You are allowed to edit Wikipedia

by ChristianKl1 min read5th Jul 202162 comments

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I frequently hear complains from people about individual Wikipedia pages but most of the people who complain only complain outside of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is inherently democratic. If you read a Wikipedia article and think it's very problematic, take five minutes and write about why it's problematic on the talk page of the article. 

Wikipedia is an important part of the commons. If you think from an EA perspective those five minutes (or even more if it takes you time to search for sources) have a good chance of being time spent with a good EA return. 

While recruiting people outside of Wikipedia to individual pages to engage in discussion goes against Wikipedia's rules, simply engaging on Wikipedia and voicing your opinion is helpful. It makes it more likely that consensus on the article shifts in the right direction. 

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This was, I think, a reasonable characterisation of wikipedia in the early days. Things are very different now. 

You have to navigate a gauntlet of deletionistas, poorly defined rules, gatekeepers, and political biases. I gave up a  couple of years ago. The most difficult aspect is the arbitrary rules about what sources are authoritative and what are not.

One small example: You are (or were when I looked) required to refer to male genital mutilation as "circumcision" and are not allowed to refer to it as "male genital mutilation". The female version may not be referred to as "circumcision" and must be called "female genital mutilation". The opinions of the doctors who make money from this operation on males must be deferred to as definitive. Basically I found everything was like this. 

You are not allowed to refer to primary sources such as journal articles but must only refer to secondary sources such as textbooks or newspapers, which are often out of date, biased or wrong. You have the ridiculous situation where people have tried to correct their own date of birth by supplying a copy of their birth certificate and this was rejected. In at least one case, the person had to arrange for their date of birth to be mentioned in a newspaper and then it was accepted. 

In fields where there is no political controversy things are not so bad. But you are still subject to the deletionistas who will find any possible reason to nuke your hard work. And wikipedia's view that there is a definitive version of the truth on any given issue makes it utterly hopeless at covering anything that is controversial. I am certain that wikipedia of the early C17 would be presenting the geocentric view of the universe as definitively true.

You are not allowed to refer to primary sources such as journal articles but must only refer to secondary sources such as textbooks or newspapers

This is not true. I could drone on about the Official Policy but maybe the better rule-of-thumb is:

(1) Don't edit articles to push one side of an existing hot-button political issue, it's hopeless unless you have a ton of wikipedia experience and a ton of free time,

(2) If you write things that are correct and widely-accepted, they're pretty unlikely to be deleted, regardless of what source you cite, or even if you cite no source at all. If other people don't like the sourcing but do like the text you wrote, they're more likely to improve the sourcing than to delete the text.

(3) ChristianKI's advice was actually posting on the talk page rather than editing the article directly, which is always a good bet. And if the article is so neglected that nobody does anything about your talk-page comment, then that's a good sign that you can probably just go and edit the article without anyone bothering you.

One small example: You are (or were when I looked) required to refer to male genital mutilation as "circumcision" and are not allowed to refer to it as "male genital mutilation". The female version may not be referred to as "circumcision" and must be called "female genital mutilation". 

I'm not sure what you were expecting. There are a gazillion people who think "circumcision" is the obviously correct term, and a gazillion other people who think "genital mutilation" is the obviously correct term. Of course there's going to be an Official Policy on this, settled long long ago, otherwise people would spend all day in endless "edit wars" where one person changes it, and the other changes it back, and the first one changes it back again, around and around forever. You're welcome to think that the Official Policy is wrong, but I don't think it's reasonable to expect that you can just easily "fix this problem" the way you can easily fix other problems on wikipedia pages.

wikipedia's view that there is a definitive version of the truth on any given issue makes it utterly hopeless at covering anything that is controversial.

I don't think that's fair, I think there are lots of articles that present both sides of a controversy pretty well, for example minimum wage seems pretty good.

In fields where there is no political controversy things are not so bad. But you are still subject to the deletionistas who will find any possible reason to nuke your hard work. 

I don't want to say this never happens. I think you need a sufficiently "thick skin" that if 10% of your edits are deleted for stupid reasons, you're generally happy about the other 90%, not stewing over the 10%. 

(1) Don't edit articles to push one side of an existing hot-button political issue, it's hopeless unless you have a ton of wikipedia experience and a ton of free time

While editing such articles isn't useful, if it's a hot-button issue you are likely not the only person who cares about the issue. Showing that you think that things should be changed on the talk page matters. 

