[Foundation-l] Request for your input: biographies of living people

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen cimonavaro at gmail.com
Tue Mar 3 21:45:45 UTC 2009

Michael Snow wrote:
> Jimmy Wales wrote:
>> Let me repeat that in a different way, for emphasis: I think that a 
>> great number of our biographies, and bad in a particular way.  Minor 
>> controversies are exploded into central stories of people's lives in a 
>> way that is abusive and unfair, and games players have learned how to 
>> properly cite things and good people have a hard time battling against 
>> violations of WP:UNDUE.
> I've made this observation before, but I think it bears repeating. At 
> least on the English Wikipedia, a frequent practice is to start a 
> section called "Criticism and controversy" or some variation thereof. 
> This indicates to me an utter failure to write an actual biographical 
> article. If we can't figure out how to integrate something into the 
> overall picture of someone's life, then we're definitely failing to 
> provide the context to actually understand the controversy, probably 
> giving it distorted emphasis, and possibly lacking the material to treat 
> the person as the subject of an independent article. Quite often, of 
> course, the back-and-forth in that section ends up overwhelming any 
> other content instead.

While I find it impossible to disagree with your characterization
of the current situation in any depth, and for sentimental reasons
don't wish to engage teh view expressed by Jimmy Wales above
your reply; I am bound to note that this state of affairs does
present a certain historical irony, in that "Criticism and controversy"
sections did not originate as a way of "starting" a biasing against
a person whom the article was about, but as a way of keeping the
main body of the biographical wholly hagiographical, and all the
seamy sides being able to be rebutted in the "controversy" section,
with none of the encomiums and even the worst saccharine
sentiments in the hagiographical portion challenged at all
by even the gentlest critical glance. "Yes, we won't be removing
that sourced information, just moving it out of the way of the main
flow of our sweet article about this wonderful person."


Jussi-Ville Heiskanen

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