Game talkLosing MUD history

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Jan 052009
 

QBlog writes on the controversy going on over the possible deletion of the article on Threshold MUD. I’ve run into the fact that Wikipedia isn’t a great resource for research into the history of virtual worlds many times before; the articles are of wildly uneven quality, and a recent crappy game can have pages and pages worth of content, whereas historically interesting stuff doesn’t.

LegendMUD’s entry was deleted without even a debate a while ago, despite there being other articles that reference it and point to it, including a whole page on the Karyn affair. Worlds of Carnage has no page at all, despite it serving as the incubation place for scripting in DikuMUDs and for many developers who went on to work on the first wave of MMOs in the US. At least there’s a good DartMUD page.

Curiously, I am used as a reference or citation many times in Wikipedia, yet I suspect my writings would not meet Wikipedia’s guidelines. The challenge here is creating material that does — with so much existing only as oral history or as community-driven sites, little will qualify to be in Wikipedia, with the result that the history is often lost.

This is also the gripe I have about my own entry… very cool that I have one at all (though it came up for deletion once too! Morgan saved it) but it makes no real mention of why I should have one, which makes it read just like a resume. There’s no mention of game grammar, theory of fun, “worldy” MMORPGs, online game design patterns, the timeline, avatar rights, or community management — though it managed to find time to mention that I played MUME for a bit — even though I played dozens of muds as long as I played MUME.

This isn’t just me being whiny about my entry… Bartle’s entry spends more time on whether he is controversial when discussing WoW, than on the core philosophical statement in his writings, which include the ideas that virtual worlds are means of self-discovery, and that they are artistic statements by designers.

Now, I love Wikipedia, and use it all the time. But I am at a loss as to how to help out the Threshold entry, or in general help the cause of VW history there. This sort of thing is why people (ahem) end up setting up their own timelines instead. :)

  99 Responses to “Losing MUD history”

  1. Wiki politics are a sad thing. Perhaps these kinds of entries are best placed in a specialized encyclopedia?

  2. Personally, I’ve become more and more of the opinion that we need a dozens of more focused wikis on the various topics, that go by a standard of inclusionism. That is, a Computer Games wiki, a Comic Book wiki, a tv-show wiki a webcomics wiki, et cetera. That way something that is minor in the “Real World” might still have a place in a more limited one.

    Ideally the data would flow between the wikis — anything flagged notable in the wikiette would be mirrored in wikipedia proper.

    Granted there are a thousand problems with trying to do this that I haven’t thought about, but it’d be interesting to find some sort of balance to the “what’s notable” debate.

  3. Well, other sites with stable documentation and timelines are pretty much a prerequisite in order to keep something on Wikipedia, as it by its own definition never is the authoritative source for any information. Sadly, I’m not sure another open Wiki would actually qualify as a Wikipedia source (anonymous postings not being reliable reference, and so forth). Just goes to show that all of us should provide more first-party data for historical reference…

  4. I find myself siding with the sub-wiki argument, of needing a more topic-specific space for these sorts of stories. One man’s depth and detail is another’s minutiae and trivia.

    Heck, I’m reminded of a point made on Penny Arcade some time ago, where one of them (Gabe, I think) posted an image of the cover of a knitting magazine with the insight (paraphrased) of “THIS is what our game magazines look like to non-gamers!” Meaning, for someone into knitting, the magazine’s cover was full of promise. To outsiders, it all looked utterly pointless.

  5. Raph,

    Thank you very much for drawing attention to this issue. As the owner of Threshold, I am obviously very involved in the situation at the moment. We have dealt with deletion issues in the past, but before now we rarely got heavily involved. We just let the Wiki-chips fell where they may.

    But this particular incident has been nastier than most. The people trying to get the Threshold entry deleted (a group that includes at least one Wikipedia admin) are on a surprisingly fiendish campaign and have stated they intend to continue on to other MUD and MUD related entries after ours.

    Weeks before proposing the AfD, they gutted the entry and insulted the content and its previous editors in comments. When contributors tried to add content back – with new and improved citations, they would get banned for “edit warring”, or “sockpuppetry”, or “meatpuppetry.” After a few weeks, they had most of the past contributors banned, and chose that moment to propose the AfD. How convenient… Ban everyone who might vote to KEEP the entry, and then propose its deletion.

    Once the AfD discussion began, they continued their same methods. The first batch of people voting to KEEP the entry were all banned for being “sockpuppets.” Some of the people they banned had multi-year histories of editing all sorts of different articles on the Wiki. My wife was banned for being a “meatpuppet editing in concert with someone else.” Since I was already banned, it was impossible for her to edit “in concert” with me – I couldn’t edit.

    When people who voted to KEEP the article posed good arguments with multiple citations to Wikipedia policy, they were banned for being people who only showed up due to “canvassing.” Their arguments were either deleted or stuffed in a collapsed box that basically results in nobody reading it. The arguments themselves were not responded to or refuted.

    When Dr. Bartle made his blog post, in which he argued Threshold is indeed a very notable mud (“Threshold is a 13-year-old role-playing MUD with an individuality that you simply don’t see in today’s EverQuest clones (eg. in its in-world legal system). It was The MUD Journal’s highest-rated role-playing MUD for 3 consecutive years”), they dismissed his opinion and said it wasn’t sufficient. Then they said if his article spoke to the notability of anything, it spoke to Wikipedia’s notability – not Threshold, or various MUD related sites and resources (The Mud Connector, Top Mud Sites, etc.). I am still boggling at that one.

    And while they are constantly vilifying the KEEP proponents for off-wiki canvassing (we are discussing the issue on the Top Mud Sites forums, since we are all banned and cannot discuss things on the wiki at all), the pro-delete folks have been caught using off-wiki IRC channels to organized their arguments and rally support.

    When they showed up on those TMS forums to attack us for having the temerity to discuss the issue off-wiki, one of them actually said: “If you had been polite and asked for help instead of being abusive, your article might not be in trouble now.” The lesson there is clear: if a hard core Wikipedian shows up at an article you care about, drop to your knees and start kissing butt. Otherwise, they’ll ban you and delete it.

    (This is getting long, I’ll wrap up).

    So once again, thank you for bringing some attention to the issue. I agree that MUDs and online games in general need to take steps to preserve their history. While I agree that Wikipedia is not the ideal place for this, its massive scope and reach are such that we SHOULD fight for our place in their records as well. MUDs and online games are a major part of internet history. There was a time that MUDs were much better than the WWW, and mud related sites like TMC were some of the biggest around. That history should be recorded – even on Wikipedia – and not forgotten.

    Thanks for reading,

  6. [...] Re: In defense of all MUDs. Our genre’s noteworthiness is being questioned. Just in case folks here are not aware, the issue is now starting to get picked up by major gaming blogs. Dr. Richard Bartle: Threshold Raph Koster: Losing Mud History [...]

  7. Wikipedia’s irony is that it’s a user-edited online resource that refuses to accept the validity of user-edited online resources.

    But if someone were to compile an exhaustive history of MUDs, MOOs, MUSHes and the like, and get it published, that would stymie the Notability Nazis.

    I’d volunteer, but I stopped playing MUDs the first time I got PK’d and didn’t come back until UO.

  8. [...] a result, we have a bit of a kerfluffle (described by Bartle and Koster) where an angry Wikipedian decided that a MUD he may or may not have used to play isn’t [...]

  9. Wikipedia seriously needs much more accountability in it’s mods and editors than it has.

    This in and of itself is the biggest issue that the damn thing faces. The moderation body needs to be dissolved and replaced with a system that’s not prone to cronyism, cliques, and horrible horrible abuse. Stuff like this makes me very very sad.

    And I’m willing to bet Notability would fix itself to some semblance of sanity if the mod system actually *worked*.

  10. It’s a dirty little secret of Wikipedia that a small clique of powerusers do a vast portion of the editing and contributing and have power far beyond what the supposed spirit of Wikipedia should allow. I’ve seen the rare article talking about this but mostly people just focus on the generic unreliability of Wikipedia and not on this “emperor has no clothes” aspect.

  11. Raph, I think that your “loss to help out” is negated by posting about these issues, whilst I don’t agree with the masses weighing in identical opinions on a Request for Deletion (RfD), getting the word out that there is a RfD for an article like this allows more editors to read it through and possibly come up with different argument, or even improve the article by citing or rewriting to highlight notability.

