Wikipedia:Anonymous dirt accretion method of biography writing

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For little watched biographies, Wikipedia's biography writing process is often little more than dirt accretion – anonymous people who have no interest in producing a balanced biography adding derogatory information, or random stuff they read and found "interesting". The results of this anonymous dirt accretion method (ADAM) of biography writing are not pretty:

  • One-half of a journalist's biography about an argument he had with Mitt Romney?
  • Three-quarters of a biography devoted to analysis of a single comment the subject made about the Israel–Palestine conflict?
  • One-quarter of a biography about the fact that the subject once said "fuck" on television?
  • Three-quarters of a fox hunting activist's 650-word biography devoted to a meticulous, painstakingly detailed enumeration of minor arrests, half of which did not result in charges or a conviction?
  • A biography whose only purpose seems to be to record the fact that the subject resigned his political office after a DUI arrest?
  • This edit turned a sexual harassment accusation, denied by the accused and a high-profile eye-witness (okay, we'll name-drop: George Clooney), into established fact. Even the tabloid sources the snippet was based on did not assert that the claim was true; but in the court of Wikipedia, the accusation was enough to convict. The paragraph stood unchallenged like this for more than a year.

ADAM results in biographies whose actual biographical content becomes overwhelmed by tangential material inserted by some anonymous person with an interest in maligning the biography subject, or an interest in random trivia.

No eventualism in biographies of living persons[edit]

What editors have to remember here is that WP:Eventualism does not apply to biographies of living persons. Some editors tend to treat biographies like a scratch pad for anything that an author might justifiably want to include in a five-volume, 2,000-page biography. The problem is, the other 1,999 pages never turn up, leaving something that might be worthy of mention on page 1,547 – often something trivial, titillating, or unflattering – as a key point in the biography. The result is an unbalanced article.

Wikipedia has traditionally defended the existence of unbalanced or slanted articles by putting forward the concept of “eventualism”. According to this philosophy, articles will often start out as an unbalanced mess of loosely connected information, but “eventually” “someone” will come along and put all of it together in a way that makes beautiful sense.

This may have been a workable, even sensible, approach in the encyclopedia’s early days, when Wikipedia biographies came on page 50 in Google, and Wikipedia editors were happy to have any information at all on any given page. But today, over a decade later, with Wikipedia ranking as the number one Google link for almost anybody’s name, it is no longer an acceptable way of working. Wikipedia biographies need to be well-rounded and fair to their subjects at all times.

Wikipedia needs to abandon ADAM.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]