Orange Mike Makes Headlines in Britain

When Rachel Johnson, a British editor and journalist who contributes to the Daily Mail, discovered her Wikipedia bio had been edited to take out a reference to her degree, she assumed the simplest way to fix an error in the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit was to do it herself. She didn’t realize that ran afoul of a Wikipedia canon against editing material about yourself.

Johnson told the anecdote in her May 11 column with the headline ”Shown the red card… by Wikipedia’s ‘Orange Mike’”. Readers of File 770 will immediately recognize that nickname belongs to “Orange Mike” Lowrey, well-known fan and one of the Wikipedia’s most active editors.

Johnson wrote:

So, NEEKS who get Firsts are virtually unemployable, which is good news for all of us beta-brains.

I was feeling quite smug about my 2:1 till I was told that, according to Wikipedia, I don’t have a degree at all.

As I still have regular finals nightmares, not to mention a BA, I felt this was a bit rich. So I went on Wiki and deleted this outrageous slur from my biog (someone has written that I ‘failed to complete my course’).

The next day I was emailed a sharp rebuke by a moderator called ‘Orange Mike’ for editing my own page. So I stand corrected – but so far, my entry doesn’t.

Remarkably her complaint appeared as a London Evening Standard news story two days later, given the headline “Rachel Johnson in the grip of Wikipedia’s ‘Orange Mike’” – with the added interesting detail that Johnson’s brother is the Mayor of London.

Rachel had, in fact completed her Greats degree, the same course that brother Boris took, and emerged with a 2:1, the same result as him.

Her Wikipedia entry now stands corrected, with a link to the article as proof. But how will others, without a national newspaper column, correct theirs?

I suppose that’s a rhetorical question, however, on the occasions I’ve found myself crosswise of a Wikipedia editor “Orange Mike” mediated the solution. Obviously he’s willing to help those without national newspaper columns, too.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]

The Book of Me

My goodness, I just discovered Mike Glyer by L’Egaire Humphrey – tragically missing the opportunity to buy it at full price. “Thought you might like to see that this book about *you* has been shamelessly marked down….,” says Robert Lichtman’s sympathetic e-mail.

The Ebay listing shows this magisterial work was first published in 2011. It runs 72 pages. The original price was $64.88. Now they’re asking $50.54.

This is “A new, unread, unused book in perfect condition with no missing or damaged pages.”

Unread? Surely that can’t be right.

I will say the manual typewriter on the cover captures me perfectly. I especially like the guarantee of “High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA Articles.”

(But — 72 pages of stuff about me in the Wikipedia? And I thought they didn’t care!)

Wikipedia, Fandom Waving Goodbye?

Readers quickly answered Fred Pohl’s plea for help fixing Wikipedia’s article about opera singer Toti dal Monte:

…I saw [her] performance in 1945, and I’m absolutely positive of the date because, although I was in Italy before that, it was 1945 before I could wander around Naples on my own. But I looked up Toti in the Wikipedia the other day, and it says flatly that she retired in 1943.

So what do I do about that gross error?

They answered so quickly, in fact, I imagined fans screaming “Wait, Fred, no-o-o-o-o!” at their computer screens as they hurried to save him before he innocently ran afoul of Wikipedia policies and suffered some rude remarks by Wikipedia’s vigilante editors.

For there’s disappointment in store for anyone who naïvely thinks he will be allowed to add facts to “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” simply because he personally witnessed them occur.  Wikipedia policy sharply curtails the use of primary sources, bluntly commanding: “Do not add unsourced material from your personal experience, because that would make Wikipedia a primary source of that material.”

Stop and think for a moment. Fans took it for granted that even the testimony of Fred Pohl, subject of his own Wikipedia article, and editor of the Hugo-winning prozine If, subject of another Wikipedia featured article, would be treated as having no credibility. I find it remarkable to see so many science fiction fans passively accepting – enabling – this silly state of affairs.

And no, Fred could not satisfy the policy by citing his blog as the source because that would violate a different policy.

I didn’t always know this. I found out when John King Tarpinian wrote an eyewitness account of Carla Laemmle’s 100th birthday event and I added the information to her Wikipedia article, citing my blog. Here’s what I added:

On October 20, 2009, she celebrated her 100th birthday with a guestlist which included Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Bela Lugosi, Jr., Sara Karloff and Ron Chaney.

Sometime later I revisited my addition and found it changed to “[citation needed].” An editor going by the handle “DreamGuy” had eliminated the cited link to File 770. When questioned, he pointed out that blogs do not meet the criteria of WP:RS policy for reliable sources, and added this shot:

It’s just some blog with no history of expertise or reliability. If that page can be used as a source, then any page on the Internet by anyone could be, and that’s not how an encyclopedia works.

Yes, the internet never stops proving how good manners suffer when people are allowed to work anonymously. Though even I had to laugh at DreamGuy’s final fling of Wiki hypocrisy — he left my line untouched, deleting only my citation. Yes, the source was too unreliable for Wikipedia to mention, but he kept the information the source provided!

