Saturday, January 20, 2007

Asheville's Wiki war

Hat-tip Mountain Xpress:

"It's probably all my fault.

In March of 2006, I posted a well-intentioned addition to the Asheville entry on Wikipedia, the online collaborative encyclopedia. I didn't intend to start trouble – I was just trying to add a few drops to that vast ocean of digital information.

At, anyone can make an addition to the collective pool of knowledge, as well as edit information submitted by others. So, I added a simple and relatively bland subcategory to the Asheville Wikipedia page about the local-music scene. What a horrible mistake.

You see, during the past nine months since I made that initial post, there has been a war of words on the page over just what constitutes "the local-music scene." Bitter arguments over terminology have arisen, nitpicking "flame wars" have flared up over just which bands should be considered relevant, and no one seems to be able to do much except undo the work of their fellow contributors.

Other disputes, such as which external links about the area should be allowed and which film-and-TV references to Asheville should be permitted, have only made the problem worse. (A few seemingly shameless self-promoters who have added their personal accomplishments to the page have also earned the ire of Wikipedians.)

The escalation of spite eventually got out of hand. It fact, it got to the level of being termed an "edit war" – the online equivalent of a battle royale.

Not surprisingly, at the urging of Wikipedian "Golbez," the Asheville page was "locked" last month by the Web site's administration – meaning that no new posts were permitted. Until last week, the page had its contents set in digital stone.

Now the good news: It was unlocked on Jan. 12, thanks to a compromise agreement on the discussion page. Still, major issues about how the page will be revised are yet to be addressed.

Which begs the question: What changes would you make?"

– Steve Shanafelt


I just thought this was funny enough to post! Thanks Steve!


Anonymous said...

I think this report is exagerated. Edit war? Yes. Flame war? Hardly. While there is a lot of passionate discussion on the article's talk page, there was very little "flaming". Apparently Steve isn't very familiar with editing and collaborating on Wikipedia where this kind of activity is commonplace. If you want to see real flaming, look at the George W Bush page.

UnknownCity said...

It wasn't exaggerated. The term for this kind of thing is an "edit war." I didn't make it up, I just reported it. And the page was locked specifically because of the edit war, which is how I learned the term in the first place. Wikipedia doesn't lock pages over flame wars, since flaming takes place on the discussion page and not the article itself, but they do lock them over aggressive editing. As wars go, this was more of a border raid in the Balkans than a World War or something, but it still counts.

But I agree that the term is pure hyperbole. When you think about it, "flame war" is just as overblown a term. In the non-digital world, this would just be any other argument, not on par with a war at all.

But, you've missed the point. The thrust of the article was that Asheville's page was locked, not that edit wars exist. We're a self-obsessed little town, and I wrote the piece because I thought it was a good way of taking an increasingly notable national topic -- in this case, Wikipedia -- and putting a local angle on it.

Also, it's worth bearing in mind that this report was written in early 2007, before Wikipedia was quite the deep-rooted, omnipresent information source it is today. Like Craigslist and iTunes, it was still a relatively new idea for a lot of people a year-and-a-half ago.