Today’s right wing author meltdown…

Michael Z Williamson is very upset that Wikipedia is discussing deleting his page:http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/index.php?itemid=502 .

I’ve some sympathy, mainly because I often write about obscure right wing authors and being able to point to a Wikipedia page is handy. However, the Articles for Deletion page [wiki, archive] makes some strong arguments: specifically the article doesn’t establish his notability with third party sources.

Rather than address those issues, the deletion argument is getting swamped by really bad arguments, presumably from Williamson fans egged on by Williamson via his multiple Facebook accounts. A moments thought would have indicated that trying to brigade Wikipedia into keeping an article by throwing the standard paranoid line of ‘politics, bias!’ would be counterproductive. There are few people sensibly trying to offer suggestions of sources for notability who are getting swamped by really poor arguments by obvious partisans.

Meanwhile, Jon Del Arroz has waded in with his usual journalistic standards:

“Now, years later, big tech is taking its revenge on Michael as they’ve deleted his wikipedia page. The excuse is his relation to “sad puppies” — which goes back to a group that was trying to bring the Hugo Awards back to sanity several years ago.”

http://delarroz.com/2019/07/22/bestselling-author-michael-z-williamson-erased-from-history-over-politics/#comments

At this point his page hasn’t been deleted [it was briefly and restored] and ‘Sad Puppies’ hasn’t been offered as an excuse (it has been mentioned as a place his entry could be redirected to).

‘But wait!’ I hear myself say rhetorically ‘Don’t all the right read Voxopedia these days instead?’ Apparently not.

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70 thoughts on “Today’s right wing author meltdown…

  1. I actually support not deleting it, because Wikipedia editing on these things is highly haphazard and random. If having a page for him was considered valid before, that he was a public figure people would look up, there’s no reason to declare it invalid now. The system they have is baroque but then they’re a non-profit database that relies on volunteers so that’s not a surprise. Ideologically they have always been all over the map, though often sexist.

    But they’re not going to get anywhere claiming Wikipedia is full of evil liberal bias on this issue. Not the least because Wikipedia is actually full of right-wing white guys who are going to take serious umbrage that you’re accusing them of being liberal schills. Past people who have battled the issue (and which includes many liberals and lefties,) have done so by marshaling sources of their public presence and publication record for authors. Williamson does have a Hugo nomination, thanks to the Puppies, and has sold in sufficient quantities to have a public presence in the SFF category market and category media, irrespective of the Puppies. Therefore, he is a public figure/author of SFF and therefore he should continue to have a Wikipedia page.

    It makes more sense to prune things like contestants on various t.v. talent shows who didn’t really place on those shows and never established a real public performing career afterwards. But in general, if Wikipedia has allowed an entry to go up about a person and has not taken it down after a year or two, I don’t think they should then take it down at all, (correct it if there are factual errors and other violations, but not take it down.) The person had a public presence that led to the page and that then becomes history which continues to be documented in the database.

    If they’ve got a storage issue, well then they should rework how they’re going to handle the whole database. This was their idea, to try to catalog everything, and random deletions of anyone make them look bad.

    I thought they took Voxpedia down?

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I tend to be the inclusionist side of the inclusionist/deletionist debate, and would reckon that anyone professionally published (not by a vanity press) has a fair claim to notability.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Back when I was a moderately-active Wikipedia user I tended to lean pretty far towards the inclusionist side for, well, pretty much the reasons you state. (Wiki is not paper used to be a lot longer and have fewer caveats.) My position was that verifiability was more important than notability — if you have reliable third-party sources providing information about something, then what’s the harm in leaving it?

      Now I was also a teenager who was a bit more convinced I was right about everything than I am now, but in general I still think it’s better for Wikipedia to err on the side of more rather than fewer articles. (And the cynic in me notes that the biggest fandom wiki host is a for-profit owned by the founder of Wikipedia.) If one looks at the various Hugo Award pages, for instance, there’s a surprising number of non-existent articles that one might expect. Not that I have any inclination to dive back into that arena in general.

      Honestly, deletionists versus Puppies seems like a good “let them fight” scenario. Pass the popcorn!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. 🙂 worth reading the resulting fight — the proMZW accounts trying to shout people down and flood the argument, tactics that might have worked 10 years ago but fall flat now. MZW does a major flounce part way through as well.

