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Mar 16 2013

I support the #tooFEW project

Hey, we all know what atheists, gamers, tech people, and scientists have in common: underrepresentation of minority viewpoints and the presence of indignant white male gatekeepers. Now we get to add another category: wikipedia editors. In that great common resource that gets used all over the place as a quick entry to basic concepts, only 15% of the editors are women. The Feminists Engage Wikipedia project sounds like an excellent way to correct that, by educating more women in how to edit wikipedia and increase the range of contributions.

Note that this is a positive effort. No one is proposing to go in and destroy the patriarchal power structure of wikipedia or anything like that — they are simply trying to get more individuals from wider backgrounds to add topics of interest. All good, right? Exactly in the collaborative spirit of wikipedia?

You’d think so, but they’re already getting pushback. A few people are resentful and think that the initiative will lead to lots of inconsequential topics to clutter up wikipedia — how dare someone think a black feminist writer might be worthy, when we’ve got to document every episode of My Mother the Car? The guys are getting busy strategizing.

sinfest_strategizing

Those of you who are interested might follow Moya Bailey on her blog and on twitter…and participate!

(Thanks to Dana for making me aware of this!)

58 comments

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  1. 1
    chigau (違う)

    ..will lead to lots of inconsequential topics to clutter up wikipedia …

    “lead to”
    Hardy har-har.

  2. 2
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I thought one of the points of Wiki was that you can get information on every inconsequential topic you can think of.

  3. 3
    koncorde

    I can understand some reticence towards “new” contributions, particularly when delivered by people that have previously expressed no interest in contributing (for whatever reason that may be). Particularly motivated groups can cause (very quickly) a lot of unintended hassle for regulars to tidy up. In some cases the edits are ell intended, in others they are mean spirited. They all require checking. You need only look at the number of editors that suddenly appear to make amendments to whichever public figure is flavour of the month.

    There is also a lot of bureaucracy to deal with, a lot of controlling / influential primary editors (I’m guilty), and lots of established norms and practices that new editors can fall foul of.

    What I don’t want is a bad experience for these first time editors, or the reactions of the existing editors to be seen as negative for the many reasons that they could be outside of the perceived “keep wimmins out” responses.

    I hope this is successful, I also hope that wikipedia isn’t dragged through the mud by its association with idiots who respond incorrectly to a new motivated group of editors.

    I want there to be more contributions to Wikipedia full stop. I love being pushed by edits (helpful or not) into creating better articles, more rounded and complete – delivering citations and references.

    There can be no defence for restricting access to editing wikipedia, other than for avoiding persistent vandalism.

  4. 4
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    Ah, yes. Wikipedia. That bastion of important information, like how they keep editing the J. M. Barrie page to suggest he suffered from psychogenic dwarfism and never achieved puberty, despite all the pictures of him showing him as average height for a man of his time and place and growing facial hair.

    If an ill-researched book somewhere at some time said something, then it’s completely legitimate to say “some sources claim.”

    But if a lady wants to edit something? Whew, that’s going too far!

  5. 5
    koncorde

    @The Mellow Monkey;

    Fix it? Utilise the bureaucracy to enforce the correct approach to biographies? Or dodge responsibility it entirely and just blame wikipedia for being inaccurate due to the concerted efforts of a few in promoting a fringe idea due to misplaced inclusion strategies?

    And please, don’t conflate separate issues.

    Responses to feminist causes by idiots are not in any way associated with inaccuracies in wikipedia (which is related to a whole different class of idiots).

  6. 6
    Maureen Brian

    What a little shit we have on display at numbers 3 & 5!

  7. 7
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    koncorde, dodge responsibility? That’s one I personally tried to deal with. I also gave up because it just kept getting thrown in there again because of one glorious, stupid citation counter to blatantly obvious evidence. Having to become deeply involved in a community, understand the bureaucracy of it, and then squat over pages to ensure a single piece of information isn’t reinserted is a bit more effort than I find reasonable. Those who enjoy it welcome to it, of course, but treating that effort as some minor thing anyone can do any time they notice an inaccuracy and then have their correction stick is a drastic simplification of reality.

    No, it’s not the same as idiots responding to female representation. I probably shouldn’t have brought up my own tangential irritation here.

  8. 8
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    “only 15% of the editors are women. ”

    And how do they know this? Wikipedia gave me a choice of male, female or undisclosed. As is my habit, I used a pseudonym and disclosed as little personal info as possible.

    Most of my edits (99%) are made when not logged in … so how was my gender state known for those edits. Does my IP address have a gender attached to it?

  9. 9
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    Damnit. I’m sorry for the ableist use of “idiot” in #7. I was repeating what koncorde said without noting the problems with it.

  10. 10
    dvizard

    Hm. I mean, it’s not an unworthy goal as such, but do we really need another Great Initiave for More Women Wherever? What’s next: the movement for more women audiophiles, or for more women Charades players? Not that I’m against it, I just don’t feel it is a prime priority.

    What would be really, really necessary is more women as screenwriters, directors and producers in Hollywood. I can’t think of anything which would further women’s causes more.

    (The backlash from a few dicks on the Internet was so predictable, though.)

  11. 11
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I can’t think of anything which would further women’s causes more.

    Really? You can think of nothing that can further women’s causes more than that? Pitiful, that.

    And yet, I agree that more women screenwriters, directors and producers is a good goal. I also think that more women contributing to wikipedia is a good thing. Just because we can go bigger and better doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also work towards smaller goals. One reason is integration of women in many various places, and another is simple fact that most people, or in this case specifically women, can’t have the opportunity to become producers or directors, but becoming a wikipedia editor is a much more attainable goal.

  12. 12
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    What would be really, really necessary is more women as screenwriters, directors and producers in Hollywood. I can’t think of anything which would further women’s causes more.

    There are some good points in here, though I think it’s a bit shortsighted if you can’t think of anything that would further women’s causes more.