    A well read person within the MMO/VW universe such as yourself and Richard Bartle can also bring a wealth of citations, if you know of a book, article or paper; even if it is just a rough book and chapter it allows those of us with an interest in both editing Wikipedia and the MMO industry to find the source and add it to articles as required.

  12. I second (or is it third?) the call for a dedicated virtual worlds wiki. Whilst not competent enough to produce content for it (I have no experience of virtual worlds prior to the current crop of ‘Everquest Clones’, I came late to the VW party) I would be a dedicated reader as the history (and future) of virtual worlds is a fascinating subject and should inform how the industry moves forward (those who do not learn from history, yada yada yada) So bring on a VW wiki, you’ll have at least one visitor ;)

  13. are on a surprisingly fiendish campaign and have stated they intend to continue on to other MUD and MUD related entries after ours.

    {{citationneeded}}, as we say on wikipedia.

    My wife was banned for being a “meatpuppet editing in concert with someone else.” Since I was already banned, it was impossible for her to edit “in concert” with me – I couldn’t edit.

    What they mean by meatpuppet is that she was acting as a proxy for you after you were blocked.

    In practical terms, they also mean that she was editing from the same IP and has a similar enough interest profile to you that they can’t tell you apart very well – in which case policy mandates that you be treated as the same person.

    Just imagine if you banned a player from your MUD, and someone on the same IP address connected the next day, said he was the other user’s brother, and then proceeded as if nothing had happened.

    When people who voted to KEEP the article posed good arguments with multiple citations to Wikipedia policy, they were banned for being people who only showed up due to “canvassing.” Their arguments were either deleted or stuffed in a collapsed box that basically results in nobody reading it. The arguments themselves were not responded to or refuted.

    As far as I can see the only people this happened to were people who had technical evidence linking them to your earlier account.

    When Dr. Bartle made his blog post, in which he argued Threshold is indeed a very notable mud (“Threshold is a 13-year-old role-playing MUD with an individuality that you simply don’t see in today’s EverQuest clones (eg. in its in-world legal system). It was The MUD Journal’s highest-rated role-playing MUD for 3 consecutive years”), they dismissed his opinion and said it wasn’t sufficient.

    Wikipedia’s editors are not very impressed by blog sources in general – it is a part of the culture of the place.

    When they showed up on those TMS forums to attack us for having the temerity to discuss the issue off-wiki, one of them actually said: “If you had been polite and asked for help instead of being abusive, your article might not be in trouble now.”

    The phrasing wasn’t very delicate, but he’s right – if you’d worked with them civilly instead of edit warring, you wouldn’t have been blocked and the sockpuppet business with your wife and such probably would have been avoided. They probably would have spent some time working with you to find sources before it came to the point of filing for AFD – the deletion process tends to accelerate when one party is hard to deal with. That’s not really a good thing, it’s an unfortunate by-product of Wikipedia’s formal dispute resolution process being so cumbersome.

    MUDs and online games are a major part of internet history. There was a time that MUDs were much better than the WWW, and mud related sites like TMC were some of the biggest around. That history should be recorded – even on Wikipedia – and not forgotten.

    This is true, and I doubt you’ll find many people on Wikipedia (even amongst the folks you see as your enemies) who would dispute that. What your side of the deletion argument has thus far failed to do, is clearly lay out an argument as to why your specific MUD is an important part of that historical legacy.

  14. A dedicated wiki is almost certainly the only way to go. I’m not very helpful back in the main era of MUD’s (I was at school, and thought I’d be a biologist. Funny how that turned out…), but I’m very much of the opinion that Wikipedia should be allowed to go to hell in a handbasket if it wants – we can build something with less effort than spent fighting deletions there which will have far more relevent content.

  15. A well read person within the MMO/VW universe such as yourself and Richard Bartle can also bring a wealth of citations, if you know of a book, article or paper; even if it is just a rough book and chapter it allows those of us with an interest in both editing Wikipedia and the MMO industry to find the source and add it to articles as required.

    Actually, I may have hurt Threshold’s cause rather than helped it, since this post may count as “canvassing.” My real intent here is the larger issue — though I consider Threshold notable, I would have real trouble proving it to Wikipedia editors, whereas I could readily provide evidence for LegendMUD’s notability. But for example, what documentation exists on the role played by Worlds of Carnage is limited to primary sources, and Wikipedia doesn’t accept those.

    The question is what to do with fields that are mostly oral histories, as it were. I have seen many MU*-related footnotes on Wikipedia pointing to MUD-Dev archives, but those aren’t authoritative, IMHO. MUD-Dev itself does not have a Wikipedia entry, despite being probably more notable than Threshold, actually.

  16. Raph:

    The question is what to do with fields that are mostly oral histories, as it were.

    Write a book. I’ve created (and saved) articles about obscure books before. The general rule is that anything in a book is acceptable for inclusion in Wikipedia.

    The only recourse for saving most articles now is burying the deletionists in “paperwork” by filing as many “motions” as you can without looking frivolous.

    Too much time, effort, and money is wasted on Wikipedia, in my opinion.

  17. Write a book.

    Actually, the timeline has already been printed in a book… so maybe it could be used as a source. ;) The Declaration of the Rights of Avatars has been printed in several, including one published by the ABA.

  18. The timeline is being used as a source on about a half-dozen articles already. :)

    In the article ‘Massively multiplayer online role-playing game’ it is cited several times, for example.

  19. What your side of the deletion argument has thus far failed to do, is clearly lay out an argument as to why your specific MUD is an important part of that historical legacy.

    How important does it have to be? Can’t someone just point out the number of players it has had and leave it at that?

  20. What your side of the deletion argument has thus far failed to do, is clearly lay out an argument as to why your specific MUD is an important part of that historical legacy.

    I’ve been editor of Wikipedia since 2003. I’ve edited thousands of articles, created many as well, been suspended several times, and even developed one of the most popular sidebars, which has been forked several times over. I only say this because when I point out errors by new Wikipedia editors, I get called a “newbie.”

    I think you need to reread the notability guidelines, specifically the statement which asserts that notability is distinct from importance. Wikipedia is library of “he said, she said”. What was said by whomever doesn’t have to be any more important than a list of songs with the letter “A” in their titles…

  21. The timeline is being used as a source on about a half-dozen articles already. :)

    In the article ‘Massively multiplayer online role-playing game’ it is cited several times, for example.

    Sure… I am unclear whether it was used legitimately though, by Wikipedia’s own standards. :) It is a mix of primary sources and secondary ones, it’s on a “self-published site,” and though I have most definitely exercised editorial control and count as an expert according to Wikipedia’s definitions, it isn’t really a scholarly work. I guess I was saying that since it DID appear in print and thus went through an additional layer of editorship, it probably counts more than if it was just on the site. :) Or, perhaps because it is so frequently used as a source, it acquires a patina of respectability?

  22. Wikipedia’s editors are not very impressed by blog sources in general – it is a part of the culture of the place

    I’m not sure I understand this.. Dr. Bartle was a witness to, and a participant in this history. If Ulysses S. Grant had blogged about the Battle of Cold Harbor, would Wikipedia come back and tell him to write a book? In other words, why does the vector seem to matter more than the source?

  23. Bret:

    … would Wikipedia come back and tell him to write a book?

    Yes, but even then, some editors don’t like books as sources either. I only suggested writing a book because you can usually get away with it! ;)

    Refer to WP:SOURCES for the answer to your second question. You should also note that just because material is cited doesn’t mean the material won’t be challenged. Someone, somewhere, will find a way — a loop hole — to delete your contributions.

  24. This whole Wikipedia thing is plain disgusting. It’s pretty obvious that Mendaliv has a personal grudge against Hartman and is using this AfD as revenge. There’s no excuse for WP admins to systematically ban contributors who tried to clean up the article and then use the lack of a decent article as grounds to delete. They should all be held to account.

  25. Samson:

    There’s no excuse for WP admins to systematically ban contributors who tried

    Haven’t you heard? Wikipedia administrators don’t need reasons.

  26. Perhaps these kinds of entries are best placed in a specialized encyclopedia?

    Personally, I’ve become more and more of the opinion that we need a dozens of more focused wikis on the various topics, that go by a standard of inclusionism. That is, a Computer Games wiki, a Comic Book wiki, a tv-show wiki a webcomics wiki, et cetera. That way something that is minor in the “Real World” might still have a place in a more limited one.

    Ideally the data would flow between the wikis — anything flagged notable in the wikiette would be mirrored in wikipedia proper.

    You guys all know about Wikia, right? And that some Wikia sites are used as sources on Wikipedia?