You don't have to fight the complete fight. Simply stating your position is helpful for establishing consensus for a change.

Hot button issues are not decided by the views of a single person.

I'm not sure what you were expecting. There are a gazillion people who think "circumcision" is the obviously correct term, and a gazillion other people who think "genital mutilation" is the obviously correct term. Of course there's going to be an Official Policy on this, settled long long ago, otherwise people would spend all day in endless "edit wars"

Sure, but the point was about the double standard of using "circumcision" for one side an "genital mutilation" for the other  It's ok to have an official policy, but you'd expect it to be justified and consistent.

Sure, but the point was about the double standard of using "circumcision" for one side an "genital mutilation" 

If you make the decision which term to use based on the merits of the term that's a valid point. That's not Wikipedia's policy. Wikipedia's policy is to use words the way they generally used. 

Take a look at Google ngrams for "male genital mutilation" and "female genital mutilation". The difference between usage is two orders of magnitude. Most people use the term circumcision in the male case and not in the female case and it's Wikipedia's rule to go with what has most usage. That rule is consistently applied in this case. 

This happens also for political correct language that someone proposes and that differs with general use. The guidelines around talking about suicide (at least when I saw the discussion) for example go for terms that are in common usage and not the political correct ones that are engineered to reduce the chance of people committing suicide. 

Having a Wikipedia that says "You might have an argument for why term X is benefitial over term Y for political reasons such as equality but we don't care we go for the common usage." is a useful heuristic to prevent a bunch of social justice activism from creeping into Wikipedia. 

Complaining on the one hand that Wikipedia's policy are biased towards the left and then objecting to Wikipedia valuing the principle of equality not enough is not very consistent. You need policies to fight people who come and tell you "obesity is a discriminatory term, the political correct term is X". 

It's also relevant that "circumcision" is a fairly accurate description of what is done to boys, but not of most of the things that are done to girls; and that many of the things done to girls are more severe in their effects than circumcision. So it's not at all obvious that calling the thing done to boys "circumcision" and the thing done to girls "mutilation" is wrong; they are not at all the same thing, the word "circumcision" is more appropriate to the former than to the latter, and the word "mutilation" is more appropriate to the latter than to the former.

(To be clear, I am not saying that you're wrong if you call what is done to boys "mutilation" [EDITED to add: or, more to the point, that Vanilla_cabs is]. Only that using different terminology in the two cases doesn't need to be a double standard; it suffices to be picky about the meaning of "circumcision" or restrictive about what you call "mutilation" or both.)

It's also relevant that "circumcision" is a fairly accurate description of what is done to boys, but not of most of the things that are done to girls; and that many of the things done to girls are more severe in their effects than circumcision. 

It's relevant to the merits of using the term in general, but's it's completely irrelevant from the policy decision in Wikipedia. The policy decision inside Wikipedia is about what terms people actually use outside of Wikipedia.

If someone wants to change the usage of a term with a similar pattern in Google nGrams in Wikipedia they are very unlikely to succeed even if they have really good arguments (like in the case of suicide).

Yes, to be clear, I meant relevant to this discussion and specifically to Vanilla_cabs's complaint that Wikipedia's policy amounts to a double standard. The policy of using the most widely used terms could produce unfairly inconsistent results, if the populace at large were biased (e.g., differential outrage for things affecting men vs things affecting women, or for things associated with "Western" religions versus things associated with "weird foreign" religions), or if different topics were commonly discussed by different groups of people (e.g., if cutting off foreskins were widely talked about among the populace at large but cutting off clitorises were more commonly a concern of anthropologists) -- but in the present case it's not clear that even that is true; one could plausibly arrive at the same terminological decisions as Wikipedia while having fairness and consistency as important goals.

(I agree that even if this weren't so, there wouldn't be much prospect of changing Wikipedia's usage.)

one could plausibly arrive at the same terminological decisions as Wikipedia while having fairness and consistency as important goals.

While that's true, when interacting with Wikipedia it's useful to have an accurate model of how it functions. If you just look at the reasoning for why those terms might be generally good for society to use, you will likely be surprised when you are exposed to another conflict in Wikipedia over terms.

Even if there are good arguments for another term the answer is "If the wide society uses a bad term, engage with society Wikipedia isn't the place for activism".

