Excellent essay on Wikipedia on the origin of “Criticism” sections


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Hi Blog.  Update on my previous blog entry.  I have been proven wrong by the editors on Wikipedia — they have shown themselves to be conscientious and serious about the editing they do.  One even took the trouble yesterday to write an entire essay about how Wikipedia articles on controversial subjects develop.  It answered a lot of questions I had about the media, so I’ll put it up here on Debito.org for a wider audience.

The Wikipedia entry on me (which I will not touch — I will just bring up points of order on the Talk page) has already been much improved.  My thanks.  Arudou Debito in San Francisco


Criticism section

Courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Debito_Arudou#Criticism_section

I want to make a few general comments on criticism sections per se, then one related to this article. I feel the need to do so, because from the comments I’ve seen by newcomers (such as Mr. Arudou) and established Wikipedians, they either seem ignorant of the general trends regarding the need for such sections or have seen no need to explain.

The reason articles on controversial figures such as Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama do not have criticism sections is because the criticism has been integrated into the article. It is considered bad writing to have a biography where the first half says only the good stuff and then the second half says the bad stuff. I’ve seen the integration of criticism happening consistently across Wikipedia. I haven’t looked at those particular politicians article histories, but I’m sure you’ll find that periodically someone will complain on the talk page that the article has been whitewashed. The reason people usually complain about whitewashing when they don’t see a criticism section, is that they don’t actually bother reading the entire article. Those kinds of people come to a biography specifically to read the bad stuff about the person. They are not interested in reading a complete story of someone’s life and career and seeing criticisms and supports in context of the issue they are related to. This should already be a sign that criticism sections are not good. When we design articles so that people can come specifically to read only what fits their POV, we are not doing a good job at all.

I would say there’s a growing movement to eliminate such criticism sections for this and other reasons (see the essay Wikipedia:Criticism). But such improvements only happen on the more prominent articles first. The other articles are stuck with their old-fashioned criticism sections. I say “old fashioned” because this is what people used to do. Mostly, articles would be created by fans, and every time somebody wanted to put something negative in, the fans would say, well put it in a criticism section. The fans know well that relegating stuff to a criticism section at the end is often the same as throwing something into a dust bin. They then create the main part of the article to be flattering, and most people, by the time they get to the end, see “criticism” and think, oh this guy’s great but of course people are going to criticize like they always do. Thus the criticism section actually acts to lessen the impact of the criticism by shunting it aside from the “main” article. Over time, people that wanted to insert criticism forgot this is why such sections were created. When criticism sections would be merged into the main part to create a more balanced picture, such people would protest. Indeed, probably one reason they protest is that they prefer only to read and edit the negative portions of the article, thus it is more convenient for their agenda. Otherwise they would be expected to work at improving the article as a whole.

Now from this mini-history of criticism sections, let’s look at this article. It seems to me originally the same scenario held here. There was a main part, which had support, and a criticism portion. Unfortunately, over time, the main part lost the support element, and the criticism section grew. This seems to be because Mr. Arudou doesn’t have as many fans interested in editing his article as detractors. There were also editors that were concerned about the promotion element and worked to eliminate the more positive references while not scrutinizing the negative ones, as they should have. Basically, the system has been thrown out of wack. The criticism section is now the most prominent of all the parts of the article. Indeed, I am hard-pressed to find a single positive thing said about Mr. Arudou in this article. If I hadn’t done a little reading up, I would be under the impression that nobody has viewed his actions favorably.

It is clear we need to rework this article, possibly from scratch, and using only the best sources. Those who come here with an agenda will probably not like this idea. Criticism should be merged into the main article, as done in all the best articles on Wikipedia. —C S (talk) 03:31, 23 August 2008 (UTC)


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