encyclopedia: what’s contained is less a matter of philosophical truth than verifiable source. Where Wikipedia editors are making a mistake is treating danah’s work as it appears in non-mainstream publications such as the ACM or her own birth certificate as less ‘worthy’ than those that appear in Fox.

The editor then responds with confrontations in this regard with a recommendation to danah to get the publications to use the proper case, which would then make a better argument for correcting the case in Wikipedia. My goodness–what an intransigent viewpoint, and almost bizarre recommendation.

At first glance, the editor’s comments are baffling, in the extreme. I think what’s happening with Wikipedia, though, is that given the lack of early structure for the online site, the editors have, over time, formulated rules of their own. As happens in cases such as these, they then maintain a far more rigid adherence to said rules then if there had been a structure in place in the beginning. As time passes, Wikipedia becomes less a tribute to fact and more a tribute to process.

This doesn’t mean that Wikipedia doesn’t have value–I still use it to look up information, though I don’t consider it the definitive authority on a topic. As the editors would say, only a fool would rely solely on what’s written in Wikipedia. Still, at what point does the rigid adherence to process outweigh the usefulness of the data? In other words: what is Wikipedia’s tipping point? And has it been reached?


Human heat sinks

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Kathy Sierra has a post complimenting Robert Scoble on his decision to stay away from the negatives. One paragraph is:

The notion of “Happy People” was tossed around in the Robert-Lost-His-Mind posts as something ridiculous at best, dangerous at worst. One blogger equated “happy people” with “vacuous”. The idea seems to be that “happy people” implies those who are oblivious to the realities of life, in a fantasy of their own creation, and without the ability to think critically. The science, however, suggests just the opposite.

She then goes into a discussion on the neuroscience of happy versus not people and myths of happiness and happy people and so on. We have to assume that her use of the term ‘vacuous’ is in reference to my post–it’s not a common word. I gather she believes my post must not be ‘happy’ enough in order to link–which, indirectly, makes a statement about my ‘value’ to the discussion. For all the mention of the Dali Lama and the power of positive thinking, this is an antagonistic action.

This, in a nutshell, is the problem with much of this discussion: the words don’t necessarily match the actions. A person can use a great number of high sounding, very positive words, all the while committing a negative act. Conversely, a person can use any number of negative words, or what can be perceived to be a negative tone, in the hopes of accomplishing a positive event.

We’re basing all of this on ‘words’, not intents. Doing this penalizes those who speak bluntly, while the less blunt, or less direct, end up being shiny all over. Where are the plain speakers? Where is the writing that unabashedly accepts the consequences for the intent behind the words?

Robert Scoble may talk about wanting to filter out those critical of him, and that don’t add to the ‘value’ to the conversation. What is value? When you spend time reading a person’s writing, you’ve already given them ‘value’ because you’ve given them your time. Anything negative you say in response to the writing has to be balanced against the fact that you gave of your time. I value time–it would have to be almighty negative for it to tip the scales against.

Robert and Kathy mention ‘happy’. What is happy? Is it a state of mind, or a coy turn of phrase? I have seen a person walk into a room and eviscerate another, leaving them with no dignity, no respect, all the while smiling and using the sweetest of terms. Is the perpetrator then a ‘happy’ person? They have all the markings of one.

Forget the neuroscience and new age blather: what is happy? If both Kathy and Robert are going to define how people must behave to be part of their circle and have value, then I think we’re entitled to ask them to define, in their own terms, ‘happy’. This way, we can then use this measurement with the only people that matter: Robert and Kathy.

You know what a truly happy person is to me? In the context of this environment, and discussion? It’s a person where you could say anything in their comments, and it just flows off their back, like water off a duck. The Dali Lama that Kathy mentions. They may not like the words, they may be saddened, especially if the person saying the words is a friend–they may even moderate the comment; but their happiness could not be impacted by such an ephemeral event. Fortunately, most of us just aren’t the Dalia Lama–aren’t that happy. It’s a good thing, too, because the Dali Lama’s strength isn’t in his own lack of anger, but his ability to generate outraged anger in others.

