Saturday, February 11, 2006

Wikipedia -- Ooopsipedia by Michael

I'm not the biggest fan of Wikipedia by any means. I think it's a pretty stupid idea, to be honest, to create an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. But it's here and it has a lot of content, and rather than just whine about it I've also been editing some of the articles where I know the information is wrong, or biased toward specific purposes.

For several months I've been meaning to upload a short biography of myself to my user page. A Wikipedia user page is equivalent to a profile page on a forum. It's supposed to be your one area of free expression on Wikipedia (although I suppose it can be subjected to abuse and vandalism like all other areas).

Writing a Michael Martinez biography is an exercise in patience. There are many things I could say about myself, most of them quite uninteresting. But I've dipped my hand in quite a few cookie jars. I've made a name for myself in several industries, to the point where complete strangers can meet and realize they have something in common by knowing who I am. So, I don't expect to be featured in People magazine any time soon, but it seemed reasonable to at least include some information about this Michael Martinez who keeps editing articles on Wikipedia.

Well, yesterday I stayed home from work because I'm sick with the latest crud that is passing around Houston. That was my first mistake. It seems like I only find myself embroiled in Internet controversies when I get sick. It's like my brain stops functioning and I just sort of coast on neutral. Anyway, I uploaded my bio yesterday along with an article about the Compuserve IMPs. Problem is, when I uploaded my bio, I took a "short cut" and clicked on my name as it appeared in a discussion page about a controversial search engine optimization article edit.

That was my second mistake.

You see, clicking on my name didn't take me to my user page as I thought it should. I didn't pay close attention to the tabs at the top of the page. I just uploaded the bio and poof! a brand new "Michael Martinez" article appeared in Wikipedia. Of course, when I tried to look at my user page, I didn't see anything. My first attempt to rename/move the page really didn't help. So, I figured, "Let's just wait and see what happens". After all, I didn't think I could do any more damage. I was tired and went to lie down for a few hours.

Later in the evening, I got up and checked the article. It had been tagged for Deletion, which I expected. So I went to the discussion page and tried to explain what happened. Keep in mind that I had just gotten up from a long nap and was having trouble breathing (coughing and hacking and all). So, my first explanation went across like a lead balloon. Someone had said something like, "Self-published books? We don't need articles on self-published books." Okay, the critic didn't win any points from me for singling out one sentence from the entire bio.

But eventually I realized I was fumbling around (I guess I woke up) and I said, "Well, Wikipedia policy allows us to userfy an article. All I wanted was to upload a bio to my user page."

Eventually, people started to feel a little sympathy for me (I think) as it was clear I was in well over my head and incapable of figuring out how Wiki's guidelines work. So someone eventually moved the article to my user page. So, the lesson learned is that I won't just click on my name in Wikipedia and expect it to take me to my user page. I will probably do something dumb again the next time I get sick. I don't know if I'll ever learn not to.


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