A Cautionary Tale About Editing Wikipedia (and Why You Should Be Wary)

As my regular readers probably know, I am something of an Inanimate Alice evangelist, and have worked for some time now with the Inanimate Alice team on a voluntary basis, also writing educationally-based articles on the topic, as well as presenting at conferences, etc…

I also began editing the Inanimate Alice Wikipedia article awhile ago, but have recently been blocked because of an editing dispute (completely unrelated to me). However, as a result of the blocking, the Wikipedia administrators were able to connect me to the project, and have since determined that my editing work was a conflict of interest with the “rules” of Wikipedia. Apparently, conflict of interest extends to academic — not just financial — interest. And citing oneself is considered self-promotion — academic self-promotion I guess:)

Now the article lies in shambles, which makes it no good as an information source.

This is a cautionary tale about the limitations of Wikipedia as a forum for public scholarship, and may have implications for its use among students who are being directed to edit an article as part of a classroom project (especially if the article relates to the scholarly interest of their professor).

Do I think this is an over-reach of the Wikipedia administrators? Pretty much, but oh well… All I can say is that what once was a pretty good one-stop shop about everything Inanimate Alice, is now incomplete, so of limited worth.

This experience makes me wary of using Wikipedia as an editor because what was here today can be completely gone tomorrow, all at the whim of an overzealous administrator!


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