The officiousness of Wikipedia (my bio still sucks)

My English Wikipedia bio has sucked for as long as it’s existed. (Sometimes it doesn’t exist, as I’m of questionable notability.)

When I thought about it in 2015, I decided the most helpful thing to do would be to create a Biography Factoid page in my user space, with specific claims as well as a selected bibliography, nicely formatted using the {{citation}} template. Making the edits myself would be a conflict of interest, but a little editorial judgment and trivial copying-and-pasting by someone else could fix things up nicely. That never happened.

Three years later, in 2018, I looked into it again, made use of the {{request edit}} template, and made two specific suggestions in the form of “change x to y.” I asked them to fix my employment/affiliations and the publication date of Good Faith Collaboration, which is correct in its own article. Neither took.

Last month, I was introduced at a small conference with incorrect information, obviously taken from my Wikipedia biography. I resigned myself to once again attempting to correct the most egregious mistakes. You can see the result on the biography’s talk page.

I appreciate the Wikipedian’s timely response. However, presumably, most of those requesting corrections to a Wikipedia article about themselves are not experienced Wikipedians. Yet, in the Wikipedian’s response we have fairly complicated instructions, requiring the use of template parameters, referencing policy-X-stroke-6, which itself appears in a reference section, and accompanied by a notes section. All of this in an effort to avoid specifying the date at which I left W3C/MIT without a source, which appears in a parenthetical “(1996-2003).” And the publishing date of Good Faith Collaboration still remains uncorrected!

This isn’t the worse officiousness I’ve encountered at Wikipedia, a distinction reserved for some of the folks who help clear photograph permissions at Commons. The legally incorrect, jargon-filled, templated awfulness there is unsurpassed.

Of course, this is not new and I try not to just complain about it. With permissions-common, I’ve translated the officiousness into comprehensible prose, made suggestions for writing clearly, and even volunteered to help them with their canned responses—to no avail.

With respect to my bio, I think all that awfulness could be replaced with the following: “Please go ahead and paste and fix the problematic prose here, on the talk page, including a source for your end date at MIT/W3C. If there’s no such source, we can use {{circa|2012}} since that’s the date of your last update on their page for you. I’ll then confirm at port it over.” I don’t know if that’s the correct response, but if it is, that’s a friendlier way to put it.

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