Monday, January 22, 2007

The Slaughter of the Webcomics...

Life is sometimes ironic. The day after I make the mistake of using an article from Wikipedia I read an item that made me regret it beneath the cartoon at You Say It First under the heading of January 15, 2007 as follows:

" About a week ago, Namir Deiter's wikipedia article was deleted for "failing to assert notability". Now, I feel that Namir Deiter is notable. ..there wasn't a vote. It was summarily deleted."

Continuing further, I read with interest, "Now, about fifty webcomics articles have been deleted in the last two weeks. Good webcomics articles. Not stubs. Not articles about comics with 10 strips and 5 readers. The Class Menagerie, Dragon Tails, Gene Catlow, Living in Greytown, Misfile, The Suburban Jungle, and Zortic, to name a few."

50 Webcomics? That seemed a bit much. To the best of my knowledge Namir Deiter has been operating on the Web since at least 1999. If you count Unlike Minerva and its sequal You Say It First as one comic started in 2001 then it too has been operating for about as long. And Zortic started in March of 2000. All three of them are older than Wiki (which claims January 16, 2001 as a birthyear) and would never have lasted as long as they did if they did not have a following. And there are people at Wiki who presume to say they aren't notable?

So the question has to be, who at Wiki is doing this and why?

The person who deleted these webcomics (including Namir Deiter) seems to be one Nanconkantari. This is what his talk page looks like. As of 8:16 PM (Midwest time) on January 17, 2007, this note was a part of that page.

"Could you please restore the following articles that you deleted to my User space, along with their associated talk- and history- pages? Thank you --Nekura 20:00, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

"Draco (comic)"
"Boat Anchor (comic strip)"
"Apathy Kat"
"Ashfield (webcomic)"
"Astounding Space Thrills"
"Acts of Gord"
"Abby's Agency"
"Namir Deiter"*
"Jack Story Arcs and Shorts"
"The Class Menagerie"*
"Carpe Diem (webcomic)"
"Living in Greytown" *
"The Cyantian Chronicles"
"Tales of the Questor"
"Tales From Band Camp"
"The Suburban Jungle"
"Purple Pussy"
"Poisoned Minds"
"Funny Farm (comic)"
"Gene Catlow"*
"A Doemain of Our Own"
"Goblin Hollow"
"TalkImpact" "

So let's add 23 names to the 7 Mr. Marks supplied and if that's 30 instead of 50 we are still clearly on our way. Let us note also that Nacontari has clearly been a busy boy.

The delection log for Zortic is here and reads as follows:

"View (previous 50) (next 50) (20 | 50 | 100 | 250 | 500).

12:51, 10 January 2007 Bogdangiusca (Talk | contribs) deleted "Zortic" (notability not asserted -- CSD A7) "

Bogdangiusca's talkpage is here.

The deletion log for Dragon Tails also yields the comment:

"* 22:22, 9 January 2007 Bogdangiusca (Talk | contribs) deleted "Dragon Tails" (CSD A7: "does not assert the importance or significance of its subject")"

A look for the Misfile article yielded a stub marked for execution that led to an interesting debate page.

Also of interest is this:

"Web-specific content[3] is notable if it meets any one of the following criteria:

1. The content itself has been the subject of multiple non-trivial published works whose source is independent of the site itself.
* This criterion includes published works in all forms, such as newspaper and magazine articles, books, television documentaries, and published reports by consumer watchdog organizations.[4] except for the following:
* Media re-prints of press releases and advertising for the content or site.[5]
* Trivial coverage, such as (1) newspaper articles that simply report the internet address, (2) newspaper articles that simply report the times at which such content is updated or made available, (3) a brief summary of the nature of the content or the publication of internet addresses and site or (4) content descriptions in internet directories or online stores.
2. The website or content has won a notable independent award from either a publication or organization.[6]
3. The content is distributed via a medium which is both well known and independent of the creators, either through an online newspaper or magazine, an online publisher, or an online broadcaster.[7]

The article itself must provide proof that its subject meets one of these criteria via inlined links or a "Reference" or "External link" section. Even if an entire website meets the notability criteria, its components (forums, articles, sections) are not necessarily notable and deserving of their own separate article."

