07 January 2017

The Letter and Spirit of the Law of Wikipedia

I had an episode recently with Wikipedia which sort of reminded me why I am not a Wikipedia editor anymore. I used to be a Wikipedian, and I edited mostly articles that had something to do with airlines and aviation, updating articles when new developments happened in this industry. I did it for a few years, I even had my own user account, until I stopped since I started not liking the attitudes of other editors. This was back in 2005 to around 2008. And recently, I had an experience which sort of reminded me the whole thing.

See, I was checking an article listing the destinations of a particular airline. I was sort of planning some future trip, and I wanted to check if this particular airline was flying to the destination I had in mind. I also saw that this entry had an error, since it said that this airline was flying to Berlin Schönefeld Airport and not to Berlin Tegel Airport. I do know however that this airline switched lately and now fly to Tegel instead. So I thought that this was wrong, and therefore I just went ahead and edited the article so that it reflected the fact that this airline now flies to Tegel instead.

Soon enough, there was an established editor who reverted my anonymous (I don't have an account anymore) edit. He said that my edit was unsourced. So I reverted it back, and said in the comments section that you could Google this airlines flight numbers (I even gave the two relevant flight numbers in the comment) and easily find out that I have the correct information now. Nevertheless, this was reverted again by the same editor, who said that my edit was still unsourced.

So I edited it again, and added the tag saying that sources were needed. I also said in the comments section that instead of reverting it back to a false version, I suggested that this editor should search for a source if he really insists on having one.

Lo and behold, this was reverted again, and this editor says that the burden of proof is on me. Now that is indeed the case, but I already provided some sort of source by saying that this correct new information is easily found in Google. But I know that Wikipedia has a higher standard of acceptable sources, and a Google search is not enough.

Anyway, a few minutes later, this editor reverted himself, and said that the original tag I put was not a bad idea after all. Heck, if he didn't revert it, I probably would have said something like "Good luck trying to catch that flight if you show up in SXF and not in TXL."

This is what annoys me. Wikipedia editors sometimes hold the letter or their law more sacred than the spirit of it. Wikipedia is supposed to be an encyclopedia providing facts, and it just happens to be something that everyone can edit. Facts can change, including the airports airlines fly into. I just updated it, to reflect this changed fact. Yet sometimes, there are editors whose panties can be tied in a bunch and think that they would rather have Wikipedia display incorrect information just because this incorrect information has the proper source and the correct information doesn't. This was the reason why I left.

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