That wasn't my complaint. I just pointed that it was waveman's point and Steven Byrnes failed to address it.

I was trying to address it by saying: There are some areas where Wikipedia has flaws and there's little or nothing we can do about it; there are other areas where Wikipedia has flaws and we can help fix them without too much effort and it can be very impactful and good. The point of (that part of) my comment was to point out that if you see the circumcision-vs-GM thing as a flaw, it would be a flaw that's in the first category (i.e. practically unfixable), and we should shrug and move on, and we shouldn't generalize from that to forget that the second category also exists.

The point of (that part of) my comment was to point out that if you see the circumcision-vs-GM thing as a flaw, it would be a flaw that's in the first category (i.e. practically unfixable), and we should shrug and move on, and we shouldn't generalize from that to forget that the second category also exists.

Whether or not the circumcision-vs-GM thing is a flaw depends what the purpose of Wikipedia happens to be. You might want Wikipedia to have a different purpose then it has, but I think that having an entity with the purpose for which Wikipedia was created is valuable. 

Your argumention why it's a flaw was also clearly faulty because it's not about what terms the doctors who perform the procedure want to use. 

There's some complexity from seperating "X is a flaw according to my values" from "X is a flaw according to Wikipedia's values" but it's doable. And I do things that an institution with Wikipedia's values provides value to society.

(If you look at what I wrote, I have never stated any opinion about whether it's a flaw or not. It's not relevant to the narrow point I wanted to make. You're welcome to argue about it with other people.)

I agree with all three points.

Wikipedia’s articles on circumcision and FGM include coverage of the ethical controversy both around the practice (in the case of male circumcision) and the colonialism inherent in the name (in the case of FGM).

Their page on source selection states:

“ Many Wikipedia articles rely on scholarly material. When available, academic and peer-reviewed publications, scholarly monographs, and textbooks are usually the most reliable sources. However, some scholarly material may be outdated, in competition with alternative theories, or controversial within the relevant field. Try to cite current scholarly consensus when available, recognizing that this is often absent. Reliable non-academic sources may also be used in articles about scholarly issues, particularly material from high-quality mainstream publications. Deciding which sources are appropriate depends on context.”

If you are alone you need to understand the rules reasonably well. 

What I propose here is just to raise issues on talk pages and if someone else already wrote something make a new argument. Often this doesn't take long. 

You are not allowed to refer to primary sources such as journal articles but must only refer to secondary sources such as textbooks or newspapers, which are often out of date, biased or wrong.

Rules in Wikipedia are a matter of consensus. If you care about the rules it's easy to give your opinion when rule changes get proposed. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Feedback_request_service is a way to register yourself to get regularly a message on your talk page for one rules discussion. While a user that only participates in rule discussion and nothing else is likely seen as a bit dubious, if you write short messages on the talk page whenever you think something should be improved, 

One small example: You are (or were when I looked) required to refer to male genital mutilation as "circumcision" and are not allowed to refer to it as "male genital mutilation". 

Wikipedia's rule is to use the terms that are most commonly used by authoritative sources out in the world. Given how language is used out in the world it's often not consistent. 

It doesn't matter whether it's a hot button political issue or an unpolitical one's like deciding whether to use the greek or latin name for an anatomical structure where things would get easier when latin names get used consistently. 

The opinions of the doctors who make money from this operation on males must be deferred to as definitive. 

That's not true. If you could for example argue that authoritatie sources like the New York Times and the Washington Post use another term then the doctors you have a case within the rules of Wikipedia.

While you can argue that rules should be different (and you actually can argue that in RFC's in Wikipedia) it's deferring to authoritative sources is a rule that works for finding consensus.

And wikipedia's view that there is a definitive version of the truth on any given issue makes it utterly hopeless at covering anything that is controversial. 

I think this misunderstands Wikipedia. Wikipedia's goal isn't truth but to reflect the current consensus among good sources. This is argued quite explicitely. 

I do think that a place where I can go when I want to read the consensus among good sources about a topic is valuable.

It an openly known fact that mainstream media leans heavily on one side of the political spectrum. This makes it very difficult to find "authoritative" sources that tell a certain side of the story on a lot of topics.

