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

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen cimonavaro at gmail.com
Tue Mar 3 22:28:33 UTC 2009

Ray Saintonge wrote:
> I'm making a point of replying to this before I read any of the other 
> responses to avoid being tainted by them.
And I am keeping with the spirit of a statement I made in an
earlier post, and am keeping my replies to specific focused
points short and sweet.

> Sue Gardner wrote:

>> * Wikimedians have developed lots of tools for preventing/fixing vandalism
>> and errors of fact. Where less progress has been made, I think, is on the
>> question of disproportionate criticism. It seems to me that the solution may
>> include the development of systems designed to expose particularly biased
>> articles to a greater number of people who can help fix them. But this is a
>> pretty tough problem and I would welcome people's suggestions for resolving
>> it
> The problem with rules that are too detailed is that the letter of the 
> rules often overrides the spirit of those rules.  It does little good 
> when a discussion about a possibly derogatory statement migrates to one 
> about the use of primary or secondary sources.  When every detail about 
> a BLP receives the same scrutiny the really bad stuff tends to fall into 
> the background, and energies are sapped by being perfect over details 
> which, even if wrong, are harmless.  The question, for example, of where 
> the subject attended school is not usually harmful if it's wrong.  If 
> the subject tries to correct this we need to trust him in the absence of 
> reason for the contrary, and we need somehow to credit him as the source 
> of that information.  To question this without reason presumes bad faith.

This is not unexceptionally accurate. There are many details
of biographical articles where it is not even close to presuming
bad faith on the person in question to assume they might out
of a perfectly natural human foible (a foible is not even close
to bad faith) wish to gild the lily or embellish, or even retouch
a blemish. I certainly know I have fallen for that in many
instances, when telling tales of my deeds, and know many
people who probably remember events I have personally
witnessed wholly sane, sober and of sound mind with a vivid
memory, but they remember what happened to their own benefit,
quite naturally and non-bad-faith.


Jussi-Ville Heiskanen

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