    Wikipedia’s irony is that it’s a user-edited online resource that refuses to accept the validity of user-edited online resources.

    I felt deeply betrayed when I realized that while reading the AfD for Threshold. I’ve been a minor Wikipedia contributor for a couple years now, because I really like it, but I feel that I can’t start participating more if I wanted to, because I’d immediately be tagged as someone who got canvassed. And I’m not passionate enough about WP to care try to push through.

    I also agree it’s useless for any meaningful online world research of any kind. :(

  27. Wow, that’s too bad.

    … Also I should probably log into Threshold again, it has been a month. >_>

  28. Oh well. Time to export the whole “MU*_games” category, I guess. I hate losing history, no matter how trivial it might seem to others.

  29. Tis’ tough. I’ve seen other articles deleted, too.

    It seems rather odd from an outsiders perspective, having edited wikis myself and knowing how much work it is, that articles are outright deleted or stripped of information despite being good topics.

    It’s not like they don’t have the physical space for it, and don’t have articles which are thousands of words long already.

    The main things that come up (And have here) are the internal politics are really a crapfest of the highest order, with rules laid down randomly and, while a lot of content on it is great, it certainly is dodgy in places (Biographies especially as already noted, with the requirement of “proper” citations, NPOV and “notability” all going bizarre).

    I don’t blame anyone specifically at Wikipedia, it simply isn’t well managed. I’ve no idea how it could be well managed with so many poor admins, subgroups and easy ways to abuse the editing functionality. It really turns off anyone wanting to contribute though.

    I don’t have the resources myself but if I can spend some time in 2009 developing a IGDA Digital Game Canon website, it’d be nice to have a place where games and people can be elaborated on (Mobygames, as it stands, is great but actually learning about a game is hard because it contains a max of a few paragraphs of information on the entire game :( maybe I’ll look into seeing what they’re up to though, maybe they can add more fields and so on! :) ).

    For this specific problem, a specific MUD wiki would work well if anyone had the time and knowledge to start it. The thing is, if Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia, and contains ANY MUD information sourced from the TMC site, where will the deleting end? remove everything but a single article on MUD’s? :/

  30. contains ANY MUD information sourced from the TMC site, where will the deleting end? remove everything but a single article on MUD’s? :/

    All the MUDs that can establish notability will be left. It happens for some of them – I mean, FurryMUCK had a writeup in Wired, for goodness sakes. That’s what the Wikipedians are looking for.

  31. All the MUDs that can establish notability will be left. It happens for some of them – I mean, FurryMUCK had a writeup in Wired, for goodness sakes. That’s what the Wikipedians are looking for.

    {{citationneeded}} … as you Wikipedians would say.

    I know all too well that such online sources aren’t good enough, no matter how much you politely reassure people that articles with established notability have nothing to fear from Wikipedians. I have seen it happen all too often–even subjects that have been written about in published magazines and journals have been judged “non-notable” and deleted. It is as Morgan Ramsay said–someone somewhere, will find a way to delete even the most well-referenced contributions.

    Given this, I know far better than to believe that an article on Wired would stop deletionists from having their way–after all, you Wikipedians don’t respect the opinion or authority of Richard Bartle or Raph Koster on the subject of MUDs. If you Wikipedians want to see an article gone, you will keep trying until you have your way.

    I have seen this happen with what big-name webcomic authors called “The Great Wikipedian Webcomics Purge” … If an AFD on an article failed, the deletionists would stubbornly try again, hoping for another batch of people who share their mindset.

    It doesn’t matter how much of an impact or significance a subject really has. It doesn’t matter if there’s a million or more people out there who find the subject important and noteworthy. If you have never heard of it, you Wikipedians swarm it with AFDs. I find this elitist behavior ironic, given how your guidelines caution against “systemic bias” and your editors always strive for a “worldwide view.”

    If you Wikipedians actually practiced those guidelines, the Mzoli’s Meats article would not have been immediately AFD’d, and it would not have generated the controversy it did. Nor would so many articles have been deleted under the pretense of being “non-notable.”

    As far as I’m concerned, especially considering the Mzoli’s Meats fiasco, you Wikipedians have turned Jimbo Wales’ project into something he did not intend: a big joke.

  32. The thing is though, that WP:N (notability) was never meant to be a giant scythe culling everything not as big as WoW from Wikipedia. I won’t go into the huge details here (you can find that on the Threshold AfD page), but WP:N is specifically described as a guideline rather than a deletion policy. WP:N is not even part of the deletion policy, actually. WP:V (verifiability) is. Furthermore, when you read the details of WP:N you find that the main goal of that policy is to direct editors on how to establish notability – especially for obscure topics. They recommend things like seeking out experts on the topic. I’d say that’s where Dr. Bartle and Mr. Koster’s blog posts help.

    -Michael
    Muckbeast – Game Design and Online Worlds
    http://www.muckbeast.com

  33. Speaking quite generally here (not about WP or MUDs in particular), notability is always a difficult thing to judge. As the news media regularly reminds me, what I find notable is not necessarily what others consider notable.

    For example, if A Theory of Fun were to be republished, I would find that quite notable. Would my mother? Likely not. Would the general public? Doubtful. Would game designers? Almost certainly.

    While given MUDs may not be notable in general life, they may be notable to MUD players, game designers, video game historians, and other people with a genuine interest in the history of MUDs.

    Thus, the problem with notability is scope. Wikipedia’s guidelines are quite vague in this matter (as they must be). If something is notable to one person, then there’s no need to publish it for the masses, but what if it’s only notable to a small subset of the entire population? Surely all of Wikipedia’s articles fit that definition. Where does one draw the line?

    The usual solution to this, as others have suggested, is specialized databases. Let Wikipedia keep the general articles about MUDs (what they are, what’s currently popular, maybe some of the most famous throughout history) and leave it to the more specific sources to give the full history.

  34. Theodore Harrington:

    you Wikipedians have turned Jimbo Wales’ project into something he did not intend: a big joke.

    Don’t make that guy out to be a saint. Wikipedians give him enough praise to inflate anybody’s ego. Jimmy Wales is to Wikipedia what L. Ron Hubbard is to Scientology.

  35. {{citationneeded}} … as you Wikipedians would say.

    I know all too well that such online sources aren’t good enough, no matter how much you politely reassure people that articles with established notability have nothing to fear from Wikipedians.

    Here you go.

    Someone sent it to AFD, and it was kept.

  36. Interesting, Muckbeast, I had to reply; that the policy was *originally* to do what you say, it has obviously changed into something that, let me say it politely, any wikipedia person who doesn’t know anything, to put something up for deletion and not just improve the article in question (or note it as needing improving). This change is for the worst of course…

    some wiki guy: Wired is good enough? but dedicated websites to the subject (such as people who made the damn things) are not, hehe. That’s amazing, honestly :) – especially for something which is a relatively new electronic online medium, which won’t have a dozen books written about the subject for years to come.

    All these speedy deletions, nevermind how many are overturned, is bizarre from the press some get like this issue. I’d hate to know what the non-videogame topics are like (the comic purge I read about, fascinating stuff from a how-does-a-troll-work perspective I think).

  37. Wired magazine solicits articles. This is one of the reasons TMC and TMS were discounted as legitimate sources.

  38. All the MUDs that can establish notability will be left. It happens for some of them – I mean, FurryMUCK had a writeup in Wired, for goodness sakes. That’s what the Wikipedians are looking for.

    And LegendMUD had one in Salon. ;) Plus many book mentions… but it’s gone nonetheless.

  39. Speaking quite generally here (not about WP or MUDs in particular), notability is always a difficult thing to judge. As the news media regularly reminds me, what I find notable is not necessarily what others consider notable.

    For example, if A Theory of Fun were to be republished, I would find that quite notable. Would my mother? Likely not. Would the general public? Doubtful. Would game designers? Almost certainly.

    Fortunately for me, ATOF actually does seem to meet WP:N because it’s got an article. :) And I suspect that on demand, we could pull up many print AND web references pointing at it as one of the key texts for an entire field (yay me!). So it’s probably safe… unless there’s an AfD which nobody notices?

  40. …and now I return to, “Who cares what’s on Wikipedia?” Even the instructors at University of Phoenix state that Wikipedia is not a legitimate source. Wikipedia has an awful reputation despite its popular usage as a stepping stone. Wikipedia has been dug a hole and it’s not escaping, ever. Too much time, effort, and money is wasted on the project. I don’t even bother to correct spelling errors anymore.