As a habit, when I want to edit a page, I check the talk page. On any topic that the mainstream media touches (not only politics, but also critical reviews of movies, etc.), it is often longer than the article, and riddled with nitpicks and gotchas. I don't want to waste my time on arguing there, and I think that's the intended effect.

On any topic that the mainstream media touches (not only politics, but also critical reviews of movies, etc.), it is often longer than the article

Fun fact, a couple years ago, as background research for a blog post I was writing, I read the entire archives of Talk:Cold fusion, literally starting at Archive 1 and continuing through all 48 (maybe 44 at the time or whatever) pages. It was possibly the most boring thing I've ever done. Every now and then there was a new reference or argument, but mostly the same arguments were rehashed over, and over, and over, across the generations, as old arguers would quit or get banned, and they'd be replaced by newcomers on each side of the debate. :-P

It an openly known fact that mainstream media leans heavily on one side of the political spectrum. This makes it very difficult to find "authoritative" sources that tell a certain side of the story on a lot of topics.

It's true that there are topics where it's hard to find sources that qualify for Wikipedia and those aren't good fights to be had. However there are plenty of cases where sources are available.

Talk pages are about discourse between different people. The amount of people on both sides matters for how conflicts are resolved. If someone else already made an argument adding your position in addition is helpful.

The amount of people on both sides matters for how conflicts are resolved. If someone else already made an argument adding your position in addition is helpful.

On controversial topics, a few persons arguing can already produce an article's length of points. How can a newcomer weigh in? There is (generally) no vote. You can just add more points. For those points to have a slight chance of being relevant, you need to read all the discussion and the rules referred to. And then someone will point that you forgot a yet-unmentioned-rule, and your words will only add to the noise and make it more difficult for the next one to weigh in.

There is (generally) no vote. 

There's no formal vote but if you have a page where two people have a long discussion of A vs B and a few other people take position A (and write a sensible comment - "I support A" might not be enough) but no additional person takes position B according to Wikipedia policy there's consensus for A.

Then when the page gets changed to A it's invalid for anybody to switch it to B. The lines around what counts as consensus are a bit fuzzy but in general that's the decision making process. If people don't agree on what consensus is conflicts can be escalated.

This seems a little harsh. Sure Wikipedia has many rules, mostly to prevent bias or people pushing agendas. It’s not perfect, but in general I have found it to be a reliable, neutral source of information especially in controversial subjects such as Middle East politics for example.

Also research shows that Wikipedia is a reliable source https://www.zmescience.com/science/study-wikipedia-25092014/ although I’m sure you can find research that shows the opposite.

And as the original poster says, if you find something inaccurate, spend 5 minutes to give back and fix it. I have made hundreds of small edits and maybe only a handful have been deleted / rolled back

I can’t talk about your specific examples of course but I would trust (cited) articles on Wikipedia above most sources on the web.

During my stint volunteering with the FLI, I worked on a project  to improve Wikipedia's coverage of existential risk. I don't remember the ultimate outcome of the project, but we were up against an admin who "owned" many of those pages, and was hostile to many of FLI's views.

This article, at least by appearances, is an excellent account of the problems and biases of Wikipedia: https://prn.fm/wikipedia-rotten-core/

During my stint volunteering with the FLI, I worked on a project  to improve Wikipedia's coverage of existential risk. 

An organization having a project to change Wikipedia is not what Wikipedia is about and triggers immune system response of Wikipedia. 

The way to engage with Wikipedia is to start by doing a bit when you naturally come across a Wikipedia article with issues. 

For the whole EA endevear that incountered resistence, it's worth noting that Jytdog who was one of the main admins against it is now banned.

The talk of an admin who controlled those pages with an iron fist came from before this project existed, presumably encountered by affiliates who had tried to edit in good faith exactly as you've advocated, but were shut down.

We were far from the first or only group that had Wikipedia-editing sessions. I've walked past signs at my university advertising them for other groups. Ours was quite benign. I'm reading some of the discussion from back then; their list included things like adding links for the page on nuclear close calls.



I've seen articles on hot-button topics where the Wikipedia article is far more slanted to one side than any of the mainstream media articles, and read the talk archives where a powerful few managed to invoke arcane rules to rule out all sources to the contrary. It's stuff like this that makes me want out. I was a happy Wikipedian in high school in a previous decade, but I shall be no longer.

presumably encountered by affiliates who had tried to edit in good faith exactly as you've advocated, but were shut down

It was paid-editing for a political agenda. From an EA perspective paying someone to do paid editing or do political lobbying is completley fine.  On the other hand you have the money isn't speech side that considers using money to do lobbying or get someone change Wikipedia according to their political interests bad. 