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    2. The Wikipedia policy on notability does address the “if it was valid before, is it still valid now” concern, but in a different way than you suggest.

      The standard is “did it actually meet notability criteria in terms of the amount of public attention the subject was getting at that time—even if it isn’t getting that much public attention now.” In other words, an article about an author shouldn’t be deleted just because the author became less popular or less controversial.

      However, what you suggested was “in general, if Wikipedia has allowed an entry to go up about a person and has not taken it down after a year or two, I don’t think they should then take it down at all”—which is very different. The problem with using that as a policy is, Wikipedia never “allows” an entry to go up; anyone can add one at any time, and there’s such a huge number of articles that it’s pretty common for no one to notice that it was added for a year or more. So what you’re proposing would in practice amount to “if you’ve managed to fly under the radar for long enough, then no one can say you shouldn’t have added the page.” That’s against the general purpose of the policies, which aren’t (as you suggest) “to try to catalog everything” but to encourage some reasonable standards of what they do catalog.

      I agree with you that if there’s enough relevant material (as defined by WP policy) to warrant a page on Williamson, then the page should exist. You’re not actually disagreeing with WP policy there, and that principle is unrelated to whether a page already existed or not.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Williamson is being dropped from Wikipedia because he’s too left-wing. People have finally noticed how he worked in concert with John Scalzi (hissss!) to attack Ayn Rand and defend the guy who wrote about (and campaigned for) the social credit movement (see here https://whatever.scalzi.com/2007/12/10/the-zombie-robert-heinlein-rises-from-the-grave-yet-again-to-annoy-the-politically-correct/). Williamson wrote “Randites generate enough hot air to account for a solid degree global temp rise” and mocked the Libertarian party for its “its 2% vote share.” I’m not obsessed with Williamson – I just got so mad at him 12 years ago that I occasionally write a few hundred words about how much he sucks, and how my life is so much more fulfilling than his! So there!

    Like

  3. Wait. Since when is the Wikimedia Foundation “Big Tech”?

    But yeah, one would think that having several books published by a publisher like Baen ought to be sufficient for an entry in Wikipedia. This screaming about political motivation–particularly given wikipedia’s editorial staff is overwhelmingly white male with libertarians disproportionately represented–is a bad strategy.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It still has that dumb picture of him trying to look like a 70s spy, while holding a gun that is very clearly out of battery.

      To be fair, he served in the National Guard as an an air conditioner repair man so he knows cool.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think his Wiki page should be left up; I think his notability is sufficient to justify it.

    The fact that he’s too clueless to understand that it’s the sort of notability to which no sensible author would aspire… well, that’s on him. 😀

    Liked by 4 people

  5. You know, it really says something that all of MZW’s supporters are so incompetent with Google that they can’t manage to rustle up some valid corroborating citations for his page. 😆

    Liked by 5 people

    1. The various reviews of and posts about the 2015 Puppy finalists alone should provide plenty of cause for notability, though it’s probably not the notability anybody wants. Plus, he is a Baen author and whatever else you can day about them, they’re not a vanity press.

      Liked by 4 people

  6. I don’t know what relevant standards are in place for wikipedia but Mr. Williamson would not be the only published author who doesn’t get a page. Its not necessarily just sales either as it seems people who published more decades ago are less likely to get a page than people who’s publishing career got going post-wikipedia. There appears to be a “currency bias” as well as it being handy to have gone on tv sometime. Sales doesn’t seem to be enough unless your sales are massive . So yeah, unlikely to be political bias.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There are two systematic biases in Wikipedia.

      One is in favour of things that Wikipedia editors are likely to have heard of (this creates a bias to the contemporary, to the marketed-to-men, to the white, to the middle-class, and, for English-language Wikipedia, to the American).

      The other is in favour of things that third parties write about (thus generating references, which are the core currency of wikipedia). So books are notable for being reviewed, not for being published, for example. This also creates a recency bias, partly because there is just more being written now, but also because things written recently are on the internet and easy to find to reference, things written more than a decade or so ago are mostly on paper and harder to find to reference.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think his best argument for notability is that the Science Fiction Book Club offered his anthology, Forged in Blood as a selection, and that anthology was for other authors to write stories in Williamson’s “Freehold” Universe. If other authors are willing to write stories in a universe you created, and if a serious publisher is willing to sell the result, I think that’s sufficient to establish your notability. Or, at least, it ought to be.

