Wikimedia fundraiser highlights webcomic community's frustration with Wikipedia guidelines

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Monday, October 29, 2007

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In the opinions of some Wikipedia members self-published books like Howard Tayler's do not satisfy Wikipedia's notability guideline.

On Monday, October 22, as the latest Wikimedia fundraiser began, Wikinews reporter Brian McNeil thought his own small donation could be turned into a bigger donation by his buying some advertising on a popular website and encouraging others to contribute. With this in mind he approached Howard Tayler, creator of the Schlock Mercenary webcomic.

Tayler's response was not as McNeil expected, prompting a Wikinews investigation. Tayler refused to help the foundation raise money although he conceded that he does sometimes use the site. Instead he explained that some members of the webcomic community feel slighted by Wikipedia because over 50 articles on webcomics were deemed not to meet their notability guidelines and were deleted during January and February of 2007. Some members of the webcomics community considered this unacceptable. Whilst some of the comic related articles deleted did not qualify for inclusion in the encyclopedia under Wikipedia guidelines, the deletion of a large number of articles in such a short time period struck some webcomics writers and fans as a selective purge.

Much of the criticism has been focused on Wikipedia editor Dragonfiend, who has described notability as "whether a topic has been noted by independent reputable sources". She has said that "If we include every article that anyone wants to write, then the encyclopedia becomes useless because nobody can find the actual needle of worthwhile information on a topic hidden in that hay stack of trivia." She has said Wikipedia should only have articles on webcomics like Penny Arcade, Get Your War On, Fetus-X, and Achewood.

This deletion of numerous webcomic articles has not sat well with some in the webcomic community. Modern Tales editor and Websnark blogger Eric Burns has written that "There are people -- and Dragonfiend is clearly one of them -- who are clearly going through Wikipedia looking for articles that should be weeded out as non-notable. and they're doing it in fields they clearly -- I mean, clearly -- have no interest, experience or knowledge."

Erfworld and PartiallyClips writer Rob Balder has expressed similar viewpoints, calling the deletion of the webcomics articles a "goddamned crime" and describing a "deletionist jihad" by "the politest bunch of book-burning assholes on the planet". Balder also labelled "Deletionism" as a form of "naughtymancy" magic in Erfworld. Deletionism refers to the Wikipedia ideology that favours relatively rigorous standards for maintaining access to articles, as opposed to inclusionism which favours keeping and amending problematic articles.

There is concern among some webcomic groups that the notability guidelines are too rigorous for the typical webcomic. The standards usually require significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject, which is rare since even comics with dedicated followings do not always attract mainstream book publishers or reviews from mainstream journalists. It seems that this policy has alienated webcomic artists and fans and discouraged them from contributing to Wikipedia.

Conflicts such as this are not uncommon. Members of a Wikimedia Foundation mailing list pointed to other examples where the application of the rules has been perceived to be selective, leaving other communities disgruntled with a variety of Wikimedia projects, not just Wikipedia.


Sources

Wikinews
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