    More feminists as screenwriters, directors and producers in Hollywood (as well as authors of popular fiction) would make a huge difference in such causes. Everything that I write, I make an active effort to insert social justice concepts into, even if it’s just some pulpy historical adventure. But my vagina isn’t what’s making the difference there; it’s my dedication to furthering feminism and other social justice causes. Women can be just as misogynistic as anyone else and can further patriarchy and rape culture. But with more and more voices working towards social justice in pop culture, there would be greater influence over how people see the world. That would definitely be a good thing.

    There might be an influx of more feminist voices if more women are editing Wikipedia, but that’s not really about “furthering women’s causes” in general. It’s just a matter of making more space for women period. If 50% of Wikipedia editors (or screenwriters, directors and producers in Hollywood) were misogynistic women, that wouldn’t actually do much beneficial.

    Luckily, the Feminists Engage Wikipedia project is actually trying to raise the number of feminists and not just the percentage of women. And that is beneficial.

  13. 13
    Sparky Lurkdragon

    Ah yes, Wikipedia. I used to be a fairly active contributor – I started their article on the game series Ecco the Dolphin and defended it from trolls. Lots of contributions to the stuff I was interested in – videogames and cartoons, mostly, with a few animals.

    Eventually got very fed up with the politics and gave up contribution beyond the very occasional spelling correction after one too many ridiculous battles. The final straw was a debate over whether use the pronoun “he” or “it” when referring to a captive male specimen of a recently-extinct species.

  14. 14
    rrede

    Longtime lurker, very occasional poster, but have been fascinated by the recent posts!

    And this post gave me definite deja vu: I became interested in wikis as method for collaborative writing a while ago (english teacher), and also as a feminist (given the longtime problems reported by women involved in Wikipedia). So a few links/resources:

    NY Times on issue in 2011:
    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/02/02/where-are-the-women-in-wikipedia

    Jezabel: http://jezebel.com/5945850/where-are-all-the-women-of-wikipedia

    Nine Reasons: http://suegardner.org/2011/02/19/nine-reasons-why-women-dont-edit-wikipedia-in-their-own-words/

    Formation of wikichix (2006):

    WikiChix: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/WikiChix

    http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/WikiChix_2011_Lunch

    A recent study (have to save this for future use!):

    http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4291/3381

  15. 15
    koncorde

    @ 7 Mellow Monkey:

    So you see why I have my concern that the first experience is going to be a bad one, if yours is a bad one and where I can point to numerous instances for myself (or @13 Sparky Lurkdragon).

    I retain “possession” of core articles pertinent to my interests and log in 4 or 5 times a day at a minimum to trace and track edits. I also dedicate time and effort whenever I read any article to check for obvious fixes.

    I agree, it’s an unreasonable demand to maintain an article correctly in the face of equally determined editors – but it is what is required in order to maintain balance otherwise Mr Barrie will forever remain misrepresented.

    I also have to admit I’d forgotten the somewhat archaic use of idiot.

    @ 6 Maureen Brian

    I’m sorry I don’t meet whatever criteria to be a non-shit. What would you propose as a solution to my attitude? Perhaps I should be silent, and not point out the obvious pitfalls, or provide context for why any dedicated effort by any particular groups can be viewed with caution by the existing userbase which has nothing to do with the “new” people being women?

    I don’t contribute here often, a discussion on wikipedia issues is actually one where I can bring something to the table.

    Thank you for highlighting exactly why I rarely contribute here and prefer the edit warring of wikipedia.

  16. 16
    garlic

    Beatrice #2: You’d think so, but unfortunately recent years have seen the relentless growth of Deletionism.

    Though to be fair, if you can find non-fringe physical publications that reference the subject of your article, you’re probably safe.

  17. 17
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    Those are great links, rrede. Thank you. It’s interesting to see that my experiences and frustrations aren’t uncommon among women on Wikipedia. It also highlights why #tooFEW can really be beneficial. It’s awesome if someone can do what koncorde does to preserve factual information:

    I retain “possession” of core articles pertinent to my interests and log in 4 or 5 times a day at a minimum to trace and track edits. I also dedicate time and effort whenever I read any article to check for obvious fixes.

    But the scope of pages to cover far exceeds what any one individual can do and there are people who have similar dedication to misrepresenting or attacking information on feminist or other social justice related pages. Having a communal effort will help immensely.

  18. 18
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    garlic,

    Though to be fair, if you can find non-fringe physical publications that reference the subject of your article, you’re probably safe.

    I think that is fair. While I like being able to find obscure information on things I would expect less than ten people in the world were interested in, I am in favor of any information on Wikipedia being supported with proper sources.

  19. 19
    Rey Fox

    but do we really need another Great Initiave for More Women Wherever?

    Sure.

    What’s next: the movement for more women audiophiles, or for more women Charades players?

    Sure.

    What would be really, really necessary is more women as screenwriters, directors and producers in Hollywood. I can’t think of anything which would further women’s causes more.

    True. It’s such a shame that women can’t do more than one thing at a time.

  20. 20
    Maureen Brian

    Konkorde, not my job to educate you. Go back to your @ 3, dripping as it is with condescension and faux-concern, and imagine saying exactly that face-to-face to just one woman. Pick one at random – Rear Admiral Grace Hopper will do but there are others.

    Now, would you expect her to be delighted? No? Then neither am I at the thought that someone might need to clean up after me when I use the skills – systems design, editing, negotiating massive bureaucracies, you don’t know what else – I’ve been using all my life, since I started work with a computerised system in a huge government department in the 1960s.

    Nor need you fear that my womb will drop out if I use my brain for more than housekeeping. That one was discredited by 1700 CE at the latest, at least where I live.

    Man, you are surrounded by geeks of all genders and by a wonderful contingent of uppity women. What goes down well with the blokes in the bar just won’t work here. Didn’t you check who you were talking to?