    In the spirit of good sportsmanship, I added that information to the discussion about whether to delete the article.

    And I agree that having a dozen or more professionally published stories ought to be enough by itself, but I leafed through Wikipedia’s policies, and apparently it’s not. You need some evidence that someone serious actually noticed those books. I think it’d be enough to show that a serious magazine ever reviewed any of the books, but they do want something other than the mere fact of publication.

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    1. Baen has a lot of collaborations and sharecropping – I presume it’s part of their strategy for serving a niche market – so it’s less inherently notable for a Baen author.

      Like

    2. Yeah that seems to be the new direction they’ve been going the last several years — they don’t care what you did but only if media they deem worthy paid attention to it. Which for an encyclopedia is really a crappy strategy. (They’re not great as an encyclopedia, but they are useful for pop culture stuff still.) But even if they did it that way, as this guy is part of the Puppies and one of their Hugo nominations, that definitely did get media attention, so that should count.

      But I do think it’s funny that he and his pals thought they could go in and yell at the Wiki editors with the same facetious troll temper tantrums they pull on social media and that would work. The Wiki people aren’t hands off like Twitter and You Tube. Annoy them and they’ll shut the gate.

      Liked by 4 people

  8. ** Michael Z. Williamson, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 citations that are missing. **
    Here’s a start.

    ____

    Guran, Paula. “Baen Books: Mining Military Might.” Publishers Weekly Vol. 251, No. 14 (April 5, 2004): p. 31

    “Review: Tour of Duty: Stories and Provocations.” Publishers Weekly Vol. 260, No. 24 (June 17, 2013): p. 46

    Fox, Rose. “Backward in Time. Science Fiction and Fantasy Recommended Readings.”
    Publishers Weekly Jan 26, 2015, Vol. 262, No. 4 (January 26, 2015): pp. 64-70.

    “The Year’s Best Military SF & Space Opera.” Publishers Weekly Vol. 262, No. 15 (April 13, 2015): p. 61.

    “Fiction Reviews.” Publishers Weekly Vol. 263, No. 23 (June 6, 2016):

    Daniel, Alex. “The Real Worlds: New Speculative Fiction Shines a Light on the Present. Science Fiction & Fantasy Recommended readings.” Publishers Weekly Vol. 263. No. 43 (October 24, 2016): pp. 26-33.

    “Review: Forged in Blood.” California Bookwatch (December 2017)

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I recognize some admins and users from the discussions on the Gamergate page, so they’ve been through the wringer before. The admins will not be affected by alt-trolls and sock-puppies. And yes, the trolls from Gamergate are also active in the discussion.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I looked at the old version of the Wikipedia page and it was a pure mess of self promotion, links to where shopping sites for his knives and a a career summary that consisted of the plots of his books. The sourcing was abysmal. I can absolutely understand it was nominated for deletion. In that condition, it had no place in Wikipedia.

    The current version is much better and I think it should be kept as is.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. ,,”Consensus” is irrelevant when faced with facts. Grow up.“

    Love to see this kind of intelligent discussion surrounding the nature of knowledge and the systems required to establish the validity of a fact.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Regarding policies for Wikipedia, here’s some things to remember:

    * WP:ROUTINE states that ” routine news coverage of such things as announcements, sports, speculative coverage, and tabloid journalism are not sufficient basis for an article”. Publishers Weekly most likely would count as this. It is enough to show existence of work, but not notability.

    * WP:AUTHOR sets the following possibilities for authors to earn an entry:

    – The person is regarded as an important figure or is widely cited by peers or successors.
    – The person is known for originating a significant new concept, theory, or technique.
    – The person has created or played a major role in co-creating a significant or well-known work or collective body of work. In addition, such work must have been the primary subject of an independent and notable work (for example, a book, film, or television series, but usually not a single episode of a television series) or of multiple independent periodical articles or reviews.
    – The person’s work (or works) has: (a) become a significant monument, (b) been a substantial part of a significant exhibition, (c) won significant critical attention, or (d) been represented within the permanent collections of several notable galleries or museums.

    * WP:SPIP says “The barometer of notability is whether people independent of the topic itself (or of its manufacturer, creator, author, inventor, or vendor) have actually considered the topic notable enough that they have written and published non-trivial works of their own that focus upon it—without incentive, promotion, or other influence by people connected to the topic matter. Independent sources are also needed to guarantee a neutral article can be written.