  41. I believe Raph’s response to “some wiki guy” concerning the fate of LegendMUD speaks volumes, especially when compared to “some wiki guy’s” attempt to validate his position by pointing out the AFD for FurryMUCK didn’t succeed.

    Which, as I had already said in the same comment that he tried to refute, it does not matter if an article resists an AFD attack: Deletionists will keep trying to AFD their target until they see it deleted.

    That brings me to my reply to Raph:

    No article on Wikipedia is truly safe from deletionists, especially since no system has ever been devised to protect an article that survives an AFD. The article can be AFD’d again at any time, and admins are perfectly okay with this; they allow deletionists to hammer the AFD button until they finally get the consensus they want.

    For example, the webcomic Outsider, which had won a WCCA award and a high degree of visibility in the webcomics world, resisted two AFDs from deletionists. The third time, the deletionists won. The admin’s comment declared it a “strong consensus to delete” despite many voting for a keep or strong keep–almost more than the people voting to delete or strong delete the article. Of course, they were all branded sock or meatpuppets and ignored, allowing Wikipedians to pretend they had achieved a consensus.

    Wikipedia’s system is fundamentally broken, and Wikipedians well deserve their negative reputation as book burners from people like Rob Balder. The only good that came out of the project was the MediaWiki software, because it allows people to create their own interlinking knowledge bases without cliques stepping in, kicking over their sand castles, and declaring their work non-notable.

  42. Wikipedia would get a lot more donations if it didn’t bend itself over trying to be notable.

  43. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Be_bold

    Be bold. A group of anonymous editors comprised of individuals largely outside the game world is GOING to give you articles like Bartle’s (as he made /. with the comment about WoW). Likewise the rules of Wikipedia are going to leave many important early MMO’s out of the inclusion penumbra.

    where there are sources (and you ARE a source, Raph, at least I said as much in the AfD), the articles are likely to stay. That process is neither perfect nor deterministic. Like any organization, presentation, heterogeneity and chance play large parts. I won’t defend the situation completely but I will say that the general complaints about wikipedia being run by deletionists are ill founded.

    I would love it if every game article had loving attention, copious sourcing and all the time in the world to mature. But they don’t. The userbase and editor base injects recentism into the discussion. The constant bombardment of advertisement and fanon forces the community to respond with policies that require independence from the subject in sourcing. And frankly, the mission of an encyclopedia makes us a backward looking resource focused on summarizing secondary sources. These forces and others, put us in a situation where important concepts and games are lost or merged (let’s put aside the interesting argument that the conceptual framework of wikipedia makes it harder to generate a unified taxonomy across multiple perspectives…).

    There are some good and penetrating critiques in this thread. Wikipedia has to get a handle on some of its more blatant fundamental contradictions if it means to survive another 10 years. Maybe it won’t. Maybe the future is an intellectual diaspora to smaller wikis. I doubt it, but I’m not willing to stake a proposition on it.

  44. Adam Hyland:

    but I will say that the general complaints about wikipedia being run by deletionists are ill founded.

    Bollocks! You’re wearing blinders.

  45. Bollocks! You’re wearing blinders.

    Maybe so. I spend a lot of time being accused of being a deletionist, though. In my mind a lot of the complaints about deletionists come from an extreme standpoint: that anything is suitable for inclusion. When you start from that premise, a statement like “only subjects that meet WP:N are suitable for inclusion” seems radical and destructive.

    I agree about one of the most general complaints:

    As the editor-base of wikipedia ages, the community becomes more inward looking and sclerotic. Where we originally expected articles to be improved (monotonically no less) through anon edits of varying quality we now (in practice) expect articles to have footnotes and citations upon creation. We also move away from the “wiki” and more toward the “pedia” (a problem exacerbated by press coverage in the 2004-2007 period that spent too much time bitching about how wikipedia could be edited by anyone)–more articles are protected, more processes are cut off and more credit is granted long term users (vice IP editors). Part of this is an unpleasant community response to unique sets of stimuli. Part of it is the behavior of an organization maturing. But it leaves us with an encyclopedia that doesn’t want to be on the bleeding edge any more.

    For most of the complaints, though, I have little credence. Deletionists aren’t “out to get” fiction articles. The AfD process is not some rigged event. The deletion process is not beyond review. Articles with independent sources providing significant coverage get kept (usually). Articles without get deleted (usually). Other considerations (who authored the article, what does it look like, is it for an odd subject) factor into play but only because they factor in everywhere. There is no organization where presentation and identity are valueless. To expect this from wikipedia then complain when it falls short is self reinforcing and unhelpful. Some AfDs get closed improperly. In fact, there is a deletion review right now on the Treshold decision. It may yet be kept. But that fact doesn’t support the conclusion that the AfD system is fundamentally biased. In God we trust, all others bring data, as it were.

  46. Adam Hyland:

    Deletionists aren’t “out to get” fiction articles.

    No, just articles where foot traffic is low, shields are down, and where they can most easily populate the content-removal process with their cronies. At the first sign of any “content guardians,” they usually back off, unless they’re administrators in which case they’re perfectly happy to be uncivil and play dirty.

    The AfD process is not some rigged event.

    The ultimate naivete among Wikipedians is the belief in true collaboration, that editors are honestly working together in harmony to create a better, online encyclopedia. Back in reality, people form cliques, they draw boundaries, they organize, and they consolidate power to further their own interests.

    The AfD process is no more innocent of corruption than the RfA and election processes. When Wikipedia asks you to “assume good faith,” they’re encouraging you to pull the wool over your eyes so that you just do what you’re told. Unsurprisingly, many Wikipedians simply fall in line. It’s sad. Really sad. In the end though, Wikipedia is itself trivia and non-notable in the grand scheme of things, so c’est la vie.

    Raph, Richard:

    We are not “losing MUD history” because there isn’t sufficient coverage of the subject on Wikipedia. We are “losing MUD history” because there isn’t sufficient coverage everywhere else. It should tell you a lot that nobody reads a book, visits Wikipedia, and realizes, “That book was BS!” (Of course, it should also tell you a lot that fewer people are reading books, but that’s another discussion altogether.)

  47. Adam, I appreciate your input, opinion, and help elsewhere. But I have to respectfully disagree on a few points.

    1) Deletionism: The sad fact is there are complete losers like “Mendaliv” whose only real goal is to become an administrator on Wikipedia. They have to do that by piling up contributions, and it is a lot easier to destroy than create. There aren’t a lot of easy subjects that don’t already have a page, so it is easier to pretend you are making “Wikipedia a better place!” by deleting things.

    2) Cronyism: This is a gigantic problem. In the Threshold situation, Mendaliv had his little pet admin Black Kite there to ban anyone who stood in his way. Before the AfD was proposed, they systematically banned every active contributor to the article, and then *immediately* proposed the AfD. One can only conclude they believed that would speed things up with nobody left who had the power to even speak. When people showed up to vote KEEP anyway, Black Kite banned *them* for being “sockpuppets”. That turned out to be completely false (as verified by another admin, J.delanoy), and making that knee jerk accusation in the first place violates WP:BITE policy.

    Then in the end, the closing admin who deleted the entry violated countless Wikipedia policies. He closed the AfD 1-2 days before the minimum time, he injected his own personal opinions into the process instead of reading the discussion, and he deleted it despite NO CONSENSUS TO DELETE. 17 people voted DELETE, and 22 voted KEEP, and somehow that is a “consensus to delete.” Huh?

    -Michael

  48. > Some wiki guy said:

    In practical terms, they also mean that she was editing from the same IP and has a similar enough interest profile to you that they can’t tell you apart very well – in which case policy mandates that you be treated as the same person.

    Just imagine if you banned a player from your MUD, and someone on the same IP address connected the next day, said he was the other user’s brother, and then proceeded as if nothing had happened.

    I just noticed this pile of BS. I had to laugh, and then I had to comment.

    Lets compare it to a MUD.

    You ban someone.

    The next day, someone from the same IP address logs on. They login to an account that has a 4-5 year old productive history. That account has ALWAYS logged in from the same IP, so the sameness of the IP is nothing new. This account has history of positive activity distinct from the guy you banned. The account proceeds to play your game 100% by the rules, and does nothing disruptive.

    Wiki guy, we in the MUD community don’t drop a ban on that person. Why? Because it would be stupid and abusive.

  49. Some Wiki Guy said:

    All the MUDs that can establish notability will be left. It happens for some of them – I mean, FurryMUCK had a writeup in Wired, for goodness sakes. That’s what the Wikipedians are looking for.