  21. 21
    ronjaaddams-moring

    Oy, koncorde! (warning: rant ahead)

    I am a woman who used to edit Wikipedia and take photos for the Commons 2006-2008. Then real life got busy, and I became a lot less active on WP & Commons. I have every now and then checked back on the articles that I did the most work on, and the results are partially disheartening:

    Early warning system – a stub that has morphed back and forth, been merged and re-split, and in the process completely lost the information that this is the term that the UN uses, i.e. approximately the only truly international term for emergency population warning / emergency alert / citizens’ warning / public warning / … (every English-speaking state seems to have their own vocabulary on this)

    Stephen Colbert at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner – featured article since 2006, which has been repeatedly targeted by deletionists (alternating with calls for merging it) for lack of notability

    Western European Nuclear Regulators’ Association (WENRA) – a stub that I started in 2010 that was speedily deleted for lack of notability; re-created in 2011 by someone else, now alive

    International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA) – a stub that I started in 2010 that was speedily deleted for lack of notability; re-created in 2012 by someone else, now alive

    Ken Tipton, Heart of the Beholder, Irène Joliot-Curie, Jokela school shooting, Freedom of religion by country/Finland, Sieve of Eratosthenes – all alive and well

    So two out of the ten articles that I have cared about were deleted almost immediately (international organizations for nuclear safety are not *notable* enough – excuse me what???), one is regularly changed back and forth apparently aimlessly, one is FA and *still* people keep bringing up that it should be deleted or merged…

    Now I doubt that any individual WP editor set out to create the following impression, but this is what editing WP, especially creating new articles, seems like to me ATM:

    I apparently would have needed to fight *other*WP*editors* more than trolls for the articles I care about, would have needed to check in several times daily and campaign hard to keep article stubs that IMO no commonsense criteria could judge “not notable”. Sorry, no will do, life is too short. To me that’s the same kind of bullshit that I got tired of in our high school yard 35 years ago: adolescent boys puffing themselves up and trying to impress each other with how “tough” and “critical” (i.e. “good” at finding fault in others and then calling them “witty” names) they are.

    An environment that appears aggressive and/or obsessive is just more of a guy thing, you know…

    /rant

  22. 22
    meursalt

    Based on a very cursory examination of the evidence, tooFEW’s wiki vandalisms came from two places: Pittsburgh, PA (possibly from a mobile phone, since the address traces into Verizon’s network), and the Netherlands (apparently from a home broadband connection with ISP chello.nl).

    That second one surprised me a bit. Of course, the actual vandal could have been anywhere, and simply used a proxy. The chello.nl address looks like it might be a proxy server or a cable modem with proxy functionality.

  23. 23
    koncorde

    Sorry Maureen, you are projecting. First you’re making an accusation that my concerns where not “good faith”, and then secondly that you believe everyone has as capable skills as yourself (or understands wikipedia rules and laws – of which there are myriad).

    My concern is serious and earnest, and as subsequently shown by other users (and by a cursory glance at some of the links presented by @14 rrede ) founded entirely within the experience of end users – of which I include myself.

    Editors of wikipedia actively check contributions, vast amounts of time and energy has been expended in performing routine maintenance and designing automated programs to conduct clean-ups. This happens with or without contribution from you, or any groups of motivated individuals, taking part. Mistakes are made by all editors (be it from not knowing templates exist to present data, through to formatting conventions).

    You’ll have to excuse me for not assuming absolutely everybody that reads or contributes to Pharyngula is necessarily as au fait as yourself.

    I’m sure that I have greatly underestimated everyone and that at no point will a spelling mistake, grammatical error, formatting, template or coding flub be (or already have been) inserted into wikipedia.

    I expect Grace Hopper likely made a few mistakes in her time. Or “bugs” as she might have called them.

  24. 24
    koncorde

    @21 ronjaaddams-moring;

    I apparently would have needed to fight *other*WP*editors* more than trolls for the articles I care about, would have needed to check in several times daily and campaign hard to keep article stubs that IMO no common sense criteria could judge “not notable”.

    I know that’s how it works – and it’s exactly what I don’t want to happen, nor do I wish that was the experience of those who do contribute.

    Bureaucracy is a nightmare, conforming to whichever rule of thumb is currently vogue can be a pain in the backside, and dealing with other editors can be problematic when you get people with an extremely strong will to “win” and their own opinions on what is right.

    But then that is also what happens on FtB and the net in general?

    Sorry, no will do, life is too short. To me that’s the same kind of bullshit that I got tired of in our high school yard 35 years ago: adolescent boys puffing themselves up and trying to impress each other with how “tough” and “critical” (i.e. “good” at finding fault in others and then calling them “witty” names) they are.

    I wish it was as simple as a cock waving competition. I very much doubt your articles were the “victim” of the school yard, any more than they were the victim of policy, bureaucracy and ignorance (wilful or otherwise).

    And yes, if you don’t work to maintain the knowledge – then it runs the risk of being perverted or lost. It’s a great pity that some of the informal articles (which contained well documented content) have been removed, yet TV shows are documented down to the finite detail.

  25. 25
    Outrage Zombie

    Oh my glob, the devil is a brony. Suddenly everything makes sense.

  26. 26
    Maureen Brian

    Simple rule of thumb – if you wouldn’t say it to a man when your face is exactly one foot from his face then don’t say it to a woman – ever.

    Pure chance that I have some relevant skills and experience. There are women here far cleverer than me.

  27. 27
    Nepenthe

    @koncorde

    Thank you for highlighting exactly why I rarely contribute here and prefer the edit warring of wikipedia.</blockquote.

    Indeed, for all their flaws, I've found that experienced Wikipedians generally don't make direct remarks on one's character. Making a mistake or getting someone on an off day on Pharyngula is like accidentally submitting an RfA.

    And I've found that one of the most frustrating things as a quality control oriented Wikipedia is dealing with large influxes of newbies with Agendas, regardless of the content of the agenda.

    It's a pity that no one informed the existing relevant WikiProjects with members who might have been interested in helping out, or indeed just the most active editors interested in feminism. (Though, given that at least one is a pitter *waves to iamcuriousblue* perhaps that was intentional.)

  28. 28
    Chris Clarke

    The notion that a Wikipedia user should not criticise inaccuracies and misrepresentations unless she’s willing to check in on articles that matter to her “4 or 5 times a day” to track edits and changes is utter. complete bullshit.

    That’s some religious cult ideology right there.