How ironic is it that the Internet’s leading online encylopedia privileges the printed page above anything else? Why can’t Wikipedia’s corps of editors learn enough about their fields to recognize credible sources when they see them? Obviously, publishing house editorial staffs have had to learn those skills.

Wikipedia is also plagued with “editors” who get their rocks off deleting other people’s contributions. Within the past week a Wikipedia editor has been gunning down entries for America’s most famous and historic science fiction clubs.

Articles about the Northwest Science Fiction Society of Seattle and the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society have recently been deleted, the former by request of an editor whose handle is RadioFan, the latter by request of RHaworth.

A list at the WikiProject Science Fiction page shows RadioFan also wants to delete entries for the Bay Area Science Fiction Association, Orange County Science Fiction Club, Ottawa Science Fiction Society.

While I was at it I checked the entries for several other clubs and found RadioFan has also recommended deletion of the articles for LASFS and NESFA.

It’s not as though fandom needs acknowledgement by the Wikipedia. What offends me is how easily some jackass can vandalize all the work people have done on these entries over the years.

Don’t let the vast dimensions of the Wikipedia project blur your understanding of what it is – a social milieu that’s actually quite similar to science fiction fandom with both the good and bad parts, the bad including the familiar dominance games, passive-aggressive behavior, and people at odds with each other. The Wikipedia is just a very bad clubzine, where quality is sacrificed because it is a battleground for rival members, driving off potential contributors, and leading participants to problem-solve by enacting rules that blindly cause as many problems as they suppress.

A Quarter Century of Snapshots

Snapshots #25 presents fifteen developments of interest to fans.

(1) Paired heroes and villains selected from the American Film Institute’s 50 Top Heroes and Villains are matched in a fight to the death! Batman vs. Hans Gruber. Lassie vs. Cruella de Ville. Marge Gunderson vs. Count Dracula! Did good or evil win over all?

(2) Bill Warren of the Dawn Patrol has written a filk song about Wilson “Bob” Tucker. Bill’s tribute is posted at YouTube.

(3) Steve Silver’s Art of the Con theme issue of Argentus includes articles on con-running by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Lisa Hertel, Randy Kaempen, Mary Kay Kare, Deb Kosiba, Priscilla Olson, Baron DavE Romm, Bill Roper, Sabel Schechter, Susan Shwartz, Steven H Silver, Kevin Standlee, Ann Totusek, Patty Wells, and Ben Yalow.

(4) “When Dublin university student Shane Fitzgerald posted a poetic but phony quote on Wikipedia, he was testing how our globalized, increasingly Internet-dependent media was upholding accuracy and accountability in an age of instant news. His report card: Wikipedia passed. Journalism flunked.”

(5) Web Urbanist has a list of 173 Radical Retrofuturistic Directions in Design & Technology, ranging from vehicles to clothing to the apocalypse.

(6) HarperCollins’ earnings decreased 20% for the quarter ending March 31. The two disparate books doing the most to keep the company afloat during the quarter were  Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

(7) Drew Shiel at Quilldragon analyzed all five Best Novel nominees and determined… they all deserve a Hugo. Well, that’s better than the alternative. (No, the alternative is not that they would all deserve the Nebula.)

(8) An unknown Scottish actress has been cast as new Doctor Who Matt Smith’s companion.

(9) Every website wrestles with rowdy commenters. But I don’t know if an sf blogger would dare imitate the way Dave from BlazersEdge lays down the law to his fellow basketball fans: “If you call someone a moron or uninformed you will be banned. If you say a post is a waste of space or time you will be banned. If your post includes the words, ‘You must not watch much basketball’ you will be banned. If you say, ‘This should be a fanshot’ you will be banned. If you snidely correct someone’s grammar you will be banned.” My gosh, if sf blogs banned everyone who snidely corrected other fans’ grammar, there woule be no one left to read the posts.

(10) Learn more about the inner workings of the Wikipedia and the Church of Scientology in this Guardian article:

In an unprecedented effort to crack down on self-serving edits, the Wikipedia supreme court has banned contributions from all IP addresses owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates. Closing out the longest-running court case in Wikiland history, the site’s Arbitration Committee voted 10 to 0 (with one abstention) in favor of the move, which takes effect immediately.

(11) A Tintin museum will open in Belgium.

(12) Angelique Trouvere’s ancient Star Trek convention photos made it into Newsweek.

(13) James D. Keeline compiled a spreadsheet listing of 3,200 time travel novels, stories, and children’s books, and in 2000 he built a searchable database of this material. He says, “Had I the time, I could probably add another 1,000 titles but perhaps it will be useful to someone…”

(14) Tom Swift Conventions in Hammondsport, NY (2009) and San Diego (2010)

(15) Following the death of Tom Deitz, a fan has set up a Deitz tribute website.

[Thanks go to Andrew Porter, David Klaus, Roger Tener, Francis Hamit James Hay and Michael J. Walsh for some of the links included in this post.]

Update 6/14/2009: Corrected country where Tintin museum is located. And it’s not even Tuesday.