    I think we were looking for the write up in Wired rather than the AfD attempt.

    If the writeup in Wired was all that was required, why is the write up in Computer Games Magazine not acceptable? This was one of the citations that was repeatedly removed from the Threshold entry for reasons such as being “too short of a mention” (huh?) and not being notable itself. Newspaper citations were removed for being unverifiable since the newspaper did not have online presence. An independent review done by a staff reviewer of an online gaming site was dismissed by declaring the site irrelevant and the review solicited even though that is absolutely no proof of that. Statistics offered by another gaming site showing a tracking history of voting for Threshold since 2000 was also thrown out; in addition, the site- listed in the MUDs entry on Wikipedia as a resource- was removed for not being ‘notable’ during the discussion of Threshold’s AfD. Threshold had more citations added (and removed) than Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

    So, I’m going to have to say that your defense of Wikipedia is very much misplaced. If a Wiki-clique wants an article gone, it’s doomed.

  50. Adam Hyland, I feel that you are, like many avid Wikipedians, in a level of self-denial about the reputation Wikipedia has earned. Morgan Ramsay was more blunt in saying this.

    While you partially recognize that there is a problem with Wikipedian culture, the fact that you are willing to dismiss the bad reputation and plenty of anger over rampant delitionism in Wikipedia as “working from an extreme viewpoint” is quite telling. Telling about you, and telling about Wikipedian culture.

    Most of the people upset with Wikipedians do not work from the viewpoint that all articles written should be kept. No, they’re upset because they’re finding that Wikipedians–often through underhanded and downright dirty tricks–are deleting articles about subjects which hold significant importance to many people, not just them. Apparently, however, you cannot tell the difference. Or, perhaps there simply is no difference to Wikipedians of your caliber; perhaps you think that because not all articles in Wikipedia have been put up for deletion, there isn’t a problem with deletionism in Wikipedia.

    Little can be done to change your opinion, especially since you claim those who are angry with Wikipedians believe that “deletionists are ‘out to get’ fiction articles.”

    As evidenced by the fiasco with Mzoli’s Meats, deletionists target anything–and it’s clear to me that at least some (if not many) deletionists get some form of satisfaction and entertainment by seeing articles deleted. I’ve seen far too many smug, eager, and snarky comments by those voting to delete articles to accept otherwise. I refer again to the Mzoli’s Meats incident, which is not an article about a work of fiction–I recall seeing deletionists posting sneering remarks about “King Jimbo Wales.”

    Indeed, I’ve noticed that most Wikipedians–save from out-and-out inclusionists–who refuse to accept that there is a serious problem in Wikipedian culture do not have a change of heart until an article they have worked on and consider notable is AFD’d by deletionists.

  51. In my mind a lot of the complaints about deletionists come from an extreme standpoint: that anything is suitable for inclusion.

    That anything is suitable for inclusion is really one of the only reasons Wikipedia is worth more than Britannica. The fact that it covers domains only self-publishing, independent, non-mainstream fanboys bother with is important. That it is capable of setting those domains inside the context of a larger reality is even more important.

    I’ll admit I don’t run in the inner circles of Wikipedia historians, so I don’t know how certain things came about and why they stayed, but I cannot understand the existence of a policy on notability. I can understand using it as a guideline for determining structure, but not inclusion.

    I glanced at WP:N as I read this, and found nothing in my brief skim to explain it. I’d be interested in being further directed.

  52. So, no offense to everyone in thread, but my questions are actually slightly different. I don’t give a crap about Wikipedia politics. What I am actually interested in is having the single most valuable and important encyclopedia on Earth be useful (and I think wishing it weren’t so important isn’t helpful). In this case, as a domain expert, I think I am actually unable to help in any way, which feels… odd.

    Is Threshold notable? I think so, within the context of muds. Mind you — there’s a heck of a lot of muds I consider MORE notable, many of which lack articles altogether. I would even be comfortable (sorry, Michael!) if a high enough bar was set that Threshold simply didn’t meet, as long as there were a way to actually keep the bar! Where are the entries or coverage for historically important stuff like BSX muds, Emlenmuds, OOC lounges, moods and adverbs systems, PKmuds, etc? A lot of this stuff has direct and specific relevance to what is done today in the field. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of completely non-notable muds on Wikipedia.

    Are muds in general notable? Yes, most definitely, considering they are the core design and technology paradigm for what is today an industry with an audience of 135 million people worldwide, is growing exponentially, and is broadening its reach into enterprise, commerce, and education at a rapid rate. And yet, most of the history of muds is not going to be available to link to and thus provide acceptable verifiable references. If I say “LegendMUD was the subject of a multiple page article in Salon, was in two print internet guides, won awards on MudConnector, sites hosted on Gopher, sites now gone, etc” it is close to impossible to prove, and many of the sites would have been discounted anyway because they are user-written. THAT is the crux of my concern.

    Could I find a way by Wikipedia’s rules to remedy what I see as a mess of a set of articles? No. I got asked on Damion’s site this question:

    “If Raph and Scott and Richard want definitive articles on MUD’s in Wikipedia, why are they wringing their hands about it, and not writing those articles themselves? They’re the expert sources, aren’t they?”

    My reply:

    Because it would be “a primary source”, “original research,” “self-published,” “a conflict of interest” or even “vanity.” All of these are reasons why, for example, I can’t contribute an article on LegendMUD, Carnage, or game grammar; edit the erroneous info in my own Wikipedia entry, UO’s entry, or SWG’s entry; or for that matter, fix up any entry related to anyone in the industry whom I know — which alas, is most everyone.

    Hence why I said I was at a loss as to how to help the situation improve. If you really participate in the field, you’re not really eligible. You have to be a student of the field, but not a practitioner, as I read the rules.

    I’d love to be corrected on this.

    When I ended my post with “I don’t know how to help” I meant it literally.

    I don’t even know a good way to respond to the insinuations in the AfD threads that Richard & I posted solely because of “canvassing.” We both have reputations to maintain, frankly, and it’s kind of insulting to read “yah, well, they should have mentioned it before now, this must just be to save the article.” If either of us thought Threshold was insignificant –say, it was on the order of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seventh_Sun or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revelation:_Lands_of_Kaldana. — do you REALLY think we’d say “no, it matters” just to be nice? We’re both nice people, but that is a bit insulting, sorry. I don’t have any stake in the damn article.

    Grr. I am frustrated here. I don’t even know a way to point all this out to the Wikipedia admins, nor do I know if they would care, since it’s probably off topic for the AfD.

  53. Raph:

    What I am actually interested in is having the single most valuable and important encyclopedia on Earth be useful

    …but it’s not. That’s not wishing. That’s fact.

  54. Well, ok. I’m not sure I want to keep on in a discussion where a primary response is that I must be in deep denial.

  55. My MUD’s entry was deleted as well, and while it’s a small one, it’s been around 12 years – historical!

    Anyway, I have less of a problem with exclusion or inclusion of a specific MUD, and more that it seems to be more or less random which MUDs get entries yanked and which stick around. Why are Aardwolf and Medievia more worthy than any other MUD with more than a handful of players?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:MU*_games

    With that many listed, how is barring ANY of the top 100 MUDs from having wiki entries valid?

    Take a look at Ancient Anguish’s entry, all of the references are either on anguish.org or mudconnect, neither of which appears to be sufficient for another MUD. Eh?

    Consistency in this is an issue!

  56. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:MU*_games

    Whoops, fixed the link to the category.

  57. In what way is it fact? It’s the broadest, most inclusive, most widely used, fastest growing, easily accessible, democratizing encyclopedia ever. And its accuracy is actually pretty good overall. I think it’s useful 99% of the time. Just not for this field.

  58. You’ll find opinions of WikiPedia are like opinions of news outlets: everyone trusts them until they are the story and then they discover just how far off the facts the news can be. It is the power of the editing suite versus the first person observer biased by their first person involvement.

    I use Wikipedia. I don’t implicitly trust it.

  59. There is one simple way to help. Find a stable host somewhere to create a MUD-centric wiki. It can be quickly populated from existing Wikipedia articles. This new wiki can use the same sort of WP:V guidelines but, of course, WP:N will be “within the MUD community”.

    Actually, I spoke too quickly. Step 0 is first do a search to make sure something like that doesn’t already exist :> If it does, make sure it is stable and then promote/help it.