    Sorry, my time’s better spent actually creating information that can be fact-checked, refined, added to and used by people with some actual expertise, not subject to dick-wagging edit wars. And then Wikipedians can link to it if they find it “notable” enough. I’m not holding my breath, though.

  29. 29
    Usernames are smart

    I think the comic artist is in error. That last panel is not how one would “hoggle.”

  30. 30
    Usernames are smart

    Simple rule of thumb – if you wouldn’t say it to a man when your face is exactly one foot from his face then don’t say it to a woman – ever.Maureen Brian #26

    Um, WTF? Are you saying that men are scary and will resort to violence if spoken to in the wrong way? Do men have some sort of special force field that only allows appropriate questions to be asked (but only if asked within the bad-breath zone™)?

    Under your rule, the following are No Longer Appropriate Things to Say to (or Ask) a Woman:
    * “That shade of lipstick looks good on you.”
    * “So, when are you expecting?”
    * “How can I be more cognizant of women’s issues?”
    * “How do you like being a mom so far?”

    Conversely, the following are okay for (a man) to ask a woman:
    * “Hey, want to go hang out with the guys and play pool? Just tell your SO you need some ‘guy time’.”
    * “We’re going camping and hunting over the three day, no spouses or kids. You in?”
    * “My girlfriend’s out of town this weekend and I’m going to crack the case on the new GOW. You want to come over? Just bring some beer, it’s going to be a long night.”
    * “Hey, after you finish your set, come into the locker room. I heard this great joke I have to tell you.”
    * “Can I borrow some shampoo? I just ran out. I’ll get it from you in the showers.”
    * “Hey, do you still have that blue tie I can borrow? I have an interview and need to wear something corporate.”

  31. 31
    ck

    I think it’s more telling that you don’t think women can enjoy video games, hunting, camping, playing pool, or crude jokes.

  32. 32
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    @ 6 Maureen Brian

    I’m sorry I don’t meet whatever criteria to be a non-shit. What would you propose as a solution to my attitude? Perhaps I should be silent, and not point out the obvious pitfalls, or provide context for why any dedicated effort by any particular groups can be viewed with caution by the existing userbase which has nothing to do with the “new” people being women?

    As of #20, I believe Maureen Brian has misread you. However, given the relentlessness, viciousness, invasiveness, and numerousness of condesplaining trolls people here deal with, this sort of pattern matching error is forgivable. Understand that the patterns of behavior with which she associates your comment are considerably more distressing than the association could plausibly be to you (excepting, perhaps, a very specific sort of personal history), and keep it in mind. Also keep in mind that “getting defensive” when attacked on a pattern-matching basis is considered prima facie evidence that the pattern-matching was correct.

  33. 33
    Nepenthe

    Sorry, my time’s better spent actually creating information that can be fact-checked, refined, added to and used by people with some actual expertise, not subject to dick-wagging edit wars. And then Wikipedians can link to it if they find it “notable” enough.

    Well, yes. You’re not a Wikipedian.

    There’s this ‘pedia wide panic over how we can’t get enough new people to sign up to edit. This is not shocking; most people who might be interested in editing Wikipedia would rather edit some other website based on a different model. Fact checking? Expertise? Citizendium is that way. Never heard of it? Neither has anyone else.

    Don’t care about notability? Wikia hosts umpteen wikis to collect all of humanity’s brain droppings.

  34. 34
    brucegee1962

    Maureen Brian,

    Sorry, I’ve read over #3 about five times, and I seriously don’t see any of the condescension you’re talking about there. Here’s my translation:

    “When a group with an ideological bent joins another group that has been wrangling about picky stuff for a long time, it is quite likely that tussles will arise that have nothing to do with the group’s ideology, and it would be a pity if these squabbles were seen as being sexist when they aren’t. This is not to say that some of those on Wikipedia may not be genuinely sexist, alas. I, however, am enthusiastic about the Wikipedia project and welcome any and all new volunteers, as long as they realize what they’re signing up for.”

    What’s condescending about that? No one is questioning these women’s expertise or ability, but there’s nothing wrong with pointing out that the place can be a bit of a minefield, as later comments have demonstrated.

  35. 35
    brucegee1962

    #32 Azkyroth,

    I was with you until the last sentence.

    Also keep in mind that “getting defensive” when attacked on a pattern-matching basis is considered prima facie evidence that the pattern-matching was correct.

    Welcome to the Star Chamber. You will sit and listen to the charges being read against you. After you have heard the charges, you will stand and plead guilty. Please be advised that any attempt to defend yourself will be interpreted by the court as an admission of guilt. Any criticism of the rules by which the court operates, will also be taken as an admission of guilt. Have a nice day.

  36. 36
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Bruce, that is a descriptive observation of the comment thread dynamics I’ve observed, not an endorsement. I also find it problematic, and occasionally quite directly unpleasant. I also understand why this heuristic developed, having observed many of the influential episodes.

  37. 37
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Err, that was in response to #35

    No one is questioning these women’s expertise or ability

    Well, actually, millions of people have…often in at least superficially similar language. And people around here deal with it enough that they’ve become understandably (at least in the abstract) trigger-happy.

  38. 38
    Ichthyic

    Sorry, my time’s better spent actually creating information that can be fact-checked, refined, added to and used by people with some actual expertise, not subject to dick-wagging edit wars. And then Wikipedians can link to it if they find it “notable” enough. I’m not holding my breath, though.

    indeed. :)

  39. 39
    Maureen Brian

    Usernames are smart @ 30

    If you want to play silly games then you’re on own. What I meant was perfectly discernible to the averagely tuned brain.

    brucegee1962

    No, don’t rewrite it to give the guy cover. Read @ 3 as written because that’s how it impacted me and, as Azkyroth wisely notes, it comes on top of an infinite number of remarkably similar impacts. So, even if I did go over the top initially – I’m still to be convinced – we have @ 23 with its half-hearted attempt to imply that he, poor lad, cannot be blamed for hitting on the one among the Pharyngulans of the non-Manly Man varieties who just happened to have some of the skills he would be looking for in a wikipedia editor.

