Trolling, Vandalism and Dragonfiend
Submitted by Xaviar Xerexes on March 4, 2007 - 10:45
As was noted throughout the week, T Campbell tracked down Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and webcomics-focused Wikipedia editor Dragonfiend for interviews regarding the intersection of webcomic and Wikipedia. Although the interview with Wales is short, the interview with Dragonfiend provides a snapshot of what is probably a pretty typical attitude amongst self-described "wikipedians" towards Wikipedia itself and its role and mission.
One thing that popped out at me, however, was Dragonfiend's reference to a short-lived (now deleted) Comixpedia.org article about which Dragonfiend said:
To give a webcomics-related example, if I'm trying to research webcomics over on a wiki with much more indiscrimnate content policies, like comixpedia.org, I'll find articles like this one on the webcomic [now deleted entry] . Without requiring this topic to be noted by several independent reputable sources, we won't know whether this webcomic is of any importance, or just something that somebody made up one day and posted on the internet.
Here's the thing though - within a minute of looking at that entry I knew it was an example of wiki-vandalism. The supposed external link didn't work. Google.com had no record of the URLs, title, creator or anything about the supposed comic. Within a few more minutes I knew that the user account (unlike Wikipedia, Comixpedia.org does restrict editing to those who sign up for user accounts) had been used solely to create a couple of obnoxious and completely made-up entries. Within a few more minutes after that though (all through the magic of google.com) I knew that this Comixpedia user id was the same as a user id at Wikipedia banned for creating the same kind of entries that the user id created at Comixpedia.org. (Even some of the entries and terms in the entries between Comixpedia.org and Wikipedia were the same!)
What's that prove? Well the first thing it suggests to me is a bit of bad faith on Dragonfiend's part. From picking the most obnoxiously offensive entry s/he could find to picking an entry that was so obviously false it's hard to not to assume Dragonfiend was employing emotional rhetorical tactics simply to make Comixpedia.org (and webcomics generally in her mind) look bad. But since it was so obviously demonstrably false (and one that an active wikipedian like Dragonfiend had additional reason to suspect its status as vandalism) it seems to me that it's an example that backfires on Dragonfiend completely. No one needed "several independent reputable sources," to know this was a made-up entry - it took less then 10 minutes with Google.
I think what her comment proves is that all wikis are susceptible to vandalism - it's one of the weak points in the model. No doubt Wikipedia does not like it when the largest media publications in this country present out of context vandalized entries as examples of Wikipedia "scholarship", and neither does Comixpedia.org.