Last semester, I took the film dept’s “Authorship & Cinema” course on David Lynch with Ted Perry, and I remember vaguely thinking that his wikipedia page was somewhat messy for such a noteworthy director. Upon returning to the page, I thought the organizational structure had improved some since I last visited, so I stuck to simply improving sentence structure and word choice and other such things. The few times I have taken the time to do higher-level structural work on a wikipedia article has been when the articles were so godawfully written or woefully incomplete that just looking at them made me kind of angry. This was not the case w/ the Lynch article, and I did not feel so confident that my ways of changing the organization of the article would be better than the ones in place, so I let them be, performing only more minor edits (which is still an important part of the wikipedia system).
Here’s a link to good ol Davey: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Lynch
The part of this little adventure that was much more eye-opening was my visit to the article’s “discussion” page, a part of wikipedia I don’t visit too often. Normally, I would expect a place on the internet where users can freely say what they want in a forum setting to consist mostly of random, directionless hate and/or total non-sequiturs and/or porn, even in a corner of the internet as sequestered as the talk page for David Lynch’s wikipedia article. This is simply what I’ve seen in the past, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the comment sections for youtube videos contain more concentrated hate than any other location in the universe, physical or virtual.
But users remarkably adhered to the suggestions at the top of the talk page: “be polite”, “assume good faith”, “avoid personal attacks”, and “be welcoming”. There was one WTF moment, under the heading “Badger?”:
“Is David Lynch a Badger? Last time I checked he seemed human and if he isn’t human he is most assuredly not very badger like. Or am I missing something and badger has some other meaning. ARavagedIsland (talk) 22:10, 12 July 2009 (UTC)”
But mostly the comments were respectful and intelligent. I suppose Shirky’s notion that it takes more work to harm wikipedia than it would take to undo this harm applies here. I also learned that this article had been nominated for featured article-dom a few years ago, and got to see why it had not been named one, as well as gaining some other insights into how that process works (and as I mentioned in class, I think the featured article process is one of the most important parts of wikipedia, as it acts as sort of a guiding light for all articles). Finally, I saw that it was part of several “wikiprojects”–efforts to create, for instance, “an encyclopedic guide to comics on wikipedia” (a project to which Lynch’s article is only tangentially related, earning it “C-class, Low-importance” status). Seeing the myriad organizational structures that have all organically arisen to improve wikipedia is quite inspiring.
Lastly, I’d like to recommend people visit some of wikipedia’s about-wikipedia pages, as they can be enlightening and also quite funny. Here are a few good ones:
Wikipedia: Unusual Articles (incredible time-waster)
And here’s one of wikipedia’s many great lists, this one about “cryptids”, or animals whose existence has been posited but not proven. Another fantastic time-waster. List of cryptids