While there might have been multiple admins that opposed the EA effort at that time Jytdog was one of the central admins and isn't around any longer because misbehavior in his quest to fight against political and commercial interests pushing their point of view onto Wikipedia. 

We were far from the first or only group that had Wikipedia-editing sessions.

From the Wikipedia perspective there's a difference of a Wikipedia user group that does a Wikipedia-editing session together which is great and an organization having a project to change Wikipedia according to their agenda. 

If you start a WikiProject X-risk and then coordinate within that WikiProject that's democratic participation. If an organization coordinates internally and then tries to push it's views onto Wikipedia that's different.

While I would prefer that such an FLI project wouldn't face opposition, I do understand the other side. The quest of protecting Wikipedia against organizations who try to push their agenda on Wikipedia by paying money to hire people has value.

The way around this is general democratic participation. Inclusionism against exclusionism is a constant fight in Wikipedia and I don't think opting out of it because there are many exclusionist on Wikipedia is a good idea. I think Wikipedia is central enough that it's worth for more people to engage with it.

It was paid-editing for a political agenda. From an EA perspective paying someone to do paid editing or do political lobbying is completley fine.  On the other hand you have the money isn't speech side that considers using money to do lobbying or get someone change Wikipedia according to their political interests bad. 

 

Putting aside that a volunteer project by a non-profit is not paid, and I take some issue with arguments that improvements to the page on nuclear close calls is "political":

 

I mean that some individuals later in this group, before any organized effort by the FLI existed, had dabbled in editing some of these same articles, for exactly the pure motives that you advocate editing for, and encountered entrenched (and perhaps unreasonable) opposition.

 

From the Wikipedia perspective there's a difference of a Wikipedia user group that does a Wikipedia-editing session together which is great and an organization having a project to change Wikipedia according to their agenda. 

 

Our perspective was that we were merely adding better information, improving accuracy, and giving fair summaries of the arguments.

I expect similar groups would say the same.

You can judge for yourself. Here are some edits from the group: 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=AI_takeover&type=revision&diff=688572046&oldid=687117054

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Biotechnology_risk&type=revision&diff=713438700&oldid=713369288

Putting aside that a volunteer project by a non-profit is not paid, and I take some issue with arguments that improvements to the page on nuclear close calls is "political":

Do you think the point of adding nuclear close calls isn't to move public policy into a direction that's less likely to produce a nuclear accident? That's a political purpose. It's not party political but it's political.  

I mean that some individuals later in this group, before any organized effort by the FLI existed, had dabbled in editing some of these same articles, for exactly the pure motives that you advocate editing for, and encountered entrenched (and perhaps unreasonable) opposition.

There was an EA project where Vipul paid a few people to write EA related Wikipedia content on a variety of EA issues. This triggered resistence from people like Jytdog who see it as their mission to prevent commercial and other interests from infringing into Wikipedia. While of course not all EA people involved in that episode were paid it's part of the reason why some admins were very protective about EA articles. 

If you look at the account behind the edit you point to it's an account that mostly edits articles for a single cause. Given what you said it's also an FLI associated account that edits FLI pages without doing any disclosure about how the account owner relates to FLI. That's why it's likely perceived as being an account by someone with an agenda that they are not open about. It doens't like like a person who comes regularly to Wikipedia when they browse the web and edits something when they see an error.

I first thought that you were talking about something that happened later and not back in 2015. Nobody blocked https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_close_calls from existing. 

 

Do you think the point of adding nuclear close calls isn't to move public policy into a direction that's less likely to produce a nuclear accident? That's a political purpose. It's not party political but it's political.  

 

Of course I believe it serves that purpose. I also believe that the most recent edit in all of Wikipedia at my time of writing, deleting a paragraph from the article on Leanna Cavanagh (a character from some British TV show I'd never heard of) serves to decrease the prominence of that TV show, which will weaken whatever message or themes it carries (such as bringing attention to Yorkshire, where the show is set).

 

So, this is an empty criticism.