    Because this new system isn’t Wikipedia, you *can* do Original Research on it. Like it or not, that is what MUDs seem to need: original research that is posted in a peer reviewed location. This is what wikis are relatively good at. Eventually, some day, Wikipedia will come to the realization that a wiki peer-reviewed by experts in the field is a reliable source, and then this MUD wiki can be used to repopulate Wikipedia by itself becoming the Secondary resource. The MUD wiki can be pointed to from the Wikipedia entry on MUDs to ensure users can find the additional info if they wish.

    It is important in the mean time to take deep breaths. Don’t waste your energy fighting the rules-trolls of Wikipedia. Instead channel that energy into documenting what you know.

  60. What I am actually interested in is having the single most valuable and important encyclopedia on Earth be useful (and I think wishing it weren’t so important isn’t helpful).

    It’s the broadest, most inclusive, most widely used, fastest growing, easily accessible, democratizing encyclopedia ever.

    One hopes that people will strive to make Wikipedia the very best resource it can be, but I think we shouldn’t forget the principle of “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Wikipedia is just one resource out of an infinite number of possible resources that may exist on the Web. Wikipedia is a famous domain, but if you’re willing to live without the wikipedia.org prefix the democratizing power of the Web may yet be achieved without Wikipedia.

    Wikipedia plus the rest of the web is necessarily broader, more inclusive and more widely used than Wikipedia alone.

  61. I use Wikipedia. I don’t implicitly trust it.

    Prudent. I wouldn’t cite Wikipedia for a paper unless I wanted to be laughed at.

    On the other hand, there’s no better resource for getting a quick overview on various topics. How many times in this very blog has somebody posted a link to Wikipedia to give a synopsis on some wonkish point of law, statistics, demographics, etc?

    Wikipedia matters. If it was as irrelevant as the critics charge, we wouldn’t be having this discussion; nobody would really care.

    But the demonstrated tendency in this case to tag, ignore, ban and delete editors that aren’t part of the inner circle, simply for dissenting with an admin, gives me chills. That’s not Wikipedia. That’s Orwell.

  62. Raph,

    My advice, cheesy and ineffective though it may be, is to suggest you write a book on the subject. One of the flaws/features of wikipedia is its backward’s looking nature as a reference. If we have a collection of MUD/MMO developers here bemoaning the lack of sourcing and poor coverage of MUDs, a good unifying history will fix that. We are not subject matter experts. We can’t effectively mine past history for insight on the development of the medium or significance of its tropes. If the sourcing on these subjects continues to be blogs, websites and forum posts, we are going to continue to run into these problems.

  63. My advice, cheesy and ineffective though it may be, is to suggest you write a book on the subject.

    Fair enough. I was reading the deletion policies, and was struck by the fact that getting subject matter experts involved is actually expressly called out as not something to do.

    It is considered inappropriate to ask people outside of Wikipedia to come to the discussion in order to sway its outcome. Such comments may be ignored. They are not removed, but may be tagged with {{spa}}, noting that a user “has made few or no other edits”. In extreme cases, a deletion debate can be semi-protected.

    I presume that the goal here is to tightly focus the discussion of the deletion to specifically just sourcing questions. But it does mean that any area of human knowledge which experts happen not to have documented in books is kind of SOL. Merit is based on other people citing — not well, just AT ALL in broad distribution. This is quite different from a paper encyclopedia, where merit is based on expert opinion. I suspect this is why we get the side effect of pop culture filling up the encyclopedia (broadly cited a lot, even though it is ephemeral and mostly useless) but don’t get important but less broadly distributed info.

    In short, I think this policy contributes towards making a pop-pedia, whether intentionally or not; the definition of notability is based heavily on pop factors, not historical notability. But I am not out to change Wikipedia; I just want the most commonly accessed resource to be one with solid info.

  64. One hopes that people will strive to make Wikipedia the very best resource it can be, but I think we shouldn’t forget the principle of “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Wikipedia is just one resource out of an infinite number of possible resources that may exist on the Web.

    True. But we also shouldn’t forget network effects. For any given search term, mirrors of Wikipedia represent a non-trivial percentage of ALL hits. The victors write the history, so to speak. :)

  65. There is one simple way to help. Find a stable host somewhere to create a MUD-centric wiki. It can be quickly populated from existing Wikipedia articles. This new wiki can use the same sort of WP:V guidelines but, of course, WP:N will be “within the MUD community”.

    Like this one?

    http://mu.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

    Alas, it’s not aimed in the same way as what I want. :(

  66. Raph,

    Your contention about ‘notability’ guidelines leading to a pop-centric encyclopedia is insightful, though probably non-binding. The editor base focuses more heavily on WWF (I guess WWE now) than on Meridian 59. For a good reason the “expert opinion” admonitions exist, see the “Essjay” controversy.

    I’m a big defender of the “notability” criteria as a good decision rule for inclusion only because it is the best option for us. The other alternatives substitute opinions of anonymous (and usually amateur) editors for some reasonably objective check. The unintended consequences of the General notability guideline are rather large. Not least among them is the result that coverage of subjects represents the idiosyncrasies of mainstream press rather than some intrinsic importance of the subject.

    The upside of this is that Games and Culture is a relatively young field. There are few historical ur-texts to mine. As time goes on, the coverage will improve and the notion of retaining history or reflecting on importance of these subjects will not seem so bizarre. A year ago Gamasutra would have been dismissed as “not a reliable source”. Today it is generally widely cited in wikipedia. Articles about how games impact sport (even with some recursion) appear in the Gray Lady. I’m optimistic for the future.

  67. Seems like the Essjay case and the policy are in conflict. Essjay was about an editor who was anonymous, non-expert and claimed qualifications. The policy is about editors with no qualifications not being allowed to go ask someone who is expert and publicly visible. If anything, doesn’t the policy tend to push towards non-qualified editors making expert judgements without the knowledge?

    Tho FWIW, there is one editor in the AfD thread who is a subject matter expert — JLambert.

    I am not arguing against notability as a concept, I am wondering about the implications of measuring it this way.

    A year ago Gamasutra would have been dismissed as “not a reliable source”.

    This would be a case in point. Professionally edited site since 1997, published by the owner of the main trade conference for the industry, and sister website to Game Developer, professionally edited trade magazine since 1994. A little expertise there would have made that dismissal ridiculous. :)

  68. [...] has written a major write-up on the issue, citing well known RPG developers like Richard Bartle, Raph Koster and Scott “Lum the Mad” Jennings as voices urging of the salvage and preservation of [...]

  69. Raph:

    In what way is it fact? It’s the broadest, most inclusive, most widely used, fastest growing, easily accessible, democratizing encyclopedia ever. And its accuracy is actually pretty good overall. I think it’s useful 99% of the time. Just not for this field.

    Oh, Raph… Popularity cannot make a thing “the most valuable and important thing in the world.” Case in point: YouTube is extremely popular, as are the viral videos of people doing stupid things. Wikipedia is a layman’s encyclopedia, a compendium of common knowledge, made common by common people. (No experts allowed!)

    Bertrand Russell once wrote, “A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.” Wikipedia is the stupid man’s report.

    Most praise of Wikipedia centers on the project as a grand experiment with “wisdom of the crowds” and user-generated content. Yet, that praise is paired with heavy criticism of the project’s accuracy and credibility. Generations of students are even instructed to avoid using Wikipedia altogether when conducting scholarly research.

    But most people are satisfied with the stupid man’s report just as they are satisfied with hearsay and myth. “The big, bad wolves will eat you. Stay away from them!” “John down the street was fired because he flipped off his boss.”

    These explanations satiate curiosities because most people don’t really care about their passing fancies. That’s why they’re passing! These simplifications are enough to live on. No deeper investigation is necessary. No deeper inquiry guaranteed.

    In essence, Wikipedia is entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less. The idea that Wikipedia is the greatest encyclopedia in the world is illusion, an illusion that’s part of the experiment. Zimbardo ceased his prison experiment upon realizing the experiment had seduced him. It’s time that we all realize Wikipedia for what it really is.

  70. Wow, Gamasutra dismissed as a source? it gets betber and better.

    I’d dig into the problems on the site related to videogames, but I think it might be worth me putting more time into getting that information somewhere that actually accepts it. I’d love Wikipedia to be better, but I can change the policies that simply are not working there if I started contributing. I really wish once an article was decided to be notable, it was never put up for deletion again to be honest.

    And the “don’t contribute first party knowledge” is a real turn off for most people, who can’t correct their own biographies (with silly results if anyone sources wikipedia for that information) nevermind pages they have in depth knowledge about.