But this isn’t about anger, and this isn’t comment moderation. If this was about comment moderation, this discussion wouldn’t be happening. Comment moderation is an old topic–do what you want, end of story. This is about defining whether another person is contributing value, and basing this value on some artificial criteria labeled euphemistically ‘happy’. And what is happy? What is happy behavior in weblogging? Is it the words, or the intent of the words that determines ‘happy’?

I’d rather someone who speaks frequently, bluntly, intent plain to see in their phrases–face to face with those who they would criticize. The words may be negative, but the intent is not to slyly undermine or slay with innuendo–no whispers hidden in honeyed words. No, the intent matches the words. One can then engage, or not; but at a minimum, one is given that option.

The person who speaks softly, all bright yellows and sunshine glee, all the while they look out at you from the corners of their eyes–to all appearances, they are happy. Oh, look at them! They are so happy! Yet they can take your energy more quickly than the harshest critic, leaving you frustrated, and discouraged.

They are human heat sinks.

Both Kathy and Robert have a habit of indirectly referencing what others write without directly letting their readers know the source. To all intents and purposes, they’re moderating the discussion, not just their comments. More importantly, they use ‘good’ words, but it has a negative intent. They may say they do this because they don’t want to engage the negative people. If this is so, then why do they continue to engage the negative people?

Enough time and energy spent on this discussion. More than enough.

Jeneane who is rather blunt in her writing had this to say in comments at Kathy’s:

So, let’s get real: Moderate for spam, anonymous, and annoying commenters, and take the heat for whom you delete.

Puffing it up as some grand step toward a better life is just a little bit unbelievable.

Okay, I’m off to meditate.


Eat the red couch

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

You know the nice thing about being a woman in weblogging, especially if you frequent the ‘weblogging as topic’ or technology lists, is that no one listens to you anyway, so you can damn well say what you want. The guys, on the other hand, take it all way too seriously because they’re listened to–well, if they’ve learned how to ‘pump the tire’, so to speak, they are–and they want to go down as someone wise, with it, and prescient.

I read in Dave Rogers weblog his quote from Shel Israel’s take on what Nick Carr had to say on innocent fraud:

The other thought is that maybe you should reflect on just quitting your blog. You don’t like the blogosphere. You certainly don’t seem to like those of us who are dedicating lives and energy to its promotion, and–don’t be offended by this Nick–we really won’t miss you a whole lot if you just sit down and shut up.

Now, I could respond in depth, like I’ve responded elsewhere this week, hopefully with something learned sounding and impressive but then I thought: why waste my time? Why not just have some fun, and say whatever the hell I want and we’ll all have a giggle, which is probably a lot better use of our time anyway.

So, here’s a brain teaser: what sentences can you derive from the following words: Shel Israel, blog evangelist, naked conversationist, tells Nick Carr to sit down shut up.

Here’s my first:

Shel Israel is a doo-doo bird

Pretty good, eh? I have more. For instance, here’s one that’s a nod for Mr. Seth FinkLEStein, in honor of him being subscribed (”OHMIGOD I’m subscribed!”) by Mr. Israel, blog evangelist:

Shel Israel is a doo-doo bird

I know, am I hot or what?

Nick Douglas, in comments, threatens to wag these boys’ valley because this whole thing is SO ONE DAY OLD. Since he’s been so damn good this week, with this and this, and oh god, I loved this, I have one just for him:

Shel Israel is a doo-doo bird

I know, my Mom said I had a cunning way with words.

La Shawn Barber manages to convert ANY topic into an anti-liberal rant, usually sprinkled equally with comments of faith and the virtues of a Darwinian philosophy of survival of the pricks. This, is especially for her:

Shel Israel is a doo-doo bird

You’re applauding, aren’t you? I can hear you. You love it, don’t you? You want more. Well…

Ethan, long time masochistic follower of the Bb Gun, also wrote on the whole innocent fraud thing. Being as he’s not attending Mike Arrington’s party tonight (”What? Why not? Everyone who is anyone will be there. Well, maybe not people in North Dakota. And Nick Douglas. And probably not Nick Carr.”) because he just attended FugIT, deserves one of his own:

Shel Israel is a doo-doo bird

Stop it! Stop it! You’re making me blush! A girl can handle only so many compliments. OK, OK, one or two more.

