Correct Wikipedia editing

Michael Fox at Stuff reports:

Justice Minister Judith Collins’ office has become embroiled in a Wikipedia war with ministry critic Roger Brooking.

Brooking is an outspoken critic of Collins and the Justice Ministry and was a prolific Wikipedia editor – now banned – under the username Offender9000.

Writing on his blog at the weekend Brooking said his entries had been slashed from lengthy articles to stubs of little more than a few hundred words.

He voiced concerns that Collins or her staff were behind the edits though admitted to Fairfax Media he had no proof.

This reminds me of the time when I worked in the PMs Office and a fervent Alliance activist publicly accused me of having used my Internet black box over-ride to block her from accessing the Internet. The reality was that Ihug just had an outage (I know as I was on the same ISP!).

In this case if Brooking has been banned from editing Wikipedia, it will be because he consistently broke the rules. It is quite hard to get banned. You have to be quite irrational, or consistently doing biased edits. Some people think Wikipedia is a forum for them to make people look bad. It isn’t.

A spokesperson for Collins admits to making minor changes but said they were up-front about who they were – claims backed up by Wikipedia logs and supported by a Wikipedia editor.

Comments from Collins’ office appear in the Wikipedia logs.

“I am Judith’s press secretary. Happy to help out by providing a more recent photo for use. As I have a clear [conflict of interest] … I won’t be editing content on the page but I may suggest changes which you can choose to take up or not and can provide further background material etc as requested,” the press secretary wrote in February.

That is exactly the way to do it. Be up front on who you are, and propose changes on the talk page, rather than make edits directly.

Brooking pointed to pages he had edited, including articles on legal aid, the police, corrections, Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Government Communications Security Bureau – which had been slashed.

“I thought New Zealanders had freedom of speech – according to the Bill of Rights we do. But Judith Collins and Chris Burns don’t seem to think so,” he wrote.

Speaking to Fairfax, Brooking admitted he had no proof but was concerned about the changes and the fact he had been banned from editing Wikipedia.

While Brooking bemoaned the changes he was often forced to defend his own entries and changes against accusations of bias by other editors.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can ignore Wikipedia’s rules. Mr Brooking is free to set up his own websites where he can say what he likes about Judith Collins. But he can’t pollute Wikipedia with his edits if they don’t comply.

A Wikipedia editor with the username Gadfium told Fairfax Media via email that Collins’ office had been open about its contributions though they were told they should refrain from making further changes.

“They declared their conflict of interest and only edited the Judith Collins article to supply a requested photo,” the editor said.

The removal of a comment from an article about David Bain which it considered defamatory to Collins was “understandable” and the staff did not try to reimpose the changes when they were reinserted but “began a civil discussion at an appropriate page”.

I love it when an article quotes someone by their online alias. Gadfium is a long-standing and well known editor of Wikipedia. He makes the point again that the best practice is to discuss potentially controversial edits on the talk pages, not just have an edit war.

Gadfium said Brooking was blocked from editing because of concerns about bias and because he was also operating anonymous accounts, something which is not allowed.

When you start setting up anonymous accounts so you can say nasty things about someone on Wikipedia, you need to relax and get a life.

There is an interesting contrast between the Stuff article on this issue, and the NZ Herald article. The Stuff article includes the claims by Brooking, but includes an interview with a Wikipedia editor, goes into lengthy detail of what Collins’ office did do, and how they followed correct process. It also highlights how Brooking has been banned, and why. I think it is very well balanced.

By contrast the Herald article gives a very different impression. It doesn’t provide key details (which are important to those who know this stuff) such as the staff identified themselves on the talk page, and explicitly said they don’t intend to do edits etc.  I’m not having a go at the Herald article but I urge peopel to read both articles and reflect the entirely different impressions they leave. It shows how decisions on what to include and highlight can dramatically change the impression you get from an article.

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