It's Hard to Fold a Wiki

Nicholson Baker, a print guy if there ever was one (Double Fold, 2001), falls in love with something that only lives on servers (“The Charms of Wikipedia,” TNYRB).

Not only does Wikipedia need its vandals – up to a point – the vandals need an orderly Wikipedia, too. Without order, their culture-jamming lacks a context. If Wikipedia were rendered entirely chaotic and obscene, there would be no joy in, for example, replacing some of the article on Archimedes with this:

Archimedes is dead.

He died.

Other people will also die.

All hail chickens.

The Power Rangers say “Hi”

The End.

The electronic world, it turns out, abets his love of all things archival.

I signed up for the Article Rescue Squadron, having seen it mentioned in Broughton’s manual: the ARS is a small group that opposes “extremist deletion.” And I found out about a project called WPPDP (for “WikiProject Proposed Deletion Patrolling”) in which people look over the PROD lists for articles that shouldn’t be made to vanish. Since about 1,500 articles are deleted a day, this kind of work can easily become life-consuming, but some editors (for instance a patient librarian whose username is DGG) seem to be able to do it steadily week in and week out and stay sane. I, on the other hand, was swept right out to the Isles of Shoals. I stopped hearing what my family was saying to me – for about two weeks I all but disappeared into my screen, trying to salvage brief, sometimes overly promotional but nevertheless worthy biographies by recasting them in neutral language, and by hastily scouring newspaper databases and Google Books for references that would bulk up their notability quotient. I had become an “inclusionist.”

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

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