Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wikipedia (and the consequences of vanity)

Have you ever tried writing an article in Wikipedia? The thing is kind of easy. You just look for a phrase, and if it does not exist, you just click on "create an article with this title". Then you type whatever it comes out of your mind and that's it!

I have already written a couple of articles in Wikipedia, but unfortunately none of them has survived until today. My first try was writing about Julio Mario Santo Domingo, one of Colombia's richest man. I tried to be as objective as possible, so the page remained almost six months online, informing the world about this guy being the owner of Colombia's main airline, main beer company and selling his house in Barranquilla to Carrefour, a french supermarket chain, arising controversy between the inhabitants of a purely residential zone. The article maintained that, after being asked not to sell his house, in order to preserve the beauty and quietness of the neighborhood, he answered: "If you pay me as much as Carrefour, then you can have it."

For the good of Julio Mario, someone took the time to review my article and voted it for deletion. Some of his remarks were:

The "Julio Mario Santo Domingo" article contains information out of date, doubtful or irrelevant:

1. Doubtful: Santo Domingo was born in Barranquilla. Fact: He was born in Panama, but originated in Barranquilla.

2. Out of date: Santo Domingo owns Bavaria. Fact: Bavaria was absorbed by SABMiller.

3. Out of date: Santo Domingo owns Avianca. Fact: Germán Efromovich is the new main stock holder of Avianca.

4. Irrelevant: Although Carrefour bought Santo Domingo's family's house in Barranquilla, the anecdote is irrelevant, and I couldn't verify it.

Since it took long time for Wikipedia to find out that I actually wrote a very inaccurate article about Julio Mario Santo Domingo, I decided to write an article about myself. However, this time the Wikipedia reviewers realized much faster about my illegal moves, and within a month, the article was already out of circulation. This time they didn't give many reasons to delete it, they just labeled it with "not notable, vanity", and after many reviewers agreed on the same, I ceased to appear in Wikipedia.

Funny enough, the "Marcelo Savignano" article appeared short after deletion in! I wrote an email to the webmaster, telling him to delete the article, but he said he could not do it, that everything was done automatically by a software that scans Wikipedia articles. But he said I shouldn't worry, that the site is updated every month, so soon would also stop featuring my biography. I forgot the issue until today, when I looked again in Google for my name, and found out that ANOTHER page is showing my biography, even though it was deleted from Wikipedia eight months ago! Apparently they use the article's content to generate customized publicity (for example, if you look for Marcelo Savignano, you'll get my biography and a bunch of links to hotels in Colombia and things like that).

Not being happy with publishing inaccurate things about a famous person, and writing irrelevant things about an irrelevant person, I decided to write an article about a sport that does not exist. Specifically, I wrote about Skyball, a sport that Andres Vila and I came up with in Italy, as part of an assignment for a Web Programming course. The result was obvious: the page had to be deleted. But the reviewers were kind of confused this time, and didn't know exactly what to do. These are some comments I found:

"This seems to be a hoax; no such game, and the description is both vague and absurd."

"It seems like a real sport and is well-written."

"Well, it doesn't make much sense, but it could be a sport in a videogame or computer game."

"Utter nonsense, a gamer's vanity page. Skyball actually gets about 10,600 google hits, but none look related, and nothing significant comes up for Mario Arru, Mauro's Algorithm, etc. Why don't these kids get their own yahoo or livejournal page?"

So if you read all the way until here without yawning, and you still seriously consider writing an article in Wikipedia, let me just tell you something: it's a lot of fun!


Andres said...

You're tellining me that that the "topo" Arru was mentioned in wikipedia for some time?. That's very very funny ..... to me. You can see why people get upset. Your (better yet our) private joke doesn't belong in an encyclopedia. But on the other hand, getting somebody to write "Mauro's algorithm" is comedy at its highest.... to me.

DailyEclipse said...

este es el mejor articulo que has escrito!
me rei muchisimo, es increible que tu te pongas a hacer eso marcelo, te deberian encontrar, reganar y multar... por sabotear la informacion!
ahi me reiria mucho mas!!!