 

Similarly, I don't know who "the account behind the edit you point to" is since I linked to two different revisions both of which cover edits by multiple authors, but I checked the edit history of one of them, user Simfish (whose real life identity I shan't reveal at this moment). He has a bunch of edits on the "Timeline of Nordstrom" article, and I don't know what that has to do with EA.

 

I'm not sure this conversation has any more productive purpose. You keep on harping on a specific defense of Wikipedia culture that any hostility encountered by my peers is justified because we were a paid special interest group. I've stated several reasons why those justifications did not apply at the time hostility was first encountered. I see you continuing to try to find ways to make those criticisms apply. Needless to say, this is a silly battle since I'm the one with all the details.

 

I can say that this experience is not leaving me any more desirous of editing Wikipedia, so I'm at least one person with whom you've not yet succeeded in your original goal.

 

Edit: Okay, I just found Simfish (and his real name) on a list of people whom Vipul paid, and found that Vipul Naki's timeframe overlapped with the FLI group. I have to partly retract the details behind my thesis above. I can still make it because I do not recognize anyone else on Vipul's list having a Boston/FLI connection.

Edit 2: Neither of these articles appear on the list of articles sponsored by Vipul.

I also believe that the most recent edit in all of Wikipedia at my time of writing, deleting a paragraph from the article on Leanna Cavanagh (a character from some British TV show I'd never heard of) serves to decrease the prominence of that TV show, which will weaken whatever message or themes it carries (such as bringing attention to Yorkshire, where the show is set).

While bringing less attention to Yorkshire might be an effect of the edit, it's not the purpose of the edit. Purpose is about intent. FLI is an organization that has a mission. Part of that mission is to get governments to act better in regards towards X-risk. 

So, this is an empty criticism.

My point here isn't criticism. It's understanding why the thing that happened happened. 

I personally have no problem with either what Vipul did or what FLI did here. If you however want to understand why there was the opposition that's there and edit in a way that's less likely to face opposition it makes sense to understand why the scenario played out the way it did.

Edit 2: Neither of these articles appear on the list of articles sponsored by Vipul.

That doesn't mean they weren't collateral damage.

That doesn’t mean they weren’t collateral damage.

"Your edit can be rejected because of collateral damage from some conflict you are not a party to" is an instance of "benign edits are rejected for arcane reasons", not a refutation of it.

It sounds to me like you are interested into judgement while I'm interested in useful mental models to engage in action.

"Edits may be rejected for reasons that are not reasonably predictable by the editor and unrelated to the quality of the edit" is, in fact, a model of how edits are treated. And it's useful in deciding whether editing is likely to work.

There are two things here. The first one is that I'm asking people to voice their opinion on talk pages which is a different category of action then making edits to Wikipedia articles directly. 

If an EA organization wants to edit Wikipedia, understanding the relationship between the EA community overall and Wikipedia is something that's achieveable and that then allows predicting the related effects.

Organisations holding a high amount of power have a natural tendency to become more and more bureaucratic over time. I'm borrowing the concept from Graeber's The Utopia of Rules. The signs of a bureaucracy are the one-way addition of rules over time (rules are only added, very rarely deleted). While maintaining a facade of impartiality, these rules allow the insiders the flexibility to settle whatever way as the moment's incentives require. They act in a way that displaces accountability from the insiders on to the outsiders.

Wikipedia does hold some amount of power, and it looks well on its way towards bureaucratization. The number of editors has been going down, and it's notoriously become more discouraging for newcomers.

I don't think Wikipedia's rules are leaning left. I think Wikipedia's rules are on their way to becoming dense and overlapping enough as to allow insiders to settle whatever way they need to.

Bureaucratic organisations rarely reform. Hopefully they crumble under their own dead weight and are replaced by better ones.

This is an extremely important point. (I remember thinking a long time ago that Wikipedia just Exists, and that although random people are allowed to edit it, doing it is generally Wrong.) FWIW I'm an editor now - User:Duckmather.

That's great to hear. Effects like this are what I was hoping for.

Having created a number of articles and made numerous edits on Wikipedia over the last 15 years, I’ve pretty much given up now. Because these days any edit I make is likely to be reverted by a self-appointed gatekeeper of the article in question, regardless of merit. And even articles I create with citations are marked for deletion because the citations are deemed not good enough. (Eg I recently created articles on the WELLBY and WALY, units of subjective well-being used in happiness economics. Both were swiftly removed by someone who obviously knows nothing about the topic. Citing the UN’s annual report on world happiness, written by the leading academics in the field, was not considered adequate! And unlike other articles mentioned by other commenters, there is nothing remotely controversial about this.)