    Which is bollocks. And people should be called on it when they talk bollocks, including me. People have still to convince me that I am doing that.

  40. 40
    Nepenthe

    @Maureen Brian

    I’ll cosign 3 as written. I would say the same about and to any group trying to influence Wikipedia. But that’s probably because I’m deeply misogynistic.

    And quite frankly, if that is your reaction to that post, you don’t have the skills to be a Wikipedian. On Wikipedia, you deal with actual misogynists, the card carrying variety, actual racists, the card carrying variety, really terrible people and you can’t merely call them fuckbrained assholes until they go away. Ability to string together a sentence and to do basic research are far less important than the ability deal civilly with people–even fuckbrained ones. (At least until you have enough social currency that you’re considered indispensable, but that’s another story.)

  41. 41
    Maureen Brian

    Bloody hell! Do you think, nepenthe, that I live in a nunnery at the top of a mountain and never go out.

    Any In-Group which relies upon untested stereotypes and regards the holiness of the group dynamics as more important than its ostensible purpose is a cult.

    And there was I thinking that wikipedia was a sincere attempt to assemble knowledge, keep it accurate and up-to-date and make it available in easy-to-access form. How wrong can you be, eh?

  42. 42
    Nepenthe

    Was the untested stereotype “newbies with agendas and little guidance tend to fuck up a lot”? I’ve burned hundreds–maybe thousands–of hours of my life on that proposition and have found no data that favors rejecting the null hypothesis.

  43. 43
    koncorde

    @ Chris Clarke #28

    The notion that a Wikipedia user should not criticise inaccuracies and misrepresentations unless she’s willing to check in on articles that matter to her “4 or 5 times a day” to track edits and changes is utter. complete bullshit.

    That’s some religious cult ideology right there.

    Criticise all you like, just accept that you can change it at absolutely any time, however also accept that there is an accepted internal process and multi-layered bureaucracy to wikipedia. A user cannot expect it to be corrected unless they present evidence to refute the claim and/or fix the article – and this may take more time than simply making the change (or removing, however poorly, referenced content).

    This can get ridiculous, pedantic and a massive turn-off to many users. This is a known factor, and unless you’re coming to the party primed to deliver then you can very quickly find yourself swimming upstream.

    A citation for the dwarfism has been provided. Is it accurate? I wouldn’t know as I do not understand the ins and outs to accurately describe Mr Barrie. Wikipedia relies upon exactly the motivated individuals who will enter into the “cult ideology” to deliver accurate topics (particularly in the popular pieces).

    Sorry, my time’s better spent actually creating information that can be fact-checked, refined, added to and used by people with some actual expertise, not subject to dick-wagging edit wars. And then Wikipedians can link to it if they find it “notable” enough. I’m not holding my breath, though.

    That’s great, I look forward to some information presented about Mr Savory in a notable medium in order to flesh out criticism of his methodology.

  44. 44
    Maureen Brian

    No, dear. It was the assumption that someone – say, a particle physicist au fait with what’s going on at CERN – would by definition have “an agenda” if she happened to have non-standard genitalia.

    That’s “non-standard” as possessed by rather more than half the present population and exactly half of our direct ancestors for several million years.

    I meet men with an agenda all the time. You mean you don’t?

  45. 45
    Nepenthe

    Uh, yeah I meet men with agendas. I spend most of my free time dealing with men with agendas (because, ironically, that’s been my specialty for a long time at the ‘pedia). And by definition, someone participating in something called “Feminists Engage Wikipedia” has an agenda. It doesn’t matter what the agenda is, when it comes to the newbie-with-agenda effect. I get to spend just as much time cleaning up after people I agree with as people I disagree with.

    On the bright side, this event seems to have gone off alright, regardless of the poor planning. I wish I could say the same for all of our outreach activities.

    Also, men are more slightly more numerous than women[1] and more of our ancestors were probably women than were men.[2]

  46. 46
    koncorde

    @ Maureen Brian # 41

    Any In-Group which relies upon untested stereotypes and regards the holiness of the group dynamics as more important than its ostensible purpose is a cult.

    Do you know everything about wikipedia? I certainly don’t and I continue to make mistakes and learn from them – and I’ve had years to refine my mistakes to a level of work in progress that most people don’t mind too much.

    If the ostensible purpose is to collate referenced, cited, and notable information – then the group dynamic is built around ensuring that everything (even the ridiculously poor) is referenced, cited and and notable – even if that means backing up occasionally ridiculous and patently questionable sources.

    Your assumption that there is a level of immunity to errors, an immediate universal knowledge of wikipedia’s rules and standards, and impeccable grammar granted by just being a “Grace Hopper” is a bullshit stereotype all of its own.

    Your assumption that every member of the FEW cause is a woman, is also bullshit.

    Your assumption that I was only referring to “women” is bullshit.

    Your projection that I, for some reason, believe that people are unable to edit wikipedia successfully for no other reason than their gender is similarly bullshit. In fact it’s so bullshit, that it’s exactly the point that I was trying to make – that there will be concerns raised from within wikipedia by any significantly motivated group and that the “new” editors need to be made aware.

    Having to meet the subjective criteria of wikipedia and avoid the experiences of the half-dozen users that have so far commented (myself included) is the real challenge if these users are to be encouraged to do more than just a 1 day edit-a-thon and see a lasting impact for all their efforts. Especially when you bear in mind the complaints of dedicated editors such as #21 ronjaddams-moring saying exactly what I pointed out.

    And none of it has anything to do with who the group is, that dynamic exists for football club fans, denizens of forums, bloggers, club members, social groups, media groups, personally invested individuals etc – pretty much everyone has to deal with it. This is not ostensibly just “men”.

    FEW will have some bad experiences, and I wish them well. I hope many stay and contribute for years to come whereas I will be done on this thread approximately a few minutes after PZ or Chris posts their next article.

  47. 47
    Maureen Brian

    No, konkorde, I do not claim to know everything – about anything at all – nor have I ever felt the urge to join in the process of creating wikipedia.