    Finally, apart from writing a book, what kind of web page would be a suitable 3rd party source for Wikipedia? Would it need years of preparation? I mean, if Gamasutra wasn’t accepted, if anyone put any time into new articles on historical games when would the (vague, and often deleted) citation requirements be met?

  71. The example Raph gave concerning Gamasutra is precisely the kind of viewpoint I am working from. It is why I accused Wikipedians of betraying their own guidelines on systemic bias; Wikipedian judge the worthiness of an article only from their own personal fields of knowledge, never thinking about the “worldwide view” they implore editors to keep in mind.

  72. Well, I had a long reply about this stuff, but hitting the “quicktags” link ate it.

    To Raph, Andrew and Theodore:

    I don’t know what to tell you. It is a work in progress. I was part of the discussion that dismissed (handily) the suggestion that Gamasutra wasn’t a reliable source, so I guess I see the improvement at work. I don’t want to debate systemic bias (and it isn’t a guideline, just a project) and I don’t want to get into hand wringing over it. If you expect that an amateur edited encyclopedia will get all of that right on the first few tries, you are bound for disappointment.

    On that subject, what’s the alternative? I mentioned Britannica at Scott’s blog but that is kind of like Godwin’s law. If we think that wikipedia is hostile to expert editing, where is the Veropedia article (whoops, guess they are down) on Threshold? What about Citizendium’s article on MUD? I know I’m invoking straw men here but really, what are the alternatives and how do they stack up?

    To Raph RE: Essjay,

    I don’t think we are on the same wavelength. The issue with expert contributors is the possibility for active fraud or abuse–where a contributor either fakes credentials and uses them to influence articles or where a credentialed user does the same–AND inadvertent problems. If you edit the Star wars galaxies article you may be inclined to speak from authority rather than summarizing other sources. This is hard to avoid. I can tell you personally that Dragon kill points was much harder to write than Mathematical economics because the latter was a learning process for me–I couldn’t have inserted my own expert opinion if I tried. For DKP I had to stick closely to what the sourcing said and summarize that. That can be a turn off (and clearly is for many academics and experts), but it is critical to an amateur anonymous/pseudonymous project.

    On the general subject of reliable website from subject matter experts:

    This comes from WP:SPS.

    Basically if you are an expert on the subject (you have written books, been cited as an expert, hold a research position in the field at a university, written articles for third party sources), your website can be considered a reliable source for subjects within your realm of expertise. For computer science/gaming/etc, this is hard, as most experts in that field aren’t holed up in universities–they are making games and publishing software. But that’s the basic idea. The actual format of the site doesn’t matter so much as the source.

  73. The drama continues.

    As the story gets more traction, and gets picked up by more media outlets, the “powers that be” at Wikipedia are getting annoyed. So now they are lashing out at me personally.

    * There have been numerous new attempts to get me re-banned since the story started getting so much attention.

    * I am repeatedly labeled the source of multiple sockpuppets (apparently a serious accusation on Wikipedia)
    * They have started an “RfC” (request for comments) about my user account, but the RfC outright violates their own rules for an RfC. An RfC is supposed to be about a single incident that at least 2 people tried to resolve. But the RfC about my user account is just a ton of people piling on about what a bad guy I am.

    Throughout this process, I have been constantly amazed by the endless methods available to powerusing insiders to crush anyone not part of their “inner circle.” Every few hours they unleash a new one, and sometimes I just have to sit back and marvel at it.

    I am reminded of the quote from the beginning of the movie Apocalypto: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” The “powers that be” at Wikipedia repeatedly ignore their own policies and procedures in an effort to protect and guarantee the whims and wishes of the powerusing insiders. It would appear Wikipedia is indeed rotten at its core, and I am not sure it can be saved. The same people that would have to save it are the ones twisting it to their own personal ends.

    -Michael
    http://www.thresholdrpg.com

  74. Adam,

    I do appreciate the time you’re taking to explain all this. I am no Wikipedia expert (I had an account at some point, who knows if it is still around…!) And though I know the tone of the thread (and at this point, some of the somewhat inaccurate reporting on news sites!) is probably quite exasperating to both you & other editors, I’ve tried to stick to the more general case questions, not even the Threshold case in particular, in my own comments. So please do take my observations in the spirit in which they are intended. :)

    I am glad the Gamasutra thing went the right way :)

    I don’t think there IS an alternative, that’s why I think it matters (as you see with my replies to Morgan).

    Your point on expert contributors as contributors makes perfect sense to me for the sort of examples you describe. As I said earlier, that’s pretty much exactly why I don’t edit so many of the articles myself. :) I guess I was wondering about the opposite. If you are on an article, essentially, and ask for a consult. It’s very standard practice in many industries, after all. And in those industries, people approached also know to say “sorry, I have a COI.”

    As far as WP:SPS… I took a quick search through Wikipedia to see stuff like the Timeline, for example, be both used and challenged as a source. Does it help or matter that the exact same timeline is available here, in print? http://www.amazon.com/Developing-Online-Games-Insiders-Nrg-Programming/dp/1592730000

    Similarly, the Rights of Avatars are in print in several sources, etc.

    In terms of universities, do academic degree program advisory roles count? What about academic conference presentations (some of which have papers associated, some do not)? Industry conferences? I guess in my case (and particularly Richard’s as an actual working academic) it’s probably irrelevant, really. I mean, my list of citations both print and web, speaking engagements, a book in print, etc, is probably more than sufficient. *shrug* But it does ironically seem to make it harder for me to contribute directly.

    I think I could make the case that the site is a WP:V WP:SPS source of stuff related to game design & VWs, and then start writing articles on History of PvP, History of In-World Political Systems (that is where Threshold would be notable to my mind btw), either for here or for Gamasutra. Then someone like you could use them. :)

  75. Raph:

    I don’t think there IS an alternative, that’s why I think it matters

    So, scarcity of a thing defines the thing as important? I can see that, but isn’t it more important to not become dependent on the thing that’s scarce? Isn’t it more important to solve the problem of scarcity than to be subject to those who have control over the thing? There are all sorts of encyclopedias out there.

    There’s an Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems. Where’s the Encyclopedia of Interactive Entertainment? Create it! Or, heck, you know about Warren’s Center for American History Videogame Archive, so there definitely is at least one alternative.

  76. Raph,

    The sources thing gets into policy wonkery, but I’m happy to help. For conferences, advisory roles etc., there is a relatively easy test to apply:

    1. Does the program identify the source or the material (no anonymous contributions)?

    2. Does the program either have a reputation for fact checking or invite contributions from people who do?

    3. Does the program exercise some editorial control over material (in other words, do they select from material and turn away what doesn’t meet their standards) or does the program exercise control over who may speak (in cases like academic conferences where direct control over material by the venue is not something that happens in that culture)?

    If the answers to those questions is basically yes, it can be used as a source, even if the folks presenting the paper aren’t considered experts. For conferences without papers, there is an extra problem of verifiability–if there is no record of the content of the speech (save the editor’s memory), it may not be admissible. I’ve found in practice that web video or audio of the presentation (or copies of the powerpoint) were sufficient to verify the material.

    As for the simultaneous acceptance and dismissal of a source, I don’t have a solution. Right now there is a Reliable sources noticeboard where discussion occurs about sources but there is no central searchable repository of past decisions. We rely somewhat on tribal knowledge to answer questions of reliability for marginal sources sometimes–a solution with a high degree of chance involved. This is especially problematic in cases like Nick Yee’s daedalus project which looks an awful lot like a fan site at first blush but provides an important early snapshot of MMO social dynamics from an expert on the subject. There is not an easy solution to this problem. My guess is that some enterprising soul will eventually mine those noticeboard archives for who said what when but even that may not be enough to ensure consistent application of procedures across the board. One of the ‘features’ of a wiki is heterogeneity.

    As for the threshold of COI/expert opinion, there are a few subject matter experts writing around their field in Wikipedia right now. David Eppstein (his userpage being here) is a pretty helpful fellow. You may find that he has some advice or comment to offer if you ask him on his talk page. I think he works generally in the field but avoids articles about immediate colleagues and their work (and obviously his own work directly). This is something that is easier to do in mathematics than other sciences and disciplines, but may still be possible in games/culture.

    To morgan regarding alternatives,

    Wikipedia needs competition. I (obviously) think it is a great model for a working document, but it needs threats in order to remain lean. From 2002-2006 the only competition to wikipedia (as a general resource or as a fan resource) came from what were effectively also rans–many of them just forks of wikipedia anyway. When wikia came on the scene, the cannibalization of users and content became the largest (And remains to this day) competitor to wikipedia. To me that isn’t good enough. I don’t know if the future is some balkanization of knowledge, but it may be. Cheap virtualization means that wikia can offer a new wiki on an especially parochial subject for little marginal cost. They are happy to let you start the MUD history wiki.