Once upon a time the assumption was that new articles were probably worthwhile and would be improved in due course by you or other people. Now it seems to be that any new article is assumed wrong and bad unless you jump through a load of hoops to persuade some anonymous ignoramus otherwise.

This is so off-putting to anyone who wishes to improve Wikipedia; you are treated with passive-aggressive contempt. And the reverse of the original idea, viz. to encourage anyone to write & edit articles. The powers that be should really change this.

That said I do agree that creating new articles in Wikipedia can be hard and I would prefer policies to be different and while that is good it's not the core of what I'm advocating here. 

In cases where an edit is very likely to be reverted when done on the article, the place to have the discussion about the content in question is the talk page. That's why I spoke in my post about voicing issues on the talk page. 

The powers that be should really change this.

Wikipedia is democratic there are no "power that be". Someone has to write the RfC and then enough people (there's a minimum number of edits to be eligible) need to support the RfC. Admins don't have any special voting rights.

If the people who are annoyed by the status quo leave instead of voting in the decisions to have better policy, policy won't improve.

Indeed you can discuss edits on the talk page, but doing so does not prevent gatekeepers reverting anything at whim. So the position often is: your edit will not be accepted unless you’re prepared to spend an indefinite amount of time arguing the case for it.

This has always been the case and created problems at times, but the problem is now worse than ever. As, unlike before, your edit/article is now assumed guilty until proven innocent.

Establishing consensus does help preventing people from reverting at whim. A single person coming to an article alone doesn't produce consensus for a change. That actually needs multiple people.

If you read a Wikipedia article and think it's very problematic, take five minutes and write about why it's problematic on the talk page of the article. 

FYI, I did exactly that a couple of weeks ago, and nothing happened (yet, at least).  No politically charged issues, just a simple conflation of two place names with similar spelling.  I thought about splitting the one page into two and figuring out what other pages should link to them... and decided that there was probably someone much more qualified than I was, who would actually enjoy cleaning this up, and who just needed a little nudge on the Talk page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Lundbreen

For the type of things people are likely to complain about, there will tend to be admins who watch the page and will revert your edits if you put something they disagree with. So, it's probably best to edit Wikipedia only if you either (1) are already powerful there, or (2) are editing uncontroversial pages.

This is true for the actual page but not for the talk page. The talk page is where the disagreement about those pages get resolves and where it makes sense to speak up to push consensus in the right direction.

I think it's a bad use of time these days. 

I'm not a Wikipedia author. I have an account but I'm rarely logged in. But I have made quite a few edits in Wikipedia (mostly German but also English). Most minor, some bigger ones, and I have even created pages (four, one of which was deleted). My takeaway: 

  • Fixing minor typos is very easy and everybody is happy about it.
  • Adding references to well-known sources almost always works. I added links to Gallup polls to a page about the Trump presidency and it went thru fine. No politics issues.
  • Adding section with additional information will only go thru if you follow a lot of guidelines but if you are lucky someone will fix it up later.
  • Adding pages is possible but it has to be about something of general and wider interest. That depends on the subject. And it depends on the context. If there are already multiple missing links to that page it will be easy. If not less so. Knowing this, when I tried to add a page about an artist (my late father-in-law) I first created that context - the institutions he worked at. And then created the page with all the cross-links. The page was still deleted - albeit after some discussion with 3rd parties also arguing for it to stay. The institutions stayed and got more links over time though.

You can learn a lot from trying and from the discussions. 

If there are already multiple missing links to that page it will be easy. If not less so. Knowing this, when I tried to add a page about an artist (my late father-in-law) I first created that context - the institutions he worked at. 

While missing links can be helpful, it's not central. When thinking about creating a page about a person it makes sense to first read the section in notability:people that applies.

In the case of artists its:

Authors, editors, journalists, filmmakers, photographers, artists, architects, and other creative professionals:

  1. The person is regarded as an important figure or is widely cited by peers or successors.
  2. The person is known for originating a significant new concept, theory, or technique.
  3. The person has created or played a major role in co-creating a significant or well-known work or collective body of work. In addition, such work must have been the primary subject of an independent and notable work (for example, a book, film, or television series, but usually not a single episode of a television series) or of multiple independent periodical articles or reviews.
  4. The person's work (or works) has: (a) become a significant monument, (b) been a substantial part of a significant exhibition, (c) won significant critical attention, or (d) been represented within the permanent collections of several notable galleries or museums.