    Your reply to Chris above did raise in my mind the question of whether the Lords of Wikipedia had ever considered an enquiry into whether this is the most efficient way of getting accurate information with good citations – both entirely laudable aims – and all the information anyone might expect to find there.

    I am aware that not all of the FEW people are women. A point, though, which is raised here often by the people who might wish to be the other members of the FEW group is that a key way of othering them is to treat them like women. Badly and often in exactly the same way!

  48. 48
    koncorde

    Would you allow a scientific paper to be published without citations, references and notability being met? Or would you highlight its crummy lack of standards (as happens on here in 9/10 articles about exactly such poor standards)? Is wikipedia at fault for then using the poorly cited piece? Or should it apply its own subjective standards to everything anyone tries to add to the encyclopedia?

    Wikipedia is elitist (or petty, subjective and arbitrary depending on POV), at the very core it is built upon principles based roughly around university standards and legalese. This can, and does, alienate people from the process of casually contributing knowledge. However at the same time this creates a set of criteria against which it is reasonable to measure inclusion of content which is ignorant of sex, gender, hair colour, religion. Is this inherently unfair and disadvantageous to minorities, women, feminists etc? Are they inherently incapable of taking part in wikipedia?

    I don’t think so, you don’t think so – but the experience of end users has been reported to be negative so something cannot be right with the world.

    I support PZ when he says “The Feminists Engage Wikipedia project sounds like an excellent way to correct that, by educating more women in how to edit wikipedia and increase the range of contributions.” however I extend my wishes to everybody. I also extend my concern to everybody – your experience likely will not be a wonderful and perfect one. So be prepared to make mistakes and have to come back repeatedly.

    If instead of posting here or in the Thunderdome people put 1/10th of the effort into creating an article about a marginalised yet notable scientific figure then how quickly and massively could FEW be supported in its goals?

  49. 49
    jefrir

    Um, WTF? Are you saying that men are scary and will resort to violence if spoken to in the wrong way? Do men have some sort of special force field that only allows appropriate questions to be asked (but only if asked within the bad-breath zone™)?

    Under your rule, the following are No Longer Appropriate Things to Say to (or Ask) a Woman:
    * “That shade of lipstick looks good on you.”
    * “So, when are you expecting?”
    * “How can I be more cognizant of women’s issues?”
    * “How do you like being a mom so far?”

    Conversely, the following are okay for (a man) to ask a woman:
    * “Hey, want to go hang out with the guys and play pool? Just tell your SO you need some ‘guy time’.”
    * “We’re going camping and hunting over the three day, no spouses or kids. You in?”
    * “My girlfriend’s out of town this weekend and I’m going to crack the case on the new GOW. You want to come over? Just bring some beer, it’s going to be a long night.”
    * “Hey, after you finish your set, come into the locker room. I heard this great joke I have to tell you.”
    * “Can I borrow some shampoo? I just ran out. I’ll get it from you in the showers.”
    * “Hey, do you still have that blue tie I can borrow? I have an interview and need to wear something corporate.”

    I would say all of those are indeed perfectly acceptable questions to ask, in relevant circumstances. For some of them the circumstances are pretty narrow – pregnant men aren’t exactly common, but they do happen. The only one that doesn’t work is “How do you like being a mom so far?”, because “mom” is specifically female – switch in “dad” and I’d say it’s basically the same question – just like using “he” instaed of “she” when talking about someone. And I really don’t see what’s uniquely male about camping without spouses or kids, or playing pool. Those aren’t even special circumstances, they’re just normal.

  50. 50
    Maureen Brian

    What are you so upset about, konkorde? There is no way in which I would disagree with you about standards and accuracy. Efficiency, just possibly.

    I merely offer you the thought that messages like “you may find this too difficult” or “we’ll have to clean up after you” are not usually read as welcoming – not by anyone on the planet.

    Such messages naturally trigger a slightly stronger reaction in those who have constantly been steered away from difficult and interesting tasks because someone is uncertain whether a Black, female, trans* or gay person could do such things. As I said once at an interview which was already going badly, “I wasn’t planning to do it with my genitalia.” (cf. Usernames are smart @ 30 for an almost perfect example the sort of nonsense some of us face.)

    So, konkorde, what do we actually disagree about? Not standards, not good editing, not a sound knowledge base and proper citations. We are left with the fact that I am sensitive, perhaps too sensitive, to subliminal messages which you might be conveying without in any way meaning to be negative or off-putting.

    We have different life experiences and you are perhaps – I am unsure – less sold on the value of diversity in almost any enterprise. These are not grounds for even the smallest of wars.

    My right to say so when I feel offended remains intact.

  51. 51
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    Um, WTF? Are you saying that men are scary and will resort to violence if spoken to in the wrong way? Do men have some sort of special force field that only allows appropriate questions to be asked (but only if asked within the bad-breath zone™)?

    That’s not how I read it. More like men often use towering over women and getting close to intimidate, whether they realize it or not. So saying things a foot away from a woman as a man and a foot away from a man as a woman, is usually a completely different experience due to a bunch of factors, like height, social standing, power differentials, tone of voice, etc. Telling if a man told me, “We’re worried about cleaning up after your little feminist group because of your agenda” a foot away from my face it would most likely be intimidating. If it’s two men, there’s more than likely an even playing field. I’ve seen it before when men square off, then back off like they are satisfied of their assessment of each other. Weird and anecdotal experience sure, but I think her advice is an easy line to make people more aware of how things come off differently. There’s plenty of times where guys have back off, not realizing how badly their approach came off by getting close. It’s just an assumption due to sexism that women’s space can be encroached on all the time. There’s more respect and awareness of men’s personal space so coming into it is scene as a bigger threat and deal usually, but with a woman it’s standard fare. *shrug* I took it as trying to raise consciousness is all.

    Under your rule, the following are No Longer Appropriate Things to Say to (or Ask) a Woman:
    * “That shade of lipstick looks good on you.”
    * “So, when are you expecting?”
    * “How can I be more cognizant of women’s issues?”