    I think Raph is saying that no general competitor to the english wikipedia exists. That is just a positive statement, not a normative one. It doesn’t mean we should be happy when wikipedia deletes an article on an important subject. It just means that we should be realistic about heading for the exits.

    As for a non-wikia alternative (like the UT-austin archive), great. MUD history should be preserved there. Experts can work on it, people can find it easily and gleanings of it by students and/or historians can be summarized for wikipedia pages.

  77. So, GDC, AGDC, and Siggraph all meet these:

    1. Does the program identify the source or the material (no anonymous contributions)?

    2. Does the program either have a reputation for fact checking or invite contributions from people who do?

    3. Does the program exercise some editorial control over material (in other words, do they select from material and turn away what doesn’t meet their standards) or does the program exercise control over who may speak (in cases like academic conferences where direct control over material by the venue is not something that happens in that culture)?

    GDC/AGDC, as a non-academic conference nonetheless has an editorial review board of experts for all presentations, rejects most sessions, provides editorial assistance to presentations to help improve their educational quality. Siggraph, of course, is more academic, and even has proceedings and peer review.

    Most of the web conferences don’t do anything of the sort, which is interesting and challenging for other areas, I think.

    If the answers to those questions is basically yes, it can be used as a source, even if the folks presenting the paper aren’t considered experts.

    Yeah, I would certainly say that this does happen at the conferences. ;) Being able to give one presentation does not necessarily a subject matter expert make.

    For conferences without papers, there is an extra problem of verifiability–if there is no record of the content of the speech (save the editor’s memory), it may not be admissible. I’ve found in practice that web video or audio of the presentation (or copies of the powerpoint) were sufficient to verify the material.

    For GDCs and the like, the bigger challenge is that the proceedings cost money and mostly are not available for free on the Internet. :) In my case, of course, I have mirrored all of mine.

    As for the simultaneous acceptance and dismissal of a source, I don’t have a solution. Right now there is a Reliable sources noticeboard

    How about pages of reliable sources for overall subject matter areas? The principal MMORPG and MUD articles, for example, could have useful sources in the Talk page or a resource page, usable as references throughout the section?

    Of course, it’s probably just centralizing the wars ;)

    I think he works generally in the field but avoids articles about immediate colleagues and their work (and obviously his own work directly).

    Math is a somewhat larger field. ;) That would be difficult to do in many areas of games, VWs, etc.

    As for a non-wikia alternative (like the UT-austin archive), great.

    It’s really focused more on games in general, though UT used to have a great archive of MUD papers and histirical docs, which seem to be lost now.

  78. Adam Hyland:

    When wikia came on the scene, the cannibalization of users and content became the largest (And remains to this day) competitor to wikipedia.

    Wikia isn’t really a “competitor,” having also been cofounded by Wales.

  79. Raph, on the point of GDC presentations being available, I’ve been in discussions about archiving all available presentations notable to the videogame industry and it’s simply a case that many of them just don’t bother uploading things they get sent. I’ve been told this is basically why GDC slides get updated just once, and even the more professional or academically minded conferences are just as bad :(

    On that point, though, most of them do have pages stating the actual talk existed and who did it and what it’s content was, even if the slides are never available.

    Muckbeast, please keep us updated on the Wikipedia situation, I’m interested in knowing more about how it all goes down being part of the IGDA’s Game Preservation SIG and all.

    Also, those pointing to the UT Archive forget there are existing and other new projects also doing great work (Stanford for one, the Internet Archive for another, and the Computer History Museum, the new National Videogame Archive in the UK, and even Mobygames, which like I mentioned before, while having less text fields, is still a good resource). None of these, as far as I’m aware, have the manpower or web resources to do their own version of “wikipedia for games” or even better, an edited resource for it. Like I mentioned, I might try this through the IGDA, with a more edited version which solicits changes then a wiki though.

  80. [...] post about the Threshold Wikipedia article, which was quickly followed by Raph Koster blogging not once, but twice with more [...]

  81. Morgan,

    I know wikia is owned by Wales, hence my unhappiness with it being the only competitor. That doesn’t impact the fact that Wikia is the only major competitor to wikipedia.

  82. Raph,

    won’t answer all those mini-threads :), but I’ll give it a crack. You are correct; SIGGRAPH, GDC, AGDC and GLS (among others) all meet the reliable source requirements.

    The talk pages for the main articles (see the WoW talk page) tend to churn a bit, so posts like this may just be bumped into the archive over time. I really think that part of the problem is social–regardless of the existence of text or policy people tend to act on memory or tribal knowledge (unless they are being deliberate about it). That memory leads them to the erroneous conclusion that parochial sources are more likely to be unreliable. Combating that requires advocacy and knowledge.

    Here lies a chicken and egg problem. We need VW enthusiasts, but since the scope of their interests is still what people think of as “kids game” (or, alternately, what people who play the games think of as superfluous–we get a lot of gamers insisting that the corrupted blood incident shouldn’t be in the main WoW article), the nature of the site drives those enthusiasts away.

  83. Yep, so I have an idea on how to help, but don’t have time to write it right now. :)

  84. we get a lot of gamers insisting that the corrupted blood incident shouldn’t be in the main WoW article

    It’s one of the most important things to have in the article! I am glad it is there.

  85. Andrew: Here’s the most recent update.

    I posted to the DRV (Deletion Review) in a sub-section discussing the way admins made numerous deletions of KEEP arguments based on dubious (and in most cases PROVEN to be false) accusations of “sock puppetry”. I made the point that when admins delete well reasoned, on topic arguments simply because they voted KEEP, people get suspicious. I stated that people confident in their beliefs are not afraid of the other side presenting counter-arguments. For this post, I received a 1 week ban.

    Interpret that administrative action how you will. I certainly know how *I* interpret it.

    -Michael
    Threshold RPG
    http://www.thresholdrpg.com

  86. It was kept, BTW. Thank Phil Sandifer.

  87. For this post, I received a 1 week ban.

    And thus the timing of the second AfD makes a great deal more sense. Fortunately it seems saner heads have arrived to comment on it this time.

  88. [...] Even the esteemed Richard Bartle the creator of the original MUD and veteran virtual world guru Raph Koster have voiced their support for the retention of Threshold’s entry in Wikipedia. MMO maven [...]

  89. [...] Threshold after all. However, there’s enough corroboration that I’ve seen, Bartle and Koster come to mind, that shows that something dirty was going on at [...]

  90. Latest update is that the Threshold article managed to survive the multiple AfDs thanks in part to a revolt against the deletion. (Which I’m incredibly happy to see. Maybe those guys will think again before forming a raid party to take down an article.)

    Only one mystery remains to me. The original AfD discussion page has been blanked. This is where a lot of the abuse from long-time editors and admins occurred. Does anyone know why it might have been blanked? All I could find was a vague reference to a OTRS request. Is there any chance of recovering this page?

    ~~~~ (Hehe)

  91. [...] the same agenda! I really don’t know what else to say on the matter that Mr. Hartman and even Raph Koster and Richard Bartle haven’t, so I guess I’ll just end by saying “Sieg Heil, [...]

  92. [...] noticed this article while reading up on Raph Koster’s blog. Apparently, the Wikiepdia article for Threshold MUD might be taken down because its accuracy [...]

  93. [...] throughout the online gaming blogosphere, including reactions from people like Richard Bartle, Raph Koster or Scott [...]

  94. [...] journalist crowd.“With so much existing only as oral history or as community-driven sites, little will qualify to be in Wikipedia, with the result that the history is often lost,” Ralph Koster, a leading mind behind the [...]

  95. [...] so much existing only as oral history or as community-driven sites, little will qualify to be in Wikipedia, with the result that the history is often lost,” Ralph Koster, a leading mind behind the [...]

  96. [...] so much existing only as oral history or as community-driven sites, little will qualify to be in Wikipedia, with the result that the history is often lost,” Ralph Koster, a leading mind behind the [...]

  97. [...] noticed this article while reading up on Raph Koster’s blog. Apparently, the Wikiepdia article for Threshold MUD might be taken down because its accuracy [...]

  98. [...] I noted blog posts by Richard Bartle and Raph Koster commenting on the pending deletion of the article for [...]

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