    Anyone that wants to see what more SF entries that are discussed for deletion can check this link.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Deletion_sorting/Science_fiction

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In 2009, during a kerfuffle over an entry for an actress, a senior Wikipedia editor corrected another editor saying File 770 was a source that could be cited by Wikipedians. Obviously that changed sometime later, with all these editors now blithely assuring everyone that even though they like me and my blog, people can only rely on sources like Locus! Good thing the news I report usually shows up there within a few days.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. That’s a set of academic standards for peer review, academic literature study, and academic awards and accolades that has almost nothing to do with commercial fiction authors and who is notable in fiction and with the public.

      They also don’t follow it. I can find pages for numerous fiction authors, from romance to thriller, who sell well but do not meet these requirements and yet have Wiki pages. And the fact that SFF awards and nominations, for example, don’t meet the notable requirements, means you can easily wipe out the page of any prominent and/or awarded genre author you don’t like as not fitting, but leave up all the ones who don’t meet the requirements but you just don’t feel like removing. It’s arbitrary and abusive.

      But then, that’s Wikipedia. There are fewer entries for women figures and higher standards for women being seen as “notable,” cause most of their arbiters are men. Same for POC, etc. It’s big enough that it’s hard to catch all the changes being made and it’s never been consistent. I use it as a supplementary data source, but I’ve been finding it less and less useful over the years.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Actually, the discussion I like is the one on the admin page about Tom Kratman. I’ve not read any of his books, nor am I likely to, but for the last several months, the Baen website has been pushing a collection edited by him set in his fictional world which features the most appalling/absurd cover art this side of the 1950s. Judging from merely the cover, the protagonist is a camo’d short-shorts wearing porn star carrying a gun as long as her right arm (to quote Mamie Smith), with nipples in her crop top as long as her thumbs (to quote Lucille Bogan).

    I never knew Kratman was a blues fan. Go figure.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. You’d think people who are major fans of hypertrophic mammaries would bother to look at a few examples in the name of science, n’est-ce pas? On a ‘You had one job’ basis, maybe? But no.

        Meanwhile, I think the mule behind her has an expression suggesting ‘I’m calling my agent, as soon as I get back to my trailer.’

        Liked by 1 person

  14. The thing that annoys me about wikipedia’s notability standards seems to be that they’re very strict about authors (I note on one author’s page that winning a Morningstar and a Hugo, for different works, should be surely enough) but there never seems to be any issue with one term state senators from Arkansas circa 1870.
    I guess there’s an effort going into preventing people from using the encyclopedia to advertise their wares.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. She isn’t, actually. Williamson is either consciously lying or just doesn’t understand what’s going on.

      Last time I checked, which was a coupla hours ago, there was only a request for better references to be added to her article. There is no AfD (article for deletion) notice.

      It is also relevant to note that Kratman’s article had the same request for references notice on it for TWO YEARS before the current AfD discussion got started. It isn’t wikipedia’s fault if nobody bothered to improve his article within those two years.

      Like

      1. I saw the AfD for Sarah Hoyt, too, when I just checked the list. There were a couple of AfD’s for game tie-ins and self-published books and for three Baen authors who also happen to be affiliated with the Sad Puppies.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. When I last checked, the discussion had concluded that she definitely met the notability requirements. I’m not sure how the process works, so I am not sure how the suggestion to remove her page was even made, but I don’t think there’s much chance it will be removed.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I notice that out of 20 references on her page 14 were added yesterday, which suggests the page may not have been up to snuff. I also honestly do not know how notable she is outside Libertycon.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. They were created different years by different accounts and has mostly had different accounts editing them.

        Like

  15. This really strikes me as a moment where the insularity of the puppies is the problem. Since they really have no substantial engagement with anyone outside their small circles, they have difficulty finding the outside references that the Wikipedia format requires. I tend to agree with the other commentators that Williamson doesn’t deserve deletion, but this really does feel like a self-inflicted problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, and what gets written is puffed-up promotion that looks like self-promotion or marketing spin. Ironically one of the best references for some Puppy writers was Damien Walters being rude about their writing in the Guardian. (I’d never get a Wikipedia page because the only media coverage I get is from very unreliable right wing sources being rude about me)

      Liked by 1 person

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