    Wait…so you don’t think you can ask a man “How can I be cognizant of women’s issues?” up close?
    Uh, there are plenty of feminist men here that can tell you that…

    jefrir covered the rest of your list but really it’s just a bunch of gender roles and assumptions that I don’t think really make a difference.

  52. 52
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    Under your rule, the following are No Longer Appropriate Things to Say to (or Ask) a Woman:

    “So, when are you expecting?”

    One of our trans men friends just gave birth. So, in fact, this is something I have literally said to a man’s face. About a month ago.

    There’s nothing uniquely gendered in any of that except for calling somebody a mom. And changing one word to be appropriate for the situation doesn’t really alter the rest of that question.

  53. 53
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha….*pant* *wheeze*

    Academic standards are ignorant of race, sex, gender, and religion? Are you kidding, koncord? Shit, that’s a great joke. You should use it at parties.

    (sniff) Well that was my good laugh for the morning. Carry on, all.

  54. 54
    garlic

    It would be really great if the #tooFEW project could link prominently to the Wikipedia: Getting started page.

    As mentioned in previous comments, Wikipedia has its own policies which are not immediately self-evident to everyone. This can result in pretty bad experiences for unprepared new users.

  55. 55
    rrede

    Koncorde You said at one point that you were leaving, but I’m going ahead and posting this anyway because it might be useful to others even if you never come back.

    I agree with Maureen’s assessment of your comments. I have no doubt you meant well, but Intent is not magic. And some of the diction and rhetorical choices are very much those that have been used for centuries to exclude women (and other marginalized groups) from cultural spaces.

    For example: you said to Maureen:

    Perhaps I should be silent, and not point out the obvious pitfalls, or provide context for why any dedicated effort by any particular groups can be viewed with caution by the existing userbase which has nothing to do with the “new” people being women?

    Given the years of studies about how “women” (or people perceived to be women) are treated differently (by men AND women), I’m not accepting that there is some neutral “caution” or response by the existing userbase that has nothing to do with gender stereotypes and discrimination.

    A recent study: What to do against gender discrimination in science.

    Can it be that women are treated less fairly than men? A deceptively simple piece of research led by Jo Handelman at Yale University has recently suggested that they are. The authors created application forms purporting to be from a recent science graduate wanting a laboratory manager job and asking for feedback. In total, 127 faculty members were asked to rank the candidate in terms of competence, starting salary they would offer, willingness to mentor the candidate, and likeability. The only difference in the applications was the name of the student – 63 were from “John” and 64 were from “Jennifer”.

    The results were stark. Jennifer was ranked less competent than John and was offered a median starting salary almost $4,000 lower than John. In addition, the faculty was less willing to mentor Jennifer, but, strangely, found her to be more likeable. All this from a piece of paper. I should point out here that there was no statistically significant difference between the responses from male or female faculty, nor were there differences between levels of faculty, suggesting this is not a hierarchical bias.

    So, what does this mean? The study was nuanced – the CV was deliberately designed to represent a good, but not stellar, candidate. This is a key point. When faced with a candidate who is clearly exceptional, gender rarely matters. This is because it doesn’t require thought to come to the conclusion of excellence. By the same token, a candidate who is really not good is also definable without much thought. However, for the large chunk of people who inhabit the “grey zone”, where subjective and objective evaluations matter, the outcome of this study indicates that men get the breaks where women do not.

    My emphasis: note that the bias exists in both male and female faculty. It is not simply “the evil men,” and hasn’t been for a long time. This bias is often unconscious/aversive, rather than conscious/intentional (although that also still exists).

    You also said: My concern is serious and earnest, and as subsequently shown by other users (and by a cursory glance at some of the links presented by @14 rrede ) founded entirely within the experience of end users – of which I include myself. which, frankly, I found confusing.

    The links I provided, including the academic study (which I’ve only read briefly due to having a lot of grading yesterday) do not tend to support your claims, but Maureen’s—that women (and perhaps especially feminists) have run into specific gendered discrimination in a number of cultural spaces (including Wikipedia) that men do not face.

    And one of those issues is the idea that women and/or feminists would have an “Agenda.” Nepenthe is the one who uses that term first—but it’s a standard term that is used to construct one group as special interest/political in contrast to the dominant group’s NON-political, objective, default/human stance. And then one of your comments connects with it:

    You claim that And none of it has anything to do with who the group is, that dynamic exists for football club fans, denizens of forums, bloggers, club members, social groups, media groups, personally invested individuals etc. – pretty much everyone has to deal with it. This is not ostensibly just “men”.

    Yeah. Right. Again: I’m sure that all those “neutral” groups who are not “just men” make mistakes, but to claim that there is no different response to groups which are perceived as being the dominant (white, straight, cis, middle-class men) group and those perceived as not is just ignoring a whole lot of history and academic studies. And in the case of Wikipedia, a lot of the focus is going to be about the topics/entries that are identified as neutral/notable/important vs. those that are just about people with an “agenda” and not neutral/notable/important.

    The formation of WikiChix came in the wake of wiki wars about the an separate entry for “feminist science fiction” which was deemed unnecessary by (SOME) male editors at the time since, gee, “women in science fiction” is all that’s needed.

    That has changed since 2006—there seems to be an actual gender studies project as well as sf project to improve coverage in Wikipedia: http://www.alternet.org/story/45730/wikipedia_vs._women

    The question is how long and how nasty was the fight, and how many women and/or feminists left in disgust (or, like me, decided it wasn’t worth it, and I’d put my energy elsewhere which the internet allows—specifically in a more feminist space).

    The feminist science fiction wars: http://www.alternet.org/story/45730/wikipedia_vs._women

    And to claim that there is no published material about feminist science fiction is go ignore the decades of published material about feminist science by fans and academics.

    And that gets us into the problems with the concept of ‘notability’ being presented as if it’s neutral/objective/universal. It’s not.

    The Playboy Playmates are notable:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Playboy_Playmates_of_the_Month
    But it took a huge fight to get “feminist science fiction” as an entry.

    And you expect feminists to believe your claim that really, everybody is treated just the same in Wikipedia space?

