Folksonomy and GNAA

Two articles draw crowds on votes for deletion

Two of Wikipedia's rather well-known articles survived Votes for deletion this week. One article added to its record for most appearances there; the other, which is frequently cited by outside sources, had its VfD noted in several blogs.

The latter article is Folksonomy, which was nominated for deletion by an anonymous user who said, "Just because some self-proclaimed, vain 'online journalists' repeat a meme on their web-site in every post doesn't mean it is fit for inclusion in an encyclopedia." The term, a neologism for collaborative categorization that has gained considerable usage, is often defined even in other sources by reference to the Wikipedia article.

Blogger Steve Rubel noticed the debate and mentioned it in one of his posts. The article was, of course, overwhelmingly kept; the only person voting "delete" other than the nominator apparently did so in jest. Prompted by the incident, BusinessWeek blogger Rob Hof made some observations about the deletion process in general: "Dig down into why there's a debate, and you see the care with which Wikipedia and its community have set up policies to ensure entries are useful and accurate."

Setting a record

The Gay Nigger Association of America (GNAA) article was submitted to votes for deletion a record sixth time this week. It was placed on VfD by Ta bu shi da yu (author of this article), in order to get a definitive decision on the issue. Critics of the ongoing debates suggested that the issue should not be revisited for at least a year.

The GNAA has been highly controversial, because many Wikipedians believe that the group does not warrant an article, either because the article is promotional or the group is simply not notable. Dislike of their activities also plays a role, as trolling is widely frowned upon and on Wikipedia may lead to a temporary block. The GNAA, however, has been restrained in its editing of Wikipedia, generally staying within the guidelines of Wikipedia policy. Various GNAA members have made many useful edits, although some have also been accused of being disruptive.

The group, originally organized on Slashdot, is marginalized by the comment moderation system there. Its article was first nominated for deletion in April 2004, kept, and nominated again three times that year. In some cases the nominators were unaware of the previous debates, and complaints about renominations rose with each incident. Finally, after waiting six months, a fifth attempt was made on 30 June by an account that was apparently created for the purpose of making the nomination. Because this nomination was interrupted and also prematurely removed from the VfD page, Ta bu shi da yu elected to resubmit it for proper consideration.

How the vote was held

As the previous VfD nominations were known for having issues with irregular votes, Ta bu shi da yu set up the process in a manner slightly different from a normal VfD. The page was divided into separate sections for voters to choose Delete, Keep, or Redirect, and a "Comments" section was also added. Anonymous editors, and those that had fewer than 100 edits at the time of voting, were subject to having their votes discounted, and a separate section was created to which these votes could be moved. In addition, personal attacks were barred and any comments deemed a personal attack were immediately removed without comment from the vote. Fortunately, most of those participating were civil and well-behaved.

The procedure for the vote drew both praise and criticism. Who complimented Ta bu shi da yu on his work in laying out the vote. Gmaxwell, however, said that "by putting the article up again and unilaterally creating a whole new family of voting rules just for this VFD, you are in effect disrupting Wikipedia." In particular he disagreed with the ongoing process of discounting votes, arguing that this would be better left to the administrator who would close the vote.

The final result, using the rules outlined, had 55 users voting to delete against 78 who preferred to keep the article. Only three people suggested redirecting to Slashdot trolling phenomena. As with most things about this article, even the vote closure was controversial and prompted a brief edit war, but given Wikipedia practice the outcome clearly did not indicate a consensus to delete.

Dealing with future nominations

Concerns about this article being repeatedly submitted to VfD also prompted a proposed policy page called Wikipedia:Kick the ass of anyone who renominates GNAA for deletion before 2007 (since redirected to Wikipedia:Deletion policy). The proposal stated that "the renomination of the article Gay Nigger Association of America for deletion causes unnecessary disruption every time it repeats." Accordingly, it recommended that any renominations be immediately delisted, the VfD tag removed from the GNAA article, and that the nominator be informed of the policy. If the editor "persist[s] in their attempt at renomination: kick their ass. Suggested alternate consequences include public flogging, tarring and feathering, or crushing by elephant."

The proposal also indicated that it was not a referendum on the value of having the article: "It merely means you're sick of the amount of time being wasted on the whole thing and want a reprieve." Responses suggested that the general idea has widespread support, although a few people indicated they were uncomfortable with the language being used.

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