Lance, you’re A-List. And Shel?

Shel Israel is a doo-doo bird

Kent Newsome author of the shot heard round, well, the block tracks much of this including a comment by Hugh MacLeod, who has been mean again. Bad, bad, Hugh. If you don’t stop, we’re going to make you drink that wine you keep hawking.

Newsome points to (and writes some damn fine comments in) the original post that seems to have started this latest, where the author tells Seth to stop wallowing in his disillusionment. Survival of the pricks, indeed.

Kent, this one is just for you:

Shel Israel is a doo-doo bird

I better stop now, or you’re going to hurt yourself, laughing at my brilliant and witty sentence reconstructions. Time for you to have fun. Feel free to drop your gems in the comments; or in the pond, wrapped around a rock, if you prefer. Whatever you do, don’t sit down, and don’t shut up.

Have a happy weekend. Do something real.

Diversity History

What a wonderful treat

Monthly I get a fresh batch of downloads at eMusic. I don’t have the largest plan–the most I can download is 20 at a time. Usually this is enough for an album with maybe a few experimental downloads from unfamiliar groups. I think it will be years before I manage all the jazz downloads I want.

Last weekend when I went looking, I found an incredible collection: the complete works for Ella Fitzgerald when she was recording with the Decca label. The British label JSP is re-releasing a mix, and it includes probably some of her finest singing.

I’m not sure which is my favorite; probably “Baby, it’s Cold Outside”, with Louie Jordan. No, perhaps it’s “Black Coffee”. I can’t tell — it’s one good song after another. And quality, too. No scratches, good faithful reproductions.

I listened to it last weekend while I walked, and lost myself in another era–my favorite era. I softshoed past the cardinal, the titmouse, and the robins, while they looked on in seeming interest. No one else was about, of course. I’m only insane when I’m alone.

I would give anything to have been born in the 1920’s. Yes, there was the Depression, but whether it was because of the Depression or despite it, this was a time rich with exploration and strength–even for women. Especially for women.

Back in the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s, a strong woman was someone to be looked up to and admired. Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Taylor, Eleanor Roosevelt. You could be a feminist without having to carefully explain to the guys around you that it really didn’t mean you wanted to emasculate them. These women were honorary man feminists according to Lenore Levine. I don’t particularly agree with this designation, but I do like her description of today’s Nicey-Poo feminism:

Nicey-Poo Feminists have taken the sensible idea that women should be supportive of other women, and distorted it almost out of recognition. That is, Nicey-Poo Feminists believe that feminism means never saying anything controversial (at least in their own circles), and never saying anything about another woman that isn’t nice.

Nicey-Poo Feminism has been promoted by the new new Ms. (post-1990). This magazine is afraid to print anything which any segment of their audience might find offensive. After all, if they actually said anything mischievous or funny, their circulation might increase. (A fate they seem determined to avoid at all costs.)

The clothing of that long ago time reflected the personalities of the women. Many of the suits were tailored, severe, with padded shoulders and angular lines. The women who wore them seemed unbending in their resolve–determined and capable. Yet the gowns were fragile and light, and flowed behind the woman as she glided with exquisite grace and femininity across the dance floor. And the hats–I can only wish for a hat with a net dropping down to teasingly cover half my face; me peeping out through the netting in a move both coy and bold–we just can’t do this today. Butt cracks peeking out from pants too low is not the same.

During this time, women fought for and won the vote, admission to college, and demanded entry in fields normally restricted to the men. These were not quiet women, willing to demurely wait for someone else to pave the way. But they weren’t all of a kind–they couldn’t be classified as ‘feminist’ and ‘mother’, because many were both. And more. What extraordinary set of events happened to make women into what we were during this time? And what can we do now, to re-capture it?

If I was born in the 1920’s, I would have been in my late teens and early 20’s during World War II. I would like to think I would have volunteered to serve–as a pilot, surveyor, or radio person. Who knows? Maybe I would have been Rosie the Riveter.

Anyway, these were my thoughts while listening to Ella. It’s a rare collection of songs that can completely repaint your world.