    You may definitely feel your concern is not being expressed in discriminatory ways—but you are not necessarily the best judge of that (in the area of gender issues).

    You deny/ignore the lived experiences of Maureen Brian and ronjaaddams-moring.

    Unlike some of the others who posted here that I don’t care enough to respond to because they come across as typical sexistrolls, what you said, especially in #48, implies that you do support the need to change the culture of Wikipedia, but your adherence to the belief that the criteria is “ignorant of sex, gender, hair colour, religion” is one of those phrases (especially with the “hair colour” snark) that identify a systemic culture of exclusion—really, it’s all objective/merit-based criteria! It’s applied to all equally! (Except “it” isn’t, and hasn’t – and claiming that it’s build on “university standards” doesn’t change that because as mumble mumble decades of studies have shown, those criteria and standards in universities did discriminate based on gender, race, sexuality, etc.).

    As a professional academic, I have some quibbles about the extent to which Wikipedia replicates academic standards.

    NOTE: The fact that members of marginalized groups have succeeded in a discriminatory system doesn’t mean it’s not still discriminatory—just that the patterns have shifted—i.e. in my field, English, women get 60% or so of the doctoral degrees, and have done so for about two decades, but are disproportionately at the “bottom” of the academic hierarchy in terms of types of jobs (tenure track vs. adjunct), promotions (i.e. associate or assistant vs. professor), and administrative rankings (heads/chairs of departments.

    Academic research is original research—Wikipedia excludes original research (and given that a lot of the work in marginalized fields/topics is fairly new/original, that means it excludes stuff that hasn’t made it through the process into publication—or hasn’t been picked up by the mainstream media which is notorious for inaccuracies and misreporting). I put Wikipedia in the same category as encyclopedia entries—and I edited an encyclopedia (the first on Women in Science Fiction).

    I’m afraid I have so many links this post will go into the mod space—but suffice it to say that there’s scholarship on the ways in which criteria (which are created by people which meant, in the 18th century when the big Enlightenment push for “writing down all the information” began meant elite men with regard to dictionaries and encyclopedias) have been discriminatory and can still be if there isn’t a conscious effort made to change it.

    So your fervent belief in the neutral, objective, criteria and process and the idea that all noobs are treated the same is going to hinder you from meeting your expressed goals.

    Although your final statement makes me think that you are not going to be able to consider anything I said here (as well as ignoring what the others said, because you saw this as some personal attack):

    If instead of posting here or in the Thunderdome people put 1/10th of the effort into creating an article about a marginalised yet notable scientific figure then how quickly and massively could FEW be supported in its goals?

    That is language that puts you nearly into the troll category in my book, and assumes a lot about the people here—that they are the ones responsible, not the sexist culture of Wikipedia; that the only way to get more information out is through Wikipedia (as opposed to all the other Wikis that have been created – often in response to the dominant culture of Wikipedia); and that, really, it’s all our fault.

  56. 56
    rrede

    *blast* Sorry for the borked link to “intent” entry! Three times proofreading is apparently not suffient!

  57. 57
    koncorde

    Sorry rrede, but there’s nothing in my initial language that wouldn’t bear true with anyone unless it was read with a prejudice to start with.

    The SueGardner piece drew most of the issues together into one succinct article. Of the list of reasons why women do not contribute wikipedia:

    1) Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because the editing interface isn’t sufficiently user-friendly.
    2) Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because they are too busy.
    3) Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because they aren’t sufficiently self-confident, and editing Wikipedia requires a lot of self-confidence.
    4) Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because they are conflict-averse and don’t like Wikipedia’s sometimes-fighty culture.
    5) Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because the information they bring to Wikipedia is too likely to be reverted or deleted.
    6) Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because they find its overall atmosphere misogynist.
    7) Some women find Wikipedia culture to be sexual in ways they find off-putting.
    8) Some women whose primary language has grammatical gender find being addressed by Wikipedia as male off-putting.
    9) Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because social relationships and a welcoming tone are important to them, and Wikipedia offers fewer opportunities for that than other sites.

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 I think are fairly core experiences. I don’t think they are necessarily down to “men”, nor do I wholly buy the confidence issue (I don’t see a lack of confidence here, but do blogs likely bring out a greater percentage of confident people?) though I understand the feeling of sometimes being out of my depth when faced with something that looks wrong but I am unable to explain why. But I see that as a challenge, and perhaps that does feed into my male psyche at some level. I see several users experiences in them, I did not ignore any such experiences provided by people in this thread of conversation – I am disappointed that their experience was like that. My tone in #3 is reflective of their experiences and my own disappointment.

    6, 7, would be issues that (from my own point of view) I am likely oblivious to as either never witnessing, unaware of the sex of the persons involved, or when reading the examples are cases of wikipedia rules being applied to the nth degree (not that I necessarily agree with claiming Deckard rapes Rachel, although it’s definitely a very unnerving sequence of male possessiveness, and may have sided with wikipedia when faced with those particular cases depending on the context).

    With regards to the dynamic of wikipedia, yes, all groups have to deal with it. The dynamic I am referring to is the same process of peer review. At no point did I say wikipedia was without people that purposely try to ruin other peoples enjoyment, or target other individuals / groups – you will note that I referred to those people as “idiots”.

    And I enjoy the idea that if PZ encourages something it’s okay however if I suggest some of the motivated individuals on Pharyngula takes part, that I am somehow blaming everyone?

    I admit that I have never edited a female scientist wiki page (heck, you can check my edit history), nor have I made any effort to engage with feminist articles on wikipedia – I freely admit to not knowing enough of its history to have the confidence to make changes and amendments (no more than I would art, political science, gene therapy or myriad other topics).

    Here on Pharyngula we surely have some people that do have that experience and knowledge who can help to make lasting changes.

  58. 58
    rrede

    @Konkorde: Sorry rrede, but there’s nothing in my initial language that wouldn’t bear true with anyone unless it was read with a prejudice to start with.

    OK, then!

    Alan Rickman is totes hot.

    *dusts hands and wanders off to read some more useful stuff with my feminist agenda/prejudice*

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