So when creating an article about an artist you have to search for sources that demonstrate either of those points.

Yes, I know. From the talk page. The rules have been sharpened a bit since then. But there are borderline cases. My father-in-law was cited by peers - but how widely? It was in the news - but too regional ones. He originated a new art technique and created quite a body of published work (10000s of pages)- albeit in the form of book-on-demand which was not considered widely enough. There have been multiple exhibitions - even cited in the news, but not beyond Germany. It was grey.

I didn't write it just for your information, but for the case that someone reads through the thread and wants a better understanding of how things work.

I used to edit wikipedia, I wouldn't waste my time now. I was a regular donor but would never donate again. 

They used to be an encyclopedia, now they're a pulpit. I'm not interested in that.

This is a bit like saying: "The politician that win the election these days are crazy so I stopped voting". The fact that a lot of bad calls get made makes it more important to engage and not less.

(I think donations are a different matter, and don't think that there's a strong case for donating)

How do you feel about politicians policing your library use for wrongthink? Would you give a vote of no confidence to that? Because I did.

Not engaging is different then voting no confidence. It's essentially abstaining from any votes of no confidence.

If you believe an institution is corrupted then why would you believe that voting within it isn't?

I'm voting with my feet, in a way that cannot be subverted. I'm not validating a corrupt process by participating in it. Nobody can argue that I support wikipedia as it stands. That is the ultimate vote of no confidence - refusal to associate.

What else would you have me do with a group of people that don't listen and never will? 

There are frequent complaints (here and elsewhere) that Wikipedia editing has gatekeepers.  And if you want to edit the article on Donald Trump, change the history of the Troubles in Ireland, or claim something about who owns the Spratly Islands, there are gatekeepers.  If you want to work on the vast swaths of the encyclopedia that aren't complete and aren't hot political topics, it's rare that you will come across any response to your edits at all.

That’s not my experience. These days I find innocuous edits to innocuous articles are very often reverted by someone who has appointed themselves the authority on the article in question. Only edits they really like will stay.

I do need to explicitly call out one point here.  Making edits to an existing page is often ignored.  Creating a new page is always reviewed by somebody; and there is a consistent backlog due to a lack of volunteers to do the reviewing.  As a result, many promising stub articles are treated quickly and poorly.  There's no solution here other than to find more reviewers (which does take quite a bit of project-specific knowledge; you need to understand reference formatting, categories, article structure, etc.).

Regarding WELLBY specifically:

  • Technically, your content wasn't "deleted", it was "draftified".  This can fairly be called an arcane technical detail.
  • The important difference is that you can click a button to ask someone else to review the removal.
  • The second issue is that the only source is the 2021 World Happiness Report itself, which appears to have invented the term.  If a term is recently invented and hasn't been discussed by anyone else, it will not have a stand-alone Wikipedia article.  (you can complain about "notability" if you want, to somebody else).  The term is discussed in the article on the World Happiness Report.  Why aren't you happy with that?

The term is discussed in the article on the World Happiness Report.  

While this is technically true in this case, it seems like the person who deleted it didn't notice given that the page should redirect to the section of the World Happiness Report.  

The initial policy of Wikipedia to allow stubs was better then the status quo where stubs get deleted or drafified.

You're absolutely correct that the page should have been made into a redirect rather than turned into a draft.  Mistakes happen; you can fix it.

Probably getting into too much detail on this specific case here, but the term (though recent) wasn’t invented in the WHR; I’ve also come across it eg in a book by Richard Layard, and I expect also occurs in various academic papers. But by draftifying the article the editor assumed that it’s probably wrong or unnotable. I reckon new stub articles, particularly coherent ones that seem to have been written by someone who knows the subject matter, should be given the benefit of the doubt (as was once the case), and assumed ‘probably ok’ until shown otherwise, rather than ‘probably not’.

Especially, stubs about intellectual concepts as compared to stubs about people where bad articles might produce Living People concerns.

Having stubs makes it easy for people to contribute by making the stubs better.