I think it interesting that by Wikipedia's own criteria Wikipedia itself does not have the right to be listed in its own encyclopedia. :P

In the case of Namir Dieter I should note that a look at gave me a strong indication that it is indeed sold there. We also have Wikipedia's own assurance that Namir Deiter was published by Iron Cat. So offhand I would say that Namir Deiter at least should continue to be listed given that it clearly meets criteria #3.

That said, where do we go from here? The first thing to say is that it seems to me that Wiki life would be a bit easier for article contributors, staff members and casual readers alike if the criteria by which articles were yanked were subject to greater transparency. In his post Terrence wrote, "I'm not sure exactly what counts as an acceptable webcomics article, and I'm starting to believe that just about any article we create would be deleted regardless of its quality." I myself can't blame him for feeling that way when it took me about 5 hours to locate Wikipedia's rules on web content through serendipity rather than by any easily located link on the deletion notices themselves. If it were easier for people to know what the rules were then this would be less work for the staff and less frustrating for everyone else. Such frustration cannot be good for Wikipedia's longterm reputation since the sort of people it offends are precisely the sort who buy ink by the barrel when they are unhappy.

This wholesale deletion of webcomics can hardly good for Wiki's reputation from another angle either when you consider this plays against one of Wiki's boasted strenghs that, and I quote, "* In contrast with many web resources, information added to Wikipedia never "vanishes", and is never "lost" or deleted."

I will leave it to my readers to decide if 30 to 50 deleted articles seems like information never vanishing or "lost" or deleted to *them*. If Wiki really intends to live up to this boast then they should restore these lost articles otherwise such a boast would seem to be better to have never made in the first place.

The second thing of interest to me is their criteria for "notability" seems too narrow in their presumption that nothing matters unless it happens off the Net as well as upon it and in their not taking into account the fact that regular production patterns over a long and sustained period of time genuinely is a reasonable criteria for notableness in and of itself. In searching through the blogosphere for blogs that might be of interest to my own readers I have been astounded and dismayed on more than one occasion to find just how many blogs there were that were started and then abandoned with less than 10 entries or sometimes merely just one. Less surprising albeit still unfortunate is the number of blogs that seem to peter out after no more than a year or 3 of production. There are enough sites of this sort that I would be inclined to pronounce a blog or a webcomic that is still active on a regular basis after 5 years of more to be both established and venerable and therefore notable just for that alone. This is especially true in the cases of comics such as Namir Deiter that are older than Wiki and are put forth with an energy and a level of reliability that makes it likely that it will still be around when Wikipedia itself is no longer with us.

Finally, there is the angle that bothers me and is the reason I will be somewhat less likely to have anything to do with Wiki in the future: Bogdangiusca deserves honor for being more forthright than Naconkantari in at least explaining his reasons, but at this point I myself must assert that there is such a thing as being arbitrary with the concept of notability taken too far that can leave one's memory cursed by the generations of social scientists to come. If the cave painting of Lascoux had been painted with whitewash because a random tourist had decided that they weren't anything out of the ordinary how happy do you think future generations of archaeologists would be? Should Classical scholars be happy if someone decided that the graffitti of Pompei was too trivial to be kept and whitewashed them away? If the Chessmen of Lewis had been tossed aside for being mere toys would the historians and folklorists of today thank the man who did it? How about those fools who think history itself an unnotable subject? Should their views be taken into account when the next round of article purges at Wikipedia goes down?

Anyone familiar with the works of Professors Dan Nimmo or James Earle Combs cannot help but be aware that the pop culture of any period does represent the collective subconscious mind of the societies from which they were spawned. This is as true for the minor works as well as for the major. It is of no assistance to either the serous scholar or the casual inquirer if his selection of the specimens to be examined are reduced in this manner.

For this, and all the other reasons I have stated, I would urge upon Wikipedia the restoration of those webcomics articles that have been deleted as the best action for all concerned.



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